I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease 3 years ago at the young age of 39, though I had exhibited some symptoms since my last open heart surgery in 2001 at age 27. My first year with Parkinson’s was a rough one, having to deal with the tremors, terrible muscle stiffness and the 50+ pounds of lymphatic fluid weight gain due to a horrible Parkinson’s drug that I was on back then. Being a 5 time open heart surgery survivor though really helped to put things in perspective, and solidified both my courage and determination not to feel negative and not to lose hope.
Two years ago my life changed drastically for the better, when one evening in June 2014 I went to see the movie screening of “Ping Pong Summer” (think “Karate Kid” but with a table tennis focus) and the director, Michael Tully, and cast members including Joseph McCaughtry and Andrew Harrison Riddle were in attendance. The movie was so good and it totally blew me away, but one line in particular that Susan Sarandon tells the main hero of the movie, ignited a fire within me that I thought was gone, and reignited my passion to get back into playing competitive table tennis again. Susan Sarandon’s line was,
“WHAT YOU BRING TO THAT TABLE IS WHO YOU ARE.”
As soon as she said that, I realized that what I would bring to that table is a love for the table tennis game that my father introduced me to at the age of 4 years old. What I also would bring to that table is a determination to take the world by storm and inspire the world to play table tennis for the wonderful health benefits it has, including the improvements to both my Parkinson’s and heart conditions.
Who would have thought that seeing that movie would change my life for the better by playing a table tennis sport that has allowed me to represent the USA as the first ever athlete to actively compete with Parkinson’s on the Olympic/Paralympic level, compete in table tennis National Championships and US Opens in Las Vegas, compete for the USA in international tournaments in Barcelona last year and Romania in 2 months, and allow me to meet and inspire folks on a worldwide level both with and without Parkinson’s Disease.
The improvement to my table tennis game, as you’ll see in the video, this year alone, is truly remarkable and I have my coach, Hall of Famer, Coach Larry Hodges to thank for his time and patience in coaching me these last couple of years and helping me to improve my table tennis technique to ultimately get better and fight my Parkinson’s symptoms.
I wish to thank my dear friends, “Ping Pong Summer” movie director and the entire cast, Mike Tully, Joe, Andrew, and my table tennis hitting coach,Jimmy Pelletier who trained the actors in that movie in table tennis and invited me to see the movie, all for inspiring me to get back into table tennis and using it as my weapon to fight my Parkinson’s Disease.
Thanks to these past two years of table tennis training and competing, I’m in the best physical shape of my life. My doctor has confirmed the improvement in my Parkinson’s symptoms as a result of all my table tennis training and told me that if I continue along this table tennis path then I should stay at my current stage 1 of Parkinson’s for at least another 30 to 40 years and by then I’m sure we’ll have a cure for Parkinson’s… hope for the best!
I hope you like the video. It was my first attempt at using video editing software and adding music too. The video is comprised of the following clips merged together:
– Training session with my club’s Newgy Robo-Pong 2040 table tennis robot
– Parkinson’s Charity Table Tennis Tournament – Beltway Plaza Mall
– Last December’s US National Championships in Las Vegas
– Recent training session with my coach – my best session thus far
– Last night’s training session with my coach – HUGE improvement for me
– Front page Times of India newspaper feature – Bengaluru, India
– Continuation of Indian newspaper feature
– Korean Newspaper Feature (I wish I knew what the article says exactly)
– US Open in Las Vegas – picture taken at airport
– 2015 Spain Para Table Tennis Tournament – Barcelona, Spain
– Me and my first coach and best friend – my dad, at 2015 Butterfly Open
– 2015 US National Championships – Las Vegas
I wish you all a very happy Parkinson’s Awareness Month! Thank you.
Check out my video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muevQ-DBp5g