Friday, September 20, 2013

One Year Later

Several years ago, starting a few months after our youngest son was born, I worked out with a personal trainer at my gym.  I was post-partum and in desperate need of hard, quality workouts because I didn't have any extra minutes in my day for fluff.  Scott was fantastic.  A competitive body builder, he trained me like I was a guy and spoke to me like I was one too.  I would go to the gym early in the morning to do my cardio and three times a week I would go back at night after the kids were in bed to weight train with him.  Rolling his eyes at the circuit machines, he taught me all about the benefits of free weights and range of motion.  I curled, dead lifted, rowed, and bench pressed.  He threw medicine balls at me while I did incline sit-ups, making me do three sets of 25.  One night, after a particularly taxing leg workout, I almost puked walking out of the building, but I never felt better.  I was the strongest I had ever been, and to this day, I count squatting (all the way down!) without the assistance of the Smith machine among my favorite personal accomplishments.

He had a ton of knowledge about weight training and healthy weight-loss nutrition, but it was his "no excuses" demeanor, along with minimal recovery between sets, that really pushed me.  He didn't care if I was tired because I was up all night with a baby or toddlers.  Four kids under five were not a reason to slack off.  He had no patience for "that body image crap" and told me if I was going to play the numbers game then I should pay more attention to how much I was lifting and not the number on the scale.  I got a congratulatory fist bump when I did a full 100 pounds of lat pull-downs and he took away the self-consciousness of being on what was traditionally the boys' side of the gym.  

I think what was most valuable about my training with him was the way he let me know exactly what my potential was, even if I was clueless.  I will never forget the time when he grabbed the bar out of my hands mid-set, put it on the rack, pulled me to my feet off the bench and said in a tone full of equal parts exasperation and respect, "My God, Lori, your form sucks when you try to bench anything over 50 pounds.  Come on, now, you know you are better than this."

Fast forward six years.  The baby weight was shed, I got back into more endurance-type events and finished several half marathons.  I discovered that I love to swim, got pretty decent, and now I can hold my own in both pools and open water (I was even mistaken for an ex-high school swimmer once!).  I did two triathlons and set my sights on a half iron distance as a feasible goal.  Yet, it was during this time that I started to get that nagging wrist pain that turned out to be much more complicated than 800mg of Advil.

It was a year ago today I was diagnosed.  It sounds foolish in retrospect, but at that first appointment with my rheumatologist it never occurred to me that the medicine wouldn't work the way I thought it would.  I assumed I would be off everything by my December follow-up.  Biologics were only commercials on TV, and I thought I would give the prednisone a few weeks to work and I would be back up to running 35 miles a week in no time.  Besides remembering to take my pills and repeatedly unclogging drains due to the mtx-induced hair loss, I barely thought about RA at all in those early weeks because it was finally an answer and simply a temporary inconvenience that I was certain I could control with little effort.  I never once imagined that I would become one of those patients that had to give herself shots and I would have never guessed that I would end up back in the OR for another wrist surgery.  My knees didn't hurt that day and my elbows didn't either.  And the lung stuff...pulmonologists are for people with asthma and sleep apnea, right?  Or, like, if you're in the ICU.  They are not for people like me, but yet that's the next step if some of this doesn't start to calm down soon.  I never saw any of this coming a year ago.

One night not long ago, in those few quiet moments at bedtime when thoughts run amok and frustration meets worry, I mentioned to Sean how I thought I should be feeling much better than I was and how my running should be much farther along than it is. Feeling my voice break a little, I whimpered, "I know I'm better than this."  I sensed a familiarity as I said it, and when contemplating those same feelings a few days later I remembered that they were Scott's words, not mine.  As I sit now and reflect on what the past 12 months have meant to me physically and emotionally, I still believe I'm better than all of...it.  And at the risk of throwing out a cheesy life metaphor, I've learned to remind myself that we all have form that falters when weights of all kinds get heavy, and sometimes we need a spot, sometimes we need a lift, sometimes we need to be pulled upright, and sometimes we need to be reminded of what we can be.  I'm so lucky to have family and friends who do all of those things.

Although, my weight-training-loving husband would also agree that my form sucks when I try to bench more than 50 pounds.  Haven't done it in a long time, but I'm sure I will again one day.

And in other "Lori News" this happened:



I'm so excited.  I love it.  I waited a long time for it, and damn it, I earned it.  Of course, the week I picked to get fitted my hands started to hurt tremendously, more than they have in a long time.  A slight hissy fit ensued (I can be good at those, and of course, there was profanity involved), but I made the decision to get it anyway.  My reality is this: as much as I really believe I will get to remission, my hands and wrists will most likely always give me grief to varying degrees.  So I can deny myself or I can deal with it and learn to work around it.  The guy at the bike shop was awesome, spent two hours with me working on posture and keeping weight off my hands.  I've gone out enough times that I can confidently say that riding is not making my hands worse.  It's kind of like the same relationship my knees have with running: it's not easy, sometimes it's really hard, sometimes it hurts like a you-know-what, but sitting on the couch isn't going to do a thing for me.  Being active is good for both my mind and body, and I need to do it, every bit as much as I need to take the junky meds.  And you know what I did today?  I marked this anniversary by riding with one of my best buddies, and it was awesome. We took a selfie because we were both wearing purple.  I'm the one on the right.  Don't all the cool kids pose in front of a swagger wagon?


Thanks for reading!
~Lori 














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