Thursday, March 26, 2009

32 to 33

So, today is my birthday and wow, what a year it has been! In so many ways I feel like I've "come so far" yet in some other ways I feel like I've come full circle and I'm back to "before the starting line"! In January I was planning on doing a "year in review" (running and life) but I was so pre-occupied with my upcoming surgery that I never got around to it, so I'll take advantage of a different kind of "New Year", my New Year (aka my bday)!
A year ago I didn't have this blog and had never run further than a 5K. As a matter of fact, exactly 1 year ago I was at the beginning of a very long and stressful road, not one that I would be running on, but a road with a very dear friend of mine who was about to have a complete breakdown. My friend had dealt with depression and anxiety, they had good days and bad days, but I could feel in the weeks leading up to this day that something was really off this time, and they were in trouble, in total need of help. The weeks that followed were so emotionally and physically draining, I was constantly worried and stressed out about what was happening with them and if they were ok. In the week leading up to the breakdown and then through that week and in the early weeks of treatment, there were many times that I thought I was going to lose them forever, that there was no way they were going to make it out of this, it was the most painful thing to witness, and I knew that no matter what I did it still might not be enough. I remember on my birthday getting an awful phone call from them, they were a mess, in such pain and so deep in depression, I stopped what I was doing (driving to my bday dinner) and pulled over on the side of the road and talked, and talked, and talked until I felt like it was ok to get off the phone for a little while, went to my dinner and cut it short to get back on the phone. I remember thinking "they don't even realize it's my birthday" then feeling so guilty that I was thinking that....but realizing that it just made it that much more clear to me that they were so far off.
Thankfully after a serious intervention and intense help (and many months) they have been able to make tremendous progress, they are getting "back to themselves", sure they still have rough days but they are able to deal with them, they are looking forward to new things in their life, and they want to live. It's almost hard to believe that it was just a year ago today that I was so afraid of what was going to happen to them...I remember making my wish when I was cutting my birthday cake, I just wished "for them to be ok". Can I just tell you how wonderful it felt when I checked my voice mail messages this morning and the first one was from them, singing Happy brought a great smile to my face.
While going through the above situation I felt myself getting "sucked in" and for some reason it caused me to question everything about myself, my strengths, my weaknesses, and honestly I was left feeling so weak, so "average" (something that I never like to be), basically I felt like shit. I knew that I couldn't do the work to "save" my friend, I could just lead them to the right places and support them, but I realized that I needed to do something to "save" myself. I felt like nothing I had accomplished was that great, like I had been coasting by in my life, afraid to fail, missing out on things, not taking chances, not committing , just going through the motions.
Once I acknowledged that I "needed" to do "something", something that wasn't going to be easy, that I had to work hard at, that for the most part I could control (meaning that I wouldn't have to completely depend on others to accomplish it), I knew it was a Marathon. That was something that I always said "I could never do" and I always admired those who were able to do it, the strength and discipline to be able to train for and complete a marathon....I knew I had it in me, it was in me just dying because I had been too afraid to let it out. I had to let go of my fears and go for I did.
My marathon training started in May (my first long run was 4 miles!), although I didn't tell many people until June what my plans were. I immediately felt a sense of purpose for myself again, that was something that I had been missing terribly. Everything was going well, then towards the middle of the month my 9 year old English Mastiff, Mister, started to fail. He had arthritis in hips and back, and on May 21 (which happens to also be the above mentioned friends birthday), I lost my boy. I had him since he was 9 weeks old, he had been with me through everything, I was crushed. I knew though I was so lucky to have him for so long, and I was so lucky to be there with him, he was never alone, never scared, he gave me one more big kiss and just went on in true Mister style....snoring peacefully.
Getting back to training was hard on one hand (all I wanted to do was sleep), but it was also the best escape. Training kept me out of the house, and that was a good thing (it was so empty without my 210 pound buddy), but it also gave me time to think about him and remember all of the good times that we had. Training also kept giving me back more of myself. Each weekend I was running further than I ever had, there were times I would cry in the middle of a run....sometimes I was crying because I lost Mister, sometimes because I still couldn't process everything I went through with my friend, sometimes because my feet hurt so bad, and sometimes it was actually because I was in disbelief that I was running 9 miles.
I did all of my training with Team in Training, and that was one of the best decisions of my life. I made so many new friends, learned how to train, learned so much about myself, all while raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Those group runs saved me, they gave me the support I needed to finish something that would change my life, but it wasn't finishing it that changed my life, it was every step along the way that did.
Finally my big day came, October 26 (exactly 5 months ago from today), the Marine Corps Marathon. It was amazing, it will forever be one of the most amazing experiences of my life (for a full re-cap of my experience click here for that blog entry).
The rest of the year was spent smiling ear to ear, still in shock that I completed a marathon, and in some pain, but hey, that comes with the territory, right???? When it was all said and done I knew I was on the right road back to myself, but we all know that isn't a journey that ever really ends, we are constantly defining ourselves. I just finally felt like I was on the right path, after being on the wrong one for so long!
Then the whole ankle thing happened, that's still recent enough that you don't need me to review on Feb 5, in a boot on crutches, blah blah blah.....
And that leads me to today, My Birthday! I'm still in the boot and on crutches, but guess what I got to do today?????? I got to DRIVE!!!! So I'm making progress, but most importantly I'm getting some of my independence back, which will be very helpful in me getting back on the right path.
Physical Therapy is going well, it looks like I'm in the clear on the whole RSD thing, I might get to start riding the stationary bike next week, and hopefully I'll be out of the boot and off the crutches in about 2 more weeks. As for when I'll be running again, that won't be for a while, but I'm trying to just take it one day at a time and be hopeful for 2010.
Sorry that this post got so long (and so rushed at the end, but I'm getting sleepy)!
So, there you have my year in review, from 32 to 33.....what a year it has been.
Thanks to all of my friends in blogland, you've all helped me through the "downs" and celebrated the "ups" with me, I'm looking forward to another great year...hopefully full of "ups"!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

