Hoka One One Conquest Review

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Hoka One One – Conquest Review

Overview

I never thought of buying, or even trying, the Hoka One One running shoes, primarily because I’m not drawn to extremes in running footwear. I don’t like gimmicks and I don’t like marketing. I like to put on a mid-range shoe and just go. With that said, I do have a variety of footwear and have tried out many different models over the years, from protective trail shoes, trainers, and racing flats to big lugged winter shoes, transitionals and now these Hoka’s. Through all my trial and error, I have found that I prefer a shoe that fits the specific type of running I’m doing at the time, but also nothing too minimal or too cushioned. So, why am I reviewing the Hoka One One’s then, a shoe that spits in the face of the Taramahura tribe and snake oil hucksters selling the latest saran wrap for your feet?

If you aren’t privy to my personal story I’ve put out in various places on the internet, I have a rare form of cancer, and the chemo treatments I’m receiving have the very unfortunate side effect of “Hand and Foot Syndrome” – a very real and debilitating condition where the chemo leaks from your blood vessels into the ends of your hands and feet, causing a deterioration of the skin, making one vulnerable to friction of any sort. That, obviously, doesn’t bode well for running. At the end of the weeks where I’m taking my chemo pills that cause this side effect, I can have great problems walking through the house, or just going about my day without great pain always under foot…literally. The problem is that greater pounding and greater friction cause equal amounts of pain…which is what brought me to the Hokas.

A local running store was hosting a short 3 mile run where participants could try out a pair of Hoka One One’s, and I figured I’d give the excessively cushioned shoes a try, in hopes that it might alleviate just a little of the pounding and friction that continued to sideline my running ambitions. I opted to try the Conquest model, a relatively standard performance road shoe. They offer trail models as well, but I only intended to try these for road purposes. After the test run, I was so impressed with the shoe for my own special circumstance that I ended up buying a pair. The following is my review.

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The Good

Cushion

The Hoka One One brand boasts a number of features that separate it from others, but the feature that garners most attention is it’s cushioning platform…rightfully so. Not only does it have a unique cushioned base, but the accentuated aesthetic on the side of the shoe highlights this feature, giving the appearance of a low cut moon boot instead of a functioning running shoe. Without going into too much detail into how it all works, I can just say the softness and cushion is felt immediately after putting on the shoe. It’s not a pillowy, marshmallow feeling, but the “give” upon impact is noticeable and far greater than any other shoe on the market. The aesthetic of the shoe is deceiving though. Where it does look like a moon boot, or a pontoon as my teammates and I called them, the actual cradle is the same size as any other shoe and the drop is a mere 4 millimeters, lending to an unrestricted running form. The cushioning, however, is achieved not by piling on a bunch of foam in the footbed, but rather by cutouts beneath the footbed that give upon impact. And it’s that cushioning that makes this shoe.

I’ve been running in the Conquest consistently now and the benefit of the softened impact has been just what I hoped. The effect of my hand and foot syndrome is always present, of course, but the cushioned base allows me to get much further into my run before the repeated pounding builds to a point where I’m severely compromised and can’t go much further. The softness unarguably does it’s job. How does this translate to runners without such a condition? I can tell you my teammates have been running in Hoka One One’s as their recovery shoe, going out for easy 10 to 12 milers and allowing the shoe to reduce the impact on their legs. In a way, they are using the shoes on pavement as a way to achieve the benefits of running on dirt or grass. No one I know runs in these for EVERY run, but choose to use them selectively.

Drop & Weight

As mentioned, the shoe LOOKS like a moon boot – bulky and heavy -, the external raised cushion near the heel not helping the effect, but what surprised me was the natural “feel” while running. I assumed the shoe would be heavier than most, but it weighs in at only 11.8 oz., on par with most standard trainers today, and that lack of weight is felt…or not felt. I’ve never felt that I was dragging through my gait, even towards the end of the runs when my legs are getting weaker. The shoe feels consistently light in both hand and on feet.

My other concern was the perceived bulk of the shoe. I expected to have to adjust to the raised footbed, picking my feet up a little higher to avoid scraping the sole or heel on my swing through, but was pleasantly surprised to find that I can run without any adjustment. I’ve yet to feel my heel scrape the ground on a swing through or need to compensate for any added bulk. This normal running form is no doubt a part of the 4mm drop from heel to toe. A longer test will prove if my wear patterns remain the same as other shoes.

