Running After Health Obstacles
Lots of patience and baby steps:
It took me an entire year of going to school without fainting to want to run or play lacrosse again. Trusting my body to not faint when exercising, after what I went through was quite the process. I remember finishing my last stress test without fainting, and smiling big with my cardiologist and nurse. Then, I was cleared to play lacrosse that spring! My cardiologist still had me keep a journal of my pulse and oxygen level and blood pressure everyday.
Then, that summer I started to run long distance again like I had in cross-country. It felt so good to run my five mile block, one night I decided to challenge myself and run it twice. Once I went up to ten miles, I felt ready to sign up and train for my first marathon, the Maine Marathon.
I feel like it could have gone either way. If I had decided not to play lacrosse or run marathons, after recovering from my health problems, it would have been okay too. Being healthy and not fainting for a certain amount of time, dissipated my fear of fainting. After slowly getting back into strenuous activity, over a few years, I ended up loving to physically push myself.
Currently, I can go up to 100 mile weeks, in my marathon training working with my coach. I feel lucky to be pushing myself to run well. As long as we do the best we can, that is all that matters.
It Takes a Long Time to Heal
When I was fifteen a virus hurt my heart, my blood pressure dropped to 45/20, I started fainting and having seizures, postural orthostatic tachycardia symptoms, I lost a lot of weight, my skin and lips were always blue, and I had to wear an outpatient heart monitor with five leads constantly for months on end. Going from making a club lacrosse team to play in the National U-15 tournament in Maryland, to being so sick I could barely walk, was a dramatic life change. I remember walking down the hall to class in high school or being in the middle of lacrosse practice, and fainting. I found out who my real friends were fast. People would tell me to put on more bronzer, ask why my lips were blue, or have rude commentary if one of my electrodes or wires from the heart monitor was accidentally showing. When I was sick it was sad being home in a turtle neck with my parents reading a book, watching my friends go to dances, hiking, or playing lacrosse. I started taking online college classes when I was in the tenth grade, because I could not physically go to school. My classmates would tell me, ‘Your parents must be so proud you started college so early’, but I felt horrible about myself. The only thing worse than being sick, is feeling guilty or bad about yourself for being sick. It haunts me looking back at my cardiologist telling me I was ‘at risk,’ or to rest while trying a different heart medication. I was unsure of what exactly ‘at risk’ meant, and even more unsure of whether the different heart medications were going to help or hurt. After a little over a year my body healed, no more fainting, no more heart medications nor a cardiologist appointment every month, and I was just happy to go to school. (I elaborate on this more in the about me category)
At eighteen, I ran my first marathon, and it made me feel completely healed inside and out, in a new beginning. Marathon running felt bigger than the national lacrosse tournament in high school. In the beginning of college, I never told my friends I had been sick, because I just wanted everything to be normal. Marathon running became my identity, I thought I could literally act like all that chapter of having heart problems never even happened. Eventually, after having my core group in college for a few years, one night I did share my heart problems of the past and was pleasantly surprised it did not change the way my best friends looked at me. At first, they were shocked, never would have imagined. I found out, I could have shared that information earlier and it would have been okay, everyone was supportive. This made me happy, to not have a secret. Looking back, it seems so silly that I wanted to keep something so huge that happened in my life, a secret. Especially, after starting this blog and having all us runners share our journeys, I think its good to discuss the personal growth.
When I do look back at that time, it makes me grateful for what I have now, on a different level. The illness brought to light a lot of true colors, gave me time to get to know myself, and pushed me to new limits to get my life the way I wanted after recovering. I feel really lucky to have my family as a support system, lucky to be able to run marathons and get my degrees after going through my health obstacles.