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Outrunning A Cold

2 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

A lovely view of the lake eases the pain of a 23km run

Two weeks ago, I started to feel a cold coming on. The timing was dreadful: I had a 10K race coming up and I was aiming to break my best time. As the race approached I suddenly got obsessive about eating healthily and taking vitamins. Anyone who knows me will know that this is not usually the case. I can get up at five on a Sunday morning to go for a 20km run, but I am oddly undisciplined when it comes to my diet.

Race day came and went and apart from a little bit of nasal congestion, I was fine. I found my zone and ran the best race of any distance that I have ever run. I left my previous 10K best time in the dust and had lots of energy left in the tank when I crossed the finish line.

At some point during the half-hour drive home from the race, the cold that had been waiting in the wings finally struck. As I basked in the glow of a race well run, I stayed home from work for the next two days, with my head feeling as if it had been run over by a herd of stampeding bulls.

Although I managed to drag myself into the office on the Wednesday after the race, I was still not well enough to run. Technically, I could have: running lore holds that as long as all symptoms are above the neck, it is safe to run. I knew better than to try, though. When I’m sick, I need to rest. If I don’t, I just get sicker and prolong my recovery. I decided to save myself for the long training run I had scheduled for Sunday.

By the time Sunday rolled around, I was feeling a lot better but by no means recovered. Looking at the calendar and seeing that my next half-marathon was just a month away, I decided to head out for my run anyway. I had the foresight to shove a few tissues into the pocket on my fuel belt – I knew I would need them.

The thing that really got me going that day was the sunshine. It was such a perfect day for running, and if I hadn’t gone out I would have wasted my time staring wistfully out the window. Instead, I put on my hat and a light running jacket that would end up being removed after the first kilometre, and I hit the road.

Two and a half hours later, I limped back into my driveway, hot and exhausted. My legs were feeling every step of the 23km I had just run, and I was ready for three things: a hefty dose of carbs, some coffee, and a long afternoon of lying on the couch.

Every time I had to move for the rest of the day, I grimaced in pain. But I felt good about the miles I had put in, and the fact that two and half hours in the sun had given me a touch of colour.

And my cold? Well, it’s still trying to linger. And I’m trying to bully it into submission, so it slinks away, never to return.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

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Taking Care Of Mom: A Story Of Survival

29 Mar

I don’t usually take calls on my cell phone during meetings, least of all calls from numbers that I do not recognize.

Answer the phone, said a little voice in my head. It was the same little voice that has guided me many times in the past, the little voice that I always listen to, because when I don’t, I regret it.

I excused myself from the meeting and answered the phone.

To my surprise, it was the lady at the pharmacy down the road from my parents’ house. My mother had come in to the pharmacy to fill a prescription, and while she was there she had started complaining of abdominal pain. Could I please come and get her and take her to a doctor right away?

Bear in mind that this happened in a country that did not have 9-1-1. I was definitely a better and faster bet than the local ambulance service.

I made the fifteen-minute drive to the pharmacy in about eight minutes, only to find that my mother was not there.

“I’m sorry,” said the lady at the pharmacy. “We couldn’t wait. Your mother really needed to see the doctor immediately, so Michael drove her.”

I didn’t know who Michael was, but that was the least of my worries. I thanked the lady and drove to the doctor’s office. I was ushered into the consulting room immediately, and Michael – who turned out to be a kindly delivery man – was free to leave.

My mother was lying on the examination table writhing in pain. Her body was burning up with an ever-climbing fever and her face was the colour of paper. The doctor, who I had known for years and who had always, up until this moment, been completely unflappable, was trying everything she could. Although she was displaying an admirable calmness, I could see undercurrents of desperation.

An ambulance had been summonsed. It arrived and ferried my mother off to the hospital, with me following in my car.

At some point during all of this chaos I got in touch with my dad and my brother, who were out of town on separate business trips. While I took care of admission paperwork at the hospital, they were trying to get themselves onto last-minute flights home.

With the admin taken care of, all I could do was wait. I discovered that hospital waiting areas are every bit as bleak and depressing as movies make them out to be. After what felt like hours, the doctor came out to see me. The bad news was that my mother had an infection so severe that her kidneys were failing. The good news was that the fever was under control and the pain was being managed. I was allowed to go in to see my mother. She looked dreadful, but with the pain and fever taken care of, she was at least able to talk a little.

