Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Only the Lonely

I'm an extrovert who enjoys having people around. Sure I need alone time to recharge, but I like being social and busy. My husband and I fill our calendar with friends, travel and fun events, and we love it that way. But there is one secret about living with a chronic illness I'd like to share with you: at times I feel completely alone. It doesn't matter how many text messages I receive, visitors at the hospital, flowers, cards or notes. I feel utterly alone in a sea full of people I love and well wishers.

Back in October I wrote a blog proclaiming that women don't have the luxury of being sick. I stand by that premise. After my last hospitalization I'd even go a step further and say the chronically ill don't have the luxury of being sick. I don't have a disease where I look sick. When you look at me you see healthy, and that's what I want you to see. Even on my sickest days I can still pull it off like I feel well. Should I stop pretending? Is that the answer? I don't think so because I also don't want to be seen as a sick person. But is there a middle ground, some sort of modicum of understanding where people can look at me and think, "Damn she looks amazing but I know she's not 100 percent". That's what I want. Is that too much to ask?

It's been a week since I got out of the hospital. I'm feeling relatively normal. I've made it through two days without a nap, but I'm falling asleep by 9 pm. The swelling in my stomach has pretty much gone away, and my decreased food intake has led to losing ten pounds in a week (the upside of Crohn's!) But it's not a strong ten pound weight loss. I feel weak. I feel exhausted. I went back to work on Monday, four days after I was released from the hospital, because that's what I'm supposed to do. I left my house at 6:15 am to make an 8 am breakfast meeting. The two attorneys with whom I was meeting did not know about my hospital stay. The one gentlemen, who I haven't seen in a few years, hugged me and said, "You look great. You look so successful." I beamed with pride because that's how I want to look. He didn't know that my new pants that I love and last week fit like a glove were hanging off because of my rapid weight loss. I can dress my body like a champ despite weigh gain or loss. It's one of my Crohn's super powers.

Three days out of the hospital. Visiting the zoo on a beautiful day. Like you do.
But a few hours later when someone who knew about my hospitalization also said I looked great and then we discussed a giant list of things for me to work on this week, it felt different. I felt like I don't have the luxury of being sick. It's well established that I'll push myself way beyond my limits, but maybe, just maybe I'd like to have a little slack. 

This morning as I was rushing around to get ready for a morning meeting my husband said, "Please slow down." I looked at him and earnestly said, "You know I don't get that option". For the first time he nodded and said, "I know", and I didn't feel as alone. As much as people in the professional world want to and pretend to understand, they will only tolerate chronic illness to a certain point. I've encountered this my entire career, and I doubt it will change. To my face I get "please relax and get better" immediately followed by "but also do this, this and this". And I want to do these tasks. I've worked the entire time during every hospital stay I've had in the last three years. I've let nothing slip through the cracks. But I constantly have to overcome the perception that I'm sick. 

My husband is the most amazing, understanding and supportive human in the world. I cannot even find the words to describe how incredible he is. He's constantly on me to relax, and he will take everything he can off my plate. But we have a two-year-old son who wants Mommy. We had a toddler who has been insanely needy ever since I got home from the hospital, and I don't want him to feel like I'm not around and present. Even with my husband carrying the entire load of our family on his back while I'm out, I still feel pressure. It's not pressure from him but pressure to still be healthy. I don't want to be a sick mom or sick wife. 

My husband took this photo four days after I got out of the hospital. I look exhausted.
All this pressure and pushing, both personally and professionally, makes me feel lonely. It makes me feel like there's nobody in the world who gets how I'm feeling. When people ask how I'm feeling I don't want to say, "I'm f*cking exhausted and it hurts to digest food." I want to say, "I'm great" and mean it. But trying to walk that line of being honest without being whiny or negative is a hard one. 

My bowel obstruction has made me entirely rethink my diet and caffeine drinking habits. I'm actually feeling more positive and energized than I have in a while. Dodging the surgery bullet has me feeling hopeful and like I was given a second chance. I am so grateful for my family and friends and colleagues. While recovery can be a frustrating and lonely process, I know that I have an incredible amount of support. Bear with me while I'm feeling crabby and figuring it out. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

When Good Snacks go Bad

As a Crohn's patient without a colon a diet for me that is "healthy" is different than the average person's healthy diet. Most Crohn's nutritionists suggest avoiding multi-grain or wheat bread or brown rice, and I imagine most healthy eaters don't eat white bread or rice. 