Construction

One of the other benefits for my circumstance is the seemingly wider toe box and seamless construction of the upper. Any contact with my foot is going to result in abrasion, blistering and discomfort, so I was quite thrilled when I realized my toes had enough room in the front of the shoe, but were also not “floating” and causing friction during movement. The room in the toe box eliminates the pressure that can be apparent on the sides of the foot. Further, the seamless construction and smooth, airy upper materials caused no “hot spots” or points of contact that would rub or scrape at my skin. The upper material, as most shoes are now utilizing, acts more as a firm, smooth sock than anything else. This will benefit all runners, no matter their physical circumstance.

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The Bad

Lacing

I have four issues with this shoe overall that may or may not be deal breakers for you. First, the “speed laces” that come with the shoe are terrible. They have a sort of locking mechanism on the laces that, I believe, actually make them come loose. Every runner I know has offered the same complaint for these specific laces. They compress snugly at first, but as soon as you start running, they slowly loosen until the fit is noticeably compromised. I’ve had to stop repeatedly to adjust the fit during longer runs. The shoes do come with standard lacing, however, and I would recommend swapping them out as soon as you open the box (you will have to actually cut the speed laces, however). I actually prefer speed laces and have had great success with them on my Salomon’s, but the design Hoka uses needs reworked.

Water Retention

I have not used these shoes during wet weather, but reports from teammates that have run in them during either downpours or through creek crossings have not been favorable. I don’t know if it’s the lack of wicking in the upper material or if the footbed foam actually retains water, but reports are that the shoes become heavy and emit a signifiant “squishing” sound when wet. If you do use these shoes, I would consider running only in dry weather or on dry conditions.

Trail

This critique may not apply to trail runners who are more tentative in their approach, but I like to “attack” trails, minding where my feet fall, but doing so with relative abandon. I like to run them fast, whether uphill or down, and I’ve discovered that a “transitional” shoe works best for my needs. I used to run in the Salomon Speedcross, but the lug pattern was so gnarly and significant (wear is barely noticeable after years of use) that I couldn’t “feel” the trail under my feet before it was too late. I rolled my ankle almost EVERY TIME I ran in those shoes…no exaggeration. Due to the added cushion of the lugs, I couldn’t feel the roll begin off a root, rock or rut until it was too late to compensate. It was only when I switched to the Saucony Peregrine’s, with a 4mm drop and significantly reduced footbed, that I stopped rolling my ankle…immediately after the switch. That leads me to believe these shoes would NOT be good for trail running and I’ve heard of rolled ankle stories from other runners who have ventured into the woods wearing Hokas. This might vary by trail condition, but I’m not even going to attempt to use them.

Feel

Ultimately, I find myself reluctant to recommend these shoes to normal runners, based primarily on the feel of the shoe. Despite everything I said previously, I personally would not run in these if I wasn’t dealing with Hand and Foot Syndrome. This, however, may just be my preferred running style, as I like to “feel” the ground to some extent while I run, knowing that I’m getting the most efficient push-off that I can manage, but without destroying my leg muscles from the pounding. If you aren’t concerned so much with feel and power transfer, the cushioning of these shoes might work fantastic for you. With that said, I jokingly call these “cancer shoes”, because I would recommend them for anyone with Hand and Foot Syndrome who wants to stay as active as possible, whether that is running, walking, or just moving throughout the house. A friend who also selectively uses them said they are the most comfortable shoes he’s ever worn for standing on his feet all day at work.

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The Wrap Up

Price & Mileage

Here’s the rub…the shoes retail for about $175 to $180. Ouch. I mean….OUCH. That was almost pricey enough to just deal with my pain and blisters. The other side to this, however, is that the mileage you will get from the added cushioning has been reported in the 1000 to 2000 range. No, that is not a typo. The rep I spoke with said he would never recommend going that high, but he has repeatedly heard from others they are still running in them after so much mileage. The suggested point at which to buy new shoes is around 500 miles, so in doing the math, you’re actually getting quite a deal if you can extend these past your normal point of shoe swapping. Just be prepared to look at these as an investment rather than a shiny new toy you buy on a whim.

