Six Years Ago Today I Ran a Half Marathon. Two Weeks Later, My Digestion Shut Down.

My transfer from the world of the healthy and fit to the land of the unwell was swift and unexpected. In the above photo, I was 40, and in the best shape of my life. I had muscle. I was a healthy weight. I ran, played tennis and did strength training. Sometimes all in the same day.

Just two weeks later I began the downward spiral that has landed me here. 46 and in the worst shape of my life. 46 and in the least health of my life. I’m not a healthy weight. My muscle is gone. I don’t work out. Can’t work out.

When I first got sick, I think the hardest thing to reconcile was the fact I had previously been so healthy. I vividly remember sitting on my porch, unable to eat, the weight sliding off me. That half marathon was just days prior, yet it felt like a lifetime. What happened?

Even today, the image of me running affects me profoundly. It’s the last significant act I did as a healthy person. Had I known that at the time, I might have paid more attention. Had I known, I might have enjoyed it more. Had I known, I would have taken my time before crossing the finish line. Maybe just one more lingering, deep inhale of health and vitality.

But I did cross. And in doing so, I crossed to a new reality.

In the weeks and months that followed, my health quickly declined, yet, my focus was on getting my life back to normal ASAP. I was driven and impatient. I needed to get this behind me, and fast.  A lot of sentences started with “when I get well…..”. Every day was about getting to the end game, and trying to put a timeline on it. Maybe I’ll be better next month? Or maybe in six months?

Somewhere in the past few years I gave up focusing on the end game, which is not the same as giving up. When you have been sick for six years, your perspective changes. Your goals change. I still have every belief I will get better one day, but I don’t think about the timeline. That’s out of my control.

Instead, I focus on what I can control, which is this very moment, and not much else. I try to stay overwhelmingly grounded in the present, even when it’s miserable. Each day I try to focus on what’s possible that day – sometimes a lot is possible, some days not much.

Every day, I fight for my health, and do every single thing my doctors tell me to. Every thing. Even when I don’t feel like it or don’t want to or it’s not convenient. In doing so, I know I am giving myself the best possible chance to regain my health. And that’s all I can do.

I’m responsible for the effort. I’m responsible for trying my hardest. But the outcome is out of my hands. That knowledge is so freeing. It feels so good to let go of something I have no control over. Either my efforts will add up to something, or they won’t. But that’s unknowable to me today.

Six years into my journey, where am I?

  • I’ve made progress, but I am not cured.
  • I can’t eat or digest normally, but I’m better than 6 years ago.
  • I’m not on a feeding tube (which was a very real possibility).
  • I’m more wise. 
  • I have more compassion for anybody who struggles in any way.
  • I know more about myself than I ever would have if I had stayed healthy.
  • I’ve received the gift of tremendous compassion from those trying to help me.
  • My marriage is surviving the “in sickness and in health” vow with flying colors. This speaks volumes about my husband.
  • I’ve grown closer to God and have experienced the kind of comfort that can only come from deep faith.
  • I’m acutely aware of the opportunity I have to use my experience to give back to the world.

And that’s where I want to leave this post. My whole experience is adding up to something that’s going to help somebody else in some way. I just know it. This journey, however long it’s going to last, is not in vain. I’m being prepared for something. I am gathering experiences and wisdom that are going to lead to some collective good. I just don’t know what yet. And I don’t have the required strength yet.

So maybe I lied when I said I have given up focusing on the end game. Maybe I just changed it. The end game isn’t getting well. The end game is getting every drop of wisdom I can out of this experience.

I’m going to need it later.

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