I can't really eat a lot of raw fruits and vegetables. Things that are healthy for most people - strawberries, broccoli, carrots, blueberries, apples, nuts, leafy greens - are all things that make me sick. Don't get me wrong: I'm often seen eating those things and think screw it because they're delicious, and I really want some broccoli! Apples are one of the hardest to avoid. I really love apples, and eating them is pretty much like eating tiny knives. It's not the best plan. 

When people tell me they're giving up carbs I realize that would be impossible for me. Giving up meat would also be very challenging because of my intolerance for beans or other proteins in large quantities. In the last decade or so I've gotten very complacent and pretty much eat whatever I want. I know a yogurt parfait with blueberries and granola will make me sick, but I'll chance it because it sounds delicious. I should not eat broccoli with Chinese food and yet often do because broccoli is amazing. I love chili but eating a lot of beans rarely goes well. Despite knowing all of these things I've largely ignored the discomfort over the history of my disease. Sometimes I'll cut back and eat less of things that make me sick, but other than seeds (the devil) I don't outwardly avoid anything. My Crohn's has not been concentrated in my small intestine, so the stomach upset is often minor. I've justified eating these things quite well.

My husband and I have oddly not been traveling this winter, so we've been able to spend lots of quality time with friends and time at home simply being together. On Thursday last week we had two of our best friends over. We ordered in barbeque and had drinks and lots of laughs. When they left I was thinking of how lucky we are to have such great friends.

The next evening I threw a three-bean chili in the crockpot and had another friend over. We sipped from our fanciest bourbons and ate too much chili (which was, if I do say so myself, delicious). We had another great evening with a good friend, and I was marveling at how nice it is to stay home and catch up with our friends.

Saturday started as a great day. It's been really warm for Michigan in February (thanks climate change!), so we went for a family walk (our dog really needs some help in the waistline department). Afterward I went for a steady three mile run that felt great. I then decided to eat some baby carrots because 1) carrots are delicious and 2) they're a healthy snack. I didn't eat much for lunch - just some chips and salsa. Lunch of champions!

As the day wore on I was having some stomach discomfort, but that happens sometimes when I eat raw veggies. We went to the grocery store and did things around the house, and I began feeling progressively worse. We had dinner plans at 6:15, and canceling them was never an option. Around 5 pm I told my husband I needed to lie down for a few minutes because my stomach was really hurting. I pushed myself to get dressed and go to dinner where I ate a lot of my food because food is delicious. By the time dinner was over I recognized my pain from having it twice before: bowel obstruction.

We stopped by the store and bought Milk of Magnesia on the way home. I thought maybe that would be a catalyst to move things along. I took it at 9 pm. Nothing happened. By midnight I was in so much pain and was so nauseous I knew it wouldn't get better. I got dressed, woke my husband and told him I was going to the ER (about a mile and a half from our house). He wanted to come with me but there was no way we were waking our toddler to go to the ER in the middle of the night. I walked into my son's room and sobbed while I watched his precious face sleeping. I don't want him to have a sick mom. I don't want this to be a recurring situation. 

As soon as I checked into the ER I began vomiting and didn't stop until my IV was inserted and they gave me anti-nausea mediation. A CT scan showed a small bowel obstruction. The challenge with patients who've had as many surgeries as I have is that every time they do surgery they create more scar tissue and more possibilities of an obstruction. It's got to be the last resort.

They decided to insert a nasogastric (NG) tube into my nose. This tube goes through your nose, down your throat and into your stomach. The idea is that it will suck out whatever isn't moving and hopefully clear the obstruction that way. I've woken up from four of my surgeries with a NG tube, and they're not comfortable. Do you want to know what's worse? Having one inserted when you're awake. It's awful. 


NG tube insertion = the worst
With NG tube inserted and morphine and Zofran (anti-nausea) on rotation they admitted me to the hospital Sunday morning to wait. I threw up twice on Sunday with the NG tube in, something that's not supposed to happen. And I was throwing up those f*cking baby carrots so I knew the culprit. Sunday was a rough day, and I was convinced I was heading toward surgery.

In the bowel obstruction world pooping is huge, so every time anyone walked in that's the question they asked. Finally on Monday I had some movement, and on Tuesday they advanced me to clear liquids and then a soft food diet.

