Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Health & Fitness | Why You Should Never Take Being Able Bodied for Granted (and Not Neglect the Body You Have)

Why You Should Never Take a Healthy, Able Body for Granted (and Not Neglect It) | Not Dressed As Lamb
If you've ever had any sort of injury or illness, you'll know just how debilitating it can be. Last year this happened to me - and I've been thinking about why you should never take a healthy body for granted, and why we shouldn't neglect ourselves if we are, at the very least, able-bodied. If this sounds like it might be you, please do continue to read about my experience. I hope it makes you stop and think - and hopefully appreciate what you have...!


Living with an injury

As many readers of my blog will know, I slipped a disc at the end of November last year. I went to Paris for (less than) 24 hours for a press launch which involved two long train journeys to get there, and then two long train journeys back the next day, with tube travel in between.

Somewhere en route, so my doctor said, I slipped a disc. This was probably caused by lugging my overnight case on and off the trains and tube trains and up and down the stairs in the stations. What it affected was my sciatic nerve, the one that runs all the way down the back of your leg. It comes out of the spinal cord, down through your bum and down your leg all the way to your foot.

Why You Should Never Take a Healthy, Able Body for Granted (and Not Neglect It) | Not Dressed As Lamb
So what I initially thought was a pulled hamstring in one leg was actually sciatica, which, within a week, caused my leg to be so painful that I literally couldn't walk without experiencing searing pain. When I wasn't trying to get around it was numb and constantly ached like the most tender bruise imaginable or burned like severe sunburn. It was all the way down the whole of the back of my leg and went right into the arch of my foot. The slightest touch to my skin was torturous, so getting dressed or even just pulling down my underwear to go the bathroom was hell.



SO WHAT I INITIALLY THOUGHT WAS A PULLED HAMSTRING IN ONE LEG ENDED UP BEING SCIATICA, WHICH, WITHIN A WEEK, CAUSED MY LEG TO BE SO PAINFUL THAT I LITERALLY COULDN'T WALK WITHOUT SEARING PAIN.

In other words, this normally active person experienced what it was like - for the first time ever in her life - what chronic pain felt like and what immobility was like to live with.


How I coped with the pain

It didn't sit well with me. I was frustrated at my lack of mobility. I hated having to ask my husband/whoever was around to pass things to me. I could rarely get out of the house because walking (even with my walking stick) was excruciating and tiring. Sitting hurt my leg, standing hurt my leg. I was a pretty horrible, grumpy person to be around for a while.

And I cried many tears from the pain.

The reason I'm painting such a grim picture is to try and make those of you who are able-bodied and don't have any kind of serious illness see what it is like to find yourself suddenly unable to do all the things a human being is meant to do: Walk and run and jump and just generally move around. One day I was able to do all those things, the next day it was impossible, and painful with it.

ONE DAY I WAS ABLE TO [WALK AND RUN AND JUMP AND JUST GENERALLY MOVE AROUND], THE NEXT DAY IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE, AND PAINFUL WITH IT.

I am one of the lucky ones, however: I was discharged by the physiotherapist yesterday as I'm about 95% better. I'm back to walking every day, yoga has been good for me (a bit of a struggle due to my drop in fitness levels and lack of muscle movement) and I can now start low-impact cardio. I'll be back to full running by the end of the month if I start now with the run-walk-run method.

I will admit I was a reasonably fit person before and enjoyed my exercise, but it was sporadic at times. Several days could easily go by without so much as an early morning walk because I had "just one more thing to do on the computer" or I got it into my head I was "just too tired".


What the injury made me realise

However, the positive thing that came out of the whole experience turned out to be a bit of an epiphany for me. One especially bad day, I was sitting on the sofa with four pillows propping up my leg and still couldn't manage to find a comfortable position that would ease the pain. I realised right there and then that I would have given anything - anything - to be able to get up, go for a 20 minute walk and come home again. Trying to imagine what that would be like was impossible for me at that stage.