Again, after all is said and done, these shoes are really going to come down to your preferred “feel” while running. The construction, fit, weight and other issues are hardly deal breakers for this shoe, but the sensation you prefer while out on a 10 mile run is going to be the deciding factor whether you think the benefits of the “gimmicky” cushion are worth the trade off. For athletic cancer patients, people with foot sensitivity issues or those on their feet all day, I think this is definitely a solid choice to consider. I still plan on putting as many miles into these as I possibly can when I’m not going for speed or on the trails.

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Post-Survivorship

I don’t want to be a cancer survivor. More specifically, I don’t want to be a “cancer survivor”, a definable phrase that becomes my identity. 

I was recently talking to a friend who is 5 years in remission (though this might have abruptly changed – may the biopsy be benign) and we shared perspectives on what it means to have cancer in the midst of so many other interests and chosen identities. Speaking for myself, I am a runner. I am an ethical vegan. I am a writer and a graphic designer. I am a coach. I am a number of identities I have freely chosen and accepted for myself, that I project to others. These define me to some extent and I embrace that. But it has been a greater struggle to accept “cancer patient” as part of my identity, in that this isn’t something I created. I didn’t willingly seek out cancer…it just happened to me. So in that, I don’t feel comfortable accepting it as part of who I am. It seems to be more a part of WHAT I am rather, but maybe those are just semantics. Regardless, the diagnosis remains. 

With my friend, however, we began to speak of what it is to be a cancer “survivor”, in it’s definition as an identity more than just a physical reality. Maybe it was our relatively young age (we are babies in the cancer world), but neither of us felt good being “survivors”. I don’t mean to demean an individuals sense of identity in accepting “survivorship” into their life, but I also can’t help wonder how those individuals saw themselves prior to cancer. Did they not have a strong sense of self? Did the happenstance of cancer really bring an importance into their life that was stronger than anything else they did prior, and so being a “survivor” is who they became? 

I don’t know…that’s not my place to judge, but speaking from personal experience, I don’t want to be a “survivor”. My life and my identities prior to diagnosis held far more importance than the act of living through cancer, should that become that case. So if I’m ever given the NEC report in the future, I don’t plan on adding “survivor” to my list of character traits, but instead plan to put this whole ordeal behind me and get back to concentrating on the life I once had and am constantly seeking every day. 

I am a runner. I am a graphic designer. I am a writer. I am an ethical vegan. I am a coach. I am a father. But, regardless, cancer remains, and that is something I’m not allowed to forget in the present moment and I am also aware that I will never have the fortune of forgetting this cancer experience. That cloud will always hang above me until the day I die, but I don’t have to let it become me, not now and not as a survivor. However, if my previous stated identities must have qualifiers in the interim, so be it, cancer is still my reality. But let cancer be an addendum, not the core. I don’t mind if people say I’m that runner that has cancer. I don’t mind if they say I’m the graphic designer or the writer working through cancer. I don’t mind if they say I’m the coach that has cancer. I don’t mind if they say I’m the vegan that got cancer. I don’t mind if I’m the father who is raising his child through cancer. Just don’t switch the order of terms. I’m not the guy with cancer who runs. I’m not the guy with cancer who keeps working. I’m not the cancerous vegan. I’m not the guy with cancer who coaches runners, raises his kid and goes about life despite it all. Cancer is the addition, nothing else. 

Yet, cancer is still there and it would be irresponsible to not address it’s reality. I don’t want to hide my cancer experience, which is why I write this post, which is why I post scarring and cringe-worthy visuals on Instagram, which is why I use cancer humor on Facebook, which is why I talk freely about it all. Because it IS my reality, it IS a part of me, but it is not who I am. Again, it is what I am…in part. And so I reference cancer, but not only cancer. I reference it alongside images of my work, alongside photos documenting my runs, alongside petty gripes and amusing (to me anyways) jokes and jabs at pop culture. Because cancer is not my identity, it is my reality. 

But someday, I want it out of my reality. I want to be JUST the runner again. I want to be the guy throwing down 6 x 1 miles under 5:00 pace. I want to be the great father to the adorable, hyperactive son. I want to be the guy making a living doing what he loves. I don’t want to be the survivor. I don’t want to champion the genetic mutation I had no control over, that spiraled into chaos and almost took my life. I don’t want cancer to run my life more than it already has. I want it to be forgotten. I want to survive cancer, but I don’t want to be a survivor. I want to be my own version of human, no more, no less. 

