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“On Death and Dying”

Looking towards Avoca Beach from North Avoca
during today's walk.

Serious runners with more than a few years behind them will be familiar with the psychological impact of injuries.  As discussed in my post titled "Punctuated Equilibrium", major injuries have derailed my running and racing plans and, perhaps, permanently inhibited my running potential.  Even soft-tissue injuries that later healed completely, were devastating when they thwarted plans for a big race. In dealing with such injuries, to some degree or another, I have recognized my own emotional progression in the stages identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her seminal work “On Death and Dying” - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

With my recently-diagnosed health problems - Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), and associated Pulmonary Embolism and Atrial Flutter - I can feel myself travelling the same road again.  The territory is familiar, though maybe amplified by the potential whole-of-life impact of the diagnosis, and I am confident I will eventually reach the "Acceptance" stage.  In the meantime, I'm tracking my progress through the earlier stages of the process.

Avoca Lagoon.

Denial.  When, during the Terrigal Trotters' Santa Run just before Christmas, I first experienced unusual shortness of breath, palpitating heart and excessive fatigue, I didn't believe there was a serious problem.  It was warm and humid, I had been training hard, and I was wearing an Elf suit.  Worst case, I had picked up some kind of bug, which would pass in a few days.  I was still in denial a week later, but finally accepted something was seriously wrong when I struggled badly a week later in the monthly Trotter's 10km Time Trial.

North Avoca Lake Track.

Anger.  After the diagnoses, it appeared likely the originating DVT resulted from failing to drink enough following a warm long run before having a longish nap.  Low blood pressure, viscous blood, and inactivity combined to produce clots.  No doubt other risk factors were involved, but addressing these two may have prevented the problem.  I kept returning to the day in question and asking myself why I didn't stop at a store on the way home to buy a drink, as I would usually do, and why I recently started having post-run naps when for decades I had "pooh-poohed" the idea?  Why had the heart and lungs that had served me faithfully for 45 years of serious running now let me down?  Shouldn't the years of training have made them more resilient?  Would things have been different if I hadn't recently changed my shoe brand after decades with Nike Pegasus?  Overnight I had moved into a new demographic.  I was now discussing heart issues with my step-mother as an equal when a month earlier we had seemed to live on different health planets.  There was also anger that I could no longer exercise with the same intensity, perhaps impacting my health in other respects.

Avoca Lagoon.

Bargaining.  I have kept Googling, reviewing the medical websites and the experiences of others, and theorising on the quickest acceptable way to return to running.  Positive snippets of information are seized on, but often discounted or disregarded after rational consideration.  If I have larger lung and heart capacity than the average human, then even if they are functioning sub-optimally, I should be able to jog conservatively when others would be limited to a walk?

I'm still in the "Bargaining" phase because I don't have good information about my prognosis yet.  No doubt, I'll keep coming up with hypotheses that get me back to running sooner rather than later, but know that expert opinion based on my particular situation is needed, and that feedback will only start with my specialist appointments at the end of February.  I periodically experience some symptoms of the "Depression" and "Acceptance" phases, but feel those phases are yet to come, and I will discuss them in a future post.

Another 10km of easy walking for exercise today following the early morning track session at Terrigal Haven.  I tried walking somewhere less familiar to make it more interesting and that seemed to work.  If I want to keep walking 10km each day, maybe I'll have to drive to some varying locations.