For those of you who follow us writers here at The Sisterhood, my name is Melissa. I’ve been with the SJ crew now for almost nine months and have yet to tell my story. Most writers use their first post to introduce themselves and talk about where they’ve come from, why they’re doing what they’re doing, and what they hope to achieve in the future.
I did not. However, I feel that telling certain stories is all about timing. And now, my friends, if you bear with me (as it’s a little lengthy), this is my story…well, some of it anyway:
If you would have told me two years ago that I would be training for a half marathon, I would think you were certifiably batty. That’s probably because I was told there was a slim chance that I would ever run again.
Growing up, I was always extremely active, but I was never a runner. I was a junior-high track drop out. I played plenty of sports, mind you, and spent seven years on a fast-pitch travelling softball team. Short sprints were great. Quick bursts of energy and high cardio were my thing. Long distances, not so much. I always forced myself to go on runs to stay in shape, but hated every step.
My sophomore year of college I decided that I missed playing softball. It was something I grew up with and played since t-ball. I was able to gather enough people to sign up for the city co-ed slow pitch league, and I couldn’t have been more excited. This was the Summer of 2008. I can’t remember if we won or lost the first game (our team has been together for five years now), but the second game I remember like it was yesterday.
It was the first inning. I hit a single between the short-stop and second baseman and made it to first base. The batter behind me hit a line drive to the outfield, way over the center-fielder’s head. Sprinting around the bases, I knew it was a possible triple. The third base coach solidified that by enthusiastically signaling for me to round third and go home. I rounded third and took two steps toward home. That’s when I felt it. I remember looking down at the baseline because it felt like I stepped on a rock (and I was wondering what in the heck a rock was doing on the ball field). Two steps later, the pain kicked in. I limped to home and sat down. My left foot was screaming with pain, and I had to be carried to the dugout (and later into my house).
Being me, as stubborn as I am, I figured I just tore something and that it would heal eventually. I stopped thinking that at about 4 a.m. the next morning when I had to call someone to take me to the doctor. My foot was the size of an orange and had an impressive mustard yellow hue to it.
It took three weeks, two doctors, two x-rays, and an MRI to realize I had broke it. And I broke it really well. I sustained was is called a Lisfranc fracture ; in simple terms, I broke three metatarsals across my midfoot and ruptured all of the ligaments holding them together. Lisfranc injuries are more often seen in football players as they can push off of their feet with a great deal of force, or in other forceful situations, such as falling from a great height, or being in a car accident. Mine was just pure luck.
My orthopedic surgeon had me scheduled for surgery two days later. They essentially put three screws in my foot to hold everything together while it healed. This meant that I had to be on crutches. For THREE months. That’s just the start. The screws were there to hold everything in place, but they couldn’t stay; they were temporary. A second surgery was done three days before my 21st birthday to take them out. That meant crutches for another TWO months (and a really crappy birthday). And several months of physical therapy after that, where I had to relearn how to walk (not motor skill-wise, but the technicalities of walking).
Fast forward two years and I was feeling great. In fact, I was running often and playing softball again. I was even toying with the idea of training for a half marathon. My body, however, had a different plan. During exercise, I would get insanely intense pain in both of my calves. They would visibly swell and were tender to the touch. It ended up getting to the point that it would even hurt to walk. Back to the orthopedist. After running several tests, and another bout of physical therapy, it was determined that I had randomly developed chronic compartment syndrome in both of my calves. Compartment syndrome develops when swelling or bleeding occurs within a compartment. Because the fascia does not stretch, this can cause increased pressure on the capillaries, nerves, and muscles in the compartment. Blood flow to muscle and nerve cells is disrupted. Without a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients, nerve and muscle cells can be damaged.
This was cause for yet another surgery, called a fasciotomy. This particular injury threw me into a tailspin. I had just graduated from college and joined the Peace Corps where I was to live with a tribal community in Paraguay, which may not sound appealing to some, but I was over the moon. Because my condition had developed to the point of needing surgery, I had to cancel my Peace Corps service three weeks before I was supposed to leave. Additionally, the result included two walking boots and crutches for another two months.
Although that surgery was successful, I ended up with some new developments, including extreme shin and lower leg sensitivity, and bursitis in both of my knees. This made it almost impossible to bend them without a great deal of pain. With several rounds of physical therapy, the bursitis dispersed.
Over the next year, my foot became more and more achy and sensitive to activity. I was a server in a restaurant and constantly on my feet. I would limp in the morning when I got out of bed. Work was something I came to dread; I was taking ibuprofen like it was candy, and even the occasional pain pill (my body does not do well on these). It came to the point of going back in to my doctor.
After a great deal of personal research, and a second and third opinion, it was determined that I had developed osteoarthritis in my midfoot to the point that my bones were starting to splay apart and my arch had pretty much collapsed. My doctor had originally told me this would probably occur within 10 to 15 years. It happened in three. The solution: a midfoot fusion.
Therefore, on a summer day in June 2011, I went in for a 4th surgery, where they put five screws and a metal plate into my foot to stabilize it and restore my arch. Crutches for another three months, and one hell of a recovery process.
After five years, four surgeries, a mess of injuries, an indescribable hate toward crutches, and months of physical therapy, I was told I would probably never run again or do extreme exercise that included the direct use of my foot. And I believed it for a long time.
Until I didn’t. This didn’t happen over night. It has been a long, slow road with innumerable setbacks physically, mentally, and emotionally. I also know that in the future I will most likely develop additional issues with my foot.
But guess what, two days ago I ran eight miles. Yesterday I did CrossFit. Tomorrow I’m running eight more. I’ve also taken up heavy-bag boxing.
I’m playing softball again.
I’m training for a half marathon to be completed the day before my 26th birthday. I’ve never entered a race before, not even a 5K; this is a present to myself from me. I’ll be running it three weeks from tomorrow. I’m not going for time, I’m just going to finish.
Because I am not a runner. But I am grateful that I can run.
Myself and my best running buddy, Klondike.
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