Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gratitude and the Resiliency of the Human Body

I am consistently amazed by the human body's capacity to handle adversity. I know people who perpetually endure physical and emotional challenges with grace that I could only hope to muster in the same situations. I regularly remind myself that the physical and emotional challenges I've faced are inconsequential in comparison to so many others. I am young. I am strong and strong willed. That doesn't mean I don't get frustrated, and it doesn't mean I don't indulge in the occasional pity party. I think pity parties are okay when the ultimate result is pulling oneself up, brushing off the dust and knowing that it could be worse. We all just have those moments of frustration.

Six months ago I had just gotten out of the hospital after a surprising month that included two abdominal surgeries, a blood clot and losing 20 pounds. The first surgery was to be relatively routine. I was frustrated by the bowel obstruction and subsequent surgery the following week. The blood clot, however, threw me for a loop. I remember wondering if this is how it all ended - my getting a blood clot and dying as a result at the age of 35. I  know it sounds dramatic, but I was so sick. I was also very still, a state that is very foreign to me. I would sit in my hospital room with the television off, not reading, just being. It was very strange. I felt very dispassionate and listless. That was what concerned me more than anything - the fact that I felt so detached from myself.

All smiles despite a blood clot.

I emerged from the hospital weak and skinny. I was wearing an abdominal compression bustier all of the time except when I was in the shower. My abdominal muscles were so weak (non existent really) that the only way I could sit up was to roll to my side and push myself up with my arms. I assumed recovery would be slow, and I am not emotionally able to handle slow. 

A week after being released from the hospital I went back to work to prove (to nobody but myself) that I was fine. I went on a work trip to Holland, Michigan less than two weeks after I had been released. I wasn't ready for it, but I pretended I was. The next day my incision unexpectedly split open, and that was a problem I dealt with for several weeks.

The next week I went on a scheduled work trip to Midland, Michigan. I remember putting on sky high red patent shoes for the meetings and feeling so weary. Show no signs of weakness, right? I felt like I had to prove that I hadn't missed a beat. That night I was out with my colleagues, and I ran out of energy. It was like all of the pretending just ended, and I was the first to leave and crawl into bed. 

A month post op I went for my first run which was a total disaster. It also made me realize how weak I really was. It made me sit back and take stock of how I was ignoring my body's need to recover. This is what I do - push and push and push. I don't know any other speed. This recovery was no exception.

In Atlanta one month after I got out of the you do.

Over the next few months I made an effort to be physically and mentally kinder to myself. In the last six months I've run fewer miles than I am used to. I've slept in. I've made an effort to listen to my body more regularly (although I'm still not great at it). I've done a better job at avoiding those foods that I know will make me sick. Six months after my hospital stay I feel stronger than I did before my surgeries. 

Earlier this week I had an ultrasound that showed my blood clot was completely gone. My veins look great. I am going off the dreaded blood thinners than I've taken for months.  I've had six abdominal surgeries in the last 14 years, and given the severity of my Crohns I'll likely have more in my lifetime. I continue to marvel at the resiliency of my body knowing all the while that it's really been my mental fortitude that has gotten me to this healthier version of myself.

We all have the capacity to handle the arduousness life throws at us. Will it tear us down, or will we take the challenges thrown at us and use them to be stronger? I am healthier than I was seven months ago, but more importantly I'm appreciative of the negative experience that got me here. Those two surgeries, blood clot and hospital stay have made me stronger, and for that I am grateful.                  


  1. Funny that I am reading this, I have been a tad bit discouraged. I am quite a bit older than you so age is starting to haunt me with my running. However, yesterday as I ran a 4 miler filled with suck (heavy breathing, side stitches, exhausting..) I reminded myself of my injured body last year. We have to remind ourselves that our body does recover, It is often the MIND we need to train more.
    Hoping you have a speedy recovery!

    1. Anita you're an INCREDIBLE runner and person. Your blog is so inspiring. It's easy to be discouraged, but you're awesome! You'll be back to your running self in no time.