StoryCorps at SHC: Bill Winslow

I found my people. I can finally check my symptoms at the door and just blend in.


Bill Winslow: We were at a family get together and my sister noticed that I had a tremor in my right hand and she said, "Listen, Bill, you really need to go get it checked out." So I ended up calling the movement disorder specialist, and as he went through the tests that they do, he says, "It looks like you have Young Onset Parkinson's disease. But one thing I want you to know is that you won't die from it, but you'll die with it. There's no cure." And that kind of left me with the door to my future was just slammed shut. How do I adjust?

And I could probably count on both hands the amount of times that I cried in my life. And that was one of them. What made it really difficult in the beginning was there was nothing, at least that was readily available, to help with support, which made things even worse. So I would withdraw, uh, I would get depressed. I felt really a lot less of a person than I had been. And I didn't know how to fight back. I didn't know how to even react because I didn't know anybody.

We sold our house and got relocated to the West Coast. And as we were trying to get ourselves adjusted to life in California, we wanted to join a YMCA. So I found one and the person who was signing me up, she said, "Do you have Parkinson's?" And I said, "Yes, I do." And she said, "We have a class." Lo and behold, when I walked through the class, there was 20 people with Parkinson's. I found my people. I can finally check my symptoms at the door and just blend in.

One of the people that I worked out with she has had Parkinson's for many years. And I asked her, I said, "What have you been doing?" And she says, "I've been going to Rock Steady Boxing." And I go, "boxing!" And she said, "Yeah." And I said, "Well, I'll go check it out." So I went and what was amazing is that whenever I felt like I couldn't get another push-up or another 20 seconds of plank or another couple of punches, I would look to my left, I'd look to my right and I would see people who have much more advanced stages of Parkinson's than I do, not giving up. So I knew for myself, I can't stop. No matter what hits me, I get up and I go forward.

So the YMCA showed me I wasn't alone. But Rock Steady Boxing taught me how to fight back. And now I can give back too. I got certified and I teach a class every Saturday morning. And it's just awesome to not only fight side by side with the fighters, but to also see firsthand how inspiring these people are. And you know, it's a community now, actually, it's more like family. So it's come full circle. I no longer am alone. I can fight back. And now I can give back too. If I can help one person, then my job is done.

Sound Editor: Gabriel Maisonnave

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