I then became annoyed at myself for all those times before the injury that I just couldn't be bothered to get up off the sofa, put on some sports shoes and go enjoy some fresh air. If I were able, I would have transported myself back to any one of those times and shouted at myself for being a lazy so-and-so and taking my body for granted.

I WAS ANNOYED AT MYSELF FOR ALL THOSE TIMES I JUST COULDN'T BE BOTHERED TO GET UP OFF THE SOFA, PUT ON SOME SPORTS SHOES AND JUST GO ENJOY SOME FRESH AIR.

Not just any body, but my body: My fully-functioning, able body. The one that has the luck to move without pain, or to move at all. Many people don't have the good fortune to be able to do that, and I am in awe of those who are able to lead a full, happy life despite the s**t they were dealt with where their health is concerned.


The promise I made to myself

So I've made a promise to myself: Never again shall I take my fully-functioning body for granted. There's no need to go the gym every day and become a total fitness freak. There's just a need to respect the fact that my body works properly by giving it good food, fresh air and the opportunity to move around a lot, and do it regularly.

Everyone knows that you shouldn't feed a dog chocolate or fizzy drinks, and that it needs to be exercised every single day. If we wouldn't neglect a dog in that way, we shouldn't neglect our own bodies either.

So please, please, please don't neglect your body and simply GET MOVING. Go for a 20 minute brisk walk and appreciate the fact that you are able to do it at all. You'll regret it if one day you can't - you'll wish, like I did, that you'd given your body more respect when you had the chance. And don't feed it full of junk food, sugar or tobacco, or excessive alcohol either. It's simply not worth it.

GO FOR A 20 MINUTE BRISK WALK AND APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO DO IT AT ALL. YOU'LL REGRET IT IF ONE DAY YOU CAN'T - YOU'LL WISH, LIKE I DID, THAT YOU'D GIVEN YOUR BODY MORE RESPECT WHEN YOU HAD THE CHANCE.

Your able body deserves better than that.


Have you ever suffered an injury or from a serious illness that affected your every day life? Do you live with chronic pain or similar - and how do you cope? Tell me in the comments (or tweet me @notlamb) if this has made you think twice about the way you treat your own body: I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Catherine

P.S. You might also want to read 10 Ways To Keep Fit in Your 40s (or at Any Age)

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41 comments

  1. Great post! I had started working out and had an MRI because I thought I'd been going too hard and had maybe developed a hernia. It turns out I didn't have a hernia, but they discovered a very small tumor on my kidney. After it was removed, they discovered that it was malignant.

    The moral of the story: working out really can save one's life.

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    1. Thanks Poppy - and wow that sounded like a close call... Thank goodness they found it. You're absolutely right with that last sentiment - I couldn't agree more! x

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  2. I have been eagerly waiting for this post Catherine, and you did not disappoint!
    I enjoyed your honest and open account of your experience with pain....real pain.

    I can understand that feeling of pain that you can not escape from.
    Pain that is so bad you would do ANYTHING to make it stop.
    Pain that is all-consuming, that takes over your life.
    Pain that is so debilitating, you are hardly even present in the moment.
    Pain that robs you of your life.
    It is awful.

    I am so glad you are at 95% again, and are on the road to a happier and healthier you.
    I am inspired to get up and go out....in fact, I am off to walk the dog!
    Thank you.
    XXX
    Samantha
    fakefabulous.com

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    1. Thank you Samantha - I'm so glad you liked the post!

      Everything you described is absolutely true, it was a massive wake-up call for me. I'm so glad to be able to say I'm almost there, others are not so lucky. Appreciating what you have is so important, isn't it...? xx

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  3. Thank you for this! I had a similar injury with a ruptured disc and pieces that were damaging my sciatic nerve. I spent 3 months in agony until I had surgery to correct it. Even now, 10 years later, there's nerve damage in my foot. I've been sporadic with exercise until about 6 months ago. I now run-walk-run almost every day and feel so much better. I wish I hadn't taken my health for granted for so long, but now that I'm in my 40s I realize it's imperative to take care of myself. I even have a sister who uses a wheelchair and that still wasn't enough for me to appreciate and care for my body as I should have!

