When Life Gives You Parkinson’s podcast: From rock bottom to ‘American Ninja Warrior’

In this special Parkinson Awareness Month episode of When Life Gives You Parkinson’s, I chat with Jimmy Choi. Jimmy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 17 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 he 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.

“‘You actually have a tumour in your head. Once we remove it, you’re gonna be perfectly fine.’”

READ MORE: When Life Gives You Parkinson’s podcast — The never-ending hunt for a cure

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 began to 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 I was no longer active.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,” he said. “I was walking down the stairs with my then eight-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 that Jimmy realized exercise was a component of every trial he participated in, and when he exercised, he felt better.

READ MORE: When Life Gives You Parkinson’s podcast — Escaping the darkness of depression with Heather Kennedy

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 became 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 Gran 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 Parkinson’s 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 than yesterday already.

Please comment by leaving us a voice message here: https://www.speakpipe.com/WhenLifeGivesYouParkinsons.

Follow me, Larry Gifford 

Twitter: @ParkinsonsPod

Facebook: Facebook.com/ParkinsonsPod

Instagram: @parkinsonspod

Follow co-host and producer Niki Reitmayer

Twitter: @Niki_Reitmayer

Thank you to my wife and partner in Parkinson’s, Rebecca Gifford.

Also, thank you to the following contributors and guests:

Jimmy Choi: follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram

Our presenting partner is Parkinson Canada.

Its toll-free hotline is 1-800-565-3000.

Follow Parkinson Canada on Twitter @ParkinsonCanada.

Find the new Parkinson Clinical Guideline at www.parkinsonclinicalguideline.ca.

Our content and promotional partners

Parkinson’s IQ + You — A free, series of Parkinson’s events from the Michael J. Fox Foundation

Spotlight YOPD — The only Parkinson’s organization dedicated to raising awareness for Young Onset Parkinson’s disease and funds for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust.

WPC2022 — Save the date for the sixth World Parkinson Congress, June 7 to 10, 2022 in Barcelona, Spain. The only inclusive scientific conference opens its doors to people with Parkinson’s and families.

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