Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Do You Maintain Fitness through Adversity (Fitness Blog World post)

This is a Fitness Blog World post. All 21 writers in the group are to write about this topic:

"How do you maintain your fitness and healthy lifestyle through adversity? When "life happens", how do you keep going and stay committed to your goals?"

I have not had something horrible happen to me such as losing my home to a disaster, a major injury, loss of my job, nothing that was directly involving me. I have had several loved ones suffer through many illnesses, and have lost two parents in the last two and a half years though. That can pretty much put anyone into a tailspin.

My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer several years ago, they removed a third of her lung, a horrible surgery that involved breaking many ribs to complete. I know about having just one broken rib, it is excruciating.

Mom went through 4 years of chemo and radiation. Luckily she lived 4 miles from my house. My step father had his own struggles dealing with this horrible illness and needed assistance. Many of the care giving duties fell to me and my younger sister, we both lived close by. It became routine, my sister Karen and I would go to each all day infusion, make cheeseburger and milkshake runs for mom and sit and joke all day as she was treated.

For years, life revolved around doctor and hospital visits, medication and new physical discoveries, as all people react differently to such powerful medications. We did a few things we had always wanted to do, just in case we didn't get another chance. I am glad we did.

Hair would fall out, and hair would grow back. Fingernails too.

In the end, my sister and I were her primary caregivers. We called in hospice, we needed advice, we needed help. Just how much morphine should you give a person, how do you know when they are in pain if they cannot speak or move? How do you wash them without hurting them and then ensure they don't get bedsores?

She needed morphine and other pain medication every hour on the hour, 24 hours a day. We fired the night care giver because she "let her sleep" instead of giving her the medication, so it was up to us. We learned that fluttering of the eyelashes means the patient is in pain, give them more morphine, right away.

We took turns sleeping at her home. I would sleep by her side and the kitchen timer would wake me every hour through the night to give her pain medication and I could swab her mouth. In the morning an aide would come to relieve me, and my step father was there so he could make sure the medication was given on time.

As soon as the caregiver arrived, I would go to the gym. Then I would return to my mother's and sometimes work from her home or go into the office. I did the shopping, my husband did a huge amount also, my son helped.

Yes I was tired, I was an emotional wreak, but I did what I had to do to maintain my own sanity. I never missed one day at the gym and I adhered to my diet everyday.

My mom died at home, where she should be. I prepared her body, hospice said they didn't do that, my brother and sister couldn't, they just couldn't. I dressed her in a favorite dress, and some jewelry she liked and said goodbye one last time to a beautiful woman.  

Shortly after that my step father became very ill and was hospitalized and non verbal and not aware of anything for over a week. My sister and I took turns caring for him there, he was at Kaiser and the nurses didn't have time to feed him or change the bedding very often, it could be hours. We would take turns spoon feeding him, making sure he had clean bedding if necessary and watching over him. We got to know the nurses and doctors, we knew where all the supplies were.

I would go to and from work, and I never missed a day at the gym, and I adhered to my diet everyday.

My mother in law died in February of this year when I was on vacation in Mexico. We flew home as soon as we could and visited my father in law a few times, he lives a few hours away. 

Even on the day I went to the funeral home I went to the gym first. I never missed one day at the gym and I adhered to my diet everyday.

This is my dad, and if you have been following my blog for a while, you have seen these pictures. Last year he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and underwent chemotherapy (below is his certificate of completion from the nurses!), radiation and ultimately a very invasive surgery. He pulled through better than they hoped! 

His surgery was at Stanford, about 30 miles from my home. He came there as it was not only a great hospital but it was close to us. We drove back and forth everyday to visit him, he was there for 10 days. I updated all his friends via email everyday with entertaining stories of his progress. I made several 70 and 80 year old friends! I would go to and from work, and I never missed a day at the gym, and I adhered to my diet everyday. 

Below he is goofing off as we (his kids) all hung out at his house, contemplating "do we make brownies or something else?" As you can see, he didn't really care, "just give it to me!"

My brother flew in from Barcelona and stayed a month to help take care of him, and would call me and tell me how crotchety dad was!  I guess he had a right to be though huh?

When I visited him and stayed a while, we all had the discussion of his possible death sooner than we had planned, I went to the gym everyday and I adhered to my diet.

A couple weeks ago his doctor told him he now has stage IV cancer, and statistically has 1 to 2 years left. Now, he could live another 20 (actually unlikely given his age already), or he could live 3 months, it's a statistic only.

I have a feeling that the next several months or years may prove to be challenging, for my father and for the people who love him. I am ready, and so is he.

This post isn't about dying though, it's about living, and how do we live when there are people around us dying? How do we keep it together and go to the gym when adversity strikes?

I believe we all handle adversity the same way we handle life. It just depends on how you look at the adversity. Do you look it in the eye and wave the red shawl, like a bullfighter to the bull? Or do you look away and run scared?

I have a commitment to live my life to it's fullest. I don't feel it is selfish, I feel it is generous. For me to be a whole person, to give all that I give, I need to take care of myself, especially when taking care of those around me.  For me to be able to be the "Rock of Gibraltar" I must do what I need to keep me sane, and that is eating right and exercising, every single day. Falling apart will help no one, and in fact, will make matters worse.

Something probably needs to slide though, and we all decide just what that something will be.  For me it was never the gym, nor my healthy eating. The house was a mess, so big deal. I got less sleep, I lived. I didn't really do anything fun, it was all about balancing the needs of myself and others, skip the entertainment for a while. 

I think you need to ask yourself the question:

Are you dying to live?

Or are you living to die?

Think  about it.

How many times have you said you would do something "tomorrow" or would start a program "in a while"? Are you waiting to lose weight before you buy yourself a new dress, wear a bikini, or get a piercing? 

Are you putting off a training or weight loss program because you feel your life is too hectic right now? 

What if you don't have tomorrow? Adversity is everywhere, and we all react to the many degrees of it differently. 

A couple years ago I was chatting on Skype with my younger brother. He lives in Barcelona and has for years. I don't get to see him often. I moved out of the house when I was in high school, he was only 11, so I missed him growing up, I wasn't there.

He has grown to be a man I love very much, and I would want to know him even if he weren't my relative.

As we talked, he told me he was spending the summer in Paris and studying at the Sorbonne. David walked up behind me and slipped a note in front of me. "Go visit your brother in Paris" it said.

And I did. I had a competition and two days later boarded a plane, all by myself to Paris for 10 glorious days with my brother. Here we are on one of our everyday lunch stops at a small restaurant, drinking way too much wine.

All my adult life I wanted a pair of Christian Louboutin Very Prive pumps but they were too damn expensive. About 6 months ago I told myself "I am 50 years old. What am I waiting for, till I am 80 when I finally believe I can afford them and then I cannot even walk in them?"

Here are my shoes in all their glory and I love them. Every time I wear them I feel fantastic, I should have bought them 20 years ago! Oh, and I am buying some in a very nice cream color soon.

Are you waiting to go on vacation "when you have time"? What about finally getting that crazy haircut? You know, it grows back...even after chemo.

I have been wanting to go to the Poliquin Institute and become certified. Not that I plan to be a trainer, but I want to do it for myself, because I am worth it and I believe in learning, I am hungry to learn.

David looked at me the night we heard about my Dad's cancer return and he  said "What are you waiting for? Go!".

What are YOU waiting for?

LIFE is Like a FLUTE ….

It May Have Many Holes And Emptiness
If You Work On It Carefully
It Can Play

`Rishika Jain

Please take the time to visit the other writers from Fitness Blog World and share their experiences.