Pickleball, other activities enrich Apex PRD participant's life

Margaret Melander is more than just a familiar face around Apex PRD…she’s an inspiration! About a year ago, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and that event changed her life in a number of ways.

The more she learned about the condition, the more she realized the importance of movement. “Exercise is the answer – it helps the brain rebuild connections, it enhances the mood, it helps with reflexes and balance, and it’s a great social opportunity as well.”

Among her favorite activities is pickleball, a racquet sport with elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis played with a hard paddle and a polymer wiffle ball. “Ken Marquardt helped initiate pickleball at Apex PRD, and it’s grown a lot from just a handful of participants.” Pickleball seemed to be tailor-made for Margaret, who soon after her diagnosis, took up the sport with gusto, along with aquacise, yoga, golf and walking. “I felt sorry for myself for about a day,” she remembers with a laugh.

That comment says a lot about this delightful and resilient lady who has a positive attitude like no other. The words that follow are Margaret’s own, which best express her challenging and inspiring journey:
“”Last spring, 2011, I felt terrible. I had suffered several bouts of vertigo. I was dizzy much of the time. I was fighting anxiety. I had always loved my job as a court reporter, but it had begun to feel hard because my hands felt like lobster claws. I noticed that my left arm didn’t swing when I walked anymore, and I was screaming and crying out in my sleep almost every night. I thought maybe I had a pinched nerve in my neck, or maybe I was just burned out after 20 years.

“I talked to my family doctor, and he sent me to a neurologist to check on the pinched nerve theory. After 15 minutes in the neurology office, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I really didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t good news.

“Interestingly, I found that one of the best things I could do for myself is to get active, so that’s what I did. I quit my job because court reporting and Parkinson’s are totally incompatible, and I started a new chapter in my life. I explored different exercise options. As it turns out, I saw a flyer for pickleball in November of 2011, and I haven’t missed a week since the first time I picked up a pickleball paddle. It’s good for my reflexes and my balance. Parkinson’s has a tendency to make you slow, and pickleball helps counteract that symptom. And I have met some really good people, so socially it has been great.

“So this is where I am now. I’m playing pickleball and golf and doing a little yoga and water aerobics and walking regularly. I have lots of people praying for my health, and I am facilitating a Support Group for Recently Diagnosed Parkinson’s Patients and working with a former Lost Boy of Sudan. This new chapter has turned out to be more interesting than I ever could have imagined, and I feel better than I have in years. I am going to keep moving so I can keep moving. I feel strong and sturdy and optimistic, and I intend to do all I can to keep it that way.

Life is good!””

For the schedule and info on pickleball at the Apex Center, pick up a flyer there, contact fitness@apexprd.org or call 303.463.4241.