In The Press: "Charms to Soothe a Savage Ache", South Florida Sun-Sentinel, October 18, 2006
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Charms to Soothe a Savage Ache

Sherri Winston swinston@sun-sentinel.com
October 18, 2006
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
English
Copyright © 2006, Sun-Sentinel Co. & South Florida Interactive Inc.

My youngest daughter is a non-stop dancer. She twirls. She spins. She jumps to the rhythm of drumbeats playing inside her head. She sings along to music no one else can hear. And she's happy all the time and bean-pole straight.

I, on the other hand, awake feeling as though sometime during the night I'd been the victim of a car crash. Bones ache. Muscles are knotted. A dull, persistent thumping running from my neck to my hip grinds at me from inside. It's how I start most mornings. And it stinks.

November's Natural Health magazine dedicates several articles to coping with chronic pain and all its ugly hand-maidens, including depression. One suggestion: dance, dance, dance.

"Cardiovascular exercise can increase endorphin levels, which enhances mood," the article quotes Los Angeles fitness instructor Jennifer Galardi.

Watching Kenya shimmy-shimmy-and-shake her way through the house, across the lawn, down the hall, I figure the article has to have some truth to it.

So when Kenya hops into the kitchen twitching twice as fast as the beat of the music, face gleaming with happiness, and announces: "Mom! Look what I can do!" her excitement is infectious. Too infectious. I follow along.

Oh, I can't keep up. I'm a lightweight by comparison. Still, just watching her boundless energy and joie de vivre pumps me up.

My body, already creaky and off-balance, is now bumping and flexing into unforeseen territory. "You're doing it, too, Mommy!" she yells. Yes, I'm doing ... something. But after a few minutes, I do notice one thing:

Pain is not the first thing on my mind. Instead, I feel happier. Now that could just be the effects of an indefatigable 7-year-old dancing like Elaine on Seinfeld. Or maybe it's the power of "the dance."

The doctor who manages my lupus care encourages me to exercise as much as possible.

October is Lupus Awareness month. One day we hope to have as much attention focused on the autoimmune disease that attacks up to a million Americans, as gets turned toward breast cancer every October. Lupus, like many chronic pain and autoimmune diseases, is insidious because it can mimic everything and nothing. Mine has not yet caused any organ failure, but call me crazy -- I'd like to stop it before it does.

A physical fitness plan, says my doctor, is a good way to take care of yourself.

So I do the treadmill; I dance with my kid; and I'm learning to do a lot more stretching. For months I'd watched Turbo Jam infomercials featuring fitness instructor Chalene Johnson. The music is funky, fast-paced and hip. And the moves are off-the-charts. The Turbo Jam Web site describes the workout plan as "calorie-blasting kickboxing, body sculpting, and the hottest dance music -- all guaranteed to give you jaw-dropping results, no matter what your fitness level."

Thinking only of the power of dance, I bought the videos, then was too chicken to try them. Until Kenya eyeballed them and pleaded, "Can I do it with you, Mom? Please!"

So we did.

Comical doesn't begin to describe our moves.

In the history of kickboxing, no one has seen punches so off-the-mark, kicks so pitiful or booty-shakes so perplexing.

Still, when it was all over, we both laughed and fell to the floor. Lauren, my worldly almost-9-year-old, did not appreciate the complexity of Turbo Jam. She asked us:

"Aren't you embarrassed?"

Turbo Jam was fun and made us feel like we were stars, even though we looked like floundering meteors. Kenya and I burst out laughing. "No!" we both said. We felt no shame.

Later, when the endorphins wear off, the pain will seep back into my muscles and joints. But that's later. For the moment, I giggle like a naughty schoolgirl.

Bad dancing, like chronic pain, will not stop me. I will live to dance again.

Sherri Winston can be reached at 954-356-4108 or swinston@sun-sentinel.com.

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