First off I need to express my absolute adoration for the man I am blessed to have as my husband. I often refer to Russell as my hero and my inspiration, he is that to me but so much more. At the risk of sounding corny, Russell is my rock. He forces me to push myself, he encourages me, supports me and is as devoted to me as I am to him. Basically I love him dearly and will do whatever I have to do to share a long, happy and healthy life with him.
If you have been reading Russell’s blog then you know that in 2011 he was diagnosed with COPD. Wow was that a surprise to us. He was competing in triathlons and led a very active life. He had simply noticed over a period of time his symptoms seemed to be getting worse and he had been getting sick with one chest infection after another and was getting tired a lot. We presumed allergy or an update of medication perhaps. Russell was far too active for it to be anything else.
Very few people saw what I saw back then. To everyone else Russell was fine. He was a little bit sick, but he would get better and everything would be ok. I saw the daily struggle to get out of bed, to shower, to brush his teeth and to function like he wanted to function. I saw by 10am Russell was ready to climb back into bed and sleep the day away coz he just didn’t have the energy to do anything more, and I saw the fear. I saw it each time I looked into his eyes and he saw the fear in mine, like a dear caught in the headlights. We had no idea what to expect, what our future held, or if WE were even going to have a future. I had so many things I wanted to ask, but I didn’t want to cry, I didn’t want this to be what life had in store for the man I loved, so I fought.
I spent hours searching the internet, reading about lotions and potions and cures. I visited health shops and had Russell swallowing every pill, vitamin and medicine I could lay my hands on. We tried salt therapy, and whilst it was very relaxing and made our skin lovely, it did nothing to help Russell’s lungs and breathing. Then I stumbled on the game changer. I found a Chinese Herbal doctor in Cleveland, James. Well James was our miracle. Russell was a sceptic. He went to see James ONLY to make me happy. Russell had no interest in what James thought he could do, coz he didn’t believe anything was going to change the way he felt, completely exhausted from his inability to breath. James explained Russell would have to be on the herbs for a minimum of 3 months before there would be any change at all. It was expensive which made Russell all the more hesitant. I had taken a redundancy from work and didn’t care if I spent every last cent of it to make a difference to Russell’s health. So the process commenced in October 2011.
Earlier in the year we had planned a driving holiday to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup. Had we known when we booked that trip how sick Russell was going to be, we never would have done it. I did the majority of the driving so Russell could sleep. At times when he was at the wheel we talked and talked and talked about how he was feeling, our hopes and dreams, sometimes we just sat in silence with our thoughts. Sometimes we, or rather me, cried. What I didn’t know (although I had my suspicions), was Russell believed this was the last trip he was going to be making, as he felt that sick.
Over the next few months Russell continued taking the Chinese herbs, after much nagging on my part. I made the herbs up each morning and evening to make sure he took them. He was still a sceptic and saw it as a money making scheme. He had spoken with his respiratory specialist who told him he didn’t believe the herbs would do him any harm, neither did he believe they would do him any good. I, on the other hand believed. I believed if Russell would just keep taking them they would make a difference.
At around the 4 month mark Russell started to notice very small differences. He noticed he wasn’t having to have a sleep each day and he was able to ramp up his training just a little bit without complete exhaustion. His breathing hadn’t changed but his energy levels were increasing. The colour started to return to his face, his lips and finger nails were no longer tinged blue and he wasn’t always freezing cold. In fact quite the opposite, where Russell would normally be rugged up he was reducing his clothing layers. Finally we were having progress. Russell continued with his monthly visits to James for about 9 months, after which point he felt like the results were not changing any further. A lot had been learned during that 9 month period about how the body’s immune system works and which things help to build and maintain a healthy immune system. I say this as I’m touching wood, Russell has not had an exacerbation since early 2012. He (or rather me) is diligent with taking all the things necessary to keep the body working as it should. We avoid people we know are sick and we avoid being around people who smoke. He religiously takes all his medication, but that’s only a small part of his continuing good health.
Russell was then and still is now, one of the most positive people I have ever known. He has a strength of mind like no other. He not only believes, but lives every day by the “mantra” the body does what the mind believes!
As part of our commitment to maintaining good health I have been roped into not only training for, but also in competing in the Ironman events with Russell. This was no easy thing for me. Unlike Russell, I don’t like putting myself out there. I prefer to just fluff along flying under the radar, tucked nicely into my comfort zone. When we started, I couldn’t swim 25 metres, I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was about 14 years old and I would only run if some sort of wild animal was chasing me. I had been a bit of a gym junkie and I enjoyed yoga, but that was completely different to the challenges I had in front of me. Not only could I not swim 25 metres, I am terrified of deep water. I don’t like not being able to touch the bottom and I don’t like not being able to see what’s in the water. Russell finds this a great source of amusement tormenting me about the munchies residing in the deep water.
I am asked often why I put myself through it…..my response is “if this insane amount of exercise is what keeps Russell well, then it’s a small price to pay really”. I am however looking forward to Cairns Ironman being over so we can back off just a little bit for a little while, but we need to find balance. Balance between maintaining a high level of fitness and exertion without having to train all weekend. I do look forward to the occasional sleep in or late night. But I am really looking forward to the look on Russell’s face when all our hard work is rewarded by crossing that Ironman finish line together.
Between us we each have our own challenges, both unique. Mine born of fear and Russell’s due to his health restrictions. Russell has taught me a lot……..he sets himself goals which he knows will be a challenge and pushes himself to achieve them. Most of all, Russell doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk and he very much lives by what he says. He will not use his health as an excuse, he uses it as motivation to keep going, to keep improving and to keep defying the medics who said he couldn’t.
Russell has his bad days, don’t get me wrong, and I panic with each of those days. I worry that he’s getting sick or something is wrong, but he takes it in his stride and just gets on with it. The moral really is you can do whatever you want to do as long as the will or motivation is great enough.
So the date is Sunday 8 June. It will be a very long day for not only Russell and I but for those coming to Cairns to support us. If you are looking for a reason to do things differently, or for a bit of inspiration and motivation log on to the live feed…….we will be the ones wearing the Donate Life gear, Russell will be the one grinning from ear to ear and I will be the one crying, but we will both be at the finish line together, the culmination of a really tough journey, but we did it together, under not so perfect conditions and that’s what makes it more special. I love you my miracle man….. X