I generally tell people I run because it clears my head. While true, that’s not the whole story: I also run as a quiet tribute to two people who have had an enormous impact on my life.
The first person is Dr. Rick Montz, an amazing gyn-oncologist who treated me when I was diagnosed with a very slow growing form of ovarian cancer. At my first follow-up, when I was whining about the insanity of early menopause, he simply said, “You will probably never go back to feeling like you used to. Your body has been through a lot, and you have to accept that. It may take time but you will find a new ‘normal.’” During visits over the next couple of years, I learned about Dr. Montz’s love of running and how it helped him get away from the incredible stresses that he faced at work. In November 2002, I was shocked to learn Dr. Montz had died of a heart attack while out for an evening run.
Two years later, I gave birth to boy-girl twins at 29 weeks, under chaotic circumstances. Our daughter was stillborn. We had learned a few weeks before that she had passed but there are no words to describe the experience of saying goodbye to the daughter I never really had the chance to know while, at the same time, welcoming a tiny son, who was fighting to stay in this world. I am happy to say we won that fight, and our son is now a healthy and happy 8-year-old. During that time, I struggled with a number of problems related to my previous surgeries, ranging from scar tissue to pelvic congestion. I dealt with chronic pain on a daily basis and, as anyone who has been in the situation can attest, the emotional toll it takes is gut-wrenching. Eventually, I opted to have a hysterectomy. Six weeks post-surgery, I jumped (okay, hobbled) onto the treadmill and began what has been one of the most remarkable journeys of my life.
I am not a speedy runner. My unproven theory, with absolutely no supporting evidence, is that my body is simply devoid of fast-twitch fibers. But, over the past two years, I have used running to challenge myself and to chip away at the insecurity (and, at times, self-loathing), that I felt while living with chronic pain. Recently, I ran a 5K in just over 30 minutes, something that I have never. ever. done. I have completed two half-marathons, and I am currently eyeing a fall marathon. Ultimately, running has allowed me to come to terms with my body in a profound way: After years of focusing on what my body couldn’t do, I am continually amazed at what it can do when I give it the chance.
When I run, I often think about what Dr. Montz said about accepting the body I have now. I wish I could tell him how I have reached a level of acceptance I didn’t think possible that day in his office, when all I could think about was everything that had been taken from me. I think it would have made him happy to know that running has become my outlet and, depending on the day, the only thing that keeps me sane.
But, more than anything when I start faltering during a run, I think of my daughter. I never once had the chance to see her run, yet somehow when I’m running, I feel closer to her than ever.