Three years ago, my girlfriend Stacie and I were ready to embark on our first trip overseas. After 2 years of planning the trip of a lifetime, we were more than ready to leave the men behind for a week of sightseeing and shopping in London. Until the dreaded phone call from my doctor.
Apparently, my “routine” MRI was not so routine after all. Severe foot pain that had escalated over several years justified an MRI, he said. However, he was just as shocked as I was to report that they had stumbled upon a brain tumor and it was a big one. Not cancerous, but big enough that my vision was being impaired. Big enough that I was immediately scheduled to see a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins. And not just any Neurosurgeon, but Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, world-famous, cutting-edge surgeon (no pun intended!). That phone call was the beginning of my journey into the world of medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, a journey that has a very happy ending. By 2010, Dr. Quinones decided that the time had come for him to do what he does best – cut the little bugger out. I worried, cried, and spent endless hours on the Internet performing research and reading blogs of other patients with the same issues. Stacie and I still went to London and had the time of our lives and are now enjoying watching the Olympics being broadcast from that same magnificent city.
Fast forward to June 2012. The 2 year anniversary of my surgery was approaching and I wanted to find a way to celebrate my health. While reviewing information on the Harford County Farm Fair, I noticed that they were holding a 5K Race on July 22, the exact date of my anniversary. But I sneered at my computer screen, thinking I could never run 3.1 miles. I’m 43, out of shape, and have always hated running. So quickly I logged off and went on to more pleasurable websites like White House Black Market and Epicurious. Yet the thought of the 5K kept gnawing at me. Why was I so willing to back down from this challenge? So I began looking into training schedules for couch potatoes and found one on the Mayo Clinic website – a 7 week, 5K training schedule for beginners – perfect! There were exactly 7 weeks until the big day at this point. Was this a sign?
Week 1 began with a combination of running and walking 6 days per week. Week 2 was more of the same and I began to feel anxious. What if I embarrass myself? What if I give up and don’t even try it?? During Week 3 and Week 4, my confidence began to slowly build but I still didn’t tell anyone that I was going to attempt this race. I certainly didn’t want to set myself up for failure! By Week 5, I was losing weight and truly enjoying the workout. I began dragging my nephew to the Arena Club where a dip in the pool is a good incentive to complete a hard workout. But then came Week 6 when I had to face reality and recognize that I would not be able to run the entire way. I couldn’t understand how I had possibly failed! I had followed the Mayo Clinic schedule religiously AND eaten a very healthy diet most days. So I decided to swallow my pride and “phone a friend.”
I contacted my tailgating buddy Kevin who is an experienced runner and spilled my guts regarding my fears. In Kevin’s typical dry-style of humor, his e-mail read “Do it. But don’t look back – you’re not going that way”. I giggled at my desk. He went on to say “If you tire, walk. When you’re ready, run. You absolutely DO NOT have to run the entire thing”. And suddenly, it felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders! Why was I putting myself under so much unnecessary pressure?? I was proud of myself for even sticking to the schedule, for eating healthy foods, for losing weight, and on top of everything else, I felt GREAT! I printed off Kevin’s e-mail and taped it to the wall of my cubicle for inspiration.
Race day came and I made my way over to the starting gate, watching everyone else suited up in their finest running gear – Under Armor leggings, t-shirts from previous races, top of the line running shoes. They chatted with each other, compared notes on the race course, stretched and got ready to beat their previous race times. Timidly, I stood at the back of the line next to a woman that could have been my grandmother. And then the race began and Grandma took off like a shot, leaving me in her dust and gasping for air.
I took Kevin’s advice – walked some, ran some, and enjoyed the scenery around the Equestrian Center on a beautiful Sunday morning. And I thanked God that I was even able to participate in my first 5K. I felt so energized that I stopped at Planet Fitness afterwards for a ride on the bike. And then I went home to a husband who loves me no matter what shape I’m in.