Happy 4 years healthy to me

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I’ve been thinking about this post all week. Thursday’s post. May 5th.

4 years ago today, I woke up in a hospital bed in Richmond, VA and was given the OK to go home, after a sudden sickness landed me in the ICU with a breathing tube for 8 days. I had been sick all month; but having been told it was only tonsillitis, I considered it minor and continued running around as usual. An entry from my running journal on April 22nd paints the picture pretty well: “Ran a hard 14 miles today. Beautiful weather. Started shaking uncontrollably at soccer practice, fainted. Dehydrated?”

Despite my best efforts to run myself through the illness, I went to the hospital soon after because I couldn’t get any liquids down, my throat was so swollen. Expecting an hour’s break from studying, I went to the emergency room and explained I just needed some IV fluids since I couldn’t swallow anything. Was I in for a treat!! I was met by angry, incredulous doctors who could not understand how I could have so underestimated the severity of what was going on.

I had, apparently, gotten a simple strep throat weeks ago, and, left untreated, it did a job on my immune system.  The bacteria multiplied and multiplied, creating a giant abscess on my lymph nodes, so full of infection it couldn’t be drained from a simple needle – which I found out as I sat there, watching out of the corner of my eyes as the doctor jabbed needle after needle into my neck, to no avail. As I waited, I began to feel fear creep further and further in. I was confused, my other doctor had told me I had tonsillitis and that I’d be good as new soon. As I started to wonder if this was all my fault somehow, I realized I had to call my parents – and that’s when it all sorta went downhill.

Just 2 days before, my parents had driven 12 hours down to Richmond to “help me clean up my dorm room and make sure I wasn’t too sick”  I, however, know why they were really there.  I had just begun to plant the seed of this dream to run across the USA for the Boys & Girls Clubs. A bit less involved, but it’s where the idea started – I had just begun planning an East Coast bike ride to benefit the Clubs, and I am certain my parents had decided I was way too sick to do this ride, but knew I would try to anyway. So they came down to kidnap my bike and make sure I didn’t get any ideas. So we had a great weekend and on Sunday they packed up my bike and drove the 12 hours back home. On Monday, I had to call from the hospital and tell them I was having major surgery Tuesday morning and could they please turn around and come back down. Boy did I feel bad about that.

The next 8 days were probably the toughest of my life. Hooked up to a breathing tube, shut up in a room, unable to talk. Stressed out when anyone came to visit. Discovering an allergy to meds after spending the afternoon alone in my room, hallucinating, and assuming that was normal. Strapped into the bed at night so I wouldn’t rip the respirator out. I know people go through far, far worse, and I am beyond fortunate that mine ended so well.  I was out in two weeks, walking my old running route in six weeks, and on a plane to Europe with my sister by the end of the summer.

But those two weeks helped me discover a strength that I had always believed in but perhaps not yet experienced. That is where I really learned that the human spirit is indomitable. So many moments during those days, unable to really communicate with anyone, I gave myself pep talks – you can kill this thing Zoe, it’s you, you got it. Breath by breath, you will beat this. You’ve got no other option.

So every year on May 5th, I take a little look around me and see how I’ve done, how my year has gone. To make sure I’m really living, not just surviving. And this year, the day is especially meaningful. 4 years ago I dreamed up a little idea to do a 1,000 mile bike ride for an organization I so admire, the Boys & Girls Club. And in two days, I will realize that dream, just without the bike, and with a few extra miles. I’ve met amazing people and inspirational boys and girls across the country and had an experience I could not have imagined having 4 years ago.  It means so much to me to have the chance to be so involved and supportive of the Clubs, and to have the finish line happen around such an important day for me.

So I have to say, this May 5th I am feeling pretty dang good :  ) 

And even happier that I got to spend the day running with a partner! The incredible Bill Rowell logged 33 miles with me today, keeping me company, sharing running stories, and watching my back during the hairier traffic spots. So that’s what it feels like to have a running buddy! Pretty neat. thank you Bill :  )

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Author: zoegoesrunning

Hello! I'm a runner, a writer, and have run across the United States and the Tour de France course. Most recently, I'm blogging about my adventures in an MFA program that will bring me to Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, and my teaching plans for Argentina.

11 thoughts on “Happy 4 years healthy to me”

  1. Hi Zoe,

    Cinco de Mayo is now officially Festival de Zoe! We’re grateful you made it through that illness with flying colors, whooshing running shoes and a cruising baby buggy.

    Looking back at the milestones in life I’m always amazed by how much life happens each and everyday. It’s easy to think it’s just another day but it isn’t – each day is a gift. Embrace it, and live it to your fullest – just like Zoe.

