Running after major surgery ~Jenn Lines
Running was always my passion. As a teenager I would relish the cooper run and bleep test PE lessons which virtually everyone else despised. It was my thing… my go to stress relief… the lesson where (although I wasn’t the fastest, strongest, or smartest) I would always succeed because I was stubborn. Looking back, I think being stubborn is my superpower!
Fast forward to my early twenties and I’m having regular visits to my GP complaining of abdominal pain during my periods and when going to the toilet. I was given many reasons for this such as caffeine sensitivity, bad periods and even tested for coeliac disease all of which weren’t the case. During this period, I was still running and logging some speedy PBs at 5k and 10k races. Endurance was always my love though with many longer distance races in there too. My highlights were the Berlin Marathon, Edinburgh Marathon and the very first The Wall ultra – even if I was pulled off the course with 2 miles to go due to a sprained ankle… in the word’s of Arnie “I’ll be back”.
After 10 years at university and moving into what my Dad would call “real work”, I began to really struggle. Outside of work hours I would spend most of my time at home on the sofa or in bed clutching a hot water bottle and taking strong painkillers. The fatigue was also crippling as I’d be up three or four times in the night to go to the toilet. The GPs were still just managing my symptoms with a mixture of contraception, painkillers, and anti-depressants. I didn’t want to move to open the curtains let alone cycle or run which in turn led to weight gain and before I knew it, I was in that vicious cycle for a few years.
It may be a cliché, but the love of a good person really did save me at this point. Chris pushed me to get a second opinion as something clearly wasn’t right and, in his words, “This isn’t the Jenn I know”. Having that nudge got me in front of a number of specialists who, after a number of uncomfortable examinations, diagnosed me with endometriosis and we set a date of January 2021 to have exploratory key hole surgery with a view to removing any endometriomas (they are patches of endometrial tissue in the abdomen that bleed and cause pain internally with each cycle).
The results were worse than I’d hoped with no treatment done but a further diagnosis of adhesions between my uterus, bladder and bowel as well as cysts on my ovary… It turns out that I was only born with one ovary and no wonder I had problems going to the toilet with those adhesions! This resulted in a further referral to a specialist specialist who had the experience to perform this more intensive surgery. I also had a bit of an epiphany and made the decision that I wanted to run again. I needed to feel in control of something and get back into the routine of exercising and eating healthier food to go into this surgery in the best possible condition I could in the space of a few months. That was when I reached out to Kerry.
Kerry put a plan together for me to begin getting back into a shape I recognized with a healthy mixture of walking, cycling, swimming, running and strength work. In June 2021 I went into the surgery a dress size smaller and with a more positive mindset than I’d had in years. I went from thinking “What if I fail?” to “How will I feel if I succeed?”. Yes, I’ve had a hysterectomy at 35 and my ovary failed almost straight away post-surgery throwing me unceremoniously into the menopause (that experience is another article altogether – thank you science for HRT!) but the biggest thing to come out of this is my shift in mindset.
Last week I was 4.5 months post-surgery and had only been given the go ahead from the physio six weeks previously to run. I completed 79 miles for a virtual challenge which is probably my highest mileage week I’ve ever done. I ran it with heavy legs, tired feet, a determined mindset and happy tears but with no pelvic pain. On Sunday I completed 18miles in one go and returned home to Chris standing at the back door with a cold glass of squash – the best finish line ever.
One last thing… If you ever doubt yourself, imagine how you will feel if you succeed.