In the last few years Iíve made it my mission to be more healthy. I gained 20-30 pounds the last year I was living in Alberta. I had a major gut that just didnít make me happy. I started thinking about diet, health and diabetes, mainly. In the last few years, Iíve tried my best to really change my diet. When I was living in SK and AB I could get bison meat or buffalo. I would try and eat that as my main food. I quit sugar except in natural forms. Quit greasy food and junk food. For the most part. I lost the gut and probably 25 pounds in the process. I started running again. It was a really great time in my life to feel strong and healthy.
Iíve let that slide here and there. Mainly due to the stress of poverty. It isnít easy to eat really healthy if your arenít a farmer, rancher or have some serious cash flow for organic food. I watch my weight and gut increase as I ate what I could afford. A big part of that is the stress of having to worry about where and when the next bit of money would come in. How to pay the bills and when in my case to pack up to leave. All combined I realized I just live very unhealthy in general.
This past year I made a commitment to help myself. That includes looking after my health. Finding a place to live. A stable job and so on. In terms of my health its been years since I put myself through the usual bi-annual series of test I used to. Like iron, diabetes, cholesterol, and the list goes on. Iím one of those people that would rather know if something is not right and how, if I need to; fix it.
So here we are. Iím got a place to live in Ottawa. That was a first. I got some income for a little while-that stress never seems to go away. I survive. But I did go out and go see some doctors for the usual tests. In the process they started asking about family history and that sort of thing.
To make a long story short- we have heart problems in a big way on my dadís side of the family. I found through doing some research that heart disease is harder to detect in women. Also that most of my uncles have had or should have had triple bi-pass surgery. That is scary. My dad has a severely enlarged heart, several strokes, and other heart related conditions. This has impacted his life in a major way. I got me thinking about what I can do to be pro-active. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
Iíve had a full organ ultra-sound and now an EKG. From the sounds of it thats just the beginning. Iím lucky to have gotten a doctor that used to live in SK. Heís pretty knowledgeable about the heart and First Nations. He mentioned there is a test for Cree people and heart problems, he said its very common this problem but that there is specific things I can do to be pro-active. More exercise, no smoking and well more exercise. 20-30 mins a day to be exact.
So I guess I needed a good reminder. But what all this heart stuff brought up is how heart disease robbed me of my chance to meet my grandfather on my dadís side. He died of a massive coronary before I could make it home to meet my family. Due to being adopted out if you didnít know already. Both my parents have serious health conditions. It just makes me angry and well really really sad. Since my parents arenít pro-active when it comes to their health. They are the old school types that ďwalk it off!Ē Which I totally get and do the same thing. But my dad has 8 children and my mom has 5. It has been like pulling teeth to get a real picture of were their health really is. Iím the oldest daughter of both of my parents so part of my role is be there to support my parents. It just feels so unfair that neither thought about the impact their lives have on their children. I know my dadís condition means he could leave at any time. My mom Iím not so sure about. But either way its just not fun knowing that my brothers, and sisters will lose their minds when they leave. Not to mention the impact on my extended family. All because they made the choices they did.
Those choices are steeped in a number of things. Family culture, impacts of abuse, residential school and so many other factors. I wonder though when we talk about the seventh generation and making change if that means rethinking our relationships to our physical bodies?
Its really hard to watch your relatives be sick and not be able to do anything about it. Whether they suffer in silence or are in and out of hospitals. Either way, I know healing is not just about the physical body its about the whole. There is a big part of me that is angry and hurt that my relatives didnít make better choices, that they didnít take care of themselves. I know for the most part its not their fault. Its many things. When society tells you through systematic racism and its beaten literally into you- that you are worth less than others because of who you are; then taking care of your health then becomes about self love and self-esteem. Maybe in other ways its about being quiet, respectful, humble and accepting of the circumstance you are in. Many elders I know including my kokum are this way. I know Iím not embodying what they are like with my words but Iím hoping you get the drift. Its just most of the ones who are now gone didnít ever complain, they didnít ask for help, they accepted their circumstance with dignity. But it still frustrates me to no end. Why is okay and acceptable to ďsuffer in silence?Ē
I guess I just feel sad that I never got the chance to meet my grandfather. Iím angry that so many of my relatives are sick especially with heart related problems. Especially since there is not much I can do for them myself. Then it becomes what I can do for myself? What can I learn from them?
I really want simple things. Most off to be happy. I want to be healthy for as long as I can. I want to be a grumpy old lady one day who bosses around her grandkids. I donít want to have to deal with serious illnesses at such a young age like my dad- who is in his early early fifties. I want to be like those old people that are kick-ass and who quietly out pace the youth. Many these goals sound dumb or silly. But its really simple to me. Being healthy and health aware of your physical body is preparing for the future as NYM used to talk about back in the day. How are we supposed to be good elders, teachers, parents and relatives if the ones we love are sad and worried about our health?
Heres to my heart, because as a physical part of me; it maybe diseased or not. I can prevent some of that by diet, exercise and well quitting smoking (which I am NOT ready to even talk about so donít ask me yet.). But as a spiritual being, its about healing my heart, allowing time to be sad, angry and thoughtful about the things going on in my life so that I can learn, take action and hopefully be better.