    Big love to you, Z,

    Have a great run into Charleston tomorrow.

    te amo, UM

  2. Rosa and I were also thinking of you and cheering your health. Thanks for being such a fighter, life just wouldn’t be the same without you! I’m writing this from the Charleston hotel room where we’ll be staying TOGETHER! tomorrow night. I’m so proud to be your sister. I love you. Happy footing…. and of you listen carefully you might hear…

    SKEeeeYooou!

  3. Dear, Dear Zoe,
    Wow. For four years ago – Wow. For undertaking this journey – Wow. For all that you have achieved on this journey – Wow. For all the people who’s lives you have touched along the way & who have enriched yours – Wow. For your highs & lows, for your confidence & uncertainty, for all that you have been & all that you will be — Wowie!
    When the Atlantic rushes in to meet you as you fling yourself into it, suck up all the sea, salt, sun & smiles – our hearts will be with you.
    Much Love, Nancy

  4. Congrats on your journey Zoe. Although you may never hear from me again, know that you (like you have done with others) have planted a seed for me. I too hope to embark on a journey like yours in the near future. Best of luck to you, and I hope our paths cross in the future.

  5. Z … what a day. I am honored to have had the opportunity to share such a special day with you and can’t wait for your triumphant finish at the Atlantic Ocean tomorrow. Run Happy!

  6. Congrats on a really BIG accomplishment!!
    I have been following your journal entries all the way across the USA and am really impressed with your dedication, strength, spirit and sense of family, both immediate and extended. We tried to connect with you through Uncle Al in Phoenix where we winter, but I know you had a tight schedule and many commitments for the BGCA among others. Charleston and the Atlantic will feel great tomorrow after 120 days on the road.
    Congrats again from Portland neighbors,
    Charlie & Anne Golec

  7. Congrats on a really BIG accomplishment!!
    I have been following your journal entries all the way across the USA and am really impressed with your dedication, strength, spirit and sense of family, both immediate and extended. We tried to connect with you through Uncle Al in Phoenix where we winter, but I know you had a tight schedule and many commitments for the BGCA among others. Charleston and the Atlantic will feel great tomorrow after 120 days on the road. Stay Well!
    Congrats again from Portland neighbors,
    Charlie & Anne Golec

  8. Oh well in five years time we could be walking round a zoo
    With the sun shining down over me and you
    And there’ll be love in the bodies of the elephants too
    And I’ll put my hands over your eyes, but you’ll peep through

    And there’ll be sun sun sun
    All over our bodies
    And sun sun sun
    All down our necks (?)
    And sun sun sun
    All over our faces
    And sun sun sun

    So what the heck

    Cos I’ll be laughing at all your silly little jokes
    And we’ll be laughing about how we used to smoke
    All those stupid little cigarettes
    And drink stupid wine
    Cos it’s what we needed to have a good time

    And it was fun fun fun
    When we were drinking
    It was fun fun fun
    When we were drunk
    And it was fun fun fun
    When we were laughing
    It was fun fun fun
    Oh it was fun

    Oh well I look at you and say
    It’s the happiest that I’ve ever been
    And I’ll say I no longer feel I have to be James Dean
    And she’ll say
    Yah well I feel all pretty happy too
    And I’m always pretty happy when I’m just kicking back with you

    And it’ll be
    Love love love
    All through our bodies
    And love love love
    All through our minds
    And it be Love love love
    All over her face
    And Love love love
    All over mine

    Although maybe all these moments are just in my head
    I’ll be thinking ‘bout them as I’m lying in bed
    And all that I believe (?) might never really come true
    But in my mind I’m havin’ a pretty good time with you

    Oh

    Five years time
    I might not know you
    Five years time
    We might not speak
    Oh
    In five years time
    We might not get along
    In five years time
    You might just prove me wrong

    Oh there’ll be love love love
    Wherever you go
    There’ll be love love love
    Wherever you go
    There’ll be love love love
    Wherever you go
    There’ll be love love love
    Wherever you go
    There’ll be love love love
    Wherever you go
    There’ll be love love love
    Wherever you go
    There’ll be love love love

    Wherever you go there’ll be love

  9. Zoe,

    I have been following your blog and your run since I saw the sign go up on your parents’ lawn. Amazing, is of course an understatement of what you have accomplished. And then reading this post to see what you triumphed over four years ago…..you are an incredible, amazing young woman. You have already made so much of your life, and have followed a dream that, well, most of us just dream about.

    Carol (Lindsay Mac’s mom)

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