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My Life-Changing Trickle-Down Effect of Exercise


My husband and I finally went to the doctor after he had been saying for some time that something was wrong with him. He was right! He was diagnosed with Parkinsonism (an early form of Parkinson’s disease), and FED (a frontal memory problem) A week after seeing the doctor, he had a small stroke, which fortunately, he recovered from almost completely. It was two big hits; one right after the other.

At the same time, I had terrible pain in my knee and hip and was limping. After going to the doctor, I found out I had bone-on-bone in my left knee and a lot of arthritis. A bad knee sounds fairly easy to live with, especially since I have lived with stage IV uteral stromal sarcoma for 17 years, but this kept me from exercising–something I love to do.

It was during the rains of November, and it was a pretty pathetic time around our house. We are both 85 and I thought maybe this is how we will stay, depressed and lazy. I have always maintained that we are the first generation to grow older, not old, but maybe we have finally grown old after all. We were just hanging in. We would go from room to room to act like we were busy and end up just flopping down to watch TV. This wasn’t like us. I love to exercise and the outdoors, as does he. One of the mottos I live by is “Anatomy is Destiny.” To me, that means: keep your anatomy strong and your destiny will be strong as well.

I had a couple of cortisone shots in my knee which worked miraculously, but I was still lazing around. I just couldn’t get myself moving. I wasn’t sleeping. I was up thinking.  One night I got an idea–I’m going to go back to Pilates. I hadn’t been there in ten years. I needed to feel strong again for this next chapter of our lives. Maybe this would do it.

As the instructor told me how to move my body, it made me remember who I am. Just one class absolutely changed my thinking. My muscle memory took over. I now go back every week. I’ve always reassured myself that if I can’t do one thing, I’ll do another. I can’t hike because of my knee, but luckily I can walk and take Pilates. I’m back to walking every day (or almost every day) with music in my ears just like always. I feel strong again and this trickles down into feeling that I can handle everything that comes along: Parkinson’s, tumors, doctors, pills, knees, whatever. I’m, once again, excited about my life and all my projects.

We are back in the world and it feels good. My husband is going to PT to work on his balance and has returned to the gym.

My exercising has translated to other areas, helping me navigate our “new normal” life, and has crept into my spiritual life, as well.

I go to the beach where we live to take photos, and I take time to sit on the rocks and meditate. As I watch the waves spiraling in and out, I appreciate our lives, our children, our grandchildren, and our friends.

Now I know I have the strength to take on this new chapter as it unfolds.

We are not old; we are just growing older after all.


Beverlye Fead, a 17-year survivor living with stage IV cancer, has actively spent these years publicly speaking AND working to reinvent the perception of aging and disease. Fead recently received the 2019 Perennial Hero Award in September from Alliance in Aging Research for her body of work. She is a best-selling author, blogger, and documentary filmmaker.


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