In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Since 1948 the definition has been tweaked a bit and other phrases have been added such as “health is a resource for everyday life,” “health is the ability of a body to adapt to new threats and infirmities,” and “health is a slippery concept.”
If you are like many of the people I coach, you are probably feeling a bit more like health is a slippery concept. After all, every single person on the planet seems to define it differently and every expert has his or her own opinion of the matter.
So why should my opinion matter? Well, I suppose you could say it doesn’t. I will be the first one to say that my “opinion” about health has shifted more than a few times over the years. When I was young and in perfect health, my opinion about health was that if someone wasn’t healthy then maybe they were just lazy. Then when I was young but not as healthy as discovered through a lupus diagnosis, my opinion became one of complacency and of allowing life to happen to me instead of being an active participant in the process. Over several years that mindset became complete and utter frustration with how no one seemed to have any answers about my health or why was I living in pain all the time. Now I have to tell you, I started working in the fitness field when I was 19 years old and I was 27 at the time of this diagnosis, so even on the days that I didn’t feel my best, there were people in my life for whom I had to put on my happy face and push through.
The tipping point finally came after a day and a half of being paralyzed from the waist down and being told “we have no idea what is happening. It must be stress. Just take some time to relax,” I decided that life was too long to be sick all the time and I had to do something. I turned to a friend who had been trying to get me to see a Naturopathic Doctor in the area. At the time I honestly thought this was some type of demonic thing, but I had become so desperate to feel better that I agreed to gave it a try. I left that appointment with almost $500 worth of supplements and an attitude that would have made the demons themselves run for cover. But my attitude began changing when after 2 weeks I was feeling better than I had in years and then after 4 weeks I was off every prescription medication and was continuing to feel healthier, stronger, and more energetic.
For about 6 years things were going well and my opinion about health had shifted to more of a follow the food guide pyramid, take some supplements, drink enough water and you will be fine type of philosophy. Then in 2006 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I looked like the picture of health. I exercised. I ate “right.” I worked hard and played hard. But I was still sick. When the doctor gave me the diagnosis my response was, “Well bring me some French fries and ice cream then because apparently it doesn’t matter what I eat.” He said he had never gotten that reaction before. And we all laughed. But then he immediately began telling me what I needed to do about the cancer. Well, if you have ever had breast cancer, do you remember how hearing words like mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy made you feel? Even typing the words right now elicits a feeling that I may throw up. So I naively looked at him and said, “What if I choose to do nothing?” And recalling his response still makes my knees weak, “Then you will die.”
If you ask anyone who knows me personally to define me in 3 words or less, I am certain the word “stubborn” would be on every list. And just because I was hearing a cancer diagnosis didn’t change that. I decided that I would do my own research, interview some doctors (a bunch of doctors), and get back to him. And I did just that. I said no to the mastectomy, I said no to the radiation, but I did agree to the chemotherapy. They had made a good case about being in and out of the tumor enough times through the biopsies and a lumpectomy to have possibly spread it themselves.
I began chemo with the best attitude in the world! I had on my pink war paint and my Ford “Warriors in Pink” shirt, complete with angel wings, and brought lots of popsicles to share with others who were getting treatments as well. I walked in and offered each person a popsicle but no one accepted. As I walked toward my chair I heard someone say, “it must be her first time.” I felt sad but not defeated so I sat there and enjoyed my popsicle in silence. Eventually one lady decided she would take me up on the offer and after that, everyone else did too. Mission accomplished! This drab, horrible place was now filled with people talking to each other and licking on their popsicles. I left feeling like I was healing not only myself but those around me as well. These people were now my people.
I had no idea when I left the clinic that day that my body was about to turn against me in every way possible. Before I could get home, I was on the side of the road hurling my guts out. It was the most horrible feeling of doom that I had ever had. But it had to get better, right? I mean, what body wouldn’t rebel against all those toxic chemicals being dripped into it?
The next morning I had to go to work. Now, one year before this happened, I opened a new business. I needed to be able to work while my kids were in school so I did that by opening my own personal training studio where I could work 8-3. No one else worked with me so no one else could work for me. My business wasn’t yet strong enough for me to be able to take time off. I had no choice, sick or not, off to work I would go. I have to give some love here. My clients were so supportive of me that they decided that when they came in, they would warm up for 10 minutes on their own so I could lie down. Then they would train with me for the next 50 minutes. The next person would come in, point to the stretching table, and I would obediently and very gratefully lie down for 10 minutes. One of my clients held me while I sat in the bathroom floor and wretched into the toilet. The amazing thing? She still paid me for that session! It still brings me to tears when I remember all the love they showered upon me.
After 3 chemo treatments, I felt like I was going to die. None of my blood counts were where the doctors wanted them and though they would look at me with empathy and worry, nothing they did was changing anything. I had to make a decision, lose my business or quit chemo. So I did what every logical person would do (add sarcasm here) and I never went back for chemo. Instead, I dedicated 2 hours a day (for the next 7 years mind you, which equals about 5,110 hours) to researching cancer, nutrition, environmental toxins, gut health, stress, sleep, and anything else I could find that may help me achieve true health. I already had a Bachelor’s degree in Fitness/Wellness and a Master’s degree in Education, but I went back to school to study holistic nutrition, health coaching, neuro-linguistic programming, and hypnosis.
Fast forward to 2018, where I am healthy and have helped many people find their own authentic “healthy.” It looks different for each person. That’s the beauty of it and also the mystery of it. Health is a process, a journey. It is one of discovering who you really are and then feeding who you were created to be. You have a purpose. You have a mission. And it is unique, so unique that only you can accomplish it. I am thoroughly excited to have you on this journey. I will be praying for you, that you will find your authentic healthy, that you will feel strong and energetic, that you will live out your highest purpose, and that you will in turn bring others to their authentic healthy as well.
Much love and health,