Gotta Play the Hand Yer Dealt (or "A Bad TV Screenplay")

Those of you who have been following my posts the past few weeks (or from way back a couple years ago) will perhaps think my running experience has been pretty tumultuous and exciting.

That's true. It has.

But it has just crossed over the line into the realm of a (badly written!) soap opera.

Last Friday, after a couple of nail-biting weeks of waiting (during which I was not allowed to exercise), I got a confirmed diagnosis of a serious heart defect, that was at least accompanied by an admonition to exercise a lot and get as healthy as I can. I got the go ahead to get back to running - which I expected, but which nevertheless came as a relief.

On Monday morning, I went out again, re-starting C25K with Week 1. It was glorious.

On Wednesday morning, I did Run 2, and again had a pretty good run. In fact, the weather was downright balmy, and I even got some sun. It didn't feel *quite* as good as run 1, but it was solid even so. I didn't have time to post about it right away, because I had a follow up appointment with my GP to get to, so that we could discuss my newly-found heart condition.

(scene opens in a medical clinic)

Later on Wednesday, at the doctor, after we discussed the heart-related test results:

Doc: "Now let's look at the results from the x-rays of your knees."

(They've been pretty bad for ages, and hurt when I run. I was diagnosed with Patella-femoral pain syndrome, and some foot problems, and I figured I would ask if there was anything to be done to make them better. The doctor had ordered x-rays as a first step.)

Doc: "Ok, it says here that you have moderate osteoarthritis in both knees - meaning that you have the fully active disease. And in your right knee, there are bone fragments floating around in there."

Me: "Wow. No wonder they hurt!"

Doc: "Exactly. No wonder. So, you know this is a progressive disease, right?"

Me: "Umm."

Doc: "It is made worse with use and strain."

Me: "So.... running?"

Doc: "No. No running. Think swimming or biking. And try a topical anti-inflammatory. We'll watch it, and if it gets worse, I'll refer you to an orthopedic surgeon."

Me: *sigh*

(scene fades)

I almost feel embarrassed about getting all excited about running again, and carrying the rest of you along with me. Because now, I am once again forbidden to run. Indefinitely, and possibly permanently. Probably for a long time at least. If it happened in a Hollywood movie, I would roll my eyes and groan at the trite obnoxiousness of it.

And now I feel practically defeated. I really want to be inspiring and hopeful, but honestly, I just feel sad. In truth, arthritis is terribly common, not life-threatening, and probably not such a big deal. Yeah, I got a big dose of it early, but having the diagnosis doesn't make the pain any worse or anything.

It's just that now I know what the pain means: that it is not something I can fix by strengthening the muscles around the joint and wearing orthotics - which was the prognosis for patella-femoral syndrome. It means it will get worse, and I am not allowed to run, or hike, or even walk if much if it causes pain.

It means, in spite of everything, in spite of all the hard work and determination, I cannot run.

To be fair, there are far worse things. And I have the very good fortune of qualifying for a reduced rate membership at the local Y, where I will be able to swim instead. I can still get healthy. And I plan to do my very best. I go there tomorrow for my orientation.

I don't have much of a bucket list, but one of the things I really want to do once is climb the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu. I've been working really hard to get in good shape with the aim of ending up doing that. I even envisioned carrying my old cane up there, like a battle standard, just because I can. Not running is a blow - but it wasn't until I thought about Macchu Pichu that it really sunk in.

And I admit it. I cried.

There should be a law: Thou shalt not get two chronic, life-limiting diagnoses in a single week.

So as I write this, I am waffling between self-pity and a dogged determination to not be all dramatic about it. I keep trying to jolly myself along - I mean if that guy could run in the Olympics without even having legs, surely I can find a way to run at my slow little "stayin' alive" gait eventually, right? There has to be a way.

But for now, I have to be realistic, and follow my doctor's orders. I gotta use the hand I was dealt, a 7-high unsuited collection of low cards. I'll have to be patient and work hard in order to draw a couple better cards. If I just run anyway, I might end up needing that cane again even to walk, rather than just not being allowed to run.

