SHORT VERSION OF ARTICLE –
Diane’s Fight to Get Her Life Back: Use Exercise As Medicine
1998 to 2007 by Diane Sabba, M.S.
Life was great! I was blessed with a wonderful family. For 25 years, I was a Computer Engineer and owned a successful company. I became a Health and Fitness Advocate and then opened a fitness company. Being energetic and in great physical shape, I was making my dream a reality – to help others with Physical Fitness goals.
One day my world came tumbling down. In 1998, I moved into an apartment with dangerous levels of toxic mold. By 2001, I lost just about everything including my health. I was afflicted with many respiratory illnesses including Acute Asthma that was life threatening. I collapsed many times from minimal exertion. I could not blow out my birthday candles nor help my granddaughters blow out theirs.
I used exercise as preventative medicine and for healing the mind, body and spirit. Without exercise, I would have become overweight, prone to diseases, worsened sicknesses, diminished quality of life, and premature death. I was forced to give up many of my sports and physical activities, thus breaking down my emotions resulting in depression. The saddest thing was being forced to give up my passion -- cross-country skiing that I enjoyed for two decades.
I created custom exercise programs for myself with goals that included small steps and realistic deadlines. Exercise prevents heart disease, Type II Diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, builds up the immune system, lung function, and helps with stress, depression, sleep disorders, self-esteem, and general well being. Exercise helps lessen the number of asthma episodes, therefore reducing the need for medicines that caused harsh side effects I was getting. I was diagnosed with Osteopenia, a weakness in bone density, so exercise became more important for building up my bones. The brain is the biggest user of oxygen in the body and a decrease of oxygen equals less functionality. Exercise also keeps the brain healthy and increases blood flow. Laughter is another good medicine and exercise, and I loved to make people laugh.
My research in Pulmonary Rehabilitation has helped me regain strength since the controlled breathing methods increased my lung capacity. I followed the recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association for maintaining health. I adjusted to what my lungs would permit by trying to walk at least 3 to 4 days a week for 30 minutes. For 2 days a week, I added 8-10 strength training exercises with 10 repetitions of 2 sets each for all muscle groups. Whenever I felt good enough, sometimes once a week, I added volleyball as part of Recreational Therapy. Volleyball is fun and anaerobic and can have a lot of rest periods and stopping. Though very humbling and to prevent from getting winded, I had to play at a much lower level than I did before I became sick, so not to overdo it. Bouncing around and sprinting are great ways to do the necessary “pounding” that my bones, lungs, and heart needed. The controlled breathing combined with yoga on a daily basis and exercises have helped me with less shortness of breath and kept me from being hospitalized. When I did get sick, I stopped exercises and activities for needed periods of time to rest and recover.
Here is a list of my physical activities:
BEFORE I MOVED INTO TOXIC MOLD AFTER MOVING OUT
APARTMENT AND VERY SICK
Breathing exercises, yoga
Cross Country Skiing (favorite sport-2+ decades)
Volleyball, Advanced Volleyball, Light (anaerobic)
Running and Races Only once a year - Walk/Run
Breast Cancer “Race for the Cure”
Kayaking & Canoeing
Hiking Mountains, Hills.
Line Dancing & Ballroom Dancing
Power Walking Walking on Flat Ground
Strength Training, Advanced Strength Training, Light
Weights with Stretching
Treadmill + Stair Climber
I practice imagery and visualize success in getting healthy like Dr. Victor Frankel (survivor of the Holocaust) talks about in Man’s Search for Meaning. I visualize helping others. I visualize going back to Mexico on mission trips that I used to do. I visualize my passion of health and fitness for others and myself. I visualize cross-country skiing like I did in the past and in the internationally sold “How to Cross Country Ski” video I produced.
The pain from my sicknesses coincides with my motivation, attitude and determination. My body, mind and spirit are a team and no one part can function without the other for long. I use exercise as medicine and treating myself holistically. I continue to fight to get my life back. They harmed me, but I own the battle. I must win. I have to. The good news is that I am now officially called “Diving Diane” in volleyball. I play a bit harder, and as long as I monitor myself, I refrain from collapsing or becoming “Done Diane”. The battle continues, but the battle will be won. My weapons are faith, hope, love, positive attitude – and EXERCISE! It works!
From 1998 through 2007, my illnesses included Acute Asthma, Allergic Rhinitis, Chronic Sinus Infections, Bronchitis, Rashes that ravished my face and body, Wheezing, Coughing, Tightness of Chest, Shortness of Breath, Fatigue, Loss of Memory, Hearing and Concentration, Stomach problems, Dizziness, Coughing up blood, Sleep Disorders, Headaches, Hair Loss, Itchy Eyes, Earaches, Infections, and a compromised Immune System.