Chamayne – Why She Runs

This is a guest blog from my friend, Chamayne Metcalfe Johnson.  Chamayne and I graduated from high school together in 1981 and are 55 this year.  Age 55 may not be the same as it was for our mothers, but the years tick on for all of us.  One thing that is  different for us is that we are better equipped to change up our habits so that we can be stronger and healthier as we age.  This is Chamayne’s story.

I did indeed have a very special birthday this year. I ran my first 5K race — at age 55.  I placed 5th in my age group and only started running 3 months ago.

Here’s the story: After steadfastly refusing for years, um…decades, when asked by friends, I started running on August 22, 2018. Well, maybe more like shuffle-jogging at times but still…

I had never run in my entire life. And I do mean never. In high school and into my 20’s, I was what most people might consider to be fairly fit and “athletic.” However, there’s a big difference in being “athletic” and being an athlete. I was not an athlete. I never participated in organized sports teams, never had a coach making me run, and therefore, I.NEVER.RAN. EV-ER. And in my 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, well….enough said.

But then…

For the last two summers, for some unknown reason, I’d wake up and see the sun shining, hear the birds singing, and have a real urge to hop out of bed, go out the back door, and actually run. I never did it, but something was just there — a nudging, an itch, a restlessness.

I ran into a teaching friend a couple of weeks into school who made changes to his lifestyle for the sake of his health and because of his loved ones, so that he’d be here for them. He told me that every day, he looks in the mirror, points at himself, and says, “You will NOT be a sorry ass!” For some reason, that hit me hard. It began to motivate even the stubborn no-I’m-never-gonna-run me. It resonated and stuck with me.

The final piece of the puzzle, the determining factor, the catalyst… Kenny. My sweet husband has coal miner’s pneumoconiosis…black lung disease.  He is also a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. He’d give anything to have his health back, to breathe easily. He’d love to be able to inhale our beautiful mountain air deeply and exhale fully until his scarred belly is concave. He’d love to run. He can’t, but by golly….I can.  And so I am.

All of those things just came together in God’s perfect timing and I made my mind up to start one day after school. I’m doing it. Running. I’m more tortoise than hare, but I am a runner now. I love it. I’ve fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. I’ll probably never be fast but then that’s not my goal anyway.

My goal is not to waste the health that God has so graciously bestowed upon me. I’ve been so very blessed with strong legs, healthy lungs, a heart that’s still beating, and eyes and ears that can gaze upon the majesty of nature and hear the beauty of birdsong as I run.

My goal is to be healthy, to be here for my loved ones. My husband needs me, my mother needs me, my son needs me. I’m doing it for me, for them, and for those who can’t.

I’m doing it for my mother, who due to ulcerative colitis, grief, and other concerns, is in very poor health and begs me to do whatever I must to stay healthy, maintain good balance, prevent falls, and promote strong muscles and bones.

I’m doing it for my mom’s lifelong best friend who’s had two total knee replacements.

I’m doing it for Mamaw, who, before her death, was crippled and confined to a wheelchair by degenerative osteoporosis.

I’m doing it for my brother, Britt, who died by suicide. I think of him often as I run here on the farm.

I’m doing it for Daddy and Pappy who died of heart disease.

I’m doing it for Papaw, Memmy, and my cousin Karen, who each died from stroke complications.

I’m doing it to set a good example for my and Kenny’s kids and grandkids.

I’m doing it to encourage others, especially anyone who’s never run before, anyone in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s…anyone who’s never really been active and thinks it’s too late. It’s not! No matter your age, young or old, teenager or grandparent, you CAN make a change. If I can do it, you can do it.

When I first started, Wednesday, August 22, 2018, I didn’t even know if I COULD run. I truly didn’t know if it was possible at 54 years, 11 months, and 6 days old. I have beginning cataracts, damaged cervical vertebrae from a car accident, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis curvature from childhood, arthritic-like joints at times, and numerous kidney stones just waiting to be jarred about and send me to the ER again. Not to mention, zero cardiovascular stamina.

I solicited the help of my friend Erica. She and another friend started back in January, asked me to join them, and I practically laughed in their faces as I categorically refused, saying, “This ole gal don’t run!” Oh, but I ate those words, incorrect grammar and all, and now needed advice on apps and some “coaching.”

I started the Fitness22 5K app, an eight-week program. You run 3 times per week, building up run time. You always start each run with 5 minutes walking to warm up and end with 5 minutes walking to cool down. Between warm up and cool down, you alternate run time with walk time. For instance, Week 1 Day 1 is: 1 minute run/1.5 minute walk, 6 times. That’s it. Sounds doable, right?

Guess what? I thought I’d DIE trying to run ONE MINUTE. Yes, 60 seconds! It was awful, even with 1.5 minutes walking in between. But I stuck it out. I did the next day and next day and the next day, week after week. If I couldn’t finish one of the training runs, I’d repeat it again until I could accomplish it before moving on to the next level. At the end of the 5K app, you’ve built up to running 35 minutes non-stop with no walking in between. (I’ve actually worked up to 53 minutes and over 3 miles a few times.)