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    1. Wow, Tiffany - surgery is drastic for sciatica! I asked my doctor whether I might have to have it and she said only in severe cases. I'm so glad that you are at least able to do some exercise, I'm sure you know how impossible it would have seemed when you were at your most painful...!

      Thanks for your input, I'm glad to hear you're making the most of what you're able to do and looking after yourself as much as you can! x

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  4. The simplest way to make sure you get some exercise every day is to get a dog! I have never had so few coughs, colds and bugs as since we got our Springer Spaniel. As a bonus I am fitter and can walk further, more easily than ever and I get to have a bouncy, cheerful companion as I go. Admittedly not so hot on days when it is lashing with rain, but I still have to go.

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    1. A lot of people say that, Fiona - I agree that having a dog does force you to exercise and get out the house, no excuses! It's good to hear that it's improved your immune system too :))

      Thank you for your comment! x

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  5. I have Rheumatoid Disease (auto immune disease, not to be confused with osteoarthritis). On a good day I am in pain, on a bad day I cannot find the energy to roll over let alone get out of bed. And this is with what we call 'mild responsive arthritis.' I am no longer able to run as I have to protect my joints from high impact. I can swim as long as I am careful not to push to hard and end up in bed for a week (I swam 1km and soent this last week in exhausted agony). I can't currently walk as my feet hurt too badly. I can do yoga as long as I take painkillers. Not moving is often just as painful. I am have a 40% higher risk of heart failure, renal failure and a host of secondary issues. And I miss doing martial arts like seone cuut off an arm (I rather wish they would.I am 34.

    So yes, appreciate having an able body. I will just curse mine routinely, cry occassionally, rest when needed, and try to get what joy I can find out of it.

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    1. Anne, I can totally sympathise with you as I started having sharp jaw pain, was sent for an x-ray and then told I had arthritis of the jaw. I occasionally have sharp pain in my left leg too. I live in Spain, and my Spanish is fairly basic, so the doctor told me to take ibuprofen if I'm in pain, but not to if I'm not in pain - that's all! I've been following an anti-inflammatory diet that seems to be working for me. I appreciate that I'm a lot luckier than you are, especially as I'm literally twice your age (68) and this only happened last year.

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    2. My mum has very bad arthritis too, Anne ( *think* it's the same type as yours, though I'm not sure) - but she is in hers 80s. To hear that you have that at 34 is very upsetting, you're extremely brave to be coping with that every day at such a young age. I hope you do manage to find joy in the things you CAN do...!

      Thank you so much for commenting, I really appreciate you sharing your experiences xx

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  6. I'm glad you are much better! Injuries really can be a reminder not to take our health for granted and to treat our bodies right.

    I have had recurring (at times quite severe) low back pain for about six years now, but I can usually keep it under control with specific yoga and core exercises. And I always notice when I start to skip them... It's like my body is telling me constantly to do what's best for it...

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    1. Thank you Andrea - I can't tell you how much feel better I feel, and I know how lucky I am. Back pain is a very, very common thing, and although it was my leg that was affected (I had no pain my back, strangely), the side effects of not being able to walk, pain however I positioned myself, etc. was pretty much the same. I'm glad to hear you're able to control your pain somewhat :))

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  7. So glad you are feeling better - I did feel for you in such pain - sciatica is horrid.
    I've suffered with lower back pain and oestroarthritus in my knee for years and did so appreciate a healthy working body when I had one. I've been struggling since lugging heavy suitcases las summer and a fair few visits to a chiropractor have helped enormously. Sadly after telling my husband how great my back was feeling I fell over and broke my leg! More confinement! I'd give pretty much anything to go for a 20 min walk

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    1. Oh gosh Hagar that is SUCH bad luck to start feeling better like that and then break your leg... I can't begin to imagine how awful and frustrating that must have been for you!! I guess that you'll be super, super appreciative of your able body when you are once again on the road to recovery...! Thanks sweetie for your input and kind words x

