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Facing Mortality

Until I was 38, I was Superman. Rarely ill, running 5 miles a day since Marine Corps Boot Camp at 17. At 38, I had a stroke.

Doctors said it was caused by my high stress job. I had daughters 3 and 5 years old, my wife didn't work, and I'm no longer immortal. I changed my life and my job became less important. I never missed a dance recital, basketball game, softball game or swim lesson. I still did my job well, and each new boss was told that God, my family and my country came first. A long weekend for the girls meant a long weekend for me: Disneyland, Cedar Point, etc... Long drives, long talks. I made financial plans so I wouldn't leave a mess when I died. No more debt. Retirement planning.

My boss called one day to tell me she was quitting, that I was right. Her 4-year-old son called her "babysitter" one day when she took time off. She went from career woman to stay-at-home mom.

At 49, while on the job, I was in a serious car accident. Most of the next year was lost.  My daughters were now in high school, planning college, active in high school sports. National Junior Olympics and national bowling competition. I could no longer run, golf, play ball, bowl, or swim. I was told to expect a wheelchair in the next 5 years. I needed to "become sedentary". I started doing water exercise an hour a day, bicycling 30 minutes or more and learned to bake competitively.

At 54, I had a serious bicycle accident. Two years later, I lost over 40 pounds in 2 weeks from Crohn's disease. The week I went to the hospital for Crohn's, a sister entered a hospital for cancer. Our siblings visited and all said she'd be okay, but I'd never leave the hospital alive. Doctors agreed. She died 4 months later and I lived on.

At 58, my neuropathy in my legs worsened and doctors said I'd soon need a wheelchair. I started using a stationary bike daily, and golfing despite my bad arm, back and legs. I set a goal to do volunteer work in all 50 states and have gotten to 7 so far. Mostly marathons since I ran for 35 years. I hope to work at the Maui and Marine Corps Marathons this year.

My reaction to a health crisis: attack it. I've learned that many old friends have died. Each friend who's passed away inspires me to make the most of life. My daughters finished college and have good jobs. I'm 61 now and still no wheelchair. I do 60 minutes or more of exercise a day and golf 2 or 3 times a week. I attend meetings for people with brain injuries to encourage those who are giving up. With memories gone and the body not working right because the brain has broken circuits, it's easy to give up.

Marines never retreat.



Tags: Health, Job, Military, Stress, Values
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