Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Runner with RA Cycles through the 5 Stages of Grief

This week was race week! Sure, it was just a 15k, but my last race was a DNF and I sure as heck didn't want that to happen again. The pressure was on and boy, did I have a mental struggle this week!

With so many ups and downs of my disease process this week, I cycled, ok, I ran through more emotions than I ever thought possible. I needed to get a grip on my anxiety. RA and this latest flare have really been messing with me. I had to keep telling myself that the outcome of Sunday's race matters to no one but me.

As I prepared today's post for the Weekly Wrap, instead of talking about my workouts this week, which you can see on my Instagram, I decided to share my emotions. In a comic style. Truth be told, I had some fun with this post.

After all, as they say, a picture tells a thousand words. Amateurish? Yes. Therapeutic? Yes. I have felt all the feels this week.


Since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis last December, I've been experiencing each of the stages of grief at various times throughout this year. If you've never gone through the grieving process, you might not realize that the process isn't linear. You can move from one stage to another in no particular order. You can also get stuck in a stage or 2 like I have been with anger and depression. If I could choose, I'd like to be stuck in acceptance. Wouldn't that be something? Of course, with RA, just when you think you've got this thing, some new challenge is thrown at you. In my case, it's an uptick in symptoms, or as we call it, a flare. Here we go again.



I like to think that I'm not a control freak, but the truth of the matter is that I do like to be in control of my health. I've never felt as out of control as I do with this disease. I do everything right, I take all the supplements, I eat all the healthy foods, and I still flare! So if it doesn't seem to make a difference, why bother trying? Why not go to Portillo's and eat a bacon double cheeseburger with cheese fries? Does it really matter? Pass the wine, please.


Within the past 10 months, I've gone from being a super active energetic person to a tired chronically ill person who pleads with the RA gods to stay active. Running has always been such a huge part of my identity. But this week, for the first time since my diagnosis, I actually considered giving up running. Running has been really hard lately. I even mentioned this to my husband, and as much as he loves to hate on my running, he looked shocked. But there it is. 


Once I got over the ridiculous idea of giving up running, I needed to figure out how to let go of the old me and accept the runner that I currently am. It's kind of ironic because last spring I was all about those run/walk intervals and "finishing is winning". Blah blah blah. I get greedy when I'm on those steroids because I get to run fast again, the way I always used to. Running feels easy when I take those medications. Taking them long term isn't feasible due to the side effects.


Maybe because of all my "acceptance" talk last spring, I really believed I'd go into remission and that I'd be back to my old self again. I'm starting to realize that is probably not going to happen. As I approach the year anniversary of my diagnosis, it's time for me to consider that if I really want to continue to run, I am going to have to accept being slower. I'm going to have to utilize run/walk intervals whether I want to or not. I'll still be a runner. Just a slower, gentler runner. 


As I like to say, we all get the same medal no matter when we cross the finish line. Save me a beer, would you? Or some chocolate? I ran the Hot Chocolate 15k today and had a great race. Acceptance is sweet and yep, finishing is winning. Especially in the company of good friends. Isn't that what it is really about?

How was your week? I'll have the Hot Chocolate 15k recap posted on Tuesday.

I'm linking up with Holly and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap. 






77 comments :

  1. This is SOOOO good to see ;-) I get so frustrated (jealous is probably a better word, but #denial) when I see so many runners setting new PR's and not dealing with injury (or, at least they're not admitting to injury), and I want to spit on the computer screen at their endless boasts. Granted, a lot of these peeps have not been running as long as me, and have not reached that place called Plateauing. And, I honestly know I do not have the genetics (or drive) to push myself to get faster and faster. I've been trying to accept where I am as a runner...faster than "average," but definitely not "fast" in comparison to the majority. But, I do have a lot of fun where I am...I can shake off a bad race easier than most people (though I still may dwell on those tough races at times). Hang in there, you have a huge cheering section...we're not gonna let you stay "down" ;-)

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    1. Nope, even I can't let myself stay down! Marcia and I had a good talk about this today--we're also dealing with being hormonally challenged. And now we know why so many women stop running after age 50. It gets hard!

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  2. As I was searching for a quote for today's instagram post, I saw this: "Don't judge your running by your speed." Amby Burfoot. For some reason I thought of you! I also thought of me, too. Though I don't have RA, my speed declined about 15 years ago after injuring my knee (teaching aerobics of all things). I went from running 8 minute miles to 10, recovered some to bring it to around 9, then age kind of took over and I'm happy when I hit anything under 10 at this point. So I get it. I still miss my speed sometimes. You may note I find ways to slip some of my PRs into posts. :-)

    You're still a great runner, Wendy, no matter your speed. It is your drive, your dedication, and so much more that RA can't take away from you. Yeah, it is fricking hard sometimes, for all of us. Things hurt, it takes longer to recover (hell, it takes longer to get up from a chair, lol), and so many other things that can be discouraging. You just gotta keep it up!

