“There is reason why I am still alive.” Jody Matthews speaks eloquently about her life, her successes, and her challenges with a sparkle in her eye symbolizing both gaiety but also a touch of sorrow. Her enthusiasm radiates throughout the room, as she is genuinely joyful to be sharing her story with the world. It is a story that is brimming with remarkable accomplishments: a productive and rewarding career, a family rich with bountiful experiences, and a powerful faith that has been the backbone of her existence. But it is also a story stamped with a life-altering obstacle. An obstacle that has forever changed her and forced her to find newfound strength during a time she was so unsure of her future.
As far back as she can remember, Matthews has always been a person of many words, grand ideas, and artistic visions. She recalls her days growing up in the Midwest speaking of seemingly mundane chores interrupted by festive piano concerts with her siblings. She describes her father as a visionary and remarks that her mother taught her to see the goodness in people. Matthews knew she had an appreciation for beauty and carried this along with her strong family values on her journey into adulthood, traveling the world, and paving her success in a career not often headed by women. She proved herself to be enterprising as a hotel manager, an artist, and a banker, and along the way found an equally accomplished husband in Steve Matthews. Together they would build a picturesque life full of family and memories reminiscent of a Hallmark card. Jody and Steve were living the American Dream, and together they were prepped to live a more relaxed existence, enjoying the fruits of their labor. And then Parkinson’s knocked on their door.
LIKE MANY DISEASES Parkinson’s did not send an announcement giving Matthews a chance to prepare for the road she was to embark. It was likely that there were a few signs along the way, but the seizures in which she was experiencing were often quiet pauses, which can easily go unnoticed. It was not until she experienced a grand mal seizure that she knew that something else was brewing within her body. She vividly remembers the day her doctor was too heartbroken to give her the news. She remembers the minutes after hearing her fate sitting in that small, quiet room trying to grapple with what had been dealt to her. She remembers feeling helpless in that moment, with no real solution to how she would cope with what was happening inside her. The following months would prove to challenge her in ways she could not imagine. Her bedroom became her sanctuary, and she spent much of her time there trying to understand the disease. Then one day she was shown a video featuring Leslie Stalls and Rock Steady Boxing, and once again her life would be forever altered.
Matthews was immediately intrigued by the boxing-themed program that challenges people with Parkinson’s to work and assist with balance, strength, flexibility, endurance, redevelop coordination, and restore functionality, all in which help to combat the neurological shortages that are characteristic of the disease. When Matthews first tried the workout, she had advanced to a point where her walking was hindered and the shaking had become more frequent. But from the moment that she started she saw a significant improvement and, over time her symptoms became less recurrent. She knew that the progress that she was experiencing was one that was to be extended to other sufferers, and with the support from her husband she became a certified Rock Steady Coach. She began holding small classes within her home, and eventually Prairie Fighters fitness studio was born. Prairie Fighters encourages anyone with Parkinson’s symptoms to feel better and think smarter while strengthening his or her core. Within the walls of the studio, which is atypical of the modern-day sterility of the most gyms, one will experience a homey feel complete with furniture that will stimulate conversation and build relationships. But also found here are punching bags, focus mitts, and circuit training. Matthews had made it her mission to be creative in her approach and vows to do things more creatively in efforts to build the friendships she has fostered with her clients. It is because of the applauses, hugs, and appreciation of one another that makes Prairie Fighters a joyful place of healing and better than any shot or medicine given.
Jody Matthews is a walking motivational quote, which would read, “Lead by example.” She is truly connected to the person that she has become and continues to utilize her purpose to relate and motivate all she meets. She is a fighter in every sense of the word, and it is through her work at Prairie Fighter that she hopes to continue to create the “happy” in the days of people effected by Parkinson’s. Matthews has undoubtedly embraced what she believes is the best advice: Be kind to yourself and love what God has given you. By honoring that gift you are respecting him, yourself, and your family, and you cannot put a bow on that!
To learn more visit: prairiefighters.com