Ever stop to think about the path your life has taken? I've actually been doing that a lot in the last few years because I've had MANY changes in my life. I'm talking 180 degree, life-altering experiences in the personal, professional and physical aspects of my life... All of which have helped me grow to be a better person. Although I believe that everything happens for a reason, I also believe that perseverance and a positive attitude steer you in the right direction... but sometimes we need to dig deep to find the courage to take a leap of faith even if we're unsure of the direction.
One of those leaps (that eventually spawned another leap) came after I graduated college. Although I had always been an active person, I started becoming constantly sick with pneumonia. Pneumonia in and of itself was nothing new to me since I had lived with a lung condition called bronchiectasis my whole life and was used to being sick. However, this condition was worsening as I got older.
Usually I'd come down with a bad respiratory infection around spring time and then have a few colds during the rest of the year. However, I was starting to get pneumonia and bronchitis every few months.... which soon turned into every month. My pulmonologist explained my alternatives for long-term treatment and surgery was at the top of the list. Initially, going under the knife was not an option for me due to the high risk involved with a surgery of this magnitude. Though, it soon became clear that I'd have to make a decision.
Cue leap #1...
7 years ago today, on September 20th, 2005, I underwent a lung lobectomy to have a portion of my left lung removed. Luckily it was localized to one area of my lung and not spread out, otherwise the procedure wouldn't have been possible. I was in the hospital about a week and out of work to recuperate for almost 3 months.
This surgery was necessary because it finally put an end to the chronic coughing, pneumonia, bronchitis, wheezing and repeated antibiotic use that I had experienced pretty much my whole life. I used to cough as if I smoked 3 packs of cigarettes per day (so embarrassing!) and I was sick so often that I became immune to certain antibiotics that doctors were constantly prescribing me. No doubt that's one of the reasons why I prefer homeopathic remedies over conventional medicine now, save for the occasional Advil.
The recuperation period was awful. I feel like I didn't even have an October that year because I hardly stepped outside... BUT it gave me lots of time to read, spend time with friends and family members who visited and watch really thought-provoking late night television reruns. It also allowed me to take a step back and evaluate my life up until that point. I was a pretty happy person overall but the one area of my life that was unsatisfactory was my career.
Cue leap #2...
I was working in franchise operations for a food service company at the time. I did it for the paycheck, not for the experience nor because I liked it. Um, yeah, that is NO way to live yet so many people are in that same boat. We spend so much of our lives at work... it should be something we actually enjoy doing! Long story short, I came to the conclusion during my recuperation that:
I was going to quit my job and change careers.
I decided to enter a field I loved (fitness) but I was going to do it the right way (i.e. go back to school and get my masters degree). Now, a masters degree is hardly required in an industry as highly unregulated as fitness but I was a business undergrad in college; therefore, not too many science classes were required. Plus, I wanted to do what I could to improve my marketability and respectability as a fitness professional. I also knew I had a lot to learn... actually the more I learn, the more I realize I have more to learn!
Luckily my fitness prior to the surgery was at a high enough level (in spite of my unhealthy lungs), enabling me to bounce back quickly. I knew that I wanted to teach others how to increase their quality of life by helping them make fitness a priority. I also vowed to myself that as soon as I could, I'd be getting my own fitness levels back on track.
9.5 months after my surgery, I ran my first road race, The RYKA Iron Girl 5K, with my "new" lung.... and placed 5th in my age group with a time of 24:36!! I never felt more proud of myself for a fitness-related accomplishment! Well... until I participated in a little race called the Boston Marathon a few years later...;) The health of my lungs is one of a few key reasons why I continue to run, among others.
It's ironic how a chronic lung condition led me down a path of health and fitness... yet at the same time it makes complete sense to me. Some people might have thought, "Oh shucks, I've got this lung issue... exercise might aggravate it sooo might as well succumb to a life of pill-popping and sedentary misery!" I know I'm destined for more than that though and I think maintaining a positive attitude - even when sometimes I felt like life had dealt me a crappy hand - kept me on track and helped me to take the leaps of faith when I needed to.
Of course, I'm not done growing... still more leaps will need to be made... but reflecting on how much my life has changed since 7 years ago today makes me pretty confident that I'm steering in the right direction :)
|Ok, I lied... here's one pic from the summer after my surgery... I'm good as new!|