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Health is (not) everything

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

I have come to dislike the expressions "health is everything" "without your health, you have nothing". I know the meaning behind these sayings, that good health is precious and we should be grateful for it. I totally concur. However, I know people whose health is not good, and they have many gifts, and countless blessings. I remember having a discussion with a Sparkfriend once, who told me about a friend of hers who had been very athletic, always doing one sport or another - being active was a huge part of her life. Then, in her 30's, she was stricken with one of the cruelest ailments that exist - A.L.S., also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. She was slowly, inexplicably, robbed of all of her physical abilities. What the Sparkfriend and I speculated about was - was it harder for her, having been so very active, to lose it, or would it be even more brutal if she had not made the most of her health, and now it was gone?

I, and some of you reading this, have the good fortune to know SParkler Jitzuroe (Bren). Bren is undergoing surgery this morning, as I type this. I asked for her permission to blog about her, and she graciously granted it. She graciously does lots of things. She graciously cheers others on, and encourages, and listens, and empathizes. She graciously lives a life that has been altered by illnesses that affect every part of her life, every part of her body, every day of her life. She graciously keeps going despite pain and other symptoms that never, ever seem to give her a break. She has a loving (and, showing my superficial side here, very handsome) husband who personifies the vows "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health". She has adorable pets, admiring friends, a job, and, despite all of her limitations, an exercise routine. Bren used to run marathons. She used to routinely do all kinds of heart-pounding, sweat-inducing, mood-lifting forms of exercise. Her body no longer allows for this so she, with another beautiful Sparkler, RyderB, routinely does mat workouts which Bren adapts to her current situation. She simply refuses to concede all to the illnesses that come after her with a vengeance on a daily basis. If these illnesses were people, they would be bullies of the worst kind. If these bullies thought they found an easy mark, however, they are picking on the wrong girl.

So, as Bren endures yet another scary surgery, I am several states away and, other than offering prayers (many) and words of encouragement via text and emails, what can I do as a friend? I am exercising today, in honor of Miss Bren. It doesn't technically or practically do a thing for her, but, she is my inspiration and I think all of us like to be someone's inspiration - it lifts our spirits, in my experience. So, today at 5:45am I went on a trail hike. At 9am I ran 3 miles in a sweet, gentle rain (Bren LOVES rain because it eases a couple of her symptoms which heat aggravates), with my sweet emoticon, in a couple hours I am going to do 30 minutes of strength training including planking and push-ups because Miss Bren is a bit of a taskmaster about asking me if I have done my daily plank and push-ups (I have fallen out of the habit lately so today is as good a day as any to resume that strengthening habit), and later this afternoon, I am doing another run, with a dear friend, and I will tell her about what is going on with Bren, because Bren inspires her, as well. Now, do I normally do this much exercise in one day? No, I most certainly do not. Will I be tired and sore tonight? Yes, I most certainly will be. But, as I ran this morning, and I prayed for Bren, and also thought of the woman fighting ALS, two distinct thoughts emerged. One, "fair" and "life" do not belong in the same sentence. Two, of sorrow and regret, regret tends to be more difficult. Sorrow at the loss of one's physical capabilities is a daunting spiritual burden to carry, but regret at not having fully used our physical gifts is a more bitter load to carry around. I have the freedom of time and physical ability today, so I will use it gratefully. I also carry around a hope that at some point, Bren and I will go for a run in the rain together - and I will have to work to keep up. She is one beautifully tough woman and I am honored by her friendship.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    It is true, while health is important, LOVE is far more so. With loving people in our lives, we can endure anything. People who care about OUR happiness without wanting anything in return are rare souls. I am blessed. Thanks for your loving words.


