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By Mary M. Nearpass
Quakertown, PA: – Two-time, first time, body building champions were awaiting my arrival in the lobby. Other than their obvious appearance, I never would have picked them out due to their easygoing, non-pretentious natures. Full of zest for life and exuding an energy like that of a couple of teenagers, Joe and Jackie Knox invited me into their “home away from home.” Everyone in the Upper Bucks County YMCA knew them, and they took the time to speak to everyone we passed in the hallway before meeting in the conference room.
Married for ten years, they are the proud parents of a daughter, Athena, age nine and a son, Joseph V, age seven. Joe IV grew up in the Chalfont area and graduated from Central Bucks West High School. Jackie is from Woodbury, NJ and graduated from Woodbury High School as the Division I State Champion for discus and graduated as most athletic student in her senior class. The couple met while attending Delaware Valley College. Joe received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Jackie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Small Animal Science. Both work as scientists at Merck in West Point, PA. Presently, they make their home in Quakertown, and their children attend Richland Elementary School.
Early on in their marriage, Jackie was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, or “tic douloureux,” a chronic pain condition that affects the fifth cranial nerve, one of the most widely distributed nerves in the head. TN is a form of pain associated with nerve injury. The typical or classic form of the disorder (called “Type 1” or TN1) causes extreme, sporadic, sudden burning or shock-like facial pain that lasts anywhere from a few seconds to as long as two minutes per episode. These attacks can occur in quick succession, in volleys lasting as long as two hours. The atypical form of the disorder (called “Type 2” or TN2), is characterized by constant aching, burning, stabbing pain of somewhat lower intensity than Type 1. Both forms of pain may occur in the same person, sometimes at the same time. The intensity of pain can be physically and mentally incapacitating.
The trigeminal nerve is one of twelve pairs of nerves that are attached to the brain. The nerve has three branches that conduct sensations from the upper, middle, and lower portions of the face, as well as the oral cavity, to the brain. The maxillary right branch is the one that Jackie specifically suffers from. This stimulates the cheek, upper jaw, top lip, teeth and gums, and to the side of the nose.
TN can be caused by a blood vessel pressing on the trigeminal nerve as it exits the brain stem. This compression causes the wearing away or damage to the protective coating around the nerve (the myelin sheath). TN symptoms can also occur in people with multiple sclerosis. Rarely, symptoms of TN may be caused by nerve compression from a tumor, or a tangle of arteries and veins. Injury to the trigeminal nerve (perhaps the result of sinus surgery, oral surgery, stroke, or facial trauma) may also produce neuropathic facial pain.
Pain varies, depending on the type of TN, and may range from sudden, severe, and stabbing to a more constant, aching, burning sensation. The intense flashes of pain can be triggered by vibration or contact with the cheek (such as when shaving, washing the face, or applying makeup), brushing teeth, eating, drinking, talking, or being exposed to the wind. The feeling of wind on your face is Jackie’s worst trigger. The pain may affect a small area of the face or may spread. Bouts of pain rarely occur at night, when the affected individual is sleeping.
TN is typified by attacks that stop for a period of time and then return, but the condition can be progressive. The attacks often worsen over time, with fewer and shorter pain-free periods before they recur. Eventually, the pain-free intervals disappear and medication to control the pain becomes less effective. The disorder is not fatal, but can be debilitating. Due to the intensity of the pain, some individuals may avoid daily activities or social contacts because they fear an impending attack.
Trigeminal neuralgia occurs most often in people over age fifty, although it can occur at any age, (Jackie was in her late twenties) including infancy.
Treatment options include medications, surgery, and complementary approaches.
Chronic pain from TN is frequently very isolating and depressing for the individual. Conversely, depression and sleep disturbance may render individuals more vulnerable to pain and suffering. Many who suffer benefit from supportive counseling or therapy. Jackie received overwhelming support from family and friends.