    (I don't have any great ending to this comment, sorry. :-) )

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    1. I like that quote and I may be using it in the future! Amby is the inspiration behind my run/walk intervals, after all...

      I know you get it...and I'll get there too. This week was really tough, the kind of week that emotionally made me dig deep and question everything. I came out on top and I feel better. Thanks for all your support! <3

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    2. Good thing you're a runner because you're used to digging deep. <3

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  3. I'm happy you're able to find the humor through the struggle. With life-changing illnesses, one can either laugh or cry. :)

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    1. Oh, there's plenty of crying. I just don't put it out there. My sense of humor always keeps me sane!

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  4. Wendy, you are so much more capable than you give yourself credit. And you're so STRONG. Mentally and physically!! Half the stuff you do I could never dream of doing. Your running may slow down a bit but you'll persevere and stay strong because that's who you are. #beastmode

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    1. I really wavered this week and that scared the he** out of me! I was super anxious for the race but I knew that I needed to do it. I'm so glad I did and I am ready to move on now. Thanks for all the love!

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  5. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to just be in acceptance all the time? While I know it's different, I definitely cycled through those stages during injury. I feel like I get so greedy when I start to wish I was running more or running faster, when a few months ago I was desperate to be running at all!
    I'm glad you were able to finish your race today- congrats!

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    1. I know how much you get it! Isn't it funny that we can't just be content with where we are at? That we have to keep pushing ourselves? I guess that's what makes us choose this sport.

      I'm so glad about the race too. I feel so empowered!

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  6. I love your drawings. :) I for one are very happy you’re still out there running. Even though RA has affected your pace and endurance, you’re such an inspiration still getting out there to run and fighting thru all your struggles and up & down emotions. Running isn’t easy in the first place but you continue to fight for it. Congrats on your run today. You are a warrior!!

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    1. Today made me very happy! Following you and all your injury struggles gives me strength too because you never give up! We all get each other and that's really what keeps us all going.

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  7. Why is acceptance so challenging? If you ever figure that one out, you may just rule the world.

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    1. I wish I was one of those people who were just content to be who they are. How do I do that? :p

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  8. It is never easy to let go of something you once had, whether that's a person, a relationship, running fast, being "normal" -- we never win when we fight where we are now, but that doesn't mean that it's easy to accept change, either.

    Maybe you will have to accept these things. Maybe you won't. But you do have to accept them for now, because right now, it's your reality. And all those other emotions? The fear, the anger, the depression? There's really nothing wrong with feeling them, either (except of course that's not what you want to feel).

    Sometimes adulting is damn hard. Big hugs, my friend, and may you find your wings again.

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    1. My wings have been clipped but if I can get my head around that and embrace my slower pace, I'll be good. It's nice to know I can still go the distance. Today felt good.

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  9. I'm sorry to hear about these flare ups and I can't imagine how tough and frustrating this may be, and pretty much alll the feelings. I love your drawings - they do a great job of helping to share with us what you're going through. I feel like acceptance is the hardest part of things, and often the last step, especially when we have hope and ideas that things will go away. Great job on the 15k today.

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    1. I wanted to express myself but keep it light. I sure wish I was a better artist! LOL!

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  10. I must commend you on a very clever post and the accompanying artwork! I'm struggling mightily with aging, which is nothing compared to what you are going through. You are my inspiration. When things are tougher than we all can possibly understand, you keep on. You are touching many more people than you can ever imagine. Never forget that. Congrats on the 15k today! Thanks for linking.

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    1. I don't know...Marcia and I talked about this a lot today. I'm lucky to have such awesome ladies to age with. We got this, sistah. We do!

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  11. Exactly! The first and the last person receive the same medal. All the matters is that you finished, no matter what your time was and that you had fun!

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  12. Love this post, Wendy (especially the artwork)! Since being diagnosed in May, I think I went straight to Acceptance - thank you, steroids. That will likely change this week, however, when my RA takes me off of them. Come what may, your site reminds me I'm not alone and for that I'm very grateful. Congrats on the great run today!

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    1. That is exactly what happened to me when I was diagnosed. 4 months of steroids will do that to a person. Coming off them sent me into the cycle. If you need a shoulder or someone to talk to, you know where to find me!

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    2. Thanks, Wendy. I appreciate that (and may take you up on it at some point)!

