…stop running you fool.
Here’s the good news. For those of you who could care one iota about running, I won’t be hitting the pavement for a long time, so I may not be blogging much about it either.
Then again, I may need the catharsis because my dear husband encouraged me to get an MRI last Wednesday (I’ve been processing everything for over a week now), thinking that I may have taken the whole “no pain, no gain” thing too far. Further good news: The MRI showed that my piriformis is just fine, thank you very much.
And now for the not-so-good devastating-oh-my-gosh-how-am-I-going-to-survive-months-maybe-a-year-of-recovery news. Per the MRI I am the lucky recipient of:
- Partial tear left semimembranosus tendon at ischial tuberosity (AKA partial tear in the upper hamstring. If you search “worst running injury ever,” a forum will immediately pop up debating which injury takes the prize. Guess what? My lucky injury wins. Yay for me!)
- Reactive marrow edema left ischial tuberosity
- Proximal left hamstring muscle complex edema with no intramuscular hematoma or rupture at myotendinous junction
- Edema does surround left sciatic nerve
- Mild left femoral shaft periostitis (This lovely medical mumbo jumbo can lead to a stress fracture if I’m not careful.)
- Edema in the gluteus minimus bilaterally with possible partial tear of the tendon at the greater trochanter on the right (only partially imaged)
- Small scattered areas of muscle edema bilaterally likely delayed onset muscle soreness secondary to the recent race
Translation: My body is breaking down, and I won’t be running or doing much of anything for several weeks. Total recovery time is nebulous. I was given the range of eight weeks to one year. That’s 365 days. Yes, I cried me a river.
Last week I was angry and frustrated, too, because the first injury, in particular, is rare and not easy to treat. I’ve played the it’s not fair game. Well, of course it’s not fair. But it’s not fair that children are involved in human trafficking, and that brides are still getting burned in Asia. Or that people get cancer. Kids get cancer. It’s not even fair that my parents’ sweet dog/pet therapy superstar, Ivy, died yesterday. Maybe “Why me?” should really be “Why not me?”
There have been moments when I’ve wanted to scream and pound my fists because I feel like I am capable of so much more than my body is allowing me to do, but I’ve got to make peace with this broken body of mine.
I’m supposed to rest from all aerobic exercise, not just running, for several weeks, so I am afraid that I am going to turn into to a useless, energy-sapped lump, and all my muscles will atrophy. Yoga and Pilates – or anything that stretches that hamstring of mine – is off limits for the short-term, too. So I guess I’ll be doing lots of push-ups. Those don’t hurt.
Funny aside: Apparently the proximal hamstring injury is more common in elite athletes and older athletes (older than my 34 years). I was bemoaning this aloud when Madeline, my “glass-is-half-full” 8-year-old said, “Well, Mommy, that means you’re an elite athlete.” I was very grateful she didn’t say something about me being old.
Ann Voskamp wrote, “Patience is a surrendering to suffering — a willingness to wait — a carrying of the Cross.”
I have to embrace a willingness to look beyond myself and my real or perceived flaws, and then to just wait it out.
I want to take action and make this better. Now. I don’t want to believe the naysayers I’ve found on the Internet who say they’ve never been able to overcome their proximal hamstring injury. (Here’s some advice for anyone dealing with a sports-related injury or even a sickness: Do not read discussion boards or forums because you get the miracle stories and the hopeless ones. There are plenty of “in-betweens” who don’t share their journeys online.) But I am rendered powerless. All I can do is ice, rest, and wait.
Pray that I will wait with grace.
No Kiawah Half in December. No fun girly runs for several weeks, probably months. But I’m determined to make a comeback and to beat my 1:44 half marathon PR that I ran with a jalopy of a body.
But you know what? I must be nearing the acceptance phase of all this because I’m okay with it if I come back as a turtle. Slow and steady and healthy. Or even not at all. I will be okay if I never run another day in my life. I don’t think that’s the case, but I will be okay.
It was a wake-up call when even the physical therapist who is known in town for getting runners back on the streets or treadmills looks you in the eyes and tells you that rest is the very best thing for you right now. He tells you that the way he saw you running on the treadmill made him believe you were feeling pretty great. Now he knows I just push too hard. He also reassures you that your biomechanics aren’t messed up and that you’re probably sitting there injured because of over-training and perhaps not being more mindful of sleeping enough and eating enough. He reminds you that perfectionism is not the bar to set for you. If you want to be the best runner, mother, spouse, whatever, then it’s your idol because it’s impossible. Perfection is impossible.
Is “PERFECTIONIST” stamped on my forehead? Because more than massage therapy or stretching at my PT session yesterday I received a much-needed “come to Jesus” talk.
