MARYSVILLE – Suzanne Taitingfong of Marysville has been an advocate for improving the lives of those with Parkinson’s in Snohomish County, even while contending with the physical challenges herself.
The Marysville YMCA has become a beacon of hope for Parkinson’s sufferers through its Pedaling for Parkinson’s cycling program, free with or without a Y membership. For one day later this month, the lobby will be wall to wall with stationary bikes as riders pedal their support for the life-changing program.
Taitingfong and others are teaming up for the 2nd annual Pedaling for Parkinson’s fundraiser from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. March 24 at the YMCA, 6420 60th Drive NE.
“The event raises funds to help keep the program free, and helps raise awareness about what we do not only as a ‘Y’ for the community, but our members as well,” said Carrol Bailey, Health and Well-Being program coordinator.
As part of the YMCA’s annual campaign, participants last year raised $2,200. This year their goal is $5,000. Five teams of 7-10 members each have entered so far, and for individuals, $50 will get you your own bike.
Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects the brain, resulting in a loss of coordination, movement, balance and other issues.
There’s no cure for Parkinson’s.
“The best we can hope for is to slow progression, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Taitingfong said. She said there are as many as 2,000 people diagnosed with Parkinson’s in Marysville alone.
Taitingfong has been battling Parkinson’s since 2010. Doctors put her on drugs to combine with exercise, but her symptoms still worsened over the five years. In 2015, she had deep brain stimulation surgery to counteract her symptoms using electrodes and a transmitter to tell her brain to block the impulses that caused her tremors and spasms.
When she was on her feet again, she became a crusader for fitness programs close to home to assist people with Parkinson’s.
She found the Pedaling for Parkinson’s free program at the Mill Creek YMCA, and was instrumental in getting it expanded to the county’s other branches, including Marysville.
Bailey said the class provides a place where people can share their ups and downs with those who understand what they are experiencing.
When Bob McCort of Marysville joined, he was using a walker. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s 20 years ago, the then-active McCort suffered a series of falls that wore him down.
“Once I started on the bike, I haven’t had any falls since I started the program a year ago,” he said.
The goal for him and others for three-times-a-week visits is between 80-90 rpms for 40 minutes, which results in up to a 35 percent reduction in symptoms, research says.
Bailey said there are side benefits as well. One participant’s tremors lessened, another gained a sense of purpose being among fellow riders, and others saw lower cholesterol and blood pressure numbers.
Taitingfong said McCort is an inspiration. At first, he had trouble keeping his feet on the pedals, but he kept coming back. He sets such a great example, he was moved to the front of the class, where his nickname is “Front Row Bob.” He prefers “Leader of the Pack,” he said.
It’s not just a group exercise class, either. They talk, listen to music and sing, and do trivia to keep the brain’s synapses firing. “Bob’s wicked smart in trivia,” Bailey said.
Taitingfong said the mind-body connection is crucial. “Carrol has us changing speeds, so we’re not just pedaling on auto-pilot. We follow her instructions, and we have to move accordingly. That engages our brains, so we’re telling our mind and body what to do.”
Taitingfong said she is feeling great. “With the cycling, yoga and boxing (for Parkinson’s), I’ve reduced my medications by fifty percent, and I’ve been able to reduce my DBS (deep brain stimulation) settings as well,” she said.
Bob’s wife, Lynn, said Pedaling for Parkinson’s has been a great program, and the changes have been noticeable. “It’s like my husband’s returning.”
How to help
To donate to Pedaling for Parkinson’s, go to ymca-snoco.org/locations/marysville-ymca.
For class information contact Bailey at 360-651-1605 or CBailey@ymca-snoco.org.