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I can’t do this anymore! I admitted to myself, gripping my cane. Like stricken puppies, my legs, refused to move, despite my commanding them to do so. I was beached, immobile, furious, a storm crashing within me.

I had already checked into the YMCA, was sucking a lemon cough drip, and was standing at my usual start position by the entrance. Ahead of me stretched the wide corridor; its recessed lighting reflecting upon the floor had helped me maintain balance the four months I’d been coming here. My helper waited for me to begin my customary walk toward the gym and the exercise room, her shadowing each step lest I fall.

That was three days ago, an experience that left me floundering in self-pity, one of the faces of grief.

It’s all about acceptance: my terminal illness has taken another hit—and there have been many—but not as pronounced as this one: Weakness like I’ve never experienced, shortness of breath that worsens speech production, and muscle loss that rouses issues of disease gnawing away at my body, despite still eating full meals prepared by helpers or brought by friends.

Yes, there’s change. Rather than use my cane, I rely upon my wheeled walker to get about—It’s slower but still works. Happily, I’m still able to blog the ongoing experience of my terminal illness, and if appropriate, I will return to the Y’s NuStep and exercise my legs—not to walk as before, of course, but to keep going, one day at a time with Precious God’s help. Besides, I’ve friends there.

His eyes studied his sneaker foot, with scarring on his calf resembling vanilla ice cream oozing through a chocolate bar. Red shorts concealed the stump of his other leg as he crutch-walked toward his van parked in the handicapped zone of the YMCA; with each step, the swim bag around his neck rolled across his meaty chest. Contentment flooded his persona like sunset-sky, having accomplished yet another challenge, this day.

Seated in the all-weather armchair outside the entrance of the YMCA smiled a silver-haired windblown senior, her eyes alive with spirit as she waited for Call-a-Ride. Next to her edematous legs stood her collapsible stool. A blue dressing on her right forearm suggested the placement of a shunt, used for dialysis patients. No television-watcher, is she.

And during a rest break in the lobby, I watched a purposeful young woman glide through the opened doors of the entrance, her brunette curls bouncing upon narrow shoulders, wearing an ankle-length cotton dress that concealed her missing leg. Also well practiced in crutch-walking, she thought little of her limits—there was life to be lived, to the fullest, as noted by the tan briefcase slung across her back.

And pumping away on the NuStep machine in the gym was Lou, a great-grandfatherly type with sparse white hair meandering across his lined forehead. His rumpled T-shirt and shirts mirrored his relaxed speech. A smile for everyone, he continues teaching whoever is willing to learn. 

These encounters at the YMCA obliterated my earlier self-pity. We all have our limits, visible and invisible. I’m so grateful for mine.

“Hello, again,” said a heavyset senior with hooded eyes, leaning upon her cane, waiting for her ride home. The afternoon sun bleached her faded housedress and shadowed her bulk against the entrance. I nodded as I passed her, noting her hallowed spirit.

We’d returned to the Y for short spells of walking with my cane, the humidity prohibiting exercising outdoors. Immediately, the cool air in the foyer felt like an elixir, eased my lung functioning. My steps quickened—So far, so good.

Again, Tyrol, maskless, grinned behind the reception counter as he called me by name. Again, not many members were around.

My first stop was the scale in the women’s locker room. My helper steadied me on the platform until the numbers settled in place—no weight loss relieved me.

Then, we walked through large connecting rooms filled with rows of exercise machines, weight lifting equipment; through the full-sized gym where two guys were shooting hoops; and then, through an exercise room with a mirrored wall and recessed closets with various sized balls and yoga equipment. Long strips of wood veneer flooring would help focus my eyes upon maintaining my balance. For time-out purposes, three blue-cushioned chairs sat along one wall. This arrangement would serve my needs.

I rested a bit before standing to get my balance, then began walking with/ without my cane, my helper, at my side. The mirror reflected a tall senior with long blue-jean-clad legs and short white hair, not as stooped as I had expected. Seven times around the room’s perimeter was enough. I was grateful, finished for the day. Tomorrow’s challenge, yet to be met.

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