At least I had a good shit today. #Arsenal
That good shit was lengthy and formed, and when I put out that Tweet I thought I was okay, aside from the pain of losing to Spurs. I had to shit again twice that day, and each bowel movement became less formed. I was letting out diarrhea the next day, and diarrhea with blood a few days later. Remicade, my last medicinal hope for a life uninterrupted by ulcerative colitis, had failed. The operating room beckoned.
A year ago today, on May 9, 2013, surgeons at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital removed my colon and rectum, shaped a pelvic pouch, and created a temporary ileostomy. The plan was to invite me back to the O.R. in August or September to close the ileostomy and make the pelvic pouch operational. That plan changed when my newly crafted pouch sprung a leak and created an abscess, and when a wound opened up at the incision site.
Over months of anger and sadness and frustration and tiny, tiny victories, I survived the complications and made it to February 2014, when I finally had my second operation. Now I sit in front of my laptop, feeling better, and hoping that this time – this time – I’m on track to recovering a big chunk of the life I knew before UC.
I can’t remember the exact day that I last ran before my first surgery. It was a couple of weeks before that loss to Tottenham. It’s been over a year since that run; the longest I’ve gone between runs since I picked up the habit in 2003, my last year of high school.
In the last year, I’ve looked on with envy at every runner who strode his or her way around my neighbourhood, along the concrete sidewalks that I used to run. I watched from my bedroom window at fit men and women in fluorescent shoes, and wondered when, sometimes if, I’d ever be able to join them again.
Last summer, I bought a couple of football shirts for my collection, a collection that has a utilitarian purpose. I buy football shirts that I intend to run in. I picked up the home shirts of PSV and Galatasaray, but I only wore them around the house.
Back in January, Nike released an amazing ad for their Flyknit range of footwear. It made me want to run. In Flyknit running shoes. I downloaded the song from that commercial, “2020” by Suuns, and listened to it on my walks while imagining I was one of the runners in the ad.
A couple of weeks ago, I met with my gastrointestinal specialist, who told me I could start running again. Yesterday, my family doctor told me the same thing. As much as I missed running, I didn’t want to rush into it too quickly and end up with a hernia or some other injury that would only set me back further. Yesterday’s second clearance, combined with warm, sunny weather, motivated me to get back on my neighbourhood’s sidewalks and not walk. At 4:30 yesterday afternoon, with the skies clear and the thermometer reading 18°C, I went for a run.
I wore my red PSV shirt, white shorts, and my weathered Nike Lunaracers. I started on a downhill slope and picked up speed. My strides felt natural, familiar. I ascended from the dip in the road, kicking up pebbles from the sidewalk. I slowed as I approached a red light and spat some mucous onto the street. When the light turned green and I started running again, I could feel my chest and calves straining to keep up with my pace. I slowed to a walk and caught my breath. I ran some more, then walked some more. I started to feel soreness in my shins, and my pelvic pouch signaled that a bowel movement was on the way. It wasn’t a big urge to go, so I could hold it in, walk a little more, run a little more, and return home.
I covered three to four kilometers on my run, which consisted of several walk breaks along the way. I didn’t time myself, because I didn’t really care what my time was. I just wanted to run again, and I did, almost a year to the day of my first surgery.
While my recovery from the second surgery has been stable and generally good, I haven’t really felt as though I was really on track to a better life until yesterday, until I ran. It’s taken a lot longer for me to get to this point, and I have a long, long way to go to achieve the athleticism I want to be capable of. Still, I ran, and that made me happy.
As I walked the last half block back to my house after yesterday’s run, I was reminded of the final stanza of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.