POSSIBLY TMI ALERT, but I want to say it.
On Sunday I took a nearly four-mile hike by myself – it was a lovely, responsibility-free day, after a lot of rainy, busy weekends, and I suddenly found myself thinking of the Dish Trail in the foothills by Stanford University. It’s got some steep ups and downs, enough to get the breath panting and the sweat flowing, but not enough to be utterly miserable. Normally I kind of hate hiking, so I really can’t say why this suddenly jumped into my head as a good idea.
But I did it. I took my ipod and had my phone and my car keys in my pocket, and set my own pace. I rested when I wanted to and didn’t care how often other people passed me. It took me an hour and a half, and on some of those final downhill stretches, I felt the shakiness that comes from tired legs on steep downhills. My step count for the day was over 13,000.
Today I did half an hour of biking AND walked nearly 11,000 steps. I’m still sore and stiff from Sunday’s hike, and I know I’ll be stiff and sore tomorrow with today’s exertion on top of it. My normal daily step count these days tends to fall between 6 and 7 thousand, so these two days have been unusual for me.
You might be wondering why I’m bothering to post about this. One of my coworkers asked why I was still marveling over being sore today when the hike was two days ago.
I’ve been thinking about that. And you see, it’s because at some level I’m astonished that I’m able to do this.
Almost exactly five years ago, the pain and blood loss resulting from uterine fibroids smacked into me like a ton of bricks. I’d stuck to a diet for a month at that point. I’d lost twelve pounds. And suddenly even standing long enough to cook a simple meal started the bleeding and the pain again. Forget exercise. I was afraid to move.
Pain led to fear. Fear led to avoidance. Avoidance became habit. It’s been five years, and I’ve had two surgeries to remove fibroids in that time. I don’t think I ever believed that I wouldn’t get past them, but when I was in the middle of it, it was so hard to see when it would end. I got caught up in the final months of the pre-ACA health care system, when even having had a fibroid removed within the past year was grounds for automatic rejection when applying for coverage. I couldn’t figure out how to get the surgery I needed without going several thousands of dollars in debt. I stopped dancing. I started avoiding social events because I was embarrassed about my frequent need for the bathroom and the fact that I had to carry several pads with me whenever I left the house even for a couple hours. I grew lonelier and sank further into depression because of pain, fear, and isolation.
And now here I am. Heavier than I was before this started, yes. As out of shape as I was before, and possibly more so. Still trying to reconstruct a social life. But I’m employed. I’m deeply worried about the ACA, but for now I have health insurance. I’m in therapy and on an antidepressant. Hormonal birth control and regular checkups have stabilized things. I have faith it will never again get as bad as it was in 2012 and 2013.
And this week, on each of two of the heaviest days of this month’s period, I walked over 10,000 steps.
I talk about it because I’m grateful, and because it’s a fact in which I can finally see how far I’ve come.