Today we see how I tolerate soft foods. Nobody has said the word "home" even once, so I have no idea when that might happen. I do know they want to be extra cautious and make sure the obstruction is entirely cleared before sending me out of here.





Celebrating Valentine's Day with my fam at the hospital. My little dude is used to room service, so he liked eating his dinner on my hospital tray.
Now I wait. I've been sleeping an insane amount and just being still. I never do that, so it's nice to have a quiet room with no distractions. Fingers crossed that I'm avoiding surgery, but I won't believe it until the doctor says it for certain. And from now on all of my snacks will be fattening ones full of carbs. Doctor's orders. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Don't Call it a Comeback

The last week feels like a week of comebacks: personally (running, focusing on family and friends) and professionally. I've had rough go since October with frustrating health issues that have threatened to overtake every other aspect of my life, but in the last week I feel like I've regained previously elusive control. 

Four months may not seem like that long to not run a race, but it's felt like forever. Maybe it's simply the magnitude of how crummy I've felt, but it seems like I haven't raced in ages. While I love running alone, nothing beats joining a group of fellow runners to push ourselves on race day. Whether it's 3.1 miles or 26.2, the excitement never gets old. 

My friend Nikki and I registered to run a 10k together back in October, and my surprise surgery threw a wrench in it. We haven't been running together lately (mostly because I haven't been running at all), so this race was fulfilling both my running and friendship needs. I had a rough Crohn's day on Saturday, and my husband was not amused that I was still planning to run on Sunday morning. But I felt better when I woke up, and my soul needed it even more than my body. 

The last two years I've won my age group at the Super Bowl 5k, but I knew that wouldn't be the case this year. This year I'm focusing on feeling strong; not the number of miles I'm running or speed. I pushed myself hard during the race, and Nikki graciously stayed with me even though she can run much faster. I ran a respectable 25:15, and I felt like myself again. 

I made myself smile. I did not feel like it. 
Afterward we spent an hour catching up over coffee: talking about work, our boys, our husbands. We worked together for eight years, and our chats happened daily (although not usually so long). Now I relish these times when we get together and dish about anything and everything. My heart is happy.

Last week was also a fantastic one professionally. On the second day of my new job last fall I ran into a respected municipal attorney with whom I'd worked for years at a large event for local government officials. He congratulated me on the new position. As we clinked glasses he said, "Welcome to the outside; to the vendor world." Then he quipped that working for a membership association (which I'd done for 8.5 years) makes staff feel like they're on the inside, but in reality cities are paying dues. He opined that really I'd been a vendor all along and didn't know it.

I have to admit I felt hurt by it. I had poured my entire heart and soul into representing Michigan's communities. These were my people. Of course I was on the inside. But that comment has stuck with me. As I attended the Michigan Municipal Executives conference last week (comprised of city, village, township and county managers), I wondered how they'd perceive me. Would they see me as an insider, as an outsider in a vendor role or had I really been on the outside all along?

The week shattered any and all notions of my being an outsider. From the very first reception I was greeted with hugs and jokes, and it was as if I'd never left. I had come home. I had the best week, and I realized that my feeling like part of the team has nothing to do with where I work. It is tied to my passion for making communities better. It is rooted in the relationships I've spent years building. That conference is one of my favorites, and as I have for years I left feeling inspired by the work these men and women are doing. One manager told me the conference felt "normal" again with me there. Another said I was doing a great job mentoring young female managers, and they were taking in everything I said and did. It was so gratifying to be with my people again.

Hanging out with a few of my favs in Kalamazoo
Crohn's can wreak havoc on your body and your mind. But in the last week I feel like myself again for the first time since my major issues in October. I feel like a runner, like a good friend, and like an advocate for strong communities. I was always those things, but it's good to be reminded of it. Don't call it a comeback; I've been here for years. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Will I Ever Sleep Again?

I've come up with the perfect illicit relationship. I've been joking about it for a long time, but I think I need to pull the trigger. Here it is: I want to get a hotel room near my house (I am thinking the Radisson in Downtown Lansing less than a mile away). I want to go there during the day and have my secret affair...with sleep. Sweet, glorious sleep. 

One might ask why I can't nap (or sleep) at home. I can, and I occasionally do. But do you know what the Radisson has that my home doesn't? Silence. And no distractions. There's no laundry to be done, no dishes to put away, no play room to tidy. I know this from traveling for work - a hotel room is the only place where it's truly silent and I can relax. I never turn on the television in a hotel room, and it's blissfully quiet.

