What I have today

I hope the neighbors didn’t see me punch our mailbox.

On this day the solid black box, accented with its red arm and gold letters identifying it as belonging to Jennifer and me, served as a tangible representation of my Multiple Sclerosis.

And he had it coming.

OK, so I didn’t really punch it. I guess it was more like a smack. It was a my way of nonverbally saying, “So there! Take that, ya thug.”

For as much as I hope the neighbors missed my pseudo-mailbox beating, I pray they didn’t see me crying. OK, so I wasn’t really crying. I guess it was more like a muted sob. This was the day I feared would never come.

I hadn’t gone for a run in nearly two months. I don’t know how I did it, but sometime during a regular training run in early to mid February, I hurt my left calf. Turns out I tore a muscle and my doctor told me to take four to six weeks off from running. Jennifer, who was with me when the doctor handed down my sentence, said I started fussing like a little boy at the prospect of being off for up to six weeks.

“You were being a big baby, but you were kind of cute,” she said. Our doctor showed some leniency and said I could try it after three weeks to see how it felt. At exactly three weeks, I hit my regular trails lightly. And they struck back with a vengeance, making my recovering calf pulse in sharp pain.

So I took more time.

I know sports injuries such as this are not uncommon, and in some ways I was surprised it hadn’t happened before this. But with every day I wasn’t running, I feared MS was catching up with me. I had started preparing myself for dealing with the potential reality that my running days may be a thing of the past.

And I honestly thought my MS, after realizing it couldn’t break my stride by himself, had cut a deal with my left calf to help him bring me down. OK, I understand the MS can get me whenever he wants to, but this wouldn’t be the first time my body turned against me. After all, this is how the whole MS thing started in the first place as my immune system started attacking the healthy myelin surrounding my nerve cells, right?

At nearly seven weeks, I ventured out on the trails again. Half mile, no pain. One mile, no pain. Two miles, no pain. Two and a half miles, no pain. I was home, and this was enough for my first time out. Running never felt so good, and I was doing it. Again.

And so I smacked the mailbox – “So there! Take that, ya thug.” – and I fought back the tears until I was inside the house.

I’ve been out running a couple times since then appreciating every stride I take, slow and easy; more fully appreciating everything I have and can do right now. Everything.

This is what I have today.

4 Responses to “What I have today”

  1. What a perfect way of describing the array of emotions associated with battling/fearing/living/coming to terms with MS. It is the ever present alter ego with whom one is in perennial negotiation about the terms of engagement. Thank you, Dan.

  2. Damn right! I used to run and stopped jus a couple of years before my diagnosis. I wish I hadn’t. Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have until we lose it. But you do. Keep running for as long and as far as you can. If it makes you feel better WHACK that mailbox.

  3. Melissa J. Heffner says:

    Personally, I think you should always keep your neighbors guessing. On a more serious note, I am happy to hear of your accomplishment and thank-you for reminding me to never take “the simple things in life” for granted. By the way Dan, I don’t know if you remember me or not, but we graduated from Wartburg College together. I recently read about you and your wife in one of the Wartburg Magazines and I was surprised to learn that you do not live very far from me. Perhaps my husband and I could meet up with you and your wife for dinner sometime.

  4. I was a runner. Healthiest years of my life, 19-22, but my brothers kept at it longer and now they have fake hips/knees. Glad I stopped when I did.

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