For now, I’ll continue to live through this experience with an unwanted, but unavoidable addition to my various identities. I only ask that it remain an addition, a terminology and unfortunate circumstance easily discarded when the time may come. 

Pushing Ahead

Progress is slow. No different than building fitness through running, progress is slow with incremental changes, and sometimes feeling as if I’ve taken two steps back instead of forward. But overall, when I step back and think about how I was feeling two weeks ago, I’m definitely making progress. 

Granted, my days still consist of spending the first half in bed, letting the pain pills smother the discomfort from the night before while I binge on Netflix and try to get various design projects completed or fulfill coaching obligations. By the time Laura gets home, however, I’m ready to get out of bed, out of the house, and just feel the world outside. This consists primarily of walks around downtown, getting a coffee, and generally just being out. The problem is, these moments of physical relief get into my head, pressing me to do more. I start debating getting on the treadmill for brisk walking, sometimes even entertaining the idea of jogging for short stints. Then I remember I still have a stomach full of staples, can’t stand upright, and am still breathing through compromised breaths. As much as I want to be, I’m just still not ready. Which should be obvious. 

I’m reminded that I’m not ready each successive morning when I struggle to get out of bed without wincing in pain, hunched over considerably and taking gentle steps around the house. That’s when I take my pills to smother the pain and start the process over again. 

Still, I’m doing well. I have the memories of last year’s experience for comparison sake, and when held up to that timeline, I’m well on my way to where I want to be again. But runners are, if nothing else, impatient. The drive to run is so strong it overrides all common sense, so we tell ourselves things are great when they obviously aren’t. We run on injuries. We run through increasing pains. The second an injury starts to get better, we tell ourselves everything is PERFECT. It’s like breaking our leg, but once the cast gets put on, we assume that is the fix and we’re ready to go, instead of waiting for the appropriate healing time. And this situation is no different. I still look ahead to running again, and my impatience gets the best of me. Right now, however, the situation is bad enough that I couldn’t put in any effort even if I deluded myself into it. I’m being saved from myself at this point. 

So I’m still sitting in bed, binge watching Netflix, waiting for incremental changes in my body and getting me back to, at least, a base level of functioning. I’m still in the process of waiting it out. And as in running, again, there will undoubtedly be a point where I can get back to it again and the muscle memory and emotional experience of it all will take over again. That, right now, is where I’m headed, is my only goal. I have no race plans. No times to beat. No deadline for recovery. I’m just waiting for that moment the body heals and I can get back to running, consistently, powerfully and without restriction. I’m waiting for the period of healing to pass, to get me back to the starting line. It’s, admittedly, a little weird accepting that my current running ambition is to just run, where before it was to break PR’s, quality for the Trials, or some other lofty goal, but we always work in the context of our situation. And right now, my context leaves me no choice but to accept the smallest of victories, that I can only hope will continue to grow into greater ambitions and more prominent victories.

Today I still lie in bed, my running slate wiped clean, but outside my door the streets and trails remain unchanged, as they will be when I am able to run on them again. In small ways I keep pushing ahead, as it’s all I can do, hoping the context changes and running again happens sooner rather than later. 

Very Slowly, But Very Surely

I’m 2 1/2 weeks post-surgery, at home, and today took my first walk around the block (twice). It sounds odd to celebrate such an achievement when only 2 1/2 weeks ago I was knocking out 10 milers without reservation, but that is just time, not experience. The experience of what happened to me on August 12th and the days after gives me significant reason to celebrate…and so I will. 

Just last year, at this time during my recovery, I was nowhere near walking around the block. At this point, I was still in the hospital, for another week or so I believe. Walking down the hall took incredible effort and involved great pains to breathe, but today I walked around the block twice, stopping only when the pain of using my abdomen started to tense and heighten. I went inside to rest and try again later. I’m getting stronger, slowly, but surely. Very slowly, but very surely.

I’m going to be relying on my pain meds for the foreseeable future, as they give me a greatly needed relief between bouts of stomach spasms and overall discomfort, but I even hope to be done with these sooner than last year. For the time being, however, I need them. I take 2 pills every 4 hours, my last dose at midnight in order to get me to the morning, but without deciding to wake at 4am for another dose, I often wake at 8 with great discomfort. Laying one either side places pressure on internal organs, making it impossible to sleep heavily, while lying on my back gets old and equally as uncomfortable. Come 8 am, I need my pills, but just lifting myself into an upright position takes serious effort and is never comfortable.