In this hardship I’ve seen how blessed I am. Since I don’t see my running peeps for workouts anymore, we met to crochet and knit. We’re cool like that. Two other dear friends left cards and care packages at my doorstep. They get it. They get me.
A dear, lifelong friend of mine who knew me during my eating disorder days recently had dinner with me, and she gently reminded me that I don’t have to perform at running or anything else. I know this has been a persistent theme over on this blog and in my life lately. I’m not sure why I’m struggling again, but the first step to overcoming these chronic feelings of inadequacy is to recognize them and to counter them. This same friend also said that I have a history of running myself in to the ground and that maybe this injury is God’s way of urging me slow down a little and to just soak up life in all its beautiful simplicity.
And, my friends, all this angst and emotion is not just about the running or lack thereof. Something is unfurling with in me at a much deeper level. I write to heal, so I’m writing. That’s all.
Have a happy and safe Halloween and a lovely Feast of All Saints. I hope to post some photos of tonight’s motley crew and tomorrow’s saintly crew.
I’ve written before about how seeing our bodies as instruments rather than objects goes a long way in boosting our body image. But what happens when despite our best efforts to take care of it, this instrument of ours doesn’t work properly? What then?
I was supposed to run a 15K today. In two weeks I am signed up to run a half. In 10 weeks I am signed up to run another half. This is my busy race season. I’d been feeling great during training. I’d suffered from an occasional twinge or pain here and there, but nothing I was worried about and nothing that kept me from lacing up my running shoes for more than a day or two. I had slacked off somewhat on my stretching and strength conditioning routine, but I’m a mother, not a professional athlete. There are only so many hours in the day.
Last Saturday I had an invigorating 11 mile run with my favorite running peeps. The air was brisk. I live in a college town, and it was the morning of a big game so even though it was early the campus we snaked our way through was a abuzz with energy. I felt great. Even close to the end when my legs were feeling a little heavy, I had enough left in me to sprint the final stretch. After the run, My family and I spent the day with good friends. I was active with the kids and didn’t feel a hint of soreness.
Sunday came, and it was a glorious fall day. I rounded up the entire family, dog included, for a family walk. The older girls and I sprinted up a few hills, and I remember thinking that my left bum felt a little sore. But, hey, I just did a long run yesterday. That’s all it is. My body’s a little tired.
That night I was sitting on the car on the way to the teen Mass when my left bum started aching. It hurt just to sit. I thought it was weird, but I figured it was a fluke. On Monday morning I woke up for a run with my pals, and it hurt to walk. I was foolish and decided to hit the pavement anyway. I figured I just needed to warm up even though I don’t usually feel stiff in the morning and am one of those obnoxiously spry people early in the morning who bounds out of bed. When I started running, I told my friend I’d have to go more slowly. I pushed through four miles while my bum screamed at me. One of my friends says that when her aches and pains talk to her, it’s okay to keep going but if they start screaming, it’s time to stop. I didn’t.
When I returned home, I started researching what could be causing the pain. At first, I thought I had piriformis syndrome, so I started using the pigeon stretch and massaging the area with a tennis ball. I decided to cross-train for the week until the race. I told myself I’d be fine. I tried to jog on a flat stretch of grass on Wednesday, which was another dumb move on my part. I’d said I wasn’t going to run, but it was so pretty out and I had a stretch of time while my oldest practiced soccer and my running shoes were on (I may have worn them on purpose as an excuse to run just a little). The run wasn’t terribly painful, but it wasn’t enjoyable either. Still, I was hopeful. I took a barre class on Thursday. I hit the Family Y for a Pilates class on Friday. I was determined to work my core, stretch, rehabilitate.
After the Pilates class, which has always made me feel better with any ache or injury I’ve endured, I came home and cried because I was feeling worse, not better at all. I’d tried to be careful and had been icing and stretching, but it was making no difference – or it was possibly making everything worse. I was suspicious that I wasn’t dealing with piriformis. My husband asked me what the differentials are for it. (I love it when he speaks doctor to me.) Upon further research, it seemed like my pain was more of the high hamstring tendinopathy variety. This made me cry more because this is not a common injury or an easy one to overcome, although my friend’s husband, who is an orthopedic surgeon, is far more optimistic than most of the literature I’ve read. There’s a little yay!
I’m stubborn, so I still picked up my race number. Then called my good friend and running partner and asked her for advice. She’s the one whose husband happens to be an orthopedic surgeon. I tried to get in to see one of his colleagues that Friday, but he wasn’t in clinic. So her kind husband came over, asked about my symptoms, did a brief examination and confirmed that I am likely suffering from high hamstring tendinopathy as well as hip bursitis.
