From Rock Bottom to American Ninja Warrior
In this special Parkinson’s Awareness Month episode of When Life Gives You Parkinson’s, I chat with Jimmy Choi. Jimmy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s seventeen years ago. He ignored it for eight years. He took his pills every day, but he didn’t talk about it, he ignored it, he hid it and lied about it to friends and family.
He was quite certain himself that the Parkinson’s diagnosis was probably wrong. “I convinced myself that one day I’m going to wake up and my doctor is going to tell me that, ‘Oh I’m sorry Mr. Choi, we made a mistake.” Jimmy continues his fantasy, “You actually have a tumor in your head. Once we remove it you’re gonna be perfectly fine.’”
Jimmy is stubborn. It takes a lot to change his position. But, Parkinson’s will not be ignored. Over the course of eight years, gradual changes happen on a daily basis. Insomnia, rigidity, and fatigue were all taking a toll on him. Parkinson’s disease pushed Jimmy to the edge. And he fell.
“I was walking with a cane. I was no longer active. And as if things weren’t bad enough, I was snapping at my family, screaming at my kids, and sitting around really not contributing to the daily activities of a household. I was walking down the stairs with my then 8 month old son Mason and we fell down the stairs.”
His wife Cheryl and their daughter Karina watched in horror. At that moment, Jimmy made a decision that would change his life forever. He knew he was going to work hard to become the dad and husband his family deserved. He also began to participate in clinical research trials. It was during those trials, Jimmy realized exercise was a component of every trial he participated in and when he exercised he felt better.
On his own, he began to take walks around the neighbourhood with his cane. And before too long, he was walking without it. His walk become a jog and his jog trained him for a 5k. Jimmy successfully transformed his stubborn resistance to Parkinson’s into determination, positivity and persistence in living an active, healthy life with the disease.
In the past seven years, Jimmy has participated in over 100 half marathons, 15 full marathons, one ultra-marathon, six Grand Fondo rides, multiple Spartan Races and countless 5K and 10K runs. He became a high profile Parkinson’s advocate when he competed on American Ninja Warrior. Through his events, Jimmy has raised more than $250,000 for Parkinson’s research.
You don’t have to be Jimmy Choi when you’re exercising, but you can be Jimmy Choi in how you approach your Parkinson’s disease. He takes his PD one day, and sometimes one hour, at a time. His mantra is, “make today a little better than yesterday and make tomorrow a little bit better than today.”
Knowing Jimmy Choi is in the fight against Parkinson’s, makes today better yesterday already.
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Thank you to my wife and partner in Parkinson’s Rebecca Gifford.
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