“The facial pain unexpectedly just started coming one day, back in late December of 2012. Then stopped, then a few days later came again while at work. Then just kept coming and never left. It was first diagnosed by my primary doctor in early January 2013, then my neurologist the very next day confirming it and then two separate neurosurgeons. I live every day on seizure medications that help with the pain. I have a very severe case of the illness unfortunately. Despite two, failed microvascular decompression brain surgeries within two years and one Gamma knife radiation (pinpoint radiation therapy), nothing has really given me much pain-free time. My time after the long surgeries when I was healing, I did have a short time where I had less pain, but it doesn’t last long. I now have surgical Teflon holding my trigeminal nerve in place to help, but pain is still there.
Daily things like talking, chewing, the wind, are all triggers for it. Some days just touching that side of my face (my right side) hurts! So I live with it daily and will be on the medications for the rest of my life. I did, however, choose to come off all seizure medications before the competition. That was a very hard time for me and my body. I have since gone back on all but one of the seizure medications. I am trying to do more for my body without medicine if possible. This illness is very trying on a person’s body. It generally affects women over fifty years old with MS, and I am neither of those. But I want to live a long time for my kiddies so I live well and work out lots and teach them the right way to eat.
I won’t let this illness beat me down. I did let it do that to me in the beginning. After my first surgery, I came home with a walker and had to learn how to walk again, and my optic nerve got injured too so my eyes were even messed up so I had to wear an eye patch. That took over five months to heal. With hard work, we can recover. Trigeminal neuralgia, no matter how bad the case, is manageable. I’m told that I’m the worst-case scenario from my neurologist, especially being so young. But we just keep moving in and out of the gym.”
As she healed, Jackie gradually moved her way back into fitness with Joe, since it had always been a big part of their lives. “Jackie and I have been training together in the gym since 2002.”
This past January Joe and Jackie sat down and talked about their goals and ambitions. They had been on social media for a little while trying to provide motivation and inspiration to others through what their family does together through health and fitness. It was then that they decided to finally pick a show date and train for a greater purpose. The goal was to not only live and preach a healthy lifestyle, but prove to them that they can, “Take it another level further, and get up on stage and display our art work.” Knox’s set up a mini-gym in their home including an incumbent bike and treadmill.
As they became more intrigued by the effects of weightlifting, they decided to get a family membership to the Upper Bucks Y, where their children could also participate in fitness classes like taekwondo and gymnastics. “We had always wanted to compete and spoke about it in the past but never took that step like we did this time to pick a date and go for it. We loved every minute of it and are more motivated than ever to stay in the sport and help others where we can. We feel that this is a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and help others achieve their goals.”
They were introduced to the National Physique Committee (NPC), the largest amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States. Amateur bodybuilders compete in competitions from local to national competitions sanctioned by the NPC. One amateur organization per country is recognized by the International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB), which claims to be bodybuilding’s international professional organization, and the IFBB recognizes the NPC as its amateur extension for the United States. This is for males and females alike, divided into different weight classes, poses etc. NPC is divided into five main categories: Bikini, Figure, Fitness, Body Building, Men’s and Women’s Physique. Jackie is in the Figure category while Joe is in the Body Building classification.
At Christmas time 2014, Joe IV weighed in at 230 pounds and Jackie at 157 pounds. In order to compete in their very first NPC competition, and to qualify for their designated categories (Body Building Light Heavy Weight range is 176¼-198 pounds for Joe and the Tall Figure category for Jackie), they both were successful in reaching their goal weights and class. Joe weighed in at 184 pounds and Jackie at 136 pounds, and went from a thirty-three to a twenty-six inch waist.
Each of the five categories necessitates different physiological requirements. These are determined by an individual’s body type, symmetry, and style. Jackie naturally fell into the “Figure” category, as it requires twenty percent more muscle than “Bikini,” broader shoulders, tiny waist, and striated legs. Joe naturally fell into the “Body Building” category as it, too, requires twenty percent more muscle tone than Physique and Fitness, aesthetically pleasing and advertising sex appeal.
