IN HER SHOES trailblazer – Janet Asmar, 70. Women share stories of stepping up and living big in Life Part II.
Janet Asmar takes your breath away. At least that’s what happened to me. Hunting for a parking spot early one morning I witnessed what appeared to be a force of nature powering down the street. I slowed. The energy surrounding this woman demanded it. Her beautiful face illuminated, alpine poles tucked under her arms, moving with intent and purpose. WOW. Who is this? I wanted to know.
Join me for coffee? “Why not!” she responds. Turns out this is her mantra for Life.
Janet Asmar is 70. She is the devoted mom of two grown daughters Patricia and Noel, and loving grandma to five grandchildren. She spent many years as a single parent supporting her girls as a psychiatric nurse. She officially retired earlier this year.
They say life often begins after tragedy and in the midst of that challenge we become extraordinary. I think Janet was probably tending towards the extraordinary all along but nevertheless things took a turn in 1992 when she was 47. A chest x-ray required for a new job discovered a cancerous lesion on her lung. With no choice but “to be well for the girls” she underwent surgery that removed most of the left lung. She willed herself through recovery and then embarked on a fitness regime of walking and cycling.
Life was good.
Twenty one years later in 2013 a second lesion was found. It was the right lung this time, a watch and wait approach was undertaken. In 2015 it was time to act and surgery was performed.
Janet was left with what she refers to as ‘half a lung’, the sum total what remained on right and left sides. But surprisingly she had oxygen levels of 98% and was able to out walk and out cycle those with 2 healthy lungs. The day I witnessed Janet powering down the street she was an amazing 7 weeks post surgery.
Her guiding philosophy is that each of us can contribute to our health and wellness by choice of lifestyle.
Her life is a testament to that belief.
Today, Janet is feeling fantastic and ready to embrace the next life passage. Her home is for sale. She is in her words, “ready to take off”.
Cheryl: You have an amazing attitude and your philosophy that we are in control of our wellness has allowed you to not only recover from complex health issues but to SOAR. Where does it come from?
JANET: The great joy I feel being well. I’m active in sports. I love and continue to enjoy life in all aspects.
I learned after my second lobectomy that my (active) lifestyle had put me in a great state of wellness that would allow me, with perseverance, to work back up to the level of fitness I previously enjoyed. And I have wonderful support and encouragement from my family.
Cheryl: People are fearful facing big surgeries like you had. How did you deal with fear?
JANET: I kept busy with challenges. I did things I thought I may not be able to after surgery. Ran my first and only 10 Km with the encouragement of my daughter Patricia at my side, saying, “come on Mom let’s get ahead of this one we can do it”. Big accomplishment. Did 200 km Trek for Cancer cycle that same year.
Cheryl: At age 50 you felt you’d hit a mid life slump. Energy, confidence and purpose were at a low. Never one to accept that this was just part of getting older you took another approach. What did you do?
JANET: I had a young female Dr. who supported my thoughts on HRT, including taking Testosterone. It changed my life. I soon began to feel I owned the space I occupied, had the energy and self confidence I had when I was younger. I was and still am monitored by regular blood work and feel great.
Cheryl: Interesting! I hear of women on estrogen and progesterone but not so much testosterone. This has obviously been very successful … you are so vibrant and also have a very powerful female presence. Tell us more. Is this a mainstream approach? How can women find out more about testosterone?
JANET: I researched testosterone on my own and when I approach my Dr. she agreed. It is one of our own hormones that diminish with age. But….For woman there has been no drug company providing this. So I had my hormone levels checked and the testosterone level very low. My Dr put me on a low low low dose and continues to check my levels regularly. I am on the low side of a younger woman. My Dr is happy with this and so am I. Another bonus my bone density is that of a young person. Why is testosterone not part of female HRT? It was my choice to make it so.
Cheryl: You have developed a love of cycling and you inspire others to get on bikes. What would be an average ‘ride’? Share a couple of your cycling adventures.
My two 200km cycles for cancer were challenging, but so very rewarding. Yeah I did it! A most adventurous one was cycling and living on a barge in Holland – I would do it again. In preparing for long rides I cycled at least 3 times weekly …. difficult routes of approx 30 km.
Cheryl: I’ve noticed that as people age they often accept health challenges as a ‘normal’ part of the aging process. Health issues then tend to increase as the thoughts we think and expectations we have become our reality. You are the opposite –a rebel (of the very best kind) and defiant in your approach to aging. What are your thoughts on ‘aging’?
JANET: You are your thoughts!!! Numbers are important in remembering events and in record keeping but they don’t necessarily reflect age. These truly are the Golden Years. Never before in our adult lives have we been free of family and career responsibilities, if we have been fortunate to make it here. Live each day!! Like what you said Cheryl. (learn to say yes )
Cheryl: I bet you have friends that say, “Slow down Janet!” How do you respond?
JANET: Ahh this is always a surprise that anyone who has a healthy life style should be asked to slow down. I always want to know WHY!
Cheryl: So the house is for sale and you’ve said you’re, “ready to take off”. What’s next?
JANET: I am still adjusting to my amazing recovery from my surgery….98% oxygen stats with approx. 1/2 lung! The surgeon explained that cycling and Nordic walking up the hills of White Rock has given me the lung vessel increase and good muscle mass and why I am in good health today. So I must maintain this lifestyle to continue support what makes me this good! I am happy to push my bike onto a ferry and do the trek into Victoria. Cycling out to Sooke (BC) this summer is a goal. Next year I’m planning on getting onto a rowing team, more art lessons, and I love to dance—so more lessons. Most importantly I’m looking forward to not being scheduled and having time for many special events with Grandchildren – fishing and crabbing, baking, egg decorating etc. Family is a very important area in my life – it’s the wind beneath my wings.
Cheryl: We can live our lives guided by expectation, accepting as ‘normal’ the aches, pains, maladies and limitations of aging or we can chart our own course. I’m going to make a habit of checking in with my thoughts and to make sure they reflect the reality I truly desire. Then I will ask myself, “Why Not!” and go forward! You are an inspiration Janet!