I'm all over the place these days - up, down, happy, sad, angry, frenetic, busy, lazy. I don't even think I can put this in a neat "7 Quick Takes" post, so I'm just going to let it roll.
I'm running again. I'M RUNNING AGAIN. I did it as soon as my physical therapist said I could. It's not very far. It's not very fast. It brings up all kinds of emotions: I feel strong, terrified, elated, petrified. I tremble sometimes when I cross a street. I wonder if I should run with music - I turn it up, turn it down. (But I love my music when I run.) Some people think I'm crazy - I've run into colleagues while leaving my office building for a quick trot. I'm all dressed in running stuff. They look at me, they seem shocked that I'm going out for a run. I'd like to point out that RUNNING didn't injure me, a CAR did. I happened to be running when it happened. Whatever. I have plenty of others cheering me on. They understand that this is part of my sanity, even as I wish so hard that I never went on that one run, that one day.
I'm in a Facebook group called 1K Wonders. It's runners who are trying to log either 1000 miles or 1000 kilometers in a year. My friend Jason added me to it at the beginning of the year. I don't know why he did it, but it makes me smile that he did it, that he believed in me in some way. For weeks, I've been inspired and envious of all the other runners in the group, some in my 'hood, some far away, as they log their miles. Now I can post on there, my paltry little 1.5 and 1.75 mile jogs next to some half marathons and marathons. Jason calculated that I'd have to average 2.1 miles per day for the rest of the year to get to 1000K. I don't think I can hit that, but I'm gonna try. I told my story to the group, and they thumbs-up all my little tenths of a mile. They understand why I run, why I have to do it.
I get so antsy about it now, jittery, like I need that fix, like if I miss a day, something terrible will happen. I just want to be strong again. I get impatient with my left leg, still just a little weaker than the right, still not always 100% reliable going down the stairs. that left quad muscle still a little slacker, smaller, weaker than the right, my left ankle still a little stiff.
I told the 1K Wonders that I want to be the fittest patient that my plastic surgeon has. I want to be strong as hell when I embark on the next phase of scalp reconstruction, which will start in late July or early August. I've already asked the surgeon if I will be able to run when I have the tissue expander in my head. I can, as soon as the incision is healed. He actually didn't seem to think I am crazy.
That surgery looms, large and dark and overbearing in the future. It causes me great fear and anxiety, especially in the small, dark hours of the night, when shadows look the largest. It's going to be awful. It just is. I mean, first I am going to be voluntarily gruesomely disfigured for two to three months, with a horrific grotesque bulge several inches high on the top or back of my head. The initial surgery to insert it will be painful, for a few days. Sleeping is likely to be uncomfortable, what with a saline balloon bulge under my scalp for months. (But I think I can run through all of this...I hope I can.)
Once the expander (or expanders - my surgeon might put in two) has done its job, and there's enough scalp tissue to work with, then the second surgery happens - the one where they move all that tissue around to cover all the awful bald spots on the top of my head. It's called a "tissue rearrangement." They will jigsaw my scalp, put it back together. It will be horribly painful afterwards, for a few days.
Then the ordeal of daily dressings for weeks, the distinct and terrible smell of granulating flesh, the weeks of healing will begin. Again. I won't be able to wash my hair for two weeks after the surgery. Again. My scalp is almost completely healed from the first two surgeries now - I have a respite from the staples, the stitches, the oozing, the dressings, the gauze, the daily awfulness of wound care. The parts where they will have to shave it, where it will have to take months and months to grow back. Again. The hats. The headbands. It is so disheartening that I will have to start that all over again, probably sometime in October.
And that I will be sidelined from running again, most likely. Getting really hot & sweaty with healing surgical wounds is probably not recommended. If I can't run, I'm going to walk, and walk, and walk, as much as I can, when I can't run. It will still be miles under my feet.
I had to drive through that intersection the other day. I didn't really have a choice; the vehicle inspection station is just on the other side of it, and going a different way would have meant a very roundabout route. Maybe I should have done it anyway.
My heart pounded as I approached. I made myself look at it. Wondered if my blood was still on the asphalt. I looked, and I thought, how in the hell did I not see that car coming? Why didn't I look, one more time to my left, why did I just plow on across the street? Damn it. DAMN IT.
My friend Caitlin said to me on Twitter "so maybe you made a mistake, so what? Mistakes happen." That thought has stopped me cold in my tracks. It was hard to hear, even as I blame myself for every second of the ten or so minutes between deciding to go on that run and the accident. Because, so what? SO WHAT?
Here's what: the price was so high, for one little error. My leg I can live with - it's better, 90%, almost back to what it was. But my head, my scalp, my hair. No one even knows how it possibly happened, how that piece of my scalp came to be torn off. You take for granted that your hair is there, that it will cover your head, even if you fuss at it some days when it doesn't behave. It's horrible to be without it, especially as a woman.
It could have been worse. I think about what is worse - cancer would be worse. Having this happen to a child would be worse. But I still hate it, hate it so much that I will have to go through this (the only way out is through). The months and the grotesqueness and the pain.
I got my (wonderful, amazing) hairdresser to trim my hair last week. He came in early for me. He never flinched at the sight of my mangled head. He is the best.
I might get a hairpiece. I'd dismissed wigs early on - I didn't need that, didn't want THAT. But my hairdresser showed me some little hairpieces, made of real hair, that you can clip on, that would cover the bald spots. gave me a reference to a wig shop that works with people who have hair loss from cancer and alopecia and head injury. "So you won't have to wear a headband or a hat all the time." I didn't realize until he said it what a lifted burden that would be, to look like I had all of my hair. To just look normal.
I'm so tired of people asking "how I AM?" in these weighty tones. If I'm OKAY, how I FEEL? Mostly, I just say "fine" and try to smile because I'm weary of it. I know they're concerned, and they want me to know. But I'm done. Please just forget. Move on. Let me move on. Telling them I'm running again is great, actually, because it usually shocks them so much they don't know what else to say.
My college roommate, my best friend, she makes me laugh when I complain about all of this. She assures me that I am FINE, "if ever so slightly mangled." She puts it in perspective, makes it small, as it should be, diminishes it from looming over me.
I've been thinking about the difference between running to run away from something, and running to move past it.
Running is my starting over. Running is my way to pound the fear and the doubt and the pain and the weakness into the ground. With each footfall, I get stronger. With each footfall, I am not succumbing to doubt, or fear, or weakness. With each footfall I pummel, I fight, I pound, I stomp those fears and 3 am waking nightmares and memories, pound them into the ground. I will not be weak; I must be strong. I will run to the future, run past this, someday.