Two-and-a-half years ago, Bob Zane was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
His body was rigid. He had a twitch and moved slowly. He had a hard time getting in and out of a chair.
The retired vice president of real estate operations for Campbell’s Soup, who had played golf all over the world, now had a hard time swinging because of his balance.
“We were devastated, just absolutely devastated,” Bob’s wife, Becky Zane, said.
The Zanes had just moved to Bluffton from South Jersey. A friend who also had Parkinson’s told them about a Rock Steady Boxing class he took to help combat the disease.
Becky had seen Lesley Stahl’s report about the boxing technique and how it had helped her husband with Parkinson’s. She was thrilled to hear it was available in the Lowcountry.
Rock Steady Boxing is a nonprofit organization that promotes non-contact boxing to fight the progression of Parkinson’s disease. According to the organization’s website, research has shown that kickboxing can reduce, reverse and delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
The Rock Steady approach is used in gyms around the world, including at RipTide MMA in Bluffton. Four days a week, former MMA fighter and RipTide owner John Juarez teaches the classes, which are specifically geared toward Parkinson’s patients.
But people with Parkinson’s aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the classes. Several local couples participate in the classes at RipTide. The spouses do it to train for the fight ahead of them. They will have to be strong enough to help their partners get around as the disease progresses.
Becky takes the class with Bob and said her husband is probably the strongest he has ever been. Now 71, he is able to move much more easily and feels better about himself. The class has also benefited Becky both physically and emotionally.
Angela Estes of Callawassie Island also takes the class with her husband, Jere, 75, who has Parkinson’s. She said the class has helped with Jere’s balance and strength.
“He can now open jars again for me,” Angela said.
The camaraderie is nice, too, Angela said. Everyone is supportive and understanding because they’re all fighting the same opponent.
“Don’t let the term ‘kickboxing’ scare you off because this can be modified to anybody’s ability,” Becky said. “It’s such a life-changing thing for people. We’re all at different levels. Nobody’s perfect. You can come in here, you can shake, you can stumble, you can fall, and it’s OK. These are our people.”
Becky said she and Bob know they will be kickboxing for the rest of their lives, and she is OK with that.
“I feel fortunate that we have something that we can do the rest of our lives that does help slow down the symptoms,” Becky said.
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.