So, I started running literally 60 seconds at a time, gasping for breath like a galloping horse, and today, I completed a 5K, running the whole way, never walking one step and never stopping one time.

I can’t wait to do it again.       ~  Chamayne

STROKE. Can It Happen to You?

My best friend Lisa died.  DIED.  She died less than a week after her 51st birthday. She started her birthday week with a headache; a headache that just wouldn’t go away.  Headaches were not common to her and this one was so bad that she complained about it and she was never one to complain about anything.  Yet, as we women so often do (men may do the same, but I’ve never been a man so I really can’t say) we push through things and keep going because that is what we do.  Lisa, always one to try to see humor in most anything remarked:  “I blame everything on menopause”.  I remain haunted by her social media post that week about her headache.

Lisa was my friend of over 35 years and we had plans of growing into sassy old ladies together laughing through life and old age together.  As I’m wading through grief and thinking about what could have made a difference, I’m writing to you about a silent killer and what we can do to keep that killer at bay.   Awareness of that killer, the risk factors and awareness of warning signs of a stroke are things that may have made a difference for Lisa and I know she’d want us to get the word out about it.

As women, we are saturated with information about breast cancer and it is pretty safe to say that we are all aware.   However, stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer every year and we are not so aware of that.  On average, one American dies from stroke every 4 minutes; about 60% of stroke deaths occur in females.

According to the National Stroke Association:

  • Only 1 in 4 women can name more than 2 of the 6 primary stroke symptoms
  • 7 out of 10 women said they are not aware they are more likely than men to have a stroke, and were not at all or only somewhat knowledgeable about risk factors
  • African-American women suffer from a significantly higher number of strokes than Caucasian women, yet they were less likely to correctly identify what causes a stroke
  • Stroke is a leading cause of death for Hispanic women but they are significantly less aware of stroke symptoms
  • 80% of all strokes are Preventable

What is the leading risk for Stroke?

  • High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) is a silent killer.  High blood pressure has no warning signs or symptoms and most individuals don’t know they have hypertension. Rarely, high blood pressure can cause symptoms like headaches or vomiting. It is vitally important to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis.  Know your numbers! Having it checked at a doctor’s office is a good thing and it is done routinely at appointments, but that isn’t enough. High blood pressure goes undetected way too often; make sure you know what your blood pressure is by routinely monitoring it at home with an easy to use, inexpensive device and keep current with preventative exams with your healthcare practitioner.  Omron is a manufacturer of home units such as the one I now use:  Omron 5 Series Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor with Wide-Range Cuff.  Ideally, keep your blood pressure below 120/80. A blood pressure with a systolic reading of  180 or higher OR a diastolic reading of 110 or higher requires immediate emergency medical attention for hypertensive crisis.

About 7 of every 10 people having their first stroke have high blood pressure

How can you reduce your risk of high Blood Pressure?

  • Be Active. 30 minutes of intentional exercise/ physical activity each day.  Walking is excellent and YES you do have 30 minutes to spend each day to improve your health – of course you do! Visit QuittingTheSitting.org to learn how to become less sedentary each and every day.
  • Eat Well. Eat a healthy diet that is low in salt and saturated fat.  Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits.  Eat more vegetables and fruit!
  • Don’t Smoke. If you Smoke – quit as soon as possible. Visit SmokeFree.gov for some great information and assistance.
  • Manage Stress. Stress does damage to our body, mind & spirit.  If there are stressors in your life that you can kick to the curb – do it!  Find ways to cope with stress such as exercise, meditation or sitting down to color.
  •  Sleep isn’t a luxury, it is a priority.  So many things start going wrong when we don’t get quality sleep especially over a period of time so shore up your sleep hygiene practices and seek help if needed.

What are the warning signs of Stroke?

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding
  • Sudden trouble speaking
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

What are warning signs unique to Women?

  • Sudden hiccups
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sudden heart palpitations
  • Sudden chest pain
  • Sudden face & limb pain
  • Sudden nausea
  • Sudden general weakness
  • 425,000 women suffer a stroke each year

Potentially life-saving medication can be administered within 3 hours of the sudden symptom onset to reverse stroke.  If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately.  Stroke is a medical emergency. Do not drive yourself or wait for a ride from a friend or family member. have an ambulance transport you.

If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T:

F – FACE: Does one side of the face droop when the person smiles?
A – ARM or Leg Weakness: Does one arm/leg drift downward when raised?
S – SPEECH: Is their speech slurred or strange?
T – TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Ways to Prevent a Stroke?

  • Control your Blood Pressure
  • Don’t Smoke
  • Find healthy ways to cope with stress
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get tested for Diabetes
  • Have your cholesterol & triglyceride levels checked
  • Drink no more than 1 alcoholic beverage per day

Take action now to control the things that you can to reduce your risk of a Stroke.  Be aware of the signs and be ready to take immediate action.  Don’t ignore symptoms that are sudden, unusual and without a known cause.  Trust your instincts! Be a lifesaver – share this information with others and ask them to share with their friends, family and co-workers.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.