I run for the bus. My heart rises in my chest, my breathing thickens. A mere hundred metres, but it stays with me for much more. My heart beats, pounding out its protests. Why did I move so fast? My body wasn’t ready. It forgot how to be ready, nearly a decade ago.
Listening to the tick-tock, feeling my chest. The bus pulls up, and after stepping in and sitting down, the pounding slowly fades into the song filling my headphones. My mind fills, and shame floods in. I’m out of shape. If only I moved more. If only I could. If only I could do it right. And yet.
My stamina packed up and left the day I got pneumonia, at thirteen. The illness, and all of the conditions it would reveal, wiped out any trace of strength from my body. Then, more recently, an unfortunate medical mistake left me incapable of- well, anything, for months.
So, instead, I claim that I get my exercise from life. You know, the day to day. From walking, simple movement, stairs. Nothing extreme. No stress, no strain, nothing that could hurt. And yet.
My health is never more than an hour or two from my mind. Even if it’s just a simple did I take my meds yet?, it’s always there. This ever-present thing. It is an all-encompassing bubble. The one whose labels and statistics, whose missteps and triumphs I claim to know so well. And yet.
In two minutes of explaining some of my health issues to colleagues, they saw something I never had. The fresh eyes, the biochemistry and engineering approach, it all came together in a simple sentiment. Low hemoglobin means low oxygen. Do you have trouble with high altitudes?
Even though I know I get dizzy if I push too hard. Even though I barely remember the last time I worked out without paying a steep price. There was that time in first year, when a single, not-actually-that-hard workout led to such prolonged weakness that I didn’t trust myself to walk on my own for weeks. Where the wooziness was so complete that even lying in bed, I felt as though I was about to fall. Where my hands and feet turned purplish.
That time skiing, when I had such trouble that they took me in, to the ski patrol hut. To sit and wait it out, allowing time for my body to work. There was no colour in my face, and nothing but cold in my hands. That small hike last summer, made even shorter when I couldn’t catch my breath. The camera glued to my hand, as both a passion and a reason to stop moving. And yet.
I see it in my hands sometimes. My nails turn purple. It happens just often enough that I shy away from painting my nails, incase I need to be able to see them. And yet.
I try to move. Even knowing that doing more than walking or low-impact activity has always ended badly. And yet.
I can’t help but feeling that there is something I could do. Some way I could help it. There must be. So I fall into the age-old path of looking up my disease online. And everyone’s story plays like mine. Low energy, shortness of breath. I have always been very tired. No hiking or mountain climbing. I can’t run for long. This. This is me. I love to hike, but my chest protests. I loved exercise, until it meant feeling worse. I miss it, yet I’m terrified of it.
I find myself stuck. Every other part of my health question has a fix. Take this medication, don’t eat that, have more salt (yes, really).
And so, I run for the bus. I feel the exhaustion. I take my exercise in walks. I err on the side of caution.