This blog is a bit different than other blogs I’ve done. This blog is not about me or anyone that I’ve worked with. This blog is about a man originally from my area that now lives in Texas. I’ve never officially met Gary, I know his sister Jill and through her I learned about Gary.
This blog is Gary Schmitz’s story written by him. See Gary has Parkinson’s disease, has for 12 years. This is his story in his words on “fighting back” against Parkinson’s. He’s inspired me and I think he will you too. He’s taken a new approach to fighting this disease…
”2012 – Ok so it’s my 12th anniversary since the symptoms of Parkinson’s set in. Although it has been an experience I would never wish on anyone, this year appears to be a year that has all the makings equal to a fountain of youth for me.
2011was brutal and left me physically and mentally exhausted. It was the first year I felt that the disease was winning. To start the year, I lost my mentor and friend, Ken Diehm, my minister. I then spent 6 months going through testing and approval to have a gene therapy treatment, only to find out 5 days before the operation, that I couldn’t go through it because some time in the last couple of years, I suffered one, if not several, mild strokes that left scarring in the pathway of my brain where they needed to travel for the operation. Towards the end of the year, the symptoms of dystonia started to set in on my foot, hand and shoulder/neck area. That will turn into a long painful path for the rest of my life. I didn’t make a conscious decision to give up, but it was the expected downward drain that Parkinson’s Disease takes on a person, so it wasn’t unexpected. My medication levels doubled through the year as well, and I was up to 13 pills a day. Oh, also another unwanted milestone, I turned 50. The most troubling thing was the number of times food was getting stuck in my throat and choked me. It is the most typical way for Parkinson’s people to die, but short of dying, it is extremely painful.
I had a couple weeks off around Christmas and was thinking I really wanted to spend more of these with my family and I wanted to be in good shape to do so. So maybe that was the spark or maybe it was my stubborn Luxemburg/German upbringing, who knows, but whatever it was caused the drive I needed to be open to look for a way to fight back and realize all that I was doing wasn’t working.
As luck would have it, my sister Jill sent me a video about that time from Dr. Terry Wahls about how she was able to get out a wheelchair she was bound to, from MS, by eating organic foods. There is a lot more to it, it is a paleo diet, or as she calls it a “hunter-gatherer diet.” You have to eat enough of all the right foods to get the benefits; and after trying it, it did not take long to start feeling the benefits. The only deviation that I take is to go very light on the meats, if I eat any, due to the protein affecting the medication for Parkinson’s. If my start into it was good, full commitment took it to another level. I actually had energy, enough to join fellow people with Parkinson’s at Paulie Ayala’s Boxing Gym.
I had never boxed before but had loved boxing from growing up watching the likes of Mohammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and so many more. But having spent the last four years sitting in my recliner made me apprehensive of just jumping into a full blown boxing work out, but figured I could easily have an excuse if I needed it of my Parkinson’s, stroke or the fact that I am 50. Surely no one would push me further than I felt I could go, with all those built in excuses.
Well Paulie, who himself is a ex- two time world champ, could care less about excuses. When you are a boxer you can never quit and never give up. When you train people to fight, you never let them quit or give up. Because it was a theme that was repeated week in and week out, soon I started to obtain the same mentality. The training is not just punching, there is a lot of foot work, core work and any other drills that help with balance, speed, and coordination. But make no mistake, punching the bag or the mitts brings on a release that is hard to explain. Without going on forever about it, let’s just say I love the whole workout, and often show up early to try to loosen up for the upcoming drills. I may start off slow but once I get going, I seem to lose most of the symptomatic issues from PD.
Starting out, I was amazed at all the coordination I lost, whether it was from the stroke or the Parkinson’s, but after five months, I must say that I have regained a lot of it back. I have even started back playing basketball with the guys I used to, and I actually move better than I had four years ago.
So what does this all mean? Well, the diet alone has done wonders for my digestive issues, energy and sleeping. I was up four or five nights a week last year, sleeping maybe an hour or two on those nights. This year I sleep on a very consistent level of 6 to 7 hours every night. Add the boxing workouts with it, and I allowed my body to tell me how much medication I needed. Within the first month, I was down to levels I took three years ago, and now have taken that down to 4 pills a day on most days. My mood is so much better than it had been and the energy I have and how my body moves is so much more improved from last year. The dystonia has been held at bay for the most part. I do occasionally still get food stuck while trying to swallow, but it is not the frequency I had last year. I am not cured, there is no cure, but the quality of my life is greatly appreciated.
All I can say is: if I can do this with as many odds stacked against me, imagine what you can do! Don’t wait until facets of your life are being taken away from you. Work now to have a quality of life that you can enjoy for many years to come. If it doesn’t matter to you now, it will later.”
Gary /Boxing, 2012
Gary lives in Texas with his wife of 22 years he has a nineteen year old daughter, a seventeen year old son and one super size Pug of age 8. He has been fundraising for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for the last 3+ years and he is on the board of Directors for the Trial Finder Committee. Gary is also one of the founders of Team Fox North Texas visit the website to donate http://www.teamfoxtexas.org/Home_Page.php. For more information on the Dr. Terry Wahls protocol (and nutritional plan/diet) visit the website http://www.terrywahls.com/.
Gary is an amazing example of what eating healthy and moving your body can do. Thank you Gary for allowing Inspiring Fitness to share your story you certainly are INSPRING FITNESS!!