Three months before my wedding day, my fiancé, Charlie, suffered a near-fatal heart attack. A few days later, in a simple routine surgery to insert a pacemaker, a scalpel slipped and cut his heart. He lay in a coma on life support for 48 hours.

Miraculously, he survived and was released three weeks later, but only because it was Christmas Eve, and everybody gets sent home for Christmas, even if they’re not quite ready. We had our beautiful wedding in February, but the pacemaker never did perform the way it was supposed to. His strength, instead of improving, began to decline. We postponed our honeymoon. Then in April he was diagnosed with severe heart failure and arrangements began for a heart transplant.

Meanwhile, we still had two houses. We hadn’t quite decided which one would be our primary residence and which one we would sell. With a heart transplant looming in our future, we decided it would be easier for me to move than it would be for Charlie, so I spent the next couple of months systematically disposing of almost every single thing I owned and then moving the rest to Charlie’s house.

Only two days after the move was completed, Charlie had an attack that put him “next” on the transplant list and he was moved to Edmonton where the transplant surgery would take place. I was offered accommodation in a dormitory room in an old doctor’s residence attached to the hospital. It was sparse, to say the least, but it kept me near Charlie. It turned into a pretty nice honeymoon, after all. I was on leave from my job and he was bedridden. We were away from home and had nothing to do except be together and support each other and be grateful for life and medical miracles that were going to give him a new heart so we could have a life together moving forward. The wonderful doctors at the heart institute kept him alive for four awesome honeymoon weeks, but in the end there was no heart.

I came home alone. But it wasn’t home. It was Charlie’s home and Charlie wasn’t in it. This was a place where I used to live like a princess while he waited on me hand and foot. Charlie was an accomplished chef and did all our cooking. I had never even been in his kitchen. I had never made so much as a piece of toast in that kitchen, nor a cup of cappuccino in the most intimidating small appliance on his counter. I ended up in a puddle of tears on the floor the night I wanted to make nachos and had no idea where the cheese grater was. I had an entertainment centre that everyone would envy, but I didn’t even know how to turn on the television. I couldn’t adjust the temperature because I had no idea how to override the pre-programmed thermostat. The master bedroom offered me no comfort.

I lost twelve pounds in the first ten days. I felt like I must have fallen down a rabbit hole, or something. My world was spinning and spinning and spinning in something that might have been circles, or might have been squares or might have been octagons for all I could tell. I was living in a strange house full of strange things and Charlie was gone and I was profoundly lost.

I have no real memory of the next year. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, until night time came and I could take another sleeping pill. I went to sleep every night wishing I could wake up the next morning to my old life or not wake up at all. Then after one year, thinking the worst was behind me, I made the same mistake as everybody else — making myself really busy. I worked three days/week, began full time studies, signed up for two (sometimes three) extra-curricular art classes, continued my little home-based business selling skin care products, visited my wheelchair-bound mother in her nursing home once a week and visited Charlie’s mother once a week. Every week. Duh, I know.

After six months of that I was truly ready for some sort of total nervous breakdown. I quit school and slowed down and that was fine for a few months, but then I had too much time on my hands and something really awful happened. More awful because I wasn’t expecting it. My doctor called it “delayed grief”. My grief counsellor called it depression. It was like it started all over again.

I probably don’t need to tell you the effects of this kind of relentless, chronic stress. By the end of the second year, I was seeing a sleep specialist and undergoing cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia, I was on anti-depressants for my mood, sleeping pills for insomnia, nexium for acid reflux; my hair seemed to be disappearing (eeek!), my eating habits were atrocious, and although from the outside, I know my life looked “way better than average”, I was so broken inside I thought I would never get better. That’s when I ended up at Sparkling Hill.The SH website promised a week fit for a princess: peaceful quiet serenity and lots of pampering. I chose the Cleanse program, hoping, at least, to return to better eating habits by the end of the week.

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, I invite you visit the SH website where you can see for yourself the simple and serene beauty of the lands, the spa and the hotel itself. Cleanse participants have access to a private dining room always stocked with good water and a variety of cleansing teas. We were also given a tote bag, thermos and water bottle so we could take it all with us. Knowledgeable staff were always available and frequently came looking for us to make sure everything was going OK. I’ve cleansed before so I was prepared for the first few days to be unpleasant. Some fatigue would not have surprised me, but I was so intensely tired, I slept for the first three whole days and nights. I had to set the alarm clock to be sure I was up in time for breakfast or awake for my next spa treatment.

