Journey of a Lifetime

If you were to have seen me in Cecilia’s Boxing Challenge class in the middle of February, you likely would have snickered. It’s okay to admit it, we all do it but here is some background that will hopefully remind you to think of one’s individual journey before making that snide comment, side-eye or snigger.

Nearly three years ago, I lost my mother to ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In the weeks that followed, I was quite literally crippled by a mysterious pain in my calves. Imagine how it feels when you run for an extended period of time, the twitching of your muscles still working. Now imagine the worst charley horse you’ve ever had, you know the ones. You have to try to walk it off but you just can’t get the cramp to stop. Well, that was how my calves felt every day, all the time. Four general practitioners, two neurologists and a few kind nurses later and nothing was accomplished. Soon, I was walking with a cane. What was initially diagnosed as a Vitamin D deficiency had become a mystery. Meds and diagnoses came fast and furious with no relief until finally, some truly wonderful people in my life encouraged me to look past western medicine and try something more holistic.

After a single acupuncture treatment, I was walking unaided for the first time in months. I have continued this treatment, hoping my legs would get stronger and nearly two years later, I joined LSAC in the hopes that my limitations wouldn’t get worse. I was there, four or five times a week at night, on the treadmill watching bad reality TV until I grabbed a class schedule on my way out. Every single option seemed like something that would stretch my calves, something I can’t do, something that will cause one of those brutal charley horses. Then I saw it…. Boxing Challenge with Cecelia B.

If nothing else, it would be worth a laugh, I thought. When I got there, I explained as briefly as I could what I could and couldn’t do. She gave me a smile and put me on the recumbent bike just outside the door while she did her intense warm up. When it was time, she brought me in and it was indeed pure comedy. I was horribly uncoordinated, incredibly unfit but determined to at least try. An hour passed and I was miraculously still alive. I was sweaty and was pretty sure I had done most of it wrong but I DID IT! The next week, I dragged my husband with me and he’s gone with me almost every week since.

While I’m nowhere near as good or fast or strong or thin as the other people in that room, I am there and loving every second of it. Cecelia reminds me that I am far stronger than I give myself credit for, that I’ve come so far. Now, I can not only walk but I’m 50 pounds lighter, I did my first 5k (walking, not running), walked Central Park while on vacation a few weeks back and on the 4th of July, I walked 8 miles along the Lakefront Path. The weight loss is great and being healthy is wonderful but knowing just how far I’ve come, how proud my mother would have been, how proud of MYSELF I have become has made me realize that no matter what your journey, no matter how much work you need to do, it is YOUR journey. Ignore the sniggers, the side-eyes, the imaginary chuckles you hear when you are gross and sweaty and your clothes are a little too tight. Chances are, you are far harder on yourself than anyone else would ever be on you.

On Friday nights, I see “My People” on the treadmill with me. Heavier ladies and gentlemen working their butts off, sweating like crazy, watching nerdy sci-fi shows. Every single week, I fight the urge to high five every single one of them.

You never know how much it took for someone to be where they are, how much hard work, how much pain has gotten them to where they are. Instead of mentally mocking them, give them a smile, a thumbs up or a high five. Trust me when I tell you this, the collective attitude at LSAC (from the staff and the members) is positive and encouraging and from one uncoordinated nerd to another, YOU CAN DO IT!

By Jenn Howell