My Road to Recovery: A New Way of Thinking about My Body

July 31, 2016

by Vicki Van Blaricom

I thought I was invincible. But I was wrong.

In 2013, I completed a marathon in every state, 64 marathons in total, and I felt great. I was on top of the world! I was heading to Oregon for a marathon and also deep in to a home improvement project, which entailed a lot of lifting, turning, and bending when I suddenly turned the wrong way in my closet and injured my back, specifically my left SI joint.

I developed a chronic overuse injury that I am still recovering from today. The wear and tear on my body from running, in addition to my home improvement incident, resulted in unbearable pain. I went to an orthopedic doctor who decided I was not a candidate for surgery, so he sent me on my way.

My feet started going numb, and standing was unbearable, but it was part of my job. I then developed a limp. I was sent to a Neurologist, who told me I had PNE, or pudendal nerve entrapment. He told me to stop all exercise immediately and said I would probably feel better in two years. I was devastated, the injury and lack of exercise resulted in a 30-pound weight gain in just six months. I was very unhappy and knew that I needed to do something!

That’s when I met Dr. Kerry Egan, a Northern Virginia chiropractor. Dr. Kerry said she could help me, but it would be a “process” and deviate from traditional chiropractic care. I was ready to try anything to run again. It was Dr. Kerry who started me on the road to recovery and a whole new way of thinking about my body.

During our first few sessions, Dr. Kerry said I would have to learn diaphragmatic breathing, and in addition to general chiropractic care, I would have to address my deep emotional issues. I was flabbergasted! I knew there were four major components of the body — skeletal, muscular, nervous and emotional systems — but I didn’t relate my injury to having an emotional component as well.

During the months that followed, I learned how to “belly breathe.” It was foreign to me after using my lungs and chest to breathe while running for so many years. It was also hard to talk about the things in my life that happened years ago that remained “stuck” in my body over the years. It took me a long time to “get it,” but when I did, I embraced diaphragmatic breathing and still practice it daily.

I started researching yoga and discovered it is about far more than physical exercise. It is also about breathing and meditation. Eventually I came across a book, Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda. I was enthralled! The book and the principles it contained changed not only my life but me as a person, just as it has changed the lives of so many others.

I’m still in PT and see my doctors for maintenance. I’m now able to run for an hour and a half a couple of days a week without experiencing significant pain the next day. I have taken to heart all that my mentors have taught me and have embraced other forms of exercise besides running. When I do have a great run, I show appreciation to my body for it.

Now I do Pilates, weight train, run, hike, use the elliptical, and I also love to swim. Everything in moderation as the saying goes. Pilates and yoga have taught me that breathing is truly the most important component of the body. It needs to be embraced in its many forms.

I am writing my story on a plane to Glacier National Park and thinking about a week of hiking ahead of me and feeling blessed that my old body is coming back, but in a different form.

I look out the window at this beautiful place, take a deep breath, and pause to consider. Yes, It’s true—I’m not invincible — but I am a Wonder Woman.