I’ve always had issues with my spine.
When I was about 4, I wanted to roller skate so badly at a birthday party of one of my sister’s friends. I’d been scooting along the side, holding onto the rail, and at times, holding my mother’s hand. I felt brave enough to try it out on my own, and insisted I was ready. She cautioned me that it would be different, and that I needed to be certain, because I might fall. I told her I was prepared to fall. Off I went. I was doing well, until I wasn’t. I fell on my ass, and broke it---Literally. I felt something crack and it HURRRRRT, but I refused to cry. Why? Because my mother had warned me I wasn’t ready and even then, I had too much pride to admit I was wrong. So I didn’t speak up with she asked if I was ok. I just said that it was a little sore. But it wasn’t just a little sore. I was sore for a long time.
Fast forward to high school and I started to have chronic lower back pain. I was in the throes of hours-long volleyball playing and running each day. We thought it was typical. We thought it was over-exertion. My trainer had me on a strict program of stretching, heat before, and ice after. He strongly encouraged me to consider holding back some. He suggested I shouldn’t attempt a career beyond high school for fear of my future self. I aimed to prove him otherwise. It was just a little bit of back pain. After all, I survived the ligament tears in my ankle and my thumb. They were sore, but I could tolerate it.
I went on to play in college and at a university. I ran even more, lifted harder, jumped, landed, flew, and had more bang-ups than before. I accumulated another 2 concussions, and felt weak because I couldn’t breathe. But I pressed on through the pain, doing my very best to breathe and keep up. I would pop a couple of pink power pills (powerful anti-inflammatory pain blockers) with a 32-oz Dr. Pepper and I was good to go for games.
By the time I graduated, my mother had undergone her first back surgery and had a Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis.
I continued to have the back pain, and when I had my first job post-graduation, I visited a chiropractor for the first time. She took x-rays and noticed that my spine was a full inch off of alignment from the lower part of my body. So we came up with a treatment plan that helped me get through the every day, and also got me through my first pregnancy and first marathon.
It wasn’t until after that marathon that I saw an allergist. I was tired of sneezing all of the time, even though that was basically my life for, well, all of my life. It was there that I had a full diagnosis of asthma. I remember the look on her face when she told me, because she wondered how I was able to cope all of those years being as physically active as I was. I chalked it off as to something that maybe got worse with age. Because really, I’m not a super human. It made sense that times were more difficult based on the seasons and my outdoor activity level.
Then there was last year. That fracture, the conversation with the doctors, my chiropractor, processing the diagnosis. The Neuro said I shouldn’t run as much as I do, because of the impact it has on the body. But when I ran the Santa 5K with my 5 year old daughter for her first-ever 5K, when I ran the Cowtown Half with my friend, when I ran the Fairview Half with my family cheering me on, when I’ve had my training runs (in spite of them getting longer and longer)…I’m happier. I’ve found a way to redirect my stress. This is a big deal and quite noticeable because my normal nervous tick of yanking on my hair, well I don’t do it. My bangs have grown out to the longest they’ve been since before I got married. I still had the migraines. I still battle depression feelings. But I kept running. I pushed through the pain, willing my back to deal. I breathed purposefully, willing my lungs to cooperate.
After the Sprint triathlon (about a month ago), I felt some discomfort in my knee. My current chiropractor, whom I hadn’t seen since March (maybe?), isn’t a sports chiro. I reached out to my running friends for referrals and each of them couldn’t say enough positive things about theirs, so I went in for a visit. I have tendonitis in my knee and my neck bones are reverse of what they should be (this is the BIGGEST reason for my migraines—my bones have been pinching the nerves right there by my brain), but therapy will help to fix that. However, what else he had to say echoed what I’ve heard before—only, this time, I HEARD it and begrudgingly accepted it. In the photo below, you can see how I am not aligned and you can see the limited space between the vertebrae (moderate degeneration—only a matter of time for severe degeneration, which is bone-on-bone).
His words, not to tell me to stop running, but to reconsider the longer distances. He acknowledges what running means to those who run. He suggested I SHOULDN’T run. And this time I listened because I have two smaller ones to consider. One day I would like to run with them, even if it is just a few miles. I expect to have late night dance parties with them. I expect to be upright, cheering them on in anything they are a part of.
NYC will be my last marathon—he said it was ok to finish this training. New York City, my home away from home, the city full of promise, the city who gave me confidence in my body, the city filled with such positive, electric energy…that beautiful city. 7 years ago, the tagline was “Whatever it takes…” and this year, it is “Get your New York On, ” my favorite sign so far is “Get Your Invincible On.” I GET to have my final (yes, I realize it was just my second, but this was the gateway to ultras, to trail running, to others) marathon in one of the greatest cities in the world. New York turns out for a race and it is one glorious celebration! I GET to have closure. I GET to smile and soak in each “Go Bianca!!” one last time. I GET to feel Invincible for 5 grueling and glorious hours. My lungs, my back, my ankles, my knee, my brain, will be pulled by my heart, which has steadily grown because of all of the marvelous well wishes I have received from all of you! I literally hold them close to me, and remember them whenever I feel like I may hit a wall. Physically, I feel stronger than I did the last time I did this.
I will still run, just not for as long of a distance. I will still have an active lifestyle, only, I will consider long-term health more than before. I don’t regret going hard all of those years before. Also, I’m grateful that I didn’t know about any of my ailments, because I continued on as if I didn’t know any better and still achieved---without limits or impositions, treated just like everyone else. That suits my personality just fine.
I wanted to say thanks to everyone who has given me their words of encouragement and those who I’ve been able to lean on and cry. Y’all have lifted me up and inspired me. I’m truly grateful!