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Mei-Mei Chan, president and publisher of The News-Press Media Group
Mei-Mei Chan, president and publisher of The News-Press Media Group / news-press.com file photo

I’ve written now and then about our tennis circle, strangers from across the world drawn to this paradise, bound by love of the sport and the joy of sunny mornings in the great outdoors.

There are about 100 friends who’ve connected through round robins, reciprocals and leagues, mostly from the Grandezza, Wildcat, Miromar and Cascades communities in south Lee County.

Our average age is around 65; our skills range from near beginners to pretty darn good; our competitive streak is not to be believed.

Even on our worst play days, we unanimously count our blessings for having the luxury of time and health, to be fit enough to run and stretch and sync up the feet, eyes and hands in split seconds. Or mutter “great shot” with some grace in response to a nasty drop shot or ferocious winner.

So, it is with dismay that we’ve faced a rash of health issues of late, although the insurance actuaries probably would say it’s about the right number for our demographic.

• The first occurred a month ago when one of our own was taken to the hospital with what appeared to be a brain aneurysm. He turned 70 in April, heads the Grandezza over-50 team, is still working, still giving me ideas and grief about what The News-Press could do better. Remarkably, after 20 days in the ICU, he is responsive and beginning intensive rehab. “He read the back of The News-Press ads as I would glance through the front of each section,” his sister said. He “doesn’t realize how far he has come. He only sees how much work is ahead of him.”

• Next was a player who was on vacation overseas, climbed out of bed and pulled a muscle. Suddenly he could not walk without pain. He made it home here and is undergoing treatment.

• One went on tennis hiatus due to as ongoing pain related to his back, for which he had major surgery a couple of years ago.

• One, the husband of a tennis player, had to be hospitalized for a pinched nerve or muscle that leveled him. This threw us for a loop as he is the fittest of us all, running marathons routinely and competing in triathlons. Thankfully, he’s back on his feet.

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Then, just a few days ago, lightning struck. One of our regulars has been diagnosed with acute leukemia.

We all have stories like this; we’re the second oldest region in the nation with an average age of 45 (Fort Myers Beach is the eldest ZIP code in our region at age 62.1). Our parents are reaching the apex of their lives and while many are still remarkably lively, others are succumbing to time. No age is a good age to become seriously ill.

That’s why The News-Press devotes so much coverage to health and living well. We know that people come to Southwest Florida to live better, longer. We have a variety of columnists who help with advice in our Living Well section Tuesdays in print and continuously online.

What is inevitable and what is preventable? How much can we fend off through our own mental, physical and spiritual strengthening?

It is well-known that when we think positively, our immune system functions better, says Dr. Sal, aka Salvatore Lacagnina from Lee Memorial, champion of the Healthy Lee movement. “Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many of the common cancers are preventable by way of good lifestyle habits.”

And those are simple: healthy nutrition, regular exercise, stress management, quality sleep and being sound mentally and spiritually.

Those of us still working have added mental pressures that can mount, and unexpectedly manifest in physical ailments. I recently told my team, if we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot take care of business, our staff, our customers or our families.

And don’t be stupid, as I was a couple of months ago when I gave blood then neglected to eat or drink and ended up in the emergency room. Randy scolded me incessantly as I lay depleted in the hospital and unable to defend myself (what’s up with that?). He in turn had undergone a rocky summer health-wise, though now he claims he’s “back.” Our bodies gave us pretty loud warning signs that we are working to heed.

And, as I strive each day to tease a smile of recognition from my dad, a victim of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, I’m so glad we pushed my parents to spend money to take vacations and enjoy themselves along the way, rather than scrimping and “waiting.” They would have missed out on their Alaskan cruise, where they felt as wealthy as the Trumps; their first and only trip to Europe (Paris); and the landmark visit back to their villages in China.

Starting now, care more for your health. Hug frequently. Live fully. This moment will not come again.

Mei-Mei Chan is president and publisher of The News-Press Media Group. Her column runs the last Sunday of each month. Contact her at publisher@news-press.com.

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