Food & Drink Magazine

Four Months Later: On Fitness and Recovery

By Lilveggiepatch @Lilveggiepatch

Four months ago today, I landed myself in the hospital with a deadly case of bacterial meningitis. Unconscious and with the help of my family, friends, and very good doctors, I fought for my life as I was intubated, hooked up to a machine that helped my heart pump, and given very, very powerful antibiotics.

Eight days later, I was discharged from the hospital and very much alive. I was surrounded by people I love and who love me back. The kitchen overflowed with cookies.

But I could barely stand for 30 seconds without my legs feeling like they were about to fall off. A short walk to the park outside my apartment building winded me. I’d lost a lot of weight, all of my muscle tone, and my butt looked like a flapjack. (Literally, there was a straight line from my back to my toes.) I felt as though my body was not my own. Because of the antibiotics, my skin gave off gave off the distinct smell of HOSPITAL.   

In the grand scheme of life, Pancake Ass isn’t a huge deal. I felt like Harry Potter: the girl who lived! And once I completed my round of antibiotics, my legs started feeling normal again. My body held on to the food I was consuming and I finally started looking like Katie again.

The infectious disease doctor who saw me in the hospital encouraged me to rejoin the gym and start working my muscles again. And I have, though less frequently and with less intensity than before I got sick. Even now, four months later, I’m not as strong as I was. My first- and only- time practicing yoga, back in May, left me sweaty and winded, humbled in the face of Downward-Facing Dog.


But that’s okay.

Ya hear that, body? It is okay.

Part of what recovering from a serious illness is teaching me is to loosen up a bit. Let go of the rules I hold myself to about exercise and appropriate levels of fitness. If I work out two instead of four times a week, that’s still two times I’ve raised my heart rate and gotten those endorphins flowing. Long walks are still exercise. Hey, walking the dog is still exercise.

I went on my first run in four months yesterday. I’d been suffering from tendonitis before I got sick, but now that I can curl all the toes in my right foot again, I felt ready to try out a slow jog.

I didn’t wear a watch. I haven’t worn a heart rate monitor in years. I ran at an easy pace, slowing down when my lungs started to resist. A hard 2 miles later, I was a sweaty mess.

But I’d done it! And I’d done it for me, not so that I could one day build up to 14 miles again. Maybe I will, but for now I’m just trying to remind myself what a miracle of medicine it is that my body let me do this. That my heart continues to pump properly, that my lungs accept and release oxygen. That I feel loved every minute of the day.

So cheers! To not sweating the small stuff. To smiling and laughing, to doing what makes you feel good. To living.


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