Safe and Healthy Me — Stories from Alaskans

Becky's Story

Standing in a quiet room, making one slow movement followed by another, has become Becky's solution to managing pain.

After years of relying on pain medication for her rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, Becky had wanted something else that would bring relief. She was struggling to move every day. Health problems had caused her to quit her long-time job working at the post office. Becky wondered if there was something else she could try to ease the joint pain and stiffness.

For the past three decades, Becky has lived in Juneau – a place with some “fresh air.” One day, during a physical therapy appointment, Becky saw a bulletin board. On the board was a sign about a tai chi class. Becky called the phone number, signed up and got started.

That was about six years ago, and Becky is still doing tai chi.

“I feel really good,” she said. “It just brings out the energy in you.”

Right now, Becky participates in free, hour-long classes that challenge her to learn a longer series of tai chi movements. She does it at home, too, aiming for five to six days a week of practice.

“My favorite thing is, on a sunny morning, to go outside on my deck and (practice tai chi) on my deck – barefooted.”

Tai chi has helped her balance, and Becky said she can catch herself when she’s falling now.

All of tai chi’s movements are slow and deliberate.

“Every movement you do benefits some part of your body,” she said, stressing that it opens up her joints and makes her more limber.

Sometimes five people join Becky in class. Other times, 20 people show up. They typically range in age from 30s to 70s. Becky is 54.

“We’ve been working so closely with each other,” she said. “When we do the movements, we are all in sequence.”

“To see this and feel it, it’s just an uplifting, real relaxing joy. I don’t know how else to describe it.”

With some pain relief has come more stability. Becky said she used to feel “wobbly” and fell a lot.

“One winter, I fell three times in a row,” she said. “I was just hurting myself too much.”

Tai chi has helped her balance, and Becky said she can catch herself when she’s falling now.

“Once you have your balance, you’re not going to fall as much,” she said. She now feels more comfortable walking down the street when it is icy.

Becky tries to improve her health in other ways, too. She walks to help her lose weight. She also gardens, growing her own vegetables. She cans her own produce all summer so she can share with friends throughout the winter.

Eating healthy foods and exercising helps Becky move easier and enjoy the fresh air in Juneau.