A survivor (times 2) …

One year ago today I woke up early and headed for the gym. I did some speed-work and clocked my fastest 1/4 mile (7:13). Not to shabby! I went home and continued on with my typical morning routine. Then I headed to my dental cleaning. This would be that last time I would feel like myself for months.

Later that day I would find myself in an ER with symptoms I was all to familiar with. I was sick. And despite the fact that no one believed me I knew my body. I had meningitis. Again.

Today is the one year anniversary of my second round of meningitis. Still with so many questions left unanswered. That alone is a demon I must face every day. I have become obsessed with Facebook memories. Trying to find some clue as to how I got so sick so fast. Again. There is nothing there. Nothing. I finished a week of 100,000 logged on my Fitbit. I mention twitchy legs, crazy fast speed-work and a rest weekend. It was to be a well deserved break from my training that was going better than I ever could have hoped for. I was strong and healthy. Race ready. There was nothing in those memories that would indicate that I would become so sick in just mere hours. How can anyone’s brain be that swollen and they not show any signs or symptoms?!?! It’s baffling. Utterly.

There are days that I still feel like a ticking time-tomb. I’m not sure if that feeling will ever go away. The memory of this experience and the fall-out afterward will always be unsettling. The “unknowns” are worrisome at best. But I refuse to cave into fear and let it immobilize me. Life is too precious for that. I thought battling meningitis once was bad enough. Twice, just seems insulting. But I truly believe that life gives us lessons for reasons. Reasons we might not ever understand. And THAT gives me my peace. Trust me, I can easily focus on all the things that this illness has robbed me of. How disruptive it was to, not just my life, but my family’s and friends’ lives as well. I can resent the fact that I still don’t feel like myself and that I fear it happening all over again. I can focus on the anger I feel when I see my precious kids worrying about my smallest of ailments. Children shouldn’t have to worry like that! OH, if meningitis was a person I would have punched it in the throat long ago!

Anyway, as I see it I have two options. I can choose the road paved with anxiety, fear and bitterness … OR … I can be thankful that I even had a road in the first place.

Let’s face it, life is not always easy. Crap happens through no fault of our own. But life can still be beautiful. I’d be lying if I said this illness hasn’t changed me. It has. I am not the same woman who woke up on this day a year ago. I am, for better or worse, the Jennifer I was supposed to be on this day and in this moment. Meningitis helped shaped me. And I’m OK with that. I am an ever-evolving woman who accepts that change and defeat and pain are an acceptable way to form me into the woman I am meant to be. Meningitis was a pit stop. OK fine, TWO. But it wasn’t my final destination. God and the universe clearly are not done with me yet and that’s good … because I still have dreams. And as long as I have breath, scared or not, I will chase them.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you are a survivor (times 2)!!!

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Awake again …

Meningitis makes you tired. Very. It’s not just during the active part of the virus either. At least not for me. The two times I have had it the fatigue lasted a very long time. The first time it took me about 8 months for my family to really notice a difference. That’s a long time. And I think that must be my standard. Where I felt the heaviest of my fatigue pass in about April this, 6 months after I was diagnosed, my mornings remained very difficult.

I have ALWAYS been a morning person and for most of my life I’ve needed less sleep than is typical. But not since October. And it has been a hard adjustment. Don’t get me wrong, I am very pleased, as are all my doctors, with my recovery. I’ve done exceedingly well. I am beyond grateful. But the struggle I’ve faced waking up has been a real life changer. I decided sometime in May to make peace with it. It wasn’t what I wanted but I had to accept that the old me “morning me” may never return. I needed to forget about the woman who bounced out of bed in the morning before most people in her timezone ever woke up, HA! I needed to be thankful for all the extra hours God had so generously given me in the past to enjoy my day. I needed to move on and embrace the me that was left after surviving another of life’s battles. And I did. 

The came June. I’m needing less sleep and rising with a familiar energy that seems like I’ve found a long lost friend. I’m enjoying the silence of a sleeping home again. I’m working out earlier. I’m getting more accomplished throughout my day. I can’t say I’m 100% myself, but I am pretty darn close. And I really couldn’t be happier.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you feel AWAKE again!!!

Happily and gratefully sitting this one out …

I’ve been quiet about this but here goes. About 10 days ago I got sciatica on my left side (now about 95% resolved). It threw my walking off onto my “bad” foot. The one I broke twice and sprained more times than I can count. Did I mention the arthritis? Oh yeah, that too. Anyway, it worried me because I’ve been warned that that foot can easily break again, even if compromised just a little.

Unfortunately, as a result of the uneven walking I had some pain in that foot by my 5th metatarsal along the outside of my foot. I also had traveling pain that occurred next to the arthritis in my 1st metatarsal and in the ball of my foot. I described it as a lava lamp of pain. It was never constant or in the same place. Well, early Monday morning I woke up with what felt like the beginning of a foot cramp. I jerked my foot up and then felt a horrible pain shoot through my second and third toes and up the 3rd metatarsal (where my old break was). I immediately thought the worst. I broke my foot. AGAIN.

