Today, I went for my first run since I was diagnosed with Lupus six months ago. I was only able to run a mile. In fact, I was wheezing before I’d even gone a block.
But it’s a start. In fact, it’s the first time in six months I’ve felt empowered over my disease. More importantly, it’s the first time in six months I have felt the visceral joy of lacing up my Nikes and running.
I run for the same reason that little kids run everywhere they go on the playground: it’s fun, bro! For me, the act of running is a primordial expression of kinetic joy. Of course, I also love the very different joy of buckling down and gutting out workouts when it hurts in order to run faster, but I even enjoy doing speed workouts. I run to run, but I always run to run faster.
I wasn’t incredibly fast before I got sick. My PR for five miles was around 32:30, and all my other PRs are old and kind of embarrassing. I ran track for four years in high school and cross country for three, but was injured for four out of my seven seasons. The I got seriously sick or injured three times after I graduated.For that reason (as well as a shameful lack of motivation on my part at certain key points in time), I have never run as fast as I wanted to.
I started to get really fast during my freshman year of college. I could knock out eight mile runs easily at around a 7:20 pace. I went for a seventeen miler one night. I was getting in great shape, until I got a stress fracture in my foot. Then, I was in and out of the doctors for pneumonia, bronchitis and the flu all winter. I was on a variety of drugs, and one of them reacted with my body in a way that “activated” my Lupus. Lupus manifests itself differently for ever person, but for me, it means incredible joint pain. Before I was diagnosed and put on medication, I suffered through a month of the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I could barely get out of bed some mornings.
Like many people who have Lupus, I have to be on the drug Prednisone, which is both a blessing and a curse. The drug allowed me to live my life somewhat normally, but it also has some nasty side effects; namely it throws your hormones all off-kilter. This causes a massive increase in appetite, but it also causes your body to convert almost all caloric intake into fat. This means two things: you get fatter (about forty or fifty pounds fatter, to be exact), and your muscles don’t receive the protein to rebuild. In fact, Prednisone can make your muscle mass shrink, a side effect that is especially bummerific for a former powerlifter like me.
These various side-effects have all conspired together to make me a 240-pound weakling. There is hope: I’m also on a drug called Plaquenil that can manage Lupus without Prednisone once it builds up to a certain level in the body. This process is going well; I’m down to 7.5 mg of Prednisone per day, and I’m headed to the University of Michigan Lupus Clinic to get evaluated soon. Hopefully, I can go off the stuff for good.
I tell you all this because I want people to truly understand the journey I’m going on. My purpose in writing is simple: to help other runners with Lupus (because there aren’t many resources for us on the web) and to inspire people, regardless of their health.
Ultimately, I plan to become faster than I was before I got sick. I don’t plan on becoming “fast for having a disease,” or on returning for good to the middle of the pack. I plan to become objectively fast and truly compete. My disease will not stop me.