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Six-Pack Abs

August 4, 2012

2009 was not my year. I was sick. A lot.

In mid-December of ‘08, I lost my best friend of 13 years to ovarian cancer. My grief oozed out of me in the form of several colds during the last few months of her life, and progressed to more obscure things after she died.

I thought I was dealing with my loss well. Keeping busy. Dotting the I’s, crossing the T’s. Making sure her family was okay. Sucking it up. Putting everyone else first.

Funny, I always think I’ll be fine. I think I’ll deal with my grief quickly and efficiently. I’ll figure out how to move on faster than anyone else. I will deal with my grief and help others with theirs. After all, I worked as a mental health nurse. It’s not exactly a piece of cake, but I knew what to do. Or so I thought.

As it happened, it didn’t quite work out that way. In fact, it turns out I’m human, too. Hmmm…now I don’t exactly mind being human most of the time. It’s when life gets hard and the painful stuff starts creeping in that I’m not wild about. I try to distance myself from pain. Doesn’t everyone? I try to be clinical and look at things objectively.

As it happened, I got sick. It started on New Year’s Day 2009 with the flu. I kicked that in a day or two, or so I thought. Two weeks later I got whacked with walking pneumonia. That wiped me out in a big way. But again, after two more weeks, I felt better. In fact, I felt pretty good by the end of January.

The calendar turned to February. And my health took a turn, too. Not for the better. I felt like crap. I have never been so tired. Not sleepy tired, but bone weary fatigue deep down inside me. I had absolutely no energy. Couldn’t even hold my eyes open to watch TV. I‘d go to the bathroom and it would take me four hours to recover from the exertion. I had no energy to eat or drink. So I survived on peanut butter. Skippy Creamy Natural. I just put the jar on the end table next to my recliner and stuck a spoon in it.

Then the pain in my chest started. Now that’s scary. It’ll get you to the head of the line in the emergency room in nothing flat, too. And when that happens, you can do nothing alone. Not even things your mother taught you before you turned two. Like walking. And certain other tasks you usually perform independently. Not easy jobs to complete in front of an audience.

They poke, prod, stab and jab you enough to make you wonder where your USB port is. Best not to mention that…they’ll probably want to check it out, and worse yet, stick something in it.

It took months to get a diagnosis, five long months with trips to the emergency room, doctor’s office, a night on the cardiology unit, an angiogram, visits with the cardiologist and rheumatologist before we had an answer. All kinds of nasty possibilities were rattling around in my head. Cancer? Liver or kidney disease? Pancreas? I just didn’t know.

The answer was an absolute gift from God. Nothing fatal. Not debilitating. And with time, I would make a full recovery.

I had mono. The kissing disease, but sadly, that’s not how I got sick. Of that, I’m sure. And I don’t care who believes me and who doesn’t. I’ve taken more than a little ribbing about having mono on the back side of fifty. I think they’re just jealous. Makes ‘em wonder, at any rate.

During all this, I had time to think. Lots of time. And I vowed to God and myself that if He allowed me to recover, I would honor him by taking better care of myself. I would only eat healthy food, drink plenty of water, cut back on sweets (hopefully eliminate them entirely) and continue working on my addiction issues by staying away from booze and cigarettes. I promised to stay out of second-hand smoke, too. And I meant every word.

And surprisingly, I followed through. That’s not usually my strong suit. But I’d had a scare, and a bad one. As much as I didn’t like it, I knew I had to add regular exercise. But what? Walking? A treadmill? Exercise bike? I didn’t have a clue. I’ve never much liked exercise. Too much like work, if you ask me.

Then my doctor suggested water exercise. No impact. Easy on the joints. And as a kid, I loved to swim. This one had possibilities.

So I found a fitness center with a pool. A therapy pool kept at a constant 92 degrees so no need to ease slowly into frigid water. No shivers. No blue lips. Just soothing warm water caressing my body as I jumped, splashed and flailed about all in the name of exercise. And I met new friends. Really good friends. In fact, water aerobics is no longer about the exercise. I go to see my friends…to talk and to laugh with them. To connect.

Long story short, I fell in love with the class, and especially with the people there. I found my exercise niche. I could do this. And I was doing this. Actually, I began looking forward to each class, and even started showing up early for a pre-class workout. Now, if I’m not in the pool by 8:15, for my 9 am class, I consider myself late.

One day, a year or so after I joined the class, I looked into my full-length mirror and I saw them. Very definite abdominal muscles. On my belly. I had a six-pack. At fifty-four. Pride absolutely bloomed inside me.

My six-pack is precious to me. It’s the first time I’ve had one.  So I keep it wrapped in bubble-wrap. Or so it appears. 

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From → The Pool

One Comment
  1. Diane Hyland permalink

    Love it! And you’re right about the Ladies of the Pool.

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