Out of the blue

Out of the blue »
Hunter River from the gym

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.

Out of the blue »
Ruth at home on her NuStep cross-trainer

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!

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4 Responses

  1. I do wish you every good thing, Ruth. Your ability to take stock and then take the better road not only seems to help you come through these sad truths you have told me over coffee, but you are in the process, strengthening me and helping me to refocus. each new day.
    I really like the sound of your physiotherapist. Maybe that person could help Jim. He just forgets and loses his focus so quickly now.

  2. Hi Jane
    Thank you for being the very first person to comment on my brand new website!
    In my book ‘A Fragile Hold’ there is quite a bit about ageing, though I didn’t plan it that way. I find it hard to know what is responsible for difficulties in maintaining focus – getting older, my MS, or the daily deluge of digital information.
    I’ll email about physiotherapy. Tell Jim I miss him not being in my home gym!

  3. I’m sorry to hear about your gym closing, Ruth. I just know I wouldn’t have the self discipline to exercise at home! Good luck with that- I think you DO have that discipline! I’ve recently been doing Senior Aqua at Ashfield Pool- twice a week. But suddenly I don’t have enough time for other appointments- financial, legal, medical and the like!

    1. Sue, how lucky you are to have a pool close by, and a Senior Aqua class. I am envious. It sounds like you’ve made it a priority in your life, which will surely reward you!

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