Sunday, May 24, 2009

Body Conscious

I guess it's really true that you don't realize what you've got 'till it's gone. Now I realize how good I had it as far as health goes. I never looked at a hill and thought, "I can't make it up that." I never thought twice about hopping on my bike and riding 25 miles along the greenway. I never got winded walking up stairs. In fact, I'd usually hop two at a time and always opted for the stairs vs. the elevator, whatever was the fastest route. I'd always plow past old people and pregnant women hobbling along in the grocery store frustrated that they couldn't just pick up the pace. I could get the six blocks from my work parking lot to my office lugging a laptop and projector skating over icy sidewalks in less than 7 minutes at my mean walking speed. 

Besides a severe case of pre-teen acne and all the orthodontic accoutrements that come with buck teeth (including the dreaded night gear) I was always a healthy kid. No peanut allergies, no asthma, no weird fears or disorders. I danced. I played sports. I never hit a physical challenge. I've never broken a bone in my life besides a pinky when someone sat on it in second grade and two fingers jammed in high school volleyball. I've had one overnight hospital stay for a quick ovarian cyst draining and was up and at 'em right after. 

Just a month ago I was a 26-year-old at the peak of physical health. Blood pressure perfect. Immune system like a horse (does that make sense?). At the gym at 5 a.m. before work. Running with Sammy. Hiking, biking, playing ball, boogie boarding, whatever. I never thought about my body because it just did whatever I wanted it to do without any complaints. Until now, my only physical limitation was the inability to go underwater without holding my nose like a four-year-old. Mild I know, but no less embarrassing at pool parties and on boat outings.

Now? Walking up the 12 stairs from the living room to my bedroom is like a Family Double Dare physical challenge. Carrying down a laundry basket? I thought I gave myself a hernia yesterday. Working for a nonprofit I would lug bins upon bins full of Arts Council schwag, giveaways, heavy, glossy brochures and magazines, 10-foot banners and metal banner stands and poles without questions. I'd maneuver a stacked hand cart with one arm and an armful of boxes in another down the streets of Hartford from presentation to presentation without breaking a sweat. Okay, I sweat, but those red shirts did not breathe! Lately, carrying the five pieces of mail from the post box up the driveway is daunting. I can't stand for more than 10 minutes without having to rest my loins. I haven't been able to feel the bottom half of my left leg for two months now. All the sensation is gone. I guess that's just what happens when you have swollen cancer masses filling your chest, pressing on your organs and squeezing your veins thin. 

When I am better I will never again take for granted how lucky I am and how amazing the human body is. And next time I see an old lady pushing her cart in the grocery store I'll politely wait for her to turn down the aisle before ramming past her. I've never had a greater understanding of what it means to truly have your body, no longer your mind, in control.  

No matter how good I feel otherwise and how much faster I want to move I just can't do it. It's like that time when we ran out of gas on I-84 in a snow squall with a Christmas tree tied to the roof of the Blazer. No matter how hard Craig pressed that gas pedal there just wasn't nothing left. Putt ... putt ... putt to the shoulder. 


  1. Yep. That's what it's like for some of us. I still say things like "I'll run in the store and grab something." It's been a long time since I've run anywhere, and it sucks because I was one of those people that actually liked running. I dream as a healthy person. I bike and run and work. But I haven't given up hope that there will be a cure for MS and I'll do those things again. And hopefully, I too will have learned to slow down for the old lady in the grocery store. I'm just not ready to be the old lady. Fifteen years of MS is enough for me. Maybe we'll go for a run together someday. Sheri

  2. Hey Karin,
    It's amazing what we take for granted. But you also don't realize exactly what you have until it's all taken away from you! These types of things are what make people even stronger and better than they were before. You already appreciate things in life but now you'll appreciate things you didn't even have to think about before! I am glad things are going ok for you and that you are making some progress! That is great news... Keep it up! You're in my thoughts every day!