In September 2022 I received some bad news. No, nothing to do with anyone’s health; it wasn’t a car crash or someone falling for an internet scam.
My beloved gym at Honeysuckle, with glorious views over the Hunter River foreshore and the Port of Newcastle, was closing at the end of the month. It was to relocate to Wallsend – for many of us, a distant suburb.
In my memoir, A Fragile Hold: Living with multiple sclerosis and other uncertainties, the gym makes frequent appearances. I attended two 8 am classes each week for over three years. It was an anchor for both my husband Ken and me, giving structure to our weeks, brightening our spirits as the quiet waters opened before us, and ensuring we both kept strong and fit.
Devastation swept our class as the news sunk in. The supervising exercise physiologist did her best to put a positive spin on the move, without much success.
Over the weeks that followed, before the gym closed, my classmates and I investigated options for a gym close to where we lived. Visits were made and information exchanged but it was obvious nothing would be as convenient or safe as the Finnish-designed rehabilitation machines we’d enjoyed. I spread my gloom to friends I met for coffee.
Ken’s driving is very limited these days, and Wallsend is out of the question. One of my classmates who’d committed to Wallsend had offered to pick me up on her way there. I felt uneasy about that – she was well into her eighties, and I was not sure I’d manage to get my walker in and out of her small car without help.
I began seeing a physiotherapist who had recently set up practice in the main street of my suburb, Hamilton. She began helping me with my balance, something that had not been covered by my gym program. I retrieved my free weights from storage and continued daily sessions on my NuStep cross trainer. I’d bought the cross trainer at the beginning of the pandemic, at great expense, but have never regretted it for a moment. In the meantime, I remained booked in for two classes at Wallsend, in case I decided to go there after all.
Then at the end of 2022, Ken received news of the further spread of his melanoma. That wasn’t out of the blue; he’d been far from well the previous three months. In the New Year he will begin immunotherapy sessions with a different, more toxic drug than he’d been having for the past year.
I accepted that my old gym at Wallsend was out of the question; my Honeysuckle days were over. I’d had three wonderful years but why should I escape change? My loss is insignificant compared with the challenges facing Ken.
I’ve rallied, seeing my situation from a different perspective.
Already all the elements are in place to create an achievable home exercise program, supported by my local physiotherapist. Now it’s up to me to be as conscientious doing that as I was about setting out Tuesdays and Fridays on that ten-minute drive to Honeysuckle.
And writing this here, sharing my conclusion with you over coffee, strengthens my resolve.
Wish me luck!