Wednesday, October 3, 2001 Arizona Daily Star


By L. Anne Newell

A strange and powerful thought came to Susan Ricketson 5 years ago.

A friend was pushing Ricketson's wheelchair down a path at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, as Ricketson had been pushed many times before, when she realized she would walk the trail on her own.

"I was wheeled all through," the Catalina Foothills resident said recently. "I remember thinking that someday I will one day walk through this museum on my own."
She was right.

"I've done it many times with visitors since then," she says.

What she's done since making up her mind that she was going to be well doesn't stop there.

She rarely has time for calls, she's so busy nowadays.

She's working as a personal life fulfillment coach and as a counselor--advising people how they can make the best of their situations, as she did. She also works as the Pima County-recommended animal grief therapist, helping people cope with the loss of their pets. And she has revised a book she wrote in l989 about healthy relationships--she has two more books she's working on--and has spoken at local bookstores to promote the updated version.

In her spare time, she teaches anger management classes, is a Practitioner and volunteer at Biomagnetics Touch Healing International Center, and does individual as well as workshops for people dealing with chronic pain or disability as she was.

"It's pretty much a miracle that I made it." Most doctors didn't hold out much hope she would walk without intense pain or be able to climb stairs ever again. Now she can do both. 

Ricketson, who is now 6l but describes herself as "ageless," moved to Tucson from Connecticut in l996 for her health. She only knew one person here so it was a real challenge. The Chicago native who got her doctorate from the University of California at San Diego had a large psychotherapy practice in West Hartford, CT. She had traveled around the world for her business and for pleasure. She had a loving husband and seven children she brought up, three of her own and four of her husband's.

But in l990, she had a hysterectomy and started developing sciatica, a painful nerve condition that targets the lower back, buttocks and hips. A hereditary hip condition led to three hip replacement surgeries (two right, one left) in the next few years. She developed "killer" low back pain and the narrowing of the spinal chord, fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and multiple tender points. She also developed chronic fatigue syndrome as well as arthritis.

"My back kept getting worse and worse and I was in terrible pain," she said. "I couldn't walk from one end of the house to the other without pain." She tried all kinds of treatments with no lasting success. She was plagued with depression. It looked like the doctors' predictions were coming true.

But then came the day when she decided not to let it happen.

"It's absolutely wonderful now," she says. "In the last year I've been living more and more the life that I choose to live. I am absolutely happy. I love it. It's absolutely a miracle to me every day that I am relatively symptom free. I've learned what helps me and I manage my days for maximum aliveness.

She credits numerous modalities she tried from certain products, the right physical therapy for her, myotherapy, acupuncture, to good old fashioned exercise such as light weight lifting, brisk walking every day, water therapies, and several caring and open-minded doctors who helped her understand what she needed to do for her specific problems. She also credits her strong senses of spirit, faith and determination. 

"I'm so grateful, that I got back my "pizzazz" and perseverance at my age," says the blonde, petite woman. "I came here to retire and here I'm now in a new career that I love, and helping people, which I love.

In fact, It's the coaching and counseling that really seems to be motivating Ricketson lately.

"Finding this new surge in my career was like finding the best thing in the world for me right now," she says.

This has been good for her, as well as those she's worked with.

Mimi Childers, who began working for Ricketson in 1996, helping her with meals, housework and getting to doctor's appointments (for which she needs no help any-more) describes her former boss as "tremendously fabulous."

"The recovery was remarkable," Childers says. "She was very, very ill when I first met her. Then she began to recover and now she credits Ricketson with helping her, through suggestions and encouragement, start her own catering company, Arizona Angels. All her great words and support worked for her, which makes Ricketson a great person to have as a life coach, She says.

"I love her. If I could pick someone to be my Mom on this earth, it would be her. I always told her she was my Mom of choice," Childers said. 

Others also have been supportive of her from Mostly Books, 6208 E. Speedway, which sells her book as well as other bookstores, including Amazon.com.

Kate Worden, Ricketson's osteopathic physician, also praises the woman, whom she describes as "a very intelligent, articulate, energetic person."

"She made a slow steady progress,: Worden says. "It took a long time for her to get there. A lot of people would give up before they got there and she just really would not give up.

All of it adds up to one thing for the irrepressible Ricketson: Reclaiming a good life that she loves and a future that's nearly boundless.

"I can do really what I want with the rest of my life," she says. "It doesn't matter to me how long I live. It matters to me the quality of my life.

That determination, added to Ricketson's personality, make her a great person to help teach others how to live, Worden says.

"I think she'd be an excellent person to walk with someone through something."

She often does group work via telephone. Telephone workshops are 90 minutes once weekly for 8 weeks. Advanced workshops are 90 minutes once weekly for 4 weeks.

Workshops cover the following areas:

- Anger management and associated feelings of the grief process. 

- Living the good life with fibromyalgia, chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome and other progressive illnesses. 

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(520) 577-3730

2003-2009 Susan C. Ricketson - Tucson Arizona
Personal Life Coach