June 1st 2010, that was the day my life changed forever. That was the day my husband of 30 years was diagnosed with oglioastrocytoma, a particularly invasive form of brain cancer. The prognosis was grim, death was not far away. The treatments, support and care we received at Dana Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital were excellent but the end result was unchanged. After an eight month battle David passed away in February 2011.
I was given all sorts of resources for grief counseling and spiritual help, but I declined. I knew that grief counseling, although very beneficial for some, wasn’t for me. I didn’t know what would help,and at that point I really didn’t care.
After a few months of living in my pajamas, loading out on the couch, only conversing with the dog and generally excusing myself from life, something inside said enough: get out of your robe and move.
Andy Warhol said “They say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” A few years ago I had joined DHAC, but when David got sick, I stopped going. So back I went.
In the beginning, each day was a struggle. I had to put clothes on. I had to talk to people who would talk back, unlike my dog who sat there when I spoke. Trying to breath, move and focus on what I could gain instead of what I lost took a great deal of concentration. Sometimes it didn’t work. I fell on the treadmill, it wasn’t moving.
Gradually the fog lifted. I began running again, something I hadn’t done since I chased the ice cream truck for my kids. (OK for me, but we won’t discuss that.) Smacking that punching bag was a healthy way to deal with stress and anger.
I got stronger, not only physically but emotionally. My appetite returned to normal, yet I lost weight. The support of Dodi, Jason, Brittanie and all the staff, who challenged me to not only do more, but to do it right was invaluable. Meeting fellow work-out warriors, Gerri, Benet and Marilyn has been such a gift, because misery does indeed love company.
Armed with renewed energy and confidence I even signed on to run a 5K, although looking back I must have been in an exercise induced endorphin high. Most of all I laughed again, albeit mostly at myself, especially during Pilates. I used to know left from right, really.
Grief is a strange companion. The sense of loss never really leaves, but it can, with time stay in the background, acknowledged, but not the center of attention. The last thing I want to do is preach exercise as a cure all for everyone. I can only speak from my experience: exercise is empowering.
Yes clinically it raises endorphins creating a sense of well being. It also gives back a sense of control.
By focusing what is left of my mind and strengthening my old body, I began to heal. I am not done by any means; there are days that I would rather stay on the couch, covered with Dorito dust, staring into space. But I don’t. I load some Pearl Jam onto the iPhone, plug in the earpieces and off I go, running toward the new beginning every ending brings.