Why I Didn’t Run the Seattle Marathon

It’s been a roller coaster of a year for me. A lot of highs early in the year, with new PBs in the 5k, 8k and 10k distances. Those were pretty sweet – especially my WestVanRun 10km PB. I was particularly thrilled with that one (yes, you’re seeing that right in the picture below – my race bib was not a traditional number… The race director thought it would be funny to auction off a couple of these bibs and I thought it would be funny to see if I could nab one… But it turned out to mostly be embarrassing LOL maybe that’s why I ran so fast haha).


And there’s been some lows. I hit rock bottom with my Long Beach Marathon in October. However, in an attempt to bounce back as quickly as possible as well as bring back the enjoyment factor – I threw myself into races a number of races for fun, including the Great Climate 10k, the Fall Classic Half Marathon and the Moustache Miler 5k.

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I ran the Moustache Miler on Saturday November 21st, my last fun race before the Seattle Marathon the very next weekend (November 29th). It was honestly another total blast of a race. I knew there was no hope of PB’ing so when I crossed the finish line only 38 seconds slower than my PB, I was ecstatic! Seriously, who knew racing for fun could be, so, well, FUN!!

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Plus, on top of all this, I’d just hired a new coach (Scott Fishman of Team All-American) the day before Moustache Miler who told me he wanted to have me actually race Seattle (at that point I’d been planning on just running it just for kicks – to see what I had in me). He uploaded a taper week running schedule for me and we planned to connect later the next week to discuss strategy.

And then everything changed.

(WARNING – this is a super long post and the rest of it really has nothing to do with running)

Sunday, November 22nd – 1:30am

“Babe! Babe, wake up!”

Hubby is shaking me and I groggily sit half way up in bed.

He continues, “There’s something wrong with Sparkle!”

His other hand is on our tiny 4lb Yorkie, our furbaby, whose legs are wildly twitching and her mouth chattering. It’s terrifying to see. It doesn’t take long for us to realize she’s having a seizure. I cup my hand on her other side and speak calmly to her, “It’s okay baby, it’s okay… It’s okay.”

It doesn’t feel okay at all. But then it’s over. She stops convulsing, and pops up, looking at us with wild eyes, totally confused. I run to get my phone and google ‘seizures in dogs’. Basically, I gather that a lone seizure lasting less than 5 minutes doesn’t in itself necessitate a trip to the emergency vet, whereas 3 or more in a 24 hour period does. Sparkle looks tired and dazed… She lies down and falls back to sleep.

So we go back to sleep.

Sunday, November 22nd – 2:30am

“Babe! It’s happening again!”

This time I’m awake in a flash, my heart in my stomach. Little Sparkle is in the middle on another grand mal seizure, her body stiff and shaking violently. Her eyes are rolled back, her tongue hanging out. I begin to shake slightly myself, out of fear – but try to stay calm, and talk calmly to her. After what feels like hours, but was more like 30 seconds, her body calms and she appears quite disoriented. She seems weakened and just generally ‘out of it’.

Still not knowing what to do – trying to ascertain if this is an emergency situation, hubby and began talking it over. I have my hand on her as she closes her eyes to try to sleep again. All of a sudden, she body tightens up again and she began convulsing for the third time. We get her through that one, throw our clothes on, wrap her up in her pink blanket and dash out the door.

I can only imagine how terrifying it is for parents when their children suffer or are in an emergency situation. Sparkle as my furbaby is as close as I’ll ever get to having that connection, although I don’t mean to insinuate this is the same thing. However, for the next few days, as her life was hanging in the balance, I can literally tell you that nothing else really mattered – not my running or my work or anything.

As we arrive at the Emergency Vet, Sparkle begins having her 4th grand mal seizure. It finally passes and we rush her inside – they immediately take her into the back. We are told she had her fifth seizure shortly after they take her from us. By this point I’m in shock – I don’t understand what’s happening but I know now it’s serious.

After what feels like hours, the ER vet brings us into one of their examining rooms. She says Sparkle is momentarily stable and begins rambling things off like brain tumour and encephalitis… I’m having trouble comprehending what she’s saying. She leaves us and comes back with printouts that says things I don’t want to believe. We tell her yes, we’ll do anything – yes to transferring her Canada West Veterinary Specialists, yes to all the tests she wants to immediately do.