I expected to be exhausted when we had a baby. I prepared for it mentally knowing that I'd never really know that sleep deprivation is like until it was thrust upon me. Honestly those first few months when I was getting the least amount of sleep weren't that bad. Sure I was barely sleeping and exhausted, and I felt like I had sand in my eyes. But I was supposed to be that tired. I was caring for a small, helpless human who was sleeping like small, helpless humans do, in two hour increments. 


This photo was taken at 2 months old, after his first hotel stay where he did not sleep at all. I remember that but I remember the snuggles more. 
I'd waited so long to be a mom that I promised myself I'd never complain. I remember being awake in the middle of the night and looking down at this little wonder and feeling so grateful. Even now in my exhausted state I still feel eternally grateful and wouldn't change a minute. But I would like more sleep. 

Will has always been an awesome sleeper, and I cannot complain. He has always gone down easily without rocking or multiple attempts. He slept through the night relatively quickly. He's always been an early riser, and if he sleeps until 6 am I consider us lucky. I've gotten up at 6 am for years, so how is this different?

Despite his being a relatively good sleeper, when my son turned about 18 months old, the exhaustion hit me like a ton of bricks. All of a sudden those months of sleeping less, waking early, and less quality sleep smacked me in the face and I felt completely spent. Add to that my Crohn's issues and anemia (I've had six iron infusions since my son was born including four this year since August) and I'm tired. I'm really, really drained.

I've noticed I've started to look tired too. I have bags under my eyes that are harder to conceal. I feel slower. I feel less motivated. This job - being a mom - is the most phenomenal job in the world. And I'm worn out.


How I look most days at home: headband, no makeup, bags under eyes..
Writing this blog, under eye concealer doing its work. 


Last night I was lying awake in the middle of the night composing this blog in my head. My husband's snoring woke me up, and I went to the guest room at 3 am. My cat was chasing my other cat. My dog chose 2:30 am to eat the treats in her Kong. My son was the only thing not keeping me awake, but when he started yelling "Mommy!" at 6 am I felt like I had gotten 15 minutes of sleep. 

I'm not sure if or when I will begin sleeping well again. Maybe this is my new normal, and if so that's okay. It's worth it to be able to be this great little dude's mom. I'm slowly getting my Crohn's Disease under control again, and that'll help too. In the meantime if you see me in the Radisson please look the other way. Pretend you don't see me as I sneak to my napatorium. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Where I Come From

Try to tell me a West Virginia joke I haven't heard. Go on...I'll wait. It's hilarious; I get it. How do I have shoes? And teeth? And I married someone who isn't my brother? These jokes are so novel! I proudly went to West Virginia University and bleed old gold and blue. No, I've never burned a couch. It's just too easy for you, isn't it? 

Last week I finished the J.D. Vance's brilliant book, Hillbilly Elegy. It is an insightful look at hillbilly culture. But before reading it I would vehemently argue that I am not a hillbilly. Despite having a lovely, safe childhood in a town that was idyllic in a lot of ways, I've fought back against where I come from. It's not because I'm not proud of it, but it's because from the time I was a child I thought I was more. Ultimately that's what hillbilly parents (and all parents) want for their children: more than they had. I was raised by two kick ass parents, a coal miner and homemaker, who worked their tails off so that our lives were easy. My three siblings and I all graduated from college. Two of us have advanced degrees. Even now that I objectively know my parents struggled financially at times, I didn't want for anything. 

Reading Vance's book felt equally familiar and unfamiliar. We did call our paternal grandmother "Mamaw", something northerners do not do. I still call an El Camino a "car truck" because, for real, what else would you call it? I spent summers playing in the woods behind my grandparents' house climbing trees and playing in the creek catching crawldads (crayfish for those of you who don't speak Redneck.) It still takes effort to say the word "dog" like it doesn't contain the letter 'w'.

I am a master at what I'd call hillbilly loyalty. Loyalty is like trust; it must be earned. I have two speeds of loyalty: I will throw myself in front of a train for you, or I'll carelessly cut you and laugh while you're bleeding. There is no in between. If I have not been loyal to you, it is because you did not earn and do not deserve my loyalty. It's quite simple. 

