With an AARP membership, there’s always more to discover. Check out your member benefits today.
by Carole Carson, AARP, September 18, 2008
Months after my dramatic weight loss, I opened my eyes in a hospital, disoriented and looking out on a vista of blue water on the San Francisco Bay. I'd spend the next eight days in critical care in the most distress I’d had since labor and childbirth.
For the past several years, even as I dropped pounds, I'd been having recurring episodes of chest pain. Trips to the local emergency room and various cardiologists' exams assured me I wasn't having heart attacks. But if the problem wasn't my heart, what was it? Why were the attacks more frequent and intense? And why had I suffered a mini-stroke two weeks before? Reduced to being an invalid at home, I had to find out what was causing the symptoms.
Comprehensive tests by a team of specialists finally identified the problem as esophageal spasms rather than anything related to my heart; medicine (a calcium channel blocker) was prescribed and treatment began. With pain receding, I eagerly returned home. Thrilled with a treatable solution to my medical nightmare, I couldn't wait to resume normal life.
On my first day back, I arose before dawn and went downstairs to fix breakfast. Imagine my dismay when I was unable to stand to cook. I waited for my husband to rise, reflecting on assumptions I'd made about fitness while picking at my hand sewing.
Once I was fit, medical problems would disappear, right? I ate carefully, managed my weight at 122 pounds, exercised regularly, eliminated caffeine, and took vitamins and minerals. Because of these efforts, my "bad" cholesterol was low, along with my blood pressure.
So why was I unable to do even the smallest physical tasks?
Reality has a way of teaching even the most stubborn, including me. What I realized that morning was that fitness wasn't a coat of armor that would fend off the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; instead, being strong would help me deal with uncertainty and recover faster.
Facing a medical crisis 60 pounds overweight and with high blood pressure is not a good idea. Being strong helped me get through tests, drugs, and intrusive procedures with a minimum amount of trauma and probably minimized the effects of the transient stroke.
Most happily, today I have no restrictions. Although it wasn't easy, I worked myself back to full strength. And maybe I'll encourage the well-being of others by sharing the difficulties of the journey.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Visit the AARP state page for information about events, news and resources near you.
Free chapter from AARP’s book by Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Members save 15% on medical alert service.
WW will help you build a customized weight loss plan
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
You'll start receiving the latest news, benefits, events, and programs related to AARP's mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age.
You can also manage your communication preferences by updating your account at anytime. You will be asked to register or log in.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at