Guest Opinion: Take a beat
By Belle Du Chene | Owner, ism Public Relations
We started to notice Mom wasn’t quite the same around the holidays last year.
Normally, the day after Thanksgiving is reserved for firing up the sound system with Mannheim Steamroller music, baking the first batch of Norwegian krumkake cookies and replacing our day-to-day items with their holiday versions. The house is turned upside-down and in a matter of a few hours, every throw pillow, wall hanging, rug, hand towel, candle and even the cookie jar and toaster are replaced by those in red, green and gold. The furniture is moved around to accommodate the five or six Christmas trees that Mom will decorate, and Dad is lovingly exiled to the outdoors where he will untangle and hang lights for hours.
The best part of our tradition is making the 30-mile trek to the Christmas tree farm, where we dress in plaid and puffy vests, feed deer dressed in antlers like reindeer, sip hot cocoa and argue over who found the most perfect spruce or fir. Dad and I always make it a competition to find the tallest tree we can but we are usually overruled and end up with Mom’s choice, because it means so much to her.
It’s truly the best day of the year.
But this time it was different. Mom didn’t say much. She didn’t pose us for the family photos we pretend to hate. She didn’t break out in song like she usually does when we come across the wilted and pathetic “Charlie Brown tree.” She didn’t do much of anything. She just seemed really tired.
When we got back to the house, I couldn’t stay long, so I helped my dad unravel some lights before hitting the road. It made me sad to miss out, but I was already looking forward to coming home for Christmas.
A month passed and before I knew it, Christmas was here. I packed a bag, the gifts I had wrapped and the treats I had baked for the family, and my dog and I were off to spend the holiday with family.
When we arrived at the house, Dad’s lights were as picturesque as ever (and a little crooked, but that’s part of his DIY charm). I ran to the front door, opened it, yelled “I’m home,” and stopped short.
There in front of me in the foyer was the 8-foot tree we had cut down one month before with just one solitary string of lights hanging from it. I looked around the house and only saw two trees up. In the kitchen, only half the normal amount of baked goods were on the counter. I looked over, and Mom was sleeping on the couch. I had expected things to look like a Better Homes & Gardens editorial. Instead, the house seemed lifeless.
We spent a lovely Christmas together and I tried not to let things bother me. But over the next couple of months it became hard to ignore how often Mom canceled on outings with her friends and granddaughters that she otherwise would have looked forward to. She started napping all day and never seemed to be rested. Finally on a Friday, with much urging and a heavy dose of fear, she went to the doctor for a stress test.
The results were so poor she was booked for a coronary angioplasty the following Monday at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo. The doctor said he would decide if a stent would need to be placed once he took a look at the damage. He discovered that two of her arteries were 90 percent blocked and ended up placing stents in them.
We were told this was a common procedure and took solace in prayer, knowing how fortunate we were to have caught it before a heart attack could occur. We were happy to have answers for Mom’s lethargy and joked that she would be Jet Skiing in no time.
But the experience of such fear of losing my mother shook me to the core.
I spent a lot of time reading the information published on the American Heart Associationwebsite. I read how cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute, and that could have been my mom. That could be my sister. That could be me.
I decided to make some changes and took a beat for a few days. I deleted social media apps and email from my phone and started using the device to actually call family and friends. I got serious about getting my steps in every day and swapped a few meetups with friends at restaurants for walks around Gray’s Lake Park instead. I plan at least five meals a week with no meat or dairy. And, though it’s still a work in progress, I limit the amount of caffeine I intake daily and replace it with water.
No matter what side of any political divide you find yourself on, everyone can agree that we are reactive and not proactive as a society when it comes to our health. And, most often, it takes a near-death experience for us to snap into reality. If you do one thing for yourself and your loved ones, get that physical, take a look at your lifestyle and diet, and make some subtle changes now. It’s better to take a beat for yourself now that it is to take a beating later.