Tender moments

I love to swim, always have.  Laps, synchronized, life guarding, the beach.  If it involves water, I’m in.  Water has always been one of my passions.  Not long ago I experienced one of life’s greatest joys, in the water!  It involved a stranger named Gisela and a touching conversation in the hot tub at my local pool.

I watched her descend the hot tub stairs, holding on for dear life.  We made eye contact.  She walked right over and sat down beside me.  Very close.  I put her at late 80s.  I’d seen her before.  Like me, she’s a regular.  She was unsteady, sighing as she slid into the healing waters of the tub.

She began speaking in broken English.  I learned she was an immigrant, from Hungary, who bore three children in Canada.  Her husband now resides in a box under her bed.  “He vant to be bury vith his dog but authority say no so I keep him to bury with me soon.”  I settled in for a good conversation.

She asked if I had children.  I told her yes, two boys and a girl.  “Is girl marry?”  “Yes, she is, quite happily.”  “Oh, too bad; I look for wife for my lazy son who still single.”

“How about grandchildren?  You have?”  “Yes, I have one precious girl, already a teenager.”  Her eyes sparkled and she broke out in a toothless grin.  “Oh, you so lucky.  I have no.”  “My children take care of me so I lucky, yes?”  “Yes,” I replied enthusiastically.  “You are very, very lucky.”  She frowned.  ” I still  no lucky with no grandbabies.”

“Vhat your name?”  “Rebecca”.  “Oh, from the Bible, yes?”  “Yes”, I replied, “or from Sunnybrook Farm, but either is fine with me.”  She giggled but her brows furrowed.  “I am Gisela, very Hungarian name, but for years Canadian people call me Giselle and speak French to me but I no speak French.”  She howled with laughter.  Me, too.

She chatted on about life, aging, health and love until we were both “well done”.  I was starting to get dizzy from too much heat so I stood up.  “Thank you for talking to me”, Gisela said quietly, touching my arm.  “It was my pleasure, Gisela.  I enjoyed our time together.  We will see one another again, I’m sure.”

As I drove home I thought about how many  Giselas there are here in this retirement haven of Victoria.  Very old people who are in need of someone to acknowledge them, to take time to be with them.   That morning was one of those special moments, an opportunity to be 100% with someone who needed it.  I still smile as I think of Gisela.  I’ve seen her again and we have chatted or acknowledged one another from a distance.  Our paths first crossed in the hot tub but that day we became friends. A tender moment indeed.


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It’s true…. food IS medicine!

In my 70th year I now “see the light”–food is truly medicine.  Why did it take me so long to embrace this truth?  I’ve come to accept that we humans are, well, a bit set in our ways and changes are made only when we’re ready and not before.

Today’s North American diet is truly killing people.  Packaged foods contain chemicals, preservatives, and all sorts of nasty ingredients.  Why do we eat them?  Because we can;  they’re cheap, fast, and satisfying.  Our bodies have been programmed–yes, programmed!–to crave those fries, that double decker burger, those cheese balls, that Diet Coke.

I have always struggled with emotional eating.  I eat when I’m sad; I eat when I’m happy.  Food = love, comfort.  So for years I, too, ate fast food regularly; I always ate potato chips which I still crave, but I’m learning slowly that the changes I’m making in my food choices are giving me results I’ve desired for years–weight loss, more energy, and less body pain–three huge issues I’ve wrestled with for far too many years. Continue reading

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Chronic stress, the silent killer

Chronic stress is a silent killer.  It causes adrenal fatigue.  Adrenal fatigue creates a constant elevation of cortisol levels.  As your cortisol levels remain high (an unnatural state for your body), eventually your body is unable to regulate them all.  This compromises your immune system and triggers chronic inflammation, which leads to disease and the gradual inability to produce these essential hormones at all.  Every living being on earth deals with stress day after day.  The effects of chronic stress put our bodies in danger.  Fortunately, adrenal fatigue is reversible with changes in diet, exercise, and mind-body therapy such as yoga or meditation.  People with adrenal fatigue tend to be vitamin deficient so adding living food (not processed) to our diet can improve vitamin levels quickly.* Continue reading


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Journey of the Heart blog beats again!

Mea culpa, gomen, disculpe….a thousand pardons for my lengthy unannounced absence.  I see my last post was on July 17th. 😦

Tomorrow,  December 11th,  the hearts of two families will beat as one as my daughter-in-law, Kristine, wife of my elder son, mother to my grand girl,  goes into hospital for a kidney transplant.  Your thoughts and prayers would mean the world to us.