The grueling regimen of their daily routine from January 2015 until the big day on August 1, 2015 in West Chester, PA, began at 4:30 a.m. Joe and Jackie rolled out of bed and took turns using the recumbent bike for forty-five minutes to an hour while the other did the food preparation for the day for all four members of the family. They then were out the door to school and work. At the end of their days, the entire family headed to the Upper Bucks YMCA for their respective sports/taekwondo and gymnastics classes, and Joe and Jackie hit the weights hard for the next ninety to one hundred twenty minutes.
In order to not only lose the necessary weight while building incredible muscles, Joe and Jackie followed a strict, clean diet that was very high in protein, complex carbohydrates, essential fats, and more vegetables than fruit to maintain a balanced sugar level.
They religiously follow the “Lose It” application, which they downloaded onto their phone for daily reading and recording of their food intake. Additionally, Joe has and continues to design individual templates for just about anyone who asks him for FREE. He creates them specifically for the person’s physiological needs and goals. He actually created one for me!
They are also huge proponents of ingesting whole foods as well as ISO Whey, Quest protein for protein shakes and p28 foods, all containing twenty-eight grams of quality protein. For that occasional craving we all have for something sweet, the Knox crew has discovered Halo Top Creamery ice cream. Available at Wegmans, it contains only three hundred calories per serving, is low in sugar and is protein-packed.
Muscle Eggs are a staple in the Knox household. These are the world’s first flavored egg whites. They have zero fat, zero cholesterol, twenty-five grams of protein, and one hundred percent bioavailable, are available by the gallon, delivered right to your door, and come in an amazing array of flavors. Joe and Jackie’s kids drink it all the time right out of a glass. They are also great for cooking. Joe and Jackie love the product so much that they have become the Muscle Egg ambassadors, a.k.a. demonstration representatives for every state needing to work bodybuilding shows, expos, demos, and events. (As I write, their most recent show was October 3rd, Franco Classic, at the Performance Arts Center at Upper Dublin High School, Fort Washington, PA.)
Finally, the long awaited first Saturday in August arrived, and the Knox family loaded up the car and headed to West Chester, PA for their very first competition in the NPC. The kids totally surprised Mom and Dad by making creative, motivational signs with blinking lights so they could easily be seen from the stage.
The results? Jackie won the Women’s “Class C” Overall Figure Competition Winner and placed 2nd in Novice, while Joe won in both the Men’s Open and Novice Body Building Light Heavyweight Categories. (See their pics on www.npcxcalibur.com/results.html).
Since motivating their fellow gym friends has become so second nature to Jackie and Joe, they have started their very own graphic t-shirt company with their friend and lifting partner Jason Ryan, called “BT Gear”. They are currently developing a website with their own apparel line. If you want to get a look at them, go to the Facebook page with same name and/or go to Joe Jackie Knox Facebook page and you’ll see them being worn by them while working out. Additionally, if you’re lacking in motivation or find yourself slacking off in your fitness routine lately, a good look at their page is sure to turn you around!
What’s next on the agenda for Joe and Jackie? They are hard at work preparing for the upcoming NPC competition in early summer 2016. Currently working on improving their physiques for their next competition, they are getting pumped in every sense of the word.
They say attitude is everything, and life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you react to it. The J & J team is positive in every sense of the word, so much so that you can feel their energy, optimism, focus and incredible discipline the minute they walk into any room.
We are not what happens to us; we are what we choose to become. What choice are you going to make about you and your fitness goals?
GymHulk80 Fitness links:
Facebook Fitness Forum “Beast Training Crew”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/662420337196716/
YouTube Channel: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCJOq_Rizxk7nvgyEzswxFAQ
Muscle Egg: http://www.muscleegg.com
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Mary N. Nearpass has been working in the health-care field most of her career: from hospital administration, consulting and teaching college, to currently providing motivational speaking, working in a physician’s practice and freelance writing. She enjoys the flexibility of her schedule, which allows her to keep her daughters her main priority and focus. Mary holds two master’s degrees and her passion is prevention of addictive behaviors, especially at the adolescent level. After many recent surgeries from an automobile accident, she is blessed to be back swimming laps, practicing yoga, and free-weight training.