An opening thought for the 2010 IDEA Fitness Fusion Conference: Life is a symphony of contrasts.
I flew into Chicago a couple of days early to hang out with a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in years. We both grew up in the city’s southwest suburbs umpteen years ago and have had one of those easy, pick-up-where-you-left-off friendships that are a rarity and a treasure.
This friend called me a year ago to tell me that, not only had he had a massive heart attack, but that he wanted to say goodbye and thank me for the many years of crazy capers and laughs we shared. Needless to say, I was in disbelief and denial. Part of me still is. I mean, people live long and happy lives after heart attacks, right? But in my friend’s particular case, it appears not to be.
He is the classic case of everything we’ve ever tried to educate IDEA members about: Diabetic, noncompliant, heavy smoker, terrible eater and too bothered by his seeming everlasting youth to exercise or be proactive about any of the warnings he was given by his physicians. In his mid 40s, the "good life" caught up with him. Today, he has a pacemaker-defibrillator in his chest and wires running through his body to help keep his tired old heart on track should it decide to so much as hiccup. He tires easily and walks slowly. Osteoporosis has already compressed his once strapping 6’2” frame by two inches. By his account, the doctors say his heart is dying and therefore, so is he.
But this man has repented. He quit smoking cold turkey after the big one. He lost 50 pounds. He regularly goes to the gym and gets on the elliptical or the treadmill for as long as he can stand it. A diabetic food service delivers specially formulated meals for him. The cortisol he once thrived on no longer fuels him (because he can no longer work or afford the stress). He takes his gift-basket sized set of drugs faithfully so he will remain dialated, oxygenated and insulin regulated. But is it too little, too late? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, he is on a list for a heart transplant and is saying his goodbyes and thank yous while he waits for any positive news on the donor front and tries to do the right thing for his body.
Our goodbye in front of the Hyatt Regency O’Hare today was quite a sight. Both of us weeping and sloppy and sad that this could be the last time we ever saw each other. We hugged and parted ways: he to his uncertain future and me, to something much more concrete.
I walked with blind faith toward something I know to be as true as the sunrise: The magic and positive energy of an IDEA conference. I wheeled my bags into a building filled with dedicated fitness professionals and educators who each day help clients make life-changing decisions and who absolutely have, or who someday will, make a profound difference in a life such as my friend’s.
So, hello everyone—and thank you for being who you are and for doing what you do. I hope you have as wonderful a conference as I’ve already had by simply being in your company today.