From punches to poems: Alan Blyweiss' story
Alan Blyweiss started boxing at the age of seven and had more than a hundred fights between his amateur and pro careers. After retiring at age 20, Blyweiss became a sparring partner for some of the biggest names in boxing. Eventually, his decades of giving and taking punches led to dozens of procedures and surgeries. Blyweiss also suffered numerous concussions during his time in the ring. He began to exhibit strange behavior, lose his short-term memory, have fits of rage, and struggled to manage his finances. In December 2017, doctors at Johns Hopkins University diagnosed Blyweiss with probable Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Blyweiss does all he can to fight his symptoms of the disease, including writing poetry about his daily battle to share with others affected by CTE. Read more about Blyweiss’ story and a selection of his poems below.
Posted: May 11, 2020
Alan Blyweiss started boxing in 1976 as a seven-year-old in the Baltimore/D.C. area. He was 88-12 as an amateur. His amateur career included a fight against former heavyweight champ Tommy Morrison to a four-round loss that turned into a blood bath. Growing up where he did, he was able to spar up-and-comers like Hasim Rahman, Riddick Bowe, and Mike Tyson. At 20-years-old, he was told he shouldn’t box anymore due to a spinal disc fusion. His professional career was over after just two fights. Nicknamed “The Rock,” Blyweiss became a sparring partner for some of the biggest names in boxing like Vincent Bolware, Lennox Lewis, Terry Ray, and Larry Holmes. Without much of an education, Blyweiss felt his only means were to be the punching bags for some of the most powerful punchers in the world.
A life in boxing left a toll on Blyweiss’ body and brain. He has had his spine caged, complete elbow reconstruction on his left arm, Tommy John on his right elbow, numerous hand surgeries, broken noses, and procedures to remove cartilage. He also sustained numerous concussions and blackouts in sparring sessions.
Blyweiss felt for a long time that something was wrong with his brain. He exhibited behaviors and personality changes that alarmed his wife and children. He lost control of his inhibitions, suffered from confusion, had bouts of rage, and severely lowered executive functioning abilities. Doctor after doctor couldn’t give him an answer for his issues until a 2017 visit to Johns Hopkins University. There, doctors told Alan they suspect he lives with what was used to be called “punch drunk” syndrome, and what we now know as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
Living with suspected CTE has placed a tremendous burden on Blyweiss’ family. His wife had previous experience as a caregiver for dementia patients and now supports Blyweiss in his daily bout against the symptoms of the degenerative brain disease. Despite everything, Blyweiss’ fighting instinct still persists. To combat his suspected CTE, Blyweiss turned to poetry.
He writes whenever inspiration strikes with the purpose of compiling a set of poems to share with other patients and families affected by CTE.
“There is no schedule with my disease,” Blyweiss said. “Every day is a new adventure. But I’ll keep on trying and never give up.”
See below for a collection of Alan Blyweiss’ many poems. You can connect with him at email@example.com.
If you feel like you relate to Blyweiss’ story and are looking for help coping with your symptoms or the symptoms of a loved one, please reach out to our CLF HelpLine here.
Man hands hurt so bad from all the years of fighting, have to get through it so I can keep writing.
This disease that has no clock, not knowing when to tick or to tock.
We can not express our pain or feelings through a normal voice, our bad language comes out it was not our choice.
Our paranoia and depression can get very insane, to be sitting around hearing people calling our name.
I will be using my time to continue to rhyme, because this disease will rob us of time.
But if you don’t like something you hear, just remember your not in the shoes that we wear and we really don’t care.
These words our for my brothers and sisters fighting this disease, because if you're the patient or the caregivers this will drop us to our knees.
But for the time I can still create a voice for us, then it will be me to steer this bus.
So if you read these poems and it helps in some small way than I did something to help CTE warriors today.
I once was The Rock, our family power. That was before my brain began to turn sour.
I was a husband and dad, that made it all great. Now every day I have to start with a clean slate.
The things I say and the things I do, often to get a reaction from you....
I go for the jugular, knock you out at the knees, the words that I say only come from CTE.
Now I can’t make decisions or take care of the money, the things happening so quick it’s not even funny.
I put my words down, while I can understand, these words come from my brain, right into my hand.
My hands now express the thoughts and feelings we all go through, where this will lead us, we haven’t a clue.
This disease has no cure, but one thing I can say for sure, with the things that we go through in a day, and still can’t find our way.
To be caught between the stage truth or fiction, causes my brain causes so much friction. So for my warriors without a voice- keep battling the demon like you have no choice.
We may not win this fight, but I’m fighting for the future CTE-ers that just might.
Don’t Give Up On Us
Please don’t give up on us for we know not what we say, please don’t give up, we will forget by the end of the day.
Please don’t give up on us, we know not what we do, please don’t give up , we are just as scared too.
Please don’t give up on us, are care is so tough, please don’t give up, no matter how rough.
Please don’t give up on us, CTE is a disease, please don’t give up, till the beast is on its knees.
My CTE Day
I have a few ideas what I’d like to get done for the day, give it 20 minutes and I forget it anyway.
Pressure in the eyeballs feeling like they want to pop, nothing can help nothing can make it stop.
Then the ocean sounds I have in one ear, the buzz in the other sounds so clear.
I get mean in my mind when I’m in noisy places, wanted to make the noise stop by smashing people’s faces.
Then the paranoias that I go through in a night, hearing the voices then throwing punches like I’m in a fight.
My wife has to wake me because I’m punching my face, I see her fear and I’m not in the right place. I can’t say words nothing coming out the fear so deep but I cannot shout.
Caring for us
Caring for us is challenging, stressful and comes with no reward. It’s our actions and words that strike at your chord.
We behave and believe things that we never have before, our feelings are slipping, our tears are no more, being depressed feeling like we’re under the floor
Our caregivers need a break, but nobody wants to help, can’t find caregivers who understand CTE on Yelp. Not a friend nor a family member, nobody in sight. To get anybody to help is always a fight
We are so mean and hurtful like a devil towards you, but if other people were around, they would think it’s crazy, has to be you! But what they don’t know behind a closed door, we treat you worse because we love you more
It’s our caretakers that take such a strained assault , but to live like we do is nobody’s fault , so don’t be mad at we say or don’t do, because it’s the disease that’s stopped loving you.
If I am trying to do something you don’t understand, don’t try to stop me lend me a hand.
If I’m speaking and have some troubles, please don’t correct me it just bursts my bubbles.
Please don’t tell me how great I look. If you only knew the pain I’m in, I could write a book.
If I just blast out with a very inappropriate comment, just shake it off and live in the moment.
If I’m looking confused, there’s nothing you can do. But when I am amused, there is no worry of a fuse.
So being stuck between understanding my fate at one minute of the day, then in the next seconds I can’t remember what to say.
Now as I really am seeing the reactions from my wife and see her fear, it’s only making one thing clear, that if I don’t fight harder my ending is near.
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