In my personal life, I am the proud mother of 2 grown children, wife to Dave (married 35 years) who was diagnosed with early onset dementia 6 years ago, daughter to an 86-year-old Dad who just signed on for another 5 years as an insurance agent (mom passed away 25 years ago), daughter-in-law to a beautiful woman Bev, sister to Heather & Tom (our youngest sister passed away 7 years ago from cancer), loyal friend to many incredible people, animal lover extaordinaire (own 2 spaniels, 2 rescue kittens, 30 goldfish and feed hundreds of wild birds at our feeders), knitter, crafter, creative problem-solver, athlete, and more.
Career-wise, I love what I do. I have been a Sport Physical therapist for 32 years and have been fortunate to travel around the globe with many of our Canadian National athletes.
In 2004 I became a business owner with the Internationally acclaimed Health & Wellness company–Usana Health Sciences. The networking business model is brilliant because it leverages my time and enabled me to reduce my long work week in my physio clinic.
2006 and life was grand. The kids had graduated from high school and were living on their own.
Then life threw me 2 giant curve balls. The first one hit in March 2007 when the neurologist gave us the news that my husband, Dave, has a form of early-onset dementia: Frontotemporal Dementia. We were in our early 50s and the shock factor can’t be described in words. Even now there are times when I can’t believe that Dave who used to be a strong athletic rugby player on the National team, has dementia.
Once the reality of Dave’s dementia settled in, I had some career decisions to make. Since Dave was able to do less and less around the house, it was obvious that I needed to work from home more often. There would be no more trips around the world with athletes; there would be no realizing my 30-year goal of being on the Canadian Medical team at the Olympics. (it was a teary day when I phoned a head therapist to let her know that I needed to withdraw from an opportunity to be working with her at the 2010 Winter Olympics). There would be no more thinking of just me when I was planning to attend a business course, or escaping for a girls’ weekend.
Just as I was getting into a rhythm with my new life, another ball hit me in the nose. You know the balls that give you a bloody nose and make your eyes run. Where you can’t speak right away because you are trying to see through the stars and hope that you don’t pass out. I remember the moment when I read an email informing us that the last and biggest portion of our retirement savings has been lost in a ponzi scheme. Hiding the fears and worries of managing the house, taking care of Dave as his disease progresses, and starting over financially in my mid-50s, was a full-time job. Added into the mix was the anger and guilt over being so stupid to have made those investment decisions. It was like holding a beach ball underwater–eventually I didn’t have the strength to keep up the pretense that I have my life together. For the first time in my life I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this mess. Where do I go? What do I do next?
Fortunately I didn’t stay in this low place very long. I believe that every experience is for a reason and the greater the pain, the greater the rewards. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t having one bit of fun but I knew that if I kept doing what I was doing, I wouldn’t change anything. I could continue being angry over losing the prime years of my life, jealous of other couples traveling, shameful over my financial decisions, and just plain sad and powerless.
But…one night my life took a different path. I was chopping vegetables and hating it. I hated cooking and was angry that this was going to be life for many more years. I wanted to scream and throw the knife down when suddenly a bright flash came screaming into my mind…I am free. No one is chaining me to this kitchen. I can walk out the front door and let someone else take care of Dave, the house, and the financial mess. In that moment I trusted that I wasn’t meant to live a ‘sad and angry’ life and I had a choice. I could stay in the ‘victim’ story or I could get on with living and stop wasting any more of my precious time on this planet. I started slowly with baby steps (writing in my gratitude journal, making dates to be with friends, hiring a life energy coach to work on my inner stuff, daily exercise) and gradually the darkness turned to light.
It’s been 5 years since that time and my personal growth has been massive. I began to see the gifts that Dave and the world of dementia has been trying to teach me: slow down and enjoy today–instead of wasting energy about the regrets of yesterday, or worrying about what ‘might happen tomorrow; surrendering and accepting ‘what is’ instead of fighting it; patience with things beyond my control; less critical and realizing that everyone is doing their best, including me; letting go of things beyond my control ; and best of all learning to be okay and love me just the way I am–the real deal.
Without 59 years of life experiences and losses (plus a zillion courses, books and mentors for personal development), I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I also believe that I wouldn’t have found a career that I love even more than physical therapy–personal life coaching. Or whatever name you want to call it. I help women–and a few men and teens–find their inner strength or power, so they can begin to love themselves just as they are. They stop seeking the approval of others and they become the same person inside their house as they are at school or work. Life is so much more fun because they aren’t doing things they think they ‘should’ be doing–they are choosing to say yes to what they ‘want’ to be doing without guilt. And, they have more energy and peace because they are finally able to speak and live in their truth with clarity, confidence, and simplicity.