With my race less than a week away I went in for x-rays. When the first image of my foot went up on the screen, I said, “There it is!” Like a beacon of light, I could see the problem staring back at me. A break. The tech couldn’t confirm the break but asked how long I had had pain there. I told her since 3 am that morning.

I didn’t receive the official results until the next day and spoke with my ortho. I was confused because my results stated “no acute fracture” but a new stress fracture was also clearly noted. The medical social worker in me likes all these details answered. It comforts me. But what I was told shocked me beyond belief … and then gave me a clarity, I never knew I needed.

My ortho said that the reason my results stated “no acute fracture” was because I didn’t break my foot Monday. In his estimate, I broke it 2-3 months ago.

SAY WHAT?!?!

I was utterly baffled and so was he. Up until the sciatica I had only some pain in my feet on my long run days. By the next morning I was fine. I’ve told my family and friends repeatedly that this has been my least painful marathon training EVER. I definitely did not push myself nearly as hard has I normally do. Don’t get me wrong. Anytime you run 18 and 20 miles, you are pushing yourself, HA! But trust me, I let a lot go this training. I was just happy and thankful to be healthy enough to run distance again.

I’ve had some doozies in my life. Many things I cannot explain. Experiences I like to call GOD MOMENTS. This is one of them.

After the getting meningitis in October and the terrible drug reaction that followed I knew that I needed this training. And not just to help me get stronger physically. I needed it to heal me mentally. I was scared I’d never feel like myself again. I was scared of getting meningitis a third time! And what would it rob me of then?!?! I wanted my kids to have their mom back. Their healthy, happy, active mom. Heck, I WANTED HER BACK! And the only way I knew how to find her again was to literally run back to her. So after clearing it with all my doctors, I did. I began marathon training in late January.

Almost every training day I was forced to face my fears and I had to fight through a brutal fatigue. There were days when I straight up questioned my judgment. And sanity. There were days when I wondered if I was doing more harm than good. But I ran anyway. I honestly couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my family and friends. I finished a training that I never thought I could finish and was able to put my demons to rest. And God was with me the whole time. I truly believe that He protected me from the pain of the initial break to give me exactly what I needed to fight the thoughts in my head. I believe He revealed the break to me now to show me that He’s been healing and protecting me more than I ever knew. That He is capable of more than I can ever understand in my humanness. He humbles me with these gifts. And I am so thankful.

So the big question that now remains is, “Will I run my ninth marathon on Sunday?” The answer is, “Probably NOT”. Despite there being no medical reason I cannot run Sunday I think I want to pass on this one. My foot still hurts, in my opinion, too much to run a full marathon. And after everything that has been revealed to me over the past 24 hours I think that I discovered that the race itself was never the real lesson. God was all about teaching me and growing me through the journey. That’s just how He rolls.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you happily and gratefully sit this one out!!!

Changed for the better …

I have been fighting a cold all week. Yuck. Unfortunately this little virus has made the residual fatigue left from the meningitis, that much worse. Sadly, I had this problem before. For the first few years, after my initial bout, anytime I’d catch a minor cold I would get very fatigued and experience stiffness in my neck. Yuck, yuck. But it’s OK, it passes. It’s also a good reminder that I’m still not 100% myself yet. “Good” meaning that it reminds me that I still need to cut myself some slack regarding my recovery. I can be very impatient with myself. If I’ve learned one thing from recovering from this virus (twice) it’s that it teaches you to be patient. To slow down. And be kind to yourself. It’s truly a life lesson in self care. Or two, in my case. HA! Anyway, my kids know that I’ve been struggling a bit this week and have been great. They have kept me laughing and have been super helpful. These kids have such kind hearts. I am truly blessed.

Last night Libs and I stayed up later than we had hoped to. We were pretty busy and at the end of our night when we were chatting we both realized that time had gotten away from us. It was late and we both needed sleep! I set my alarm clock and fell straight to asleep. I woke up once at 2 am and fell back to sleep right away. Which is unusual for me. Sadly, if I wake up, I’m up! Another indicator that I am not feeling like myself. 

Well, the next thing I know it’s 6:25 am! I accidentally set my alarm for 6:30 am, not 5:30 am. Ugh! I bolted from my bed to make sure G3 and Libs were awake but what I found completely shocked me! Both kids were not only awake and ready for school, Libs had already left! She even remembered that she has her first a physical therapy appointment this afternoon and brought extra clothes to change into. HOLY MOLY!

Now granted, Libs and G3 are teenagers in high school but this completely blew me away. There were days early in my recovery that they had to be quite independent. But as I got better we started to assume the same routines again. I guess it all stuck with them. Their independence has surprised me time and time again since October. Which is GREAT since G3 leaves for college in August. Their compassion and their ability to read when they need to “step it up” to help another person has been incredible. My kids had great hearts before I got sick, but since then, it has made them so much more in tune with the needs of others. And they willingly put themselves out, to help.

