Our local grocery store sells some amazing homemade salsa. It’s so delicious that gas stations could sell it as a fountain drink. One night I was eating some tortilla chips with that amazing salsa, when suddenly I could feel a hair in my mouth. I fished it out of my mouth, and then did what any red-blooded American male would do: I pretended that never happened, and continued eating my salsa.
Much to my dismay, a few bites later I strung another long hair through my teeth. Okay, this is starting to get a little ridiculous. Two long hairs in one container of salsa?!? It was frustrating. But being an ultra runner has taught me to be determined. I don’t give up when things get hard. So I set that second hair aside and continued eating. Just because it’s hairy salsa doesn’t make it any less delicious. And then catastrophy struck. A third hair.
A four letter word probably popped out of my mouth. I grabbed the container of salsa and threw it in the garbage. I was livid. I mentioned this frustration to my wife later that night. While I was relating my story, my daughter piped up with a confession. She had been eating salsa earlier in the day and accidentally dropped the container of salsa onto the carpet. Not wanting to waste the salsa, she scooped it off the carpet and back into the container, then put it back in the fridge.
Needless to say, I didn’t need to floss my teeth that night.
Right now, my life is like that container of furry salsa. It is really great. Really great. But there are a few unexpected hairs in the mix. Those hairs are called Common Variable Immunodeficiency Disorder. A few months ago I found out that my body has a glitch. Basically my immune system works as well as a Close Door button in an elevator…which is to say: not at all.
This isn’t great news. My primary care doctor seemed genuinely concerned and sympathetic when these results showed up in my blood work. Apparently this sets me up for some potentially serious health issues including pneumonia, bronchitis, and pulmonary infections. Since then there has been more blood work. More doctor appointments. And a few visits with an immunologist. I don’t dig the kind of diagnosis that shows up on the National Institutes of Health list of Rare Diseases.
The only option for treatment is immunoglobulin infusions. The immunoglobulin is from people who have donated plasma, and this is supposed to help build up my immune system. The doctor said that these infusions will be needed for the rest of my life. The options I was given were to 1) Do subcutaneous infusions once a week at home, or 2) Do IV infusions at an infusion center once a month.
I selected option #1. Here’s the problem with all this nonsense: I’m terrified of needles. To me, needles are scarier than snakes, truck stop bathrooms, and Celine Dion music…combined! I have a bad reputation of passing out when I get my blood drawn. So the idea of needle sticks weekly for the rest of my life is super unawesome.
I had my first infusion two weeks ago. A nurse showed up, put three needles in my stomach, then an hour and a half later the infusion was done. The next day I tried to jog a mile, but couldn’t because my stomach hurt too bad. The day after that I tried to jog again. No go.
Last week Mel did the infusion. Three needles in my upper thigh. Ugh. 70 minutes later it was done. As Mel was taking the needles out, my world started getting fuzzy. As darkness started clouding my vision, I slapped my cheek trying to keep from passing out. Mel said “Hurry, let’s walk to the couch so you can lay down.” I knew I couldn’t make it that far. I was suddenly dripping sweat and ripped my shirt off. I barely made it to the dining room floor, clammy and sweating. But I didn’t completely pass out. WIN!
I tell you all this because I’ve been thinking about how life isn’t always 100% awesome. (Duh!) I tell you this because you can’t have a story of triumph without overcoming something. Here’s the thing: I don’t know if there even WILL be any overcoming! I want to run the Jackpot Ultra Marathon in two weeks with Mel who is going for her first 100 miler. I want to run every mile with her. I want to run the Zion 100 in April. I want to run the Vol State 500k in July. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any doubts. These hairs in the salsa are making things a little trickier.
Of course the priority is to take care of myself. Don’t worry. I’ll do that. Health is more important than a buckle. Maybe ultra running has prepared me for this point in my life. Ultramarathons have taught me to be strong and brave and determined. And now I’m at this moment where I can utilize those tools in a real life setting. I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge. Now is the time to fight.