I started to cry (again). I cried harder thinking how stupid I was being because it’s just running after all. I asked if I should run the race. “I know it’s important to you,” he said, “but I wouldn’t. It could pop.”
I briefly envisioned myself running my best race and going out there for all the glory and crawling across the finish line with a popped hamstring, but then I remembered I have two half marathons coming up so maybe I should be kind to my body and skip this race.
I cheered my friend on this morning along with the two older girls, her husband, and her two children. I was so happy to see her running and high-fiving us.
Then I returned home and cried some more. I’ve cried a ridiculous amount today. To be fair, I had been in a slump before the injury came down and in fact, after my therapeutic run last Saturday, I told my husband at least I had running as my Prozac. (I know, maybe my faith should be more of my Prozac.)
All the non-runners out there might think I’m crazy, and I have admittedly grown to love and yes, need my weekly runs. (Runners do tend to get addicted to their runs.) They give me energy. Since I run with good friends, my longer runs double as therapy. I feel like I am a better mom since starting my running routine again. Running also gives me a sense of accomplishment, and it’s been a hobby that has been easy to squeeze in around family life since I get up early to run before anyone else is even awake. It’s Mom’s thing. The kids know I run in the morning. I’m going to miss all of this tremendously. I’m going to try to see a regular physical therapist this week but from what I can gather, this kind of injury is stubborn and persistent and not something you should just run through, thinking it will get better. I’ve seen the recovery time listed at 8 to 12 weeks (ARGHHHH!!!!) and what’s worse, is I’m supposed to avoid any activity that bothers it. Sitting hurts. Rowing hurts. Walking hurts. Even the elliptical trainer, my go-to cross-training exercise, didn’t feel great. So I am afraid I am going to be reduced to a motionless lump. That will drive me crazy.
But it’s more than all that. I am sad that I am so sad about something as trivial as a running injury. Get over yourself, Katie. But above all, I am angry with my body. If it’s this lovely instrument I’m supposed to take care of – which I’ve worked so hard to do in the past year by training prudently, fueling it with healthy food, and aiming to get more sleep – then why is it so screwed up? Why can’t it just not get hurt when mentally I am tough and ready and aerobically I feel like I could go on for miles and miles? Then the ultimate thief of joy sneaks in and I start to compare. Why can’t I handle as many miles as so-and-so? What is wrong with my body?
I remember feeling a very similar twinge of inferiority when I suffered from my first miscarriage (only I was, of course, far sadder). What went wrong? Why was my body not able to keep this baby?
I know of a friend who could not, despite trying to do everything “right” and consulting with multiple lactation consultants, nurse her first two babies. She said it was awful how the shame crept in and how she questioned her body, even her maternity. I know of another woman who longed for a natural childbirth but ended up having to have several medical interventions. Hers was a clear cut case of needing modern medicine to keep her and her baby healthy and safe; yet, she mourned her labor experience for months and wondered why her body had failed her.
My own mom gets frustrated because her chronic pain sometimes prevents her from living the full life she imagined. Mentally, she wants to do more. Physically, she just can’t.
Disease, aging, injuries, even our own natural design (high hamstring tendinopathy is far more common in female runners), and so many factors simply out of our control start to make us question ourselves and our bodies.
As I type all this, my bum aches, and I’m angry, but I also know that this instrument of mine isn’t designed just to run races. I have to accept my body and its innate strengths – and its limitations. This body of mine may never live up to what I want or think it should look like or perform like, but I can’t punish it or berate it. I can’t stay in bed all day crying either.
This instrument has many purposes. I’ve been blessed to give birth naturally four times and to nurse four babies. Somehow I forgot all that as I wallowed in my pity, sobbing because I may have to sit this race season out. I also forgot something else. My body is a vehicle to live out a life of purpose – a life God purposes for me. That might include running, but what it most definitely includes is taking care of this family of mine and loving others. And I can do that even with a pinching pain-in-the-bum.
Our weight and our ability to run, nurse, or get pregnant should never rule our life. God should. Love should. Our bodies aren’t instruments to do just what we want them to do; they are instruments to do God’s will and to minister to others.
I can’t run or even sit for too long right now, but I can write a “just because” note to a friend. I can hug my children and nurse them, too. I can make a delicious meal for my husband. I can pet my dog. I can smile at the grocery store clerk. I can read story books aloud to eager, little ears. There’s so much I can do.
