'Floating Like a Butterfly' for a Moment in My Life With Parkinson's


“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” — Muhammad Ali

Rock Steady boxing classes are not getting any easier for me, and that is to be expected. Sensei Michelle instinctively knows how to motivate and push us and when to back off.  Depending on how Parkinson’s disease (PD) may be affecting me that day,  some classes are harder than others. I have read that people with PD have to work twice as hard during physical activity than those without PD due to our lack of dopamine. I can certainly attest to that theory!

Yesterday, one of our drills was “shadow sparring,” which is when you are throwing punches at a partner, but not making contact. I was struggling to keep my energy up for this. When “Eye of the Tiger” from the movie “Rocky” started playing, it brought me back over 30 years to my dancing days. That song was the music for  one of the first choreographed routines I ever performed on stage. I could not focus on being in the moment and my sparring was getting slower and slower as I was having a mini pity party for myself. I really had to dig deep to focus on my boxing and not on what I once was capable of doing.

A little later in the class, another drill consisted of punching and ducking punches. For the briefest moment, another door to my past life of dancing opened; only this time, I could feel I was gracefully  performing the drill. I had strength, power, rhythm and speed for maybe 30 seconds. I know it was real as my fellow class members could see it and they cheered me on. It was such an incredible high, but so fleeting. As quickly as that joyous moment came, it was gone and I was back to my slow, non-rhythmic self.

After being so blissfully high during my “butterfly” moment, I came crashing down at the supermarket later in day. While I was scooping flour into a plastic bag, my left hand stopped working and I dropped the open bag on the floor and spewed flour all over myself and the surrounding areas. What a mess I made!

This is a typical roller coaster ride of a day in the life of a person with Parkinson’s disease. The unpredictability of this disease is so challenging. A day can have moments (few and far between for me) where one can feel like their pre-PD selves, but then,  we are reminded of our reality. These ups and downs in themselves are exhausting.

My Rock Steady journey will continue, if only to feel the joy of opening that door once again, even if only a crack, to the rhythm and athleticism I once enjoyed.

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses — behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” –Muhammad Ali

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Getty image by Balazs Kovacs.


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