She was very afraid – and who wouldn’t be? I was terrified myself but trying hard not to show it. The doctor came back into the room and gave my mother some milky-looking medicine. She sipped the cloudy colloid as I gave her assurances that she was OK, she would be OK, the doctors were taking care of her.

I’m not sure when my dad and brother arrived. All I know is that at some point, they faded into the hustle and bustle as people entered and left the room, trying to get my mother’s body to work the way it was supposed to.

This story has a good ending. My mother recovered and thankfully she is in good health.

On some dreaded day – hopefully a long way in the future – I will lose my mom, because no-one lives forever.

But I am eternally grateful to whatever powers prevail that that day, Mom stayed with us.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Cedar challenged me with “She sips the cloudy colloid. ” and I challenged Leo with “Tell a story that makes a lot of use of contrasts, like light/dark, big/small etc.”

The End Of Days

29 Dec

Laura might have been dying, but she wasn’t stupid. She chuckled inwardly as she listened to Peter and Holly talk in hushed tones at her bedside. Along with everyone else, they assumed that because she was non-responsive, she couldn’t hear or comprehend anything that was going on. She could not see anymore, and that put her at a dreadful disadvantage, but her hearing was just as keen as it had ever been.

Laura was 93 years old and cancer had been eating away at her body for over a year now. As soon as she had been given the deadly diagnosis, she had checked herself into this private nursing home. Peter and Holly had vigorously opposed this move, saying that she would be better off staying with them. They had made her read articles and statistics about how badly sick old ladies were treated in nursing homes, but she was having none of it. Peter and Holly – her son and her daughter-in-law – did not care about her. They just cared about her money, and they wanted to protect their inheritance.

It was no secret that Laura was a woman of means. She had always had a knack for managing finances. She had known when to take risks and when to be conservative, when to save and when to spend. Over the years, her wealth had grown slowly but steadily, with only the occasional minor setback. She had planned it all just for this eventuality. She did not care about big houses or expensive cars, but she had always known that she would want to spend her final days in a place where she would have her own private doctors and a bed with the best linen money could buy. This place cost an absolute fortune – hence the disapproval of her so-called family – but where she was going next, she wouldn’t need her money.

It was funny how Peter and Holly had ignored her for the last twenty years, only to conveniently reappear in her life when it became apparent that her death was imminent. Peter was her only surviving family: Emily had been cruelly taken by ovarian cancer twelve years ago, and Frankie had only been twelve when the drunk driver had slammed into him while he was riding his bike. Laura’s husband was long gone, and so were her sisters. She didn’t have anyone else to leave her money to, really. But she loathed the idea of her greedy son and his greedier wife getting their hands on it. They had always had more regard for her wealth than for the person she was. It saddened her to think that she had raised a man who expected the world to provide for him without giving anything in return.

Now, as she lay listening to their chatter, she knew that her time on this planet was very close to being at an end. She didn’t mind. She had lived a good life. She had been happy and she thought she had treated her fellow man in a way that would guarantee her entrance into Heaven, if such a place existed. She was ready to move on.

Peter was going to get the surprise of his life when she died and her will was read. He knew that he was the only person his mother would logically leave her fortune to. She wasn’t the eccentric type who would leave everything to a cat shelter, like the woman in the newspaper article a few weeks ago. But little did he know that the money would come with conditions, that he would have to prove his worth as a human being before he saw a dime of it.

Laura’s son might be 56 years old, but she didn’t think it was ever too late to teach him some values. If the promise of money was what it would take to make him give something to the world instead of taking all the time, then so be it.

It’s never too late, she thought, moments before she died. It’s never too late to be a good human being.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Niqui, who gave me this prompt: "Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." – Mark Twain
I challenged Michael with the prompt: "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." (Douglas Adams)

Sleep Interrupted

18 Jul

Sleep – or lack thereof – has been a big issue in my life lately. I’ve never really been one to sleep for long stretches, and particularly since entering the world of motherhood, I consider six hours to be a good night’s sleep. But these days, even getting that amount of shut-eye is a challenge. There are a number of reasons for the recent sleep deficit, ranging from a run of kids’  tummy bugs to the fact that I’m an occasional insomniac.