And I read all the replies you guys sent on my last post. So many wonderful, kind, supportive cheerleaders! Wishing me happy running, and even saying I was inspiring. One of you even told me s/he thinks of me often when running! And I was so touched by how wonderful you are and this community is. And it made me feel a little more hopeful.

Unfortunately, reading and writing about running would just be salt in the wound right now. So even though you guys are truly incredible, and I will miss being part of such a warm community, I feel the need to say goodbye for now. Perhaps in a few weeks or months or a couple of years, I will have found a way to get back to running. (Once I reach my goal weight, the stress on my joints could conceivably be low enough that I could run - or maybe I will have some successful surgery, or perhaps just get robot legs.)

I am not giving up on my health. I will be working my bum off. And using an elliptical trainer, imagining the birdsong and trees, and swimming, and doing special leg exercises. And even if I have to do it on leaf-springs or wheels, I will eventually run again. I look forward to seeing you all then, and thank you so much for being such good friends during this time.

I still wear my graduate badge with pride!

12 Replies

  • Sending you a huge hug. You are incredibly brave, and please don't give up. I hope all goes well with the swimming. You can still walk, and swimming and Pilates will help take the pressure off your knees. My father has the same condition and these help him. Please do keep in touch.

  • I wish you every success with your new adventure and of course your health.

    Perhaps you are just the person to to create a couch to 5k swimming course?

  • Oh hugs.... that sucks. For c25k style swimming, check out the ASA swimfit site. It has a bunch of graded progressive workouts that will take you from where you are up to swimming better and longer. They also have experts that will answer email enquiries. Maybe also see if your GP will give you a physio referal for the arthritis ?

  • So sorry to hear that. I know from reading your posts that you have amazing strength of character, and that you will do the best you possibly can in your situation. Good luck with everything, and thank you so much for the inspiration you have given. Big hugs and best wishes for the future.

  • Sad times Alaiyo, life has given you a bit of a kick in the teeth. Good luck for the future with your alternative fitness journey. Stay strong.

  • At this moment I am crying with you - it's such a disappointment to us all. Your posts are so lovely and inspiring and will be missed. However, if you really feel that it would be too hard and upsetting to log in here for a while then we must respect your wishes. I, for one, will miss you. Good luck with your swimming and I do hope you are able to run again in the future. Sending you a huge hug and my very best wishes.

  • you sound like that positive attitude will carry you through whatever life throws at you. Sorry to hear you have had such a hard week, we will miss you here, hope you can find a way forward that allows you to exercise and keep up that courageous attitude. Good luck :)

  • I hope you can feel up to keeping in touch on here, Alaiyo, as you're really inspiring to others. I'm out of action at the moment due to having treatment for breast cancer, and so I totally understand your feelings. I hope that you will be able to resume the programme at a future date, but if not, you certainly show a great determination to keep up your fitness levels. That's great! It really doesn't matter how we get there, as long as we do the best we can for our own health and fitness. Sometimes that means a change of plan/direction. Please keep in touch if you can and let us know how you're getting on. Take care and keep well.

  • You should continue to wear that badge with pride.

    I've had a challenge of my own, but small in relation to those you face. I found that to get through the dark days I would focus on small triumphs in something, anything that would give me a sense of achievement. Win on my own terms was (and still is) my mantra.

    I wish you well and you know that everyone here is with you.

  • Alaiyo I'm really sorry to hear this. I would however strongly suggest you get confirmation from someone with more specialist expertise than a GP (orthopaedic referral now?)

    However, even if this is really it for running for the foreseeable future, your C25K achievement is always there and we'll always remember you. Enjoy your swimming and cycling!

  • Oh, b*ll*cks. That's just not fair. I totally understand about not reading anymore. We will miss you. All the very best x

  • Oh dang it. I just posted how glad i was for you, cause i am all behindtimes. So, this sucks. But you will come through it, i am sure.

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