It was a bitter cold morning in February 2014 when the temperature in London Ontario, (Canada) was -26. I woke up freezing despite the heating on wishing the temperature would go down further to -28 so that the tubing trip for my son’s fourth grade class would be cancelled. I am usually a very sporty person and love all things fun and sports related so I felt odd making that wish as I tried to wake myself up with splashes of water on my face. Checking the weather forecast made me sure that the trip is on since the cut off temperature is -25 for the school’s outdoor activity and weathernetwork said it’s going to be -24. As a parent volunteer, I had signed up and so put my warm layers on and headed outside with my excited son. I just felt strange and extremely cold, almost exhausted and that too first thing in the morning! Those who know me call me the energizer bunny so feeling this way was weird. I brought along my professional camera as I had volunteered to not only be a chaperon but also the official photographer of the trip. That’s me, putting a lot on my plate to help everyone around, forgetting all about myself and ignoring the signs my body was giving me. The trip was on and the bus took us to our beautiful destination where the kids and their teachers organized themselves in groups and started sliding down the hill. I caught some great shots, well, actually 270 shots to be exact. You see, I believe in doing anything and everything to the best I can, push myself to the limits. This time my body was not very pleased with me. During my trip down the hill on a tube I felt like I was about to faint with the cold air in my face, the cold breeze freezing my arms and my heart racing. I told myself, this is not my first but fourth winter in Canada, I am used to this and even more like -40, so what’s happening today! To make matters worse, I drank a hot cup of coffee loaded with caffeine and 2 sugars further restricting my poor arteries, but I had no idea and went along and made it through the trip from 10:00 am till 3:00 pm. I remember coming home and telling my mom in a joking manner that I need to start exercising since I am not in great shape, the hill was hard to climb up several times. She nodded and then I went to my room. After half an hour, I felt pangs of nudging pain in my chest and throbbing pain in my left arm. I brushed it off but it kept coming back stronger each time, almost like a baby kicking not in my belly but heart! So I called up my doctor friend who told me to wait as she is going to come get me to get checked up. She said firmly, I am on my way, meet me downstairs. I had never been to the hospital in a few years and not in an ER at all so she cautioned me that it usually takes 2 -3 hours to wait as they take the very urgent patients first. 

They took my vitals at the ER and then said please come with us, I looked at my friend, grinned and said to her, hey, you were wrong, no waiting time for me! She looked a bit scared and then I got it. Oh no! it must be urgent. I am the urgent patient. I found out later my BP had shot up dangerously high and that was what was causing me the pain in the chest. They hooked me upto many wires and machines and started monitoring me, I was breathless now and they put the oxygen mask on. After a bit I was able to see clearer and hear better, you see the high BP had robbed my body of sending oxygen to other parts of my body and focusing only on the vital organs. My test results for an imminent heart attack came out clear thankfully but it was a near miss had my friend not come to take me to the ER. It was a very scary experience as I was in London by myself and my two kids with my husband all the way in Alberta for his work. The family needed me to be well and not to be a burden at this time. But my body has had enough of me runnning around on no or very low quality fuel. That night I made a promise to myself I will turn things around. I gave up salt the very next morning and followed the dietary plan to the extreme. Started using the treadmill in my aprtment building gym. But my body was in bad shape. I was not overweight, I was okay, but what I ate before was lots of shameful carbs and 8 cups of caffeine with 2 sugars each everyday and thats it. My lifestyle was sleeping late and working too much, not resting at all and just simply taking my body for granted.

The journey beyond was harder, as in follow up visits my doctor would give me a to do list and ask me to report back in 4 weeks, I would do that to the exact precision but my BP was not stabilizing. You see, the thing is I had done so much damage to my body that now it was at the stage of helplessness. Exercise, diet, sleep, did not start to work for four torturous months while I visited the ER a few more times. I was then finally prescribed medicine to take care of it. My doctor was proud of me for trying everything she asked me on point but then said this alone is not working so we got to take it to the next level and that was only possible through medication. I am grateful that the medicine suited me in 2 months and I was able to continue my journey to recovery. Many times during that time I thought, I wish I had done this earlier, I wish I had managed a better diet, rested in between my full day for 30 mins a day, slept early and exercised for 22 minutes daily. I wished I had done all that earlier, I would then not have to take medicine which has side effects and many drug interactions with simple things like certain fruits and herbs. A few more trips to ER were made due to this drug interaction with an innocent looking herbal lemon leaves tea! 

Hypertension is in my family, yet I never knew that since in our culture, sometimes we don’t share such information, which I think is very unfair. Genes are there, we did n’t make them, if this information can help someone it should be shared. But I am changing that mindset and speaking out and educating younger members of my family by telling them this can happen to them if they do not take care of their bodies as well. 

This energizer bunny may not be be having as much disposable energy anymore, so now unplugs, chooses where to spend her energy and recharges often. I choose to spend my energy in my classes as my students love it! It motivates them to learn and so I choose to give it to them as I feel they appreciate it and I can feel it being transferred to them. I also choose to save some for my family and then some for special friends. I have learnt to pick and choose my time commitments, learnt to say no and find solace in nature, prayers and netflix. When I started my journey in February 2014 on that eventful night in the ER, I had initially started to use the treadmill, then as the weather let up I replaced my daily exercise with a morning walk, something I now love with all my heart. Those first few days, I was unable to walk more than half a km as I was so breathless but later with consistency the trees, the beautiful leaves and the soothing sounds of the river Thames in Springbank Park, cheered me on to recovery. I now live in another city, some two hours away, but no matter where I move I seek out a park with trees, wild flowers and a path to clear my mind, take my worries away and give me strength to go on this journey of life. I still have to take my medicine for life as it is a chronic condition, sleep on time, not get too over worked but as long as I am able to be there for my family and students, that is what makes me happy. 

I take care of myself as my own happiness depends on it. Every tasteless unsalted healthy food seems tasty now, every step in my morning walk holds meaning, sleeping on time just makes my life simple. It’s a choice, eat something unwise or have a enthusiastic lecture or excited conversation with my family.  I do it for me…and you. I just wish I had done it earlier.