Thursday, December 23, 2010

Running Through Pain

Something that has hit me again and again when out running is how I couldn't take Makenzie'e pain away. As a parent, all you want to do is take away your child's pain, and pass it into you. You don't want to see them in pain, hear how they ache, see them wince at needles or close their eyes because they can't fathom what's next. You want to say "It will be ok, I promise", when you have no idea if that is true, so you don't. As Makenzie was in the hospital the past few months, I was brought to the realization that as much as I would run, it could help and heal me, but never help her the same way.

I have run through ALL of my life's challenges. When a sophomore in high school, I was struggling with an eating disorder I had been battling for 2 years and really was "beating" it. How I found strength and courage to do so was to run...I felt better and stronger after each run. I found that when my legs hit the pavement, a feeling overcame me that even if life was challenging, for those moments on the pavement or trails it would all be ok. Through my own experiences with an eating disorder and running, I realized I wanted to help women and girls with their self esteem through athletics. Hence, me choosing to study in Kinesiology. Then, in my own major that I loved so much, I was date raped my 4th year by a classmate in my I really learned how to run far, long, and faster than I did throughout all my college years on Triathlon team. I healed through each run, stayed in school and finished my degree. There were many days I felt I needed to change schools from the school I loved so much...but I never did and kept on growing stronger each month.

During these times there were very close family friends who died unexpectedly. When all were mourning, I ran to heal. I hit the trails, did my favorite 6 mile loop in Alameda many times through, and came home with energy and open arms for hugging family tighter. When Jack and I miscarried at 15 weeks right after 2002 Thanksgiving break, my heart was so heavy. The next day, Jack handed me my running shoes when he was already laced up and we hit our favorite trail in Portland's Forest Park. I remember the day and run vividly. My Mom flew up to help and I can picture her face expression with a knowing Mom glance, and my husband's face with the pained look of not being able to help either of us but ALL of us understanding the best way to help heal was to run. When Emerson was sick at 7-9 weeks with RSV/Pneumonia/Pertusis, I couldn't leave the hospital ever but for quick bouts to be with Makenzie when family was with Emerson. I feared if I was gone for 30 minutes to run something would happen and we would lose her. But Jack knew me better and at day 8 of her hospital stay sent me home to hit the running trails. Even when Jack was laid off last year and we were trying to figure out what to do with no jobs on the horizon we decided to move back to California on a rainy and muddy run in Forest Park. It was saddening and heartbreaking to leave our trails knowing we had just decided to move back "home", but felt right since we made the tough decision with clear heads running. He has known me so well, knowing I have to run to heal-breath- get courage- strength- hope-feel invigorated-know joy-love- be inspired to get stronger and heal inside. I always have felt that way after ...running has been my best tool to help make life more digestible and understandable.

When Makenzie got sick, I have felt so much more unexpected pain than I wanted to. While I could feel better after running, I couldn't take away HER PAIN! My running wasn't able to help her the same way it could help me. I couldn't finish a run returning to the hospital and heal HER the same way I could work at healing me. I knew the entire time that in order for me to be the best Mom possible for Makenzie and Emerson my runs were as vital as eating nourishing food and drinking water. But with each run and watching Makenzie's body attempting to make miracles happen, I felt discouraged that I couldn't transfer her pain to me so I could run it out. I wasn't able to rub her back knowing that each touch equated peace and knowing all would be ok for Makenzie. But what I could do was run and come home with an inner strength to converse with the doctors, nurses, and many specialists with a clearer mind than when I left the hospital doors. From UCSF I could run to Ocean Beach and bring back shells to share with Makenzie, watching joy in her eyes as we would then imagine being in Hawaii. For those few moments she could mentally escape with me to be on a "beach in Hawaii looking for shells" as her body was fighting an infection within a huge pseudocyst. While I couldn't take her pain away from her body, I could help her run with me to new places allowing her to thrive.

Again, as a parent, you just want to take away your child's pain whatever the pain may be. But if you can't take it away, the next best thing is to take away your own the way you know how to heal and be a stronger and more supportive outlet for them. That is the best I could do, and know that if I was able to find positives and strength in each run Makenzie would feel it and know being positive and strong is the only option.

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I am probably out running, but I thank you for taking the time to share. I look forward to your additional input as this blog grows and evolves.
Erin Kreitz Shirey