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Fighting Parkinson's together

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Photos by Hank Lohmeyer Fighting back against the activity-limiting symptoms of Parkinson's Disease are a Cedaredge couple, Charlie Farrell and Jan Blue. They are offering their program without cost to others who, like Charlie, want to enjoy a more activ

A Cedar Mesa couple has taken up the fight against an incurable, debilitating disease and the limiting effects it has on people's lives.

Charlie Farrell and Jan Blue this week bring their personal ministry to the community by making available to Parkinson's disease sufferers at no cost a new therapy regimen. They explain it has shown proven results in helping people overcome symptoms of Parkinson's.

The Rock Steady Boxing program they have been specially trained to offer can benefit Parkinson's patients by focusing on and helping to overcome the effects of 22 specific primary symptoms of the disease. The regimen helps increase strength, coordination, mobility and voice control. Other benefits of the program extend to relief of secondary symptoms such as moods of depression.

Charlie's own story of his struggle with symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and his now renewed enthusiasm for a life of greater vitality and activity is, perhaps, the best testimony to what the Rock Steady Boxing program can achieve.

Charlie has had Parkinson's for 10 years. He had noticed his handwriting failing and speech difficulty before being diagnosed five years ago.

Parkinson's is a malfunction of the nervous system and is not contagious. Symptoms can grow progressively more severe. Charlie was advised to take medication for his symptoms, which had become significant with a noticeable shuffling gait and other difficulties. Symptoms of the disease can also include tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; slowness of movement; rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; and postural instability or impaired balance and coordination. His condition had forced him to give up work in youth group leadership at his church, and the symptoms have imposed other limitations on his lifestyle.

About a year ago, a friend mentioned a news broadcast about the Rock Steady Boxing program that had aired, and Charlie looked up and watched the video online.

This last January and February, he and Jan traveled to California and Charlie took classes in the Rock Steady Boxing program there twice a week for two months. He describes the improvement in his symptoms as "unbelievable."

Charlie is now walking with a near normal gait again and is out on hiking outings with Jan. He has improved balance and strength to the point that though he once struggled to walk the length of the center aisle at church he can now jump rope. His voice is stronger, too. He says his condition has also improved with help of a separate diet regimen that enabled him to lose 30 pounds.

The Rock Steady Boxing therapy regimen is based on boxing training routines utilizing gym equipment for the sport. Charlie and Jan's Rock Steady Boxing program is an affiliate of the program which was started and is headquartered at Indianapolis, Ind.

Charlie and Jan emphasize that the Rock Steady Boxing program "is a non-contact boxing exercise." The program is not a boxing competition. There are no boxing matches between individuals. The program uses techniques and equipment of the boxing sport to condition participants and help them regain strength, coordination and mobility lost to the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Using the facilities provided by Delta's Anytime Fitness and working with trained volunteer coaches called "corner persons," a sufferer of Parkinson's disease (called a "boxer") can advance in bi-weekly sessions to a new lifestyle attainment of strength and activity and greatly relieved severity of symptoms, Charlie and Jan explain.

After returning from California, Charlie and Jan recognized that the nearest Rock Steady Boxing programs located in the Denver and Fort Collins areas would not be suitable for their use. So, they decided to open a Rock Steady Boxing affiliate program for the West Slope "based on the improvement that Charlie experienced and to share that with others," Jan explained.

Since then, events have moved quickly. "Things happen fast," Charlie said. "Be careful what you pray for."

Last month, Charlie and Jan were in Indianapolis to pass the specific training course required by the Rock Steady Boxing program and to become certified instructors. They then found volunteers in the community and are training them to serve as corner persons and help provide individualized guidance to the Parkinson's patients they will be working with. Jan adds that they would like to find someone with actual boxing training and experience to help as a volunteer corner person in their program.

Charlie and Jan have visited local Parkinson's support groups to explain the Rock Steady Boxing program and to enlist their first participants -- who began their exercise regimens this week. The program is only for sufferers of Parkinson's disease. They must have a medical release to participate. There is no age limit and no restriction on symptoms or their severity beyond the ability to participate.

Charlie says the program is individualized, "designed to get people out of their comfort zones" and see real improvement in their conditions.

"It is hard work," Charlie says. "The Rock Steady Boxing program challenges appropriately but doesn't pamper." It is geared to individual symptoms and needs. It is not a cure, but it aims at overcoming symptoms of Parkinson's and developing active lifestyles.

Charlie and Jan explain that they had a difficult time finding a gym in the area that would support the Rock Steady Boxing program. Anytime Fitness in Delta (Dawn Anderson, manager) agreed to work with them. "Anytime Fitness has bent over backwards for us. They are a perfect fit."

The no-cost Rock Steady Boxing sessions are being held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10-11:30 a.m. For information, people may call Charlie and Jan at 970-399-7272, or e-mail at: westernslope@ rsbaffiliate.com.

Charlie, Jan, and their volunteer coaches provide the training/exercise sessions at no cost. However, use of the Anytime Fitness facilities requires that boxer participants have a gym membership; a benefit that also provides them 24/7 access to the Delta facility.

Information is also available from Anytime Fitness, Dawn Anderson, 970-874-5000.

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Cedaredge, Parkinson's
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