Joy Magazine

Last One in the Pool

'There are times I feel despondent, but I'd rather go out to lunch.'
Hindey Moser smiles during an aqua dance class at the Rogue Valley Family YMCA.Photo by Denise Baratta

A pool workout is great exercise — muscle resistance and relaxation combined — but it's hard to get motivated when you think of the locker-room hassle: all that time and energy spent on showering and soggy towels, then pulling stubborn clothing over your damp, limp body.

Hindey Moser of Medford makes it to the Rogue Valley Family YMCA water-exercise classes six days a week even though it's a sure bet she'll be the last one out of the pool and the last one done in the locker room.

"I move slower; I take longer in the locker room, so I talk to people," explains Moser. "I'm chatty, so it's not as noticeable that I'm slow, that I can't catch my breath."

Moser, 54, recently was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, but that's not what slows her down. It's not even her first cancer diagnosis. Moser was successfully treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1993, a medical challenge she handled with such aplomb that her doctors suggested a psychiatric evaluation.

"They thought I wasn't facing reality," says Moser. "But I was facing my own reality ... I was enthusiastic about having something that people knew about. They told me my hair would fall out on schedule, and it did. I like knowing what will happen. I can handle predictable."

Moser's preference for predictability comes from her lifelong battle with Gaucher disease, a rare, genetic disorder in which blood lipids are not broken down but instead deposited in the spleen, bone marrow and liver with destructive results.

"When I was 12, the head of my femur crunched. It imploded in on itself," says Moser. "I was in traction for five months and then on crutches from seventh grade to 12th grade."

Since that young age, Moser has spent each day meeting head-on the continual challenges of the unpredictable disorder. If the question is "How do you develop a sense of possibilities when life seems impossible?" then Moser seems to have the answer: with determination, humor and overriding curiosity.

For Moser, her medically precarious life is not only doable, it's "delightful."

She may move slowly, but Moser keeps on moving through multiple surgeries, setbacks and treatments. Her doctors gave her only a 20-percent chance for survival when her spleen — enlarged to nearly 12 pounds — had to be removed at age 27. She married her husband, Preston, the next year. When their daughter, Jenny, was born prematurely with cerebral palsy affecting her right side, they empowered her to accomplish much more than might have been expected, including playing trombone in a marching band.

Unflagging belief in her daughter's potential is the same can-do spirit Moser's parents imparted to her.

"I was raised by parents who thought everyone could do something if they tried ... One or the other of my parents took me swimming every day. It was the only exercise I could do ... When I was going back to school on crutches, they lined our staircase with mattresses and taught me how to fall safely.

"Everybody can do something — you just find other ways."

Moser takes that attitude a step farther, beyond a sense of possibilities to a sense of responsibility.

"If you can do something, then you should. It doesn't matter if you are slowly losing the ability to breathe; you still do things other people need help with. That sense of obligation has kept me from succumbing to depression as other people might."

When life piles on problems layer upon layer, it's natural to ask "Why me?" Moser acknowledges that she has those moments.

"But I have more moments of 'What do we do now?' There are times I feel despondent, but I'd rather go out to lunch."

On those days when life seems impossibly hard, when your body feels less like a friend and more like an enemy, consider the options: Warm bed or cold pool? Seize the day or burrow deeper into the shelter of your comforter?

"Stay in bed?" asks Moser. "I could never do that. If there's something I'm able to do, I'd rather be doing that."

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