Monday, September 29, 2014

Going the Distance

If you would have told me a year ago, 6 months ago, or even 9 weeks ago I would be lacing up my running shoes 3 times a week religiously and running, I would have laughed in utter disbelief.  Deep inside there would have been no greater wish: the wish to step outside and run.   To breathe in the air around me while one foot after another painted the pavement with steps was literally a dream.

It was something I thought was never going to happen again.  It was something my mind easily thought I could do, but my body forbid.  With any distress my my body was screaming for oxygen.  Every cell was burning with starvation, and as much as I tried to drink in oxygen my body could not take a deep enough breath to squelch its hunger.  How could I possibly think of running when just 3 months ago I could barely walk up the stairs without gasping for air?

Track Days

Life is pretty miraculous.  The moment I blew a 55% in July, I promised myself I would do even more to fight CF and its ever increasing hold on my life.  I knew again, CF would come at me with a vengeance, and when that happened my body was going to be stronger than ever.  What did I do? I dug my running shoes out of the closet.  I knew this was going to be a long road, and a difficult one.  What my mind wanted me to do and what my body would allow, would be two different things.  I also come from a family of very good track sprinters, which would be a natural tendency I have always battled.  I knew 100 meters wasn't going to build the strength or endurance I needed to fight my future battles, I needed to be able to go the distance.  I needed to start slow and remain steady.

Road Blocks
I knew this wasn't going to be easy.  There were lots of things I had to consider; the first being my blood oxygen level.  With vigorous, steady activity my oxygen level has a tendency to drop below 90 causing Hypoxia: low blood oxygen.  Side effects of Hypoxia are things such as light headedness, headaches, fatigue, nausea, and confusion.  So, what did I do? I bought an oximeter to monitor my SAT level when I would run.  I needed to know how low it was dropping and how far I could push my body before something dangerous happened. The first couple weeks of running my oxygen level would drop to around 82-84, but now in the last 2 weeks it hasn't dropped below 89. The second thing I needed to consider was just how far to push my body.  Pushing it too far would result in exhaustion which could bring on an exacerbation and start a downward spiral.  Finding the balance between pushing myself and exhaustion has always been difficult for me, and this was going to be no exception.  Especially, when I would be adding it on top of my teaching and gradate school schedules.  Third, I needed to make a plan.   With the help of a fellow CFer, I had a plan in which I could begin to tackle, one step at a time.

Now or Never. 
So, I did it.  I knew it was now or never.  I laced up my shoes, grabbed my oximeter, and charted my course.  Did my lungs and body protest with every step? Did it hurt like hell? Yes, but I knew with every labored breath I was alive.  It may have only been 30 seconds, but it felt like a marathon.  And when I finished my first day of walking 8 minutes/walking 30 seconds three times I felt like I had conquered death.  I felt as if CF had lost the battle.  Tears streamed down my face as I thought I would never experience running again.  Today, I am up to running 60 seconds straight three times, with 4 minutes of walking in between.  It's taking far longer than I ever imagined for my body to work up endurance and stamina, but it's a journey in which I must master patience. This isn't a sprint, it's about going the distance.  I continue to push myself while trying to keep from exhausting myself.  The longest I've done? 1 minute 20 seconds continuous.  I know some might be laughing at that, but to me it's utterly beautiful.  It's a miracle.  To be honest, some days feel pretty good and I feel nothing could stop me, and then some days feel pretty terrible and my body screams with every fiber of its being at me to stop. But each day is such a gift.  I am running.  With every step I am fighting.

I know there will come a day again when I won't be able to run, that my body will forbid it.  It might be tomorrow, but today is not the day.  Even while battling a terrible cold, and lungs that seem to be protesting every breath I take, I will run today.  The best part of running? The cheering squad that greets me at the door. With every breath that touches my lips and fills my lungs, I am thankful. Love to you all.

Let's go running together.  Seriously.

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