Monday, May 10, 2021

A Cautionary Tale

I'm starting another Gratitude Alphabet. I first did one back in 2014, after my mother died. I think now is the time for another one: this past year has been foggy and strange for everyone, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves we are grateful.

I'm starting this alphabet with A for A Cautionary Tale.

In January 2020, I decided to start a run streak. That means that I would run at least a mile every single day. I ended up running a total of 1,111 miles during that year, and it was good. It helped me get out of the house; it gave me my much-needed solitude - living with a houseful of related males was fun and sometimes too much; it kept me fit.

In January 2021, I realized that my foot hurt pretty badly. And my muscles were cramping all the time: something was up! I am lucky - I have a family doctor, so I called her up and she sent me for an x-ray of my foot.

The day after the x-ray, I got a scary call. Severe Osteoporosis! No running, huge amounts of calcium and vitamin D, and a bone scan. I also added in some magnesium as I knew that the balance of calcium and magnesium needed to be maintained. My muscle cramps disappeared. My foot continued to hurt. I spent February sitting on the couch in the evenings having a drink (never more than one). Exercise wasn't happening. Oh, yea, I did the Plank Challenge. I can plank for two minutes. 

Bone scan happened. Three weeks passed! That's several different cocktail recipes. I wondered if I would ever be able to run again. Foot hurt. I got a fancy gizmo to wear on my toes. I was still on my feet every day working at my cafe.

March. My doctor calls me and says Oooops, weird. No osteoporosis, in fact my risk level is very very very low. I didn't bother asking why they said at first that I had the severe osteoporosis. Maybe because I'm 64, or who knows. Anyway, I don't have it so that's great! I started running again, short runs. I still want to do a 50k for my 65th birthday. But ... I am running very, very slowly. I feel weird when I run. Sluggish. I wonder if I have Covid. I can't seem to make my muscles move properly, but I'm not tired. Just "sluggish".

I kept running and decided it's the price you have to pay for taking an injury break. My running group leader said that it's the price I have to pay for doing a running streak. I'm just not convinced. Everyone's telling me different things, but none of it really adds up to how I'm actually feeling.

I teach a doula course. One of the main values that guides my practice, as a birth companion and as a teacher, is that we really only have our senses to guide us in this practice. One of our most valuable senses is the sense of intuition. I was chatting with one of my students about her main project, and she randomly mentioned that she takes magnesium at night after a stressful day: it helps her muscles relax and helps her sleep.

The next day, I stopped taking magnesium. A few days after that, I went for a run. I felt so different! I was back to my normal self! Yes, I'm not a fast runner, but I'm surely not a tortoise. I was literally poisoning myself with magnesium because of a suggestion that my doctor had made, on the basis of a false diagnosis!

My advice to you: 

  • Know your body. If it feels weird, then it is weird. Something's wrong. If someone tells you something is happening in your body that just doesn't seem right, then try and figure out what's going on. 
  • Be careful! Don't take supplements, herbs or anything unless you are very sure that it is safe and useful.
  • Trust other people, but not 100%! Even a doctor can be wrong sometimes.
  • If you're an older woman, perhaps a run streak isn't for you. Since my streak, I have been intrigued by how much of our advice in the sports and athletic world (and nutrition, and medication, and medicine...) is based on the adult male body. Women, especially older women, need to train differently from men. They have more stamina, but they burn energy differently, and most importantly, they recover differently. I was doing myself a disservice by emulating my heroes' run streaks, as I wasn't actually listening to what MY body needs. My body needs a day every week to recover and rest. 
I am grateful today for my healthy body, for the time I have to spend, for my lovely doula students.... oh, I am going way beyond A... tomorrow will be B.

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