Day One, Mile One

Running with a ruptured appendix.

Running with a ruptured appendix. Dumb ass!

Today was my first run in four weeks, almost exactly thirty days. Four weeks ago, I ran three miles in attempt to fix myself. For some reason I thought that it would help me to feel better. And it did. But it didn’t heal me. So fast forward four weeks and I found myself this morning puttering around like any other normal Saturday psyching myself up for my run. Normally I do my long runs on Saturdays so I have to talk myself into getting out the door and trying to accomplish some (for me) serious milage. Today I was trying to get myself out the door to run ten minutes.

There has been a lot of well meaning cautionary advice from family and friends. Take it slow, don’t go too fast. If I do too much I could set myself back. If it hurts, stop. And in my head the knowledge that I walk around so tired almost all the time anymore, how could I ever run? Even for just ten short minutes? But it has been four weeks. Four weeks! An eternity. In the last year or so this has become a big part of my identity and I sorely missed it. Even my daughter has asked if I am going to run again, she wants life and me back to normal. So today was the day.

The plan? Walk ten minutes, run ten minutes and then walk ten minutes. I found it on Competitor.com as a way to come back from injury. I decided my experience qualified. If it didn’t work, I was going to try the couch to 5K program. But, to be honest, I wasn’t sure I could do either one. And I wasn’t sure, if I did run ten minutes, how far I would possibly get. One thing I did know is that I was going to take it slow. I just didn’t know how slow.

I know from experience that if I set out to run three miles it is three hard miles and if I try to run six the first three can just glide by but the last two are difficult.  I know that whatever length of time I try to run it can seem hard. Also, the first mile is the hardest. The first seven to ten minutes of the run are often the times I most want to quit. It’s when I remember, “Oh, yeah, this is work and it is hard.” So an attempt to run just ten minutes meant that I was going to start out with a head game that I wasn’t going to push through. By the time I did, I was suppose to be done. So after ridding myself of every possible excuse and procrastination I was finally out the door. Runkeeper  ready to go, Polar M400 (the birthday present I was so psyched about five months ago) at the ready. Down the street, around the block the ten minutes of walking was taking forever. I couldn’t believe how far I got. And then, finally, running. Slow.

At first I was constantly checking myself, “Is this how I always feel? Don’t I always start out feeling tired?” I don’t know. This time, I was feeling pretty slow, and I would be lying if I said nothing hurt. My stomach ached some and felt a little sore around the incisions. But, unlike my last run, it didn’t hurt going down hill. It was just sore feeling. I’m not even sure it isn’t how I felt sometimes before. And my stomach hurts almost all the time anymore. Besides, even though this was a passive work out for my abs, it is the first real work my stomach has had in a long time. So, I kept going.

There was a space of time after four minutes that I felt really good. It felt good to have my blood pumping, it felt good to be in charge of my own health again. And I didn’t feel tired. When I realized I was closing in on nine minutes I panicked. I was so not ready to be done. So, after ten minutes I kept running. I decided I was just going to get to a mile. Once I got to a mile, I would stop. Except, that was twelve minutes and some seconds. And the stop sign was just up ahead, and it would be so much easier to have a base run that was just thirteen minutes. So I went to the stop sign. And I realized that I was really, really tired. Which sucked because I thought I would feel a little more triumphant.

Mile One

Somehow, this run made the whole appendix thing way more real. Even though I walk around tired, I still wonder if it is all in my head. Maybe I am just a little depressed. Maybe if I could just make myself more positive and grateful, I would be more energetic. As I went the last two tenths of a mile to the stop sign I knew I was running out of steam and that surprised me.  It was proof positive that the last four weeks did happen and I can’t just keep going like they didn’t. I have to work back from where I am and not where I was or where I want to be. So on Tuesday I will be at the gym in the morning, I hope, trying to do two minutes more than I did today on the treadmill.

As I was walking back home, I wondered if this was just going to be the new me. Maybe I will alway be tired. But I reject that idea. There isn’t an old me or a new me. There is just me. The me in this time and space right now. And this me is going to write a thank you note to my surgeon. Because it may not be far or fast, but I am alive and I am getting back out there.

Two Weeks

So this past Friday marked the half way point. I was two weeks away from the day I went to the hospital and two weeks away from my first run. I realize  the hospital is fading from my reality, condensing into a series of smells, sounds and emotions, highs and lows. For days, it felt just on the realm of my conscience, too close. I wanted to strip it away from me, scrub it off as though it didn’t happen. I know that the experience is part of my life and I will mine it, eventually, for something. But for now, I just want to be as far from it as possible.