Meningitis is an awful unpleasant terrible experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But I can’t deny that it has positively influenced all of us. It has fostered determination, independence and compassion. Things that I never thought that we lacked in our hearts. Which you would think should frustrate me, but it doesn’t. Why?!?! Because I know that no matter how “evolved” we think that we may be, God can still prepare us for even bigger things. Things that we can’t see or understand without change. And I like that. I like knowing that God has more planned for us and that we aren’t done becoming the people we are meant to be. For me, it makes all the struggles … worth it.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you change for the better!!!

Grateful … 

Today I had another doctor appointment and it went great! As frustrated as I am with the bouts of fatigue I am still experiencing, my doctor told me that I am still doing WAY better than I think I am. It made me very happy to hear that. Sometimes when we are in the thick of things we don’t always see what others do. I know I sure don’t.

It’s been almost four months since I got sick. I have had the best medical care and have been treated with the most compassionate bedside manner throughout this whole ordeal. As disruptive and anxiety provoking as this has all been, I couldn’t be happier with my medical team. They really are my biggest cheerleaders.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you are grateful!!!

Salting your waffles …

It’s been just over three months since I got sick and the peace of mind I have over the whole experience couldn’t be more rooted in hope … and in humor.

We can spend a lot of time trying to figure out all the WHYS to our unpleasant situations. And even longer being resentful of them. I try to learn from every experience I have. Good or bad, I see them all as lessons. But I’ll be honest, sometimes I just don’t get the point in the lesson in the first place. It can be frustrating to say the least. But it’s at that point when I usually tell myself that WHATEVER the lesson was, it all had a part in shaping me into the woman I’m meant to be. Which in the bigger picture, is kinda cool.

Once I get to this point I can begin to truly appreciate the experience. I can even begin to laugh about it. Which is always good. I know that when I can find humor in an otherwise unpleasant memory, I have achieved my ultimate peace in it. I begin to feel like a warrior and survivor … and not an out-of-control victim.

When I first came home from the hospital my family made me breakfast and Libs brought it to me so I could eat in my bed. She sat with me. I remember being surprised by this. She didn’t just bring it to me and leave, she settled herself on my bed and began talking to me. At the time this seemed so benign. But it became one of the happiest and funniest memories that came out of the whole meningitis (Part 2) experience. I really can’t remember anything Libs and I began talking about, I was still pretty out of it. But I do remember Libs calling my name over and over again. She was saying something and I just was too detached to catch the importance of it. I’m not sure what finally kicked my brain back into reality but I finally heard what she was saying. “Mom, you’re salting your waffles!” Well, we got a pretty good chuckle out of that one! And it’s continued to be a staple comment in our family when someone does something loopy.

It’s been a long three months. They have NOT been easy. I am still not myself physically. The fatigue is down right depressing at times. But I know that I am doing everything I can to get stronger. And thankfully, it’s working. Slowly but surely, it IS working. And I couldn’t be more grateful. But I still don’t have an understanding of the WHY I got sick again. I have thought about the day I got sick over and over again. The speed work I did on the treadmill just hours before I couldn’t move without excruciating pain. How strong I felt. Then how weak. I just can’t make any sense of it. But that’s OK. With memories of salty waffles, I’ll just laugh about it until I do.

Well, I hope you all have a day where laughter is the best medicine!!!

33 years ago today …

Thirty-three years ago today I was in a freak traumatic accident. It left me with a broken vertebrae, bruised ribs, numbness in my lower extremities, severe back pain and a broken heart.

After that day I heard A LOT of “you can’t”. As a runner that really sucked. And I believed it … for about 23 years to be exact. Then one day one day I decided not to believe it anymore.

There’s a saying that goes something like this: You only change when the thought of remaining who you are causes you far greater pain than the fears you have about changing. 

Yup. That’s what it came down to for me.

It wasn’t easy and it took a very long time but I turned those CAN’Ts into CANs … and I never looked back. I slowly built myself back up, physically and emotionally. I let myself dream about things I hadn’t dreamed about in decades. And it was wonderful.

As time passed what surprised me most was that those dreams that I thought were unattainable, actually were … and then some. I began living a life BEYOND my wildest dreams and I began dreaming EVEN BIGGER dreams than I ever had before! I soon found that my life was filled with a passion I never knew existed in my soul. It was then that I realized that nothing … ABSOLUTELY NOTHING … IS IMPOSSIBLE.

I still haven’t chased down all my dreams yet. I certainly have some DOOZEYS! But that’s OK, because I still remember the 15-year-girl lying on her hospital bed with a heart full of shattered dreams. I think I owe it to her to keep on trying.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you have come a long way baby!!!