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News / Health / Clark County Health

Vancouver woman uses boxing to fight Parkinson’s disease

By Wyatt Stayner, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 4, 2021, 6:06am
6 Photos
Suzanne Haidri, left, receives a pair of socks from trainer Jan Beyer for having perfect attendance the previous month at Fisticuffs Gym in Vancouver.
Suzanne Haidri, left, receives a pair of socks from trainer Jan Beyer for having perfect attendance the previous month at Fisticuffs Gym in Vancouver. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Suzanne Haidri, 60, never thought of herself as a boxer, but a personal journal entry from July 2018 shows she had the spirit and drive for it.

That was the year Haidri, a Vancouver resident, first took boxing classes with Jan Beyer, who teaches several classes specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease, which Haidri was diagnosed with in April 2018.

During that first boxing class, Haidri wrote in her journal that Beyer works her hard, and she has a difficult time getting up when she falls down in the ring.

One sentence, in particular, was underlined: “will practice getting off the floor this weekend,” Haidri wrote.

To Learn More

Touchmark Health and Fitness Club’s hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The fitness club is open to anyone older than 50. It’s located at 2927 S.E. Village Loop, Vancouver. Call 360-975-7776 with questions.

To learn more about the boxing class, you can call 503-407-1335 or visit the website for Kimberly Berg's Rebel Fit Club at rebelfitclub.com

Haidri said she initially watched people with Parkinson’s box and thought, “That’s messed up.” But then she gave it a try, and it changed her life.

Her balance improved. She lost 25 pounds. Her speed and muscle increased. And she met Beyer, who’s now a best friend.

Beyer also teaches Haidri in other exercise classes at Touchmark Health & Fitness Club, in addition to the boxing program at Fisticuffs Gym in Vancouver.

“It’s not a frill-type gym,” Beyer said. “It’s a true boxing gym — very authentic. No shiny equipment.”

“It smells,” Haidri interjected, with a laugh.

Beyond the significant physical benefits of boxing, Haidri has found a community at Fisticuffs, exercising with folks who also have Parkinson’s disease.

With a safer COVID-19 outlook now, the boxing group is resuming a regular happy hour get-together, in addition to the class.

“Boxing with your brothers and sisters who have Parkinson’s is just a powerful thing,” Haidri said.

Haidri and Beyer have become close friends since 2018. Haidri said their relationship feels more sisterly at times. In August, the pair will backpack up to 30 miles of Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington’s Cascade Range.

Haidri hasn’t backpacked in decades but said she feels prepared for the challenge now. Beyer will be there to support and help her.

“I see the fire in Suzanne. She’s really determined,” Beyer said. “When she sets her mind to something, she’s going to do it.”

Haidri said the hike will represent what she hopes can become a new reality for her. Maybe she’ll be able to do more backpacking in the future, if this trip goes well.

Haidri said she likes getting out in nature because it gives her “spiritual encouragement.” No matter how it goes, Haidri will cherish the memory, she said.

“I’ll have it in my mind for the rest of time,” Haidri said. “I’ll know I did that.”

Columbian staff writer