nurturing thursdays: choices…changes…part 2

This is where I come in…

This year I turn 65. The year of Medicare. On the thresh hold to formally entering…old age. 

I’ve been practicing for a while, even telling folks I was already 65. My husband who turned 66 recently, pointed out my mistake. Seems I was rushing him along.

Funny thing. As the years pile up I’ve become more preoccupied with, of all things, death.

Without realizing it, death has become my point of reference these days. Not in a morbid sense, more like savoring the pluses in my life while trying to downplay or diminish the minuses.

So with my daughter as ring master, I’m jumping through the hoops and…going for the gusto!

On Facebook the other day, I saw a photo of my mother-in-law seated with her 7 daughters. They were the picture of health and happiness. She sat shrunken, a shadow of her former, robust self. A quick glimpse of her eyes spoke of a woman growing older by the second. Yes, she looked all of her 80+ years. But she seemed to me, even older on the inside.

Years before my mom died, she fell in the bathroom of a vacation home we rented near the beach on Oahu. Her legs were like toothpicks, bowed from years of suffering the effects of arthritis. She was probably mortified that it took several of us to get her to her feet. Sadness seemed to hover over her like a black cloud in spite of her efforts to smile away her tears.

Both images are permanently embedded into my brain. Old age is not a pretty sight to behold.

For more than a decade now fibromyalgia, arthritis and I have occupied the same body…mine. In recent years I’ve been forced to take a backseat, while they’ve taken to calling all the shots. By late afternoon, I’m totally fatigued. Muscling through dinner preparation and evening chores, I usually fall into bed exhausted, aching from head to toe.

Caring for our dog who has heart disease and chronic neck and back stiffness, has only added to my own aches and pains. I must cajole her into taking her meds morning and night, including forcing a capsule down her throat. I must lift her in and out of the car when taking her to the vet, as well as carry her up and down flights of stairs.

Knowing that we women are often the designated caretakers, I wonder how long I can manage to help those about whom I care, as my own health dwindles. How can I help my husband should his health fail?

It’s more than likely my chronic pain was caused by the statin CRESTOR which I started taking to lower my cholesterol. I alerted the prescribing doctor to the fact that news reports indicated Asian women were susceptible to muscle pain caused by the drug. He’d not heard about it so I remained on Crestor, especially since it did the job intended. Even a subsequent physician, who happened to be female and Asian, ballyhooed my information. Not until a third physician drew blood to measure my C-Reactive Protein number and found it to be 1000+ instead of within the normal range of mid-100, did I stop taking CRESTOR. Only after trial and error did I end up with the one I’m currently taking which doesn’t have the same effect…yet.

In the midst of trying to determine the cause of my chronic pain, the doctor sent me to a rheumatologist who diagnosed me as having fibromyalgia. Like the “kiss of death,” I’ve been living with it ever since. Thanks, CRESTOR!

Alternative medical practitioners, including chiropractors and massage therapists, have helped me live a fairly normal life. I’ve done pretty much whatever I’ve wanted to do. But with old age settling in for the duration, quality of life becomes harder and harder to sustain. 

After much reading, discussions with my naturopath, and soul searching,  I have begun the WILEY PROTOCOL natural hormone replacement therapy. 

Not having had the truly bothersome effects of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats, I never felt the need for hormone replacement treatment. But now that old age is staring me in the face and my quality of life is in jeopardy, renewing my body’s resources seems imperative. 

Without hormonal balance, our bodies are going the inevitable route of shutting down. And while that is the natural order of things, I’d like to make the journey as enjoyable as I possibly can. 

I’d like to savor the moments I can still do for others, and with others. I’d like to continue laughing, and hugging. I’d like to feel the excitement of learning new things no matter how old I get. I want to keep on writing, and blogging.

Essentially, I’d like to keep on…keeping on.

So why choose to change things up? What’s my goal? Well I’ll tell you…it’s for quality of life…no matter the quanity of years.

…here’s to living life…the best way i possibly can!!!

………hugmamma.IMG_3370

what levels the playing field…between generations?

Illness!

No doubt about it. When young or old get sick, real sick, all bets are off.

Fibromyalgia Eye

Recently I’ve posted about my debilitating bout with fibromyalgia. The best way to describe what I was feeling was escalating chronic pain, and fatigue that accompanied me from my first sip of green tea…until I laid me down to sleep.