    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2109 days ago
    This is my introduction to Bren but I have often been bothered by the "health is everything" and "as long as the baby is healthy" philosophy. Thanks for putting it into words. emoticon
    2113 days ago
    Thanks for Sharing Bren's story, she is an inspiration to us all. Health, like anything else is on a continuum, and there are so many more aspects to health than the body. Bren has exemplified a new dimension of psychological health.
    2115 days ago
    Thank you for your beautiful blog, which is so true too! Thank you for telling us about Bren and her incredible courage. It gives me lots of food for thought and encourages me to see the years ahead (and fear of a less healthy body) in a better light. Indeed, health isn't everything.
    2117 days ago
    Bren inspires me, too! I think to myself, Bren has soo many excuses NOT to exercise, and she still does it!! And happily, it seems to me. So what excuse do I have? There not a $%##@ thing wrong with me besides having the burden of big, overweight body. And whose fault is that? My own!
    2118 days ago
  • MISSLISA1973
    2119 days ago
    Beautiful peace of writing! We are very fortunate to have the capability to be active and yes it is something we should be grateful for and take advantage of. What a sweet person you are, all the best!
    2119 days ago
  • MISSB8604
    Love my Bren! She is truly wonderful!
    2119 days ago
  • SPINNER520
    Your words really made me stop & think; how easy it is to take our health for granted!
    2119 days ago
    Thank you for sharing, and for the love you put into everything you write!
    2119 days ago
    What a beautiful, inspiring blog! Cannie, thank you for sharing Miss Bren's story. She truly is an inspiration.
    2121 days ago
  • YIWEN39
    Cannie, you are such a great friend, and you write so beautifully. Bren has inspired you and you are both lucky to have each other. I will be thinking of both of you today, as I exercise in your honor. Thank you for sharing. emoticon
    2121 days ago
    So many things we take for granted. Then we get the privilege of meeting someone like Bren and realize how incredibly blessed we really are. Not only with our health, but with the joy of getting to meet and be allowed to be a part of an enormously funny, kind, beautiful and joyous person. I just got the chance to read your blog, my internet was out and I wasn't able to get here until earlier today. I am so thankful that I see her here too! Your way of words is so moving and says things in such a way that it moves a heart. So having been able to "meet" you and being a part of your world is another privilege I will always be grateful for. You were there for me at a time when I found the Y in the road. Thank you for helping me with the choices I have made. You can put thoughts into words in a way I wish I could. I will never be able to thank you enough.
    2122 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/28/2012 3:08:44 AM
    You are such a beautiful person and we are all lucky to call you friend:) emoticon
    2122 days ago
    Super blog: very moving and inspiring!

    And to think you can write like this and be that kind of a friend and ALSO make wolf spider costumes!!

    Amazing grace!!
    2122 days ago
    Great blog!
    2122 days ago
    Well, (pardon me, while I regain my composure,.deal with the catch in my throat & clear my watery vision) have certainly changed MY attitude today. From "po, po pitiful me" to "I'm the luckiest girl in the whole USA!". And I am sooooo very thankful for the change & for you.

    Prayers immediately ascended for lovely Miss Bren. I read her blogs and loved them! And as for you, dear girl, you are the poster child on how to be a "true friend." Thanks for all the gifts you've given me today. I hope you receive at least a smidgeon of the kindness and happiness you deserve.

    May the wind always be at your back.
    2122 days ago
  • TEMPEST272002
    Really great blog! Most of my adult life I've had health issues. 2 years ago, I couldn't even walk a block. Now, EVERY time I exercise I am grateful for the ability to do it..
    2122 days ago
    Thanks for the special blog and tribute to your friends and truth about where life meets the road!! Getting up each day and living to our fullest whatever our current physical limitations or abilities is the true spark life we all reach for!! I am inspired by your blog to seize the day!! I am so thankful for sparkpeople and the friendships we grow here and enjoyed reading about Bren and your friendship!! Hugs Barb
    2122 days ago
  • CANNIE50
    I will be planking and push-upping straight away, Sgt Bren! Yes, maam! emoticon emoticon
    2122 days ago
    Awwww shucks! I feel so fuzzy and special right now, and that is drowning out the pain in my neck and the annoying soreness. Yay for that!

    It is because of a rock solid support system that I get up each morning and shuffle myself around. YOU are a part of that. Spark has been a Godsend and a lifeline to me. I'm so thankful!
    And yes, cute husbands are a huge bonus too...

    When my doctors ask how I am doing with my worsening conditions, I often reply with how I am, and also how my husband is doing with things too. These are not just my conditions, they are in essense his too.
    I have come to believe that my life is not just mine. It is made up of my body, my spirit, and all of the people who compliment it.
    And when I can't manage to stand on my own, it's dear friends like you are there to lift me up, cheer me on, and even kick me in the toosh if the situation calls for it.

    Thanks for being a part of my life, and for directing me toward awesome spark pals that I cherish! And thank you for the wonderful rainy run, the tough S.T. workout and those push ups.

    I keep telling myself that clearly I was just attacked by handsome vampires, but laughter currently hurts, so I just have to force out a good snicker instead... : ).

    Now, have you planked and pushed today???
    2122 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this! Bren brightens my day with her sparkly presence. She is my hero! emoticon
    2122 days ago
    Thank you! That was a true blessing!
    Bren always stops in when I need it. If I tend to let life get in the way when I do get back on here there's a GOODIE from Bren that ALWAYS gets me emoticon smiling or emoticon . She is so awesome & you never hear her whining or complaining. We could all take a note from the way she lives her life. She is definitely a BEAUTIFUL person inside and out!
    Please keep us updated. ONLY the emoticon PRAYERS and wishes for her! emoticon
    2122 days ago
    2122 days ago
    You and Bren are lucky to have each other. You are both fabulously tough women.
    Bren has touched my life too. There are times when I read her blogs that I am just amazed by how strong she is. And she has an awesome sense of humour too.

    2122 days ago
    A humbling blog, thank you!
    2122 days ago
    What a wonderful tribute to your friend! I think it is awesome that not only are you doing all of this, but you blogged about it to make it public! What a great friend you are. Thanks for sharing. I will say some prayers today and try a plank today in Bren's honor!
    2122 days ago
  • BAKER1009
    Thanks for sharing this. It puts many things into perspective, doesn't it?

