Punching above our weight

Spotlight YOPD branded T-Shirt saying "YOPD-KO on the ropes but fighting back"

From 10am – 4pm on Wednesday 4 April 2018 Rooney’s Boxing Gym in central London is opening its doors to those with Young Onset Parkinson’s (YOPD) – and VIP guests.

Working with its new sparring partner, registered charity Spotlight YOPD, the gym will offer free classes and one-to one sessions for those diagnosed with YOPD (Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease).

This open day on Wednesday 4th April marks the start of World Parkinson’s Awareness Month and Spotlight YOPD is keen to convey its message that PD is not just ‘an old man’s disease’.

Young Onset (also known as Early Onset) Parkinson’s is classed as a rare disease in its own right with prevalent symptoms being ‘the three Ds’ – dystonia (painful cramping, predominantly in hands and feet), depression and drug-induced dyskenesia (involuntary movements which are a side effect of the main PD treatment levadopa).

Former boxer, now trainer/manager and owner of the gym – John Rooney was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a couple of years ago. Having learned for himself the benefits of exercise, good diet and alternative therapies, John is looking to help others within the PD community.

“I’m not in denial that this is a degenerative, chronic condition,” he says. “But the best thing anyone diagnosed can do is learn all they can about YOPD and take control of their own treatment, health and wellbeing – working with their neurologist, PD nurse and any other professionals that may be useful in helping symptom management – including other PwPs.

“Spotlight YOPD is run by people with the condition. They have introduced me to some amazing ‘Parkies’ within the YOPD community who are happy to share their knowledge.

“Not only are the symptoms different – being diagnosed at a younger age than traditional PD – but the life challenges are different… potentially we have years living with this condition, so we should try to live with it as well as we can,” he explains.

John is offering ongoing free membership of the gym to fellow PwPs (people with Parkinson’s) of any age and those with other related neurological conditions. Anyone interested can also sign up for a free membership card on the 4th in person or via the gym’s website.

People with Parkinson’s are welcome to attend for the whole day or can just pop in. Two highly qualified and experienced PD nurses will be on hand to answer any questions, as well as boxing fitness instructors and alternative therapists. It will also, of course, be a chance for those with YOPD to compare notes with others who have the condition.

Lending their support will be some great boxing names including John Conteh, Jimmy Batten, James Cook MBE and Frank Bruno. Sports commentator Dave Clark, himself diagnosed with YOPD and a proactive advocate for raising awareness of the condition, will also be ringside.

Very much a media opportunity, TV cameras will be filming on the day along with other media presence. “This event is partly about conveying the other (younger) face of Parkinson’s,” says Gaynor Edwards, founder of Spotlight YOPD. “We hope many of the ‘Parkies’ attending will be happy to be photographed and interviewed… to step into the spotlight and help those newly diagnosed accept and manage their condition better.”

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