Anne Abbott works part-time for Team AMR, is a mother runner of three school-age daughters, and lives near Bend, Oregon. You can read her previous posts (including her amazing 5K transformation) here.
Here I am, sitting down in this comfy window seat overlooking the slightly grey Oregon coastline with a hot cup of coffee. So much has happened in the past week, and all of it has come full circle, from illness to the salvation running brought to what freedom really means for me.
10 years ago, when I was 27, I had spent the last decade being chronically sick. I had just come through a really bad year—I had been in and out of hospitals, suffering through seemingly endless rounds of testings and treatments, going in and under for multiple procedures with no hope or fix in sight. The worst part was being an ocean away from my then three and one year old baby girls, facing life without the promise of a future to share with them, even leaving them love notes—just in case.
And then I found running. I stepped one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, over time, and all of a sudden all was well with the world… literally, for the next seven years. Running changed my life, putting me in remission—the daily exercise like an electrolyte stabilizing my body’s ph balance, the daily practice like little white pills keeping the pain at bay, the daily results the mirror in which I began to see myself becoming a healthy, happy girl. I spent my time training hard and running strong, saying "yes" and running brave, and running my way to free. I was working hard, dreaming big, and following my arrow forward… to complete freedom.
Fast forward seven years and here I am, at the ocean with my now big girls (now 12, 9 and 5) for our last full week together before we face the summer apart (this is the first year they’ll go off to spend the summer with their dad). Here I am, six days later, picking up where I left off… after it all fell away… like sand beneath my feet.
Because without warning and in an instant, the plague descended and I went down, hard. I had a major pancreatic episode. I initially rode the river of denial, fighting to stay present by employing every mental mantra in my arsenal and putting on a brave face for as long as I could. But I ultimately lost the battle and I went under, into what I can only describe as a waking coma. For six days I laid listless and lifeless, listening to the voices outside my open window—the giggling of little girls lighting sparklers on the 4th of July, the banter of beach talk while washing sand off of little toes, the chatter of happy people enjoying their vacation days together. For 6 days I dropped in and out of the dreams I had of joining early morning joggers, of walking along flag-lined streets in search of the perfect ice cream cone and salt-water taffy, of sun bathing and sand castle building, of kite flying and ‘smores roasting. For six days I was forced to remember the bitter truth–the very beginnings of my life’s run to free.
And then, on the seventh day, the clouds lifted and I woke to the sun. I breathed in and there was no pain. I breathed out and there was only peace. The irony is that I had been in search of "peace" for weeks—I thought it would come once I got us all to the beach. I had no idea that it would come at the beach, but only after I’d descended and re-emerged at START, again.
Here is what I know, now…
Freedom is the pursuit of happy.
Freedom is being healthy enough to choose a morning run – fast or slow, long or short, sunny or rainy.
Freedom is hearing my voice mingling in the laughter of a moment’s joy.
Freedom is hugging the ones I love.
Freedom is waking to the knowledge that I am Alive, Loved, Satisfied.
What is your freedom? Tell us below in the comments section.