I find a lot of happiness these days with the simplest things. When I started this blog I wrote about how much running meant to me and the frustrations associated with losing control of my ability to run freely. In retrospect, even before things got really bad in the beginning of ’09, I look at how much my disease affected my ability to run and it is staggering. I made incredible adjustments because running was the last thing I didn’t want to lose control of. I think I convinced myself that as long as I could run, Crohn’s wasn’t winning.
I think about those times now because I have gotten back into an exercise routine. The freedom I feel when running and walking now have given me a sense of comfort I have not felt since ’09 when I was in the best shape of my life. Even though it is going to take a lot of time and dedication to get myself back there, I am in no hurry because I know I have just that—time. I used to treat my good days like a currency that had to be used up before it ran out, but now I know that my supply is unlimited as long as I continue to treat my body well.
I also think about these times because I have triggers of these memories all around me. Strangely enough, it is not the scars on my belly or the sight of my ostomy that remind me of the distance I have traveled. Instead, it comes when I see certain landmarks or run the same paths that were too often previously abandoned at the wrath of my illness.
When I pass by the apartment my sister used to live, I remember how calculated my routes were when I ran through my neighborhood. Her apartment was the furthest I could reach and marked the spot where I would begin to run back to my house. I carried her apartment key in my shoe and a spare change of clothes at her place just in case I experienced urgency or actually had an accident—and yes, that happened many times. Too many.
When I pass by a particular wawa from my route or the local golf course shop I remember the times I had to stop there, too. I think to myself, How the hell did I manage to live this way before? That part of my life seems distant at times but the emotions are very much present.
Now when I run through the park and under the overpasses that mark the frequent places where city and nature briefly intersect, I remember how many times I had to call someone to come pick me up because I knew even if I turned around in that moment I would never make it back to my car. I think about how many times I would sit in those dirt parking lots waiting impatiently, all while hoping the next car that came around the bend was my reprieve.
And now, I can go as I please. I can run and walk as many miles as I want without thinking about the journey back. My routine is unplanned and I can chose to push myself harder if it feels right. When I take my typical routes I am thinking of nothing but how good the song on my ipod is or how hot the guy is that just ran by me. And in these times I remain contemplative. I am aware of how easy it is and I love that at any given moment my biggest concern while running can be my shoe that has just come untied.
Sometimes I think to myself, Will there ever be a day when these sights and routines don’t remind me of Crohn’s? But, the more distance that builds between this new me and my old self, the more I realize that I always want to remember. It’s funny that I let certain dates, like my diagnosis anniversary, occasionally slip by only to be remembered a few days later, but yet I will always think about the day I was diagnosed every time I enter the building where I had my first colonoscopy and was told I had IBD.
I guess what I am trying to say is that although I have doubts sometimes, I don’t want to ever forget what it felt like to be ill. These places I encounter on my runs are just as much my battle wounds as the scars on my body. I think my memories of running back then are a testament to my belief that in midst of a crisis, people have a super-human ability to adapt. When everything around you is chaos, there are certain pillars of your life that you need to remain standing to keep yourself afloat. And for me, I made ridiculous sacrifices to run. Even when I had to abandon it because of my physical deterioration, it was still very much a part of my decision to have surgery because I knew that I didn’t want to live a life where I was forcefully stripped of something that made me feel so great.
Who knows what time and life will do to alter how I contemplate the past couple years. Maybe there will be a day when I run through the park and those memories don’t come rushing back. For now I am just glad they are there because they only validate each decision I made to regain my life.
In many ways running has become a metaphor for my present life. I've pushed through the hard part where I thought I couldn't go on anymore and now I am cruising, incredibly focused, and enjoying the pace. I am just happy that I have great family and friends to relish in the journey with me because I know they feel the emotions just as much as I do.