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  8. A lovely post, Catherine. I'm so glad you're feeling able to start exercising again. I suffered with sciatica for years (fortunately, never quite as bad as you, poor thing!) and then managed to sort it out with yoga. But then I totally overdid the yoga (too much too soon - after a lifetime of practically no exercise) and managed to injure my sacroiliac joint! It's been about six months now and I'm just about ready to start again - I'm really nervous but excited at the same time. But I've got something really big coming up to keep me going....... I'm planning to do yoga teacher training at the end of the year (hopefully in India)!! I can't wait :)
    Suzy xx
    www.suzyturner.com

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    1. Wow Suzy that sounds like something really good (the yoga teacher training) will come out something really bad... I'm so sorry for all the pain and injury you went through, but how fabulous that you'll be teaching such a positive thing to others! Plus doing it in India sounds amazing - where better, eh?!!!!

      Thank you my lovely, glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for your comments x

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  9. ah but fiona, my little fox terrier managed to sprain my wrist badly a couple of weeks ago whilst out walking, and i am very frustrated that it is still very difficult to do stuff! but you are so right, and it has certainly made me very aware how lucky i am not to suffer from debilitating illness and pain - and that i should beat my terrible procrastination habit! seize the day as they say.

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    1. That's great to hear that you've decided to seize the day, Julia - though I am sorry about your sprained wrist. I hope you heal very quickly and get onto that road to health and fitness as soon as you can! C x

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  10. this made me a bit emotional, great post :) I've had chronic pain for well over a decade now. I was in a car crash when I was younger and crushed the bottom of my spine and several other bones in my body. I'm lucky I'm not in a wheel chair but it is difficult, my mobility is seriously effected and it's exhausting daily. I hate being limited in what I do but I try to cope by doing gentle exercise and my blog is a positive focus for me. I'm hoping to get back swimming, it's taken me quite a while to feel up to it after pregnancy xx

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    1. Oh my goodness Trona, I can imagine that a car crash would affect you greatly emotionally as well as physically... As you say you are so lucky that you're not in a wheelchair, but I'm so sorry to hear about all the health problems you do have. But what's better than having a little baby to bring you joy in your life? Make sure you look after yourself as much as you do him/her and enjoy that swimming (something to do together)!!

      Thanks so much for sharing your story, I appreciate it xx

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  11. Glad to hear you are slowly getting back to full health again. I can understand just how frustrating it must have been for you. I broke my hip just over 2 years ago and needed a pin put in and to this day I have been in constant pain and have limited mobility still. It make everyday tasks difficult. I hope that I will be able to start getting out more once the weather improves because I find the cold makes the pain worse. We all need to appreciate what we have become life can be tough sometimes.

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    1. You're right Glenka - life can be tough, and it makes me cross (cross with myself) that it took an injury to make me appreciate what I had! I hope that you find your pain easing when the weather improves, a lot of people say that bad weather affects things like joints (my 81 year-old mum, for one). Take good care of yourself, thank you for sharing and your good wishes x

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  12. I am so please you are feeling so much better, and please, just take it slowly. You will get back into your fitness routines, but it does take time. Great implementing the walk-run-walk method, or just fats/power walking is great too, used to do for many years when I lived in Sydney, before I got hooked on running marathons.
    It was so lovely to finally meet you at the awards, and so pleased for your award!
    You are spot on about taking our bodies for granted, and love the comparison to a dog. People sometimes take a better care of our pets than us!
    Hope we catch us one day soon ;-) Mirka @Fitness4Mamas @Kahanka

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    1. Thank you Mirka my lovely! I always used to walk every day anyway, and it's been great being able to at least do that every day now. Seems we both had a lousy Christmas health-wise!

      It was wonderful to meet you too, I hope we get to meet again and with Vicki too. Thank you sweetie for your comments! x

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  13. To anyone on here suffering from chronic pain - have you tried the Bowen Technique? When I lived in London I was a Bowen practitioner and found that many people came to me as a last resort. It was a wonderful feeling when I was able to help people who had given up. Do look on-line for qualified practitioners and if possible get personal references.

