2001 was the year that changed my life. I’ll never forget the pain that radiated throughout my chest. I’ve heard of heart attacks, I’ve never had one, but I knew something was happening that wasn’t quite right. I kept feeling pains in my left side and I was petrified. The pain was so sharp, that it would paralyze me with fear.
Unable to face this fear, I turned to my usual comfort, food. There I was, possibly having a massive heart attack, but lifting the lid of the pot to grab a spoonful of arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). This how bad my addiction to food was.
I realized I had to check myself into a hospital as soon as possible. I was overcome with emotion at the thought of saying goodbye to my daughter forever. I took a cab to the closest hospital and was immediately admitted. Extensive tests were run, and I was told that I was not having a heart attack. My relief was short lived as they found highly elevated sugar levels in my blood.
Right then and there, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic. I was grateful that I wasn’t having a heart attack, but still there was this dread. Diabetes meant to me a lifetime sentence. I was so angry with myself, with no one to blame but myself for my predicament.
I was in the hospital for 4 or 5 days. During that time the doctors performed a variety of tests, one in particular was the stress test. It was humiliating, because even the smallest of activity left me breathless.
Their change meant medication, but I wanted a different way. I didn’t want to be chained to a medicine cabinet for the rest of my life. I remember going over my test results with an endocrinologist, and his prescriptions. I could feel this wasn’t right, something inside me couldn’t accept this. I pleaded with him to let me try to balance my life. I would eat right and exercise for the first time in my life. The skepticism in the doctor’s eyes was understandable, but I was adamant.
So I started researching about diet, exercise, and diabetes. I wanted to become informed about this disease and how I could fight it naturally. The run/walk program from the American Heart Association’s website was a revelation. After pouring over the information from their site, I decided I would follow this plan. It consisted of an end goal of running for 30 minutes building up in increments. Initially, you run for 1 minute and walk for 29 gradually increasing the time spent running. I was fired up with idea of finally taking control of my life, running a minute seemed completely feasible. Then came the harsh reality of actually running that minute. The humbling stark truth was that even 30 seconds seemed more than arduous but impossible. I even wrote in my journal how can runners run for hours when 30 seconds seemed so long. But nevertheless I was determined to run that minute and succeeded. I finally was able to run 30 minutes in four months time, bringing tears of joy to my eyes.
I ran on my treadmill for a few years, afraid to run in the streets like “real” runners. But entering my daughter in roadrunner’s races sparked my interest in running in race for myself. With a friend’s added encouragement, I completed a father’s day 5-mile race.
The solace I sought in Chinese food and pizzas, I replaced with the serenity of running. Since starting this life style change, I have lost almost 200 pounds, reversed the effects of my diabetes and improved my asthma. I have successfully completed 9 marathons. I have gained a great new circle of friends that support this change. I have the security of knowing I will see my daughter grow up. I guess you could say that running saved my life.