When the Body Falls Apart

 

When we are children, we delight in running around, making forts out of huge cardboard boxes, and playing hide-and-seek. In ourteen-age years, some of us struggle with puberty and hate the world and prefer to drive a car than ride our bicycles. And then there are all those years when we simply pursue our lives, either investing our time and energy in the routine demands of living and in staying well and healthy—or not.

But at some point, mortality sneaks up and we realize that our bodies are wearing away and falling apart. I became acutely aware in my 30’s that my body was not going to get itself in shape on its own. So I decided to take seriously the effects of the passage of time.

When did the truth of mortality’s stalking occur to me especially hard? Right now, as I recover from breast cancer. It’s been nagging at my psyche for quite a while. At 71, I have many fewer years left than I’ve used up. But six months ago, my predictable lifestyle of the joys of retirement, regular exercise and diet was interrupted. And I had no idea how challenging it would be to work my way back.

Several weeks ago, I began walking briskly for 30 minutes, six days per week. I felt pretty smug—I had this down! I was sleeping better; for several years I’ve enjoyed my early walks. But in the last couple of weeks, the joy of walking was dampened by the aches in my body—particularly in my legs and hips. Fatigue was not melting away. I stretched before I walked. I stretched after I walked. I even considered that the aching might be a remnant of my last chemo infusion. Then to add insult to injury, my feet and legs started to swell. I had to get ahold of this problem before it overtook my recovery.

So a couple of weeks ago I signed up with a personal trainer who has worked with a friend of mine for years. I wanted to begin seriously getting my health and wellbeing back, and I didn’t want to try to accomplish those results too quickly. The trainer is Denise, and she is not only extremely competent but cheerful beyond words. And she calls me Sweetheart. Now I’ve got to tell you, nobody but Denise would get away with calling me Sweetheart! She’s about my age so I’m giving her some leeway.

I didn’t think our one-half hour session would seem very long, but let me tell you, I discovered (fortunately) how flexible I still was, but also how my muscles—yes, those old hamstrings and quads, bless ‘em—were protesting loudly. Denise made sure I didn’t push myself too hard, and she seemed genuinely delighted at how capable I seemed to be. Using poles, free weights and machines, we worked on upper and lower body. With her encouragement, I powered through my hesitation. I didn’t take notes on all the machines and stretches and weights, but I’ll remember enough of them to integrate them with my regular work-out three days per week. (She’s agreed to work with me one session per week.) I even walked 25 minutes on the treadmill. And I feel that I am working my way back to a new and improved (and perhaps wiser) self.

*     *     *

Nevertheless, the lessons can’t be ignored. I am getting older, and can’t disregard the fact that the likelihood of health limitations may show up again. I won’t worry about them, but they are built into the pie. I also know that having people around me who are my cheerleaders and friends will be more important than ever. My tendency, as an introvert, may be to pull back, but interactions with others are part of the healing process. And keeping my mind alert and engaged can be every bit as valuable as mending my body. The body/mind connection and all that.

I’ll need to remind myself of all of this when I try to get out of bed tomorrow . . .

[Photo by Kelly Sikkema at unsplash.com]

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There are 16 comments.

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  1. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    You’ll get there. :-) When the doctor took the knee-high cast off my broken ankle after six weeks, I stepped down from the examining table and promptly fell on the floor. :-) But within a week I was walking around almost normally. 

    Be patient. :-) 

     

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MarciN (View Comment):

    You’ll get there. :-) When the doctor took the knee-high cast off my broken ankle after six weeks, I stepped down from the examining table and promptly fell on the floor. :-) But within a week I was walking around almost normally.

    Be patient. :-)

     

    Good advice, @marcin. I’m working on it. Getting out of bed wasn’t too hard this morning, but the soreness is creeping in. It usually takes 48 to show up fully, but no matter how I feel tomorrow, I’m working at the fitness center!

    • #2
  3. I. M. Fine Coolidge
    I. M. Fine
    @IMFine

    I salute you for getting a trainer! I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I am on my way. My biggest hurdle this summer was finally admitting that I was just not up to hard cleaning anymore. (Read: I can’t get up off my 68-year-old knees once I am on them scrubbing baseboards.) So I waved the white flag and hired someone to clean my house every other Saturday. Few people understand what a huge deal this was for me. The hardest task of all was not listening to my mother’s voice in my ear (even though she’s been gone since 1998) telling me that paying someone to do what I am perfectly capable of doing was the world’s most colossal waste of money. (Sigh. I can’t imagine what she’s going to “tell” me about hiring a trainer.)

    I wish you many victorious bed-rising’s and sun-filled mornings!  

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I. M. Fine (View Comment):

    I salute you for getting a trainer! I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I am on my way. My biggest hurdle this summer was finally admitting that I was just not up to hard cleaning anymore. (Read: I can’t get up off my 68-year-old knees once I am on them scrubbing baseboards.) So I waved the white flag and hired someone to clean my house every other Saturday. Few people understand what a huge deal this was for me. The hardest task of all was not listening to my mother’s voice in my ear (even though she’s been gone since 1998) telling me that paying someone to do what I am perfectly capable of doing was the world’s most colossal waste of money. (Sigh. I can’t imagine what she’s going to “tell” me about hiring a trainer.)

    I wish you many victorious bed-rising’s and sun-filled mornings!

    Thanks, @imfine! I almost wish I could meet with the trainer more than 1/2 hr/week, but that will probably be plenty as I get better at remembering her instruction. BTW, we have had someone clean our homes biweekly for years. We figured out that it was worth every penny!