6 Weeks Post-Op Update

Well, here we are....6 weeks post op! Wooooooooo hooooooooo! Sorry that I haven't updated lately, it's just that, well....there hasn't been much to update!
I went to the Dr on Monday for my 6 wk check up, everything looks like it's healing nicely! I am now allowed to put weight on my foot (in the boot) while using my crutches. That is a nice break for my armpits! I also started Physical Therapy this was eventful to say the least.....
Everything was going fine, like a normal PT session (stretches, massage, resistance exercises,...) and then it was time for the hot/cold contrast therapy. We started off with the hot moist packs, that felt great. Then it was time for the ice pack.....I put my foot on it and one was wrapped around my ankle, I lasted for about 12 seconds then the pain was SO INTENSE I seriously started to freak out, it felt like someone was stabbing me in my arch, the physical therapist came into the room and I was like "OMG I can't take this" (he promptly pulled the packs off and called in the other PT guy), my face got all red, I busted out into this major sweat, got all dizzy, my heart was RACING!!!!!! Seriously, I almost passed out. He explained that what was happening could potentially be RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy). According to the linked website "RSD/CRPS appears to involve a complex interaction among the sensory, motor, and autonomic nervous systems, and the immune system. It is thought that brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) control over these various processes is somehow changed as a result of an injury". Basically, the capilaries in my foot are staying dialated, sometimes after a surgery and being non-weight bearing for so long there is damage to the smooth muscle fibers (**NOTE- I could have some of this wrong, if you know something more...TELL ME!), so when my foot had the cold on it, it didn't react properly. The "sympathetic" part ties into the "Fight or Flight" reaction I had, it's like it's confused on how to react. It scared the s&*t out of me....BIG TIME! I was wiped out for the rest of the day.
The good news is that we caught these symptoms early. Now that I am partially weight bearing that will help to stimulate everything, and hopefully get me out of the "danger zone" on this.
When I went back the next day we did the hot/cold contrast with just a cool towel and I was fine. Then we tried the ice pack and I made it about 45 seconds, then the same thing started to happen. It's a good sign that I made it longer, it shows that I am adapting...yippeee!
Hopefully by the end of next week I'll be allowed to take my boot off and drive, then put my boot back on when I get where I'm going, and hop around.
I just want some of my freedom back. I want to drive. I want to go to the grocery store and not make someone carry all of my shit. Not to mention.....I WANT TO RUN!!!!! But for now, I'll settle for being able to just go for a WALK!
**And one more thing, my bday is next week, exactly 1 week from today and I'll be 33.....I'll have more thoughts to post about this over the weekend.....

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Race to Any Place

This past weekend was the Eighth Annual Race to Any Place, it is the largest stationary bike race in Western Pennsylvania, and an important team fund-raising event benefiting the Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Before I knew I was going to have surgery on my ankle, I volunteered to be the Captain of the Team in Training Alumni bike. Each bike has to raise a minimun of $500, and there are over 80 bikes (I'm not sure exactly how many, but A LOT!). Hopefully you'll get the idea from this picture...
This was one of the coolest events that I've ever seen! They hold it in this huge office building in downtown Pittsburgh, they basically take over the ENTIRE lobby with spin bikes and teams. It is a six-hour relay race, comprised of twenty-four 15 minute heats. Each rider must complete a minimum of a 15-minute heat, and teams may only change riders as new heats are announced. Here is our team cheering on Tracy! She and I did the Marine Corps Marathon together (not like "together"...she was much faster than me!)!
They keep track of how far each team bikes and give out prizes for the top distances. While we didn't win any prizes, we still biked 169 miles! Wooooo hooooo! And, our team only had 6 people (you could have up to 12) so some people did 3, 4, or even 5 heats!
My friend Char was in town from Maryland to visit me (and she is a TNT Tri Alumni), so she was my "stand in"!
It was a great event and it raised over $100,000 for the LLS!!!!! How cool is that???
In other news, I got my kitty's bloodwork back and it didn't show anything! Yay! He has been totally fine since his episode, so hopefully it will stay that way! Thanks for all of your messages about him!

Words of Wisdom

"Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing will disturb your peace of mind.
See the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
Think only of the best, work only for the best and expect only the best.
Forget about the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
Spend so much time on the improvement of yourself that there is no time to criticize others.
Live in the faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you."
~ Chistian Dior

"Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do."
- Dr. Spock

"Fall in love or fall in hate. Get inspired or be depressed. Ace the test or flunk the class. Make babies or make art. Speak the truth or lie and cheat. Dance on tables or sit in the corner. Life is divine chaos. Embrace it. Forgive yourslef. Breathe. And enjoy the ride. "
- Solbeam