It’s going to be very, very difficult for me to not run, to not be with my dear friends in the early morning, and to perhaps have to give up my racing aspirations for this season (and lose all that money spent on race registration fees. Sigh.), but it’s not the end of the world, as my 8-year-old reminded me when I was sniveling this morning. It’s not the end of me either and what I have to offer to my family and to others. I’ve been knocked down, but it’s time to get up again.
That running pal of mine who ran the race today and ran it very well sent me a link to a blog post earlier this week before she even knew how down I was or just how bad my bum felt. She wasn’t running when she clicked “send,” but she was most definitely an instrument in God’s hands because when I read the post, I cried (happy, grateful tears not pitiful ones this time) because it was just what I needed to read at that moment. Because I felt broken. Spent. Hopeless. Because I was trying to rely on my own strength and was angry that it had failed me. Because maybe like the author wrote, “God isn’t interested in my strength. He is interested in my obedience in weakness. Do you hear that? God said enough with my hobbies and my preferences. Let’s see about her obedience and her faith.”
I definitely recommend reading the post in its entirety, but I’ll conclude with this snippet:
This broken feeling is only broken if it stays there. If it stops in self-pity. If it wallows in grief about the lost emotions of our journaling days. But this is richer. When we seek His joy instead of our own, when we lay our best on His altar, and we have nothing left for ourselves, that is when we are truly accomplishing His purpose in our lives.
We are not broken. We are being healed. We are not alone. We are in His hands. We are not overwhelmed. We have a champion. We are not stupid. We are being made wise. We are not weak. For He is not weak. We are not hopeless. For we are His.
Now it’s time to get out of bed and jump – slowly and carefully so as to not injure this ridiculous body of mine – into life!
Ah, the dog days of summer are nearly behind us. And I couldn’t be happier. Summer break? It was more like summer hell. Or at least summer purgatory. The living most definitely wasn’t easy. But easy isn’t always better. Thanks to this summer, we will have some great stories to tell for years to come. Our kids will one day recount to their own children about the legendary summer of 2013 when Rachel was diagnosed with mono; Thomas broke his tibia while sliding down a slide on Gaba’s lap when we were in Illinois for a wedding we drove 13ish hours to attend and Thomas, Dave, and I missed the ceremony since we were stuck at the ER for four hours; the basement flooded…three times; the refrigerator went kaput and incompetent service meant we lived out of a cooler for two weeks until we finally realized we just needed to buy an extra refrigerator/freezer for the basement given our family size any way. And then there were the bats. And the 35 rabies shots.
Picture this: My husband is on call working late. I arrive home at around 10 pm after spending the day at my parents’ house visiting with my cousin and her family who are in town from Texas. Three out of four kids are sound asleep. One by one I quietly transport them from the minivan into a cozy cocoon of blankets on their beds. I don’t know if I’m just tired, but I don’t notice anything out of the ordinary – yet. My oldest is hungry. I know it’s probably a stalling tactic, but I tell her to get herself a bowl of cereal. I go to grab a few bags from the hallway. In my peripheral, I see something hop. I turn my head and see a black thing on the ground. I can’t turn on the lights because we also had some weird electrical problem arise this summer that meant half our lights weren’t working. I tell Madeline I think there might be a frog in the house. This seems a little odd, but we did once have a snake in the laundry room. Frogs, I can handle. I am not a particularly squeamish person when it comes to critters. I start heading for the kitchen to grab my phone so I can use the flashlight app but as I’m walking I see some other creature on the ground, and I hop over it, not wanting to step on whatever the thing is. I turn around to examine it, wondering what the heck is going on because it looks like it might be a dead mouse. A frog and a mouse in the house? Only upon closer examination, I see that it’s not dead and it isn’t a mouse. It raises its head and then stretches out a webbed wing. Holy batman (again)! Meanwhile, our dog is sleeping in one of her favorite spots beneath the dining room table impervious to the fact that small, flying mammals have infiltrated our home. I turn to get Madeline and see another bat swooping about in the kitchen. Seconds later Madeline is screaming from my bedroom, “There’s a bat in the house!!!!”
No, Honey, there are at least four bats in the house.
I call my husband. He can’t talk long because of his work situation. He suggests I use a tennis racket and get them out.
Are you nuts? I can’t recall if I said that aloud to him or not. Later when he returns home and finds the flying creatures, he agrees he was not really in touch with what was actually transpiring in our home.