With lots of rest and minimal exertion…with which I’m still wrangling (give me an ounce of energy and I’m going 24/7)…I’m on the mend.

Yesterday I read a 16-year-old blogger’s rambling thoughts about dealing with fibromyalgia. My heart went out to her.

Imagine being a high-schooler facing the normal teenage dilemmas…peer pressure…boys…exams…parents’ expectations. Add to that an ailment that demands most of your attention from the minute you walk through the classroom door, until you’ve written the last sentence on that essay due tomorrow.

In this case, the young blogger had to pull back from the brink of a total breakdown, because she expected to fare better on her math exam than the she did previously. She was trying to beat a 93. Instead she got an 88.

An A-type personality is already difficult to manage, without adding an “elephant” into the room…fibromyalgia.

I’ve had the time and opportunity to reset my body. As a housewife, I can make my own schedule. There’s no external pressures making demands of me. Hubby leaves me to my own devices, knowing I’ll do what needs to be done in the moment.

No such luck for the suffering school girl attending classes, doing homework, answering to teachers and parents, struggling with failed efforts to make friends, no prospects of a boyfriend in sight.  And just dealing with normal teenage angst due to hormones running rampant.

Sometimes it even sucks to be young!

There’s no escaping illnesses that get a stranglehold on one’s life…young or old. They balance the “playing field.” All we can do is make each inning count. And perhaps…

…have compassion for the other generation…

………hugmamma.

27/365: fractured reality/grace under pain

27/365: fractured reality/grace under pain (Photo credit: Samie Harding)

chronic pain…oy vey!!!

fibromyalgia awareness

Image by veganjoy via Flickr

A few years ago my family physician referred me to a Rheumatologist, a specialist in rheumatoid arthritiswho told me I was suffering from fibromyalgia. I’d been experiencing never-ending muscle pain in my upper neck area. I’d gone to Dr. Kinnish because I’d not found relief at the hands of another doctor I’d been seeing. I’d tried to tell her I thought the cholesterol-lowering statin Crestor might be a contributing factor to my chronic pain. But she, and other doctors before her, including the one who’d prescribed Crestor in the first place, paid no heed to what I was saying. After all, I only had a news report to support my claim…far from the expertise of those in the medical profession.

On the Take

Image by colros via Flickr

Thankfully Dr. Kinnish took my claim seriously and ordered blood work. The results came back…literally through the roof! Where the norm for CK, Serum is between 24-173, mine was 1228! With my doctor’s guidance, which included the advice to stop taking Crestor, I was able to bring my pain indicator down considerably. At present it stands between 200-300, depending upon the physical activity to which my body’s been subjected in the weeks prior to testing. Sitting in economy seats on 10 hour-plus international flights definitely elevated my muscle aches so that in recent visits to my chiropractor, she said my entire back seemed like that of a football linebacker’s. When I went for a second treatment, she said I was only half a line-backer. Her followup advice? Go back to exercising…to flex my muscles. And that’s what I plan to do.

Chronic Pain Barbie

Image by Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick) via Flickr

Meanwhile, I wanted to share the following sound advice from Dr. Peter Abact, author of Take Charge of Your Chronic Pain: The Latest Research, Cutting-Edge Tools, and Alternative Treatments for Feeling Better.

THE INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE now estimates that chronic pain afflicts an estimated 116 million Americans, making it one of the major health problems of our time and one of the biggest reasons people see their doctors or miss work. Odds are that at least one member in every family is dealing with pain at this very moment. Chronic pain can affect every aspect of your life, from how you move your body to what you think and feel.

When you think of pain, you are likely to think about acute pain, which is a symptom of tissue damage and inflammation when you first get injured. This type of pain often gets better with a little rest and responds well to medications.

Chronic pain is very different, because it is an experience that can overwhelm you for months and years. Chronic pain is a disease, and if you aren’t careful it can rob you of things you cherish most in life, such as your independence, health, family and career. Common causes of chronic pain include diseases of the spine, fibromyalgia and arthritis, and it is often accompanied by depression, insomnia and anxiety.

Yoga Class at a Gym

Image via Wikipedia

To address chronic pain, you need to start by pursuing two main lines of attack. The first is finding tools you can rely on every day. This might include everything from stretches, special exercises and meditation to taking regular breaks from the computer; with practice and persistence, you will be amazed at what you can do. For example, recent studies have found that both yoga and tai chi are effective in treating the symptoms of muscle pain associated with fibromyalgia, and also that bed rest actually aggravates back pain while walking provides relief.

