A promise fulfilled
By DEBBIE KEEL
North Fulton Hospital CEO
“Mom, are you gonna die?”
This was my oldest daughter, Kelly’s, first question when I told her I had Multiple Sclerosis.
“Not only am I going to live a long time, I will be chasing around your kids one day,” I told her.
She was 14 when I made her that promise. That was 16 years ago.
Today, as I write this while on vacation with my family, I’ve just sat down for the first time. That is only because my nearly 3-year-old grandson, Kelly’s oldest child, is napping. We have been on the beach and in the waves all morning.
When I made that promise all those years ago, I really had no idea if I could keep it. But I knew I had to try. I looked at what I was eating (too much fried and spicy food—I’m from New Orleans, so what do you expect?) and what I was doing (running five miles a day to work off the food, which I wouldn’t be able to do much longer).
It didn’t happen all at once, but after some fits and starts, I changed my diet to eat less and better food (except for my trips home to New Orleans) and my workout regimen to swimming a mile three days a week and working with a trainer on the other days.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, studies have clearly demonstrated the benefits of exercise for people with MS. Patients who participate in an aerobic exercise program have better cardiovascular fitness, improved strength, better bladder and bowel function, less fatigue and depression, a more positive attitude. This news doesn’t surprise me in the least.
Of course, on weeks like this, when I’m at the beach with kids and grandkids, I don’t eat the best food and don’t do the workout routines. But I do walk on the beach. I do swim in the waves, and I do get buried in the sand up to my neck. And I stay up too late, laughing with my husband and girls about all the old times.
If I ever forget why I made the commitment to be well, to fight like heck against a disease I couldn’t get rid of but could surely keep in check, all I have to do is think about this week and these days and these moments and what they have meant to me.
Debbie Keel is the CEO of North Fulton Hospital.