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  • Kirstin

Broken...Open?

Updated: Apr 18

Today is the return of Marathon Monday, as we Massachusetts natives call it. Patriots Day, a Massachusetts holiday commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord, occurs the third Monday in April, and it’s the day The Boston Marathon has taken place since its inception in 1897 (with COVID exceptions for 2020 and 2021).

I watched the elite runners from my couch, crutches within reach. I ran 9.65 miles on Saturday, back home in Massachusetts, and my body did not appreciate it. The pelvic stress fracture I struggled with for almost a year in 2011-12 is on a comeback tour, back with a vengeance!


I have no idea how I invited this return; my mileage and speed has been consistent for months.


On Thursday, I will have surgery to repair a hernia I developed from donating a kidney. I’m told the recovery will be more painful than donating.


I have no idea how I invited this complication; I followed my doctor’s orders and did everything I was told to do.


Today, I revisited Elizabeth Lesser’s book Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow to share with my coaching group. One the passages I highlighted says:

There are three major hurdles to overcome in crisis: dealing with pain; working with your attitude; and using the crisis as a wake-up and a cleanup call.

What wonderful, well-timed advice.


I am coaching myself through this unfortunate turn of events, and I’m sharing it here in case my process might be helpful to you and whatever unfortunate turn of events you might be facing.


First, I am accepting the facts of the situation and keeping it at that. I have a pelvic stress fracture. I have a hernia. FULL STOP. Both are physically painful, so adding psychic pain to the mix by asking Why me? is not productive. Why not me? Wondering how either of these ailments happened is not useful right now. It’s best to focus on repair and how to move forward.


Second, I am focusing on what is in my control, and that is my attitude. Pelvic stress fractures are rare, making up only 2-3% of all stress fractures. The idea that I would have one is unusual, much less the notion that I would have it twice in one lifetime. How unique am I?!


Having a hernia after a successful kidney donation is a bummer, to put it mildly, and supposedly only 4-8% of donors experience it. This complication occurred after I had signed on to volunteer as a Living Donor Ambassador with the American Transplant Foundation. I have been worried that hearing about my hernia might dissuade people from donating, but the fact is, even with this second surgery looming, I would donate again, without question.

What is more convincing – when someone tells you something was “worth it” when the process was easy, or when someone tells you something was “worth it” when the process was complicated?

Third, I am looking forward to the changes ahead – the wake-up and the cleanup. This piece of the process is the most profound for me, as in the past, I catastrophized and loved me a worst-case scenario. With the pelvic stress fracture of 2011-12, I feared I would never run again. Ten years and three marathons later, I know that fear was unfounded.


These past few weeks, I have been reading other donors’ hernia stories, and some of them are scary. But I also know that some of the hernia-plagued donors just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in honor of World Kidney Day last month. And not a single donor with a hernia regretted their decision to donate.


So, what is the wake-up and the cleanup? I’m going to be raw and honest: I’ve been at war with my body for as long as I can remember. There is a difference between exercising for physical and mental health and exercising to shrink yourself. I’ve done both.


There is a difference between eating for health and nourishment and eating to shrink yourself. I’ve done both.


I’ve done Weight Watchers, Body for Life, high-protein/low-carb, calorie counting, macro counting, intermittent fasting, Faster Way to Fat Loss…and those are the ones I remember.


I know that for me, it is very fine line between health and unhealthy obsession, and I walk it delicately. Aware that this issue is one I’ve needed to work on, I’ve been reading about health/fitness/wellness for the past 6 months - books that challenge the foundation of these industries - and I have learned so much. I’ve been in a good place – my eating is less “disordered,” and I exercise for joy.


The wake-up here is to truly embrace that this body – fractured and herniated though it may be at the moment – has given life to three people. How phenomenal is that?! I ought to listen to poet Rupi Kaur who writes,

look down at your body whisper there is no home like you - thank you

These ailments are going to sideline me for at least 6 weeks. What a wonderful invitation for a cleanup. I can read some of the other wellness and intuitive eating books I’ve been meaning to get to. I can re-evaluate my overall fitness routine. I will honor my body and listen to what it needs and what it can - and can't yet - do.


After all, everyone loves a comeback story. This time, mine might not involve marathons. But, as my favorite “Runner’s Prayer” says, “Let it be an inner win. A battle won over me.”

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