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This was a weird and difficult time for me. I’d been under CK’s care for approximately nine months and going to Pilates Rehab for about eight months. [I was still under the care of my Pulmonologist . . . you know, the one with the Steps of Doom! Both of these treatments were being covered by my insurance and like most insurance companies, mine gave me an allotment of visits for these specialists …and my allotment was up for both. CK had taught me all she could; I had the tools and knew how to use them and, as she put it, anything more would amount to nothing more than her being “nit-picky.” Of course, she would be accessible if I needed her, but our formal visits were coming to an end. This was hard for me to process. I had gone down this completely unfamiliar and, at times, frightening path with her “holding my hand” and the thought of letting go made me feel uneasy. Yet I knew the day would come and our last visit was bitter-sweet. She assured me—several times—that she’d be right here if I needed her and, of course, she has. It still makes me feel warm and happy to know she’s “there” for me. Not only did she teach me how to “fix” myself, but has become a loving and trusted friend. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without what she’s taught me . . . I could never thank her enough!

The other hard thing to leave was Pilates Rehab. The people at the Pilates studio had become like family and it broke my heart to leave. Running the visits through insurance made the cost reasonable, but to pay the entire cost out of pocket wasn’t an option for me. At this time my husband and I were providing almost total care for my mother-in-law, as well as covering her financial needs. Rick and I worked our schedules such that he could cover for me while I went to Pilates and my appointments with CK—usually in the middle of the day while my MIL napped—then I could cover the rest of the time while he worked. At this same time, my husband suffered a horrible and life-altering reaction to a drug—a fluoroquinolone antibiotic—that left him, at times, non-functional. [To this day he still suffers from the effects of this drug and can do about half of what he normally did before he took it . . . and we see this as progress] I remember going from my MIL’s bedside to my husband’s bedside, trying to offer comfort and aid, so frightened and not knowing how I was going to take care of them both. How grateful I was to be healthy at this time.

Sadly, though, money was a big issue when it came to the care of these dear people. My MIL was and had been for years almost solely dependent on us financially. And with my husband’s poor health, he wasn’t able to work but just a little from home. There was absolutely no way we could afford to pay for Pilates, yet I needed to be doing something to continue building muscle strength. Now that I had discovered the world of exercise and experienced what it did for me physically as well as mentally, it had to be a part of my life. CK and I had had many discussions of the lifestyle of a MTD [Muscle Tension Dysphonia] patient [mainly managing stress] so I knew full well the important role exercise played in all this. But what to do?

I knew that whatever I did, it had to be close to home [CK and Pilates were forty-five minutes from my house] due to the demands of caring for my MIL and my husband. I believe it was an answer to prayer that two doors opened up for me: I found a personal trainer who would give me a discount and I found Yoga.

One of my massage therapists [TE] also taught Yoga and had, for several months, tried to get me to come to a class. I had never been to Yoga, never even seen a Yoga tape and so, in my ignorance, thought it was kind of a lame excuse for exercise. If I was going to take the time to do something, it had to be worth it. I WAS SO WRONG!!!! To this day I believe Yoga to be one of the most challenging and beneficial exercises of all the exercises in all the land. TE taught at a studio close to my house and the cost was very reasonable, so I thought I’d give it a try. I figured if it wasn’t much of a work-out, it would at least help reinforce my breathing practices. [Reference “WRONG” statement above] Since I knew so little about Yoga and felt a little unsure of myself, I made my daughter come to the first class with me. This was probably not such a good decision since half way through she had to “step out” because she was laughing so hard at me. But, then again, I’ve been known to do stupid things like throw red balls at angry bulls, so taking my daughter to my first Yoga experience seemed like a great idea at the time. To say I was a “hot mess” would be an understatement, but between my daughter and TE, I made it through my first practice. It was enormously challenging and rewarding and I was hooked! I loved it and decided to attend each week. I knew it was something I could do on my own at home and often did. But there was something so much more in the practice for me to be away from home, with others who were doing their practice, and having the watchful care of an instructor—so I tried to attend a class each week.

The other door that opened for me was finding a personal trainer [JB] who was starting her business and offering a discount. She was a friend of one of my daughters, so I knew her and felt comfortable working with her. I visited with her, giving her a thorough background on everything I had done and why. She did mainly cardio and weight lifting—a different kind of training than Pilates—but agreed to make a specific plan for me. I knew it would all be different but I don’t think I was prepared for just how different it would be.

I know I mentioned before how lovely and beautiful and color coordinated the Pilates studio was, but I just need to say it one more time. It was spotlessly clean, the air conditioning was always set at 70 degrees and they had Michael Bublé and Frank Sinatra playing on the sound system. My sessions were during the middle of the day so often times I had the place to myself, the busy times being before and after the workday. It would just be me and my trainer and Michael and Frank in this lovely, color-coordinated land of Pilates. My daughter would jokingly call me the Pilates Princess and, sadly, all Princesses have to leave the castle at some time and my time had come.

JB rented space out of a small gym in an industrial storage unit area by the railroad tracks. When I got out of my car in the parking lot I could hear the rap music pounding away inside the gym. [Because JB was starting out and renting space in this gym, she had no say in the choice of music, or, much of anything, for that matter] The gym was crowded and hot—a lame excuse of a swamp cooler that never worked—and the music was so loud it required us to shout over it. [Every time JB would turn down the music or change the station, the owner would switch it back to blaring rap . . . I loved her for trying, though]

My first session with JB was just a strength test, to see where I was at. She was impressed by what strength I had gained in Pilates and this helped to ease my nervousness at this change. My second session was like hitting a brick wall. It was so hard! Weight lifting was a completely different type of exercise, mentally and physically. Yet, as I would make my way through the reps, I would remember the different breathing techniques I’d learned and applying them to my lifting helped tremendously.

As I made my way through the first few months and dealt with the soreness—still had my “blue ice-pack thing” and used it all the time—I began to notice some interesting changes. Not only was I gaining muscles I never knew I could have, but I was facing my life differently. The emotional challenges of caring for two sick people were, at times, overwhelming. Yet, I began to see that if I could physically lift a heavy weight, then maybe I could bear up under an emotional weight, as well. The next several months would prove to teach me much in this area.

To be continued...

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