Lately I’ve been dealing with some respiratory issues which have been limiting my ability to run either very hard or for very long. It’s been frustrating, especially since I just recovered from an issue with my iliotibial band and was hoping to get back into running more frequently and for longer distances. I’m lucky if I get in 15 miles a week, which for some runners would not be nearly enough. Luckily I do not equate a high-mileage week with running success. I am one of those people who do a little or a lot and I’m just as happy either way. I’ve got more than enough to keep me busy otherwise so it is a testament to how much I really enjoy running that I make any time for it at all. That said, I do miss it when I can’t do it for several days in a row. I begin to feel restless and think, “I want to go for a run. No, I need to go for a run.”
So for the past couple weeks, even when I wanted to, I knew I wouldn’t have the lungs for it, and would end up feeling faint and breathless after only a mile or so. I’ve struggled through a few tough ones, just to get through them, and didn’t feel any better for having done it. I had my first really good run in a while last night with both lungs and legs holding their own and not giving me much trouble. I did have a little inspiration, though.
I’m generally a very healthy person, and yes, I’m knocking on wood as I say this. I don’t fall ill too often, and when I do it always feels like the world is crashing in around me. When I feel poorly I always think, “how do people with chronic conditions cope?” and I feel very thankful for my health and the health of all my family. I spoke on the phone with my mother yesterday afternoon and after catching up a bit and telling her about how I’d been feeling, and her listening, being the ever sympathetic mom that she is, no doubt wishing she could do something to make me feel better. I ask her what’s happening on her end, then she pauses and asks me, “Has Katie called you yet?”
Kate is one of my older sisters. I don’t talk to her often, but not because we don’t get along or anything. We’re just not phone people and generally we can’t get a hold of each other even when we do want to talk, so we catch up whenever we get together. My mom proceeded to give me the low down, which was that Kate had been experiencing some pains in her neck and arm and it gradually got worse until she saw a doctor and they determined she had a “bulging disc” in her back, near the base of her neck. I don’t know much about this condition, but after talking to my mom and then later to my sister I found out that it’s usually caused by some sort of trauma (like a car accident or bad fall-though they can’t account for how this happened) and it is extraordinarily painful and does not have a high success rate for recovery. She wakes up every morning in pain, and despite the course of meds they’ve tried on her, not much works and when it does the relief is very brief. She’s had pains in her arm making her unable to lift it and when she moves her neck she sometimes feels as though “the muscles in my back are ripping apart.”
My sister is a very tough person. One of the toughest people I know. So tough, that when she went to ER the nurses were convinced she was only having muscle spasms. My sister works in the medical field and insisted that was not the problem. They were shocked when they got the results of her CT scan. I guess they imagined she would have been a quivering mass considering the pain she must have been in. Talking to her about all this, she was calm and pulled together, and had a great sense of humor about the whole thing. They want her to have surgery right away, or as my sister put it, “the doctor is cut-happy.” My sister is going through physical therapy this week, to try and see if there is a way to avoid surgery. These kind of surgeries have a low success rate and even with moderate success the recovery is long and grueling. Kate wants to seek alternate therapies but the doc told her not to have high expectations for anything like that to work, so she told the doctor, “Go ahead and schedule the surgery for two weeks out. Then, when I’ve recovered from this with therapy, I will give you a call and cancel that appointment.”
We had a great talk, but it left me feeling sad. Sad that there’s little I can do to help her and sad knowing how she must feel. She’s tougher than I am, has always been. She can deal with more pain and grief than I think I am capable, but I don’t see why that means she’s got to carry such a crapload of it. I would gladly take this pain from her if I could, though I know I wouldn’t handle it nearly as gracefully as she does. I also felt ridiculous for feeling so badly about my own lame condition. It certainly put things in perspective for me. Suddenly, I did not feel nearly as poorly as before. All my little aches and pains from pounding the pavement seemed so dull and faint, as if maybe I’d only imagined them to begin with.
Last night I ran, thinking of my sister and not the little annoyances of my own body. They were all still there, the pains and the labored breathing, but for the first time in a while none of it bothered me. I listened to my music and I ran, thankful that I was able to do this and to really know what a blessing it is to move in a body that’s not nearly perfect, but perfect enough for what I need it to do everyday. It won’t always be this way, but I’m happy for it now and for however long it remains this way.
I’m praying that before long I can run with my sister, too.
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