The Silver Lining

What a beautiful morning!  Crisp air, birds chirping, billions of earthworms splayed out all over the sidewalks. Vibrant green baby grasses stretching their leafy arms, lining the edges of a wet dark muddy trail.  Oh, how I love springtime rain.  Traveling to school this morning, Abe rode his bike and Bre chose to run with me.  I couldn’t help but smile as she gingerly pranced back and forth down the sidewalk letting out Bre-squeals every time she thought she stepped on a worm.  As we arrived and Abe locked up his bike, glancing down at the ground he exclaimed, “EWWW GROSS!” and I chuckled at my children’s aversion to our slimy Oligochaeta friends. Are those MY children?  I certainly had no aversion to worms when I was their age.  On rainy days such as these back in the late 1980’s, I could be found collecting worms in mason jars and building castles for them on our strawberry hill. Sadly, today I didn’t build castles for them.  In fact, today I need to ask forgiveness from Queen Oligochaeta for ruthlessly murdering many of her little ones.  No doubt, if I had a worm-guts-inspecting microscope I would find on the tread of my running shoes intestinal smudge of no fewer than 24 innocent worms. Many apologies, Mrs. Queen.

At least I got a nice run in!  I think it was close to 4 miles.  Not sure because I no longer wear a GPS running watch ever since I stopped caring about distance and my watch also decided to stop caring too.  The last time I wore that watch was on Thanksgiving Day when it said I ran 14 miles in 59 minutes.  Yeah, not so much.  It was probably closer to 7.  And it felt great!  Today’s run felt pretty good too.  Better than I have felt in weeks, actually.  In fact, it was the first run in weeks when I haven’t had to stop and walk for part of the run or haven’t had that MUST LAY DOWN feeling when I returned home.  Anemia will do that to you sometimes.  This is my third bout with anemia and its probably the most severe.  I don’t remember ever feeling this light-headed and dizzy throughout the day, although as I said in yesterday’s post, I do believe there are many more culprits causing my symptoms besides just low iron.

After I made that “woe is me” post yesterday I started feeling a little sheepish. Its a little intimidating to be that open about personal emotions in such a public place.  But this morning on my run I was glad I did it.  I feel grateful that I’m finally to a point where I can get things out “on paper” so to speak.  I wondered though, if I should do a quick recap of the past couple of years, since I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog for quite some time.  I’ll try to give a “Cliff’s Notes” recap.

April 2011-Limped my way to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and continued to limp and have hip/quad pain for the next 6 months.

August 2011-Hip Labral Repair Surgery with Dr. Philippon.

October 2011-Realized there was no way I was going to heal from surgery quickly enough to train for and run the Olympic Trials Marathon in January.

November 2011-Found out we were expecting #4!

December 2011 through April 2012-Severe Morning sickness a.k.a. Hyperemesis gravidarum.  I was puking 5X/day many days. Zofran helped a bit but then I had major drug headaches instead. Exercise? Forget about it. Being a fun Mom? Not usually. Cooking? Mostly left to Aaron. Why do people call it “praying to the porcelain goddess” when it is actually more like “groveling at the foot of the porcelain pit?”

July 28, 2012-Kelsie arrived in her own beautiful, frightening way (surprise breech home birth).

August 2012-The eye of the storm. Amazing month of fun and celebration, including Awesome Abe’s Baptism and visits from both sets of parents. Symptoms of Aaron’s ulcerative colitis were coming on quite quickly though and we started to clean up his diet call Doctors and a nutritionist for help.

September and October 2012-Aaron was ravaged by disease.  Pain-stricken, bed-ridden, unable to work or be present as a father, he lost 50 lbs in two months and was hospitalized for a week with no real improvement.  We tried every diet under the sun indicated for Ulcerative Colitis, nothing helped.  He took high doses of steroids and anti-inflammatories which didn’t help either. We cried a lot, prayed a lot, and received a TON of help from family, friends, and neighbors.

October 27, 2012-Aaron’s colon perforated on what will be remembered as the scariest day of our lives. Whisked away in an ambulance at 3 a.m., Aaron was becoming septic quickly. After a very stressful 8 hours of testing and examination amid extreme pain, the Dr. finally found the perforation in a CT scan and Aaron was rushed to the operating room for an emergency colectomy.

November, 2012-Aaron continued to lose weight after surgery, had a stomach pump in for nearly a week, got down below 130 lbs until we finally demanded that he be put on IV nutrition. His body was still not digesting properly even with the dead colon removed. I was driving to the hospital every day, sometimes twice a day to see him, praying we’d see improvement soon. Meanwhile, back at home our oldest, Abe was experiencing severe depression and anxiety as well as major manic episodes that I probably wasn’t dealing with properly. I eventually pulled him out of school for 6 weeks in an attempt to reduce his stress and anxiety.  In mid-November the Dr. sent Aaron home from the hospital but that night tortured him with cramping and vomiting complete with him passing out, me calling 911, and sending him back to the hospital as the kids kissed him goodbye from his place on the stretcher. Finally, the week before Thanksgiving Aaron came home to stay. He stayed on IV nutrition and saline for calories and hydration at night and slept in a hospital bed to enable him to stay more upright for a few weeks. Adjustment to the ostomy bag was interesting and challenging. While he was finally no longer losing weight, Aaron’s digestion was still not right and his stomach often cramped after eating. Aaron’s family came to visit for Thanksgiving and entertained our kids all week! My sister and brother-in-law took Abe home with them to Utah for 10 days to give us a breather. On Black Friday, we went to see brilliant Natropath, Doctor Lundell who did blood tests, fecal tests, and muscle testing. Dr. Lundell prescribed the removal of all gluten, dairy, fruit, any form of sugar, oats, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, black pepper, and probably a few more things I am forgetting. Whats left, you ask? Most organic vegetables, grass-fed meats, organic chicken, eggs, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and milk, long-grain rice, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat.

