Chelle Summer

Strength on the Other Side

Michelle Rusk

On Friday, it will be eight months since I had my uterus removed. In many ways the surgery feels like years ago, mostly because life has gone on since it was taken out. And once I got through the nasty mess that anesthesia left me in, my recovery was very quick.

However, because I take so few days off from running (ever!), one of my challenges was starting to run again. Without walking.

I was cleared to run several weeks after the surgery and the day I could start running we were actually heading home from Los Angeles (at the end of June). We try to leave the LA area earlier– not just so we get home earlier, but also to get out before the morning commute takes over– and it was dark when I went out for a three-mile walk. I tried to run a few steps here and there, but I was quickly aware this was going to take more time and effort than I had realized.

It wasn’t until after Labor Day that I could finally run my entire route here at home in Albuquerque without stopping. While at the beginning I definitely felt a tightness in the area where my body was still adjusting to life post-uterus, it turned into a head game for me. I just couldn’t quite get my head together to keep running. As weak as I felt, I knew that I could overcome it because I’ve been running long enough to know that much of it is a head game.

However, there was another factor I didn’t take into consideration. Summer had gone on, mostly quietly, and each afternoon I went for a 20-minute swim once we had arrived home from that Los Angeles trip. It wasn’t until late September that I realized that I swam everyday since since we’d arrived home.

Running and swimming aren’t friends (add a bike trip between them and that’s another story– there is a reason triathlons are so challenging!). While running has always been my main workout, the swim was more about meditation and letting my mind wander late in the day.

I kept swimming, even as the nights cooled which also brought the pool water temperature down, not wanting my streak to end. By then I finally was running my entire route again, but it was a struggle. Not a fun one either. When we hit December I started to feel strong again. It was then that I realized that finally those two workouts had come together to not just help me regain my pre-surgery strength, but make me stronger than I was before.

I learned a long time ago that often we push the hardest when we are sick or coping with some other physical (or mental) challenge because we have to compensate for whatever else is happening. I didn’t realize I had been doing just that, making myself stronger in the presence of a challenge. If we trudge along long enough, one day the break comes and see that we really have come a long way.