Optimism is the essence of every fighter; the belief that no matter what, you will find a way to win. I was 31 years old weighing in at 225lbs, my wife and I were expecting our first child. During this time I noticed a slight twitch in my right hand and suffered from frequent heartburn. I saw a gastroenterologist who diagnosed me with a fatty liver and gastritis inflammation of the stomach lining, but that diagnosis didn’t cure my tremor.
By 34 years old the heartburn was no longer present due to my change in diet and slight increase in exercise. I went to a neurologist, who concluded that I had an essential familial tremor and prescribed primidone. I saw her regularly until a new insurance plan caused a gap between appointments which is when the tremor traveled from my right hand to my right foot. The neurologist implied that the new tremor was my fault due to the delay in appointments. Primidone kept working, but left me mentally foggy. She switched me to Propranolol, which was mostly effective. However I still felt there was something else, things just didn’t add up. Which lead me to lack the energy or motivation to exercise.
In July of 2014, I had a DAT-SPEC scan. It was supposed to rule out other conditions and hopefully confirm that I had an essential tremor. Weeks went by, time moved like a snail. Finally, I saw my doctor and she bluntly said, “Just as suspected you have Parkinson’s, here are some medications and I will see you in three weeks.” I was 34. I did not understand the diagnosis, the new medications or how to take them. I didn’t know anything about Parkinson’s. She left me loss and confused..
I took the medication and developed insomnia, found myself growing incredibly depressed. The news of Robin Williams having PD and Lewy Body Dementia hit me hard. I started losing my mind over this condition, all I kept thinking was, “Stop shaking, I can control this!” Chances are if you had a conversation with me during that time, I was only able to comprehend every third word. My wife did not know what to do or how to help.
A Nurse friend of ours recommended I see a movement disorders specialist and suggested the Cleveland Clinic. I was soon in the care of one of the top Parkinson’s doctors in the country, at one of the best clinics for brain health. He confirmed the PD diagnosis and changed my dosages immediately. He spent almost two hours explaining Parkinson’s and treatments, and assured me that I would be able to live a full life with PD. He also said that EXERCISE would be essential in slowing the rate of progression. It took several months to regulate my medication. But, I began moving.
Up to this point my only experience with running was two 5K races. My wife signed us up for a Spartan race, this race changed my life! On race day, I realized quickly I was competing in the Spartan Super 9-10 mile obstacle course. I was terrified since I was not physically fit nor prepared.
Some obstacles took a few attempts. I flipped my first 300-pound tire, falling face down on to it, in the process. I took my time at each obstacle. My life changed when I ran full speed at an 8-foot wall. I grabbed the top of it and smashed my foot, nearly breaking it. Hiding my PD for so long made me feel isolated. So when a fellow Spartan noticed my epic fail and asked if I was okay, referring to my foot, I ended up telling him I had PD. It was the first time I told anyone, outside of my circle of trust. He helped me over the wall. For the next five miles I limped and hobbled through obstacles. Being hurt and vulnerable made me think of my family, my children and what they mean to me. I entered the Spartan Race as a boy with a spark of interest. Little did I know, I fed that spark, which ignited a flame so hot it became a roaring blaze today. That day, not only did I become a Spartan, but I also became a warrior against the battle of Parkinson’s.
I now train regularly. Today, I weigh 165 pounds and I am a lean, mean, muscle machine. I lost weight and ate healthier in hopes that a new lifestyle would slow my PD progression. Since then, I have completed five Spartan races, becoming the first person with Parkinson’s to complete a Spartan Trifecta. My next Spartan race is in Pala this September and going after my second trifecta. I train like an elite athlete now. I can run a 6:15 mile. I am a trail runner, which helps my balance and stability. I lift weights to have better control of my body. Agility and plyometrics are heavily focused in my running program. Quick feet and lateral movements are essential for any trail runner.
Optimism is the foundation of courage. I had to be broken down in order to find my courage, I was never an athlete, never a runner but PD pushed me so I pushed back. I became an athlete and a runner to combat PD. I’m a fighter, I will not give up I will stumble & I will fall but I will stand back up. It may take me longer at times but I will stand back up and keep fighting!