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  13. Love your honesty, insight and creativity! I hope the Hot Chocolate race didn't send you through another cycle. ;-)

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    1. Right now I'm in acceptance and that's a good place to be!

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  14. My heart goes out to you! You have done such an amazing job at coping with this disease process. I can only imagine how hard it is to try and accept all of the changes that come with it on the running front. You are truly inspiring with all of your workouts and crossfit activities. Congratulations for coming back strong in this race and finishing it! That medal is well deserved!

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    1. Hoping this is going to be the way to go for me. If I can keep running, it's all good.

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  15. I know you've been struggling and I so appreciate the humor in this post. Acceptance is hard. I'm so glad you had a good race today!

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    1. I think writing this post helped me refocus and turn my head around!

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  16. Suddenly losing control of your health and a big part of your life must be so.....I don't even know so I won't try to put myself in your place. I hope it helps you to share your frustrations with your blogging friends and I hope you realize how inspiring you are to all of us. Congrats on your race today you looked so happy in your photos

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    1. It's been a challenge, that's for sure. Yesterday really helped me. A lot. I sure appreciate all the support from my blogging friends. I feel like I've put everyone through the mill as I deal with this!

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  17. Congrats on an awesome 15k! Gotta focus on the positive. You are so amazing and inspirational!

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    1. Absolutely! I'm really working on staying positive!

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  18. You have such a gift of dealing with such difficult issues in a humourous and honest way. Thanks for sharing, and I am so looking forward to that 15k race recap! :-) (Shathiso at www.thegaboronerunner.com )

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    1. Having a sense of humor certainly helps! I'm glad I found it again.

      I'm so glad you put your website in the comment--I couldn't figure out who you were! LOL!

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  19. I week before I turn 65 I still occasionally struggle to accept that I am no longer able to run. I knew the day would come but was, yes, in denial.
    You've still got enough "oomph" to run, even if slower.
    My wish for you is that you make it through at least another decade. Slower works.
    Sending love from the East.

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    1. You and me both. I'm just not ready to give it up. Between RA and menopause, I'm in a strange vortex...

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  20. As always, your post gave me a chuckle as you deal with your diagnosis in such a humorous way. How therapeutic it must have been to express your feelings through your drawings. I agree that people don't realize these feelings ebb and flow and think it's time you just 'get over it'. Each new change with this diagnosis has the potential to bring you more grief, and you will go through these phases more than just once. Here's hoping they are few and far between, and you will come to love and accept your new 'you'.

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    1. Right now I'm sitting in acceptance and it feels good. I'm going to ride this wave for a while.

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  21. You are much more than this! It is natural to go through all of this but at the end of the day, we all are dealing with something and we all must support each other! I'm in your corner I suck as a cheerleader but I'm cheering for ya! I did love this post and did you draw all the pictures? Congratulations on the Hot Chocolate run! I've always wanted to do one of these. I will just have to read the recap to see if you actually had hot chocolate afterwards right!

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    1. Ha, I'm not much of an artist but it sure was fun to do this. My husband was rolling his eyes the whole time. I think he's worried I'm going off the deep end! LOL!

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  22. Such a fantastic post and it's always great to inject humor into difficult situations where possible. I'm so glad to hear that your Hot chocolate race went well and that you are in the acceptance phase! Awesome work, Wendy.

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  23. I went through the same thing when I got ITBS. If I ran, I was in pain. I couldn't accept it though through sear stubbornness, and it wasn't until I accepted it when I got a new outlook. Good to hear the Hot Chocolate was a good race, and I can't wait to read it.

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    1. I'm moving towards acceptance...but it's complicated!

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  24. Yay, glad to hear the race went well!

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  25. So glad you for that 15k race in! I find running is so cyclical for me over the last two years. Battling injury, then getting better only to get in a car accident and deal with new injuries. Looking forward to your recap.

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    1. I've always dealt with injuries but nothing like the ups and downs of RA. I'm so glad for this race. I needed it.

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  26. Is it better to have been fast and lost it than to have never been fast at all? There's the million dollar question. This is why I balk at those who think they'll be able to BQ when they're older because they assume they'll either get faster or at least stay the same. That's quite an assumption. As long as you're listening to your body (RPE) and heart (rate) and giving it your best, you are a total winner and yesterday proved that.

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    1. Can I steal that first sentence? I kind of love it!! You so get me.

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  27. I love the drawings you made for each stage! they are the best!!

    I hope you find the right balance that will keep you healthy and happy.

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    1. That, my friend, is a work in progress.

