Parkinson’s took away Jay Siddall’s business but he won’t let it take away his happiness.
Siddall, 65, was forced to sell his company, BC Textile Innovations in Port Coquitlam, after he was diagnosed eight years ago. But rather than sitting around the house fretting, he got active — which included fretting of another kind.
Siddall reinvigorated his passion for playing his Fender Stratocaster guitar and started crafting walking sticks that he likes to give away. He also rides his bike, practises yoga and boxes.
Siddall said the activity helps give him a sense of control over Parkinson's, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system that can cause progressively worsening symptoms like tremors, rigidity and difficulty walking — and a disease that afflicts about 13,000 people in British Columbia.
“If you sit around with Parkinson’s, it’s going to jump all over you,” he told The Tri-City News.
One of Siddall’s boxing partners at the Parkinson Wellness Centre in New Westminster, where they participate in a special program called Rock Steady Boxing, is Audrey Cerny. The 56-year-old Port Coquitlam resident was diagnosed more than three years ago after a twitch that started in a finger got progressively worse.
She said, at first, her diagnosis was paralyzing.
“Everywhere I’d go, I wondered if this was the last time I’d be doing this,” Cerny said.
But with resources she gathered from Parkinson Society British Columbia, Cerny started spreading the word about her disease to friends and family to help ease their fears as well as dissipate her own. She also resolved to stay active with her scrapbooking, travel, yoga and, eventually, her newfound love for boxing.
Cerny said the exercise not only helped control her symptoms, it also improved her mental outlook.
“You’re doing something proactive for yourself,” she told The Tri-City News.
Robyn Murrell started working with people living with Parkinson's four years ago as a component of her business as a personal trainer. She volunteered to lead a walking group that attracted people from across Metro Vancouver. Then, in 2016, she became a certified instructor of Rock Steady Boxing, a program out of Indianapolis that uses non-contact boxing fitness to help people with Parkinson’s improve their quality of life.
Last March, she opened the Parkinson Wellness Centre in New Westminster’s Sapperton neighbourhood, to create a safe space for people with Parkinson’s to work out by hitting heavy and speed bags, skipping rope, participating in a dance program and sharing their experiences, fears and hopes with one another.
“It’s like a support group,” Murrell said of the facility, which is unique in B.C. “They can be themselves here.”
Murrell said the repetitive intensity of a boxing workout, which includes exercises for footwork and hand/eye co-ordination as well as balance and reflexes, stimulates the brain to produce dopamine, which can help ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s. It’s also a big confidence booster.
“Activity reduces stress,” Murrell said. “And stress brings on symptoms.”
Siddall said staying active despite his diagnosis has made him as happy as he’s ever been in his life.
“You have to look forward all the time,” he said. “Every day is a good day but some are better than others.”
Tour de Fox an active way to help
On Saturday, Aug. 18, you can do something active to help find better treatments and possibly even a cure for Parkinson’s disease by participating in the Tour de Fox cycling event.
The family-friendly casual ride features four course lengths (15, 40, 64 and 112 km) that begin and end at Me-n-Ed’s pizza parlour in Port Coquitlam. All proceeds from the ride go towards Parkinson’s research through the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
For more information, or to register as a rider or volunteer, go to www.tourdefox.org.