My [Parkinson’s] Life
Having Parkinson’s is just one aspect of a person’s life story. We want to share more stories of the varied lives of people currently living with Parkinson’s.
Massud Chopan, 37, was a sports fanatic at school and worked for his dad during the school holidays – getting up at 5am for breakfast and working until 6pm or later, seven days a week.
His father, who had emigrated from Afghanistan, had a gardening and landscaping business. Young Massud built strength and endurance helping his father while also playing as much sport as possible at school.
After school, he decided he wanted to join a gym and work on his strength, and a new career path opened up in security.
“Back in 2002 I gained my license to work in security in licensed premises,” said Massud, who worked in the field for 19 years.
“I was doing all kinds of things including crowd control and working in situations where you have to be able to think fast and act fast. I had to deal with people who were on ice and you need to be quick, but to only use reasonable force. I spent evenings working on doors in some of the most dangerous areas in Sydney.
“My routine was going to the gym, work at night, go home to sleep, train some more, eat, work… and do it all again. I was also doing martial arts training which was good for having more ways of dealing with people causing problems – but doing it safely.”
Gyms have played a big role in Massud’s work and life. He was in the gym when he that he first noticed something was different after doing a weights routine.
“It was in my power-lifting days and I was doing dumbbell reps,” Massud recalled.
“I did 30 kilo reps, then 40 kilo with eight to ten reps, then 50 kilo with another eight reps and then 65 kilo with six reps and finally I dropped the weight safely on the ground – but my left hand started shaking.
A few months later I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and all I knew about it was that Muhammad Ali had it. He is my hero; the journey that he’s gone through relates to my heart.”
At just 32, Massud was very young to have Parkinson’s and as big as the shock was, he had no intention of letting it change his life.
“I continued working security on doors as my life started to change,” says Massud.
“I kept up the training at the gym but gradually it became harder and harder to work in security. The meds were taking a toll and eventually I decided that working doors was not my scene.”
Knowing how important physical fitness is for coping with Parkinson’s, Massud continued working out – as well as doing martial arts training and some boxing.
It was a family friend, bodybuilder Tyron Brodie, who suggested that Massud compete as a body builder.
“I had just 20 weeks to be ready for the competition in November this year,” explained Massud.
“Body building is not just about training but also eating the right diet at the right times. There is a lot of prep you must do all the time to make sure you can get the results.
“Tyron was giving me some advice and I was also sponsored for a year at City Gym by Billy Kokkiniss, an absolute legend. I was competing in the Classic Physique Novice section of the International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB) at Novotel in Brighton le Sands.
“IFBB in Australia is run by Paul Graham, who trained Arnold Schwarzenegger in the late 60’s in America and brought him out to Australia for a contest at the Opera House in 1980. Arnold is another hero of mine. I was introduced to Paul who was interested in me because his wife’s mother had Parkinson’s years ago.”
The competition meant that Massud had to manage more than a dozen Parkinson’s meds while continuing to train, eat the right foods and learn the techniques of posing to show off his physique.
“I did all the preparation on my own,” says Massud. “It’s part of my rehabilitation to get better. I had to pump, lift weights, get a lot of rest and at the end of the day I’d still suffer. At night I’d still stiffen up but in the mornings I’d still train.
“I had to lose 13 to 14 kilos and by the end of the training I didn’t sleep for 48 hours because of the effects of Parkinson’s. I went to the competition completely exhausted.”
But the relentless effort Massud had put in paid off, and a dazed but happy Massud gained third place in his class. Paul Graham announced the placing with a speech about Parkinson’s, congratulating Massud.
This amazing result has led to Paul promoting Massud to international bodybuilding filmmaker, Edwin Mejia, of Generation Iron – a digital fitness and health network.
Massud has also gained clothing sponsorship from Ruthless and is looking to build his bodybuilding profile to spread the word that exercise and fitness is vital for Parkinson’s rehabilitation.
“People didn’t think I had Parkinson’s, and they didn’t realise I’d sculpted my body naturally,” says Massud.
“People know steroids are often used as a shortcut in body building, but I’m natural. I trained my butt off in the gym for this. The other body builders would hear about me and it was straight up respect.”
Massud is now in training for his next big competition, to be held in March 2021. But it is not only his own rehabilitation and the next competition which motivates him.
“I have a seven-year-old daughter and I want to be fit and healthy for her,” he said.
“And I want to inspire people with Parkinson’s to train. I want to motivate people to be comfortable training and not worry about being judged. I can relate to people worried about it. You need to do things, start taking walks, start with small weights and slow movements.
“As I worked on it, I started to see changes in my body. Without the Brodie family and the City Gym sponsorship and being encouraged by Paul Graham I wouldn’t have got to where I am.
“I want to keep working and entering competitions and showing what can be done.”
In December 2020, The Feed featured a story about Massud. Watch and read here