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  28. I absolutely love the illustrations!! OMG - perfection. And YES YES YES to grief is not linear and has so many ups and downs, sideways, backwards and plateaus. If only we could coast through 1-10 and be done. HA! Wrong. I am very happy you were able to go out there and have a good race. That medal is amazing and so are YOU!!! Give yourself space and time and yoga and wine and you will be ok my friend :-)

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    1. I had yoga and I had wine today...it was pretty darned good...there may have been some tears too...nothing is linear!

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  29. I am happy to hear about the 15K! and I 10000% understand what you are going through. I am being treated for some form of arthritis at the moment (rheumatologist won't say if it is RA or just associated with my ulcerative colitis flare) but I have been dealing with my fingers and knuckles being swollen most days, elbows and feet as well for about 6 months. They finally just started me on an additional drug to my remicade, sulfasalazine to see how that works before going to methotrexate but I must say some days I am just like eff it to running/and lifting why do I bother. I scrapped my 50K due to flaring with the UC and associated arthritic pain and try to accept it and just always tell myself "it could be worse". But you know what it just really sucks most days when flaring.
    And also super cruel is hard to open medicine caps when you cannot even close your hand around the lid. File that under things to make a person break down when living alone :)

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    1. I just need to ask Whyyyyyyyyy? I can't believe that now you have probably RA along with everything else. One of my friends has crohns and RA. It's just not fair. One is bad enough.

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  30. Those illustrations are perfect. You've really gone through so much! I totally understand the feeling of wanting to quit sometimes, but I'm glad you came around. Totally supporting and cheering you on!!!

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    1. I do love to run and when it's good, it's great!!!

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  31. I believe everyone has some sort of long-term 'issue' at some point in their lives that interfere with their performance of whatever sport they love... whether it be a debilitating long term injury, a diagnosis of a a disease or simply that old bitch, Aunt Minnie!! We all have to learn to come to grips with our new self in our own time, in our own way and via our own methods. I love your drawings and think that is a fun and therapeutic way to cope! You're the best! :)

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    1. It certainly has been a process! I'm really ready for acceptance to stay.

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  32. Excellent. I've been thinking a lot about you and RA after my ANA positive diagnosis a month ago. That doesn't actually mean ANYTHING, but it certainly plays with my mind. Of course Dr. Google caused panic to set in. Remembering you, an excellent runner, and competitor, deals with this, and I don't know what I'm dealing with (if anything). I can soldier on. Next week is the appt with the Rheumatologist... until anything is final the odd and lingering joint pains are just odd things happening, due to menopause or the weather, of course they are. I'm glad Connie led me to your blog. I've truly enjoyed following you. Run Happy!

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    1. I sure hope that it isn't RA!!! Obviously you can PM me with questions that you might have. The rheumatologist will be doing more specific blood tests.

      PS My ANA was negative...

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  33. I cycle through stages 2-4 most of the time. I don't have a diagnosis for my health issues and I have a hard time accepting something when I don't know what it is and what it might do. Your comics are adorable and accurate.

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    1. I think it would be really hard not having a specific diagnosis. I struggle enough with RA but I know what it is. My heart goes out to those of you who have the symptoms but not the diagnosis. No matter, we are all in this thing together.

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  34. Hi Wendy. Thanks for making and sharing your comics, they are very heartfelt and real. I want you to find the magic key that makes things better, I want remission for you, it sounds so hard when as you say you are doing everything 'right' that you can think of and still in a flare. I hope that writing and sharing helps-- who knows, maybe it is the best thing that you can do for yourself.

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    1. If nothing else, writing and sharing helps me--I sure do appreciate all of you who read, comment, and support. What I wouldn't give to JUST be whining about running problems!!

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  35. You are so creative! Your drawings are awesome and sum up you experience well! You are so right, finishing is winning no matter what the time and even better with company!

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    1. I'm really lucky that I've made so many friends through my blog and that they've stuck by me all this time!

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  36. This is a great post! You are such an inspiration to me and I am sending positive vibes your way that your RA eases up!

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    1. I'll take all those positive vibes!!! I'm ready for a remission. Or at least acceptance.

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  37. I relate! 1000% The capsulitis in my toes makes me crazy. The frustration may have played a role in my running off and doing a marathon willy nilly. I keep trying to prove to myself I am still tough as my body fails.
    I feel like I was in acceptance and then I lose it for awhile.
    Let's keep running even if it slower than what we are used too :)
    I am hormonally challenged as well...i have moments where I wonder if I shouldn't try medication, but so far I have resisted.
    You deal with your RA with a lot grace. Hang in there!

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    1. I didn't even mention the hormones but yep, that's in there too...

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