Recently a friend asked me this with an incredulous tone. Why do you run? What I said was that I liked it.
The reality…I’m not really sure. I’ve always been that kid that liked to prove people wrong for starters. The surest way to get me to do something was to tell me I couldn’t do it. I’m sure my parents figured this out when I was young and used it to their benefit. I sure would have.
The truth… I love that NOBODY that knows, me or knew me, thinks I can. Seriously. If you made a list of people and who might take up running in their 40’s I wouldn’t have even been at the bottom of the list. I wore knee braces and dislocated left and right (literally) growing up. It was just luck that I was a swimmer. Running was punishment as a swimmer. The knees wouldn’t have endured it anyway. So multiple surgeries and rebuilding of the legs later so I can walk and Voila I’m a runner! Not quite. In reality after several knee and foot surgeries I found myself elated briefly. I was driving in my car smiling for no reason. 4 years of PT every MWF was over. Woo Hoo! Knee problems since 6th grade… done!?? I called my BFF with that stupid grin on my face. I was never a whiner, but I’ve had a rough road with the legs. It has prevented me from doing many things. I walk with a focused caution that most people don’t ever think about. So this is the part of the story that is supposed to be the end. The happy ending. Only life doesn’t work like that.
While my orthopedic journey ends, my neurological journey begins. Literally. I woke up from surgery on my left foot with my right side numb. Not in the hospital- I’ve got getting out of there down to a science. Sure the knees was a week on a morphine pump, but everything else I can get out faster than you can imagine.(let the IV run out, vein collapses- no pain meds and use the bathroom-yep- those three things = release!) Anyway, once home I woke up day 2 numb on my right side. We ended up in the ER and while I thought we got moved thru quickly because the nurse knew me apparently I’m not that impressive…. they thought I was having a stroke. CT showed a mass on my right temporal lobe. MRI at the hospital showed no lesions in my brain. I will always the ER doctor saying “at least it isn’t MS”. So off to the neurosurgeon. Cavernous Malformation with a Venus anomaly. That is what the mass was. However, removing it would cause more damage than leaving it might ever do. If it ever “goes” I’ll have a massive stroke. It might never do anything though. This doesn’t explain the numbness or burning on the right side of my body though. By this time it was excruciating. There is no escape. It is like being trapped in a small car with a screaming child 24/7. Buzzing, numb and when I’m touched it registers as a severe burn in my mind. Lumbar punctures, tons of blood tests and lots of waiting… being told well maybe it will be Lupus and not MS. I found myself wishing for Lupus, how strange is that? Within 4 months I went from not a clue about MS to a confirmed diagnosis. I understand now that it quite fast. Some people develop slowly and it can take years to find out what it is. Mine progressed hard and fast and you could watch it form in only 4 months on MRI’s.
That was almost 4 years ago and I can tell you I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to about MS since then. I inject daily with a medication that MAY reduce the number of lesions forming in my brain and spine by up to 30%. At least that is what the rat, monkey and bunny showed. It has some nasty side effects like on occasion it can feel like a heart attack after injecting. I’ve gotten better and better at it and I can avoid the huge welts I used to get, but finding a new injection spot gets harder and harder. I’ve self injected about 1400 times at this point. I take a Parkinson’s med to help with the intense cramping and spasms that I tend to get at night. Meds now help me sleep as well. I’ve tried some meds and backed off them as much as possible. I’ve never been a big pain med person so that was the first to go. I’d rather be in some pain than end up addicted to something. I do see how easily that can happen though.
So what does this all mean? For me… why do I run? Because yesterday I couldn’t, tomorrow I wont be able to and for now I can. It isn’t easy, it hurts, every stupid little step is a struggle some days, but I can. Fuel that fire with a doctor who early on told me to go “rest”, avoid stress and stay out of the heat. Clearly you don’t know me. I own a company and have teenagers- my life has stress written all over it. So I did the least logical thing possible- I joined a running group. The group doesn’t know about the MS, a few select people do now, but they welcomed me slow and awkward as I am with open arms. They have been amazing to me. I ran my first half marathon with my daughter and some of the runners from the group. It meant the world to me to finish. 13.1 miles farther than I had ever run before. Everyone seemed proud, but they don’t have a clue what that meant to me.
Fast forward to now and my doctor gives me a stern look and warning about keeping the miles, intensity and temperature low on safe paved roads. It isn’t odd at all that I took to running on trails, pushing myself and well you can’t avoid the heat here. Sure that is in part- forget you doc I can do this. It also is a moment on a trail that I might not ever get back. Time that I’ve learned I love. My parents raised me to not whine, accept your challenge and rise above it. I’m still not sure how you rise above MS, but I’m learning to find ways around it.
Everyone has a reason to run. You might get the easy answer “because it’s fun”. You might get a real answer. Most never ask.