This space has been quiet for some time but it is great to be back. So much has happened that its difficult to know where to begin or how to sum up the past few months in a single blog. So I thought it would be good to write a retrospective through the running lens as a follow-up to my post, “Running is for Ever” from back in December.
Just before Christmas, a friend had given me some good advice. In an email he had written that even though the future held uncertainty, I could be sure of one thing: running is forever.
At the time, Colleen had been undergoing dialysis treatments for a month, having first learned she had kidney disease in 2008. I was undergoing tests to determine if I could donate one of my kidneys to her.
Three months earlier, we had been in London where Josh and I had proudly represented Canada in the T11 (blind) 1500 and 5000 metres at the Paralympics. For Josh and I, standing together on the medal podium had felt like vindication for everything and everyone who had helped make this moment possible. It might have been enough to call it a career at the age of 35 with four Paralympics behind me, or conversely, fuel to light an even brighter fire.
Running has impacted me in so many important ways. It has challenged me to develop as an athlete and as a person, has taught me about discipline, courage, humility and hard work, and has introduced me to so many amazing people. And I have seen running unlock the human potential in so many others too, and open their eyes to what is possible. I had not missed more than a couple of weeks of running at one time for years, so this was going to be a new twist in the road. However, it always felt like the right course to be on.
On March 7 2013, I became a kidney donor, undergoing successful transplant surgery with Colleen. Before our surgery, the medical team prepares you for every possible scenario. You know the odds of success are heavily in your favour but surgery is surgery and anything can happen. A few hours after my operation as they wheeled me out of Recovery, the surgeon came over and said that my kidney had started working right away on the table and that everything had gone exactly as they had hoped. Within a few days, Colleen and I were both back home and on the road to recovery.
The surgeon had prescribed no running or strenuous physical activity for six weeks post surgery. Almost right away, we started walking and over the next few weeks, would go for many walks outside and on our treadmill at home. For the first time in many years, I was not thinking about running. And strangely, I was at peace with it. We continued to walk daily. It felt good to move, for its own sake. Over the weeks, we became stronger.
Ten weeks after our surgery, Colleen is feeling great. She has new energy which she didn’t have before. If you ignore the bottles of medication on our table, which Colleen takes from each day to prevent rejection or infection, it almost feels as though our surgery never happened. We are very conscious that not everybody bounces back as quickly from transplant surgery. Being young and active are things which I think helped us, coupled with amazing medical care and the wonderful support of family and friends all the way through this process.
I received the go-ahead a month ago to begin jogging and over the past few weeks, working with Ian and Josh, I have been building up slowly to the point where now we are back on the track with hopes of competing this summer. I really don’t know what direction things will take or whether it will be possible to reach the competitive level I was at previously. Though I’ll give it my best effort, I don’t think it is about winning or losing in the way it might have been before, when weighed against the health of those closest to you. Running for running’s own sake will always be there. I’ve come to understand that my friend was right – running really is forever.