No, I didn’t die. It’s just that for the past six weeks, I’ve felt too bad and sad and miserable to blog. I didn’t have positive things to say, and I had to focus every bit of energy on healing from the voluntary surgery that knocked the wind from my sails.
Instead of running my usual 50km weeks, for the last six weeks I could only walk. My pace started at a slow, painful 16 minutes per kilometer a week after varicose vein surgery. I know, because I strapped on my Garmin and used it to record every painful step. Walking the dog (which I couldn’t do for 2 weeks) counted; making my way to Hampton Street and back – that really counted; even picking up the kids from school counted (I couldn’t do this for three weeks). I had no idea I would be so disabled by surgery. It is a strange and terrible thing to go from super-fit, able and active, to completely disabled in one short hour of surgery. I was startled by it, and still feel traumatized by the experience. The weeks that have gone by seem dreamlike and strange, as if my body were no longer mine.
The hardest thing of all was about three weeks after surgery. The pain had receded somewhat, I was walking more normally, The bandages had come off. I had running in my sights. I went to lunch with my husband, and one of the un-stitched wounds, which had scabbed-over, opened up. I leaked blood for two full days, despite compression bandages, steri-strips salvaged from my trail-running supplies, and a call to the surgeon. The surgeon was an hour’s drive away, and wanted to see me Friday – but the wound opened on Tuesday.
It wouldn’t stop bleeding, no matter what I did. Those few days were the worst. I couldn’t stand up without bleeding; I couldn’t do anything. I sunk into a dark place. I felt like giving up. Thankfully, my husband held me up, and the stubbornness in my character that I prefer to term determination kicked in. I called my local doctor, begged for a single stitch to close the wound, and was given it by a lovely, compassionate doctor.
It worked; the bleeding finally stopped and I could begin healing again. But I was shaken and scared. And I was left with that stitch for 10 days, and still couldn’t run. After those long ten days, I went back to the GP, who removed the stitch and suggested I wait another 7 days to run! I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to cry.
But deep inside, I felt a change in me. I felt calmness returning, a sense of acceptance that all would be okay. I decided to be conservative, to listen to my body, to walk, to slowly start to lift weights at the gym. I didn’t push. I let it be. For one of the first times in my life, I allowed my body to determine what it needed. It was wonderful.
Last week, the day I was to see the surgeon for a follow-up in fact, I finally ran. For the first time in six long weeks, I ran! My logic? If the wound opened again, at least I had a doctor’s appointment!
It was a terrifying, joyous, hard, slow run. I had this great plan – I’d been building it for weeks. I was going to be sensible. I planned on 1 minute run, 2 minutes walk, to do a total a 3k. I started well – I walked the four minutes to my trail. Then I began to run. I meant to walk after one minute, I really did, but my body wouldn’t. It just kept running. It didn’t hurt. I ran slowly. Listened carefully for danger signs. But there weren’t any. It was simply all right. I kept running for 4.6 glorious kilometers.
Was I elated?
I was scared. Scared the wound had re-opened under my running tights. But it hadn’t. I waited a few days. Then I ran 6k. Waited a day. Ran 6.5. Nothing hurt. I was slow, of course, but I was okay. I ran 17.1 kilometers that week!
Today, six weeks after surgery, I took myself to my favorite trail again, this time in my Five-Fingers. I planned on 5k. Partway to this goal, I ran into a friend who’d been following my surgery story. She was as thrilled as me to see me running. We chatted (I stopped my Garmin and didn’t feel restless!), then we ran our separate ways. A few minutes later, I saw two other friends. I ran with them for the next few kilometers, sharing with them the joy of moving again. Sharing the laughter. Sharing the trail.
And it occurred to me: I am finally back in the club. The club of fitness and health and well-being. Of running. Of weight-training. The gym and my bicycle and walking without a limp, and the whole wide world feels like a big, giant playground, and I am more grateful for this comeback trail than I can express with mere words.
It has been a long, hard six weeks. It didn’t turn out as I’d expected or planned, and I am still healing. But I have learned that by being compassionate with myself, I can heal.
I am not sure yet where my trail will take me, what distances I will aim for in the coming months.
For now, it is enough to run with joy again, to be back in the club.