May 2017 Member of the Month – Marlene

By Member of the Month

We are delighted to announce our member of the month for May is Marlene! After reading her journey, you will be in awe with all of her achievements throughout her one year with LIVE WELL.

Nothing else matters when you can’t breathe!  And breathing had become a real issue for me. By the fall of 2015, my asthma had become unmanageable. Coming too close to a cigarette smoker, someone blowing out a candle, dinner burning or driving behind a diesel truck was dangerous for me.  An encounter with any one of these perils could easily mean days of infirmity if not a trip to Emergency.  

In the spring of 2016, my health was in a downward spiral. Breathing was difficult and I was losing strength and muscle mass every day.  I was unable to manage stairs without assistance.  I couldn’t drive anymore.  I couldn’t open a water bottle on my own.  I was becoming dependent on my husband for everything and I was pretty discouraged.  

I was never very healthy.  As a child, I had little stamina and was often sick.  I was considered lazy because I was always tired. Didn’t matter how long I slept, I always struggled to get out of bed and start my day.  The only exercise that I enjoyed was dancing.  I took 7 years of dance lessons as a child but even that made my body hurt unbearably at times.

At 21, I lost my first full-time job because of too many sick days.  I got colds, flu, bronchitis, chicken pox and whooping cough.  It was one thing after another and I was always so tired. People thought I was burning the candle at both ends.  Truth was I could hardly keep one end of the candle lit!  I got married that year and eventually had two children.  I was lucky that my mother lived close by because I needed a lot of help.

I tried exercise programs as an adult but inevitably quit each one because of intolerable pain afterwards.  I remember 3 days in bed after attempting racquetball. Of course, I never went back.  I worked part time because that was all I could handle.  Vacations were only for rest and recovery.  Adventure was not an option.  

At 32, mycoplasma pneumonia had me in the fight of my life.  It was then that I developed asthma.  After that, I was prone to bronchitis and pneumonia and had several bouts every year.

At 38, I had a cough that kept my neighbours awake. I had to visit hospital daily for treatments.  Broke my elbow and had to have an emergency appendectomy as well.  It was a rougher year than most.  I really struggled with my health.  I seemed to get everything that was going around.  My recoveries were always two or three times longer than the average and I tended to have every possible complication.  I had doctors tell me to suck it up, some thought it was all in my head, and others called me a medical mystery.  I tried most every vitamin and miracle supplement out there. This was the year that I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia by a rheumatologist.  Not much they could do to help me but at least we had a name for my pain now.

At 43, I met my husband Milan.  He’s a wonderful dancer and my weekends were filled with dancing.  I loved every minute and we wowed people with our moves.  What they didn’t know was that I often slept on the way to the dance and on the way home.  More often than not, Milan would have to help me into the house after a night of dancing because my feet and legs had seized up on the ride home.  Touching my feet would have me crying out in pain.  

At 50, I had to quit my job.  It was a good job that I enjoyed and I stood to gain a great pension.  But I knew that if I continued to work, I would never live long enough to collect that pension.  Some days I was so exhausted that I needed help to get out of my car when I got home. This was no way to live.  

At 52, I had to have surgery to have a huge uterine fibroid removed.  Two years later, I was still experiencing pain in the incision area.  I was convinced that they must have left something in there or sewn me up wrong.  

When I was 54, I was tested for sleep apnea.  Sure enough, I have a severe case of it.  You need oxygen in your body to be able to function and every single night my body was being deprived of the oxygen it needed.   No wonder my health was so bad. Finally, there was something we could do.  I now use a Bi-Pap machine that is crucial to my well-being.  Slowly my health started to improve and life was good for a couple of years.  Incidentally, my old surgery pain finally disappeared.  

At 56, I started having problems again.  My lungs were weak and asthma was becoming a major problem.  Seemed like I was always struggling.  We were still dancing though and that was my exercise program.  We continued to travel but every trip meant an illness of one sort or another for me.

At 60, I changed medical clinics in desperation and found someone who actually listened to my story.  Shortly after, I got sick while visiting family in Los Angeles. Mostly everyone in the family came down with B Strain flu.  They all got better but Spring of 2016 for me was ambulance rides, emergency visits, specialist appointments, one medical test after another and bags of prescriptions. By now I had developed diabetes, fatty liver and uveitis (an inflammation of the inner layers of the middle eye).  Things were grim.  A barium swallow revealed one of the worst cases of reflux that the radiologist had ever seen.  Made sense because the test caused me to have an asthma attack right there in the x-ray lab. It was then that my doctor referred me to LIVE WELL.  Doctors had done everything they could for me.  It was time for me to step up and participate more fully in my recovery.  

Making the decision to put myself first was not an easy one.  I’m a busy person and people depend on me.  I have so many things that I want to do with my time and frankly, going to a gym wasn’t even on the list.  And there was the cost.  Didn’t seem right spending that kind of money on myself.  But I spent over $4,000 last year on prescriptions and each ambulance ride was $80.  Not to mention, lost income over the years.  Being unhealthy is very expensive.  I decided to invest in myself and join LIVE WELL.  I could have signed up to go to a regular gym but a regular gym is not what I needed. I wasn’t healthy enough for a regular exercise program.   I needed personalized help and coaching and scheduled times.

It was a slow start.  At first, I didn’t even use weights. It seemed to me that I didn’t do much but at least I was moving. Had only been at LIVE WELL a month or so when I fell ill at an exercise class.  They called an ambulance for me and I felt that I was in capable hands while we waited for it. I had to take a month off, see a heart specialist and confirm that I was okay to continue. I got discouraged at times but I knew going in that it would be one step forward, two steps back.  When I got the all clear, I went back to my exercise classes at LIVE WELL. I work with them to make healthy diet changes and set manageable goals.  With their encouragement and support, I’ve accomplished a lot in the last year.

LIVE WELL has a “bubble” system that’s lots of fun! A bubble is a round piece of paper that you can write your accomplishment on and post on the wall. Always makes me feel good to get a bubble!  I love that we celebrate our successes. When I could fill a pot with water and carry it to the stove, we celebrated that.  When I vacuumed my house for the first time in a long time, we celebrated. When I washed my car, it was a big deal. When I came home from a three-week vacation in Nova Scotia and I came home healthy, I felt like I had won the lottery.  Life is good again!  

LIV WELL was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself.  I am so much stronger and healthier now!  It feels good to be able to do things for myself and I’m proud that I keep showing up. I actually enjoy my exercise sessions now and no one is more surprised than me.  Hey, I should get a bubble for that!

Thank you to Marlene for sharing her beautiful journey with all of us. There is nothing we love more than seeing people finding the JOY and celebrating their successes. Marlene, we hope to see many more of your WINS up on the wall!

Member of the Month

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