Tuesday, February 28, 2017

That butterfly in my throat

I remember when I finally was diagnosed with Graves' disease way back in my mid 20s. Once it was confirmed and my doctor and I decided on a course of treatment, I drove to the local middle school track and "ran" 2 miles. 

It was my first run in months. As I unknowingly became sicker and sicker, among other things, the muscles in my thighs and upper arms began to waste away. Even though I ran and worked out most days. One day I could run 10 miles. One day, I couldn't even run 1 mile. 

But when I understood that I was sick and that I would get well, I couldn't wait. And, so. I ran. 

Running. 

It's my middle finger to the universe. It's my couch time with a therapist. It's my personal time with God. It's how I fight. It's how I survive. 

I did get better. Temporarily. What I didn't know then that I know now is that Graves' is an autoimmune disease. The best I could ever hope for was times of remission. My future held a confirmed diagnosis of Hashimoto's (Graves' partner in crime) and a possibility of a whole host of other potential autoimmune conditions. 

Graves' and Hashimoto's attack the thyroid. They are the most common autoimmune diseases and somewhere around 20-30 million people are affected. There are lots and lots of ideas about why people get Graves' and/or Hashimoto's. Genes. Environment. Diet. Stress. Inflammation. It's not fatal. It can be debilitating. It's not curable.

I see myself as one of the lucky ones. After two separate bouts with Graves', I spent nearly 20 years mostly symptom free. Even after my doctor told me I now had Hashimoto's, I was drug free and healthy.

But then. I wasn't.

The past 3 years have been an ongoing conversation with my doctors (who have always been my advocates) trying to get it right. 

I will be fine for a while. Then, not fine. We change my medication. Fine again. Then, not. 

This. This is typical for Hashimoto's patients. I am in no way special. The twist in my own situation is the Graves' that preceded. Sometimes I'm hyperthyroid. Sometimes I'm hypothyroid. 

These days...I live for the in-between.

Each time I "get sick," it's different. This time, it's been reminiscent of those days nearly 30 years ago when I was so tired I could hardly drive home from work.

This time, though, I refuse to stop running.

I will not surrender to the weakness. The fatigue. The sore muscles. The painful joints. The depression.

Just over a year ago, I ran a marathon.

Seven months ago, I ran an ultra.

Today, I can barely run 5 minutes at a time. Some days, even 3 minutes is almost too hard. Three miles feels like a marathon. It takes me 40 minutes.

Today, my doctor changed my medication. It will take about 2 weeks before I can really know if I am feeling "better."

Tomorrow, I will run/walk 3 miles. Even if it takes 50 minutes. Then, I will do it again. And again. And again.

Take that, universe.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My "off" season

The last triathlon I did was in 2015. Last year, I ran a marathon and relayed an ultra. Threw in a 5k here or there. I sold my bikes. I swam almost never. The new year is shaping up to be even less structured and more random.

Let's hear it for an "off" season that lasts two year. Or maybe more.

It's a little bit weird. I almost always have had something to train for. Something I wanted to train for. But, these days, if I even so much as consider anything resembling a training plan, I immediately become relcacitrant.

For the first time in forever, I am without structure. Without a goal. I run 3-4 days most weeks. Sometimes more. Most of those runs are an hour or less. Sometimes I do speed work. Sometimes I get on the treadmill so I can do "hill" repeats (no hills in south Florida). I use the neighborhood gym to lift weights once or twice a week. I even use the 20-yard neighborhood pool to swim laps when the mood strikes. I'm still without a bike, so my helmet and bike shoes languish in the closet.

However, as weird as it feels, it's probably for the best. In the past 6 1/2 years, I have, essentially, hit "restart" five times. After my world was turned upside down when Richard died (1), I quit my job and took a sabbatical for about 2 years (2), started a new, entirely different job (3), sold my house and either sold or gave away at least 50% of what I owned and moved into an apartment (4), sold or gave away most of the rest of what I owned and moved to Florida to be near family, specifically my parents, and started an entirely different job that is (I hope) only temporary (5). Soon (I hope), I will have a new, full-time job with benefits and my own place to live. At which point (I hope), I can settle down and stay in one place with a somewhat established pattern for a while.

And in an ironic twist, I recently turned down a job offer in St. Petersburg, FL, for a number of reasons, one of which was that I felt I should stay closer to my parents in the Palm Beach area. They then let me know that they are likely selling their home and moving, quite possibly, to the St. Pete/Tampa area. I'm not sure which hashtag is more appropriate... #facepalm or #knifetoheart

With all of that and an uncertain horizon, I
don't need the distraction of formal training for a planned race. It would probably be self defeating, and I want to feel good about my running and working out. I need to at least have that.

I know there is a path somewhere. It is certainly not straight. Right now, for me, it resembles the mountain biking trails in Ridgeland. But I am holding out for a stretch of path that is smooth and straight.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11