Next I call my good friend, who is also my neighbor, since she had some bats in the walls of her house and basement just a week or so ago. (Yes, it turns out our street had a little problem with a bat infestation this summer. We were the only lucky ones to actually have them hanging out in our living quarters.) She is out of town with her boys but immediately invites us to stay at her house for the night. Her husband soon shows up and helps me evacuate sleepy, disoriented children. It takes some convincing to get Madeline to come out from her hiding place. She was still burrowed into my covers and screaming. I kind of feel like doing that, too, but I keep it together. Later we find out that Dave (my neighbor’s husband and our rescuer) saw bats flying in the room where Mary Elizabeth was sleeping, but he didn’t want to freak me out any further. Thank you for that.
We are refugees, fleeing our bat-ridden house with only a few belongings. Even though Layla (the dog) has her rabies shots, she comes along, too. I call my husband again and tell him what room we’re sleeping in, but he says he’ll be fine at home. Whatever, I think. A little after 2 a.m. the guest bedroom door at my friend/neighbor’s house creaks opens. It’s my Dave standing there.
“Oh, you decided to join us.”
“I’m not sleeping in there,” he says. “There” being our home turned bat cave.
Long story short, we caught seven live bats in our home. Dave stayed with our neighbors since he had to work, but the kids, Layla, and I retreated to Nana and Pop’s house for a few days. My husband consulted with myriad experts – the CDC, the health department, our personal pediatrician, the director of emergency medicine at a local hospital – and all unanimously agreed that we needed to get rabies vaccinations as a precautionary measure. Young children have died from rabies after a bat exposure even though there was no noticeable bite mark. This was a risk we could not take. Rabies shots are not cheap. We paid thousands of dollars out of pocket, but the insurance covered the rest. The total cost for our family was over $30,000. I wish we were dogs. The first shot series meant 19 shots total for us. It’s based on weight, and my poor, tall husband got five shots that first day. We had four more series of shots for a whopping total of 35 shots for our family. The kids were troupers. A new, fun imaginary game my 4-year-old and 2-year-old (yup, Thomas is 2; I just haven’t gotten around to sharing his birthday letter here, although I have written it) like to play is “let’s-give-Mommy-lots-of-shots-because-of-the-bats.”
On the first day we got shots (and were at the hospital for three hours because of paperwork, etc.) we saw our neighborhood mail carrier. “You look so nice,” she told Madeline who was wearing an airy sundress.
“Thank you. We just went to get our rabies shots.”
Cue our big, black dog barreling out the front door. “We had bats in the house,” I quickly explain. “It’s not Layla. She’s not Cujo. She’s fine.”
Two employers from the health department paid a visit to our street passing out pamphlets about bats and rabies. We’re famous! I was waiting for the guys in white suits to show up a la E.T. and whisk us away.
We had an excellent expert, whom I referred to as the bat guy, seal up our house. My husband discovered how the bats, which were only juveniles, got into our home. One of the kids had opened and not closed a small door in a closet upstairs that connects to the attic space. Juvenile bats follow air currents and get confused, so that’s how they ended up in our house. One got trapped behind a built-in bookcase, so we had a disgusting smell wafting through our home. Unfortunately, that unlucky bat wasn’t the only mammal to get trapped in the home. We had the bat guy seal off an unfinished portion of our basement as well. We came home one day after being out of town to a horrendous, putrid smell. It turns out a small oppossum had chewed through some insulation had gotten stuck once the basement was sealed off. The critter died right near an opening to our air vent. My poor husband had to retrieve the decaying animal and get it out. He slipped on rubber grubs and armed himself with a half dozen trash bags and a shovel and said, “I’m off to do my manly duty.”
I love that man.
I never want to see another wild animal in our home again.
On a side note, I have nothing against bats. I like watching them swoop in the dusk sky. They’re fascinating creatures – the only true flying mammals. I was very upset that it took animal control services two days to come pick up the live bats from our porch. My husband used some of our Tupperware to store the critters and cracked open the tops periodically to make sure they had enough air. Bats are good creatures to have around because a single bat is typically able to consume one-third of its body weight in insects each night. I just don’t want Stellaluna in our bedrooms. (Just to be clear, I realize we didn’t have fruit bats in our house like Stellaluna.)
When we were forced to flee our home, I couldn’t help but think of real refugees and how lucky we were to just be leaving because of some nocturnal mammals hanging out in our abode. We had a safe place to go to, and I knew we’d return home soon enough. I joked with one of my closest friends that none of this was that big of a deal. “We have developed world problems,” I said.
My sweet friend who has volunteered in places like Africa, India, and South America said, “Having bats in your home and having to get rabies shots is a little more than that. A developed world problem is losing followers on Pinterest.” Thank you, dear friend, for giving me permission to feel a little frazzled.
So that’s my summer recap. You can’t make this stuff up, but just in case you think I might have, here’s some photographic evidence: