BAMRbassador Kate Walton, a partner in a government relations firm, is a mom of two + a step-mom of two. 

This summer, when my physician said, “I am recommending a hysterectomy,” my first reaction was relief.

After spending the better part of two years working with my doctor trying to manage increasingly difficult reproductive health symptoms, this recommendation was also not a surprise. I didn’t take the prospect of surgery lightly, yet I also was exhausted by the cycle of intrusive screening, waiting for results, and yet another procedure. My lady-bits problem wasn’t going to get better and trying to solve it piecemeal wasn’t working.

This doctor delivered my oldest daughter and has been my primary care physician for the past 20 years. So, he was not surprised when I asked if surgery could be scheduled for early October to allow me to do a trail race with my adult step-children in Crested Butte, Colorado. With sign off on the timing, surgery was scheduled for a slim six days after the race.

It was mentally hard to train for an endurance event knowing that as soon as I cross the finish line, my hard-fought strength and endurance would transition to recovery from abdominal surgery. Accepting that months and months of planks and hill repeats would be quickly undone by five small incisions across my stomach. Yet I managed to put together a consistent training block, and I arrived in Colorado fit enough to cover the distance, even with the challenges of terrain and elevation. (Did I mention I live in Iowa, roughly 800 feet above sea level?)

in the thick of it

The views did not disappoint

Race weekend was so special. I’ve been a step-parent to Meghan and Lane for 23 years, but this is the first time I’ve had this kind of time with them—without their dad or younger sisters along. We ate delicious food, marveled at the changing fall colors, the mountains, tucked in to watch “The Great British Bake Off,” and, oh, did a trail race.

When you’re a flatlander, there’s no way to prepare for a race that tops out at 10,000 feet of elevation with 2,800 feet of climbing. It was so hard and so unbelievably beautiful. There were three creek crossings through icy-cold mountain springs (and the resulting soggy shoes); a climb so steep it took me 28 minutes to cover one mile (yes, I was moving the entire time); and one point when the light came through the trees so golden, I thought, “I will never forget what this looks like.” I ran the 35K while Meghan and Lane tackled the 55K, so I was alone on the journey and among the last of the 35Kers to cross the finish line.

A few days later back in Iowa, I was in the out-patient surgical center, holding my husband’s hand, listening to post-operative instructions being repeated for the third or fourth time. “Take easy walks as soon as you can; don’t lift anything over 20 pounds; this weekend will be hard, but you should be feeling better next week…”

in the thick of it

They’re not running clothes, but surgery means a better path ahead for her body

Luckily for me, all of this is true. I was groggy and uncomfortable, but not in pain. I went on a short walk 36 hours after surgery, and I felt dramatically better four days post-op.

I’ve been a runner for 25 years. I know the cumulative effect of those training miles helped my body begin to recover smoothly. I’ve had injuries—including hip surgery six years ago and a stubborn bout of posterior tibial tendonitis—and returned to running each time, motivated by the feeling of a few easy miles in the early morning light.

in the thick of it

At the race finish line but knowing there’s a medical finish line just ahead

I am taking this time with easy walks and Pilates to heal and promote a full recovery. Having come back before, I have a sense of what lies ahead. I feel discouraged and sad, knowing there is no fitness savings account to draw from, knowing how much work it will take to get back to a level of fitness where I feel confident, strong in my body, and able to take for granted running a few easy miles before work. And knowing that I can’t do much about it right now while my body heals is an exercise in patience I don’t naturally possess. But the optimist in me also trusts that running will be there for me and that it is worth the wait.