Lunch with Marjorie: Corinne Sachs wrote the book on pain—and living with it joyfully

Almost in her seventh decade, Corinne Sachs says being a twin is just normal living. Her twin is Collette.

“She got two ‘l’s’ and two ‘t’s. You only got double ‘n’s,’” I teased.

“No, I got two ‘n’s’,” Corinne said. “And, I came a few minutes earlier. My dad found out that we were going to be twins, and (my mother) didn’t know for some time.”

“The doctor told him? They were chauvinists?”

“Yes, yes, yes. That’s how life went back then,” Corinne said.

I reached over to remove a bug from Corinne’s hair at our outdoor Water Street Café table. Sirens and police megaphones sounded. Lemon water arrived in green and red glasses, which with Corinne’s blue suede jacket and blue shell made Christmas colors in August. We ordered fall salads with watermelon, cantaloupe, pears, and grapes at Gerlinde Sampson’s unique café. The chef-owner suggested I order from the specials board.

“The menu—that’s for Rockford,” Gerlinde confided. I wanted her French side, not meat and potatoes.

Corinne and her three sisters are Rockford natives.

“No boys?”

“We were a big disappointment.”

“You’re writing a book,” I said.

“I’m writing my story,” Corinne said. “I went to Rockford College, then to Barry University in North Miami. I studied art.”

After college, Corinne married Bill Sachs. They have five children.

“Three girls and two boys in eight years,” she said.

“After marriage, did you go into a career?” I asked.

“I went right into having babies,” Corinne said. “I have no objection. I didn’t go to work until 1974. I had arthritis, severe…difficult to manage.”

Her doctor prescribed swimming.

“I’ve always been attracted to water,” Corinne said. “I did water-skiing with Tommy Bartlett in Florida…diving exhibitions in the hotels. On weekends, a group of us would perform. We did our thing. It was a lot of fun.”

Then back at home, she also did swimming­water ballet at Forest Hills Country Club and a swim team.

“I started working at the Y and stayed there—I’m still there, teaching…a senior exercise class,” Corinne said. “Everything I do is my level, because of joint replacements and various surgeries. I wrote the book on pain management. I’m teaching at Rock Valley Center of Learning and Retirement. My doctors are thrilled that I’m doing this. The Arthritis Foundation has approved the program that I’ve written—am writing. I’m not finished with it. It’s based on exercise and deep diaphragmatic breathing.”

I was fascinated. I’m prone to arthritis.

“Not only are your cells being oxygenated with deep breathing, but you’re also putting the sanity back, taking time to have some peace and quiet,” Corinne said. “That’s exactly what your body needs…to calm you down. You have to get to a point where you realize that you can’t go on like you’ve been doing. You’re forced to change your lifestyle. It has a lot to do with the mind. It’s about redemptive arthritis, the story of how God has gotten me this far.”

“You’re spiritual,” I observed.

“Oh, yeah,” Corinne said. “I’ve been trained through the Catholic Church in ministry formation. I was working as a volunteer chaplain at the hospital for eight or nine years. The halls got too long.”

“If you could change anything in your life, what would you do differently?” I asked.

“I’d force my dad to talk to us,” she said. “He talked to other people in the community very well.”

“You have a grandson next door?” I asked.

“He’s 8. You want to freeze them,” Corinne said. “He’ll stop in the middle of something: ‘There’s a hummingbird outside. He’s sitting on the roof here.’ His most serious interest was in JANE. We got this magnificent dinosaur coming, and there weren’t 150, maybe not even 100 people. They allowed my grandson on the truck to take a picture. The other photographer was National Geographic. These two people were allowed to take a picture inside the truck.”

“What’s your life purpose, Corinne?” I asked.

“My purpose…of course, to please God, and to be thankful for what he has given me, the love he has given me,” Corinne said. “When I was asked to do this pain management class, I thought God gave me these experiences free, so I’ve been trained in this. The only right thing is to share that back with others. It’s hard to look back…you have to pick up from today and then go on. It’s the same as with your disease or whatever’s going on in your body.”

For a person writing about pain, Corinne is full of joy, full of life.

“Find your purpose in life and know Jesus—oh, you can’t say that, can you? The world doesn’t make good choices sometimes,” Corinne said. “The world will have you over a barrel. You have to step back and find serenity, balance, and peace.”

“You seem ageless,” I quipped.

Corinne said: “What’s age got to do with it?”

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years.

From the Dec. 14-20, 2005, issue

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