I have always loved the water - this summer my trips to Western Racquet Club, lifted my spirits in more ways than one. First, when I swim, I feel free. I don't hurt, I don't feel the like I am trudging through mud as I often do walking. My hope was to get up to 25 laps, (one being one length of the pool) - I didn't make it, but I tried. For awhile most doctors recommended a graduated exercise program for chronic fatigue patients, so for example you might begin with as little as one minute of walking, do that for a few days, then add a few more minutes and continue carefully taking baby steps of incremental increases. However, now what has been found is each individual should find you own personal maximum exercise tolerance. I have found this the better approach, although frustrating, it seems to be the best way to get maximum good days. Too often with the graduated program, you push yourself too far, and then do the typical phrase two steps forward, but ten steps back. So for walking I am grateful to have the beautiful Elm Grove park that now has walking paths. There are two paths, a small circle and a large one around a pond. On good days I can do one large loop, on marginal days the small loop. But swimming, I was hoping that I could once again try the graduated program. There is something about the water that I believe helps more efficiently stimulate your lymph system, and have lesser side effects than walking or biking, etc.. The beginning of the summer, I started slow, and on some days I would drag out of the house at 7:40, knowing the pool closed at 8pm - but that was okay, because I could get in and it only takes about 3 minutes to do 2 laps! I swam as long as the humidity was too high, and I really thought I would be able to get up to that magic number of 25 - I got to 15.
The other wonderful aspect of swimming this summer was the social aspect it provided. I repeat, I am very blessed in many ways, and I have numerous friends since grade school that have returned to Elm Grove, and while we "suffered" at the small public pool, they have been lucky enough to join WRC. One of the most frustrating aspects for a social person with this illness is the isolation it often imposes. Its extremely difficult to make any advance plans, and now with so many friends having families, spontaneity is not the easiest of tasks. Thus the club offered me a way to see friends and acquaintances without making plans to do so. I also loved bringing my best friend and her family, watching the kids advance to jumping off the high dive this year!
Swimming has always brought me a bit of peace, and what made me think of this tonight was a report on the CBS nightly news. A young woman who is paralyzed noticed after she was scuba diving, she had some feeling on her legs. She was able to convince some open minded neurologists at John Hopkins to take others that were paralyzed and measure their sensory responses before and after scubaing at specific depths. What they found was amazing, individuals markers improved, not only immediately after scuba diving, but the effects lasted about 30 days. What the research is looking at are the increased levels of nitric oxide that the body produces while diving. They believe this then increases serotonin levels and which find a back door route to stimulate the nerves in the spinal cord. Fascinating! The reason this sparked my interest even more is because today I was extremely nervous to get my "blood" treatment as I call it, and was working on a post that I didn't complete before I left. I was second guessing my treatments again because they are out of the norm, and now as I lay in bed resting from the treatment, seeing the scuba piece made me smile and once again gave me hope. It proves what I already know in the truth of my heart, just because everyone isn't doing it, doesn't mean it won't work.
The woman who first discovered this phenomenon on herself, while she is convinced she will walk again, she also felt much pride in her persistence and sharing her story that research may come out to help so many others. I have always found the hope of those paralyzed a group unwavering in their determination to walk again, or find amazing ways to re-capture the joy of movement any way they can, thus they inspire me once again tonight.