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!


Vern ~ Inspired said...

Yahoo indeed!!
How cool that you are running again!!!

Love ya!

Carla Burke said...

That is awesome!!! You go Allison. Look for me in the fall. I'm waiting on the weather to cool down.