We’re glad you’ve found FineAfter50.com! We’re Phil Bailey and Tina Fox, the creative team that developed Fine After 50 with its answers, strategies and resources.
We’ve both experienced a number of changes in our bodies and minds since we passed the half-century mark in age. We’re here to help you through the significant life changes a chronic or rapid-onset illness presents.
Here we will share our experiences and the things we’ve learned as we’ve navigated the turbulent waters of our own serious medical conditions.
The facts, tips and guidance you will find in the following pages are things we wish had been shared with us before the inevitable aging process began to take place in our bodies.
Our hope is that by reading our stories and absorbing the things we’ve learned, you will be better prepared to accept and cope with the changes in your own life that are bound to come — if they haven’t come already.
Who is Phil Bailey?
Hi! I was born July 12, 1946, during the first year of the baby boomer generation. I’ve always been a sports enthusiast and participant, particularly in baseball and softball. I also ran cross-country and track for four years in high school.
In college I injured my lower back while lifting weights, but I ignored the injury and didn’t have it treated until years later, after permanent damage had been done.
Shortly after graduating from the University of California with a B.S. degree in Engineering, I went on active duty in the United States Air Force and became a jet pilot and flight instructor. Flying supersonic in formation at night, and flying acrobatic maneuvers against a clear blue afternoon sky are thrills of a lifetime.
At the ripe old age of 34, after years of lifting weights, playing softball and jogging barefoot on asphalt and concrete had taken a toll on my joints and tendons, I tore the cartilage in my left knee while playing softball. Once again, I denied proper treatment for that injury for about 25 years, resulting in the loss of ALL of the cartilage in that knee.
Ten years later at the age of 44, I severely injured the rotator cuff in my right shoulder – the result of years of making long throws from the outfield without being properly warmed up. Instead of getting an MRI to find out the extent of the injury, I tried to gut it out. I thought I just had a sore arm and shoulder; I had no idea that I had torn tendons.
Eight years later, an MRI revealed that all of the tendons in my right shoulder were completely separated from their attachment points in the rotator cuff. In 2000, at age 54, I had open shoulder surgery to reattach those tendons. Since then I’ve had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee, arthroscopic surgery on my left shoulder, repeat arthroscopic surgery on my right shoulder, and major spinal surgery in which the L2 through S1 vertebrae were fused.
In October 2005 I was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer (Gleason 7+). After radiation treatment plus 2 ½ years of hormone therapy, a recurrence of cancer was found in February 2010. In May I underwent cryo-therapy, a procedure in which the prostate is frozen at minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit to kill all living cells in the prostate.
Recovery from this procedure was normal until about five months later, when complications began to develop. Because of the proximity of the complications to my spinal surgery, everyone thought that the symptoms I was having were related to the spinal surgery rather to the prostate cancer treatments. By the time my doctors connected the dots, I had a ruptured bladder and a massive internal infection throughout my pelvic region.
In February 2011 I underwent 11 ½ hours of abdominal surgery. I was in the hospital for 16 days and lost approximately 35 pounds. I remained on two IV antibiotics via a PICC line and one oral antibiotic until June 2, when neuropathy in my feet, lower legs and fingers ( a side effect of long-term administration of vancomycin and metronidazole) forced me to discontinue them. I now live with two stomas and two ostomy bags: one for urine and one for stool.
After being athletic and in excellent physical shape my entire life, free of disease and relatively free of physical maladies except for sports-related orthopedic injuries, it was quite a shock to experience major health complications.
But even with these irreversible life changes, I’ve learned that I’m not alone and that it’s still possible to be Fine After 50. Now I’m available to help guide and support you as you navigate the rough waters of your own physical challenges.
In our coaching program, both Tina and I commit to be ready to listen, ready to talk and ready to encourage you to move beyond where you currently are in body, mind and spirit.
Who is Tina Fox?
I was born July 21, 1953, almost two months premature and just under three pounds. Because I was born early, I was developmentally delayed and uncoordinated. I was not able to stand up and walk until I was two years old and when I did, I dragged my right leg. Eventually, I learned to compensate, but to this day I am uncoordinated and intimidated by anything that requires movement other than walking.
Case in point: I have literally brought aerobic instructors to their knees–not because they were demonstrating leg lifts but because they were doubled-over laughing. And there is at least one Pilates instructor who when she sees me greets me with a pointed finger and a loud, “YOU!” So, I guess you could say that I have not had a lot of positive reinforcement to explore physical activities other than walking.
For the record, I have never played sports. I was never chosen for *any* team during P.E. in either junior high school or high school. I can’t swim, I can’t jump rope, I can’t roller skate, I can’t dance, and I can’t hit, kick or catch a ball. I can ride a bike but only if I stay in one gear and never have to use the brakes. Luckily, I usually fall over before I have to face that challenge.
So imagine my surprise when last year, MRIs showed that I had torn bicep tendons and SLAP tears in both shoulders and that in places I have bone rubbing on bone, that I have tendonosis in both wrists, severe disk and arthritis problems in my neck and lower back, and bulging disks throughout my thoracic spine. As one physical therapist put it, “This is not right. You have not EARNED any of this.” By the way, my first attempt at using the hand-wheel stationary bike following shoulder surgery had my physical therapist leaning over a desk, convulsed with laughter.
My life, such as it is, started unraveling in 2008. One year after accepting a position as pastor of a small church, I suffered a 21-day asthma attack. I was sent to a series of specialists who systematically uncovered that just about every organ system in my body was either damaged, diseased or otherwise lacking. I lost more than half my body weight, and my hair fell out (No!!). Eventually, I was diagnosed as having primary immunodeficiency, specifically Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID), a relatively rare disease that is progressive and incurable, although some aspects of it can be treated. It triggers auto-immune diseases as well as leaving me susceptible to infections; I contend with both on a regular basis, especially Crohn’s disease. Just to round out the physical meltdown, I was also diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and heart valve disease.
And did I mention that I also was part of a voluntary layoff and that I lost my long-term “during the week” job I dearly loved? And that my life partner, Michael, does not know how to deal with either my physical issues or my unemployment? Over the past few years, I truly feel as if my life is an Etch-a-Sketch where all of my self-definitions have been erased with a few shakes of the wrist. I know what it is like to feel about as broken as it is possible to feel.
I have had to redefine myself in terms of who I am now, and see grace wherever and whenever it presents itself. There is life after diagnosis, no matter what the diagnosis may be. There is life after unemployment. There is life while a relationship redefines itself. It’s not the same life, but life nevertheless. Just keep me away from those darned hand-wheeled stationary bikes.
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