Please excuse my long absence – school holidays came and went, along with the usual chaos/fun they involve, followed by two weeks of cleaning up the mess. I did lots of great running meanwhile, including a beautiful 21km run from Torquay to Bells Beach and back along the Surfcoast Walking Trail
a few great ones up at Mount Dandenong on my favorite roller coaster loop
and a wonderful adventure down on the Two Bays Trail last Friday.
Which brings you kind of up to date.
And me just one week (gasp!) away from surgery. Voluntary surgery, no less.
I’ve had this vein-gone-wrong in my left leg (okay, lets call it what it is, a varicose vein) since I was 32. I remember the day I noticed it. A lump appeared down low on my thigh. I was convinced it was cancer. In complete panic, I called my then-Doctor, got in to see him straight away (these were the days I worked in a suit in Melbourne and went to city doctors!), and found out I wasn’t dying. That was a great relief.
But to be told I had a varicose vein? Suddenly, I felt very, very old. Now, varicose veins are genetic. I hadn’t somehow caused it by walking or exercising too much, the doctor assured me. But that didn’t matter. Old people had varicose veins; therefore, I was old. Old. At 32, that belief mattered. It crushed me for a bit.
It took a couple of months, but I got over it. Decided that as long as I was fully functional, so be it, I had a vein-gone-wonky. That has worked a treat for the last sixteen years. But during those many years, the vein grew and grew, became twisted and began to work less and less well. I started to trip up more often on trail runs, always on that leg. I got terrible cramps in that calf at night, that would wake me up and keep me up for hours. And not-so-kind people began to comment (“Oh, look at your leg. That must hurt. It looks awful!”), so I started to hide it in long running tights. I’m not about looks, I’m about performance. But I’m human too.
Last year, I finally got the guts up to see a Vascular Surgeon, and she suggested all was not well. And not just visually. Such a messed up vein could cause blood clots. And serious bleeding if I cut it (like, perhaps, by tripping over in the middle of a long trail run). These things were important. I planned to have surgery the next month, September 2013. To address this thing once and for all.
Except I didn’t. There were too many cool races to complete. There was Marysville and Lorne and Two Bays and the Roller Coaster Run, and the Buffalo Stampede. North Face too. I didn’t make all of them due to a knee injury, but I did a lot. These were followed swiftly by the four races of the Salomon Trail Series. Where to fit surgery requiring four weeks off running? I decided quietly in my head that September 2014 would be it. Just before the whole thing kicked off again, in an endless, thrilling cycle of trail racing.
Just prior to the last race of the Salomon Trail Series (23k down in Anglesea) in September, 2014, I finally called the surgeon. I wanted surgery right away, I’d decided ages ago, I said (thinking about the 28km Two Bays Trail Race I’d already booked for January, 2015).
“Perhaps you should have told me…” the receptionist/surgery booker replied. I laughed and admitted I’d been putting it off for rather a long time. She tried to squeeze me in before the surgeon’s next holiday, which was a week off. While this did seem a bit risky (perhaps she’d be thinking of margarita’s instead of veins?), I gave the go ahead, but it didn’t work out anyway.
Instead, we arranged for 27 October. Which seemed ages and ages away at the time. For the last month, I’ve been kicking up my heels in joy along every trail I’ve run, like I’ve been given an extra month of freedom.
But now here I am, a week away from something I’ve put off for, oh, fourteen years or so.
While I can be courageous when I’m controlling the risks (long trail runs alone but fully prepared), when someone else is in charge my inner wimp climbs right out of the back seat and plonks herself down firmly in the front. And makes me think about everything that could go wrong. I’ve Googled all the surgery risks (mistake), examined posts in Forums about surgery gone wrong (bigger mistake), driven my husband nuts talking about the chances of me dying (he’s a very patient man).
Finally, I’ve come to terms with it. Kind of.
Here’s the good stuff that I’m trying to focus on: perhaps I’ll trip over less frequently. My leg won’t be swollen and cramp at night. I will wear shorts to teach again without feeling self-conscious. Most importantly, I won’t be worrying about a potential blood clot having some serious impact on my life down the track. Or bleeding out on a solo trail run (not that I worried much about that, but humor me please).
All that said, please send me some kind thoughts next Monday because I’m sure to be a little bit of a scaredy-mouse come the actual surgery.
The rest of this week holds some terrific training to get me in my final peak shape before Monday, and I’m going to soak up every little bit of it, starting with a couple of hours in the Dandenongs tomorrow.