Common sense would dictate that a slow, awkward 42 year old woman would be best off minding her own business, taking a nice stroll through the neighborhood a few times a week for good measure, and avoiding overexertion. Well, your first mistake would be assuming that common sense dictates my actions.
I digress.This part of my story started just over 6 years ago. 2010 was a grueling year in the Mshar home. On New Year’s Eve, 2009, my son, Benjamin, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). We started 2010 in a haze, knowing that for the next 3.5 years leukemia treatment would be foundational to everything we did. For a boy with ALL, the treatment runs 3 years, 4 months, no ifs, ands or buts. This treatment is almost entirely outpatient, but consists of multiple chemotherapies, and many, many spinal taps. The first 9 months is the most intense.
About 8 months into Ben’s treatment, I realized that I had been sitting at home with a sick child and little to do. My only outings had been oncology clinic visits. And it showed.
I have never been one to struggle with my weight, I run on the lean side, but by mid year 2010, I was heavier than I cared to be. I decided to make some changes, and ended up starting P90X. The results of that program were wonderful, so I continued working out, and started the Insanity program Thanksgiving day, 2010. Somewhere along the line, I also joined an online workout group run by a personal trainer friend of mine.In early 2011, this personal trainer told me to run. I tried to explain that I am not a runner. She pointed out legs and feet, and stated that being human, I am indeed a runner, and it was high time that I started.
I did start running, and quickly found out that I run best barefoot. I spent much of 2011 running barefoot on trails, in absolute bliss. Indeed, I was a runner.
I made a bold move, and that fall I signed up for a half marathon. It was my second race ever.The week before the race, Benjamin got a stomach bug, which he passed to me. I fought diarrhea all week, but was determined to put my best foot forward that Sunday morning.
The race was awful. I finished, but barely. I drug myself over the finish line after a ridiculously long time. But doggone it, I finished.
As time went on, Benjamin’s diarrhea didn’t get better, and we discovered that he had a resistant form of a bacteria known as Campylobacter. This bacteria can be foodborne, and generally is easy to kick, but not for Benjamin’s chemo-worn body. He fought the Campylobacter for several months. During that time, I started feeling poorly, and struggled to run at all.
As the winter wore on, I was diagnosed with mono, as well as thyroid failure. I slowly began to recover, and as spring arrived, I started running again.Then, on Mother’s Day morning, 2012, I was sitting in church. My feet kept feeling tingly, like they were just barely asleep, no matter how many times I changed positions.This sensation continued and spread. Soon my hands were tingling, and I found that I was struggling to control my bladder, and oh, so very weak.
When this problem persisted a few weeks, I finally gave up and went to my doctor, who quickly referred me to a neurologist. I spent the summer of 2012 going through multiple medical tests, and in mid-summer, was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome. The Campylobacter which I had contracted in late 2011 had turned my immune system against my nervous system.
By the time of diagnosis, I had grown accustomed to being weak and febile. Yet I still persisted in being as active as I possibly could, which most days was only stretching. The diagnosis came too late for any interventions to speed my recovery, so time was my only friend.
At this point I doubted I would ever run again.
Yet, I kept trying. I went for walks and did yoga, and every once in awhile, I would actually be able to run just enough to give me hope. I held tight to that hope, unwilling to believe that my running days were done for good.
Then in spring of 2014, it finally happened. I ran, and ran again, and again. I ran a quarter mile, then a half then one mile, and then farther and longer. The elation I felt was indescribable.
I am once again a runner. I started out slow, oh, so dreadfully slow. Yet week by week, mile by mile, I get just the tiniest bit faster and more fit. I experience many setbacks and disappointments, yet I persist.
I won’t ever be fast, but I won’t give up, at least not without a fight.
I know that many GBS survivors don’t fare as well as I have, but if one person reads my story and is inspired to try, then I will be a happy woman.
If you made it through this and like it, please hop on over and vote for me to be on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine please.