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    1. Thank you Sue - I hadn't heard of it myself but found this link explaining it:

      http://thebowentechnique.com/what-is-bowen/what-is-the-bowen-technique/

      I hope it does help someone reading it, everything's worth a try I always feel! x

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  14. I am really able to relate to your post, Catherine. I loved doing my kind of sports and take a long walk at the weekend or on holiday. Last year I've been diagnosed with bone cancer, at least it was an explanation for the pain in my leg. So I had surgery an now got an endoprosthesis an am still on physiotherapy while I have to undergo radiation as well. And I truly miss my ability to do anything I wanted, as far as sports is concerned. I don't know if I will be able to do sports again, my life has changed very much. But at least I'm alive and I didn't loose my leg.
    So don't take your health for granted.

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    1. Oh my goodness Brit, I am so sorry to hear about what you've been through... Though I was glad to read your positivity when you said you were lucky to be alive and didn't lose your leg. I'm sorry that you don't yet know if you'll be able to do any more sports again, but after seeing so many incredible athletes in the 2012 Paralympics I don't think anything's impossible. You never know what you might be capable of.

      Thank you for your comments and telling your story - I wish you the very best, take care xx

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  15. Hi Catherine, so glad you are feeling better. I have suffered with sciatica for a few years and also with osteoarthritis in both knees. I am having double knee replacements this year and am looking forward to being able to start doing some kind of exercise again and also, simple things like taking my two dogs out for a walk on my own which has got too much for me recently. It is so easy to take your health for granted until you have a problem.

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    1. Thank you Georgina for your good wishes... You're absolutely right when you say it's easy to take your health for granted. In a way I'm GLAD this happened to me because I now appreciate what I have so much more. I wish you all the best for your pending operations and your future health and happiness x

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  16. Oh Catherine! I so agree with you and totally relate! It's been a tough couple of years for myself....after not really even being able to walk a block, I finally got the necessary hip surgery I needed. But, man, is this recovery taking a looooooonnnnnnggggg time! I have just started to be able to go for about a 15 to 20 minute walk, but I daydream of the day when I can take a 40 minute walk or even attend a hiking excursion with my family. It's so hard being patient--that coming from the most impatient individual ever! And now, woes me, but the weight is starting to accumulate too. Now more than ever I need to really watch what I intake....

    Anyway, I try not to look back on too many parts of my life with regret, but my physicality is one that I always wonder if I had done something different, something better, if I'd be in better shape (not the actual shape for fitness but just feel-good-body kind of shape).

    I am so happy you are recovering. It's slow for sure, but I am so happy for you.

    Take care Catherine.

    Love, Ann

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    1. You sound like me, Ann, in that you thought it'd take a lot less time to recover. I initially thought 5 or 6 weeks - in the end it's been more like 10-12 till I could exercise again (my "measure" for being pretty much back to normal). I did my first low-impact workout this week... I only pushed myself about 60% so I took it really, really easy - but that was three days ago and I'm still aching!!

      Take care of yourself, and remember to have realistic goals. Everything you do to look after yourself now will benefit you in the long run...! Thank you for the kind words and encouragement, much love to you x

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  17. I had to respond. I was sorry to hear of your injury this year.My mom always used to say, always be greatful for family and your health. I myself, have always been athletic and health conscious, joining a gym when I was 16, always in sports, watching what I ate etc. When I became diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos, a genetic disease with no cure and with chronic muscle pain, I became truly aware of what it meant to not take for granted one's health. I never had dealt with chronic pain before, just pain from sports injury etc, and to learn it would never go away, but could be managed was something very upsetting to me 8 years ago with EDS.
    I always expected that I could ride a road bike, go to the gym, spin class, rock climb etc, but now I was being told I could not, but would have to tailor exercises to what I could do in order not to hurt myself. At first, I would say, the Old Jess, has died.I would never be able to do what I enjoyed!
    But through time, dry needling, weight training ( light) swimming, walking, and managing pain with medication, I was able to do more. I have always been proactive in my healthcare, and my doc would just love me bringing in research from the NJM< and other sources. I do have a regret that my hubby and I were planning on trkking through Europe before I had EDS, and now we will go but it will have to be tailored to my needs
    To me, one's health is the most important thing we have, and to some extent have some control over. I try to tell people to be proactive, educate oneself, and to not be afraid to ask questions at the doctors. It will soon be 10 years and my mindset is better than it was in the beginning, attitude is important as well, as it is easy to get into a dark place.
    So, embrace your health, and if one has a chronic condition, my thoughts are, you know your body best, if something doesn't feel right, check it out, and be on top of it.