    Prayers for your friend!
    2122 days ago
    So thoughtful and touching! I've used the expression "health is everything" many times but after reading your blog I thought that life itself and the desire to live it fully are more important than health. Because there are people who have been viciously and unfairly stricken by those "bullies" but continue to give us all valuable lessons of how life should be lived. Obviously, Bren is one of them.
    You are a precious friend. And I'm sure all those prayers that were said for her because of your blog and all your positive energy will reach out to her and help her through surgery.
    My thoughts and prayers will be with her today.

    2123 days ago
    What a beautiful blog! Thank you! emoticon
    2123 days ago
    Bren really is a fighter and she makes the best of things, always. What a funny, sweet Person she is. I'm so glad I got to meet her in person with you that day. I have blogged about that same line because when my own daughter could barely get out of bed, she still had a life and hope and love and she made the most of it and thankfully, is better now but makes the most of it now, too. My aunt passed away from ALS! Horrible disease.
    I'm thinking of our dear Bren and praying the surgery alleviates some of her pain . Great blog. Great friend.

    2123 days ago
    Aww, prayers.
    2123 days ago
  • GLMOM2
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Beautiful blog.
    2123 days ago
    I'm going to do a little extra today for Bren too. Thank-you for this beautiful blog and a reminder that we are body, and mind, and spirit. All of us.
    2123 days ago
    Fabulous and touching blog Cannie! Honestly, it's our attitude about life that's everything. And Bren embraces life! Regardless of her health. She makes time to share her spark, make us laugh, and fight to maintain as much physical activity as her body allows. And fight she does EVERY day through pain that most of us can only imagine. She is a real hero! And anyone lucky enough to "know" her, even if it's only in this virtual world, has been given a great gift. Just as, anyone that has been lucky enough to "know" you, has been given a very different but just as amazing gift.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2123 days ago
    Oh CANNIE, what a beautiful blog! I was so moved and will keep Bren in my thoughts and prayers!
    I will never see or hear the statement "without your health you have nothing" the same again...having health is something to appreciate and be grateful for, as it makes life easier...but you still have life and can make something of it, often more of it than those who have it all!
    Love & Hugs,
    P.S. Please update us on Bren, and assure her there are many of us "out there" praying for her and wishing her well!
    2123 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/26/2012 5:49:10 PM
    This is one of the most beautiful blogs I've ever read.

    My dad was diagnosed with ALS almost a year ago and I have watched him lose the use of his arms and hands. As a farmer, gifted mechanic and welder and draftsman and carpenter and gardener, the loss of his hands has been very difficult. Now he can't even feed himself or brush his teeth or comb his hair. But his legs haven't been affected yet, so he walks 2 miles most days. He has figured out a way to attach velcro to the lawn mover controls so he can still mow. He is reading more books now. In other words, he's doing his best to live a good life in the time that remains.

    EVERY time I run now, I spend part of that time thanking God for working hands, and legs, and heart and lungs and eyes and ears and everything else that makes up our incredible human bodies. We should never, ever, take that gift for granted.

    I hope your blog wins a "Popular" award. It certainly should. Blessings to you and to Bren.
    2123 days ago
  • DOODIE59
    What a lovely tribute to Bren:) I hope she sails through surgery.

    The regret that I have so abused the remarkable body God gave me is awful. And yet each day I fail to make the most of things. The only way I can correct this is by tiny changes, by slowly turning this ship around:) Thank you for this thought provoking blog (just like the others;))

    Have a great day:) Maybe soak in a tub all day tomorrow ...
    2123 days ago
    You wrote and expressed in a very eloquent way why some can't have the health that we all desperately seek, but life doesn't end ,
    With that kind of disease I find Bren a very courageous women.
    It is very easy to get disabled and give up. i know for I found myself there one time.
    But I was able to get well and make the necessary changes. I am one of the lucky ones.
    I will think twice befor I write "if you don't have your health you have nothing". For I know that not to be the case.
    You are a wonderful friend to reach out and express this for Bren.
    When I do my yoga/pilates tonight and all my circuit training and water aerobics, my walk later today with Titan I will think of the courageous women and pray that life gets better for her.
    Tisha emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2123 days ago
    Bren is very blessed to have a friend like you! And vice versa :)
    2123 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/26/2012 2:19:27 PM
    What a blessing to have a friend in Bren! emoticon
    2123 days ago
  • CANNIE50
    ps - I am adapting the expression, for my own purposes: "our attitude about our health is everything" - not as catchy, but true for me, certainly
    2123 days ago
  • DAISY443
    Another thought provoking and inspiring blog! Thanks to Bren for allowing you to share her story and my thoughts will be with her today!
    2123 days ago
    LISE emoticon
    2123 days ago
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