How Boxing Keeps My Fire Going as I Battle Parkinson's Disease

“She’s living in a world, and it’s on fire
Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can
fly away
Oh, she got both feet on the ground
And she’s burning it down
Oh, she got her head in the clouds
And she’s not backing down” — Alicia Keys

Recently Michael, one of the volunteers in my Rock Steady boxing class told me I was “on fire” in class. I knew exactly what he was talking about because there were moments (more than a few) where I felt strong and powerful while performing some of the drills. My energy level felt good and although I was still feeling tired, somehow I was able to dig deep and really hammer parts of my workout.

Before I wrote about this experience, I felt the need to be sure it wasn’t just a one-shot deal and I wanted to get in a few more classes to make sure this was not an anomaly. With Parkinson’s disease, there are good days (don’t have too many of those) and bad days and I wanted to see if I could produce the flames again in spite of my PD. I am happy to say, for the next few classes I re-discovered the ability to train hard, even if only for five or 10 minutes at a time.

As an unexpected bonus, in my last class I found some of my lost rhythm as Coach Michelle had us dancing up to the heavy bag for our punching drills. The energy levels were off the charts and my fellow boxers and I were having a blast, dancing with abandon!

That day, I had dedicated my class to my good friend Mike, who took his own life a few days prior. Mike was such a great supportive friend, especially during my times of great need after my husband Steve died by suicide in 2015. During the class, while the theme song from “Rocky” was playing and we were doing heavy bag drills, I had an emotional meltdown. I thought for sure I would have a huge setback and my PD symptoms would rear their ugly heads with a vengeance. Stress and emotional trauma can wreak havoc on those with PD. However, my fellow boxers, Coach Michelle and the volunteers showed me such great kindness and support, I was able to persevere and finish the class. Through their compassion,  drawing on my newly found physical strength and thinking about the great courage Mike had fighting his battles and the great strength and bravery of his family kept my fire going.

After over four months of Rock Steady boxing classes, two times per week, I am starting to see a consistent difference in my physical abilities and my confidence is growing. I hold no illusions that I am “cured” and I understand there will still be some bad days, but I truly believe Rock Steady boxing will make a positive difference in my quality of life.

This girl is “on fire.”

This story originally appeared on Slipped Away.

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