The second is making the necessary lifestyle changes to create your optimum health. This means reexamining what you do with your time each day. Taking time out each day to focus on yourself is critical to developing an effective pain-management strategy.

meditation

Give yourself a break from computers and cell phones, and spend that time preparing a healthy meal, getting some fresh air and exercise or just having some quiet moments to filter out all of the nervous energy running through your brain.

Your body will feel better when you keep it active, and your mind will stay sharper when you lower your stress. And remember, the better you are at taking care of yourself, the more effective you will be at being there for those who love you.

If you’re like me, forever rationalizing my aches and pains to those with doubts, Dr. Abact’s treatise on the subject is a God-send. Rather than talk until I’m “blue in the face,” I’d just swallow my words and ignore the naysayers as best I could. Not an easy task, especially with those whom I’m in regular contact. They look at me as though I’m spewing my usual yada, yada, yada. For those in my position, I hope this brings you some satisfaction in knowing it’s not all in your head…

…but that it truly is…in your body………hugmamma.  

ever have one of those years?

I know the year’s not done, but in the words of the reigning Queen Elizabeth, thus far mine’s been an “annus horribilis.” I’m not complaining, well maybe a tad. It’s more that I’m amazed at being blindsided by events over which I’ve had no control. I’m sure I speak for every one of us.

For me the chain of events began in late Fall when my daughter returned home for health reasons. As her mom I naturally felt the time with us was not just about physical healing. I knew it included emotional, spiritual and mental care as well. Her inner wellness was just as crucial as her external wellness. That for me meant making the journey with her. I felt her lows, and I reveled in her ascents back to normalcy. But it was a roller coaster ride for sure. And while I made certain that she had all kinds of support, I thought I could go it alone. Of course I reached out to my husband and friends, but moms tend to take on more than they can sustain. I didn’t know I had, until my daughter left.

Illness came calling almost as soon as our daughter boarded her flight home. I was laid up for weeks battling digestive, as well as respiratory ailments. At the time my husband was away on a business trip. Not being able to get out of the house for stretches at a time, my spirits were stretched thin, very thin. Not getting to exercise class regularly didn’t help.

Deciding to have physical therapy for chronic upper back, shoulder and neck pain once I felt well enough, got the endorphins moving. The sun seemed to be smiling down upon me once again as I got outdoors, breathing deeply of fresh air and renewed hope for better days ahead. Of course Christmas needed to go back into plastic, storage bins, but I hadn’t the strength yet for that monstrous chore. It would have to wait until I returned from our trip to see our daughter perform. But I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me 3,000 miles away.

Almost from the get-go, our family was engulfed in a discussion of differing opinions. Any mother of a young adult knows we must tread lightly with our opinions. Yes, I want her to know how I feel, but I don’t want to live her life. At 61, I don’t want to live mine, AND hers. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again. Besides, she’s very capable of living her own life. But it’s very difficult not wanting to share my decades of experience, in the hopes that she won’t make my mistakes. Needless to say our family endured a few days of tip-toeing around one another. In the midst of it all, my husband left on another business trip. And he’s usually the neutral party. After a day or so, and much discussion, my daughter and I resumed our loving, BFF status.

Throughout the ordeal, the flu was brewing in my daughter’s gut. She danced sick, endured our brouhaha, and finally succumbed. The weekend after her performance I took her to the ER with a migraine headache that included dizziness, nausea, and mild vomiting. We sat in the lobby with many, other sick people waiting our turn to be seen, first by the insurance clerk and then the nurse, and then the doctor. Our visit began at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and didn’t end until 11 p.m. that night. The best part for my daughter was the last hour-and-a-half, when she slept like a baby because of the Benadryl she was getting intravenously. At that point, I was so light-headed, not having eaten since breakfast. Once I told the nurse about my hunger, she and the doctor wrapped things up pretty quickly. Once we got home, my daughter fell into bed, immediately dozing off again. I proceeded to raid the icebox. I know, my age is showing, but “icebox” somehow seems more apropos than “refrigerator.” Maybe because it makes me feel like a kid again, when MY mom did the worrying.

