Fighting Parkinson's

Fighting Parkinson's


July 19, 2021

Per the U.S. National Archives, a Captain’s Log is a listing of the daily activities of a U.S. Navy ship; in Star Trek, it was also used to record the general thoughts and reflections of the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. I’m not a Navy Captain, but am the Air Force equivalent, so I’m using this vehicle to record my observations and reflections as they relate to my position as the owner of Assisted Living Locators – Nashville. I’ll be updating this blog with regular entries, and as new observations hit me. I hope you enjoy it, and perhaps learn something new about the world of senior living. Note: some names and initials have been changed for privacy purposes.


As I’ve said in other places on my website, the passing of my Mom, Colleen, inspired me to start Assisted Living Locators – Nashville. Occasionally I get the pleasure of going back to my hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska and seeing some of my favorite people in the world, including some whose positivity in the face of illness and disease also inspire me and keep me going.

Elaine is one of my best friends’ Mom. When I say one of my best friends, I mean it: I’ve known him for about 47 of my 53 years, we grew up on the same block, he was a roommate in Chicago, and I spent a couple of weekends drinking beer with him earlier this month and will do so again later this year – we’re really tight. Elaine may have been my Mom’s best friend if that was a term she used; she didn’t because my Mom wouldn’t want to exclude anyone – they were all her best friends. Elaine loved my Mom, and she passes that love on to me every time I see her. Sadly, Elaine has Parkinson’s disease. You wouldn’t know she has a horrible disease, however, by her attitude. She always appears positive, energetic and smiling. How does she stay so upbeat? She has a not-so-secret remedy, and she showed it to me last Fall when I was back in town.

The Secret

Elaine is a boxer.

 Portrait Of Tim Tuttle and Elaine

Elaine attends a program at the Norfolk Family YMCA specifically created for Parkinson’s patients called Rock Steady Boxing. At the time I was unfamiliar with Rock Steady and with the concept of using boxing to help Parkinson’s patients improve their mobility, balance, and memory. Elaine proudly drove me down to the Y, introduced me to the staff, and showed me the room where she attends class. They have a collection of heavy bags, speed bags, and standing dummies that would make Rocky Balboa proud. Fast forward several months when I meet Laura McCann from Rock Steady Boxing Music City at a networking event. I was extremely excited to tell her about Elaine and how much it had helped her battle Parkinson’s. Once I started writing this blog which weaves my personal and professional observations, I knew I had to introduce those who read it to Rock Steady Boxing.

Rock Steady Boxing

From the Rock Steady website: “Rock Steady Boxing . . . gives people with Parkinson’s disease hope by improving their quality of life through a non-contact boxing based fitness curriculum. . . . Rock Steady Boxing initially began through the friendship of two men, Scott Newman and Vince Perez, after Scott had been diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s at the age of 40. Refusing to let his friend go down without a fight, Vince turned to his experience as a Golden Gloves boxer to design a program that attacks Parkinson’s at its vulnerable neurological points. His intuitive insight is now proven to have merit through an increasing body of medical research. Realizing that their experience might be replicated for others, Scott and Vince founded Rock Steady Boxing as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. As word of this unique program spread and the demand for the classes increased, Rock Steady Boxing created classes to meet the fitness levels at all stages of Parkinson’s – from the newly diagnosed to those who had been living with it for decades plus.”

Rock Steady Boxing Music City

Rock Steady Boxing Music City

Rock Steady Boxing Music City is led by head coach/owner Colleen Bridges, a wonderfully cheerful, optimistic, and welcoming fitness expert. From the website: “Colleen is an NSCA certified personal trainer, the 2020 MedFit Education Foundation Professional of the Year, and a nationally recognized PD educator. She has been working with clients suffering from neurological diseases for the past 17 years. Colleen’s clients thoroughly enjoy the challenge that boxing brings to their exercise program in addition to the camaraderie and support they gain.” What Colleen’s website can’t do justice to, however, is the passion and warmth Colleen exudes from every fiber of her being.  And the energy:  I tried to get a good picture of Colleen teaching, but she kept moving so much.  The ones I got are so low-res they're not good enough to include.

Rock Steady Gym floor and equiptment

I had the honor of attending one of the Rock Steady sessions - it was a circuit class - and to help these incredible fighters through some of the exercises. Colleen and the other trainers greeted each class member with a hug and their first name and patiently assisted the participants through the various stations. The different stations used such equipment as heavy bags, speed bags, medicine balls, tension bands, and exercise bikes. Two things were immediately clear to me: 1) Colleen led a team of committed, supportive, and caring professionals, and 2) the participants were having a lot of fun. The whole feeling was upbeat and positive, which is amazing considering the disease these fighters were battling. I left the session with an increased satisfaction with what I was doing with Assisted Living Locators and the people I was able to work with in that role.

Seniors running boxing drills at Rock Steady Boxing

A few weeks ago, before I attended the Rock Steady Music City class, I saw Elaine in Norfolk, along with another of my old neighbors who also has Parkinson’s. We went to dinner with our families and told stories about the dumb things we did when we were all much younger. Our kids must have thought we were crazy with all of the laughing that was going on at the end of the table. I was so amazed at how upbeat and happy these two fighters were, even as they battled this deadly disease. I’m not so naïve to think they don’t ever get down or discouraged, and I know they must have tough days. However, I can’t help but believe that the fighter’s spirit they exercise in their Rock Steady classes helps get them through. I know it does, because Elaine all but said so. Thank you Rock Steady for helping all of those you do, including those I hold most dear. And thank you Elaine and L.B. for showing us all how to be a fighter.

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