Like Vance and those who leave their Appalachian hometowns, I am sure there are those who think I've forgotten where I come from, and to some extent they are right. But I loved growing up in West Virginia, and after more than a decade in Michigan when I talk about "home" I do not mean Lansing, Michigan. I mean West Virginia.

My parents moved from my hometown of Hundred, WV to Morgantown (where I went to college and law school) in 2006, and I've only visited my hometown a handful of times in the last eleven years. Hundred feels foreign to me, like a place I used to know. And I've forsaken it for sure. When I go there I get a little (okay a lot) Sweet Home Alabama, where I channel my inner Melanie Carmichael and think "How do y'all live like this?" It's not very charitable. 


Downtown Hundred,West Virginia
My dad is buried in my hometown. His funeral was there. At the funeral home friends I hadn't seen since high school showed up to pay their respects to my family. I was reminded that while I've made a beautiful life here in Michigan, and while I visit Morgantown regularly, neither of those places are where I'm from. 

I'm from the middle of the giant lilac bush on my grandparents' property where I used to hide as a child. I'm from the cherry tree I'd regularly climb into and get stuck. I'm from the back pew of the Hundred United Methodist Church where I'd sit with my friends, talk too much, and get dirty looks from my mom. I'm from the front porch of the house in which I grew up where we'd sit for hours on the porch swing in the summer. I'm from the sidelines of the high school football games where my love for the Hundred Hornets shone through in my cheers and constant smile. I'm from the greenhouse and meats lab behind the high school where I spent at least one class period a day in the FFA. 

It's easy to look at my life today as a lobbyist rocking 3-inch heels every day working a room of "important" people and forget where I come from. When I'm running or visiting a new city, Hundred, WV doesn't come to the forefront of my mind.  Despite being from a tiny town, I adore big cities and consider myself a big city girl. I live in an urban downtown. I'm obsessed with things like public transit, walkable communities and pubic art, things I didn't think about growing up. But that doesn't mean I have to be only a big city girl. In the words of Don Henley, "somewhere back there in the dust, that same small town in each of us."

For me there was still more than Hundred, West Virginia, but that doesn't mean it is a bad thing for those who stayed. It's filled with hardworking, awesome people who are good humans and good neighbors. They are passionate about family and community. The school is close knit and it's a town where everyone knows everyone else (at least that's how it used to be. I hope that's still the case.) I am a city girl, but I am acutely aware of how I got here. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Diversions

Life is full of diversions that distract us from what's important. There are thousands of shiny things to divert our attention from the things in life that actually matter. I was like a dog chasing a squirrel in 2016 letting unimportant and negative things take my attention instead of focusing on the important things in my life. That is changing in 2017.

Last weekend I went to visit my siblings in Norfolk, Virginia. I love Norfolk, and even 11 years after moving away it still feels more like home than Michigan (a state where I have lived for 11 years, and I only lived in Norfolk for two and a half years).  Visiting my siblings is not about what or how much we do but rather seeing these people I love so much and making sure my son gets much needed quality time with his cousins. 

Because toddlers and doughnuts are always a good idea. 
We spent the weekend relaxing, visiting the Virginia Aquarium, eating, drinking and just talking. It was perfect. My son loves playing with all three of his cousins (although he was slightly jealous when I was holding my 5-month-old nephew). Being in Virginia is always a good reset for me, and it was exactly what I needed to ignore life's diversions.




On our way home our plane was diverted to Fort Wayne, Indiana (we were on our way to Detroit). The fog has been crazy in Michigan, and there was zero visibility in Detroit. We sat on the tarmac in Indiana for about 90 minutes, and I was traveling along with my toddler. He slept the two hours from Virginia to Fort Wayne and was a champion while stuck on the plane, and even with that I found myself in tears at the announcement that our flight was being diverted. There was something so disconcerting about being sent to an entirely different place, and the sense that everything was entirely out of my control was overwhelming. 

That's got me thinking about life's diversions being like my flight yesterday. If we focus on them diversions are disconcerting and overwhelming and can take us down a negative path. As many challenges as 2016 had, focusing on them would merely be a diversion. In 2016 I watched my beautiful son grow and become a wonderful, sassy toddler. I watched my husband be the best dad and supporter of our family, and I fell more in love with him. I spent quality time with friends and family. I achieved professional goals and had people I respect and admire affirm the advocacy work I've done since I moved to Michigan more than a decade ago. The other stuff - the negative, the focus on health challenges, the drama - were simply diversions from a year that had some really amazing parts.

