Fighting Fit…………

During my boxing / fitness training with the marvellous Maxine (and George the bull dog) yesterday we were reflecting on what it is to be healthy.

Boxing training has given me strength I never knew I had. Not just the visible muscles I’ve developed, but the less visible body confidence and stamina that seems to fly in the face of the Parkinson’s diagnosis I received in 2018. For the moment the weekly program of exercise is working well for me, I feel strong and in control of my health.

I’m not saying its easy, it’s a constant balance of medication, exercise and rest, and that’s just the physical side of things. Then there’s the management of mental health – finding tricks and strategies to stay positive, motivated and moving forward. Family, dogs and surrounding myself with positive friends plays a big part for me in keeping me going.

But this constant management and adjustment to stay as well as we can is what is needed throughout our lives. Whatever challenges we face, we have a choice how we deal with it. Whether to give in, or adapt and find our best way of dealing with it.

It’s now well known that exercise at a certain level can help towards slowing down the progression of the condition. In order to embrace and promote this fact, I’m taking on a 12 hour boxing challenge on July 17th 2021 called “Punching Through Parkinson’s”. It’s a challenge for those with or without PD, to raise awareness of what we can do rather than what we can’t.

Prof. Bastiaan R. Bloem, MD, PhD, FRCPE, Director, Radboudumc Center of Expertise for Parkinson & Movement Disorders gave me these wonderful words of support:

This is a brief message to express my deep sympathy and great support for the wonderful effort by Janet Barnes, who is currently training for a 12 hour boxing challenge. Boxing is a great exercise and workout for people with Parkinson’s disease, and I cannot emphasise enough how important regular exercises for everyone who lives with this disease, both as a symptomatic treatment, and perhaps even also as a way to slow down the course of Parkinson’s disease. Janet is raising awareness for the importance of exercise, is motivating other people to engage in boxing or other types of physical activity, and is also raising money for Parkinson’s UK who really are the champions of people living with Parkinson’s in the UK and beyond. I wholeheartedly support her efforts, and I encourage you to support Janet and Parkinson’s UK in the fight against Parkinson’s disease”.

I’m asking you to join the fight and get involved, making the day something to remember. Join in person on the day, join by zoom, make a donation, share the message, do anything you can to make this big.

Hopes and Fears

So this week there’s some positive news about a possible new treatment for Parkinson’s disease: It sounds promising and my immediate reaction was excitement, relief and above all a huge wave of hope. Simon and I talk about how amazing it would be if the drugs worked. We read excitedly about the trials and try to find out when they might be complete and better treatment available.

Then I suddenly feel really bad for having these emotions. I shut down the conversation and get upset – isn’t this just further evidence to suggest I’m in denial about my diagnosis and not coming to terms with living with PD? Isn’t this just me grabbing at false hope and unrealistic dreams?

Confused and emotional I went into the studio and tried to express this situation of being between unrelenting hope, and then the constant fears for the future. Trying to look positively forward, whilst carrying a dark and debilitating weight of worries.

Hopes and fears
“Hopes and Fears” Acrylic on Canvas.

Doubling The Drawing Challenge

We doubled last night’s life-drawing challenge by having two models instead of one. Jane and Ann stuck a series of short poses with the common theme of emotions. We then tackled two longer poses with varying results within the room.

The challenge of drawing two models who are connected in pose is the need to work fast to capture as much as you can and make sense of what you’re seeing.

We always talk about the drawing process being as important as the end result – well that’s good, as my results were poor this week. My proportions were out and my quality of line, and tonal work were off form tonight. I’m hoping it’s a blip and a reflection of the double drawing challenge rather than a reflection of my potentially my meds becoming less effective.

45 minute sketch – Jane sitting, Ann lying.
30 minute sketch. Jane standing, Ann sitting.

What Makes Us: Memories and Dreams….

At life-drawing last night the model whilst looking at our sketches said she thought the artist’s representation of the model says a great deal about how they see themselves, and their self image.

I’ve been attempting to explore a related idea through some experimental work. I’m building a collage from images, creating layers of visual references relating to memories, the present, and how I saw the future.  Gradually the piece is developing a 3D nature. Through the layering process images are being painted over and covered by other images. This feels appropriate – our self image changes and has to adapt. Memories,  hopes and dreams are superseded but they don’t go away – they continue to make us who we are and affect the way we see our world.

This is early stage wip – I’ll post more as it evolves.

Work In Progress. Mixed media collage

Finding my inner ‘Viking’!

On a sunny day in August 2018 I found myself a Datscan to confirm what I already had been told: You have young onset Parkinson’s disease. My arms looked weak and I felt generally under attack.

Since my formal diagnosis in September I’ve been through all to predictable and reliable stages of grief. The dark days are still there, but I’ve decided to try to ‘own’ this disease, harness it and make something positive from it.

I’ve upped my exercise and signed up to a London to Paris bike ride (see Just Giving link below), and have I’ve kicked of “Painting with Mr P”.

To remind me to stay positive and take courage from my ‘inner viking’, I’ve committed to a lasting visual talisman, my Valkyrie. What a difference six months can make:

January 2019