With every good day comes an opportunity to find out just what my body is capable of (probably not these stairs!)
I’ve been on a new drug for three weeks now. It’s about to start kicking in, and the other day – in a rare moment of optimism in Leeds train station – I saw a flight of stairs and thought I would have a go.
For some baffling reason, for some platforms there are only escalators up and not down, and so to get down to catch a train I had the choice of the stairs or a lift. I was feeling good last week, so I chose the stairs, for the first time in about four months. At the time I felt great and like I had really achieved something, and my knees were obviously on top form or I wouldn’t have attempted such a stunt in the first place.
Three hours later, however, I was really regretting my choice. See, there are some flights of stairs in my life that I can’t avoid – the stairs in my parents’ and boyfriend’s houses for example, and the stairs to get up to the office every weekday – and my body is used to these stairs and accounts for them. It still punishes me later, but less so than when I attempt extra crazy activities.
It’s not the first time this has happened to me, and I really ought to know better. One time, in year seven at school, all my friends used to go to lunchtime clubs. Choir and Running Club were on the same day, so I would usually spend Thursday lunches alone. I can’t sing, so choir was out. So was running, for obvious reasons, but one good day – and without Ma and Pa there to make me check myself – I went to Running Club.
Now, I didn’t keep up with everyone, I didn’t run as long a route as they did, but I still went and I felt good. It was just for the rest of the week that I felt bad.
Then there was the time in 2009, when I was in the middle of the biggest flare up of my life and I was given that wonderful first dose of steroids. Steroids make me feel what I imagine it must be like to have normal legs. Like, I don’t even have stiffness when I stand up as I normally do. I call the phenomenon “steroid legs” (I never said I was creative).
When I have steroid legs, I am unstoppable. I can run, despite my motto since that fateful day in year seven that “McColgans don’t run”. I can stand up for hours. I can sit and then stand up without leaning on anything or wincing when I straighten my left knee and when my right hip clicks into place. I can dance.
And dance is what I did that day, at my college’s end-of-year party at University. I danced all night and didn’t have to go home early, in tears, like I had every other night out for the previous two months. The next day I couldn’t get out of bed and had to call my mum and dad to take me home three days before the end of term. I cried and I cried, but I regret nothing because I got to have that amazing night of dancing.
You would think I would learn from my mistakes, but I’m not sure that’s what I consider them. Ultimately, I think I’m dead chuffed with myself that I tried. It might have resulted in more agony in the short term, but how would I know I couldn’t go to Running Club if I hadn’t gone? OK, I probably could have guessed that one, but how would I know that my knees weren’t ready for extra stairs if I hadn’t tried? How do I know I wouldn’t have woken up unable to get out of bed the day after dance-fest anyway, even if I’d not danced?
It’s important to say that it really would be foolish to push your body way beyond your means, to push it during a flare-up or to cast aside the advice your rheumy team has given you about appropriate levels of activity for your body. Please don’t get me wrong. What I really mean is that you might just surprise yourself sometimes by what your body is actually capable of doing, and how this might bring a bit of unexpected joy into your life. Just like Edith Piaf, je ne regrette rien.