Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional. Nothing in this post should be considered medical advice. If you believe you have a running related injury, or any other injury or illness, please contact a medical professional.
Reading this now is just depressing. Knowing that I need to rethink all of my fitness goals for the year is overwhelming.
Letting go of some altogether is harder still.
I stare at the boxes of Nike Frees I stockpiled during after-Christmas sales, knowing it could be weeks or more before they’re worn.
Even getting dressed is a frustration. All of those incredible running clothes that I love and fill two drawers in my dresser — I feel like a fraud for having so much I can’t even use right now.
I ran a marathon a little more than two months ago, but the truth is that I haven’t felt like a runner in a really long time.
I’ve been injured for more than a week, despite the title.
I sought medical attention more than a week ago, too.
But sitting or even standing long enough to write this has been a challenge.
So I am about to tell a story summing up a week that ended five days ago. Soon I will have another week to share.
I had been contending with one low back problem or another since early December. I took some time to rest and hoped that they would resolve on their own.
But last Sunday, the pain changed and became more than I cared to bear any longer, and I knew it was time to go to the doctor.
Here is how last week went.
Sunday After a blah run on New Year’s Day, things just never came back together for me. I didn’t run yesterday or today. I found myself standing through a good part of lunch. I just couldn’t get comfortable. I don’t know how it happened, but my lower back pain has become more acute, despite resting and doing little more than yoga and pilates for weeks.
Monday I went to work this morning, despite the pain. I couldn’t sit at my desk. Sitting is so painful. It’s as if my body just doesn’t want to move into that position. My body is rejecting sitting. At 9 I called the doctor and made an 11 o’clock appointment. Running Doc sent me for an MRI, and afterwards, I headed back to the office. I felt so uncomfortable, but I work by the hour, so what am I going to do? I barely got anything done. I was standing for the rest of the day. The doctor called and said something about a dislocated disc, and that I would be fine eventually and it could heal itself. I was confused, not sure what this meant for me or my training. He told me to see an orthopedist and get some physical therapy.
Tuesday After getting off the phone with Running Doc, I frantically scheduled the next available appointment with a recommended orthopedist, so I headed over this morning, planning to go in to work right after. But the pain is excruciating. Somehow I knew Day 3 would be the worst. He sends me for an x-ray and then we review my MRI together. I have a herniated disc, he tells me. It’s irreversible, he says. I will have to live with it for the rest of my life. I cry.
I cry some more and then become my most proactive self. The temps are sub-zero but still I hobble over to the physical therapy office in tears. I refuse to leave until I am given an appointment. I have two injuries, my piriformis, and the disc between my l4-l5 vertebrae, so I am being treated for both. Before leaving, I schedule appointments for the rest of the month.
The crazy thing about being in a physical therapy office is that you are there because you are in pain, but inevitably if you look around the waiting room you will see at least someone so much worse off than you that you feel this shocking wave of guilt. Ugh.
I go home heartbroken and inconsolable.
Wednesday I called in sick again today. I’ve been doing that on a day-by-day basis, and continue to for the rest of the week. I really don’t want to have to take a lot of time off, but I can’t do my job like this. I stayed in bed all day. The anti-inflamatories weren’t working. I felt awful. I stayed in bed all night.
Also we decided to cancel our trip to South Africa today. I won’t even talk about how sad this makes me, though I know it was the right decision.
Thursday Pretty much the same as yesterday, except I manage a lunch (standing) with our doctor friends and their children. They chilled me out a bit. It seems that the ortho I went to was able to explain that the injury was irreversible, but didn’t convey that the pain will eventually go away and that I will be able to get back to my life, as usual, at some point. They are encouraging and supportive and awesome. I still felt like crap, though. Just less afraid.
Friday I met my new physical therapist this morning. He’s great, though I was so inflamed that we could’t do much. Two months ago I ran a marathon, and today arching my back is considered an “exercise.” But he gave me hope and told me which meds to ask for. He told me the recovery timeline is 2 weeks to 2 months. And while that sucks, I can live with it.
The rest of the day is a blur of chasing after doctors to get new meds. I didn’t hear from anyone during regular office hours, but in the early evening I was put in touch with the weekend on-call doctor and she called in my new prescription.
Saturday I was still feeling not so much like myself, but getting a little better than I had been earlier in the week. The new meds began making an improvement, and I started noticing more flexibility while doing my “exercise.” I decided to keep my brunch plans for Sunday.
I spent most of the week laying down on an ice pack, frustrated by my condition. Though through it all, I am trying to be as proactive in my recovery as possible.
When I think about running I think of how much I love it – how I love to think of myself as a runner, how it’s given me a venue for setting goals and crushing them – but also how upset I am when I am unable to run. Because it makes me feel like a part of myself has been taken away. It is frightening and angering to know that I could lose such a strong sense of self with each pang of pain or injury that keeps me off the road.
The truth about running is that it makes me feel stronger, braver, smarter, freer, and so much more than just that.
The truth about running is that it’s great…until it’s not.
Oh yeah. I know I changed tenses here. But Tuesday’s story reads better in the present…though I’m so happy it’s now in the past.