September 16, 2013

Facing a Challenge

I just completed my first race over the weekend! I still can't believe I did it.

Originally I was planning to complete a half marathon. I began training and my husband was right there along with me. Once we starting running over 5 miles we got bored. My husband heard about the Pocono Challenge, a triathlon of sorts so we signed up for that instead. It consisted of biking 14.5 miles,

 paddling 10 miles
 and running 3 miles.

It was definitely a challenge and there wasn't any part of the process that was easy. Except for maybe the fact that my husband got everything ready in the early morning while we waited for the race to start.

Yeah this was me before it started cuddled in a cozy fleece blanket.
Oh but he got me back by relaxing during the paddling section. 

We actually thought the paddling section was going to be the easiest. We thought we would get to relax while we floated down the Delaware River. Those 10 miles felt like forever. No matter how hard we paddled we moved so slow. It got old really fast, it was so monotonous. We were actually looking forward to running. That was until we unfolded ourselves from the canoe and felt the stiffness in our bodies and realized our legs didn't want to work for us. 

Part of the reason why this was so challenging for me and I'm so amazed that I finished is because in the last three years I've had 3 different surgeries. The 1st surgery three years ago was on my right knee.

My husband took this lovely picture and no I don't remember him taking it. When I tell people why I had knee surgery they think it sounds terrible but at least an exciting way that it happened. It happened when I was skiing in Colorado. I don't usually add any other details to the story. Like the fact that I wasn't really doing anything exciting and I wasn't even on a difficult part of the slope that I can remember. The pain from this entire ordeal goes much deeper than what you see in that picture. Here's the whole story.

I had lived in Colorado for a few years before this accident happened and still never went skiing. We did plenty of other activities but skiing was expensive and involved lots of traffic and time to make it worth while.

It's something I dreamed about doing though, I longed for it so badly. I skied growing up and loved it. The only skiing I ever did was in the Appalachian mountains in Virginia. I was pretty good, always in control even on ice, therefore I thought Colorado skiing shouldn't be hard. Of course you had those negative people joking that you don't know what skiing is. We finally got ski passes and went out a few times.
It was awesome and so beautiful. There were a number of things that were different about skiing in Colorado one was how powdery and deep the snow was. Another difference was not getting in nearly as many runs but the average run being much longer.

One weekend we decided to meet up with some friends. I was a little nervous considering they were "experts." The boys split up from us girls. As were riding on the lift up the mountain my girlfriend and I started having a very honest conversation. She told me that at the last group Bible study they were disusing the group dynamic and the goals of the group and the group's future. Apparently I was the topic of conversation and not in a good way. They discussed how I was too opinionated and one of the girls in the group apparently disliked me. How I was constantly offering up advice about children that was annoying and based on no experience or knowledge. It hurt so badly to find out that others were talking so negatively behind my back. I think my friend did have positive intentions in telling me all this and I also think I probably only heard the bad stuff from the conversation and it got distorted in my own head.

Back story on this group of people. They were amazing. They taught me how to be a friend. I loved (LOVE) them and wanted desperately to fit into their group and feel valued and to contribute. They were the smartest group of people I've ever been a part of. The group was made up of doctors, a lawyer, a dentist, a graphic designer, a pilot, a financial analyst, a psychologist, a high school teacher...lets just say really successful people. They started as a group of young  married people without children. We came into the group after they had already formed strong bonds. We had just moved across the country for my husband's career. I had just finished my student teaching and said "no" to my first teaching job offer because I had to move. I was jobless and lets just say felt very unsuccessful compared to these people.

The group dynamic started changing soon after we arrived. Some of the couples were starting to want children. I felt like some of them looked at us as the newly married couple who had a whole lot to learn and they were so much further along in life than we were. I can remember frequent "you'll see" comments or "just wait until you're married for 5 years."  In many ways we did have a lot to learn (and still do) but I so desperately wanted to be valued and to contribute to this group.

I finally landed a teaching job and was feeling confident in my profession and the experiences I had. When friends in the group started having children and were asking for advice or just venting I wanted to help them find solutions and encourage them. I wanted to belong and be a part of the conversation. Never once did I say anything with a negative intention. I'm a brainstormer and a helper by nature which when combined with my very passionate personality can be taken in a negative way. She talks too much, she's too opinionated.... I've heard these things my whole life and they play in my head constantly.

Back to the ski accident. My friend had just told me that at small group everyone was talking about me. After hearing this all I wanted to do was cry and on top of that I had to pee really bad. It was all such a bad combination for safe skiing. I was so distracted. I had so many things running through my mind. Where was the closest bathroom? Why does it feel like I can't form close, healthy relationships? Why don't people like me? What's wrong with me? Will I be able to get all these layers off fast enough before peeing on myself? Why do I always have to go to the bathroom? What's wrong with me? I've got to get off this mountain! What's the fastest way down?

