Six years ago, I was in a car accident which fractured my right shin. Five years ago, I diagnosed with cervical cancer and had surgery to remove it. One-and-a-half years ago, I was laid off from my job of 14 years due to budget cuts. Six months ago, I brought my eldest brother who has diabetes and dementia to live with me in my two-bedroom condo. Two weeks into it, I stepped down from my job as a first time Executive Director after only nine months running a non-profit, to be able to properly care for him. 

Over these last five years, my health slowly deteriorated. It did not stop me. I created and held three annual World AIDS Day forums in 2013, 2014 and 2015. I wrote a play, a comedy about HIV, that debuted at my 2014 event, and in 2015, the cast pushed me to create part two which we did and which was also a hit in the community. 

But through it all, my body felt like it was dying. I jokingly began to plan my funeral. Each day the pain worsened; I could barely dance at parties and had to drive everywhere, no longer willing or able to take public transportation. Caring for my eldest brother, a disabled Vietnam Veteran, was so physically and emotionally stressful, I worried that I, six years younger than him, would pass away before him. 

I wondered what happened to the unstoppable, no holds barred, take life by the horns, take no prisoners, let nothing get in the way, by hell or high water, tenacious, strong-willed woman I used to be. Where did she go?

I bought a back stretcher, a leg trainer, exercise and yoga videos and meditation CDs, my Ruth Bader Ginsberg workout program and still had my gym membership, but rarely had the energy to go to. I started smoking again a few months ago and I could feel my life force dropping and the clock winding down.

Finally, I broke the ice a couple of weeks ago. I meditated a couple of times. I opened my RBG workbook, I washed my yoga pad, I informed my brother that I would be changing the proportion of time I spent attending to his affairs and redirect some time to self-care. 

Today, I hit the reset button. I began my day drinking water; I did a 10-minute self-renewal meditation, a 10-minute yoga stretch meditation and the first set of the RGB stretch routine. I had fruit and yogurt for breakfast, took a shower, then a nap. Later he and I went to a movie.

For months, I contemplated what I needed to do. My quads had begun to sink down and put such pressure on two old torn menisci that years of bodybuilding kept suspended that now it was so painful to walk. Along with my back pain — a daily agony for the last four years — life had lost a lot of its luster.

What was the trigger that drives me to overcome this deadly inertia?

A few days ago, a colleague proposed that the CAB (Community Advisory Board for a major university’s AIDS Research Center that I serve on as Vice Chair), may be open to sponsoring my play this upcoming World AIDS Day (WAD), with a possibility for future WAD’s. This was the catalyst for me to stop my self-defeating behavior and wake up to be ready to embrace this incredible opportunity if it gets approved. I also started taking my Chantix medication today. Two days from now, I will stop smoking. For good.