Scared to Life!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Why do we have to be standing in front of a casket to be reminded how uncertain life really is? Just a few years ago, I stood in silence - in shock - staring at my aunt lying in that casket. She was only 64 years old and without warning, without any signs of poor health, she died of what appeared to be a heart attack. As family and friends were reminiscing about her life and the memories they shared with her, my thoughts were elsewhere. I was rewinding to a conversation I had with her a few months earlier. I had just been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and my doctor asked me if anyone else in my family had the disease. "I don't know, I don't think so, no one ever mentioned it," I replied. My aunt was the family historian. I knew if I asked her about our family's medical history, she could point to someone, somewhere in my genealogy who had the disease. To my surprise, she too had suffered from RA too but chose not to reveal it. "You can't do anything about it, you just have to live with it," she said. End of story.

Unfortunately for her, the medications that are available today to slow the progression of the disease did not exist when she was diagnosed. For years, she just quietly put up with the pain and didn't complain to anyone about her struggles. RA is an autoimmune disease with no cure. If left untreated, chronic inflammation from the disease can damage the lungs, kidneys and the heart leading to a premature death. And it is estimated that as many as one third to one half of RA patients will die of coronary artery disease.

So as I listened to people paying respects to my aunt, I'll admit it, my thoughts were more selfish. I stood there terrified, wondering if I was facing the last 20 years of my life. Did the countdown begin? I stared at the expression on my kid's faces and imagined if that's what they would look like standing there looking down at me. I did not want my story to end that way. At that moment I decided to step outside of myself and take a good look at what needed to change. There's nothing that she or I did to end up with this disease, it was pre-set in our DNA. However, with some lifestyle changes, it is possible to manage RA and lessen the symptoms. For the first time in my life, my health and happiness became a priority.

So why should it take a tragedy or a crisis to scare us into taking better care of ourselves? We spend the first part of our lives on automatic. We don't require a whole lot of maintenance. We live as if there is always going to be a tomorrow, like we have all the time in the world. Most of the time, we're lucky because things work out just as we had planned. The car starts in the morning, the pizza gets delivered on time, the internet is working, the kids remember to take their lunch. But when one of those seemingly insignificant things doesn't happen, it can absolutely ruin our day. We are not prepared for things to go wrong.

But what if all of a sudden, you were faced with an even bigger problem? What if you suddenly suffered a loss, illness, divorce, economic hardship, a life crisis beyond your control -  eventually it will happen. Tragedy, especially when it hits close to home, has the ability to shake us into taking action. It forces us to re-think our priorities and hit the reset button.

I made the decision that day to make the rest of my life the best of my life. I'm happy to say that today, my RA is under control. I look and feel better than I have in years. But it wasn't easy. I had to first change my mindset, then modify my diet and make a commitment to becoming fit. It's not a temporary fix, it is ongoing. It's a new way of life that focuses on replacing unhealthy habits with better life choices. It means putting an end to life in quick and easy mode. No more skipping breakfast, frequenting drive-throughs and concession stands,  juggling stress and chaos, no more self-punishment by putting myself last and rewarding myself with late night Netflix and snacks - sound familiar? All of this was taking years off my life and making me miserable.

I want to use my story to help other people transform their lives. I want to show you how to make your health and happiness a priority now, before a crisis happens. How you can take much better care of your family if you care for yourself. I'm inviting you to Join me for a 30-day online fitness and accountability group. It's not selfish, it's personal development. When you shift your focus to the things in your life you can change and control, you will be prepared to rise above any challenge.

No-fail, Health & Happiness Challenge Starting Monday, August 10

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  • We focus on nutrition, fitness & overall well being
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