For most of my adult life, I have made everyday choices to live a healthy lifestyle. I exercised routinely, never smoked, and was always sure eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I've been called a health freak sometimes for this, and that's OK.
But ironically, none of these healthy choices I made mattered on the morning of July 3 when my appendix exploded, along with what felt like my whole life.
There was no real reason for its rupture. I prefer to blame it on my ex-boyfriend and I breaking up a few days prior (because it's funnier that way). But really, it had nothing to do with my lifestyle, my genetics or that awful breakup.
I was also fortunate enough to attend a hospital that didn't correctly treat an infected appendix. After my appendix was removed, it leaked pockets of gangrene and other infections into my system and my once healthy body had nothing but itself to fight against it.
And it lost —miserably —but not completely.
Since then, I've had one surgery and two medical procedures that taught me the meaning of physical pain. I spent seven nights in the hospital and I've made four different trips to the E.R. I puked every day for three weeks and lost 25 pounds. My left also lung filled with fluid and collapsed during those fun-filled six weeks.
I spent many days in bed, living pain medicine to pain medicine, chained to an IV, wondering how I got myself into such a hellhole.
For the first time in my adult life, I needed my mom to help me with everyday things she hasn't helped me with since I was a toddler (like eating, making sure I was breathing when I slept, etc.). When I was finally able to shower, I needed her to stand behind the curtain to ensure my weak legs didn't collapse on me.
My thick, powerful legs that had once carried me through a triathlon couldn't be trusted to hold my body weight in a 10-minute shower.
The independence I had worked for my whole life for was taken away.
I'm not going to lie and say that I knew all along this was going to make me a better person. Because to be honest, it really pissed me off that I was having so many health problems at the age of 23 and I wasn't a chain smoker or morbidly obese.
I was also very angry that my parents had to watch another child suffer in a hospital bed (my only brother died of brain complications when he was 9).
But at some point, when I was exhausted of feeling sorry for myself, I remembered that I still had choices.
A high school teacher once told me that 30 percent of life is what happens to you and 70 percent is what you chose to happen to you. The older I get the more that statement makes sense to me.
Page 2 of 2 - I then chose to start doing air squats and push-ups instead of complaining about my frailness. I chose to start going to a different doctor instead of continuing to go back to the one who wasn't making me better. Most importantly, I chose to start making an effort to look at the positive that had come out of my situation.
And there was a lot of good.
I never knew I had the physical or mental strength to endure what I did. I never knew how lucky I was to have the people I did surrounding me with strength, support, comfort, and love during my battle. I knew it wasn't easy for others to pick me up over and over as my health conditions worsened, but they kept taking me by surprise, lifting my broken spirit up again and again.
Above all, I gained an appreciation for life you can only get from the hospital bed.
I'm lucky enough to know what life is life after spending a week in the hospital. A lot of people don't get that.
Now as I write this, I'm much better. I still can't really exercise, but I'm taking steps. And those few steps I take are much more important than the miles I used to run with ease.
And when I start running again, I won't take a single step for granted and I have four lovely scars on my abdominals to remind me of that.