So, let’s backtrack and summarize what’s been going on since February:  diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation; hospitalized after three trips to emergency; complete cardio workup (including cardioversion) showed no actual heart disease; discharged to recover from the ordeal.  My recovery was very slow but I made progress one day at a time.  I’d timed injections at the Pain Clinic hoping that the effects would give me pain-free travel to LA for a pre-booked writer’s conference early August.  Unfortunately, they didn’t help.   The travel plus three intense conference days was pretty overwhelming but I managed to make the best of it.

Over the ensuing weeks I waited to bounce back but it didn’t happen.  In fact, I went downhill, quickly.  I felt like I did when I’d left hospital–weak, riddled with pain, depressed.  I went to my doctor.  The usual prescription was offered for pain but I didn’t want drugs.  I wanted someone to help me sort through this maze and get to the root of what was happening to me. “Something’s not right”,  I moaned as I left the office totally dejected, feeling that modern medicine, as I knew it, had failed me.

Another week went by;  a friend called me to recommend a new naturopathic doctor she’d begun to see.  I’m no stranger to natural/alternative medicine.  I’m very open to a variety of healing sciences.  Days later, August 23 to be exact,  I found myself sitting in the ND’s consultation room, making the usual “nice to meet you” greetings.  Then I burst into tears!  I confided I was afraid I was dying.  I felt so low.  He’d already reviewed my extensive medical history.  He agreed my condition was “layered” with a number of significant issues but assured me he was ready to help identify and treat the root cause(s).  He asked lots of questions and I talked.  He listened.  Really listened.  Before I knew it 45 minutes had elapsed.  Imagine!  A 45-minute appointment with a medical doctor?  The standard time allotted here in Canada is 3-4 minutes.  That’s it.

He arranged for me to come in the following day for some “muscle testing“.  Remember, this is a doctor of natural medicine.  A doctor who is trained for the same amount of time as a traditional allopathic doctor.  However, the difference is that the naturopath looks at the whole body system to find the root cause of disease, while the medical doctor treats with standardized tests, like x-ray/lab,  followed by prescription drugs or a referral to a specialist.  One doctor looks for the root cause and treats it with natural remedies; the other treats the symptoms with prescription drugs.

After a long period of muscle testing (please google kinesiology to get details) he had an answer for me.  “You have neuro-toxin disease.  The toxins you accumulated years ago are still in your body, still causing you ill health.”  I was stunned.  After ten years of living abroad I had contracted many toxins–heavy metals, pesticides, parasites, petro-chemical poisoning–all identified by another ND in 2003.  Years before that I’d been diagnosed with Lyme disease.  When I returned to Canada in 2004 I was treated by intravenous therapies designed to kill the toxins.  I felt better but certainly not 100% but  I went on with my life, struggling with low energy, depression, body pain.  I tried everything.  Every new product, every new treatment; you name it, I tried it.  But nothing was long-lasting.

Then in the fall of 2007,  a life-altering stress entered my life.  In my next post I’ll jump into the deep end of that murky pool and explore the role that stress has played in my health challenges.  Stay tuned.

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Making changes

Any kind of health challenge will certainly demand changes in your life.  Changes in diet, exercise, stress reduction, and sleep to name a few.   Change can be tough to accept and difficult to find the time to ensure that new, healthy habits are formed.

Today everyone is “busy”.  Granted some of that busyness is self-imposed but life in today’s world is very full.  I often wonder how I was able to work full-time and raise three children ages 7,6 and 4 as a single mom.  Looking at today’s mom, I am thankful that my mothering years were in the late 60s, a different time altogether.

So why is my “retired” life full to overflowing?  I have writing and deadline demands, social media, reading, self-care, writing, eating, reading, facebook, websites, writing, appointments, friends, family, reading, writing….you get the picture.

I recently came across Laura Vanderkam’s “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast”.  This really caught my eye.  I downloaded it and began reading right away.  She notes: we have 168 hours in a week but not all hours are suited to all things.  I used her download “time tracker” to track my time.  Pretty soon I could see patterns.  I am super productive during the morning.  After lunch I crash and need a rest.  Between 3-5pm I can be found cruising around social media.  Dinner at 6pm, some TV, a little more iPAD cuddling, reading, and bed.  Hummmm, some major time wasting going on?  Room for improvement.

