I have thought long and hard about whether or not I would actually write this post. Then I hemmed and hawed about how much detail I would get into if I did decide to write it. In short, I have spent way too much time thinking about one blog post over the past two months.
Well, I’ve decided to share the part of my own journey that I feel is pertinent to this blog. It is, in fact, called Run Stronger Every Day and I am starting from Square One on the way to running again at all. Here goes: this is my journey from surgery to marathon.
One month ago, I had a planned surgical event that was medically necessary and landed me in the hospital for five days (= FOR-EV-ER). I have never had a serious surgery or any other type of major medical event in my entire life. I’ve had my wisdom teeth pulled, which produced very adorable chipmunk cheeks and my very first case of hives, and I broke my pinky toe right before I left to be a camp counselor for the summer back in college. But that’s it.
The longest I’ve been away from running is one month back in 2009 because of my stupid left gluteus medius. But I could still bike and lift and swim and, you know, WALK. This surgery was major. No, really. It’s classified as “major surgery”. Walking would be a challenge, I was told. Weird.
Funny aside: I knew I was ok with my decision to go ahead with the surgery when, after my Physics final three days prior, I only felt relief as I headed into the weekend. No anxiety about the surgery. No stress about the what-ifs. Just relief that Physics was finally over. Priorities, I suppose.
The morning of my surgery, I tried making jokes as the nurses and doctors hooked me up and stabbed me with needles of all sizes. My Mom, angel that she is, flew in to be with me and JB during my hospitalization. I was nervous, but not as scared as I thought I’d be. Probably because when I asked about a possible complication I’d read about my surgeon responded, ” That doesn’t happen in my hands.” Exactly what I want to hear!
Off I went to the operating room (which was a lot smaller than I expected) where I met my surgical team and briefly reminded my surgeon that I am a vain woman and small, neat scars would be greatly appreciated. He assured me he’d do his best and out I went.
I “woke” up to JB and Mrs. Obi-wan by my side once again in recovery, in the most immense pain I have ever felt in my life. Thankfully, now that I was awake, they could give me the good drugs. I definitely didn’t do any recovering in the “recovery room”. I kept hearing rumors the my room was “almost ready” but, not having any concept of time due to the wonderful narcotics, I was seriously perturbed that everything seemed to be taking so long.
Shortly after I got to my room, my nurse told I was going to walk soon. I told her she was dreaming. I was in a tremendous amount of pain. Turns out, my pain treatment had briefly gone awry and OHMYGODWHYDOESTHISHURTSOMUCH?!?!?!!!! was basically what I said to her. She fixed the problem, God bless her, and made sure I got several boosters so I could sleep.
Early Tuesday morning, she woke me and said we were going for sure taking a walk before her shift ended. Still, the idea of heaving myself out of bed and walking was akin to climbing Everest. Me, a 9-time marathoner, often 2-a-day workout girl, thought that getting out of bed and walking seemed impossible. I was attached to an IV and several drainage apparatus but with the aid of the most wonderful nurse in the entire world, I walked. It was approximately 30 yards, round-trip.
They were the hardest steps I have ever taken in my entire life.
You know how you feel exhausted after a marathon? That’s how I felt. I hadn’t had food in three days, my surgery was four hours long, I was on serious pain management drugs and was terrified I wouldn’t make it.
I did. I made it. I made it to Day 2 and was getting a handle on my new body, new gear, and new surroundings.
Day 2 was crazy. Between flower deliveries (my favorite!), emptying my various drains, an endless stream of checking my vitals, my surgical team making the rounds, figuring out how everything worked, social workers (yes, social workers…don’t know why), and the very awesome Dr. Boz and PAK stopping by to check up on me (how awesome are they?!), it was a whirlwind of activity in my room. I dozed on and off but woke up whenever I got a flower delivery :)
With the help of the very awesome Mrs. Obi-wan, I walked even more on Day 2. I think we went to the entryway of my wing and back twice. Mom kept chatting about this beautiful mural as you walk onto my floor that I never got to see since I was only semi-conscious when I was brought to my floor. On day 3, I finally got to see it.
But in order to get that far, they had to let me EAT REAL FOOD!
French toast, turkey sausage and orange juice. Food, I missed you. I was so happy that I took a picture and sent it to my family. Being allowed to eat real food is a big marker post-surgery. I blasted by the “soft foods” order that my resident prescribed in less than 24 hours and was onto “normal diet” so quickly the food delivery lady couldn’t keep up with his orders.
My recovery went about as well as you could expect. I walked more and more, further and further. And while it was never really “easy” to get out of bed, once I was up I was able to make multiple laps on my floor several times a day. I was out of the hospital by Friday afternoon and home sleeping on my couch Friday night.
In all the fuss over my surgery, I had forgotten that my birthday was just days later. By then, I was showering and getting dressed all by myself, walking the streets of New York (with a bodyguard), and eating delicious takeout.
My birthday this year was a very laid-back celebration of survival, the gift of life, modern medicine and Sprinkles Cupcakes. I have never been so happy to have a birthday come as I was this year. Not only did it mark the end of a reeeeeeally trying year for me, but it was the kickoff to a year of entirely new adventures, new body and better health.
I am still not running. I am walking lots and hoping to maybe jump on a bike sometime this week, but I’m in no rush. I am respecting the healing process and allowing my body time to recover. When I do get back to running, it will be entirely different than it was before–and that’s ok. Things will feel different. I might move differently. God knows I’ll be slow as molasses. But I’ll be back and I will learn what it is to Run Stronger Every Day as the new me.
So, here I go. Starting from Square One, I am working toward running the Marine Corps Marathon this fall in Washington, D.C. for Team Fisher House. That’s right, a marathon. Will I make it? Don’t care. I will at least show up and run a few miles at my favorite race. If I have to drop out at some point, I don’t care. I will be there. I will run (a little or a lot). I will celebrate my life and do what I love: run.
So far, my journey back has taught me two things.
- The body is the most perfect instrument every created.
- I can do anything if I set my mind to it.
It’s not always easy. I get frustrated sometimes and the fatigue is more annoying than anything else. The days are not always sunshine and butterflies, though there have been an awful lot of double rainbows in the city lately.
The thing is, it had to be done so there’s no use being all upset about it. I’m going to be healthier for it. I’m already able to do more than I could before. And one day soon, I will Run Stronger because of this surgery. And for that reason, it will always have been worth it.
Now go out and run!