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"Your stamina sucks"

"Sheryl's stamina sucks." These were the exact words my physical therapist wrote on my reevaluation form. She drew a grumpy face for added emphasis.

"I hope that's a new medical term and doesn't mean what I think it means," I told Mia, who chuckled aloud. "If you expect me to give this note to my neurologist, and return it to you with her signature, you are going to be very disappointed."

Ironically, this issue came up at what I would have otherwise considered a high water mark in my physical therapy. I had just completed the six-minute walk test, without stopping to catch my breath, and finished only 100 steps behind the average for a healthy woman my age.

"Don't let that go to your head," Mia warned me. "You were significantly short of breath for the last two and a half of the six minutes."

"Okay, but I'm still alive and kicking aren't I?"

Mia shook her head resolutely, as if daring me to disagree with her plan. "You know that this does not negate our earlier discussions about your need to improve your endurance, don't you?"

"Agreed," I said. "But by the same token, I should get credit where credit is due, like for walking far better than either of us expected."

I didn't state the obvious. I would have passed out before taking a break and not finishing the walk within the prescribed time. Mia reminded me that I had set the bar very high and would have to exceed my performance at my next reevaluation in order to show improvement.


Sheryl with Nordic walking poles

The question remains what activities can I do to preserve my spine and joints, increase my stamina, and relieve the pain associated with spinal stenosis, sciatica, two bionic knees, arthritis, and Parkinson's rigidity.

Some of my favorite activities would have to go and others would take their place. Treadmilling, even at a relatively slow speed for a short time, had one of my bionic knees rebelling almost from the get go, forcing me to back off. I could swim, but only the side stroke. Getting a walker was non-negotiable. Instead I showed up for therapy carrying colorful, aluminum walking poles, which convey a younger, more athletic image (okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but everything is relative.) and allow for the possibility that I could pursue everything from mall walking to hiking, should I decide to do so.

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