Today I am a free man.
My home care nurse came over for the last time today and discharged me. She pulled the IV line out of my arm that I was using for nutrition and hydration support up until last week.
I put on my running clothes for the first time in nearly 3 months today. I’ve got some new accessories now though, I also strapped on my ostomy bag support belt (for the bag connected to my stomach to catch the waste since I don’t have a large intestine anymore).
Then I stepped out into the gorgeous, sunny, crisp winter morning and I ran.
It felt amazing. Then my left knee hurt and I walked. Then I stopped to rub it out. Then I ran more. Then I cried uncontrollably as I kept running; looking at the sun, and the sky, and the jet streams, and the flatirons, and feeling my heart pounding, and feeling so immensely blessed to be alive, and to be running, and to have excitement for life again.
My body is weak. I was able to do exactly ZERO pull-ups and ZERO push-ups today. And it took me 17 minutes to complete my one mile running loop. 4 months ago I ran a one mile race in 4 minutes and 37 seconds.
So am I starting from scratch? I could look it at like that…but I’m not going to. Sure I need to rebuild and re-strengthen my muscles and my heart and lungs need to start doing some work again. But I have a base of muscle memory, and knowledge, and experience that hasn’t gone anywhere. All of which I am now building on. This 3 month break and the accompanied 35 pound reduction in weight I believe will turn out to benefit me as a runner. Less weight means less work on my legs, lungs, and heart after all. And my strength is coming back a lot faster than my weight, which only means good things as a runner.
So this morning marks the renewal of the pursuit of my goal of running a 4:20 mile and a 2:30 marathon. It will take time, but it feels so good to be working toward a goal again, and to have hope and excitement back in my life.
Emotionally I’m building again also.
The disease and surgery and debilitating pain I have gone through, and the near month I spent in the hospital, all combined to really attack me and my family emotionally. I found myself in the depths of despair and depression at times. It was the first time in my life I had experienced such intensely negative feelings and the desire to be dead. And I wasn’t alone. My eight year old son slipped into emotional instability and depression needing to be pulled out of school while I was hospitalized.
And my poor wife was certainly not immune from the overwhelm, anxiety, and emotional challenges of having a newborn, a husband missing in action and fearing his death, and emotionally disturbed children to deal with. We have all been broken down and humbled to the extreme.
On October 27, the day of my emergency colon removal surgery, I was at risk of dying if I didn’t have the diseased and destroyed colon removed quickly. And before surgery as I was screaming in pain, I kept asking the nurses if I was going to die. I didn’t know what kind of pain meant death was imminent, and I was feeling constant, intense pain in my bowels.
But I desperately did NOT want to die.
Days and weeks later I found myself actually wishing I were dead at some moments. Not seeing any light to pursue. Feeling out of control from the pain, bloating, gas and need for pain pills and narcotics that were my daily companions. Feeling depressed about having to cancel our month long planned trip to a beach house in Costa Rica in January. Depression and despair are not fun feelings I have come to learn.
But thankfully they have passed. Slowly after weeks the pain eased and I was able to go home. And slowly and with a lot of effort I am learning what to eat and not eat. And the result is I am no longer in pain. And I am gaining weight and strength little by little every week. And I am sleeping in my own bed again finally.
And I took my last pharmaceutical medication today, after a month long tapering phase off the steroids I had been prescribed.
Today is the dawning of a new era.
Today I start to build on everything I have experienced.
And what an appropriate day, in Hawaii December 7 marks the anniversary of the day in 1941 Pearl Harbor when they also started rebuilding.
My family and I have a lot of work to do physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. But I believe all the work we are going to do is building on the foundation of experiences we have had. We are not starting over. We are building higher. We are getting stronger and will be better than ever before.
I can definitely say that I have more compassion and empathy now for people that are struggling in any way, especially with disease or depression. I have more knowledge of nutrition and health than I ever realized I would want or need to know. And I am so grateful to be excited about life again.