With my daughter sleeping in the next morning, I felt life was finally back on track, so I sat down to blog on my laptop at her dining table. Mindlessly writing, enjoying the moment, I surfed the internet for a picture to add to my post. As soon as I clicked on a photo of a picturesque beach on Maui, all Hell seemed to break loose. Those words blinking incessantly before me “virus, virus, virus’ will forever be emblazoned on my brain. Waking my daughter, together we wend our way through Hell, and back. Trying to buy a pop-up anti-virus security product, “system tool,” only got us more viruses. In fact, the laptop screen went entirely red with “VIRUS” glaring at us in huge, black letters. Using my daughter’s computer we sought online help. We found Tech Pros whose opening page warned of “system tool” being a scam. A half-hour’s drive away, we left my poor, inundated laptop in the hands of the experts..

At a cost of $199 plus tax, my good-as-new laptop was back home with me a couple of days later.  It’s actually better than before. Tech Pros installed a security system, in addition to zapping all those yucky viruses, “dead as door nails.” (Where’d that expression come from, I wonder?) Talk about bed-bugs, I really felt like the viruses had crawled into bed with me. As we used to say growing up on Maui as kids, those viruses gave me the “heegie-beegies!” The correct saying, according to my daughter, is “heebie-geebies.” Whichever it is, it’s exactly how I felt.

Oh, and then there was the matter of cancelling the credit cards we’d used to try to purchase “system tool,” whose sole purpose was probably to steal our information. My daughter’s Visa was replaced in a day or so at a rushed shipping cost of $16. My Master Card arrived the following day at no extra charge to me, except that the UPS driver left the envelope on the wrong doorstep. I learned of their error after I arrived home last night. While I was still at my daughter’s trying to track down my new credit card, I ended up having to cancel it, and have another new one sent to my home address. 

As if we’d not had enough I got hit with “the bug,” or so we thought. I started feeling the nausea my daughter had experienced. We thought it might be the flu. Would those viruses ever leave us be? As it turns out, we decided I was probably experiencing gastritis or the beginnings of an ulcer. Over the past few months, heart burn symptoms have returned time and again. Getting on a regimen of Prilosec and Tums as needed, as well as a diet of whole grains, steamed veggies and selected fruits seems to have calmed my digestive system down considerably.

But just when my health ordeal was unfolding, Mother Nature decided to ratchet things up a bit with a tornado watch. With heavy rains and winds whipping about, the sirens at my daughter’s apartment complex began blaring. Turning on the TV to the news channel, we learned of a full-blown tornado watch in our area. As the newscaster followed its movement, my daughter and I emptied her bathroom of anything that could kill us if we were to hunker down, wrapped in heavy quilts in the bathtub. My husband, back home from his business trip, called while we were preparing for the worst. Needless to say, he was worried. Needless to say, I was panicked, my digestive symptoms getting worse by the minute.

As I’m sure you’ve already surmised, no tornado touched down in our area, although sightings were reported in other parts. Due to return home to Washington, I hoped my digestive symptoms would abate long enough for me to make the trip which included a stop-over. Fingers crossed, I checked in online.

When I awoke yesterday I was good to go, having taken one of my daughter’s sleeping supplements which helped me rest through most of the night. I even blogged, putting out a post, before packing away my laptop. My husband called making certain I was, in fact, traveling. Later he called back warning that my flight was delayed 45 minutes, which would affect my connecting flight. The hour wait was now shortened to half-an-hour. I wasn’t deterred. I was ready to return home and be sick in my own house, rather than “riding it out” at my daughter’s.

When I got to the airport, I called my husband to say I’d made it, and asked if he could check for other flights in case I missed my connection. He called back with great news. The connecting flight was also delayed by 45 minutes. Hallelujah! God decided to give me a break. As it turned out, I had to work for it. My flight arrived in Terminal C. I had to high-tail it to Terminal D, which I did. Panting, my feet literally flew as I rushed past anyone and everyone making sure I wouldn’t miss my flight home. So determined to make it, I wound up standing in line at the wrong gate. God intervened again when another passenger informed me of my mistake. I hoofed it out of there, making it to the right line. I needn’t have worried. The flight didn’t leave the gate until well past the delayed departure time.

The only thing that hurt by the time I landed home in Washington, was my fanny. Could they make airplane seats any harder? But I’m home, with my husband, cats and dog. And you know what else? I’m even delighted to see that Christmas is still with us. My cat-sitter left a note saying, in part, “…I love all the xmas decorations! China Rose.” Don’t you just love her name? And she’s a sweetheart to boot.

