The year of running dangerously… phoenix rising

Sunset - every day is special

every day is special

As I press post tonight, it’s exactly a year since I spent my first night in a neurology ward at Royal North Shore Sydney, nearly 400km from home, attached a drip and wondering if I might experience a massive stroke and possibly die. That is exactly what the medical profession thought might be ‘my story’. The odds were stacked well and truly against me. It is a confronting experience and it does change you forever. And it’s not always a bad thing.

Sorry to bore you but writing about the experience is cathartic – just as it was a year ago in hospital. I leave it behind and move onwards. So thank you for your patience.

So what did I take from this year of recovery?

It taught me about grace, fortitude and courage – right from the moment I heard “You need to understand that this injury has a significant mortality rate”.

Even now I’m surprised at how calm I was. I don’t think my attitude saved me but it kept me calm as I told myself over and over… “this is not how my story ends”. When they wanted to take blood out of the veins in my feet or puncture the femoral artery in my thigh (OK that did terrify me! I silently recited the poetry of Dylan Thomas to distract myself – who knew a drunk Welsh poet could be so calming!), I accepted it needed to happen. Like running any distance, I just had to keep going for it to end.

I’ve learnt to embrace and conquer my anxiety. I’m the type that needs to resolutely go out there and fight my dragons with every weapon in my arsenal. I don’t face my dragons, I destroy them and then dance on their grave. If there was a mythical creature I have an affinity with, it is the phoenix – the creature that rises from the ashes of destruction. And while I’m not majestic like the fiery winged beast, I’ve often imagined myself rising above the injury, anxiety and leaving it behind.

I’ve learnt to refuse to be defined by my injury, to ignore the demons that continually ask ‘what if’, to live in the moment, to write my own rules, to reject the drama of others, to turn away from negativity, to embrace joy. I celebrate what I can do rather than mourn the things I lost.

Raspberries in Tasmania, appreciating all those little insignificant moments that too often pass us by

Fresh raspberries in Tasmania, I’ve learnt to better appreciate those little magic moments that too often pass us by

I enjoy my running – and have run three half marathon events, my first trail run and most recently the infamous Sydney City 2 Surf in Sydney this year. I’ve clocked over 820kms in 2018 and am back to my former pace and that’s enough for me. I’ll never run a marathon. I’ve got the personality to – just perhaps not the carotid artery anymore. I’ve proved enough to myself and I’m happy. I run beyond medical advice but so far, I’m listening to my body and it’s working for me.

The most difficult thing I've done. The run leg of a half ironman in the heat of day... I did think for most of the distance "how so I explain this to the specialist in November"

The toughest thing I’ve ever made myself do! The run leg of a half ironman in the heat of day in May 2018… I did think for most of the distance “how so I explain this idiot choice to the specialist in November??”. This was my first event ‘back’ and it was horribly hard, hot and stressful – but I won back my confidence. Worth it.

I hate the fear/worry my family lived, and probably live, with. I’ve accepted I can’t always be a pillar of strength – or do everything for everyone and I no longer want to. I’ve always been an exceptionally independent human being however I learnt that I am not an island. I need a village. I’m still highly selective about my village 😊 as I can no longer bear drama, nastiness, pettiness or unkindness.

I’d love to tell you that it’s all been plain sailing but there’s been sadness and tears – however, surprisingly, very little anger. Bad things happen that you can’t control or change and that’s life – I see anger as being counterproductive to moving on and becoming stronger. I don’t think life is always about forgiveness, it can sometimes be about acceptance.

l will have another brain/neck MRI in November… perhaps nothing has changed… or perhaps miraculously my artery has repaired itself and life resumes without the worries and restrictions. Realistically, I think that is not my future – I can’t believe the damage will ‘disappear’ – life isn’t always the fairytale you want it to be. I think my injury will always haunt me in some way. Who knows.

I’m still here against the all the odds that were stacked against me 365 days ago.

Whatever I’m made of, it’s tougher than any hockey ball.

It’s been a simple decision to live every day. You could die any old unremarkable day… but you can choose to live every day. I choose to live.

Just another lunchtime moment – a stroll from my desk

Now I’m off to finally finish that blog post about the Tessuti Monroe and Papercut Patterns Fall Turtlenecks.

… and I’ve been sewing more dancewear – sorry, not sorry.

23 thoughts on “The year of running dangerously… phoenix rising

  1. As another sewist whose life got turned upside down by a chronic illness 12 years ago, I really appreciate this post – it really does change your perspective when you realise you can’t take your usual (old) life for granted anymore, doesn’t it? Glad to see you’re doing so well. And, of course, always loving to see what you’re creating next – looking forward to seeing the completed tutu!

    • I’m sorry that happened to you, life throws us unexpected curve balls which we’d rather not receive but that’s life… but I guess if you can find lessons and good things amongst the troubles then all is not lost. That’s how I’ve tried to look at it. xox
      And a tutu is on its way!

  2. “I don’t face my dragons, I destroy them and then dance on their grave.” Those are powerful words, and when I read them, I though, “Yup, that’s Lizzy!” You were a determined badass force of nature before hand, and you are the same now, but sounds like you’ve also grown and changed. Thank you for sharing your reflections – if all we knew of each other was our sewing, it would be a dull world! ❤

  3. So glad to hear that you are doing so well, Lizzy. I have been missing you and hoped things were going well in your life. Sounds like you are doing well both mentally and physically, so wonderful! Being positive and taking things in stride is the best we can do sometimes, but it usually works in many ways. So good to see you, and can’t wait to see all your makes.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I admire you, it is so good you don‘t feel anger. You are considerate and have found a positive way to live with the consequence of the accident. I wish you good results and all the best for your health!

  5. Oh WOW! Lizzy you are just the most positive and motivated and generous human. I really hope there is a fairytale ending. You’ve slain so many dragons this year it’s awe inspiring! Vx

    Sent from my overzealous spell checking phone! Please excuse brevity and typos.


  6. Hi Lizzy. Please don’t think I am stalking you…. I am the sewist who also lives in PMQ. Always pleased to see a post from you, and looking forward to your reviews.

  7. Thank you for reminding me to savour the special moments, no matter how small. You are very strong and I’m so pleased things are going so well for you xx

  8. It’s truly a wonder that you not only survived such a horrific injury, but have managed to continue racing. So inspiring! Your family is very fortunate to have such a strong person in their lives. Best wishes as you continue to heal and slay those dragons!

  9. Lizzy I had no idea but I’m so amazed to hear your story and so impressed by your fortitude and courage! I’ve not ever heard of someone sustaining this kind of injury – and I’m shocked that they can’t sew up the artery and get it to heal altogether?!?! I have a feeling you will beat all of the odds and end up running your marathons again – but you seem to really understand the gift that is this life, regardless of what it throws at you. That’s inspriring!

  10. Enjoying the little things is so important for all of us and choosing who you let in your village is so true. Your achievements so far this year are amazing and the courage you show is inspirational and I wish you all the very best.

  11. No-one is guaranteed tomorrow so we should all be making the most of our todays. Your posts have been a reminder that life can change in an instant. It’s good to know that attitudes are a little more difficult to subdue. Go get those dragons!

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