I Survived to Run Again

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. 


4 thoughts on “I Survived to Run Again

  1. My name is Heather. Mom to a little love that rocks an extra chromosome. She also had a stroke. Major heart defect. Catastrophic form of epilepsy and has a fun chaser, AML. Today she navigates life in her cute pink wheelchair and spreads joy where ever we go. A link from FB brought me here. A total ” I get it” feeling as I read your piece about the looks from strangers as we exist our vehicles in an accessible spot. But when I linked here, I see we share yet another commonality. Although I’ve got about 10 years on you. 😉 I am a runner. But a runner riddled with autoimmune issues. Sjogrens that has extended extragladular. Severe asthma. Peripheral neuropathy. A blood disorder, and a plethora of other tid bits because my body attacks itself. So I get this too. The need to move. The desire to rise above something that threatens to take you down. So, carry on runner. Forward on with hope and I do believe, our trusty sidekicks will lead the way


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