Did I mention I'm blind in one eye? I think that all my distracted thoughts along with wanting to get off the slope immediately, combined with bad depth perception led me to uneven terrain resulting in the crash which tore my ACL. After crashing I thought I might still be able to make my way down the mountain after the crash. Only I discovered I couldn't even stand up on my own which led to the scariest ride of my life down the mountain by a person pulling me on a sled at very high speeds.  The next few months I went through various tests to determine if surgery was necessary. I hobbled around and continued to teach full time and then found out my husband's job was moving us to Nebraska. I believe I injured my knee worse hobbling around on it for as long as I did and then driving from Colorado to Nebraska where in that new strange land I immediately required knee surgery. Knee surgery was scary. It was the first surgery I ever had. The recovery was long. Three years later my knee is still numb and sore but feels better than it ever has.

My 2nd surgery was for a cyst in my abdomen. This caused me a great deal of discomfort and pain. It took them time to figure out exactly what it was and to determine surgery was necessary. After the surgery the doctor concluded it was a cyst that may have been growing since birth and attached it's self to my ovary but didn't derive from there. It was the size of a grapefruit. It could have been what contributed to my constant need to pee or my exhaustion or other things throughout my life I wondered about.

My 3rd surgery took place exactly a year after the 2nd surgery. It was another cyst. It was causing discomfort but this one was different. The doctor said it looked strange. It wasn't just one cyst but a mass of multiple, divided cysts. They sent me to an Oncologist. The C word was used many times. The possibility of having cancer was real. After many invasive tests the results were all the same, surgery was necessary. I still don't know exactly what happened but it was nothing short of a miracle. The doctor didn't find what he thought he would when he got inside, instead he diagnosed me with endometriosis. This has no cure it's something you just live with. This diagnosis explained a lot for me and made me realize that different things that happened throughout my life weren't normal and were probably because of this disease.

After the cancer scare and 3rd surgery I was determined to research and find out what I needed to do to be healthy. What I discovered was quite simple. I believe that in order for my body to heal and be whole I need to provide for it what it needs. My body needs certain nutrients and those nutrients can't be absorbed if my body is full of stuff it doesn't need. That's when I decided I wanted to change my diet and exercise regularly. I wasn't going to let my knee hold me back any longer. I wasn't going to let any negative thoughts hold me back. My mind is my own worst enemy and it's true that fear can be the biggest thing that holds us back.

I decided I wanted to train for a race. I thought having a goal would help me accomplish exercising regularly and it did. No it wasn't easy. The first mile I ran I walked most of it. Some days I just wanted to curl up in a little ball. There were tears and the shouting, "I can't do this!" The worst words that were shouted were in my mind. "You're so slow, why bother; you will never be able to run a mile under 12 minutes; you're not built like a runner so you shouldn't be running..."

Guess what I still run 12 minute miles and I'm still not built like a runner BUT I feel good. I really do feel good and healthy. Just like anyone I  have my share of bad days it's not all sunshine and rainbows but overall I feel really good. And it's true that voice in my head says, "when will the good health card run out again?  "It will all be over soon, just wait." I still keep pushing through and I keep doing my best because that's all I can do. I know with all my heart that I can't really do anything on my own. I can only do things because of Christ who strengthens me. I find myself saying those words often and with every step I run.

It also helps to have this guy by my side.

I don't know what I would do without him. He's been by my side every-step of the way through the good, bad and ugly.

Have you ever heard the song Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips?
It brings me to tears every time I hear it.

I can't tell you how many times my husband has caught me when I fallen, been my crutch when my legs can't move and never once have I had to sleep alone. Even though I couldn't bathe and was bleeding and oozing he always stayed right by my side.

It's been therapeutic to write all this out but the main reason is to encourage and remind. No I don't want acclimation for completing the race or anyone to feel sorry for me.

I want to
                                                               Go 2 Old Western Regular
you to pursue good health. Everyone has different challenges they face. All of us need something different, start on the journey to finding out what your body needs.
                                                Kenzie Medium
I fully believe God has provided us with everything necessary to accomplish feeling healthy.

I want to
                                                                KG A Little Swag Regular
you that everyone you meet is fighting a battle. It doesn't matter how pretty or perfect people's lives appear on the outside. Treat others with kindness, try to remember that even though they might appear like they have everything going for them, they don't. No one really does. Get to know people, don't automatically label them. Build relationships, enjoy everyone for the different qualities they bring.

Are you facing a challenge right now? Do you feel healthy?  You can get through it! You can feel healthy!            Sketch Nothing Regular


  1. Thanks for sharing your amazing journey Katie! So proud of you for all you have accomplished.


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