As I begin running again in earnest I will use that time to reflect as I always have. No music, no noise, just me and the sound of my (heavy) breathing and feet pounding the pavement. It will help drive out the many diversions and let me focus on the beauty and the positive that is everywhere if I only take a minute to look.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Crohn's is Tough, but I am Tougher.

I'd hoped for a different running year in 2016. After my fastest year ever in 2015 I had high expectations, and Crohn's had other plans. My husband bought me some great running gear for my birthday (in August), and I realized this morning that I have not worn one of the shirts yet. I've run that infrequently the last eight months. It's been pretty challenging emotionally, and my clothes are clinging in all the wrong places. Something has to give. 

Last year was challenging because it was the first Crohn's flare I'd had in 14 years. I had a lengthy hospital stay in 2014, but it was sort of Crohn's adjacent. I had a hernia repaired (elective surgery.). The hernia was the result of Crohn's scar tissue, and the resulting bowel obstruction was also from scar tissue. The subsequent blood clot was a surprise. But my actual Crohn's disease was in remission, and it allowed me to heal quickly.

The past nine months have been a huge struggle with my health. I passed out at the doctor's office in May and ended up spending a week in the hospital. Several months of steroids, a half a dozen courses of antibiotics and lots of sleepless, painful nights meant running (and exercising in general) was on the back burner. 

I'm about to get pretty TMI with my Crohn's, so if you don't want to know all these gory details stop reading now. If this is like a train wreck and you can't look away, I apologize in advance. Crohn's affects the entire digestive tract from mouth to anus. It's super sexy. This year I struggled significantly with mouth sores. Sometimes I'd have 5-6 at a time, and they'd be huge. Antibiotics and steroids would help, and then they'd come back. Thankfully since I switched to Humira in October it's kept the mouth sores at bay. There were times when I couldn't even kiss my husband. Brutal. 

My Crohn's was focused entirely in my colon (which was toxic and removed in 2000) and rectum. That means my small intestine is free of disease (thus far - knock on wood). That also means a ton of rectal inflammation. It's REALLY fun and really makes me feel like doing things like running (the sarcasm is coming through right?) 

When I ran the Detroit Half Marathon in October I felt so good. I felt like I was turning a corner. I registered for three half marathons in 2016 that I ended up not running. Not running a race for which I've registered is like a kick in the teeth. Running Detroit felt like I was back. I felt great during the entire race. Having an abscess materialize in the next week was so frustrating.

This is the first time I'd had an abscess drained, and it was as fun as you might imagine. I ignored it for a few days following the race because I thought it was chafing. Runners have lots of chafing in weird places, so I chalked it up to that. By the weekend after the race I knew it was more. I knew it was an abscess, and I went to the ER like a boss (because when you're a Crohn's patient you know your care better than ER doctors. Always. I am not being sarcastic.)

When the surgeon came in I told him I had a situation, and he laughed and said, "Well I'm the guy they call when there's a situation.." I knew he was the right guy because 99.9 percent of surgeons have no personality. I like to joke with them to see the blank stares I'll get. He wanted to drain it while I was awake in the ER, and I refused. I've suffered through procedures while being awake because I felt like I had to, and I won't do it anymore.  

I went into the OR around 2 pm, and we picked up my son by the end of the business day. You know, typical day with Crohn's. To drain the abscess they inserted what's called a seton, essentially a little rubber tube to drain it. Mine was attached in three places (all really, really uncomfortable places), and my doctor at the University of Michigan said it was by far the most complicated one she'd ever seen. Unfortunately one of the connection spots was right by my bikini line, and it was super uncomfortable and frequently painful. While I was cleared to run, it was always pulling that drain and did not feel good. I finally had it removed last week after two months, and I went for my first run the next day. I am the most out of shape I've been in years, but I'm building it back up. 

Now comes the fun part of running again: picking races. I'm registered for two 5ks and a 10k in the next six weeks. Baby steps. My original 2017 goal was a half marathon once a month, but that is not feasible until my health improves. Last weekend I went for several short 3-mile runs. They weren't fast, and they weren't pretty. But they felt amazing. I felt strong. That's the goal.

Although my health has been a challenge this year, it does not get to define me. It's obviously a huge part of me, but I'm so much more. I'll get through this rough patch, and I look forward to feeling strong again. One mile at a time...