For the first time in weeks, nay, MONTHS, I ran.
I am not ashamed at my pace (5.5 mph max) nor the time (5 X 1 minute run, sandwiched between 2 minutes of walking) in which I was running. I was just grateful/happy/ecstatic to be able to do this in the first place. Running, you see, has always been my first love of sport… more than rowing, more than swim-bike-run. It has gotten me through three deployments, college stress, relationship stress, parent stress, high school stress…. It was never really about being “in shape”, rather, running has always been my outlet and “thinking place”.
The place where I could just be me – be it running along a country road, on a winding wooded trail, crunching through autumn leaves, or stepping cautiously around bits of Minnesota snow and slush. I’ve always been happiest when I’ve been able to run.
No matter what sort of day, how I was feeling, or what had happened – I could (almost) always throw on a pair of running shoes and just go.
When I was initially diagnosed with lupus last August, I remember thinking that “my triathlon-racing days are probably over… especially with the coumadin and propensity to flare up… It’s really NOT very fun spending weeks and months training, only to fall repeatedly ill….”
Oddly enough – I was OKAY with this notion. Granted – I miss the sport, I miss racing and pushing myself to new limits with triathlon, and I REALLY miss the people – but taking away triathlon because of lupus, I could deal with that. As long as there were other things that I could safely do…. hiking….swimming…. and running. I told my coach that my long term goal was to set a new half marathon PR – and she agreed it could be done.
10 weeks ago, when my arthritis was discovered, that changed. Suddenly, walking became painful and my future with hiking and running became doubtful. I have a hard time admitting this, but recently, I’ve really begin to hate my body. This is a cruel disease – it takes away so much.
The flip side… there are still things I CAN do – and for that I am grateful. Beyond grateful.
That being said – I think back to the last hike I did (Granite Mountain), and my last run (my 45-minute PCH jaunt) before a giant hunk of cartilage broke off, ping-ponged its way through my knee capsul, took out part of my meniscus, and embedded itself in my lateral ligament – and it’s tough to swallow. I think of the person I was (yes – a mere 10 weeks ago) – completely oblivious to the arthritis and how the lupus was affecting my joints…. I just figured that the knee pain and occasional twinge was from stepping the wrong way, fatigue, or just getting old. And it makes me sad, angry – I was completely ignorant of what was destroying my cartilage.
Boy, was I wrong.
And a part of me is resentful/sad/(searching for the right adjective)…. because I know that – probably for the rest of my life – I will ALWAYS think about my arthritis when I run…. I will be hyperaware of every single twinge when I hike… and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully enjoy running/hiking the way I used to, with the knowledge that each step I take, brings me closer to future knee operations.
So… While I am SUPER happy to be able to run – I’m also scared.
But on an even deeper level – I know that if I don’t start running now… if I don’t get back on the horse with the supervision of my physical therapists and careful blessings of my orthopedic surgeon – I never will. And I’m more afraid of that, than everything combined.
I don’t want to live my life in fear – held captive by my lupus. Yes – some days are total shit, and I can’t believe that these are the cards that I’ve been dealt. It is cruel – beyond measure…I have a disease where my body goes into over-drive and attacks itself. For real. I know that my arthritis will (probably) continue to get worse…and that I will have future flares that could put my health in serious jeopardy (again).
But… if I thought about that, if I focused on what my doctors say are the inevitable, well – I’m not sure I could comfortably leave the house, let alone live my life to the fullest.
So – for now, the treadmill is a huge step for me. Screw the pace and total run time…. for 5 minutes today – I was running!
When my physical therapist inquired about my long term goals, I responded with, “I want to run 6 miles a few times per week.. And race a 10k or 5k.” Icing on the cake would be running a half marathon – but I’m not willing to push the cart too far ahead of the horse, just yet. For now – 6 miles….that sounds GREAT. And so, I’m going to do my best to make it happen.
Long term – I’ve still got that half marathon pr to set… If I live the rest of my life in fear, well – I’ll never do anything at all. Today I feel okay about writing that…it’s been a good day health-wise and I’m only a little tired. Tomorrow may be different. But today – this is how I feel. Long term – it’s a half marathon – my favorite race distance.
I’m not really sure what will happen along the way….and I’m a little scared. What if another piece of cartilage breaks off and it’s even worse?
But I know the answer to that…. I’ll call up my orthopedic surgeon, and we’ll reassess what needs to be done. There’s just so much uncertainty with this all …lupus….arthritis….auto-immune stuff – the one thing I AM ABSOLUTELY certain about, though – is that if I don’t try now, if I don’t live my life to the fullest – doing the things I love with the people I love – it won’t happen, and I’ll be bitter and sad. And that would be worse than having lupus in the first place.
If I’ve said it once – I’ve said it a thousand times…. Life is short. We never know what’s going to happen and when…And keep doing the things that make you happy, with the people who are important to you. Everything else is just icing on the proverbial sheet cake.