It makes sense that mornings are the best time for exercise and focused work.  I was doing it backwards.  Out of bed by 5 or 5:30am, shower, coffee/toast and work!  I’d put in half a day’s work by 11am when I would go to the pool and join the masses in fighting for space.  It hit me last week; exercise first, then come back and focus on work.  Cut way down the major time wasters of checking email, FB posts, scrabble, and solitaire.  Read more.  Write more.  That’s been working very well.
Heading out for a swim at 6:30am doesn’t work for everyone but Laura’s point is to get the hard stuff out of the way early, before your family or your work demands attention.  She stresses that after a decent night’s sleep (now a minimum 7 hours is recommended), your supply of willpower is fresh, you’re more inclined to be optimistic, and your energy level is high.  Good reasons to schedule important priorities first.

My second discovery is the Miracle Ball.  I recently saw a woman take a bright blue ball (a bit larger than a baseball) out of her bag and slip it behind her back.  I was intrigued.  After talking to her I bought a set.  Two balls and a book.  Looks pretty simple.  After reading the book I tried out a few positions aimed at releasing muscle tension through proper deep breathing and placement in various areas of the body.  The challenge is to learn to “sink into the ball” by continually breathing deep and letting go.  I was amazed to experience how tense my body was/is.  This is normal.  In fact, many people who are in pain actually stop breathing different times during the day.  Becoming very aware of breath and proper breathing will enable you to relax and get more oxygen into your body which in turn releases pain.  One week into the system and I’m sleeping better!  What a bonus.  I’m getting better at “letting go” and enjoy the time I spend releasing tension.

I probably sound like an infomercial but honest, I’m not getting paid for these endorsements!  I just want to share two good discoveries that have helped me to start making some of the changes on my “to do” list.

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Highs and lows, coupled with minor disturbances

July?  Really.  I apologize for being tardy with posting.  It’s not that I don’t have anything to share but most of my time has been taken up with the launch of my re-worked bi-lingual book, Fly Catcher Boy, now available as an iBook. If you want to catch up on that part of my life,  go to www.rebeccakool.com.

Life continues much the same.  Self-care takes up a good part of my day.  By that I don’t mean hair and make-up!  I mean morning stretching, lying on back foams, swimming 3x week, and a myriad of other ablutions that I know you aren’t interested in reading about.  Truly.  You wouldn’t be interested.

However, a major shift has occurred.  After almost a year on the wait list, I was finally called for my first appointment with a new, state-of-the-art Pain Clinic about 30 minutes from my door.  After an initial intake and diagnosis (I have facet arthropofy which in English means arthritis of the facet joints in the spine).  The arthritis is coupled with  degeneration of discs which has resulted in a “compressed” Rebecca.  I spent most all my life being much too tall for my liking.  I have now lost height;  gone from 6′ to  5’9 1/2 “. Imagine that!  If I wanted to I could now wear those new stilettos confident that I wouldn’t scare anyone away.  Fortunately, I’m afraid of falling and my bunion and hammertoe have rejected anything but open toe shoes.  Oh, how life has changed.

So, what to do with facet arthritis?  Tough it out?  Take drugs?  Luckily the doctor said, “we have an effective, relatively safe” treatment.  I perked up.  “We inject an epidural steroid into the area.  If it works, you will know within two days.  If not, we can go in again to a different area and see if that makes a difference.”

I replied thoughtfully, “I don’t like the word ‘steroid’.  Do you have any words to calm my fear?”

He did have a few.  I thought about them for two weeks and returned with a “yes”.  It seemed the only logical route to dealing with daily pain.  Days later I had the epidural.  I did feel better within two days.  In fact on day 3/4 I felt much better but days 5,6,7,8,9,10  put me back to where I was.  It didn’t work.  Disappointment is an understatement.  I held high hopes, but all was not lost.

I’ve just completed two more procedures, back-to-back, injecting right into the facet joints.  The first time was a “test” to find out the most painful spots.  This wasn’t fun.  But it seemed to work.  I wasn’t pain-free but felt encouraged enough to continue with for a second visit.  The same process produced a good result.  It’s now been four days and I can tell you that I think we have success!  Again, not pain-free but compared to a 7/10 I’m now 2/10 which is a significant reduction.

I have a follow-up on July 11th and we’ll assess if any further procedures are needed. In the meantime, I’m enjoying more movement, a brighter disposition, and positive thoughts on being able to survive a 3-hour plane ride in early August.

Stay tuned.

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One day at a time…..

Another month has vanished.  Day by day I’m returning to…what?  My former self?  No, not really.  A new and improved woman?  No, Rebecca is still as we left her….but, there are some changes afoot.  You know the expression “it’s all about me”?  Well, 30+ days have been all about me, that’s for sure!  Self-care takes up most of my day but that’s how it is.  I’m learning to accept that the bounce-back takes time; lots of time. Continue reading

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