None of this is pleasant, but the drive to continue getting stronger is crucial right now as continued passivity is only going to slow my recovery process. The sooner I get past this, the better, but relying on my body to regenerate itself is a restrictive strategy. As the same in running, progression takes effort. You can get better by trying, but you get much better by actually pushing yourself. Within reason, I’m starting to push myself. Last year at this time, just pulling a chair to the porch was all I could muster for the day. Conversations with friends had to be cut short as I quickly ran out of breath and tired quickly. So although I’m not at any point to start putting in serious efforts, the relative nature of my circumstance does compel me to begin getting stronger….slowly, but surely. 

Part of getting stronger involves appropriate nutrition and fueling, so having friends prepare meals for me while I struggle through the days has been important and beyond appreciated, unfortunately, my body is not completely ready to take in food or drink without complication. In just 2 1/2 weeks my muscles have atrophied considerably. My quads and calves have shrunk noticeably. My eyes are mildly sunk and cheekbones outlined. I have no abdomen to speak of and an equal amount of body fat. The use it or lose it principle has never been more glaring, so to be unable to consume the appropriate amount of calories or specific foods makes building strength and mass that more difficult. Just eating or drinking liquids is enough to cause pain and discomfort, as Laura can surely attest to as she watches me wince and moan in pain. Rehabilitation is so very difficult, making PREhabilitation so much more important. I don’t want to think where I would be had I not been pushing myself to eat well and run often leading up to surgery. Stay ready and you don’t have to get ready. 

Now, however, I’m back to having to get ready, and that’s ok. I’ll get there. It will take some time, but to consider what my physical and emotional state was at this point last year only gives me reason to celebrate and anticipate what is to come. I’ll still be struggling for awhile, but during that period I’ll be pushing as well, getting better, very slowly, but also very surely. 

And when I “flip the switch” on my body…look out. 

A Hesitant Victory

And I’m home. The rest of the tubes, staples, and bandages were removed from my body this morning, pain med scrips were written, and with a simple, “have a good day,” I was sent off the 6th floor and to the car. I’ve spent the day getting accustomed to my home environment again, hanging out with the kittens on the bed, spending time with Laura and…well…just figuring out what this new routine is going to be. Going into surgery this time I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but since everything happened so unexpectedly, so quickly, so easy this time, I don’t even know what to expect from the recovery at home. Last year I took my drug ridden body out for a run a couple months later, but I’ve already begun joking about getting on the treadmill in a couple weeks, but I’m not entirely sure I’m joking. Right now, I just don’t know what to think. 

That, however, is just the physical considerations of recovery. There are also the emotional aspects that have left me floating, unable to really commit to a perspective on my overall situation at this point. For the past year and 3 months I’ve resided in this place of resignation, where the idea of “curing” my cancer is just too far out to imagine. A place where I’m more concerned with living as passionate and rewarding a life as I can muster despite all my physical complications and limited abilities. A place where cancer seems to be an unending reality. 

The difference in my perspective and what I mostly read from other cancer patients is this resignation, this acceptance of my circumstance. Everyone else seems to be “fighting”, expecting a cure, waiting out their treatments until the oncologist can hand over the NEC milestone. But my cancer has never positioned itself in this way. Mine isn’t beaten by a determined set of chemo treatments, nor is marked by a deep set of data and reliable survival percentages. I’ve always just been living with the hope that I can make the most of my time and wait for what is to come down the line. 

But it feels different now. I just went through this second surgery, the surgery which is the greatest determinant of “curing” my cancer, of which I thought wasn’t even going to be an option. So just getting to the surgery was a huge victory, and it felt that way. But, now it’s over. And it was “successful” as much as it could be. The cancer is still there, yes, but that doesn’t mean a significant victory wasn’t achieved. Although anything can change, the procedure alone extends both my lifespan and quality of life far ahead. We’re no longer waiting to see if I make it to next year. We’re no longer waiting to see how I handle the ravages of chemotherapy. And so I’m not sure what to think of that.

Did we just “beat cancer” in some way? Am I supposed to feel victorious? 