In the last few days I am returning to my old self. I care more about the little things in my life that mattered to me before: football, baking, politics. What never left was my focus on running. Even in the hospital, I thought about starting first on the stationary bike, working my way back with walking, when I could start to strength train again, what could I do that would put the least strain on my core, at least for the first two weeks. I don’t know why, but when I couldn’t sleep or really had nothing else to focus on, I focused on that.

Good things that I can capitalize on include all my nagging little running pains will have ample time to heal. When I start back running I should start with a healthy, if somewhat out of shape body. I’m lucky, because I get to start over. My first running mile or two will be a new triumph. How many people get to do that again?

Plot Twist

I had big plans for last Saturday. I was going to try to run eleven miles. It was going to be my testing ground. If I could run at least nine miles without stopping and then make the last two in some run walk combination, I was going to register for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. Things were looking good. I was pretty confident. Unfortunately I didn’t confer with my appendix. It had some pretty big plans too. So after about four days of progressively worse pain that I continued to rationalize, I finally went to the hospital. Why did it take me four days? Well, because nobody goes to the hospital for gas pains. And when I look back now, I realize that I was sicker than I thought. But at the time, I just didn’t have time to deal with what seemed like gas? A stomach virus? Pulled muscle anyone? Just getting through the day was all I could manage, I would deal with it on Saturday.

But my husband talked me into going to the hospital on Friday morning as opposed to waiting for a doctor’s appointment later in the day. And I am so glad I went. By Friday evening I was in the operating room, having the angry little organ removed. So when Saturday morning came around, the day I was going to run eleven miles, I had some new goals: sit in a chair for awhile and fart. Seriously, doctors and nurses are very interested in having you fart after a surgery. So that became my new goal. The next day I was going to gather my tubes and push my little IV thingy out to the wall. It is about ten feet away, not quite eleven miles.

Since we originally thought I was only going to be in the hospital overnight, my husband brought a quick change of clothes. He brought a regular bra and a running bra, a race shirt, a pair of shorts and running socks. I don’t know why he brought all this But I will say, when I really couldn’t believe that I would ever walk further than ten feet, I looked at that shirt and that bra and those socks and it did help push me forward. I kept cracking jokes about running ten miles, and now being outpaced by the much older man with the walker. But really I was telling myself, you can do this, keep going. And those clothes that he packed were a constant reminder.

See, since I waited so long to go to the hospital, the surgeon believes that I had been walking around with a burst appendix since Tuesday afternoon. Every time he came to see me he asked, “How long did it hurt?” “It was really nasty in there, gangrene. ” I kept apologizing for my messy gut. Sorry. Had I known you were coming, really, I would have cleaned. I loved my surgeon, by the way, even though he kept calling me his stoic patient. He also constantly told me that I was going to be okay. But, it was going to take time. Like anyone who is regularly active, I wanted to know in the hospital on Friday before I went to the operating room, when I could go back to work and when could I start running again. Before the operation I was told I would be back to work in one or two weeks and we would see about the running. After the operation I was told about four weeks before I could return to work. Running was off the table for now.

Like anyone, I can’t help but wonder why this happened to me. Why did my appendix decide to throw a fit, and why was I so lucky to go to the hospital when I did and not be in worse shape than I am?  I know, on some level, that going when I did may have saved my life, but I just can’t sink into that right now. I am one of those annoying people who is constantly looking for a greater purpose in life. I love my family and I’m so grateful for my life with my family and friends. I know that I am living a wonderful rich life, and I have been checked into this even before this little incident. But I still search for a greater purpose, something I am suppose to be doing to justify all I have. What I began to think when I was in the hospital, is that my greater purpose is to be me. To enjoy my life, continue to strive forward in my work and love the many gifts in my life. Does that mean I am never going to feel sorry for myself or act like an ass? Uh, no. But, there is a greater sense of peace about myself, about who I am and where I am in life.

So now what? Now, I get to start over. Well, not right now, first I have to build up my stamina to get through a regular day. First I have to finish taking the antibiotics (blah!!!!) and manage to get through a day without pain medication. And then, then I can begin again. In my forties there are a lot of things I’ve discovered about myself. I’m a cat person. I’m morphing into a librarian. And I am a runner. So, as soon as I get the chance, I will run. I can’t wait.