The year’s not done as I’ve said. But I’m determined that it’ll get better. So I’m rejoining my friends in exercise class, continuing with my physical therapy appointments, healthier diet, and blogging. I’ll look into starting yoga, tackling other writing projects, and an adult ed class, perhaps in French.

we can all make lemonade…out of lemons…hugmamma.  🙂

working out the “knots,” makes a difference

Had my second physical therapy appointment today with Pierre at Olympic Therapy. Several weeks ago, I had experienced muscle pain in the area of my neck, upper back and shoulder blades which traveled the length of my left arm, including my fingers. The tingling sensation that went along with it, and the sharp pain in my armpit, had me thinking heart attack. Needless to say I lay awake all night, wondering. By the following morning, I’d decided the chronic ache I’d been experiencing for years, had gone into overdrive. A visit to the chiropractor and the internist later that day confirmed my suspicions.

Following almost immediately upon the heels of my back problem, I caught my husband’s cold. The hacking cough I developed as a result, lasted weeks. My back, and ribs, took a beating. I decided then and there that once I was well enough, I was seeing a physical therapist. I needed deep down relief from the tightened muscles I’d lived with for years.

Many have told me that my neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles felt like a block of brick, including doctors, alternative health practitioners, my husband and my daughter. Doctors prescribed over-the-counter pain medications, as well as muscle relaxants. Chiropractors and massage therapists have given me great relief which lasted, until I returned to the daily grind of lifting, bending, twisting, slouching. But I knew the day would come when I needed physical therapy to undo all the “knots” that had accrued over my lifetime.

Pierre has allowed me to see that I needn’t live with chronic pain. In my first session last week, he evaluated the extent to which my head could turn from one side to the next. It was obvious that turning to the left met with some resistance the further I tried to move my head. Pierre taught me exercises to do there, and at home, which have loosened the tightness in that area considerably. He also recommended corrections to how I should sit at the computer, sliding forward to the edge of the seat so that the weight of my body rests on my legs. Having done as he suggested, my return visit already showed signs of improvement.

Today as I lay looking up at the ceiling, Pierre used a roller of some sort to work through the knots on the left side of my neck. I felt pressure, but no pain. He concurred when I asked if the knots were scar tissue that had amassed in the area over time. He again confirmed that he was working to release the fascia which encases the muscles. Finally, he warned me that the tiny capillaries were releasing blood, so that my neck would have red bruises for a couple of days.

When I sat upright, my vision was so clear, as if someone had inserted new eyeballs into my sockets. Pierre chuckled when I told him. But more significantly, from the time he worked on my neck until now, there is such a looseness in the area of my neck, the likes of which I’ve not felt in more than a decade. I realize, however, that more needs to be done to ensure that the healing is long-lasting, and not a temporary fix. Especially if I want to remain active, and capable of lifting, bending, twisting, but NOT slouching. I’m going to sit up straight from now on, even if it kills me!

Medical doctors are not the “be all and end all” to good health. Many of them will tell you, a little help from alternative health practitioners goes a long way toward keeping our bodies oiled and primed to enjoy quality of life. And one of my main priorities, apart from my family, is to keep my “chassis” up and running, and good to go!

you might want to do the same…hugmamma.

on a mission to clean up the “mess”

Straying from a somewhat healthy regimen the last couple of months had me ending up a mess, literally. While my daughter retained some semblance of her usual diet, I threw caution to the wind and gorged. It didn’t happen overnight; it never does. And it didn’t sneak up on me, not really. My hand and my mouth became best buds. My hand kept shoveling tasty morsels into my open mouth, which just couldn’t seem to get enough. I think Halloween, with its usual tempting delights, got me started, and I never looked back. Beware that first delectable bite! Needless to say, I’m on a mission! 

“Cervical thoracic strain” (doctor’s words), combined with heartburn, had me laying awake a couple of nights several weeks ago wondering if I was in the throes of a heart attack. After spending a restless night analyzing my symptoms, I got the first available appointment with a doctor the following afternoon. Suspecting I might be experiencing muscle pain, I saw my chiropractor first. Her adjustment provided some relief, so that when I saw the internist I had already surmised  that chronic pain was the real culprit. An EKG,  performed just to be sure, corroborated my diagnosis. A much-needed massage a few days later, brought almost complete relief. It loosened up all the tight muscles in my neck, shoulders and back, that had probably been creeping upwards for months, as a reaction to internalized stress over my daughter’s situation, and the holiday crush. I’ve a physical therapy appointment next week. I’m hoping it’ll work out the few remaining aches and pains.