After the first couple days, I felt like I had been there for a week already; 60-minute treatments felt like three hours and 30-minute treatments felt like 60. Time stood still. I was loving the fatigue, the sleep and the time distortion, which I learned was pretty normal under conditions of true and complete relaxation. I suppose that’s why we so often come home from holidays feeling like we need a vacation. We eat as much as we can, drink as much as we can, see as much as we can, do as much as we can – and we don’t relax. No wonder we don’t feel refreshed and renewed.

After three days of the most wonderful, debilitating fatigue (which I loved because I hadn’t had even one good night’s sleep in two years), then the other detoxing symptoms began. At the conclusion of my first meditation class, tears were streaming down my face. Not like normal tears, not like I was really crying, just more like water falling from my eyes and I couldn’t stop it. Please don’t think for one moment that this was the first time I had cried. I had cried enough tears to flood Okanagan Lake and Kalamalka too. I attended a grief program, I did the counselling, I joined a grief group, I accepted every single social invitation from friends and family, I returned to work, I redecorated the house and I did everything you’re supposed to do to help yourself through the grieving process. But this particular meditation, along with all the other detoxing treatments I was doing, triggered a waterfall of mind-body-spirit cleansing that I couldn’t stop. Well, didn’t want to stop really. Why would I want to stop something so healing? My nose ran, my eyes ran, I sweated constantly, I felt sick to my stomach. I still had detoxing symptoms days after they should have abated.

Fortunately, I was able to stay at SH another week. The expert staff made some modifications to the regular Cleanse program to suit my personal needs. Chef prepared special lunches for me every day with a little bit of extra food in addition to the regular Cleanse meals. Some spa services were altered. Sometimes it was necessary to cancel my spa appointments and I was told to just rest or spend a few minutes in the salt sauna to stop the chills and help relieve my running nose.

The personal attention and special treatment I received were exceptional. The detoxing symptoms finally tapered off and by the end of the second week I was ready to go home, transformed. My taste buds were reset, better eating habits were in my future. Cottage cheese (I hated cottage cheese) was tasting like pure whipped cream. Chef prepared a special dinner for me on the last night, without spices or sauces or anything to irritate my digestive system, and he gave me lunch-to-go the next day for my drive home so I wasn’t forced to stop at a fast food outlet somewhere on the highway.

I left there healed. Driving to Vernon two weeks earlier, I kept wishing I were a passenger. As the driver, I couldn’t really appreciate all the beautiful scenery between Banff and Vernon. Going home, I saw all of it. I saw it like I’ve never seen it before. I saw every single tree, every mountain, every valley, every little body of water and every single little waterfall. Even the yellow lines on the highway seemed to have been painted there to complement the colours of the autumn leaves. Every now and then a ray of sunshine would hit the mountainside and make it glisten like a crystal wall, or hit the water and make it dance with sparkles. It was like SH was coming home with me.

I returned to SH six months later on the Stay Young & Healthy 55+ Program so I could eat, drink and be merry instead of, well, all the down side of cleansing. The food in the PeakFine Restaurant was sooooooo good . If I had known last fall how good the food was, well, I might not have signed up for the Cleanse program and then I wouldn’t have been transformed and healed and I wouldn’t even be writing this story.

Now it will be very difficult to choose between the benefits of the Cleansing program and the benefits of the 55+ program. It’s pretty hard to beat an evening in the PeakFine Restaurant listening to live piano music and sharing a really good meal, a glass of wine and a cappuccino. It’s the perfect way to end a day of pampering in the spa. Imagine that seven nights in a row.

Now I sleep like a baby most of the time, my metabolic system has reset itself after the Cleanse and my eating habits have returned to something reasonably healthy. Cottage cheese is now one of my favourite foods. I meditate now and then using websites recommended by SH staff. And …… I’m growing new hair. Serious. My hair is platinum blonde and the new hair is black, so it’s easy to see. It’s a direct result of last fall’s Cleanse, I know it. My hairdresser is stunned.

Life is good now, two and a half years since Charlie died. And I’d like to keep it that way, so I plan on being back at SH, spring and fall, forever.
R.G., Calgary

Wednesday, September 09 2015

Posted by: Sparkling Hill Resort


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