How to Turn a Six Week Running Program into a Six Month One: Part I

I’ve sat down to write this post a few times and gave up because I didn’t really think I would be able to say anything coherent about the last 24+ months of my life. These two-plus years have been enormously difficult and draining. Is that anything that anyone really wants to hear? I’m not sure, but here goes.

It started in the spring of 2007. Backing up, I had been in unbearable abdominal pain and nausea for about six months. It wasn’t so much pain as shards of glass being pushed out of the organs in the right side of my body. And it wasn’t so much nausea as wanting to puke every time I put something in my mouth. I had become worn out, a total cranky-pants, after endless doctor visits and lab tests. No one could figure out what was wrong, which only seemed to lessen when I stopped eating completely. Nice, because I lost some weight, but I was beginning to miss out on things like bread and water. Finally, I encountered a genius gastroenterologist who discovered I had Crohn’s Disease. I know, I should have been upset that I had a lifelong immune disorder or that I might need to be on daily medication with side effects, but mostly I was upset because it meant I couldn’t eat pizza.

I cried for about four weeks over no longer being able to enjoy a Nancy’s pepperoni and giardiniera double-crust, and then my family found out something infinitely worse: my dad had liver cancer. Actually, he had an extremely rare condition, primary liver cancer combined with bile duct cancer. The outlook was grim at best. He was told at the University of Chicago (a team of really caring docs…hah!) that he had several weeks to live.

Meanwhile, I had learned to control the Crohn’s by eating a steady diet of no sugar, no wheat, no chemicals and no fun. It kept me from having to take the daily medication. What could I eat, everyone asked. Not much, but I wasn’t in pain, was losing even more weight and was on my way to looking like a supermodel, which had always been my goal anyway. Perfect!

Thankfully, my dad found another team of doctors at Northwestern who were willing to try treatment, which included an aggressive surgery to remove the cancer, along with 60% of my dad’s liver, followed by chemo. I could tell you all the gory details about everything that happened after that, but it wouldn’t interest you. One year ago this week, following a chemo treatment, my dad entered the hospital and never left. He died – essentially from the damage done to his liver from the chemo – in August, 2008.

The pain moved from my abdomen to my heart, and hasn’t left since.

By the way, a post about the last 24 months of my life wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that we lost a great many close friends during that period, for a range of reasons. Some packed up their homes and families and moved to various parts of the country. Others gave us the proverbial finger and walked away. Both were painful losses and would have been better endured had I not also been losing my father at the same time.

I finally got depressed. Looking back, it seems strange that it didn’t happen sooner, but it followed me like a shadow, day and night. I couldn’t deny it anymore. It was more than the blues, or something I could shake. I was sunk. Most nights I went to sleep hoping I wouldn’t wake up.

After weeks of staring into space for hours on end without a solitary thought, I realized I was scaring the daylights out of my husband, admitted I was losing my grip and went to counseling. It didn’t help much, but it helped a little.

People ask me at least a few times a week, “How’s your mom?” Most people don’t ask how I am doing, but I’m also not sure they’d want to hear the answer. Others who’ve gone through the loss of a parent tell me that how I feel is normal, that it’s one of the most painful losses anyone can suffer. Lots of days I feel like a dried up piece of wood. Erich told me last week that four days is too long to go without a shower. Generally, I’m hideous. I wander through the day, partially finishing tasks, so my house usually looks like a bomb went off, with enough space cleared off the couch so I can numb myself in front of the TV.

In fact, today’s a good day, which is how I’m able to make sounds greater than those capable of only being heard by dogs and other small animals.

And you thought you were going to hear about the running program I had been using to get in shape! I just realized how long this post is and I never got to the part about how I found the meaning of life through hair color. Part Two coming soon!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mills
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 19:25:19

    Oh, Lisa…..I read the first blog above and then the one about your dad’s birthday….and I had tears for you here at the library. Reading what you have been struggling with has really tugged at my heart. My mom has the same b-day as your dad’s…..July 10th.
    Thank you for bearing your heart!
    Please know that I am here for you and am thinking of and praying for you!
    You are a beautiful, funny, vibrant woman! Seriously….you are!


  2. Natasha
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 20:29:16

    What Kim said…..

    This is amazingly brave stuff you are writing. I hope it lessens the pain somewhat to write about some of it.


    • kathanink
      Jul 16, 2009 @ 17:27:44

      Thanks for your valuable input…it doesn’t feel better right away, but then later, it does.


  3. darksculptures
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 15:52:34

    Wonderfully powerful stuff! There were times I had to catch my breath and hold back the tears. Thank you for sharing this most intimate part of your life. I think you have inspired me once again!


    • kathanink
      Jul 16, 2009 @ 17:26:51

      Kim, thanks so much for reading and commenting on my blog. It really encourages me to keep writing!


  4. marycooke
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 15:28:49

    So sorry for your loss! My dad also died from complications due to cancer treatment, then my brother passed away in 2007 after surgery for lung cancer. Seems like yesterday. I hope you can find the strength you need to carry on. You are blessed to have a husband who loves you! Please have a look at my blog — I hope it will be an encouragement for you.


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