I Decided That I Wanted to Be Around to See My Grandkids

By Robert Thornton

I Decided That I Wanted to Be Around to See My Grandkids Grow Up

Surprisingly, 2018 turned out to be an amazing and transformative year for me.  It was a year where I received several very meaningful Community Awards. It was also the year my son and his family relocated to Detroit and resided with me in my home for a brief time, but perhaps most significantly it was the year I decided to retire.

However, it was in 2015, a few years prior to my retirement that I felt my life moving in a different direction. That year I had experienced a lot of loss in a very short period of time. My eldest sister passed away after a lengthy battle with Diabetes and Dementia.  Later that year, my oldest brother Mikael passed very unexpectedly and from all things, lung cancer. My brother Mikael’s passing was particularly hard on our family; it was hard for us to fathom because Mikael had never smoked and rarely ever got sick. He was considered the “Rock” of the family; we all believed that he was in perfect health. Sadly, it turned out that it was likely his tenure as a Detroit Firefighter for over 25 years that led to the onset of his lung cancer diagnosis. Several months later my other brother Anthony suffered a stroke as a result of his diabetes; his condition made him more susceptible to kidney disease which he later developed.

It was after watching Anthony struggle with renal disease and its debilitating effects, that I decided to retire from The Skillman Foundation in December of 2018, after a very rewarding 17-year tenure there.

I still remember very clearly, it was over the Christmas holiday season that I had been relaxing and looking over some photos from my retirement and 65th Birthday celebrations when I had  a startling revelation.  I was grossly overweight. The physical perception I had of myself did not match the reality of my actual size. As you can further imagine, the loss of two siblings now had an even more profound effect on how I envisioned living the rest of my life and It was at that moment, I decided it was time for a lifestyle change if I were to live to see my grandchildren grow up.

To begin, I made an appointment with a local weight loss organization and started a journey that changed my life in ways that I had not expected. There was something else that fueled my mission to get healthy; my doctor had told me unequivocally that I would be taking blood pressure medications for the rest of my life.  The idea of taking medication for something that I could control on my own fueled my determination to change my lifestyle even more. My journey began once I made the commitment to myself to do everything that I could and that was in my control to be the healthiest version of myself I began to see some amazing and transformative results with not only with regards to my body but also and with the way that I felt.

To date, I’ve lost 60 pounds. In addition to being taken off the blood pressure medication, my doctor has also taken me off the cholesterol medication as well as the medication that I had been prescribed for Gastroesophageal reflux disease or (G.E.R.D.).  It turns out that vegetables, healthy whole foods, and consistent exercise were as powerful as any prescription drug with regards to regulating my blood pressure and preventing  the onset of diabetes among other diseases that have plagued members of my family for years.  I credit the changes with my current physical health to my decision to seek and follow sound advice from my doctors and other trusted healthcare providers and to my new approach to eating and attitude towards food. I prioritize eating nutritious foods. Additionally, I have made being physically active a part of my daily routine.

These days, when listening to friends, family or colleagues talk about their retirement, such as how they look forward the time when they’re no longer working and are able to pursue some personal goals or other interests such as travel, spending quality time with family and friends, perhaps gardening and other hobbies, or even starting a small business etc. I think to myself, while these things are all doable, you must be healthy and around to enjoy them.

Robert Thornton is a member of the Authority Health Board of Directors