I love that picture of me! It looks like I knew what I was doing – like I was strong and agile enough to climb that rock face! Truth: I was actually only about two feet off of the ground. Funny how a camera angle can change the perception of the situation! A lot of things in life work the same way. Today, Monday’s Many Thanksgivings is the ability to run. That may seem odd in this context so allow me to explain.
Growing up, I played sports most of my life. I took the ability to run for granted and absolutely hated doing it, especially any sort of long distance running. I am a sprinter by nature so the ability to pace myself to endure longer runs is very difficult. Any extra conditioning that the coach recommended outside of practice never got done. I got by on as little running as possible.
After graduating high school, I kept somewhat in shape by continuing to play volleyball and basketball. I continued to loathe running! I was pretty convinced that willingness to train for a marathon should be diagnosed as a mental illness.
As time wore on the endometriosis began to take over my life, often leaving me in too much pain to do any sort of athletic participation. By the time I had my hysterectomy, I could barely tolerate walking from the car into the doctor’s office. I had gone from an athlete to a prisoner, chained to my couch by the pain.
That is when my perspective on running did a 180. I am one that if you tell me I can’t do something, I will go out of my way to prove you wrong. The fact that I could no longer walk, let alone run made me angry. I badly wanted to prove my body wrong. I swore if I was ever able to tolerate running, I would never take it for granted again.
The hysterectomy was not successful in relieving my pain as the endometriosis has left me with pelvic nerve damage. For a couple of years, I allowed it to continue to control my life. I avoided things I loved in an attempt to keep the pain under control.
After a couple of years of allowing pain to consume me, my anger would no longer allow me to accept my life that way. I made the decision that even if the pain made it so I could not sleep for nights on end, I was going to get back to the athlete I used to be and I was going to achieve this by doing the very exercise I had spent most of my life avoiding. I started a training program with the target of running a 5K within a few months.
It hurt! At times, it hurt so badly that I would be nauseated from the pain. Despite it, I kept pushing. It became addicting to free myself from the chains that I had allowed the pain to place on my life. I was able to make my goal of running a 5K and I have never looked back.
Today, it continues to be painful. It’s not as bad as it was when I started this endeavor, but it still plagues me sometimes leaving me nearly limping at the end of the run because of the pain that reverberates in my pelvis with each step I take. I persist in it though because each run is a reminder to me that I have a choice about how I handle my life. I can let my limitations dominate or I can choose to live the life I want.
Seven years after my hysterectomy, I have accepted that I will probably always live with chronic pain. Certainly, I wish that will not be the case, but I now know that it does not have to control my life. The change in perspective on running has helped me change my perspective on life with chronic pain.
I am grateful for the ability to run because of the lesson it has taught me. It is ironic to me that the very thing I used to despise is now the very thing that symbolizes my freedom in how I react to life. It’s my choice. It is no longer pain that sets the boundaries for my life; it’s my mind that gets to decide those and that is very freeing knowledge!