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I do not think that I have ever seen a case where the sentencing goal of protection of the public figured more predominantly. Anyone who sat through this trial would realize that this defendant is the worst nightmare of every child’s parent. The entirely credible and overwhelming evidence demonstrated that the defendant is a dangerous predatory sadist…
Hon Sean McLaughlin, sentencing of Jeremy Noyes

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A package arrived today. A hoody. Oh, how I love a good hoody. Is there anything better? Cozy and comfy and flattering on people of all shapes and sizes. Maybe it’s because I grew up crushing on boys with long hair in hoodies and Vans, but hoodies hold a special place in my heart. Back to present day: the hoody that arrived was blazoned with Beast on the Bay. Because I have decided to run the Beast on the Bay again this year.

Regular readers may recall that in 2018, I ran the Beast as part of my ten year anniversary of my trauma. It inspired me to get into shape and do something that felt impossible. It also happened to be in Erie, where my trauma occurred and is sponsored by my old med school, who made the trauma significantly worse. I was not able to run the race in 2019 because the previous summer, in the best shape of my life, I had suddenly developed a mysterious autoimmune neurologic disorder a week before I was to run a different obstacle course race, the Spartan. Now, within this surreal time of quarantine, I’ve decided to do it again this September (if it’s not cancelled).

I had come to some new revelations on Easter Sunday. Not regarding God or Armageddon or resurrection. Regarding my immune system.

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In order for me to explain, let’s rewind to June 2019.

I’d been in training for 14 months and was in peak form. My body fat percentage was its lowest ever. I could run a 9 minute mile. I was pumping out burpees like a champ. I felt amazing. On Sunday, my husband I went to a local Crossfit gym to do a class and practice rope climbing. I’d never climbed a rope in my life. I never even tried in gym class as a kid because I was convinced I couldn’t do it and would just embarrass myself. I knew I needed to climb one for the race coming up the following Saturday so we went and the owners gave me some tips and I did it! I was so damn proud of myself.

The next morning I woke up and felt sick: I was exhausted, my muscles ached and felt weak. It wasn’t the way I felt after a really brutal workout. It was the way I felt when I had the flu. I decided I better give into it and rest as much as possible but I’d been planning on working out leading up until a couple days before the race. I needed to get better quick, though , so I cancelled the workouts. By the time Friday came, I was still exhausted and I knew I needed to cancel the race. I was heartbroken. I’d worked so hard and it meant a lot to me. It was odd I was still feeling just as bad six days in, so on Saturday instead of going to the race, I went to Quest to get some bloodwork drawn.

Over the next few months I saw neurologists and rheumatologists. I had bloodwork, MRIs, EMGs, and EEGs. I began to piece together symptoms I’d been having in the months leading up to my exhaustion. Blistering on my lips I’d assumed were cold sores (they weren’t). Neuropathy in my arms and legs after showering. A tightening of my rib muscles during a run. At one point, my calves swelled and hardened during a run, forcing me to stop. My fine motor skills were off and I was having more of the involuntary muscle movements I’d gotten for years. I was losing my balance more often too.

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None of the doctors ever arrived at a diagnosis and I was told to deal with it and be grateful it wasn’t something bad. I wasn’t. How could we know if it would get really bad or not if we didn’t know what it was? I had plenty of patients in the same boat. Vague autoimmune symptoms and slightly off labs but no clear clinical picture of a known disorder. They often found their way to my doorstep looking for help from medical marijuana (Which is smart because it helps both the symptoms and has immune modulating effect which can help longterm outcomes). I was now one of them.

I tried changing to a plant based ketogenic diet but it only seemed to make it worse (and was unpleasant as hell to eat). I tried forcing myself to exercise but it made it worse too. I would have a few days where I felt pretty good, but the symptoms always returned. That is, until November.

In late November, my husband moved out. Our marriage ended. And so did my symptoms. I hadn’t been expecting such a dramatic reaction on the part of my body, but there it was. Fatigue, pain, weakness, skin blistering, muscle jerking, neuropathy. Gone. My toxic marriage had been killing me. My body was sending me one last desperate message before it gave up the fight. And it worked.

What can make you more grateful for the movement of your body than losing it?

There has been a lot going on in my life since then. Divorce, buying a new house and moving in less than two weeks before Christmas, and the in and out of court of a high conflict divorce and custody battle. Finally as February came to a close I felt like things had settled down and I was ready to start working out again and go on a diet to shed the weight I’d gained since June. It went well for a couple weeks and then buh buh buh, quarantine! And it all went to pot. Like it did for all of you.

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No more daycare. No more school. Time to homeschool 3 kids and take care of a preschooler. And now you have to take your medical practice and completely restructure it because you can’t do office visits anymore. And no one can help you because it’s a freaking quarantine. And did I mention the high conflict divorce I’m in? Yeah, those don’t improve with quarantine either.

