Everyone has a story… I told a story about my marathon with Kimberly Torres this January. I’d like to share the stories of the people who were also there to support her, Alison Jakeman Nicklas ,Gail Gudehus Savidge and myself. Alison, Gail and I were running with Kimberly to support her through her last race of the Dopey challenge with breast cancer after chemo.
My running story begins when I started running in 2002. It was the year I got married. At the time I started running I had been undergoing tests and multiple doctor visits, skin biopsies and an upcoming kidney biopsy to determine why I had petechia on my lower legs and feet and blood and protein in my urine. Prior to my kidney biopsy we learned that my grandfather had lung cancer and he was hospitalized quickly. He passed away very quickly after his diagnosis and hospitalization. I believe that he knew that at the age of 90 he wasn’t going to fight the fight of cancer. I had to have my kidney biopsy the week after his funeral. I had a lot of stress so I decided to visit the Woodbridge Running Store and get fitted for a proper pair of running shoes. I needed an outlet for my new stresses.
I began running on the treadmill. I had to take a brief pause in my new hobby because of my kidney biopsy. But once I was cleared to run again I continued on. That year, my boss at the time, was running the New York City marathon. I was fascinated by this. I guess I can say I was a little in awe about it. On the day of her marathon I watched it on TV and decided to lace up my sneakers and run it with her virtually. I turned the race on the TV downstairs and ran on the treadmill for 9 miles. That was the longest I had ever run. I think deep in the back of my mind I knew that I wanted to run a marathon and maybe I would.
That year I had to be put on a chemotherapy-like immunosuppresant drug and a high dose of steroids to try to knock this mysterious illness out of my body and reduce the inflammation in my kidneys. I was not happy to be on the steroids and I did gain weight being on it which also bothered me. I ran on the treadmill to try to reduce the weight gain, but if you have ever been on steroids for a long period of time, you will know you can’t really do much to eliminate the weight gain.
I was totally stressed and overwhelmed by this mysterious illness and course of treatment and at the time, being newly married, my husband and I wanted to start a family. However, in September when I was told that I had to go on these drugs I was also told that our dream to start a family had to be put on hold for an undetermined amount of time. I was not happy. I was devastated. We were devastated. I needed an outlet. After a few years of being on different immunosuppresants and on and off doses of steroids I continued to run on the treadmill at our house. I never ran outside.
I had to have one more kidney biopsy in 2005 and my diagnosis was confirmed as Henoch Schonlein Purpura, a disease that usually strikes children when they are put on antibiotics for strep and clears up on its own. I was in my early 30s at the time of my diagnosis. Because I had this disease and my kidneys were affected by vasculitis (inflammation of the small blood vessels), I would have to be on medication until I could stay off of it without getting petechia on my legs or feet.
After five years of treatment I finally had the chance to try to get pregnant. But ironically the decision was to try while taking the medication that I was told five years earlier wasn’t safe to take while trying to get pregnant. We met with several researchers and learned about the risks of taking the drug while pregnant and made our decision to proceed. However, that didn’t go as easy as planned. After several months of trying, we learned that I couldn’t get pregnant on my own. We needed help. I met the great staff at the UCONN fertility group and they helped us conceive our son. This was also a stressful time of multiple doctor visits, tests (some uncomfortable), MANY blood tests and a LOT of waiting. We had gone through all of this alone while not telling our families. We wanted to surprise them when we did finally get pregnant. We gave birth to our son on June 7, 2007.
After he was born I resumed my working out on the treadmill with walking and took him for walks in the stroller in my neighborhood. Then once cleared I resumed running again on the treadmill downstairs while he was in the baby chair or napping. It felt good to run again and helped me lose the pregnancy weight. I kept up with this until it was time to try for our second child. Once again we needed help and Adrienne was born 16 months after Kevin on October 13, 2008. During my pregnancy with her I was much more active. I took walks with Kevin in the stroller pretty much up to the week before having Adrienne. Then when she was born I was out with my husband and my son hiking in the park near our house. I enjoy being active.
I suffered post partum with Adrienne but didn’t realize that I was going through it. I honestly think I suffered with it for 4 years after she was born until I finally got some help in 2013.
My running for races and outdoor running began in the summer of 2011. On vacation I started to jog up in New Hampshire and was hooked when I got back home. I wanted to do a 5K before my 40th birthday. And to summarize I have done several 5Ks, at least 8 half marathons, 10ks and now 2 full marathons.
My parents were at the finish line of my marathon this year and were so proud of me. I enjoyed knowing they were going to be there when I crossed the line to see me accomplish my dream again. Being a parent myself I now understand how they felt seeing me cross the line with a friend in need rather than cross the line to get my best finish time. As a parent I look forward to watching my children at their races or sporting events with the same feeling of pride.
Stay tuned for the stories of Alison and Gail in my upcoming posts.