Back To Basics

I’m happiest when I’m running, especially if it’s raining. Because when the weather is bad, in that moment it feels like you’re the only person in the world to be out running. You feel hard core because staying in and watching EastEnders would’ve been the easier option (especially when you have a secret crush on Max Branning!). But you chose to run instead. So when the Doctor told me I’d need at least 4 weeks’ rest it was pretty gutting, but unfortunately I’m fairly used to having time off training due to all the injuries. But this time was different, it wasn’t a simple injury. It was more serious. I had no choice but to accept the time off and treat my comeback to running and the clots with patience and respect. I knew I’d have to start entirely from scratch, because even walking at the time was impossible, due to the pain! But cruelly I wasn’t allowed to put my leg up and binge watch box sets for over a month. I had to force myself to walk every hour. I was in so much pain, but I had to ironically not listen to my body, and fight against it just to take one step. The first couple of days I couldn’t walk without holding on to my dad whilst screaming every time my left leg touched the floor. My first target I set myself was to walk the whole duration of the advert breaks whilst watching Coronation Street (it was a Wednesday so EastEnders wasn’t on lol). Through the tears and after losing my voice in the process, I managed to achieve my target!

Luckily the medication and pain killers kicked in, and after a week and a half I set target number two! I walked to my local shop which is just under a mile each way, unaided and as a reward I bought myself a packet of frazzles. It took about an hour to complete the walk. But it really felt like a break through moment. After that milestone, I then set myself a goal to walk 5000-8000 steps a day. Don’t get me wrong, the leg was still painful and twitching constantly, but it was starting to get more bearable. So when it came to my 4 week check up at the hospital, where I was given Sally the sexy compression sock, I also received the good news that I could run! However, because Sally the sock was incredibly tight, it caused me so much pain in my leg, it was like day one all over again! So speed dial to my DVT nurse, and was told I have to wait another week to be able to run to let the pain subside. I’m usually a really impatient person. I’m usually like, “I want to be fit, I want to race well now, I want to buy an Aston Martin now” that kind of thing! But this time I had to do what’s best for me and my recovery, and that is to be patient. That’s one of the main things I’ve learnt about this whole experience. I’ve learnt to be more relaxed about life and not sweat the small stuff. Which has actually really changed my life for the better!

After what felt like ten years, my extra week off was over, my leg pain settled down. I put my running kit on, dusted off my trainers and with music blasting through my ears I started to …..walk. I was scared to run ok! I admit it, I was nervous. I was thinking what if I can’t remember how to run? What if I fall over? But as my irrational thinking was starting to get out of hand. ‘Don’t stop me now’ by Queen came on my iPod and just like that I started to run. Anyone closest to me knows the significance of this song to me. I can’t race without listening to it. I was even cool enough to share my love for this song and wrote to Athletics Weekly when I was 13 and won letter of the week (I’d do anything to delay doing my maths homework!). That day I ended up running 8×1 minute run/walk. But most importantly my leg was ok!

From then I kept to the same pattern, mixing up the training with running and walking. But the biggest difficulty I have when I run now is that at any time I start to get a dead leg. It’s a really weird sensation. My overall power on my left side has decreased generally. But it’s like my left leg is almost on a delay, so as I tire I start scuffing the ground with my trainers. When I hear this more than 3 times, it’s like an alarm clock to say that I’ve got about 3 minutes running left in me. But 3 and a bit weeks later I can now run 5 miles! I know this is baby mileage but for now I’m celebrating how far I’ve come. My leg is starting to get stronger and more responsive too! I still have to take each day at a time, because working as well as training my whole left side gets tired quickly. So I have to take extra rest days throughout the week. I’m hoping by the end of December I’ll be able to put together a more normal consistent training week. But for now I might try and jog a park run and I need to start hitting the gym! (It’s all about the squats!). I know it’ll be a long slow journey but I’m excited to see what the future holds in every aspect of my life!

Me And My Blood Clots

This time 6 weeks ago I was doing what I’ve always done for the past 13 years. I was out running. Admittedly not for as long as what I probably should have done, but life hasn’t been smooth for me since mid August. I graduated (YAY!). Then got dumped by the same guy who I’d been with for four years twice (Not so YAY!). So subsequently I had to move out of our flat in Twickenham PDQ (pretty darn quick), was left jobless and was back living with my parents in the lovely countryside. Safe to say life was not going to plan! On this Saturday run all I kept thinking was ‘When is my situation going to get better?’ I was stuck in a rut and throwing myself a pity party. As you can tell I wasn’t really focusing on my run that day! Everything was normal when I finished, and what the new ‘normal’ came to be recently was eat, train, argue with my parents, eat, play Sia full volume, cry in my room, eat, sleep. You get the picture, I was basically having my teenage years at the age of 24! But like a light switch my whole life changed (Again!). But this time it changed me as person and ironically for the better.