Something feels different though. The surgery was a “success” and the hospital  recovery was shockingly quick, leading me to hope that the same follows at home, which has left me having to adapt to new expectations at home. I thought I would be laid out for a long time, just like last year…and although I most definitely will need a lot of down time, I’m starting to think I’ll be pushing back sooner rather than later. Maybe I won’t have to “wait it out” as long as I thought, and can get back to expected and new routines sooner, which is forcing me to reconsider plans. 

And with the decision to forego chemotherapy post-surgery, I’m adjusting to that new realization too. The past year my schedule has been dictated by chemo treatments. Infusions every three weeks. Pills every other week. The schedule and the effects determined my days, dictated my activities…but no more. For the time being, the blank slate of my life and little else lies before me. Now, I’m not devoid of the considerations of cancer by any means. I’ll be going in for CT scans to check on the growth/recession/etc. of the cancer every few months, which will undoubtedly take it’s emotional toll, but overall, I have very little holding me back. And that feels like victory to me. 

Because then comes running. And it’s going to come. From a mile run on the treadmill to greater efforts to strength and endurance, it’s going to come, and I’m going to do it right. I’m going to have form evaluations, schedule a training plan, commit to strength and flexibility, and basically do everything exactly right this time. Because I have another chance…and although this may change, for the undetermined future, it feels like I have another shot at running again, another shot at doing it right. And THAT feels like my greatest victory. 

But let’s not mince words. I have cancer. It is not gone and may return with a vengeance…this possibility will haunt me the rest of my life…but for now, it feels like we’ve overcome something huge. We’ve hit, not a finish line, but maybe an aid station. A place to recover before starting again, before making a surge to the finish. And this feels great. I’m tentative in embracing this emotional state full on, knowing that I’m not in the clear, but there is an undeniable sense of relief, of strength, of victory, that is forcing me to reconsider my life into the coming year. 

This race goes on, but as the miles fall away behind me, I can start to imagine what that finish line victory is going to feel like. 

Until then, we have more work to do. See you on the streets friends. 

Living Stops for Nothing

And again, it’s over. But again, it’s just begun.

To summarize the whole situation, I still have cancer. I expected this, so that isn’t an emotional blow, yet in the process of attempting to remove the cancer this time around we had a very successful surgery, “90% successful”, I was told. I don’t know if I was supposed to take that literally, as if we got 90% of the cancer out, or more abruptly, as to just say it went as well as it could have gone without getting everything.

Before

Before

And now we “wait and see”.

I had the heated introperitoeal chemotherapy during the surgery and then five days of infusions through the ports and tubes running around my abdomen over the following days, but now, no more. At least, that was the plan. Now we run through standard checkups and CT scans to keep a close eye on the cancer, to see if it begins to grow out of control again, at which point we would begin the chemo regime again, or if everything remains the same as it did this past year and few months, with almost complete stability. No growth. No regression. 

That’s the short of it and despite being in the throes of post-surgery suffering, I’m feeling pretty good about this whole situation. I feel reinvigorated, renewed, rededicated, aided in part by the relatively free running I squeezed in the last weeks leading up to surgery. Pushing through every day was worth it and I’m ready to keep moving further and further away from chemo and closer and closer to my other physical limitations. I’m also ready to do this with a commitment to “doing it right”, not rushing into it, not neglecting other components of total health and whatever it takes to make another go at it….whatever that IS right now. I’m holding off on stated goals until I’m completely away from surgery, adjusted to a new living schedule and making sure all the pieces fit. 

During.

During.

In the interim, and more important, immediate sense, i’m still at the hospital, recovering at a pace that has truly surprised me…shocked even. I may not have been ravaged by cancer as much going into surgery this time around, but I was consumed by chemo and felt that I was held back from being at my best potential going forward, so I worried about the recovery. I felt weaker. I also worried about the extra chemo treatments and how they would add to the suffering. But I was out of the ICU 6 days later, with minimal complications, feeling stronger every day, already doing hallway laps and feeling as I’m going to get out of here quicker than I imagined. Maybe it’s the muscle memory. Maybe it’s hopeful naivety. Maybe its the coffee talking, but right now, I’m going with it. 

I don’t mean to paint such a pretty picture though. It’s still been incredibly rough. The nights of sleepless boredom, fading in and out of the darkest corners of my subconscious through pain medications, physical frustrations, downright pains. But, maybe i’m just more emotionally equipped to handle the situation, or this does parallel the muscle memory found in running recovery….or, again, maybe it’s just the coffee talking. It isn’t easy either way. I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone. 

