“It started with a little twitch in my toe,” says Molly. “Within a few months, my whole leg was tremoring. My arm, my leg, my insides, everything. So within about three years I was trembling so much that I could barely function.”
Life with Parkinson’s disease looks different for everyone, but most stories start like Molly’s: symptoms so small, you barely even notice them – until you just can’t ignore it anymore. When it got to its worst, Molly says, “If I tried to sit with a group of people, I tremored so much, it was embarrassing."
But instead of watching her faculties leave her one by one, Molly decided to take her diagnosis standing up – and on the floor of the Rock Steady Boxing gym, "Mad Molly" was born.
From Fear to "Mad"-ness
After her diagnosis, Molly joined Rock Steady Boxing at The Inn on Westport, a community managed by The Goodman Group, at the encouragement of Lisa, Rock Steady Boxing Program Director. "For a while, Molly was the only lady in a group of, like, 10 guys." Making herself stand out in a situation like that earned Molly a reputation.
Her commitment shows: at Rock Steady Boxing, Molly attacks the speed bag, heavy bag and even battle ropes with fervor. "I'm doing things now that I probably would never have thought I could do," Molly says. Two years in, she credits Lisa with giving her the tools to keep improving.
"Lisa is a blast," Molly says. Good humor, personal training and motivation are her trademarks. "She knows each of us individually. She won't let you slough off. She calls you a slacker if you do." Molly says this from a first-person perspective: one can imagine her persistence is what led Lisa to bestow on her the "mad" moniker.
"I'm Mad Molly," Molly states. "Not because I'm mad, but because I'm mean. Tough. All these guys, they were pretty impressed with what I could do in a short time."
Taking Back What Parkinson's Takes Away
Novelty aside, Mad Molly isn't just a fun nickname or a character to put on in front of the boys – it's an emblem of her resilience against Parkinson's disease. It's how she shows the world her refusal to be defined by an affliction that can take everything from you, piece by piece. "Mad Molly" is one way she holds onto those things – like her dignity and self-reliance – and even takes them back when her confidence fades.
"At first, you find out and you're so scared and you just think, 'Oh, I'm gonna die from this,' and it's not true," Molly says. "It's not a death sentence."
Molly has found more than physical benefits from Rock Steady Boxing. The program has given her a feeling of connection, openness, and frank discussion with fellow boxers. "I think for me, there's a lot of humor in the group," Molly says. "It makes me laugh and that keeps me upbeat about everything that's going on. We compare a lot of notes. We talk about medications that are working for us. We talk about doctors. It's a great support group."
Paired with the support of her Rock Steady Boxing group, her "mad" reputation is a motivator: "Sometimes I think, 'I don't wanna go today,'" Molly says, "'I'm feeling kind of tired. But I always make myself go, and I always feel better afterward.
"I mean, I still have days that I'm down and still feel kind of scared by the whole thing," Molly admits. "But I'm more up than I am down. And I think that's what's important."