Sunday morning, I was woken up by this pain in my foot, I thought like every athlete does “Here we go another stressy!”. So I laid in bed waiting for the pain to subside which it did, with a sigh of relief I decide to actually get out of bed and seize the day (I’m sounding positive now but, my frame of mind at the time was probably just to get up and survive the day!). But as soon as my left leg gently touched the floor as I took a step, I collapsed. Now as a fairly decent athlete back in the day I like to think my pain threshold is fairly high. I’ve had a few stress fractures, Achilles problems, tendonitis, pulled muscles the list goes on. But I have never experienced a pain like this in all my life. Lying on the floor I was trying to suss out how someone could get injured off 35 slow miles a week. But with my new teenage mind set, I stood up convinced myself its just cramp and hopped one legged down the stairs ready to argue with my mum (I can honestly say I don’t know how my parents didn’t disown me). I carried on hiding this excruciating pain, by spending the day standing like a flamingo, popping paracetamol and suffering alone in my bedroom. I was trying to play it cool, but deep down I knew this was something serious. Running has given me the ability to know my body really well. I hadn’t been training enough to be injured and if I was injured I would have felt it after my run the day before. But I continued to do some internet shopping in my room and convinced myself that I would be back running the next day. Monday 18th September, the severe pain in my calf woke me up. Struggling to catch my breath because it hurt so much. I crawled to my parent’s bedroom and admitted defeat that I needed my parents help! I was taken to A&E and after a lengthy wait, a doctor saw me. She was quick to dismiss me, it was clear that she thought nothing was wrong with me and it was obviously just a pulled muscle. Then my mum asks what we were all deep down (no pun intend) hoping it wasn’t, is it a blood clot? But the doctor reassured me I couldn’t possibly have a blood clot. “I’m too young, too fit, too healthy. And I’ve not been on any long haul flights.” Standing up to leave and still in unbearable pain the doctor at the last moment decides to do a blood test, you know just in case. But this meant a 2 hour wait on the ward to wait for my results.

I get, some may say aggressive, if not fed. So sitting in the ward hungry and sleep deprived I was not in a good way! The doctor comes back (yes it’s only 8.30 I can still have a McDonald’s breakfast! When she discharges me). “Can I have a word in the office?” uh oh what’s happening? I just want a double sausage and egg McMuffin! I sat in the office and the doctor’s presence had very much changed. Almost to an apologetic ‘egg on face’ attitude. My D-dimer levels were abnormally high (this is a small protein fragment present in the blood, which is raised if a person has a blood clot) normal levels are 400-500 mine were 4675 to be exact. After this first meeting, everything happened so quickly the NHS really are incredible. Within the space of an hour since the office meeting, I had injections in my stomach, appointments booked for an ultrasound scan on my leg that same day, urine tests, and luckily a bowl of Frosties and a cup of tea. I had a couple of hours to wait before my ultra sound. But it was time now to start accepting that this could well be a blood clot in my leg.

The deep vein thrombosis waiting room was, looking back quite funny. Lets just say I was the youngest one in there by about 40 years. Because blood clots are rare for people under 65 apparently! I limped into the ultrasound room, and was asked to take my bottoms off. I remember feeling impressed with myself for remembering to put running shorts on at 3 in the morning. Lying on the bed the ultrasound started, I thought I’d be really funny and original and asked the nurse if it was a boy or a girl. It didn’t get the response I was hoping for, as she called over an expert and asked if clots ran in the family. The comedian in me soon disappeared as it was confirmed that I had clots in my peroneal veins extending up and in the popliteal vein. I hobbled out the room and the pain and stress of the last month and a half came out of me and I sobbed loudly in the waiting room. I was devastated and scared.

I was then called to see a DVT nurse to talk about my treatment. Before he’d even told me to sit down I was asking if I could still run. The running situation could be worse; I can run but I can’t push myself too much or make my leg hurt! But I did have to rest up for 4 weeks. The nurse was so lovely he made me feel less emotional and panicky! He said I was the fittest person he’d seen from my test results which is why getting a clot is so random! I’ve been put on this new medication called Rivaroxaban. I have to take the tablet twice a day at exactly the same time for the first 21 days then just once a day for the foreseeable future. I was also told the good news that I’d have to wear a sexy compression sock for the next two years! (Hello bad tan lines), and blood tests every month for at least 6 months. I’ve got a haematology appointment in December to try and find out why I got the clots in the first place!

Six weeks on, the pain has subsided but I still feel it and my calf twitches all the time. Sally the sexy sock is on and I’ve started to do some gentle training. It feels weird when I run but I’ll do another blog post about that soon! I’ve also got a new job and I’ve started to learn how to drive! What this experience has taught me is that life is unpredictable, but you are in control of your own happiness. You just have to make it happen for yourself.