by: Constance Collins
In January 2008, I was diagnosed with Lupus Nephritis after going to the doctor to investigate my aching joints. At that point, I was running religiously on a college track team, working out at least five times per week. I had been running track/cross country for almost ten years, and I had dreamt of competing at a collegiate level. Never before had I been faced with any health adversities, not even the flu, and this new diagnosis was one that was incredibly hard to swallow. I tried to continue running not only because I loved to run but because I loved my team; however, the following year I regretfully parted from them and fell into a period of inactivity. It’s hard to bring yourself to exercise consistently when you don’t feel your best.
I not only had to deal with Lupus, but also with Acute Kidney Disease. And once that was determined, it was hard to lift my spirits enough to even go for a light jog. I avoided track meets and other running events simply because I was envious of those who hadn’t suffered a major setback that kept them from the activity they loved. And even though I was totally capable of running, instead I chose to do nothing and just bask in my own sorrows.
After dealing with several stints in hospitals in both Connecticut and Georgia, June 22, 2011 came around and I was blessed to receive a kidney transplant. In the hospital, one of the nurses, a kidney recipient himself, asked me what I was excited to do now that I had a new kidney. The first thing that came to mind was eat whatever I wanted to! I was on dialysis for over a year, and having to limit potassium meant giving up potatoes, which I was not ready to do. And I didn’t. But at least with a healthy kidney, I didn’t have to feel guilty about it. Then I told him that I was ready to start running again, and exercising without my peritoneal catheter which I had to tape on my stomach and sometimes it would decide to just fall out of my shirt without my permission. I wanted to get back into running without feeling self-conscious. The nurse told me about the World Transplant Games that happen biannually. In 2011, it was held in Sweden and in 2013 it will be held in South Africa. It is the transplant community’s equivalent of the Olympics. While still in the hospital I researched the games and noticed that they also have the Transplant Games of America that are held biannually as well, on the even years. After extensive research on these games, I got in contact with the GA Transplant Team, and I began planning for my Olympics. And I was led to Black Girls RUN!
I was telling my co-worker that it is impossible for me to push myself hard enough to actually get a good workout. I work best in groups, and I constantly need that extra encouragement. Since I was 10, I’ve always been a part of a team. I ran track/ cross country year round, partially because I loved my teams, partially because subconsciously I knew I would be out of shape because I am lazy on my own. My co-worker told me to look up Black Girls RUN! She wasn’t a part of the group but she took notice to women running on Camp Creek Parkway in their black and pink shirts. That night, I found the Atlanta group on Facebook, which at the time had about 3,000 members, less than half of what they have now and this was only about six months ago! Immediately, I could feel the warmth and sense of camaraderie from the group. It was interactive, fun, and just a great community. I was encouraged to join my first group run in Lithonia and there I was welcomed by amazing women with amazing stories. I was impressed to see a Breast Cancer Survivor hoodie, and I instantly felt like I could connect to someone. Though what I dealt with is totally different from breast cancer, in both cases it’s an uphill battle and it’s so easy to get frustrated and discouraged.
As I began attending more runs and events I was able to see hundreds of black women annihilating the myth that “Black women don’t run because they care too much about their hair” and other nonsensical falsehoods. The women’s ages spanned decades, they were of all shapes and sizes, all fitness levels and for everyone to come together for a common purpose, it was a great community to be a part of. And it made me feel better about my transition after my transplant. I love meeting other women who have overcome health adversities and made the decision to take charge of their fitness. No matter what kind of health/fitness rut we may find ourselves in, there’s always a way out of it, and it’s never too late to start that journey. Since I’ve started running again, I’ve embraced an elevated sense of general happiness. I’m a strong believer in the mantra “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind.” And half the battle is just getting to that place where you can accept the challenge and actually get out there and hit the pavement. Even if it’s just a walk around the park.
“No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch.”