Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Sunday, November 8, 2020

[Ask Mary Ellen] Getting fit keeps you healthy and R.E.A.L

For me, fitness has always been fun! I was lucky. Being born in the ‘50's, meant coming home from school, doing my homework or chores, grabbing my bicycle and riding around our neighborhood with my friends. In the summertime, we would ditch our bikes for a game of kickball in the street. If we could find a mason jar, we would run around catching fireflies (lightning bugs). Our neighborhood had a small creek running through it, so on really hot Atlanta nights we would wade through the creek like a band of pirates! You see all of this “fitness" was disguised as childhood fun!

Even though I was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 6, I continued to play. I had a mild case; I did not feel different so why should I stop. Plus, playing outside got me out of the house.

Growing up, my home life was not what it “looked like" to the outside world. It was fighting, name calling, throwing things and knocked over Christmas trees! It was verbally and emotionally traumatic for me because I am a sensitive person. When these “fights" would happen, I would either try to sneak out of the house to ride my bike or go into the woods next door to talk with God.

All through high school I continued being athletic. I was a cheerleader during all my years at Tucker High school in Tucker, Georgia. At the University of Georgia, I decided not to try out due to school and sorority obligations. The dreaded freshman 15 happened- meaning gaining 15 pounds as a freshman.  Actually, I think I only gained 10 and my clothes were tight. I did not like the way I felt. Lethargic! The real turning point came when my mom and dad came to homecoming at UGA. They wanted to see the sorority house and go to the game! (I need to preface the next point with the fact that my parent, at this time, had not seen me for 6 months- my mother told me since she was paying for college I shouldn’t come home!! She meant it) The first thing my mom said when he saw me was, “wow, you’ve put on weight!” Okay, got it! They were correct and she could have said hello first!

After this incident, I began walking to classes, cut out drinking (alcohol) and began eating better. I also signed up for physical education classes like fencing and aerobics. All of these put me back in shape.

I continued to workout. In 1986, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

After my first husband left, I took up racquetball as a positive way to get my anger out. I was playing in a national racquetball tournament when I began to have an excruciating pain in my right eye. I had to drop out of the tournament.

The next day was Sunday. I was lucky because my girlfriends’ husband was an eye doctor. He agreed to see me in his office. He was a very wise doctor as after the examination he did NOT tell me what he “thought” was happening to my body.  He said, “Mary Ellen, I will give you a prescription for prednisone IF you will promise to see your internist as soon as possible.” I said okay and went home. Of course, the prednisone took care of my eye pain. I thought about not going to the doctor. I had promised I would go, so I went.

By the time I was in my neurologist’s office, I knew something was wrong. I just put it in God’s hands and waited. After an MRI, my neurologist told me I had Multiple Sclerosis. Again, I did not worry because I had no idea what MS was or wasn’t.  My first question to the doctor was, “can I still work out?” She hesitated a moment before saying,” you are going to work out anyway, aren't you?” I said, “yes”. She told me to go ahead! It probably won't hurt.

In 1986, there were no medications or shots to take for MS.  Nothing but a few prescriptions to deal with the symptoms. I read everything I could get my hands on about Multiple Sclerosis. I even called the national MS society asking them to send me their literature. In 1986 it was not optimistic! When I received and read this horrible junk, I called the MS society and told them what they could do with their MS literature! I slammed the phone down and tore it all up! I was determined to learn what I needed to do to be as healthy as possible.

After months of educating myself I learned 3 things that would work to keep my MS in balance:

  • 1.      I must control my mind through meditation, prayer and reading spiritual, meditative books and The Bible.
  • 2.      I must maintain my body through eating correctly, detoxifying weekly and exercising daily!
  • 3.      I must allow my spirit (soul) to breath by letting go of anger, resentments, past hurts and allowing God to work His magic through me.

  I now work out daily! I used to work out at a gym here in Chattanooga Tennessee. Since Covid19 hit, I workout at home.  I began walking the neighborhood about 5 very hilly miles! Since the temperature heated up, I workout downstairs.  I am fortunate to have a couple of aerobics machines, a yoga mat, hand weights and a television that has tons of workout videos to use. (My MS acts up when I become hot, get stressed out or am tired)

 To be healthy and stay fit, you must listen to your body. Whether it is a food to eat, a medicine to take, or an exercise to do, your body always knows what you need. You must listen! Even on my bad MS days when I am feeling so fatigued, I can hardly move, I go downstairs and workout! A miracle happens! God lifts my fatigue and my MS monster is back in his cave!

To all of you reading my story: What is your excuse? Time? Money? It’s hard to do? Or you just don’t want to!

Time – even when I taught middle school all day, before I went home to grade papers and do lesson plans – I stopped at the gym for at least a one-hour workout. Now with Covid19- you have time!

Money – okay you do not have to go to a gym or even by fancy outfits. Make sure you have comfortable shoes to walk in – use books or cans of soup for hand weights. There are always ways to when you want to!!

Hard to do – anything worthwhile is hard, takes time, energy and planning. I know I am worth it and I KNOW you are worth it!

You just don’t want to – then my answer is: please do not complain when you cannot move your body any longer.

NO EXCUSES! That is the way I live and that is the way I stay healthy. There are so many types of exercises out now – from basic weights, cycling, yoga, dance, Pilates, kick boxing, walking etc…choose what you find fun to do and this way you will keep doing it! You can become fit – you can stay fit and you can become R.E.A.L - Really Enthusiastic About Life!


Sincerely with love,

Mary Ellen Ciganovich

Mary Ellen is the author of T.R.U.T.H Taking Responsibility Unleashes True Healing and Healing Words, Life Lessons to Inspire as well as the host of "Miracles with Mary Ellen" on Facebook and "Truth of the Day" weekdays on Conversations Daily News radio show as well as every Friday on Instagram. Stay connected with her at

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