Saturday night was particularly brutal. I went to bed early enough, because I was planning a long run early on Sunday morning. The kids were asleep, and James, who had been afflicted with a tummy bug, seemed to be on the mend.

At about midnight, when I had barely been asleep for half an hour, I woke to the sound of James crying his little heart out. My husband and I went to investigate, only to discover that the poor child had had a tummy-bug related accident. I whisked James off to the bathroom to clean him up and comfort him; my husband took care of changing the sheets and throwing soiled sheets and pajamas into the washing machine. James, bless his precious little soul, kept apologizing, even though I assured him that it was OK.

We got James settled and went back to bed. By the time I got back to sleep it was well after 1:00 a.m. A couple of hours later, I was roused to consciousness by a light tugging at my arm. I squinted in the darkness and saw James standing beside my bed. He took my hand, wordlessly led me to his bed, and plaintively asked me to stay with him. How could I refuse, right? So I climbed in and got settled, and James promptly threw up all over me.

As quietly as I could, I got James and myself cleaned up, threw yet another load of sheets and PJ’s into the washing machine, and having run of clean sheets, settled the two of us on the futon in our living room.

We went to sleep, and until about 4:00 a.m., I slept the sleep of the just.

At that point, George started to feel lonely, so he abandoned his bed and went in search of me. His first stop was my own bed, where he apparently found his Dad alone, and woke him up just to say, in a tone riddled with indignation, “You’re not Mommy.” Then he found me on the futon and squeezed in beside me.

There is not enough room on the futon for me and two long, lanky kids, both of whom sleep splayed out like starfish. But my discomfort was outweighed by the fact that I had my boys, one on either side of me. And so I (sleeplessly) passed the rest of the witching hours squished between my two gently snoring kids, with elbows and knees poking into my back, and my head bent at an uncomfortable angle.

Eventually, I gave up on the idea of sleep. I made coffee and drank some, and then, with my body screaming in protest, I went out for a 12km run.

It was not a good run, except in the sense that I actually finished it. By seven in the morning it was already scorching hot, I was not properly hydrated and above all, my body was utterly exhausted.

And because I love being there for my kids whenever they need me, at any time of the day or night, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doortoriver/2903845014/)

Out Of The Darkness: Overcoming Post-Partum Depression

4 Jul

This post was a hard one to write, even though the events described happened several years ago. It took me a number of days to get this all down, and it has taken another few days to actually decide whether or not to publish it. My hope in publishing this is that it will make a difference to somebody. Maybe you’re a new mom who is going through post-partum depression. Or perhaps you know a new mom who seems to be retreating into herself. If your life is touched in any way by post-partum depression, know that there are things that can be done. Talk to your friends and family, seek help from medical professionals. And whatever you do, don’t lose hope.

My younger son James was born at a tumultuous time in my life. I had lost my dad to cancer a year previously, and me and my husband were going through some challenging times in our life together. At around that time, we were also starting to realize that there was something wrong with George and we had started to experience the frustration of wrangling a referral out of our family doctor.

I sometimes wonder, when I look back, whether all of these factors led to the post-partum depression I went through. Or perhaps it would have happened anyway. This is an illness that can strike the most unlikely of victims.

I knew within a couple of days after giving birth that the utter bleakness I was feeling was more than a case of “baby blues”. What I had experienced with George two years previously – the mild sadness, the anxiety, the tendency to be emotionally weird – that was baby blues. What I was going through now was completely different.

On New Years Eve that year, when James was six days old, I was sitting in front of the TV nursing my newborn while I watched CNN coverage of festivities around the world. At about five to midnight, Gerard brought me a cup of tea, and as he set it down beside me, he asked in surprise, “Why are you crying?”

I was just as surprised as he was. I had not even noticed the floods of tears rolling silently down my cheeks.

Even though I was filled with this feeling of terrifying – emptiness – I did not initially label what I was experiencing with any name. The first time I thought of the term post-partum depression in relation to myself, James was about two months old. A replay of an old Oprah episode was on – the episode where Tom Cruise spouted forth about how there was no such thing as post-partum depression, and how all new moms could solve all of their problems by eating right and exercising.

