You see, just 6 months ago I had been virtually bedridden for 2 years. For years I had been an EMT and was sadly injured on the job. Subsequently, I had 3 emergency back surgeries which eventually included a lumbar fusion, I developed Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as osteoarthritis in my back. The chronic pain eventually became so debilitating that I went from an avid hiker and gym rat, to spending most of my days in bed. Not only did my physical health begin to decline, but so did my mental health. For the first time in my life I became depressed, and it started to affect my marriage as well.
That became my life for 2 whole years, if you can call it a life. I was on more daily prescription pills than most 60 year old’s. My doctor had told me that even though there was no “cure” for my disorders, there WERE things I could do to improve my pain levels…the most effective one being exercise. He said this can often be hard to begin because most activity is painful for people with Fibromyalgia and arthritis, but the key is to do a little activity when my pain level was at its lowest. I didn’t listen. There were days where my pain was so intense, that no amount of medication would touch it, and my husband would have to helplessly listen to me cry all day in pain. Finally, he became so tired of feeling helpless to help, he begged me and begged me to listen to the doctor and go for a walk. The idea of MOVING, let alone walking just sounded too terrible to try to implement, so I’d just continue to suffer.
It was Feb. 12th, 2014 when my life completely changed. I was in bed with pain, (as I was everyday) when my husband came into the bedroom to bring me some lunch. Have you ever seen someone’s face when they have lost hope in something? When they have truly given up? I saw that look in my husband’s eyes, and it broke my heart. He had accepted my defeat, and I saw in his face that he had changed from being a happy husband, to a caregiver…and on his face I could tell that he realized that was all he would ever be anymore. It was that moment that I realized what my life had become, and I hated this life. With every fiber of energy I could muster, and all the courage I could find, I got out of bed. Slowly, I crept down the hallway to the livingroom where my family was casually watching TV. “I’m going for a walk. I’ll be back soon”. I said. The look of shock on their faces was priceless, though I knew it was rather pathetic that a simple walk would cause them to be so surprised. Undeterred, and with all of their welcomed support, I went out the door. I didn’t make it very far, just about a block or two, but I felt AMAZING despite the pain. The cold, crisp air had reminded me of my last fond outdoor memory with my daughters when we went snowshoeing on Mt. Hood…the last activity I did before being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and it brought tears to my eyes.
Everything changed. The next day I walked a little further, and the next..even further. My “fibro” pain seemed to be a little less intense, so I spent a little less time in bed and a little more time in the living room with my family. Then I decided to give a little “jog” a try, as by this point I had mapped out a 1 mile loop around my house that I was actually able to complete. I think I made it about 1 block running before my lungs were on fire, but I couldn’t wait to go home and tell my family what I had done. As you may have guessed, the running stuck and every day I ran farther and farther. Before I knew it, I had been running for an entire month and was no longer bedridden! I had stopped taking almost all of my medications (with doctor supervision), and decided that I wanted to try to run in my first race. I’m competitive by nature, so I knew that this could be a great way to keep myself motivated because I NEVER wanted to go back to how my life was just one month ago. So, with a little help from my 14 yr old daughter, I looked for a “fun” run…something that wasn’t competitive, and that we could do together. We settled on the Cosmic Run, which is 5k glow in the dark type of event. That was all it took. I was hooked.
If you think I took the “safe” route after that and simply ran a few more 5k’s, you’d be VERY wrong. Just after my 2 month running anniversary, I took a leap of faith and participated in the Oregon Spring Half Marathon…that’s right, I said HALF MARATHON! Was I the fastest runner? Hardly! Was I last? No….though I was close. I finished the race in 2:48:50, and when I crossed that finished line I BURST into tears…not due to the chronic pain I suffered from, but because of the pride I felt in myself for accomplishing something that just two months prior I never would have dreamt of doing. This picture captured that very moment, and it’s still one of my favorite race photos to this day.
August 12 marked my 6 month anniversary from that very first day I decided to change my life. Since that day, I have competed in one 1 mile race, 6 5k’s, 3 half marathons, and I even ran in the Ragnar Relay a few weeks ago! I’ve lost weight, gained friends, and renewed my self-confidence. I also started a Youtube channel called “Running With Fibro” to try to inspire other chronic pain sufferers to try to be active despite their pain. My family life has improved, my marriage has improved, and I no longer suffer from depression. I’m moved to tears every time I reflect on how far I’ve come over these past 6 months, and how everything in my life changed, one day back in February….when I decided to go for a simple walk.