March 22, 2019
I was lying on the floor of A&E.
If you ever want to get looked after quickly then this is a tactic that will work well. For me it wasn’t a tactic. Early September 2017, I had what I would consider a normal business day. Got up and tended to my emails and social media, had a couple of meetings, did two podcasts and wrote an article or two. In the middle of my work day to make sure I was looking after myself I went to a body balance class. By the time I went to bed that night – early for me – I was in a lot of pain. My back was killing me, I was struggling to coordinate my limbs and I had a migraine.
24 hours later I was lying on the floor of A&E. I was in so much pain that the short trip from our flat to the hospital meant that I couldn’t even sit up to wait, I needed to lie down to try and relieve some of the problems. By this stage I could no longer tell when I needed to go to the toilet. I had lost control of my bowel and bladder.
Now that I have the beautiful images out of the way, I will explain why this month I am doing a five-kilometre swim as part of Swimathon to help raise funds for two charities.
It is to be able to show that I can still do something I was used to doing.
I have always been a swimmer. As an Aussie, I was lucky enough to grow up in a climate that was warm for at least nine months of the year, I am from Melbourne, so winter does exist. The one thing my Mum forced past my over protective Dad was that I learn to swim. I was good at it. I have the ribbons and medals from my primary and high school years to show for it. I loved it.
As an Aussie kid who was lucky enough to grow up when it was still ok to be chucked out the door at dawn to run up and down the street with your friends unsupervised, I grew up with a love for being active. I did cross country events and even did little athletics until I was 16 years old. Tended to be best at 1500m or longer, it was an equaliser for my slower pace.
In January 1999 that was all to change. I was in a car accident. Forced off a wet country road at 100km/h (just over 60 miles an hour for those of your who aren’t metric) by a driver who then kept going. I was trapped in the car of over an hour, upside down, supporting my full body weight through my arms to stop my neck from snapping.
In the initial year after that accident I had migraines every day, often ending the day blind in my left eye. I constantly dropped things because messages to me left arm didn’t always make it from my brain properly. At the end of the day, aside from the migraines it was still very much me. It took a year for them to determine I had damage to my C4/C5 discs in my back, which was causing the migraine due the nerves being ‘distressed’. It would be two more years before they stopped being daily and another two years before I was allowed to swim again.
In 2016 I took up running. Part of the reason is my partner runs, so it was something we could do together. Although at 6ft 4 inches, it is funny to watch him pretend to run when keeping pace with me. He gave up ‘pretending’ and walked after I nearly collapsed laughing one day. The other reason is that I have always wanted to do a triathlon (we will worry about the fact I never learnt to ride a bike as a kid later).
For the first year he ran every event I entered with me. I did two half marathons in that year as well. From not having done more than the mandatory five kilometres in army fitness tests to a half marathon, I was pleased with myself. My partner recorded the slowest times over all these distances for himself ever. He is a real sweetie!
Even had a moment where I had to stop him from having a go at someone for calling me the ‘fat slow one at the back’. I told him it was their issue not mine.
As I did more running, more back issues from that accident started showing up. I have damage in my thoracic region. This was picked up after a 15-kilometre run in training where 3 hours later I ended up in hospital with heart attack like symptoms.
For years I had been complaining of hip pain and my left leg collapsing on me at random times. This one showed up best in the Loch Rannoch half marathon, the first one I was running without my partner by my side the whole time (he did the full marathon), when 200 metres from the finish both my legs stopped working. It was the first of the really big signs.
I was to collapse a number of times before I ended up in hospital that day because my legs stopped working. Still, I was told nothing was wrong, every time I went to a doctor.
Then a mere year later, and only a week after doing a 500m swim in Loch Lomond on the Saturday and a 10K in Aberdeen on the Sunday, I was lying on the floor in an A&E.
Since then, I have managed a five-kilometre run, three to be exact, in the heat of an Australian summer. As soon as I got back to the UK, I have found I couldn’t run the whole way. Actually, the continued deterioration has led to 500m of running often leading to me not being able to feel my legs at all…
Therefore even though I am a proud member of the Too Fat to Run Movement, I don’t run at the moment but I do still swim.
It might seem a little crazy to do a five-kilometre swim, but it is because I still can. It hurts the whole way and I often lose a day or two after where I struggle to sit or walk for any length of time, but it reminds me that I am still alive, and I can still walk, and I am not in a wheel chair. That might come one day, and I will deal with it if it does.
Until then, Swimathon here I come.
One day I will be able to do my second triathlon. One day I will run again. It is part of the reason I am still part of Julies Clubhouse and why I really do follow the Fat Girls Guide to Running (and walking at times).
Maggie Georgopoulos is a wonderful advocate for the Too Fat to Run movement, but she is also an inspiring and esteemed speaker, coach and expert on mental health.
It would be great if you could support Maggie and all those like her who won’t let a small thing stop them from doing the things they love. She is raising money for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie Cancer Care, you can help by donating https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/MaggieSwimming2019