    • #4
  5. Freeven Member
    Freeven
    @Freeven

    The body makes clear the things it can no long do. What isn’t always obvious is that the time it takes to recover, even from light exertion, also gets longer. Be sure to give yourself downtime to recuperate, even when you feel okay, so you don’t risk cumulative damage. It’s discouraging to have to take a week or two (or more) off just when you’re making progress.

    Good for you, by the way.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Freeven (View Comment):

    The body makes clear the things it can no long do. What isn’t always obvious is that the time it takes to recover, even from light exertion, also gets longer. Be sure to give yourself downtime to recuperate, even when you feel okay, so you don’t risk cumulative damage. It’s discouraging to have to take a week or two (or more) off just when you’re making progress.

    Good for you, by the way.

    Thanks, @freeven. I understand and that’s good advice. I’ll try to pace myself so that I can keep going, however gently.

    • #6
  7. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Many years ago I was in the hospital after a serious automobile accident.  Therapy included moving a few pounds up and down a tree thingy.  I took it upon myself to use more weight than the therapist said:  Big mistake.

    Dedication is fine, but there is a limit. Do the therapy, but mind the boss.

    • #7
  8. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

    @susanquinn I’ve been thinking about what our post-Apocalypto look should be, and for you I’m now seeing this:

    For me, I’m going for a more traditional post-modern look:

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    @ susanquinn I’ve been thinking about what our post-Apocalypto look should be, and for you I’m now seeing this:

    For me, I’m going for a more traditional post-modern look:

    I like it!

    • #9
  10. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    @ susanquinn I’ve been thinking about what our post-Apocalypto look should be, and for you I’m now seeing this:

    For me, I’m going for a more traditional post-modern look:

    I like it!

    It’s funny.  When V came out I was surprised that most people (it was said at that time) viewed the government in the movie to be right-wing.  But I had seen it before reading this, and just assumed that it was left-wing.  Perhaps that fact that both political sides viewed the government as bad but did not agree on the political party shows that both sides can agree that totalitarianism is wrong, but both can’t accurately point to the actual human or philosophical culprits.

    • #10
  11. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    It is a shock when muscles and joints protest. One thing I have discovered is my balance worsens when my leg muscles are weak. My granddaughter has a gymnastics balance beam that is only about six inches off the floor. After I watchEd her, I decided it looked easy and tried it. At most, I lasted three steps. That puzzled me so I tried walking the same line on the wood floor and was unstable even though I have no balance problems normally. I have seen enough Live PD to know I would not do well on their sobriety test with such a problem. Then I went to karate and paid close attention to my kicks and how long I could stand on one foot. Bottom line, I will be doing exercises to strengthen my leg muscles and will be doing a lot of standing on one leg while watching TV. That will also make my brain work on balance. Balance is something that can’t be overlooked when you do your workouts.

    • #11
  12. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    EHerring (View Comment):

    Bottom line, I will be doing exercises to strengthen my leg muscles and will be doing a lot of standing on one leg while watching TV. That will also make my brain work on balance. Balance is something that can’t be overlooked when you do your workouts. 

    I got a lot of progress using a balance board, when I was recovering from 12 weeks of limited mobility after ankle surgery. I eventually got both the rectangular and round ones. Also, that kind of agility is determined by calf strength, so do calf raises at the gym with all the weight you can.

    • #12
  13. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    It’s funny. When V came out I was surprised that most people (it was said at that time) viewed the government in the movie to be right-wing. But I had seen it before reading this, and just assumed that it was left-wing. Perhaps that fact that both political sides viewed the government as bad but did not agree on the political party shows that both sides can agree that totalitarianism is wrong, but both can’t accurately point to the actual human or philosophical culprits.

    The whole “Guy Fawkes” persona in “V” threw me.  Fawkes was a fanatical Catholic insurgent working for Spain to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne.  In short, Fawkes was working to replace one totalitarian monarchy with a slightly more totalitarian monarchy, all in the name of a greater glory to God.  The real Fawkes was not an anarchist sent to “free the people.”  But then again, the look is kind of cool.  The same kind of cool a wearing a image of Che Guevara on a T-shirt, when you are ignorant of his history and back ground.  

    • #13
  14. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    @ susanquinn I’ve been thinking about what our post-Apocalypto look should be, and for you I’m now seeing this:

    For me, I’m going for a more traditional post-modern look:

    I like it!

    Made my day.  Time for some 70’s uptown Funk:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofs_GyQXJ9k 

     

    • #14
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    It’s funny. When V came out I was surprised that most people (it was said at that time) viewed the government in the movie to be right-wing. But I had seen it before reading this, and just assumed that it was left-wing. Perhaps that fact that both political sides viewed the government as bad but did not agree on the political party shows that both sides can agree that totalitarianism is wrong, but both can’t accurately point to the actual human or philosophical culprits.

    The whole “Guy Fawkes” persona in “V” threw me. Fawkes was a fanatical Catholic insurgent working for Spain to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. In short, Fawkes was working to replace one totalitarian monarchy with a slightly more totalitarian monarchy, all in the name of a greater glory to God. The real Fawkes was not an anarchist sent to “free the people.” But then again, the look is kind of cool. The same kind of cool a wearing a image of Che Guevara on a T-shirt, when you are ignorant of his history and back ground.

    It looked cool. 

    Much of the philosophy of the Left is bound up in something like that. It doesn’t matter how disastrous the implementation of their policy proves to be, it doesn’t matter that the disaster was correctly stated by those in opposition to that policy. The only thing that matters to them is the way the policy makes them look; like caring, compassionate, forward-thinking people.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    EHerring (View Comment):
    Balance is something that can’t be overlooked when you do your workouts.

    Absolutely. That’s one of my exercises. Not too bad on two feet but one is hard.

    Edit–on one of those Buno(?) Half balls, flat side up.

    • #16