At age 37, after the birth of my youngest child, I discovered running. This is an interesting situation considering I was not an athlete in my younger days. Chasing the Mr. Softee truck down the street one time in Hoboken was the most exertion I’d put forth in my adult life. I generally avoided anything too sweat-inducing and preferred couch-flopping to anything that could be described as being rigorous. The sedentary seeds I’d sown produced fruit, specifically a pear-shaped fruit. I spent nearly two decades being overweight, borderline obese and in a state of general discontent with my health and appearance. However, when I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes in 2010 while pregnant with my son, I knew things had to change. Running became the catalyst for that change.
I used to write about the changes brought on by running in a little blog found here:
http://seasonsofchange73.blogspot.com/. Most of what is on this previous blog is about making changes to my life and health, and even my housekeeping. Unfortunately, I am still spinning my wheels in all of these areas, but not for reasons I would have expected. I hope you’ll go there and read a little bit about who I was when I started running in 2011. I really liked her but she’s presently in the midst of a bit of an unexpected detour, to be detailed below.
In November, 2015, I ran my first half marathon in Philadelphia. This was the culmination of over a year of training and running in several shorter races, including a 5K, 10K, 15K and 10 miler. At the top of my game? Yes! Feeling awesome, amazing and strong? For sure – that is until a little nagging discomfort began on my right side, sort of in the hip/leg area. I figured from the training I might be getting IT Band Syndrome or some other runner-type issue. You know, I do read Runner’s World magazine and I am on two Facebook Running Groups, so naturally I felt like a Big Running Expert.
At worst I thought maybe I had what people vaguely refer to as a “pinched nerve”. It was more of a nuisance than anything so I simply dismissed it and pressed on because I certainly didn’t have time to fool with that when an important thing like half marathon training was in progress. Sigh. This is a great example of how avoidance really does just lead to bigger disasters. It is also a great example of how reading and posting on Facebook running groups and reading Runner’s World don’t actually make you an expert on running injuries. Double sigh.
In the days and weeks after the glorious day of earning my 13.1 medal, I noticed that the discomfort that had been nagging before became more of an ache, and then a pain, and then a searing pain that traveled down my right leg. Alright, alright. I finally decided to go to the chiropractor to address it. I did and he ordered some X-rays and MRI scan to determine what was going on.
This is a great example of how avoidance really does just lead to bigger disasters.
Well, I’m no doctor, but I didn’t need to be one to realize something was seriously amiss when my MRI films were handed to me. They showed that something was clearly poking out from between my vertebrae and onto something that obviously didn’t like being poked. I later found out that it was a herniated disc between L5 and S1 (extreme lower back) protruding out and into my sciatic nerve. That explained the gradual discomfort to pain process I’d noticed.
What my not-so-sophisticated radiology skills didn’t see were two bulging discs above that, two kinds of stenosis, degenerative disc and joint disease and a 90% desiccation (shrinkage) of the disc that was herniated. In short, I was not the rock-star picture of health I had imagined myself to be. What in the what? I was feeling healthier, stronger and more confident than I ever had in my 20’s and 30’s and now I was essentially shambling about with the spine of an octogenarian?
Even less welcome than the diagnosis was the utterance of the chiropractor who, after clearly and thoroughly explaining the myriad of details about my scans, succinctly proclaimed “Your running days are over”. This was too much. Tears instantly sprang into my eyes and I shamelessly ugly cried right there in the chiropractor’s office for a few minutes until I was able to compose myself. This seemed like a death sentence. I mean HELLO….after living nearly 20 years as a complete slug, here I was running races and feeling like a boss and now I’m couchbound with an ice pack on my backside? There aren’t any medals for that.
The chiropractor said that while my training had likely not actually caused my injury, it could have hastened the process. He noted that this was probably a condition that was 15-20 years in the making and was emerging as the result of the pounding from running consistently for significant distances while training.
Obviously, I was having none of it and promptly kicked off a month-long pity party of alternately lying on the couch, icing, eating Cheez-Its and crying. And that was January 2016 in a nutshell. After all, I was dragging my carcass to work as a high school teacher every day and wasn’t financially able to take any significant period of time off to heal. My part time job, in addition to feeling sorry for myself, was trudging 3 times a week to the chiropractor for treatment. I had already decided that I wanted to pursue conservative treatment first because the thought of needles or surgery to my spine was not appealing, especially if I could avoid it.
Slowly, as the shock wore off and the Cheez-It crumbs were swept away, I came to my senses and realized that I should be grateful that this wasn’t cancer or some other terrible life-threatening illness and that I needed to get over myself. I began to seek God about this, since I had left Him off the invitation list to my pity party. At the end of church service one Sunday, I went forward for prayer. A good friend prayed for me to receive relief and healing.
I began to seek God about this, since I had left Him off the invitation list to my pity party.
As I strode back to my seat, in an attitude of eager anticipation of a miraculous healing, The Lord spoke into my heart as clearly as could be – “Not yet. I need to teach you obedience through this.” Well, as someone who had delusions of obedience, I did a bit of spiritual scoffing at such an idea. You know, like when you try to tell God what’s what, as if He could be fooled.
What would begin to unfold from there, and is currently still unfolding, is nothing short of an amazing testimony to God’s love, patience and grace. The lessons He has taught and is teaching me through this ordeal are truly incredible because I am learning so much about myself and about Him in the process. Romans 8:28, one of my favorite scriptures, says:
“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
We often hear this scripture quoted and use it to encourage people or rouse a good hearty “Amen” from someone. It sounds good, inspiring even. But when you are the one with the “things” that need to be “worked together”, and it seems impossible, unfair and overwhelming, it is harder to stand on that promise of scripture without teetering and plummeting into doubt. However, my spinal issues, which are at this moment giving me discomfort, have shown themselves to be a useful tool in God’s mighty arsenal of blessing. I will continue this story in a series in subsequent posts, as there is so much to explain and the story is still being written by the Author and Finisher of my faith. I’m learning that He is faithful and even “thorn in the flesh” can be a blessing if we simply trust in Him.