And then we got sick. March 22nd, my four year old and I woke up with a fever, sore throat and cough. Exhausted, body aches, chills, no appetite. Then the other three kids got it. We didn’t qualify for COVID testing so I put us into complete isolation (actually considerably worse than regular quarantine life, believe it or not) and waited for it to pass. But it didn’t. The fever would sometimes for 24 or even 72 hours, but it always came back. We’re now on Day 33. I eventually coerced an urgent care into giving me a test despite not meeting criteria on Day 24 when our fevers went up higher than ever. The test came back negative but they told me false negatives were common and I should consider getting tested again. I consulted with my mentor, the best doctor I know. He said he thought it was COVID and a false negative. I agreed.

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If you consider the other things in the differential diagnosis (cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Epstein Barr virus, CMV, Lyme disease), none of them made as much sense as COVID.

And so, here we sit in isolation. Now, back to the Beast. I was in a lull of symptoms two weeks ago on Easter Sunday. I was sitting watching a local church service on my big screen TV while my kids ate their candy and watched their iPads, and a verse struck me.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

And I realized my husband had ruined my relationship with God. Because that’s what abusive people do. They isolate you. From friends and family and, sometimes, if they’re really good at it, God. I realized how far from God I’d gotten, and how I couldn’t separate God from my husband and the harm he does. And I realized it was now time to stop. And I said hello to God again.

I realized something else that night as I stayed up late journaling about all my newfound epiphanies. I was ready to get in shape and lose weight again. But I needed something to focus on, a race. I thought of the Beast. But when I thought of it, my stomach dropped. I realized the thought of running it alone, without my husband, scared me. That I felt like his ghost would be haunting me the entire time. And most things that scare you, are the things most worth doing. And then it occurred to me. The timing of the onset of my autoimmune issues. I’ve always noted the cruel irony of it beginning right as I was to run an obstacle course race even harder than the Beast, that I’d trained for for so long. Right at my physical peak. My husband was going to run the Spartan with me just like he’d run the Beast with me. He jumped on the Beast wagontrain late in the game. He said he didn’t think I’d actually train and go through with it so he waited. Like it was such a big freaking honor to have him run it. He took something that was mine and made it his. He was jealous. And he was going to take the Spartan from me too. He had spent years complaining I was fat and had a flat butt but when I got in shape, he was so damn jealous, he did everything he could to undermine me. And he couldn’t let me have the Beast, my moment. I didn’t finish high in the Beast, mind you. I couldn’t do about a third of the obstacles. But I finished. And I was so damn proud. He acted proud too: proud of us, proud of his wife, of himself. His wife, not me. His possession that reflects on him. That was what he showed the world. A few weeks after we finished it, I put a “I Beat the Beast” bumper sticker on my car and he looked at it and said “You didn’t beat the beast. You didn’t finish all the obstacles.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what he shows his family. For out the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. I stood up to him and told him I had finished and tried all the obstacles and that was a big accomplishment for me. He gave me a shitty look and walked off.

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He took the Beast from me and my body wasn’t going to let him take the Spartan. Maybe that’s why it shut down. Maybe my heart called up my immune system and said, if he does it to her one more time I’m going to break. And my immune system said, ok, time for the Hail Mary. We will throw the switch and shut the whole plant down and give her some time to sit and think. And if she won’t walk away, we’ll leave her there sitting. And if she does, she’ll run it for her. And my heart blew my immune system a kiss and my immune system blushed. Maybe. Maybe it was a gift from my body.

So, I signed up for the Beast. And ordered a hoody. And the next day fruits and vegetable and water became a thing again at our house. Planning and cooking dinners because a nightly thing. And working out resumed for me and my kids too. Life was good. I was triumphant!

But then life happened. Our fever has taken up residence and work and homeschooling are getting harder instead of easier. Yada yada yada. I’m back down for the count. But I’m not cancelling the Beast. I am running it, come hell or high water or fever or economic collapse. Even if it takes me ten hours, I’m running it.

I cried a good bit during the Beast the last time I ran it. Cried for what Jeremy did to me, for what my school did to me, for what their mom having PTSD took from my kids, for all the other survivors I know who will never see justice like I did. I imagine I will cry this time too, for a whole other set of reasons.

My high conflict divorce has been nastier than ever this past week. We may soon go before the judge via teleconference (ya know, quarantine) and I am scared my husband will convince the judge he’s the guy out there bragging about his wife running the Beast, instead of who he really is, the guy denigrating his wife when she dared to be proud of herself. But this is not my first rodeo, dear reader. I have sat in court with a man who accused me of lies before and I have spoken the truth and justice prevailed. I will lasso the Beast again this time. And I will put on my hoody and take a run and thank my heart for being so damn good to me.

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