I am 70 but am often told I look much younger.
That is not just from how my face and décolletage appear, but from the fact that I am physically in good shape and very active!
To achieve that end, I have had to dedicate myself to living a healthy and active life, one where I eat great food, regularly exercise, meditate when I can, and gain control of my mind and emotions.
I learnt a long time ago that life is a constant DO IT YOURSELF project, one that never ends. It is what we do today that determines our tomorrows and I want mine to be as pleasant and pain free as is earthly possible
Like most people, I used to take being in good shape for granted. We quite rightfully assume that our physical well-being is a right that the majority of us are born with.
It is not until something dramatic happens that we are forced to reconsider our reality. If we are wise, we use that set of circumstances to change how we approach the rest of our life.
Fortunately for me that lesson came when I was just 21. I was young enough and therefore had time enough to implement changes that have stood me in good stead throughout most of my life.
Those changes in awareness have helped me overcome a great many challenges that I have faced along the way.
I was a keen sportsperson who had enjoyed athletics and even had a coaching session with the great Shirley Strickland in my youth. I had played competitive hockey, basketball and softball and enjoyed each, and every one, of those pastimes.
I had an hour-glass figure that was in vogue at those times, I felt invincible with the world was at my feet.
At the age of 21, I was sent to teach at Carnamah, a small town 290 km north of Perth. Life was fantastic and carefree and I was welcomed by a delightful community. I couldn’t have asked for more!
My housemate asked me to stand in for her after her city boyfriend decided to pay a surprise visit, and it was too late to let her date know she couldn’t join him.
No mobile phones in those days! It was a day of water-skiing with people I had not met.
To cut a long story short I dived head first into the inviting blue water on a quite hot day and damaged my neck.
At the time, I knew I was in trouble, but was thankfully blissfully unaware of the severity of the incident.
My Doctor told me to meet him at the local hospital where they X-Rayed and promptly surrounded me with sand bags.
“DON’T cough, sneeze or move as you will be dead!!!”
Not exactly the words one wants to hear and resulted in a visit to an orthopaedic surgeon, traction in hospital with my head above the heads of anyone walking into my room.
Essentially I was hanging by my chin: C3 and 4 compressed fractures and 5 spots in my spine damaged to boot.
Pain management was a problem as I discovered I am allergic to opiate-based pain medication and throwing up in my situation meant choking to death.
The result, a Half Minerva, which is a plaster cast from the top of my head down to just above my waist front and back. Hardly a fashion statement that stayed put for three months. This was replaced by a collar which you screwed up or down, according to need, for the following three months.
I was told I would never have children, never play sport again, always have difficulties.
I got through the entire time without pain killers given that they didn’t agree with me. I danced my way through the country dances and balls once the plaster was gone and the day I was allowed to take the collar off, I played an entire game of basketball.
That is not to say that it was without difficulty. A couple of years later I started to lose the use of my arms as the neck calcified. By this time I was living in Sydney with another set of doctors who wanted to operate and cut out the calcification and replace it with a rod.
That thought raised alarm bells so when I came across a ‘healer’ a couple of days later who suggested that he could help me if I gave him three weeks, I had nothing to lose.
Under his guidance I soaked in baths of washing soda to break down the calcification and he stretched my spine which saw me regain the use of my arms.
Life then took me on another journey. One of delivering three children, a move to Melbourne, water skiing and playing basketball and further developments with my health!
Having the children wasn’t the problem, standing up after I had bent over to pick them up was. I would go into spasm and not be able to move.
Apparently, the exercises I had done to strengthen my back had developed muscles with my spine in the wrong position. So, it was time to start over again. I was in my early 40’s and was already having to sit on my bed to put my shoes on.
I found an excellent chiropractor who told me I would spend the rest of my life having weekly adjustments. That forced me to consider if I was ready for that and I knew I wasn’t.
This was my body, my responsibility and no one else was going to tell me how I was going to live it.
Without knowing I had stepped into the realms of mind/body connection. At that stage, I had no idea how the bio-chemistry of the brain influenced the body or what the placebo effect actually meant.
So, I studied and researched. I read books like The Man Who Would Not Be Beaten, Never Say Never and The Miracle Man, all of whom had overcome incredible odds.
However, the most important and life changing book I found was The Fountain of Youth.
This is a factual book about an English gentleman’s journey to Tibet in order to find Shangrila. He was using a walking cane and was quite debilitated. It may well sound totally out there, but I was prepared to look anywhere for assistance.
During the time he spent in a Tibetan monastery his life changed when he discovered the Tibetan Five Rites. These are a sequence of five yoga / Pilates movements that awaken the whole body and bring back core strength and flexibility.
When I first started trying to do these movements, I really struggled. If you can only manage three of the first movement then you only do three of the others.
Gradually I was able to build up to the required 21 of each and I have been doing those at the start of every day since the early 90’s. I do not miss a day unless I am on a plane.
I can tell you that I am more flexible, stronger and in better shape than I was before my accident.
I have no pain or arthritis. The only time I have found the need for a chiropractor is when I have had an accident or a head collision with my grand kids on the trampoline.
Life is fantastic!
Just to make sure that my life is as good as it can be, I only eat wholesome food, I don’t drink alcohol, tea or coffee because they don’t agree with my body. I walk as often as I can and meditate whenever possible.
People say that I am unusually dedicated and committed to health, but why wouldn’t I be.
Ultimately you are the only one who fully understands what is going on in your body so listen to it.
Don’t be afraid to state what you are feeling, what you are going through. Take responsibility, research and make informed choices, because as we all know, it is not what happens to you, it is what you do about it that counts!
About the author:
Bev Brock’s life changed pace in the almost three decades she spent with motor-racing legend, Peter Brock, raising a young family and helping to steer him through life in the spotlight. She is a former teacher and life counsellor, an author and public speaker, and a passionate environmentalist and road-safety advocate. She is patron of the Lighthouse Foundation and sits on the board of the Skyline Education Foundation. Bev was awarded the Prime Minister’s Centennial Medal. She is a mother of three and grandmother to six.