And I’ll just leave it at that right now, because there will still be a lot of waiting and seeing. Waiting to see if recovery stays on this quickened trajectory or waiting to see if the stays stays or grows. That’s where, in part I’ll be placing my focus. Then, on the other hand, I will not be waiting to see what happens with running. I’m going to dedicate myself to running closer to my honest abilities at I sit with patience through everything else. 

Thanks, as always, for helping me get here. 

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Do over

I’m fine…but I wasn’t completely emotionally prepared to be back in the hospital. The last few months have been non-stop, almost up to the point Laura and I fell asleep last night, so the reality that I would be back in the hospital, non-functional, for an extended period of time, never had the chance to sink into my psyche. But here I am. Laying in a hospital bed as the minutes and hours tick away till morning.

I drove to the hospital by myself, meeting my parents in the front lobby, but nothing seemed out of place. I go to this hospital all the time for CT scans, chemo infusions, and follow up appointments. I entered the registration office, but that triggered nothing. I saw another patient with various tubes and mechanical apparatus hooked up to her body, being helped into a wheelchair to be taken to her prep room…but that wasn’t me. We were given directions to the sixth floor, a place I haven’t been since I left after finally being released from the hospital a year ago. Still nothing.

An imposingly tall and stout nurse, but with a happy demeanor, and covered in red scrubs led us away from the registration desk and towards my room.

And then it came back. These lights. This smell. The various machinery sitting lifeless. The bland colors of the hallway. The nurses gathered and chatting at the main desk as they prep for the day. And then my room. It was even the same room as last time, tucked away at the end of the hall, which was a partially welcomed part of this experience as the interruptions are small and the view..well…decent.

The bed sat there ominously, exuding something between welcomed comfort and the despair of permanent rest. I felt resistant to lying down, unready to commit to the horizontal position that I would find myself in for the coming months. I’m unready…but also ready too. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what I am, surgery comes tomorrow.

I finally relented and lay down, setting up my computer and getting settled in, waiting out the clock. Almost immediately the expected, necessary interruptions from the nurses began. My hospital gown, these long pieces of cloth in desperate need of clasp and aesthetic updates (dear hospital, the 70’s are over…stripes and polka dots are in…and velcro exists) was laid on the bed for me to change into. Questions were asked. My vitals were taken.

“Do you exercise?”
– laughing a bit, knowing what why she asked, “Yes.”
“Are you a runner?”
– “Yes. I am.”
“Do you know why I’m asking?”
– “Yeah, my heart rate?” (it was 45)
“Yeah, do you hear that a lot? I mean…that’s a good thing!”

She hooked up a pulse counter to my finger. The machine beeped alarmingly. It repeated.

“Oh, I know…it’s low.” she jokingly scolded the contraption.

My port was then pierced, and blood was drawn while I typed away, trying to finish up some work as soon as possible, to get that off my mind. I’ve been through this before. I don’t feel the need to prepare for pokes, prods and pricks anymore. Nurses do their thing and I do mine.

Another nurse came in, gave me a menu for “clear liquids” and then promptly left. I scanned the offerings, knowing I was going to order nothing.

Vegetable broth. Chicken broth. Ginger ale. Coffee. Diet Gelatin. Etc. Etc. Etc. No thanks.
I convinced my parents to get me a cup of coffee from the hospital Starbucks downstairs…good enough.

The resident to my surgical oncologist then entered, a friendly face and calm demeanor, introducing herself, getting to know me a bit, and explaining the procedure for the day and tomorrow morning. Second verse, same as the first. And that was that.

And here I still sit, becoming slowly acclimated to the coming storm, waiting out the clock, cleaning off my list of obligations, remembering the sights, the smells, the sounds, and pushing away the sense of dread that tries to get inside, forcing me to remember all the discomforts (to put it lightly), unpleasantries and difficulties that began the second I opened my eyes in the ICU just over a year ago.

But I’m ready…enough. It’s going to come and I’m going to meet it head on and I’m going to get past it as soon as possible. I’m not just going to let it come and consume me, then let it pass. I’m going to meet it, and push back. I’m going to force myself to get stronger at every opportunity. I’m going to fill my lungs. I’m going to feed my determination.

But not yet. That time will come. Right now…we wait, go to sleep, then wake up on “the other side”, yet again. And I’m ready. See you then my friends.