Just about 28 years ago, I lost this wonderful guy.
A lifelong addiction to cigarettes, along with a family history of heart disease, and he was already looking at two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Then, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in May, my world, and that of my family, turned upside down. These days, 58 years old is barely considered middle age. Now, men and women 20 years older than that are running their first marathons. Amazing discoveries in modern medicine are made every day. Incredible strides have been taken in how we understand nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle choices. But even with all that , science will never be able to figure out how to mend the broken heart of a then 18 year-old, who always thought she would have her daddy around to walk her down the aisle. What she did learn though, was to never take anything for granted – especially time.
Ever get that creepy feeling once in a while when you’re running like something’s not quite right? Like something or someone may be following you, but every time you turn around, there’s nothing there? Welcome to living with the ghost of heart disease.
One of the main reasons I run is I am fighting a number of risk factors for heart disease: a family history of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Statistics: according to SecondsCount.org, one in three women have some kind of cardiovascular disease, many of whom have no idea. Not only did I lose my dad to a myocardial infarction, (aka one mother you-know-what of a heart attack), but one of his brothers battled heart disease most of his adult life and eventually lost. There have also been a couple of scary moments with immediate family members, one of whom had to go the nitroglycerin route for a short time (thankfully), and another who had to wear a Holter monitor to keep track of her heart beat. In the end, the scary moments resolved themselves, but it’s still something that haunts me to this day.
So I run. I lift. I bike and I roller blade. I go to yoga. I try to move as much as I can. I try to eat fresh, healthy, unprocessed, colorful food most of the time. I try to get proper rest and listen when my body says it’s had enough. Do I still party like a rock star on occasion? Of course! I AM human after all. 🙂 But I love my life, my husband, my family, my friends, and my dog. I love that I’m sitting here on my back patio in March in a tank top and shorts, a soft breeze blowing, with the Wonder Mutt crashed out on the couch next to me, our family of ducks hanging out under the bird feeder chowing down on castoffs, and our new resident swan, (whom I’ve officially dubbed Dionne), hanging out with his new feathered and human friends. Talk about hitting the jackpot.
We all plan on being on this earth as long as we can as we make our way through our bucket list. Fate may have other plans in store for us. Plans over which we don’t have any control. What we CAN control is what we do with our time. We CAN control what goes into our bodies. We CAN control our decision to either sit on our dupas or get off the couch. We CAN control what we do or don’t release into our atmosphere. Every time I pluck a plastic bottle or container out of the trash and place it in the recycle bucket, the hubby laughs at me. It’s a standing joke that I’m always trying to save the planet, even if it’s just my little corner of it. And I’m totally okay with it. I may not be able to get gozillionaire corporations to stop polluting our air with carcinogens, but I don’t have to add to the problem. I’d really like to be able to go out on a run when I’m 80 and still be able to breathe. God knows I’m doing everything I can now to even get to that point.
So the next time you find yourself pondering whether or not to have a “Happy” meal (sarcasm included), or a salad, crashing on the couch when you get home from work or fighting the call of the lazy and getting out there, or throwing that water bottle in the trash instead of the recycling bucket just because it’s closer, take a second and think. How many people regret not having made healthy food choices in their past and are paying for them now? What disabled person would give anything to be able to take 10 steps on their on two feet and can’t? How much less trash would there be if everyone in the country threw just one more bottle a day into the recycle bucket instead of the trash?
My dad made some bad decisions with his health which more than likely contributed to his early death. I think he would be proud to see his daughter has learned from his mistakes and is doing everything she can to not end up on that same path. At least I hope so. After all, teaching your kids is part of a parent’s job, isn’t it? If that’s true, then you were the world’s greatest teacher Pops, and your lessons continue to this day. And for that, I can only say….thank you.
Enjoy the ride.
What steps do you take to try and make your life a healthy one?