Prilosec works well to resolve my intermittent heartburn. I’ve a few days left of that regimen. But just when one set of issues was minimized, another came calling. Let’s just say it had to do with my “plumbing.” Seniors will know what I’m talking about. Younger folk, like my daughter, would say “TMI! TMI!” All I’ll say is it’s no fun seeking medical help from an ER doctor. Been there, done that, don’t ever want to do that again. Uh, uh, no way.

So while I was recovering from that bad experience, I caught my husband’s cold, and couldn’t stop hacking my head off, coughing and coughing, relentlessly. More sleepless nights until yesterday, when I finally drove myself to a walk-in clinic. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic for a sinus infection, an ailment I suffered annually in the past, but which I’ve not had for a couple of years. Because drugs are hard on the liver, I prefer not to take antibiotics. But it already seems to be working its magic, for my coughing has lessened considerably. As with all things, moderation is the key, and everything has its time and place. Although, the drug I’m taking has also done a number on my “plumbing,” in the other direction. Okay, okay. TMI! TMI!

I’m reading several books concurrently, one of which is “Healthy Aging – A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being,” by Andrew Weil, M.D. On page 1 of its introduction, Dr. Weil says something with which I fully agree. 

 In 2002, I turned sixty. To help celebrate the occasion, friends organized a surprise party for me. After the festivities, there came a time to reflect, and when I did I came to an uncomfortable conclusion: I am closer to a time when my energy and powers will diminish, when I will lose my independence. Sixty is about the time that organs of the body begin gradually to fail, when the first hints of age-related disease begin to appear.

I hardly notice my aging on a day-to-day basis. When I look in the mirror in the morning, my face and white beard seem the same as the day before. But in photographs of myself from the 1970s, my beard is completely black. Looking at old photographs, I can’t help but notice the physical change that has taken place in the course of thirty years. If I pay attention, I can notice other changes in my body: more aches and pains, less resilience in meeting the challenges of traveling, less vigor on occasion. And my memory may not be quite what it used to be. At the same time, despite the evidence, some part of me feels unchanged, in fact feels the same as when I was six. Almost everyone I talk to about aging reports similar experiences.

It’s true, all true. You’re invited to continue journeying with me through the aging process. Perhaps it’ll give you a heads up when your time comes, or maybe you’ll nod your head in recognition of an experience or two that “rings a bell.”

for aging gracefully, huge hugs…and a mountain of effort…hugmamma.

more exercise, less sugar

Dragged myself from bed at 6:46 a.m. to prepare for exercise class. Would’ve preferred sleeping in, especially with my propensity for late night blogging. Will find a balance one of these days. But having had a spotty attendance record so far this summer, I feel compelled to get myself  to the gym, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Our instructor gave me a further reason to push myself.

Kristina is in the midst of some remodeling. She told us that she was grateful for her exercise regimen. Needing to replace a steel rod to rehang her garage door, Kristina successfully undertook the task herself. She felt we would be as capable given our attention to exercise. And she’s right. Many a time I’ve thought how easily I lug grocery bags in from the car, usually making it in one trip. Unless allergens are swirling overhead, I can walk my dog up and down hills with minimal huffing and puffing. My chronic lower back pain is on “simmer.” Even though I’ll never eliminate my arthritis, I can manage the pain without drugs.

Incorporated into our exercise regimen, we use 3 lb. and 5 lb. hand weights, ankle weights, flex bands, and poles. Lying on the floor, we do sit ups, push ups, leg lifts, pelvic tilts, and hold our bodies parallel to the floor for up to 32 counts. All of this comes on the heels of aerobic work to get our heart rate up. On Mondays we do lunges across the floor several times, sometimes even doing the length of the gym. On Wednesdays we add a step to the mix. On Fridays we lay on our backs, legs bent on the seat of the chair. From this position, we do all our floor exercises. All of this wasn’t easy at first, but 4 years later, I feel stronger and more in control physically and mentally. 

Exercise and cutting way back on sugar, which causes inflammation, are my “magic bullets.” When I don’t get enough of the first, and get too much of the latter, I ache, badly. As soon as I return to my “weapons” in defense of good health, the pain melts away. It’s taken years of trying different diets, including Weight Watchers 3 times, and The Perricone Prescription, to arrive at my solution. It’s not a quick fix or a perfect one for I stray often, especially on vacations. But I get back to my routine as soon as I can, and my body thanks me for it.

