Mayor Mark Myers Battles Parkinson’s Through Boxing & Community Support
A couple of years ago, when City of Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers was having issues with nerves in his neck, he underwent surgery to have four titanium implants put in. For a time, he seemed to improve, but then he began noticing numbness and tingling in his left hand, as well as some involuntary twitching in his left arm.
“We thought it was related to the surgery so we didn’t think much of it,” Myers says. In October 2019, on his chiropractor’s recommendation, Myers saw a neurologist who specializes in involuntary tremors. After two long hours of testing, Myers was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“Initially, it was a pretty big shock,” says Myers, who admits that he had a nagging fear looming in the back of his mind that Parkinson’s might be the culprit. But right from the get-go, he chose to respond to his situation with optimism.
“I’m not one to take anything lying down,” Myers says. “I look at this as a bump in life. I’m going to attack it head-on and keep going.”
Myers immediately began charting a course towards better health. He had heard about Rock Steady Boxing (RSB), an Indianapolis-based nonprofit gym with a mission to empower people with Parkinson’s disease. According to Juli Krizan, certified RSB coach, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation estimates that 1 million people in the United States suffer from Parkinson’s disease, and more than 60,000 people are diagnosed annually. Research has found, however, that forced, intense exercise slows the progression of Parkinson’s. Therefore, a non-contact boxing-based fitness curriculum improves a patient’s quality of life.
Myers’ best friend of 35 years offered to regularly work out with him so the two decided to join 9Round Fitness, which incorporates interval, cardiovascular, and circuit training regimens into an intense 30-minute workout in which every three minutes, members move from round to round, participating in activities such as jump rope, weights, moving bag, strength and resistance training, speed bag and core work.
“At the end of 30 minutes, you’re dead,” says Myers, who has been going for three months and has been pleasantly surprised by how much he’s enjoyed it since he’s never been a big fan of exercise.
“The last time I worked out was March 1, 1986, when I graduated from the Police Academy,” Myers says with a chuckle. In just three short months, he’s dropped 15 pounds, has built strength and stamina and has relished improved sleep habits.
“I did karate when I was young, but this is the first time I’ve boxed,” he says. “And the nice thing about this is that you’re just beating up a bag. Nobody is hitting you back.”
Though boxing has been beneficial in numerous ways, the tremors remain — at least for now. Studies show that it typically takes participating in the activity for 4-6 months before noticing a reduction in tremors.
Soon after getting the diagnosis, Myers and his wife Stacie (whom he calls his “rock”), chose to share the news publicly. He’s been blown away by the outpouring of support he has received from friends, colleagues and total strangers.
“I’ve received hundreds, if not thousands, of notes, e-mails, cards and letters,” Myers says. “People I’ve never met from all over the state have sent me letters of encouragement and are letting me know that they are praying for me. It’s been really humbling.”
Myers notes that his diagnosis has caused him to appreciate life and people more, especially as it relates to relationship building.
“These days when I run into people, there’s a whole lot more, ‘How are you doing?’ and they sincerely want to know,” he says. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Myers is hoping that his authenticity will give those who are struggling hope. And confidence to get checked out to those who are exhibiting symptoms such as trembling or numbness in the hands and fingers.
Krizan notes that Parkinson’s presents itself differently in everyone. Some struggle with speech difficulties while others battle physical issues such as tremors, shuffling gait or balance difficulties.
“I have a friend who is sharp as a tack and can talk with no difficulty, but his movements are very slow,” says Myers, who urges everyone to go to the doctor for annual check-ups.
“And be honest with them. If you notice something, say something,” Myers adds. “If you chalk symptoms up to being no big deal and don’t say anything, it could be too late.”
Myers is a big proponent of honesty. Being candid with his community about his health was important to Myers, a Greenwood native, because he wants everyone to know that he’s not slowing down — and neither is the city. He promises that work in Greenwood will continue moving forward. That work includes the downtown redevelopment, the new middle school site, and the purchase of properties on Main Street where they will tear down blighted buildings.
“I want to see my vision come to fruition here in Greenwood,” Myers says. “I want to see downtown flourish more than it already is.”
If you would like to send a note to the Mayor, write to 300 South Madison Avenue, Greenwood, IN 46142