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This Man's Story Broke My Heart


I have a beautiful 20lb Cavachon dog (half Bichon half King Cavalier.) Willy is a registered therapy dog. Before COVID-19 hit, we visited Hospice, home visits, nursing homes, places of business, etc., and these visits are quite magical as I witness the healing power an animal has on human beings.

One of our weekly visits is with a man named Dennis, who is widowed and just turned 50 and is housebound.

Dennis is living with:

● Obesity

● Type 2 diabetes

● Autonomic Neuropathy (Autonomic Neuropathy is a group of symptoms that occur when there is damage to the nerves that manage everyday body functions) and

  • Heart disease

Dennis has to use a walker to get around, and his mobility is minimal due to his extreme weight and nerve damage. As our relationship grew, Dennis wanted to share some personal things about his past life and how sad he was with how he was living his life now. He explained that being overweight lead to Type 2 diabetes, which then led to having Autonomic Neuropathy, and then his heart went weak, leading to heart disease. Dennis's multiple diagnoses didn't surprise me because of my nutrition training, and I understand how the human body works. And that when we practice prevention, instead of disease management, we have a thousand times better chance of living a high quality of life.

Dennis had a desk job and worked long hours and didn't pay attention to his diet. He was forced into disability retirement a few years prior (at 48), and now this is how he is living out the rest of his life.

Meeting Dennis brought tears to my eyes. "How could this happen?" I thought. And because of my training, education, and personal experiences, I knew his quality of life could be so much better if he understood how to manage his health, and not just manage his dis-ease. At 50 years old, Dennis should be reaping the benefits of his hard work and the long hours he endured to provide for himself and his deceased wife. But now, he's alone, tethered to multiple medications to treat all of his symptoms, and is also living with many side effects from his medications. His life is void of human connection, except for doctor visits and our visit with Willy. I'm grateful that I'm able to see the joy my dog and our conversations together offer him.

Witnessing a 50-year-old man, left home alone, using a walker to get around, and minimal mobility, only fueled my fire to teach others about taking care of our most essential vessel we own, our body.

It is my wish that others don't become another statistic like Dennis. And know, it's never too late! How do we start, later in life, to nourish our emotional, spiritual and physical well-being? COVID 19 has been one of our most excellent teachers in that regard. Now is a time when we must be willing to dig deep and ask ourselves, what do I desire? A lot of us are afraid to ask that question, and we keep forging forward, not paying attention to our true desires. I can bet Dennis did not desire to get ill going through his later years. His favorite hobby was music, and he enjoyed running a small music studio on the side. He showed me all the albums he produced and concerts he attended. I couldn't help but ask myself, "What if Dennis listened to his true desires? Would he be tethered to a desk all day, with a high-stressed job? Probably not. Instead, Dennis kept forging forward and dismissed his true feelings, and this kept him idle in life's waiting room. Remember, we are what we pretend to be. Whether that serves us or not.

I'm writing about this today because, as we sit back and reflect, during our quarantine, remember that you deserve more. Dennis deserves more. We all deserve more! And that when you take care of your body, your body will take care of you!

I hope you stay in touch with me as we move through this new year that so far has been an eye-opener for many, as we contemplate how our lives will look like post-COVID-19. It's a time to reflect and maybe pivot towards a new path, if what we did in our past, does not move us in the direction of our true desires. Don't be afraid of the unknown. That's where the excitement lies. Predictability keeps us safe, but then we're not truly living.

I hope that COVID-19 brings on new beginnings with no resentments. Living in the past, only makes us suffer more. We want what we cannot have, and we stay stuck in limbo, waiting for our life to return. And yes, when one door closes, another one opens, but it is what you do in the hallway that matters. I once heard this quote by Ann Landers, "Hanging on to resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head." Now is the time to summon the courage of faith as we face the uncertainties of our future. Then begin to take action that will align you with your true desires. That's when you know you're on the right path towards your North Star.

With love and gratitude,

Donna Markussen

Finding Your Health
PO Box 247
Center Harbor, NH 03226

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