My Health Journey

My Health Journey

I was in agony for over a year. At one point, I could not sit, lie down, nor stand for very long. I was at loss at what to do. Whatever position I was in I had throbbing pain. I could only sleep on one side for a half hour, before the pain would wake me up.  I would switch sleeping sides and start all over again for just a half hour of sleep. Throbbing pain in the low back, shooting pain down the legs, these were my nights. During the day I was a zombie, I would fall asleep in the chair or on the couch, and my head would drop to the side or down on my chest. I would wake up with a stiff neck.  My neck got so bad that I could not really stretch out at night, and if I didn’t stretch out to the maximum my back would give me fits. I would ice at least six times a day, and I would take lots of very warm showers too.

I came to the College of San Mateo walking so gingerly, shuffling along like a ninety year old man. For six months I would stretch out, so slowly that it would take me over 3 hours to get loose. Sometime I would come back for another three hours.  One time among the weight trainers in a corner, a concerned exerciser thought I was in trouble and called the staff to check on me, as I was moving and stretching so slowly, it looked like I was dead, with my hands covering my face.

By January 2013 I was ready to start working with a trainer. John Nava had me start at the beginning, like a child, learn diaphragmatic breathing and learn to walk correctly—moving correctly became my new challenge; most important was correct form in all exercises, correct structural alignment of my spine.

Mentally the challenge was even greater, especially in battling the anxiety of not knowing if I ever was going to get better. Month after month I would get a tiny bit better and then one wrong movement and I would fall off the knife edge, and be back in the world of constant pain. The pain became chronic. I had to learn to meditate, and affirm to myself just before sleep each night, “I am well; my back is strong and healthy”. I had to believe—believe I would get better. With belief came better sleep, with better sleep came healing.

I learned from John that the nervous system has memory and that I have to retrain my responses, so that normal movement would not trigger the fight or flight response, tighten my muscles so much that they would pull on my spine and cause pain.  The pain would cause more muscle tightening and this in turn would cause more pain. I had to learn to break this cycle, physically and mentally.

It’s has taken persistence and lots of dedication. I only missed one day at the gym between October 10, 2012 and February 15, 2013 and only then because I was sick.  I was a Winter Warrior; I still respectfully wear the arm band.  I have changed my diet, my movement, my mental approach to life. I am completely engaged now; I am not that person who was cocooned away from the world, living in constant pain.  I am using the water to get stronger and healthier now, because it’s easier on my joints.  Soon, I will learn to swim and breathe in the water.

I know that this is my life now. I must do this and make this journey. In reality, as strange as it might seem, it has been a blessing, because I am a better and humbler person, and now I am willing to be vulnerable, open up myself to others, to dare greatly. Realizing more than ever that time is precious, and that I must live in the moment and treasure each second of life to the fullest. Most of all, I mustn’t let my music die within me. I must photograph the beauty of the world before it’s gone and create images that sing with beauty. This is my passion; I must share it with others, so they too will be inspired.

I could not have made this journey without all the wonderful people I have met here at the San Mateo Athletic Club: the staff members, management, the trainers especially John Nava, and all the people who come to exercise. I believe in hope, if I can come from hell and back so you can you.

8 thoughts on “My Health Journey”

  1. It’s your old friend from so many years ago. I stumbled onto your site and glad I did. You seem to be doing quite well and very happy.



    1. Hi Ron, Good to hear from you. I remember all the time we spent playing basketball together; those were fun times. I think the last time we had some personal contact was when you were working with the postal supply company and we saw each other in the Cupertino Branch of Home Savings. That was in the mid-nineteen nineties, a long time ago. Yes, I am doing what I love. I am a nature, bird, and wildlife photographer. I don’t make a lot of money, but luckily, I have some other sources of income. I do have some issues from my herniated disk and some genetic lipid pathology issues, but so far I am managing them. In doing what I love, I can’t complain. How are you? Where in the world are you? I am on Facebook and Instagram too, if you would like to follow me. I am the only Bruce Finocchio in the world, so it is easy to find me! 🙂 All the best, Bruce.

  2. Bruce,

    Your journey resonates with many of us. The not knowing if you are going to be able to resume your pursuits pain free or at all is huge. There is a constant nagging question that eats on you on every level. Certainly, throwing in the towel isn’t an option – changing sites, setting realistic goals and hanging on to hope seems to be the mantra of the day.

    It was fun to see you last night, hear your comments, see what your educated eye sees and have a minute or two to visit. The best to you in your continued recovery so that you can share your awesome images of the beauty around us with many enthusiastic followers.


    1. Thanks Joan. Yes maintaining my health, so I can do what I love is my number one focus. I remember that day when we met at Radio Road so well. My therapist wanted me to get out and do something positive, get out in nature, and think about doing photography again. After I left you that day and started driving home my back tighten up so much, so ferociously, I was done, and that dream of being better died that day. And a little bit during all days for the next six months, yet I didn’t give up hope.

      I really concentrated on thinking positive, believing, changing my thoughts only to good outcomes. I know it is very hard, so very hard. But don’t lose hope, when Radio Road is back thriving again, think about how you will go out there and photograph with your big lens, because your shoulder will be better. You’ll be ready too. From your words and talking to you, I feel that you have lost a bit of hope; life is miraculous and the power of the spirit that governs all life is so powerful and so strong—it’s indomitable! 🙂

  3. Dear Bruce,
    Wow. This was a great, courageous story. It’s still going on. It goes on for all of us, if we can step up. Reminds me of an old song title, ‘Many are called but few get up’. Your story is inspiring. I certainly have my own challenges, and your story empowers my own will to keep on keeping on. It helps me realize that I can do more with my own challenges.

    Your pictures are really fine, as good as the Natl. geographic photos. Nice to see you again at the opening last night.

    Take care,

    PS- Fancy website!

    1. Thanks Jess…

      It was good to see you for my show opening. I enjoyed meeting your wife, and look forward to particpating in her group writing meetings. Please send me the information where you meet. Again thanks for your support!

  4. Dear Bruce:
    Please, get well and make more of your wonderful, amazing pictures. Thank you so much for the quail and hummingbird ones! I start my morning looking at them; thank you so much for this beautiful ray of hope and grace. Your talent helps people like me deal with their challenges, and get better.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you so much,
    With warmest wishes, Lisa
    P.S. I send your pics to my parents and friends, everybody adores them! you have an eye for beauty, indeed!

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for your kind and inspiring words. They get me excited to go out and create more “images that sing with beauty”. I went to the pool today and did my water exercises and a little swimming, so my back is feeling better. I also booked a bird photography trip to Larado Texas in October, hopefully, by back will be fully healed by then. 🙂

      My latest images are on flickr at If you haven’t seen them yet, enjoy!

      I always say that when I sell or give an image to someone a little bit of me goes with my image. You’re most welcome.

      All the best, and best wishes for getting better soon.

      Warm regards,


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