The Redding Road Race will be my first 10K. I am quite nervous about taking this on, but also feel bolstered by the idea that I will be running/jogging with 140 brave young people in my heart and mind. This story begins when I was diagnosed with Dysautonomia about fifteen years ago. Basically, my autonomic nervous system does not work properly. This illness causes all kinds of trouble, but my most common symptoms are a sudden spike in heart rate and drop in blood pressure, which leads to episodes of passing out and seizures. There was a time in my life when this illness was debilitating, making it hard for me to stand upright for even ten minutes at a time. Those initial years of struggling to get proper treatment were some of the most difficult in my life.
But, I choose not to focus on the bad times. My illness does not define me. I belong to a wonderful and supportive group called the Dysautonomia Youth Network of America, Inc., DYNA for short, and they helped me through my worst symptoms and taught me that sometimes a shift in perspective is the best medicine. The body truly does follow the mind, and though I was not able to cure myself just by wishing it, I was able to start focusing on the positive and living with hope for the future. I learned that in spite of my limitations, I did not have to live my illness, but rather I could work towards my own version of recovery.
Symptom management in Dysautonomia is not easy by any means, but it is possible. What this illness has taken from me, I now have to fight to bring back. With the help of my amazing doctor, my friends in DYNA, and my remarkable family, I began working hard at reconditioning my body. I started with a recumbent bike, worked my way up to yoga and aerobic exercise, and then, inspired by my husband who enjoys running, I began to jog and run. The first time I really ran on a treadmill for ten whole minutes without stopping, I cried. A year prior I still needed a wheelchair to get through a shopping trip at the mall.
This is a constant battle. If I stop exercising my symptoms begin to re-emerge, so I need to stay motivated. I needed a goal to keep myself going, so I decided to try for a race. I signed up for the Redding Road Race because I was immediately struck by the enthusiasm and excitement John McCleary has for this event. I felt it was a good match for my first race. I even went so far as to bring up the challenge to the young people of DYNA, who are fighting their own battles everyday with so much hope and courage. I suggested that those who were ready look into road races in their areas and begin training as a part of their recovery journeys. Some did take up the challenge and are now in training and others were inspired to begin their own daily walking/jogging/running programs. So this race has further reaching influence than you may realize!
I would not be here, preparing for this race, without my DYNA friends and my incredible family. They taught me that I am much more than my symptoms, and that with consistent effort and dedication, it is possible to reach my goals. So, that’s why I plan on carrying the members of DYNA, all 140 of them, with me in spirit on May 6th. I might not be able to actually run the whole way and I will definitely not finish with the front of the pack, but I will be running with my whole heart and just finishing will be one of my biggest triumphs yet.
The preceding article was written prior to the May 6, 2012 Redding Road Race. DYNA wishes Mandy all the best, and all of of us will be proudly cheering her on as she triumphs yet again!