By Jack Shirley
My Name is Jack Shirley. I am 76 years old. I am from the Kinlichìi’nii Clan and born for Ma’ii deeshgiizhinii . I live in St. Michaels, Arizona, but I am originally from Kinlichee, Arizona, and still run cattle near Fluted Rock.
I want to share my story with you about why I come to the Window Rock Wellness Center, and my belief in living healthy and taking care of yourself.
I was raised traditionally by herding sheep and living within the economic means from our livestock. I briefly attended school and barely finished second grade. I would rather play in the wash along the way to school at Kinlichee than actually being in class so I dropped out early. That was how things were back then, but I survived by going to work when I was 16 years of age. I worked for the logging company at Sawmill, Arizona. I worked for Navajo Forest Products Industry for 25 years. After that, I worked for McKinley Mine Coal Company for the next 36 years, and I retired three years ago.
I think it was about 40 years ago that I was diagnosed to having diabetes by my doctor at the time. Maybe, I had pre-diabetes, but my doctor told me I needed to take care of myself to cut back on eating fatty foods and sugar. Today, I am healthy. I go for my check at the clinic every three months. My last visit recently, I was told I was healthy and that I should continue to live healthy by exercising and taking care of myself. I do take some medication, but I go to the Window Rock Wellness Center three to four times a week to exercise.
I pretty much eat anything right now. My doctor has not taken away certain kinds of food from me, but he has said I am doing well and to keep exercising. I think it’s important, even at my age, to be active. Sometimes, I come to the wellness center twice a day. It makes me feel good to get on the treadmill and walk. During the past three months, I’ve been lifting some weights and working on strengthening my arms and legs.
I do walk about a mile at my place in St. Michaels, but there are too many homes and too many dogs so it’s better that I come here. I am very grateful that this facility was built for us. Since it is here, I try to take advantage of it. I like it when younger people tell me to keep going because they say they are impressed with what I am doing. I hope that they will be exercising when they are my age and that they will be happy and living a healthy lifestyle.
I don’t drink anymore and I don’t smoke. I stop drinking 40 years ago. I’m glad I did. I am saddened when I see young people drinking these days. I know what it’s like when you have that bad habit. People take advantage of you. When you have money and drink, you have a lot of friends. They follow you around and they have many nice things to say about you. When you go broke, all your friends suddenly disappear, and they aren’t nice to you anymore.
When I stopped drinking, I lost all my friends. I realized that I really didn’t need them and now I don’t even think about friends. I know how to survive without them.
It’s important, however, to take care of yourself. I enjoy exercising and going to the sweat lodge. Once, I was warned by the Navajo Department of Safety about going to the sweat lodge. I was in the sweat lodge, and suddenly, I heard all this raucous outside. Luckily, I had on my short cut-offs. When I came out, they were fighting a brush fire that had started from the fire heating my rocks. You can imagine me standing there all sweaty in my cut-offs, people running around with the fire truck there, and smoke all around the place.
I also enjoy going to the traditional ceremonies like the Enemy Way. I like round dancing that goes on there. It’s a good way to exercise, because as you dance around, you lift your legs.
I brought my weight down to 160 and I’ve weight that much now for quite a while. I’m very happy that Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project built the Window Rock Wellness Center. I see all different kinds of people come and go. Most of them are young, some are older, some are doctors, and some work for the Navajo Nation. I can see how useful the Wellness Center is for the community.
I think parents should talk to their children more today. They should teach them not to do bad things from an early age. Our children shouldn’t drink too much soda pop; they should not smoke or crew tobacco. These things create bad habits and leads from one thing to another. When we were children, we were told not to drink coffee. The only thing we drank was the wild, herbal tea. This is all a part of living a healthy life. We have many wonderful things to enjoy each day and we should be grateful for our lives.