Opinion: Exercise and determination changed the life of this ‘couch potato’ retiree

Retired Clemson U. professor describes his journey from ‘couch potato’ to ‘healthy, happy old codger.’ He hopes to encourage other seniors.

It’s a story of how I progressed from a deeply depressed and inactive old man to a happy and healthy old codger through exercise. I certainly am not trying to equate an exercise program with huge world issues, but perhaps, even with the sad state of the world, we can make personal changes that improve our lives and will encourage others to do the same.

In 2005, the same year I retired as a professor at Clemson University, I learned I had diabetes. Sadly, this was just the beginning of my health’s downward spiral. In 2012, I began having pains in my lower abdomen. I’d had kidney stones before, , but this time the sharp pains felt different, and an ultrasound indicated something worse.

My doctor referred me to a surgeon, who confirmed her suspicions and operated the next week to remove my cancerous left kidney. I’ve had no recurrence of that cancer, but my health seemed to be on a steady decline. I began to have back pain, and as it got worse, I started to have occasional falls and near-falls that made me afraid to walk without a cane. This eventually led me to buy a motorized scooter to get around the retirement community where I live.

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The stumbling and falling got so bad that I was referred to another surgeon, who diagnosed normal pressure hydrocephalus — excess water or spinal fluid on the brain. A shunt in my brain relieved pressure and drained excess fluid.

The procedure helped for a while, but soon the back pain returned, Less than two years after brain surgery, I was back in the operating room to have a spur removed from my spine. Then inflamed arthritis and a slipped disc led doctors to recommend another surgery. I needed to relieve the pain, but three major surgeries in about six years seemed to be too much. The thought of giving up crossed my mind.

But I didn’t. I consulted my brain surgeon, who sent me to a pain-management clinic. There I received Injections in my back that relieved the pain and allowed me to stand upright within days.