What an idiot, I remember thinking. This thought was followed by the sudden light-bulb moment in which I realized that I was suffering from post-partum depression.

There was a good news and a bad news aspect to this discovery.

The good news was that I now had a name for what I was going through. I had something to Google, and sure enough, on every checklist I found, I was able to put checkmarks beside all but one or two of the signs and symptoms. I had a basis for research, and I felt some validation that I wasn’t simply going mad.

The bad news was that I too far down the path of post-partum depression to be able to actually do anything about it. Talking to someone – my doctor, my friends, or even my husband – would have taken energy. And that was something that I had in very short supply. Just getting through the day was an accomplishment. Once I had attended to the basic needs of my kids – feeding, diapering, bathing, dressing – there was nothing left over. No reserves of energy whatsoever.

And because I didn’t do anything about it, my illness got steadily worse and worse. I didn’t talk to anyone about it, and no-one recognized the signs. My friends and family saw me retreating further and further into myself, but they did not know why. They saw that the kids were obviously being taken care of, so they didn’t realize that there was anything to be concerned about.

Even when my depression was at its very worst, I was not suicidal in the sense of wanting to actively go out and kill myself (again, that would have taken energy that I just didn’t have), and I was never in danger of harming the kids. Their health, safety and happiness were my top priorities – my only priorities.

I did start to think about dying, though. I fantasized about what it would be like to die in a car accident, or to have a sudden heart attack, or to be shot during a bank robbery. I thought about being on a plane that had a bomb on it. What if I had some undiagnosed condition, and simply went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up?

My depression went untreated for over a year, and by then I honestly thought that I was lost forever. Right after George was diagosed with autism, I went to see my family doctor, who had received a copy of the diagnostic report. I was seeing the doctor about something unrelated – an old ankle injury was acting up – but he immediately picked up that there was something seriously wrong.

My doctor, who had been absolutely dismal at detecting signs of early developmental delay in George, was able to tell right away that I was going through a major depression. He put me on medication and insisted on seeing me once a week until I was out of the woods.

The pills were both good and bad for me. The bad part was that they made me feel angry. While I was taking them, I was mad at everyone and everything. Back then, I didn’t even have running as a stress coping mechanism, so the anger just sat there and frightened the living daylights out of me.

The good thing, though, was that the pills helped with the depression. I started feeling some energy again – even though the energy itself was negative, it was a start. Negative energy was better than the absolute empiness and desolation that I had been feeling for so long now.

And so gradually, I started finding my way back. With time, I rekindled my relationship with my husband, and I discovered the true joy of parenting. I went back to work and started to find my own identity again. I started running. Little buds of hope started to grow within me.

I found my way out of the darkness, and into love and light.

Overcoming The Bad Stuff: 19 March 2010

27 Feb

As I attempt to patch together bits of my life that feel as if they are falling apart, I find myself unable to write. This is a re-post from last year. In fact, this was only the third or fourth post in the life of Running For Autism. I’ll see you tomorrow, emotional Band-Aids and all.

 

2010 did not exactly start off well for me.  In early December, I had suffered from a strep throat infection, during which I had only been able to lie down comfortably in one position for three days.  This resulted in some stiffness in my neck and upper back.  It was not crippling, merely uncomfortable, and my chiropractor was helping me out with it.  The day before New Years Eve, a chiropractic adjustment went horribly wrong.  I had excruciating shooting pains in my back and going all the day down my left arm.  The fingers in my hand went numb. While everyone else was out partying it up the following night, I was sitting on the couch writhing in agony. I missed the New Years Day Resolution Run – something that I had been looking forward to for weeks.

Over the next month, I went to the Emergency Room twice, was seen by five different doctors, and got four different prescriptions for drugs.  I cried myself to sleep each night because I was in so much pain, and I appropriated the kids’ giant stuffed gorilla because it was just the right size for me to rest my arm on.  I was taking Percocet for the pain every six hours, and when the pain between doses got too much for me to bear, I was taking Tylenol Three as well.

For a month I could barely stand up, let alone run. In the end, it was the folks at Toronto SEMI (Sports and Exercise Medicine Institute) who saved me from insanity.  The doctor there told me what I had suspected, which is that I had a pinched nerve.  The pinched nerves always get resolved, he said, and it could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to a few months.  I immediately started seeing one of the physiotherapists at SEMI, and within days I was starting to feel relief.  After two weeks, she told me I could try running again.  Two weeks after that, I was in full-on training mode again, and feeling great.

