Health Hiccups

Growing up, I played competitive basketball and lacrosse.  My weekdays were spent in school, battling beltway traffic, at practice going through drills, running dreaded “suicide” sprints, eating mother-approved homemade meals [plus a few on-the-go options], and sneaking in bits of sleep.  My weekends were similar; traveling to tournaments, running around the playing field, going to dinners with my teammates, and resting as much as possible.  At times it got to be a bit overwhelming, but I enjoyed every moment of it.

My junior year in high school I began to look at colleges and the biggest question in my mind was do I play basketball or lacrosse?  Do I want to continue to play competitively or play in a club league?  My body was not what it once was, especially after I had surgery on my shoulder…  I ultimately decided to play lacrosse.  That was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made.  I felt as if I didn’t play I would be throwing away something I cared deeply about but I also was burnt out from practicing every day and traveling every weekend.

I played lacrosse for a division III college a couple of hours south of home.  Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like that it was the right niche, primarily because I was interested in education [special education], and that option was not available.  After much thought, research, and many family discussions, I transferred up north to Boston University.  BU had a school of education with a great reputation but it was a division I sports school and I was not interested in committing all of my time to another team so I retired my lacrosse stick.

I continued to stay very active and made a point of going to the gym on a daily basis.  I felt spoiled having access to a 5-story gym complete with a lap pool and diving well, a lazy river, hundreds of cardio machines, weight machines, free weights, a track, basketball courts, racquetball courts, dance studios, group fitness rooms, multiple locker rooms, and a café…  It’s hard not to want to workout.  I also continued to eat healthfully and cooked most meals for myself in my itty-bitty, but functional studio kitchen.

About a year after not being around a competitive environment I got an itch.  I felt the need to do something with a purpose that would push me to my limits.  I nonchalantly mentioned it to one of my girlfriends and before I knew it, we both were entered to run in the New York City Marathon.  I had never run long distance, it’s quite different from sprinting, but I was determined to learn.  We began running together and a few weeks later I was informed that my race entry had been accepted [oh. em. gee.] but  hers wasn’t so I deferred and we registered for a different race on Cape Cod.

I loved being outside, regardless of the time of day.  I loved going farther than I ever had gone before.  I loved knowing that I was getting closer to my goal.  I loved reading running articles online and comparing training plans.  I loved talking to other runners about their past experiences and listening to their tips and tricks.  I learned the difference between aching and hurting and loved how my body ached after a long run.  And I loved having a running buddy who I could count on to push me to my limits.  That is until September…

At the end of my sophomore year I went home for the summer and signed up to train with a local running group.  During the week I was accountable for running on my own and every Saturday we all met up downtown and ran our long run together before the sun rose.  It was great meeting new and old runners and knowing that someone would always be around to cheer me up if I was having a bad run or to push me harder.  At the end of August I was up to 22 miles but had to cut my time with the running group short because I had to go back to school.

I continued to run on my own during the week and met my friend to run a long run on Saturday.  My body had ached all summer so I frequently visited the chiropractor and physical therapist to make sure it wasn’t anything serious.  I didn’t think much of it because I was waking up at the crack of dawn every Saturday morning to run 10-20 miles, averaging 20+miles during the week, and managing a full course load which included a teaching practicum.

When I tried to make an appointment to meet with one of the school physical therapists, I was told that I needed to have a referral from a school physician.  I met with a physician and described to her my symptoms.  I informed her that I was training for my first marathon and my knees were hurting [from tendonitis] and I would like to meet with a physical therapist.  She had no problem writing me a referral but she also recommended that I get lab work done to make sure everything internally was still in balance.

Three years ago this fall I was diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia and lupus.  I will never forget the fall of my junior year, not because I wasn’t able to run in the marathon, but because I spent the majority of my time at MGH [Massachusetts General Hospital].  I was in and out of the hospital meeting with doctors, getting lab work done, and anxiously awaiting for the results.  I was 20-years-old, in a city far away from home, and trying my best to manage everything.  It was hard for me but it undoubtedly was hard for my parents knowing that their baby girl was sick and they couldn’t be by my side.  Without hesitation, my aunt and uncle who lived close by stepped in.   They made sure I had someone with me at almost every appointment and they were my safe house on the weekends.  I am forever grateful for everything they did to support me.

The past three years have had their tough times but many more good times.  I got engaged to a skater boy.  I graduated from BU with a B.S. in severe special education.  I was diagnosed with melanoma but with two quick surgeries, they were removed.  I accepted a teaching position in my hometown as a middle school autism teacher.  I enrolled in courses to earn a certification in event management.  Ryan and I got a puppy who I absolutely adore, Charlie.  I took a leap of faith and switched career fields to pursue a lifetime passion of event planning.  I accepted a new job and have quickly learned the in’s and out’s.  I got married to the love of my life who makes me laugh every. single. day.   I was diagnosed with IBS.  And I most recently celebrated my 23rd birthday.

I’m living and loving life.

Some battles are worth fighting and some aren’t.  I know that I have an awesome support system.  I know that my family would be by my side within a blink of an eye if asked.  I know that my friends understand some days are better than others.  I know that Charlie is waiting for me every day I get home and provides me with unconditional love.  I know that what I put into my mouth and how much I sweat is in my control.  And I know that I have no control over what happens to my health in the future but I know I will do everything I can to stay healthy.

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