“Mom? My shins hurt again.”
Actually, the bad news started with a text message on a Friday night: Could you schedule me an appointment at OCR in 2 weeks?
OCR being the nickname for the Orthopedic and Spine Center of the Rockies, a.k.a. the sports injury and broken bone doctors. One of whom we’ve seen too many times over the past few years.
Let’s start with some background. My youngest son’s love of running started in elementary school and in 5th grade he ran his first 10K. He ran cross country and distance in track through middle school and entered high school with great anticipation.
As a freshman, he ran varsity in cross country and went into the spring track season feeling strong, until he was sidelined by a stress fracture in his right fibula (the smaller of the two lower leg bones) caused by overuse. Too much pounding during training and races.
Sophomore year started out amazing…including a huge personal best time midway through the cross country season. Except during the cool-down from that race he noticed a lot of pain in one shin. And by Monday was unable to run…which led to a doctor’s appointment and an MRI to discover a severe and extremely rare longitudinal stress fracture in the top of his right tibia (the weight-bearing bone).
Season over. He was on crutches for awhile, then finally cleared to begin to train for the spring sports season…which ended after one track meet thanks to COVID shutdowns.
Just days before the first cross country race of his junior year, he developed pain in his left leg. Resting didn’t help so back to the doctor where an MRI revealed a “dreaded black line” that had almost snapped the tibia in half. Season over again.
It was devastating news and yet I’m so proud of my son’s character as he became the best team manager they could ever ask for. At every practice, carrying water bottles, cheering on those he should be running with, watching as his friends missed qualifying for the State meet knowing his typical race time could have been the difference…
After he got out of the boot and we had proof the break had completely healed, he spent a few months in physical therapy stabilizing and strengthening other muscles to help his body cushion the pounding distance running requires. (After all, you can’t race 3 miles without the endurance gained from running longer distances consistently.)
Finally, he was cleared to start conditioning for the track season. And…you guessed it…two weeks before the first meet, he developed the same kind of pain, this time in both legs.
The doctor groaned when he saw us and ordered another MRI so we’d know exactly what we were dealing with. Which was FOUR simultaneous fractures developing in the top and bottom of both tibias. Like cross country just months before, his junior year track season was over before it began and he was a team manager instead.
The general consensus of the various doctors we’ve consulted was that until he’s completely done growing and the bones mature, he’s susceptible to breaking again.
So, what should we do for his senior year? Not even try? Give it one last attempt? After all, even if he stayed healthy, he’s not fast enough to run at the college level, so this would be his last chance to compete in a sport he loved outside of the occasional community fun run.
He decided to go for it and was extra cautious with his training over the summer. In fact, he’d only run three miles in a row once before the first race of the season. But he raced!
It felt like a miracle. And then he raced again. And again. And with his times, if everyone could stay healthy, the boys were poised to qualify for State as a team for the first time in years.
Until his text message a few weeks ago.
The pain was back.
In a series of only-God-could-orchestrate-this “coincidences” our school’s trainer contacted the OCR doctor who happened to also be filling in as a rival school’s trainer who we happened to be playing that very night in football…which led to a sideline consultation.
The verdict? Physical therapy and cross-training (i.e. elliptical) for a few weeks in hopes to keep his cardio conditioning and muscle strength up while simultaneously protecting the bones…all in hopes he could be able to run in tomorrow’s Regional meet to help qualify the team for State.
We’ve got an official x-ray/check-in appointment before that race, so if there’s something major, we’d know. But right now we’re putting all of the proverbial eggs in that one basket and letting God decide the outcome.
If he breaks, he breaks. But he’ll break there instead of during a training run or a race that didn’t count.
In other words, we’re holding my son’s love of running in open hands.
There are so many things in life that we strive for. Obsess over. Worry about. Maneuver to obtain. Bargain to keep. Build our lives around. Cling to.
But everything can change in an instant. A drunk driver. An illness. A lay-off. A natural disaster. A poor choice with unforeseen consequences. All we’re hanging on to could be ripped away.
Like the future of my son’s running career, I’m reminded that all of the blessings in my life are gifts from God for a season that lasts only as long as He allows. God gives and He takes away, blessed be His name. (Job 1:21)
And so with open hands, I’m holding everything in my life up as an offering. Thankful for the current opportunities…and trusting that my Heavenly Father holds my future.
What about you? What are you clinging to? What if you held it with open hands and let God decide the outcome? Do you have that kind of faith?