December, 2012-Diet shift. We threw out 99% of the items in our pantry and started over with gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free whole foods. Aaron took charge of the cooking and grocery shopping at first and guided me as I explored how to cook within the parameters of his new diet. It took me longer to adjust to the new diet than it did Aaron, but I got there. Christmas Break 2012 was perfect. Mom came to visit again and we had a lot of chances to reconnect as a family and heal from the trauma. Aaron’s strength was coming back quickly. As Aaron returned as a healthy, stable father in our home, Abe started healing too.  Abe and I had been going to psychotherapy every week for a while, which was helping and we also removed sugar from our home, so blood sugar and moods were more constant.

January, 2013-On New Year’s Day Aaron and I did a hike/run to the top of Green Mt. together (12 miles round trip with 2,000ft of climbing).  It was nice to be alone together in the wilderness and realize how blessed we were to have Aaron’s health coming back so quickly. Abe returned to school in the new semester and changed into the other 3rd grade class so he could have a fresh start.

February and March 2013-Everyone in the family had bouts of stomach flu and/or upper respiratory infection. Kelsie kept getting sick and had a 10 day stretch of high fever and lethargy that caused some concern. I started to feel extremely exhausted all the time, dizzy, had a couple episodes of what I can only describe as anxiety attacks and started to struggle with mild depression. Finally got my blood tested and boosted my Iron and Vit. D intake. I dislocated my shoulder twice in one week the last week of March which was painful and unpredictable, but its healing now.

As I stop to write it all down, its clear to see that there have been an unusual high number of life storms in our family over the past couple of years. But everyone has storms. And every storm cloud has a silver lining, right? Sometimes I need a little help finding that silver lining. Sometimes I simply need to sit still and look closely. With binoculars. And then I can see that even amid the storms, there were SO many times I felt at complete peace.  SO many times I felt God’s love and watchful care.  SO many tender mercies when other people showed up to help just when I needed it most.  My friends, family, and neighbors were God’s hands. God never left me alone. And there were times when I would be nursing Kelsie in her room with the door closed and savoring the miracle of her life. Feeling in awe of her innocence, peace, and happy spirit. Kelsie was not engulfed in struggle and challenge, she slept, ate, and played with her siblings all day. She was cared for and safe.  And that made me feel safe too.

I can’t really explain everything I’ve learned and how I’ve grown through our trials but I’m pretty sure knowledge and understand will come over the years ahead. One obvious benefit is that our diet is much more whole food, GMO-free, and clean than it ever was before. Our appreciation for health is much greater. It was truly miraculous how quickly Aaron started gaining weight and healing after he started eating better.  I believe his healing was also a direct result of  all the hundreds of loved ones praying and fasting for him.

Its now April and everything is feeling new and fresh in the world. Aaron is strong, working a lot and running every day.  Abe is doing well in school and back to his normal happy self.  The girls are healthy and happy.  Its been 6 days since my Iron IV and I’m already starting to feel my energy levels rising. Amazing things are happening all around.  This afternoon I was nursing Kelsie alone in her room and overheard the funniest conversation where my 4.5 year old, Ali was explaining to her friend, “Soon, my Dad is going to get a surgery so we wont be able to see his small intestine poking out into is ostomy bag anymore.”  Her friend gently affirmed and happily agreed (as if she had any clue what in the world Ali was talking about!)

Here’s to seeing the silver lining!


  1. God bless you and your family. I started following your fastrunning and blog posts 3+ years ago, then you kind of dropped off the radar and periodically I would wonder what was going on. Now I understand. I sincerely wish your family the best. Reading about your family’s challenges is humbling.
    God Bless!!

  2. Wow it has been a crazy couple of years! So glad to hear your husband is healing and feeling better.

  3. Hi Nan, so sorry to read about everything you’ve been through the past few years! My gosh– I thought I’d been through a lot (I did a similar recent blog post about my high school/college days). I’m a fellow elite runner/marathoner and I was just thinking about you cause someone brought your name up, and I wondered how you were doing! Sometimes you just have to go with the flow of life, the highs and the lows. Sometimes the lows are really low… but they also become easier to cope with, with experience! I really hope to see you back on the competitive racing scene, but certainly your health and the health of your family is a priority. Sounds like you’re finding strength through your family, friends, and faith to lean on– good for you! Take care and stay relentlessly positive, 🙂 Camille

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