By Jaime D. Lewis
I am more than a surgeon. I am an educator, a wife, and a mother. And among other things, I am also a runner.
I recently completed my first (yes, first, as I am now fully aware that there will be more) ultramarathon. It was a technical 50k over mountain biking trails, gravel paths, and rutted grassy knolls, up and down 4701 feet of elevation gain including two grueling climbs up “Big Ass Hill.” I hadn’t been able to eat any of my standard fare stocked in my pack after the first 15 miles, nearly tossed my cookies when I tried to put an M&M in mouth at mile 19, and praised the gods of the soft drink industry for the sweet sustaining nectar labeled Coke and Ginger Ale for the last 12 miles.
My husband, son, and daughter hiked the last quarter mile with me. At that point, I could no longer run. I had acquired what I thought was an alien invader in my shoe but found out later was just a humongous blister that had developed on the bottom of my right foot after I had slid on a rock shearing off the top layer of skin some miles earlier as I tried to cheerily greet a hiker who flagged me down only to tell me that he thought I was WAY behind all of the others…
Yet I crossed the finish line triumphant and smiling, with one hour to spare ahead of the 10 hour time limit. And the next day I signed up to do it again in a few short months.
Over the last 20+ years I have run thousands of miles including many half marathons and a handful of marathons, sometimes with the rowdiest of company, occasionally with my dog, but many of those miles completed in solitude. I have run down my street, in my neighborhood, in neighboring and distant states, in deserts and rainforests, on mountains, under blistering suns and the darkest of nights, in rain, being pelted by hail, and with icicles freezing my eyelashes together. And I would not trade a single one of those moments for any other experience.
I am finally starting to understand why I am compelled to run. Among them:
1. Completing long distance runs is an affirmation of the awesomeness of the human body and mind.
2. In running I experience FLOW – being fully immersed and engaged in a challenging activity that brings incredible satisfaction and healing.
3. Participation provides me with access to a community of individuals who are similar minded but involved in a variety of occupations, which creates opportunities for learning and growth during our many hours on the trails.
4. Running has taught me lessons in defeat and success, the value of hard work, and the necessities of coaching and rigor.
5. Some of my closest relationships have developed while running.
6. Running is my time to process, problem solve, forgive, forget, and release.
Running rounds out who I am. It helps me to sit quietly with a raging women who has just been told she has breast cancer despite the fact that she has done all of the right things. It allows me to calmly guide my first year resident who tells me that ours is one or the first cases of her surgical internship. It reminds me to express gratitude to the staff who make my work possible. It lets me see the hearts and faces of my students and colleagues alike. It bolsters my ability to keep climbing despite the inevitable and painful falls. It allows me return to my family open to experience life with them, attempting to fully engage in the moments.
Through running, I try encourage my children, my husband, my students, residents, and colleagues, and my patients to embrace the parts of themselves that feed and sustain who they are and who they will become.
One step at a time.
Jaime D. Lewis, MD, FACS, practices breast surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Cincinnati, Ohio where she also completed her general surgery residency. After residency, she spent a year in Tampa, Florida training in breast surgical oncology at the Moffitt Cancer Center. Dr. Lewis is committed to improving wellness and professional development opportunities of the medical students and residents with whom she is privileged to work. Outside of the hospital, she enjoys running and spending time with her family. You can find her on twitter at @JaimeDLewisMD.
Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.