Growing up in South Lake Tahoe, you’re bound to be a busy kid. You ski everyday in the winter and you hike, bike ride, swim and do whatever you can in the summer to enjoy the amazing sunshine. I danced with Marcia (like most little girls in Tahoe) and was on the Buddy Warner Ski Team. But when I was around 13 or 14 I started having chronic knee pain in both of my knees. It was brutal to be sidelined from the things that I loved, but it just got to the point where something had to be done. I actually remember watching from backstage as the four girls I was supposed to be on stage dancing with- with tears streaming down my face thinking “ I should be up there”. Heartbreaking.
It was decided after several attempts at non evasive treatment, to have lateral release surgeries at the same time. The doctor assured me along with my very nervous parents that it would be an easy recovery and I would be back to normal in no time. Nothing could have prepared us for the journey that surgery would take us on. A “very aggressive staph infection” had taken over my left knee and put me back into surgery 5 separate times in the next two weeks. Each knee had to be opened separately to flush them out with meds and closed up again. I was on heavy doses of IV antibiotics for 6 weeks, and had some pretty nice drains attached for weeks! You can imagine what this does to a 15 years old social life! Emotionally, it’s a tough thing knowing every two days it meant trips to get new IV’s and one bad blood test meant we start all over again. My AMAZING parents handled the situation with grace and an even stronger will to get me better than I had. As a parent now, I know deep down where that fire burns from.I eventually got better and recovered from this massive infection and began to get back into my life. But I didn’t dance again. I didn’t ski again. I didn’t run again. I was now the kid who got the doctors note to get out of PE all the way through High School.
I went away to too College for a bit, and did the things lost teenagers do, just bounced around. But the one thing I could count on…was surgery. It’s the running joke in my family now. “A year has gone by and Jill hasn’t had surgery!” It’s ridiculous! I eventually parted ways with my local surgeon and went to Stanford and then back to Tahoe; they really do have the best orthopedic surgeons. I ended having the mother of all surgeries about 9 years ago now. They literally cut my bone, moved it over and reattached it. It was a horrible, tedious grueling recovery. I never recovered fully from that last surgery. I had intense knee pain, all the time. I wasn’t able to sit for longer than an hour. I later found out that I had just adapted to the pain so I was adjusting my walk and my stance to accommodate that pain; which lucky for me caused just a whole new set of issues!
June of 2011, I had the screw removal from my knee from the previous surgery. WHOA! That surgery changed my life (again). I was able to get back in to PT and had an amazing therapist who really took the time to help me adjust my foot position, and got me some kick booty orthotics just special for me! She was just amazing. It was tough, super tough work. But I started to see these things called muscles! Clearly things were looking up!
I have just an amazing group of friends who really are the best moms, friends, nurses, paramedics, cops and athletes …my inner circle of pals. I have sat back and watched and cheered these ladies on as they did marathons and half marathons respectfully. They get up every morning (or night as us graveyard’ers know) and they do what they do best. Whether it be running before the babies wake up, or running to work or going to KAIA after a long shift in the ER but they do it. And all along, I just admired that from afar. Until I started believing what they had been telling me all along, that I could do it to.
NO no no….I have had 14 knee surgeries. I CAN NOT run a 5k. No way could I do KAIA. I wasn’t not a believer. It wasn’t until I just said Ok…what could I loose. I’ll do it. Oh man….
That day changed my life. Silly, I know. But it did. I got up before the sun and drove 30 miles each way to go to this KAIA place. Lost of pink power in that room! It was the most amazing experience. I was so sore that first week, but you just keep going.
I started to see myself differently. Not only for the changes in my body, but I had this confidence I had never had before. I had a desire and the drive to get up everyday and go. And some days your give it your all, and some days you just show up.
But when you hear your coach say “Jill, you are a runner!” It just brings me to tears. Me? NO…. but guess what! ME! I am a runner. KAIA has given me a bigger gift than I could ever put into words. One of my dearest friends is a marathon runner, and she asked if I would do a half with her. For the first time in my life, I think I just might be able to. Because I am an athlete now, and I know I can.
I struggle now with being kind to myself when I can’t get to KAIA. Life and kids and work and schedules and illness happen. Sometimes all at once…usually all at once. But I know that when I am able to go back and give 100%, I will be with my KAIA girls and that’s the inspiration I need to get right back at it. We have to find a balance, and sometimes its now what we would chose, but that when I look to my close group of friends and my husband and get centered again.
We all have a story, and this is mine. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I see where I have been, and how far I have come. I have always been smaller, but never strong. Strong is powerful! And for the time that I miss, I cant wait to get back at it. I know I KAN, because I am KAIA strong