As soon as I had gotten back on my feet, though, I was struck down again.  I caught a cold, and the cold turned into something a lot worse.  I had a hacking cough, I had a fever that came and went, I was weak.  I was so sick that I was off work for two weeks, and was not allowed back without producing a doctor’s note certifying that I didn’t have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. During this time, I was not able to run for three weeks.

Last weekend marked the end of this three-week drought.  I got up on Sunday morning, and although I was still coughing a bit and somewhat congested, I decided to give it a try. It went surprisingly well – slower than I would have liked, but considering all I’d been through over the last three months, I didn’t mind.  I was just happy that I was out on the road again.

On Tuesday I went for a lunchtime run.  Due to time constraints, my weekday runs cannot really be longer than 5km, but that’s still enough for a good workout.  About 500m into the run, my hair band snapped.  Not a good thing – I have quite a lot of hair.  I ran almost 5km with my hair streaming out behind me.  It reminded me of those movies about horses, where the horses are running across meadows with the hair on their tails flowing behind them in the wind.  That’s what I felt like.  A horse’s ass.  I had also misjudged the weather that day, so I was overdressed.  Hair flying every which way plus clothes that are too hot leads to a run that is uncomfortable and cumbersome.  I was not happy with my pace or the fact that my heart rate was reaching the stratosphere.

My next run was on Thursday.  I almost left my running clothes at home that day, because I had had zero sleep on Wednesday night and did not rate my chances for a good run.  But you never know, so I took my gym bag to work, not really expecting to use it.  Come lunchtime, I still felt like the undead, but knowing from past experience how a run can actually have healing powers, I suited up and hit the road.  My clothes were appropriate and my hair band stayed intact.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and I had a fantastic run.  Although the “pace buddy” on my training watch still beat me, my pace was a lot better than it had been on Tuesday.  My heart rate stayed within reasonable levels.  When I reached the end of the 5km, I could have continued.  It was one of those runs that reminds me why I love running.

I am planning another 5km run for tomorrow morning, and a longer one for Sunday.  I am looking forward to my 10km race on April 3rd.  I am hopeful that I will stay healthy this time.  I have to.  After all, there are only 190 days to my next run for autism.

One Step Closer To Normal

14 Feb

Life is one step closer to normal today.

James has rallied back after his week-long illness and is back at school today. It completely failed to register with my overtaxed brain that today would be the day to send in Valentines cards and treats for him to hand out to his classmates, but I don’t honestly feel too bad about that. I’ve had other things on my mind. In any case, James will no doubt get a lot of attention today.  He is immensely proud of the tiny little bruise on his hand where the IV line went in. He is going to show the bruise to his friends and tell the tale of his hospital adventures. I’d say the kid has earned the bragging rights.

George is still home, but he hasn’t thrown up for about thirty hours. He ate jam sandwiches yesterday, and right now he is digging into the scrambled egg that he requested. He has colour in his face again – a colour other than pure white, that is – and he is chatting away in his own little autie language. He seems happy, and definitely better. He’s getting one more day at home to recover his strength.

Gerard and I are at home as well. Both of us feel a little drained and weak, but we are also on the mend. My system is still very delicate – so delicate that I am, for the fourth day in a row, voluntarily foregoing coffee. Those who know me and my love for caffeine will appreciate just what a sacrifice this is.

Even though I am at home, I am well enough to actually work. Tomorrow I will go back to the office for the first time in almost a week. I’ll feel like Marco Polo must have when he got back from China or wherever it was he went, except that I won’t have boatloads of tea and rice with me.

After my return to work, I will be able to think about the next big thing. Running. Oh, how I miss running. How badly I want to lace up my running shoes and go out in the crisp, cold air and feel the crunching of the snow beneath my feet as I run.

If I try that today I will throw up all over that nice pretty snow. I have to be sensible. It will probably be Thursday or Friday before I try running again, and when I do, I will have to start out slow.

I won’t even care about being slow. I just want to be out on the road again.

And for everyone in my family to be able to go to bed at night without a designated puke bucket on the floor beside them.