“I want to run a half marathon again.”
That’s what my new client, Justin*, wrote down as one of his physical therapy goals.
Justin was seeking a pelvic physical therapist who worked with men as well as with medically-complicated patients. He was referred to me by a friend of his.
2 years ago, Justin was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent chemo, radiation, and then extensive abdominal and pelvic reconstructive surgery.
He was given clearance by his surgeon to “resume normal activities”, with no referral to physical therapy for rehabilitation. “You’ll be fine,” they said.
He knew that he was NOT fine. He knew that there was a solution and he sought it out on his own. After his first PT visit, we both knew that there was a lot of work to do! But there was now hope that he could get back to doing the thing he loved—running. That was about 6 months ago.
This past weekend, he ran his first 10K since his cancer diagnosis!
I went to support him and cheer him on. This race was held underground, in a cave. Yep, a cave. As a spectator, I was in for quite an adventure, and I was about to encounter Story #2:
Not being a runner, I am pretty naïve about how these races work. I had to park a LONG way from the race site, and I was hurrying to find the cave entrance. I saw a guy dressed in runner’s gear, so I said to him, “You look like you know where you’re going; mind if I follow you?” He laughed and said, “Sure, but I don’t know where I’m going either.” He introduced himself, his name was Tim. We walked together to find the entrance. On the way there, he looked down, stopped and said, “Well, would you look at that!” He picked up a blue silicone bracelet that was lying on the ground in front of him. “This is my son’s bracelet,” he remarked.
What he said next blew me away: “My son died 3 years ago, from suicide. This bracelet is from our support group and is in memory of him.” Tom said that he competes in these races to honor his son’s memory. “This is a sign” he said, “I KNOW I was supposed to be here! Laura, I want you to have this bracelet.” WOW. I was honored to take it, and I put it on my wrist.
We went our separate ways. I found the race, and got to watch Justin compete and cross the finish line! “I’m one step closer to my goal”, he said. As we were walking toward the exit, amidst hundreds of people, guess who I saw—Tim!
Do you believe in “Divine moments”? I do. I think this was one of them.
I showed the blue bracelet to Justin, and they introduced themselves to each other. They shared their personal stories. Both have been through traumatic things. Both have found running as a way to cope with hardship and to refresh their mind, body, and spirit.
I think we all got a little emotional at that moment. I know I certainly did!
Why is this so special to me? There’s a third story involved here: My story.
July 2014: I was walking the indoor track at my gym, in tears. My application to re-take the PT board exam in June had been rejected. I now had to wait until October. I remember saying out loud, “Why these roadblocks? I just want to help people!”
One year later: A dream opportunity falls apart in a most unpleasant way. I’m left to pick up the pieces, with no back-up, no other job offers and a ton of uncertainty. Am I doing the right thing? Why all these roadblocks (again)?
2 months after that: I end up in a geriatrics outpatient clinic, and discover that I LOVE working with the 65+ “active agers” population! What if… I combine pelvic floor PT with this work? I get an amazing opportunity to do just that, and I gain a LOT more experience working with medically-complicated patients.
Allowing me to help people like Justin with some very unique rehab needs.
Do you see the beautiful way that these stories intertwine?
You never know how your story will impact someone else and be an encouragement and a hope for them. So, in closing, I encourage you to share YOUR story with others. Share these stories with others who might be going through similar challenges.
Justin is preparing for his next step—competing in a half marathon. I hope that his story will encourage others who are cancer survivors or who have been told that they “just have to live with” their post-surgical problems. There IS hope for more complete recovery, and for getting back to doing the things they love to do. Like running. And thriving, not just surviving, in life.
*names changed for client confidentiality. Client gave permission to share his story.
We help men and women with bladder leakage, pain, or other problems “down there” to regain their dignity and reclaim their lifestyles, so that they can stay fit and active, keep up with their kids or grandkids, be worry-free at social outings, and enjoy intimate relationships again.
Laura McKaig PT
Specialist Physical Therapist