Today I have a guest post by a fellow blogger, Sara. I began following her blog Words to Run By earlier this year and was immediately touched by her writing. In addition to her love of running and her struggle with weight loss (she is also a Weight Watcher), we both share the loss of a parent. And a year ago, she had a blood clot that turned her world upside down. I believe her story is an important one and asked her to share her story with you.
[More of] My Story By Sara A. Wyen
I was not born to run. In fact, I think I was born not to run and in high school I joined the marching band and in college the swim club in order to earn phys ed credits specifically without running. After graduation, I found myself overweight and my self-esteem had reached a new low. I knew something had to change when my doctor diagnosed me as pre-diabetic with not much time left to turn it around, but she stressed it could be done with diet, exercise and a genuine willingness to change.
I left the doctor’s office that day and by the end of the week, I committed myself to changing my lifestyle and losing the weight I had gained through running, nonetheless, as it was something I could do with little time, money and preparation. I couldn’t run for more than thirty seconds and was growing more and more frustrated with each step. I kept at it, though, and one afternoon, much to my surprise, I ran a mile and a half without stopping. I felt like I had accomplished something, and I felt better about myself for the first time in a long time.
I started running farther, a little at a time and the next thing I knew; I had signed up to train for a half marathon with a local running club. Over the next five months, my life was transformed before my eyes and the eyes of those who knew me too. I became not only thinner, but happier and more confident than I had been in years not to mention, healthier – my insulin levels greatly reduced putting me out of the diabetes-danger zone, much to the amazement of my doctor. Running really changed my life unlike anything ever had and for the first time I could recall, I felt completely free.
Running also changed the lives of my loved ones, including my mother who started running not long after I did. Through running, we developed a bond that was unlike any I we had previously shared. She was there for me at every finish line as my biggest (not to mention loudest) cheerleader. It only seemed natural that running was also what carried me through after her unexpected passing just two years ago. She went out for a four mile training run and never came back and that I could not understand, but I did find peace while continuing my own training that I couldn’t find anywhere else.
Not long after picking up the pieces from my mother’s death, everything, including running – which I used to cope through so many downfalls – was ripped completely from my life. I went for a quick two mile run on a Saturday and by Sunday night, I was admitted to the intensive care unit of the local hospital for reasons that were still unknown to me at that time. All I knew was that I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t walk and was in the most excruciating pain I had ever felt in my life. It was unknown if I would make it through the night due to the volatility of my vital organs. I closed my eyes that night – with the help of numerous pain medications- not knowing if I would open them in the morning.
But, I did and soon found out that the pain I was experiencing in my calf and left lung – which I attributed to plantar fasciitis and a muscle strain – were really due to a blood clot that formed in my leg (DVT), broke free and traveled through my heart, lodging in my left lung (PE) and leaving a path of destruction in it’s wake. I was lucky to be alive.
Much to my devastation, I left the hospital ten days after I was admitted unable to walk unassisted and with an oxygen tank. My life as I knew it, had been destroyed – I couldn’t run, couldn’t work, was in a great amount of pain that made no sense, and desperately wished my mother was there to make me feel better. The emotional effects were even more troubling – I felt alone, lost, scared and angry. Not many people understood what I had been through, nor would they ever.
Over the next days, weeks, and months I watched as life moved on without me. While my friends were running races, my colleagues working and my family enjoying everyday activities, I retreated within myself and not even that was safe. I constantly wondered why this had happened and if I would ever be able to breathe on my own, let alone run again. My life became a revolving routine of weekly blood draws, medication adjustments and doctor’s appointments. The doctors eventually determined that I had antiphospholipid syndrome – an autoimmune disorder that causes a person’s blood to clot and something I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. The news came as a shock, as well as my doctor’s declaration that my recovery would take one to two years at a minimum. Without running to cope, I began to wonder what would happen to me.
Over the next 14 months and to this day, I am on an emotional roller coaster, but little by little, my body is healing. My heart and lungs are repairing and rebuilding and the clot in my leg will hopefully start to stabilize, reducing the risk of a secondary clot. And, 363 days after being admitted to the hospital, I ran again – a slow, uncomfortable, breathless run, but I would run. And, it would be runs like that when the doctor’s voice would bubble up from my subconscious like a long-forgotten dream, “Running may have in fact saved your life. A body just doesn’t survive what yours did without some kind of prior ability to handle exceptional situations.”
I still have a long road of recovery ahead of me, but I now I have hope. At this point, the blood clot in my leg will never completely disappear and I will always have to be conscious of its existence. It is important that even though I am back on my feet, to keep the swelling down in that leg and monitor it closely for signs of a new or growing clot. Still, I have started running again – including my second first 5K this July, which I finished running. Not only has running changed my life, but it has saved it and I wouldn’t be where I am today – let alone alive – without the miles of pavement beneath my feet.
Leave some love for Sara here and let me know if you checked out her blog!