“I can’t run anymore!” I yelled out choking acidic bile back down my throat. My breath comes out in short and desperate gasps I drop to my knees, sweat pouring off my forehead, burning my eyes. Every part of my body is soaking wet, like I took a shower fully clothed. I sit on all fours, gasping for air. Pleading for air! Begging for air! My legs are limp noodles that can no longer support my weight. I wonder if they ever truly could.
I roll on my back, feeling the soft green grass beneath my back and the hot sun cooking my face and limps. The bugs spring to life around me, some land on me. Others nip at the salty sweat on my body. They begin to eat me alive, but I do not have the strength to fight back.
I wonder what people are thinking of, seeing this adult man lying in the grass. Panting for breath in the middle of a public park. I hear people running past me. Doing the impossible. Pushing their bodies, step after step. Foot after foot. I pick my head up off the grass and look at where I started running from. How far had a run? 5 miles? 10? I look at my new clean smart watch that tracks the number of steps. 600 feet. Is that right?
As my body begins to relax, I notice my stomach is exposed. I reach down to pull my shirt down to my waist band. Like a disobedient child it slides back, revealing my large paste white stomach.
“I’m done,” I think as I find the strength to roll over onto my chest, I gasp out and moan as I rise to my feet. The act of standing up appeared to be as much of a workout as any run. I grab my side as I begin to make my way back to my car.
“Henry?” A familiar voice rings out. I turn to see my doctor, in jogging shorts standing behind me.
“Oh. Hi Dr. Bradley,” I say back to him.
“I’m happy to see you out,” he says with a smile.
“Thank you,” I sheepishly say back, scared he would judge me for leaving so soon after arriving.
“How far have you gone?” he asks.
“I don’t know, I’d say about 3 miles,” I rounded up.
“That’s incredible,” Dr. Bradley proclaims back to me. “Keep up the good work!”
Just as fast as he arrived, Dr. Bradley was gone. He ran off into the distance like the Road Runner being chased by a coyote. I lean back against a tree, watching as he disappears into the distance. Our last conversation begins to ring in my ears as I think. “We are at a critical place here, Henry.”
“I understand,” I said to him. I am back in his office, wearing only my underwear sitting on a slab with paper underneath me.
“You’ve always struggled with your weight but lately it seems to have really ballooned,” Doctors sometimes have a way of breaking the news to you in a way that stings worse than any treatment they could concoct. “Has anything happened in your life lately that could be a contributing factor to your weight increase?”
“No,” I answered him back. “Same ole same ole really.”
“I understand,” he said back. “I remember you struggled with work, is that still the case?”
“Yum. Yeah,” I responded. “Is there something you could prescribe me? Something that might help with my eating habits.”
I watched as the doctor reexamined my chart, reminding himself of every embarrassing detail about my life. He studied it for a long moment before saying anything. “Well, Henry, here is the thing. You are already on several anti-depressants, introducing a new drug might not be the safest course of action.”
“What about a surgery?” I ask.
“Your insurance should cover it. If that is the route you want to go,” The doctor paused. “There is typically a wait period of a year. Sometimes longer.”
“I think that’s what I’ll need to do,” Henry said.
“Ok. It is viable and you are the candidate for it,” he says. “But as I said it’s going to be over a year.”
“Ok,” I said.
“Henry,” he paused. “I am going to be frank with you?”
“Can I still be Henry?” The serious mood made me tense and I fell back on my sense of humor. To my dismay, my doctor did not laugh with me.
“I think we really need to look at options now,” he said.
“But you said you couldn’t prescribe anything for me?” I asked confused.
“How much exercise do you typically get during the day?” he asks. I sit silently. “Any?”
“No. Not typically,” I said to him.
“Is it difficult for you to get motivated to move?” he asks. “With your depression and anxiety?”
“I don’t know,” I say.
“Henry,” he says, honest concern in his voice. “I am not trying to attack. I understand that you are fighting something but if I may be honest with you getting up and getting your body moving and getting the blood moving really will make you feel better. Plus, there is no substitute for the sunshine.”
That night, Henry went to bed planning on getting up and heading to the park, but he was unable to get up and get going. So, he planned for the next day, but he could not do it. So, he said he would start the next day but again he could not bring himself to go. This became a routine for the better part of a month. Until the guilt of being lazy ate at him enough that he finally felt he could no longer avoid it.
One day, Henry put on a pair of shorts and a shirt and went to the park. Henry walked around the path. It took him a long time to complete the path and when he left, and he left he was sweaty and tired, but he did feel good. There was a lightness in his chest that he wasn’t sure that he ever felt. His body felt primed, like there was a built-up energy ready to make him burst. His doctor was right, he did feel better.
The next day, the struggle to get to the park was nowhere near as difficult. He pulled his trunks on and a ratty old t shirt and headed out. The more he went the better he felt. Until finally he decided to push himself. He was going to run the path.
Which is what got him in the position he was in. He wanted to run but learned that was impossible. Henry decided to toss in the towel. He had bitten off more then he could chew. On the way to his car, a beautiful blonde woman walked toward him and smiled and asked, “Good run?”
Henry decided to tough it out a little longer.