It’s still a struggle to age, but I’ve no choice in the matter so I opt to do it healthily and therefore, gracefully.

wish the same for you…hugmamma.

facing death, and living

A thin paperback, only 237 pages, Elizabeth Edwards’ “Resilience” was not a book I could breeze through easily. It was written as though she were talking to me, but not seeing me. I might have been a tape recorder capturing her innermost thoughts and feelings, as if their release might ease her chronic pain, more emotional and mental than physical.

Chapters 1 through 6 explored the anguish she endured from the loss of her 16-year-old son Wade to a car accident, whose cause might have been considered “an act of God.” “Wade was driving to the beach when he died. The invisible wind crossed the eastern North Carolina fields and pushed his car off the road, and he could not right it and it flipped and, crushed, it fell in upon Wade, and he died. The invisible wind. The hand of God? The hand of Satan that God has loosened on Job? Is his death a response to his or our failings, or is it a test of God? How can I lean on a God who had taken this righteous boy, or even on one who had allowed him to be taken?” After much soul-searching, Edwards decides that the God about whom she was taught is not the God of whom she has now gained a better understanding.

“God…does not promise us protection and intervention. He promises only salvation and enlightenment. This is our world, a gift from God, and we make it what it is. If it is unjust, we have made it so. If there is boundless misery, we have permitted it. If there is suffering, it came from man’s own action or inaction. Cain killed Abel; God did not. Wade’s death didn’t belong to God. It belonged to this earth. I could still pray for Wade’s eternal soul because I no longer had to blame that same God to whom I prayed unsuccessfully for his return to life.”  

While she continues to reference her son’s death through the remainder of the book, Edwards also speaks at length of her bout with incurable breast cancer. In the midst of John Edwards 2004 vice presidential campaign, Elizabeth learned she had breast cancer. It seemed that in 2005 she’d been cured. But 2007 saw its return. Among other things, she discusses her struggle in coming to terms with death. On one hand it is not totally unacceptable, for “Death looks different to someone who has placed a child in the ground. It is not as frightening. In fact, it is in some way buried deep within you almost a relief. The splendid author Mark Helprin wrote, in the introduction to “Almost Spring” by Gordon Livingston, ‘If you were on a ship battered by immense waves (and, believe me you are) that swept your child from your arms would you not (given that you had no others for whom to remain) throw yourself into the deep, hoping for the chance that in the vast black ocean you might grab onto him? Comforted just to know that you would suffer the same fate? And if you had to remain, to protect others, would you not dream all your life of the day when, your responsibilities over, you would finally get to the sea?’ It is not a death wish. It is an appreciation that there might be in death some relief that life itself could never offer.” But Edwards concludes that her son’s death is a reminder not to take the gift of life for granted.

“I knew that I have to get ready to die. There is still no prognosis on which I can rely. All I know is that it will be at my door more quickly than I want. I don’t think, as it comes, I will have my father’s grace. Now, despite my words that I have a reason why death would not be so terrible, I want to live. I admit that I spend a great deal of time pretending that I would be fantastically lucky to live a decade, that I would be happy to have another decade when I know I want much more. But just as there is more than a decade, there is also less. There are moments when I believe death is only a whisper away. I try to get the teeter-totter to balance somewhere in the middle; it is rarely possible. When my mind teeters to death, I push off as hard as I can, trying to land on life. Mostly I can do that.”

Elizabeth Edwards comes to terms with her life, as it is. She has adopted lines from “Anthem,” a song by Leonard Cohen, as her anthem. She has had them inscribed high up on her kitchen wall as “…a reminder that the pain, the loneliness, the fear are all part of the living. There is no such thing as perfection, and we have a choice about how we integrate the imperfect into our lives.” Her anthem reads “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

A stranger who happened to be in the audience during Edward’s speech at the Cleveland City Club in March, 2007, inspired her to work harder in her efforts to bring affordable health care to the unlucky among us who go without. After the luncheon speech, the stranger whispered in Elizabeth’s ear “…I am afraid for my children. I have a lump in my breast, but I cannot get it checked. I have no insurance.” When she went in search of someone who could help, the stranger disappeared into the crowd. And so it was that Elizabeth felt the woman believed “…that we live in a country where things can change if we just whisper in the right person’s ear.”

I share “Resilience” with you because there might be a lesson in it for all of us, for we begin to die the minute we are born. Facing imminent death, Elizabeth Edward focuses on living…

a new day always dawns…hugmamma.