Saturday, June 27, 2009

Running Again...YAHOO!

About six years ago I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the joint connective tissue. Unlike Osteoarthritis which is the kind of arthritis you see in the elderly, RA attacks the entire body including in worst case scenarios the sack that holds the heart, and other internal organs. RA causes severe joint pain and fatigue, it's not a pretty picture to say the least.

At the time of my diagnosis I was in training to run my first marathon. I had been running pretty well for about a year and a half, and had started competing in some local 5k and 10k runs. It was empowering for me, even though I was slow, to cross the finish line knowing that in my own little world I had accomplished something that was quite simply just for me. The diagnosis was devastating, or course I know there are worse things, but it seemed a cruel punishment to force me out of an activity that I had come to love so much. The doctor ordered me to stop running immediately, which in a way I couldn't argue with since I was really quite ill. But the stubborn streak in me said internally, "Fine, I'll stop...for now." I didn't know that it would be six years before I would get to run again.

I've always been athetic, and used to dance but running was my love and I mourned having to give it up. I didn't do anything for an entire year even though I had been told I could do other non-impact activities like swimming and yoga. No offense, but after you've had that runner's high, swimming and yoga don't quite cut it, at least for me. So, after about a year I got off the couch and started walking my neighborhood, then bought an elliptical trainer and I confess, I was hooked.

But here's the thing, I have never gotten running out of my system. There is something about the mind numbing pace that takes over my brain that allows me to mentally check out. I love the rhythm and the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I love the even sound of my breathing as I ease into the middle miles of a long run and the tightness in my chest when I know I'm pushing for a strong finish. I love the early morning runs that allow me to catch the sun coming up, and the late evening summer time runs when I say goodnight to the day. It's one of the most exhilarating activities I can imagine and I'm happy to say that I get to start again.
It took two years for my arthritis symptoms to go away. I was under the care of a very good rheumatologist who cautioned me that even though I was feeling better, "You're never going to be cured." I spent the next three years visiting the same doctor only to see that all my tests were coming back negative and I was feeling fine. I often left the appointments wondering if I was feeling so good, and my tests were negative, was I really sick at all?
Finally I decided to pursue a second opinion and visited a new rheumatologist who had a completely different perspective. He ran, I swear, every blood pathology test you can imagine, taking ten vials of my blood. And took approximately 20 xrays of my hands, feet, and pelvis. The idea was to start at the beginning again.

It turns out that all my xrays are normal, no RA progression, no signs of any connective tissue deterioration and all my bloodwork came back normal accept I'm anemic and low on vitamin D. Apparently six years ago when I was training for the marathon I had Epstein Bar Virus aka: Mono, and that wreaked havoc on my autoimmune system producing a false positive for Rheumatoid Arthritis. So, I'll take a little iron, and a vitamin D supplement and continue seeing my doctor on a regular basis to check in.

The good news is...I ran three solid miles this morning. Not a lot but it's a start, and I'm feeling good!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Finding my brain again.

The last few weeks have been a blur of activity. Last day of school, fifth grade graduation, preparing for company, then having company, then recovering from having company to now getting ready to leave for six weeks. Somewhere in there I think I lost my capacity to think clearly much less have any kind of creative thought. All these events were fun and exciting. I felt like we were on our own little staycation while our company was here. In fact I cleared my calendar of anything that resembled responsibility so that I could fully engage my sister in law and her family. It was great, we had a super fun time measured by the fact that once our house was empty again it took two full days of doing absolutely nothing for me to feel like I had caught up on my sleep again. Maybe a little too much fun?? Nahh.

Now almost a week later I'm trying to find my brain again. I can feel the pull in my heart to be productive again, to be creative again and to put words to my thoughts again. At the beginning of the month I deeply craved some time off, and I got that with our company and the fun things we did. Now I realize that it's time to turn my brain on again and get to work. The problem is...I can't find my brain. I'll let you know when it turns up. Meanwhile, I'm going to start packing suitcases for our trip to Washington...stay tuned. It's bound to turn up sooner or later.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What kind of friend are you?

What kind of friend are you?

I was thinking today that I want to be the kind of friend that listens first and asks questions later. I want to be the kind of friend that gives the benefit of the doubt, doesn't pass judgement, offers input only when asked, meets someone halfway and forgives quickly never holding a grudge. I confess that this is my wishlist because I know I'm not these things, and in fact can be quite lazy in my friendships, always being the one who needs filling up but not doing a very good job of filling anyone else. Probably if you asked my friends if I meet any of the aforementioned criteria they would tell you that I most likely interrupt, ask a lot of questions, analyze everything, give input no matter what, can be quite judgemental and have in fact held grudges. But I think they would also tell you that I love them, that I try to be a good listener and that more often than not I'm going to tell them the truth. I'm definitely not perfect, just being real with you.

I find myself on the receiving end of such grace and mercy all the time and it just blows my mind. It's amazing to me the set of friends God has given me, in spite of myself. I'm truly thankful for them, and would not be the same person I am without them. I learn something from each one of them almost every single day. How to be more loving, giving, understanding, gracious, caring...the list goes on and on. I supposed God knows exactly what I need and who best to deliver it because more often then not one of my sweet friends will deliver the exact learning that I needed. And sometimes it's not exactly what I want to hear. But that's what friends do right? We teach each other, we hold each other accountable and we stand in the gap for each other when we feel like we don't have the energy of strength to stand up for ourselves. I've been on the receiving end of that kind of love and believe me, there is nothing like friends who will love you no matter what.

So I look at my friends and I hold them in high esteem, I want to love them the way they have loved me. I want to stand in the gap for them, and care for them regardless of their circumstance. That's what Jesus does, he's there all the time when we need him, never turns his back, never tells us he can't love us because we made the wrong decision or did a bad thing. He forgives us, shows us mercy and gives us grace. He makes us a priority, he chooses us because He loves us all the time.

That's the kind of friend I want to be. How about you?