“Parkinson’s is mean.
Parkinson’s disease is vicious.
It pulls no punches and it doesn’t fight fair.
It can be embarrassing. It can be isolating.
It can cause depression and apathy.
It wants to shrink you down to nothing.
Without good instruction and information, it will do just that.
You can’t fight fair…” — from Fight Back Against Parkinson’s
…but you can fight together. At least that’s what I learned when Zach Guza asked me photograph the kickboxing class he teaches for Parkinson’s patients. I’m not exactly sure what I expected when I went to photograph the class, but it was so much more. I was greeted by a man dressed in a Captain America t-shirt and who came over to me and started making jokes. It almost shocked me how easily and openly the Paskinson’s patients wanted to talk to me about the disease. I went on April Fool’s Day and the entire class made jokes about forgetting they had Parkinson’s and then oops, April Fool’s! Two things struck me as these amazing fighters walked from warm-up to work-out: The man who told me, “We might have Parkinson’s, but we sure are fun” and the hands they placed on each other to show support and encouragement.
Aren’t we all looking for community and understanding in every stage of life?
Moms want to know other moms who are going through the same thing when they bring a newborn home and have no idea what to do when their child has a high fever. Isn’t that why we all read and/or write for this blog? Community is such an important part of who we are. I find myself seeking out other photographers because as a solo employee I can get lonely sometimes. It took me just a few minutes to realize how important this Parkinson’s community is to each individual throwing jabs and punches at a disease over which they had no control.
I listened to Zach talk about his dad who died from Parkinson’s in 2013 after being told not to exercise and that it wasn’t worth the risk. Zach, like any good son, has obviously studied and trained and read and struggled since then, and has found a way to use his pain to do something that could better the lives of others. Now he’s not letting others with a Parkison’s diagnosis go down without a fight — I find this to be so incredible. Every fighter will tell you that there’s a certain loneliness that comes with this diagnosis, but what they’ve built at Punching for Parkinson’s is certainly knocking that out too in the best way it can.
I don’t know about you guys, but when I became a mother all of my anxiety and worry could be boiled down to this: I just want to be on this earth with my kids. I want to be a part of them growing up. I want to be a part of every milestone and flourish, and I want to pick them up at every failure. I have prayed so many prayers in my sickness that call out to God to heal me so I can be what my kids need me to be. I saw this in every kickboxing fighter I photographed. With every punch they throw, they believe they are extending their quality of life — a life they want to continue with the ones they love. With every jab or upper cut they are proving they won’t give up any time soon. Man that is brave.
Balance, coordination, memory, and strength — those things are all tested here. Some walk in hunched over and walk out standing completely straight, while others say goodbye to the shaking after an hour and a half of work, at least for a little while. They all tone and build muscles and friendships. In fact, most would say this is family.
April is Parkinson’s awareness month — the faces you see photographed are just some of the faces of the disease, and while I don’t know all of the statistics, I know there are too many. If you would like to know more, Zach Guza would love to fill you in on what you can do to help. But this April 27th, one of the best things you can do is join Punching for Parkinson’s!