    Thank you for this post Catherine!
    Glad to hear you are doing better now!!
    xx JEss
    www.elegantlydressedandstylish.com

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    1. Jess you are a wonderful example of someone who so much cr*p to put up with but still looks for the positives (like starting your blog and making it such a successful and positive thing in your life). I'm sorry to hear that your health may affect the trekking holiday you were planning, but then some people never get off their backsides and do ANYTHING AT ALL, and they're perfectly able-bodied - you're a great example to them!

      Thank you for sharing your story, it's great to hear what's still possible when the odds are stacked against you. Hope you are keeping well at the moment and still looking after yourself xx

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  18. I read your post wincing! I'm glad to hear that you're on the road to recovery. And it's reminded me to consider my own routines as I frequently travel between London and Scotland to be with my partner (until I move for good). All that lugging baggage around and long train journeys aren't great for your health.

    Eighteen months ago I considered myself to be in the peak of health; lots of yoga, including Astanga, cycling and swimming. Until on a cycling trip with my boyfriend I came off my bike and broke my collarbone. The pain was excruciating, but there was not a scratch on me. So it wasn't unreasonable for my boyfriend to ask if I wanted to keep cycling, and I did for a while. But I knew something was wrong and we had to stop. My heart fell when the nurse at the small local hospital (on a tiny island in the Firth of Clyde!) told me what I'd done. "Oh no, my yoga!" The look on her face told me everything - none of that for three months!

    And unfortunately it became nine months since the bones didn't meet (collarbones are hard to heal when you need to use your hands) so I was put down on the list for an op which was cancelled once. But i did get to spend my 49th birthday in hospital and I'm on the road to recovery!! \ :D /

    Rather than bemoan being in hospital on that day, I saw it as a wonderful birthday present - I'm getting fixed for free!! That was nearly a year ago and I'm still getting there again fitness-wise. Sometimes a yoga class exhausts me and I'm getting used to sticking my hand up when the teacher ask if there are any injuries I need to tell her/him about. But I keep going and am more mindful of my physical health. Plus I remind myself that it could've been much, much worse.

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    1. Oh no Emerald your bike accident sounds awful... Breaking bones must be no fun at all, especially when you're a bit older as you say!! Glad to hear it's finally healing and that you're getting back to doing yoga. I had a read of your post about it, what absolute bad luck for you. But it's good to hear you appreciate the fact that yes, it could have been so much worse - many cyclists lose cyclist vs car encounters outright...!

      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your story x

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  19. Oh, Catherine, I feel for you! I am in such a similar place today, too. I broke my foot late 2014 and it took quite a while to heal. Then just as I was on the mend, I injured my hand and continued the life of "asking people to get me things while I remained on the couch" - and it is only now over a year later that I feel well. I am so happy every day to be able to move and exercise and LIVE my life, and I thank you for sharing this story and reminding us of these important truths. Be well, : ) A

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    1. Wow so many stories of bad luck and terrible injuries, Ana - and yours is no exception! That's the worst luck to be injured so soon after getting better... I'm so glad to hear you're finally feeling yourself. I shouldn't complain about my 6-8 weeks of total immobility, so many people have had it so such worse. It's wonderful to hear you're appreciating the simple act of getting around and being active!! Thanks for sharig your story xx

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  20. Yes, currently having joint and back pain .. which is why I lighted up my hand bag (leather to nylon) .. it's worked out great!

    Monica.

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    1. Gosh Monica yes that's a very good point... Empty leather bags are HEAVY!! Glad to hear it's made a difference to you :))

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