The SICK to FIT Journey . . .

November Fit ScheduleMy temptation is to jump straight to explaining how my life is now.

I’m in the gym four to five times a week, I’m fit and even pursing goals towards being a “chronic illness fitness ambassador” . . . I have attached a scan of a typical month at the gym. I document classes attended, my peak heart-rate at that class, whether I do weights (w), core work (c) and stretching (s) for each session.

But I need to put the breaks on. Unless I show you how far I came you will not appreciate where I am now.

I think it’s so important for me to share this part of my journey because every person with a chronic illness can live their own sick to fit “success story” . . . if they want it. Our individual versions of success will all be different and that’s important to note. Not everyone will want to go to the gym as often as I do but there is immense benefit to choosing to pursue a more fit life despite chronic illness.


It was less than two years ago that I was plagued with overwhelming fatigue, living with bones so brittle I broke ribs vacuuming, lacking motivation, waking up stiff and sore every morning.

Things that prevented me from being Fit:

  • fatigue
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • elevated Parathyroid Hormone
  • mild depression
  • brittle bones – fear of falls and breaks
  • low appetite – low energy
  • my dialysis schedule itself
  • effects of high and low blood pressure

These reasons aren’t small. My health made it almost impossible for me to be active. Fortunately, over time, elements came together for these barriers to be lessened or completely eliminated from my life.

Here are the three most important elements that changed my life; having a Parathyroidectomy operation, sticking to an Aggressive Dialysis Schedule and participating in Cardiac Rehabilitation.


The parathyroid is made up for four small glands that are close to your thyroid. People with kidney failure have a problem with these glands because they compensate for calcium issues by working extra hard. The side effects of elevated parathyroid hormone are long. Parathyroid was responsible for my brittle bones, a fog I lived in, aches, fatigue and more. Many people living with renal failure have an operation to correct this problem. In my case having  the operation made a huge difference for me IMMEDIATELY. I felt better in the recovery room. I had a great deal more energy than I had in years and most of the side effects simply disappeared.

Aggressive Dialysis:

A doctor suggested I try an Aggressive Dialysis schedule to see if it would improve my heart. This began as an experiment. I went from doing dialysis three times a week (four hours each session) to doing dialysis five to six times a week in sessions that range from three to eights hours long. Normal kidneys work all the times so the more dialysis you can do the better your replicate the cleaning that healthy kidneys do. Three months into this experiment the results could be described as miraculous . . . My heart was significantly healthier and stronger in both function and physiology.

Cardiac Rehabilitation:

Cardiac Rehab is a clinic at a local hospital where exercise and life-style changes are introduced to people with cardiac (heart) issues. You work with an amazing team; a cardiologist, physiotherapists, nurses, a dietitian and a social worker. This team supports you as you add exercise and lifestyle changes to your life. It happens slowly with a simple walking plan (and diet changes) but increases to a rigorous personalized cardio, resistant training, core work and flexibility plan. With exercise I slept better. I was hungrier so I ate more. I built strength and stamina. I further improved my heart.

The combined benefit of these three factors have changed my life for the better. As always, there is more to this story but I thought we’d start with an overview.

Everyone has barriers to living a fit life. The key for me was addressing these barriers so I could live with the immense benefit. I am thankful every day for this new life I live.

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