Eventually she returns again, and shows us the results of an X-ray – which really shows us nothing much except that Sparkle has fluid in her lungs, a side effect from the seizures she’s just been through. We are brought around to see Sparkle, who looks barely alive. But the good news is that she is alive, all drugged up on phenobarbital and valium, but alive. She can’t seem to see us. I finally gently kiss the top of her head and we leave her there.

Sunday, November 22nd 10am

After a few restless hours of sleep, hubby and I find ourselves sitting on the couch – researching brain tumours and encephalitis. I can’t fathom losing her. Sparkle literally saved my life 9 years ago (I’ve save that story for another day). I’m honestly not sure how I could go on without her (and of course to understand why, I really need to tell you that story – another day, I promise).

The phone rings – it’s the ER vet. Sparkle just had another seizure and as such, they’ve made arrangements for Canada West neurology department to accept her immediately (instead of Monday as originally planned). We rush over to ER to pick her up and bring her straight to the specialty vet.

When the vet technician at the ER vet handed Sparkle to me, I did everything in my power not to cry while I held her. If this was the last time I got to hold her, I didn’t want to be balling the whole time. So I talk to her as she lies limp in my arms, occasionally lunging her face towards mine, her nose touching my nose. I’m not sure if she can actually see that well, but she knows it’s me – and I feel like she is telling me it’ll be okay. It just really doesn’t feel okay in this moment though.

We arrive, and she’s taken into ICU immediately. After a while, the attending vet finally comes to talk with us. He mentions the same awful words the ER vet had – brain tumour, but also stroke, and encephalitis. He’s a straight shooter, which I appreciate, but leave feeling devastated. We go visit Sparkle in her ICU cubby – she’s all hooked up to IV and a crazy collar around her tiny neck. She’s pretty much out of it – and after many minutes of just cupping my hand on her tiny limp body, we leave her there.

Monday, November 23rd 9am

I call Canada West early the next morning to ask how she’s doing. I’m informed she has been seizure free so far. This is good. They’d put her on Keppra, a newer anticonvulsant drug and so far it appears to be working and holding seizures at bay. I’m told to sit tight and wait for a call from the neurologist.

Monday, November 23rd 10:30am

The neurologist finally calls and the words he says are equally dismal as what all the other vets have said. He talks blood tests and more X-rays, and ultrasounds… All of which I okay. I stop short of the MRI, which would require Sparkle be put under anaesthetic for. The neurologist says he’ll do all these tests, and will call me later.

Monday, November 23rd 5:30pm

The neurologist’s assistant calls. They would like to move ahead with the MRI and possible spinal tap, as so far the tests they’ve done have only ruled out problems the vets figured were not the case anyway. The neurologist is now telling us he believes it’s a 70% chance we’re dealing with a brain tumour (treatment: anticonvulsant meds and steroids) or a stroke (treatment: anticonvulsant meds and more tests to figure out what caused the stroke) – or maybe it’s encephalitis (treatment: anticonvulsant meds and immunosuppression drugs). The neurologist recommends scheduling an MRI for tomorrow. I want to visit Sparkle, and possibly bring her home. I’m just not sold on doing the MRI. The assistant tells us we can take her home if we’d like.

Monday, November 23rd 7pm

We arrive at Canada West, where we’re ushered into an examine room. Eventually the neurologist walks in and explains why he is suggesting the MRI. If Sparkle was his, he says, he’d do it. But then he says to be forewarned, it may show nothing. Or it may show a tumour, as is most likely suspected. I’m still confused and my days worth of research still isn’t helping things add up. We decide we’d like to bring Sparkle home, as she’s been stable for nearly 36 hours now – and we’ll let them know if we would like to schedule an MRI. We’re given emergency valium and Keppra to take home with us. And then I’m handed my little furbaby, who is weak and out of it, but full of more kisses for me than I’ve ever seen her give in my life. I’m overwhelmed to have her back in my arms and savour each sweet kiss she gives me.

Tuesday, November 24th, 12pm noon

I carry her down to the beach – her most favourite place in the world to run – and we sit on the sand in the sun. Both her front legs are black and blue from trouble the vets had finding her tiny veins to put IVs into. At 9½ years old, I guess her veins are thinner than they used to be. In human years, Sparkle is 54 years old. She lies there, listless beside me. It was a tough and pretty much sleepless night last night as I listened to her struggle to breath. Her lungs still have fluid in them making her breathing sound frighteningly laborious. She can hardly walk or stand on her own and lies limply on the bed or couch, or as she is now beside me, tucked into her pink blanket on the beach.

When we return from the beach, I call the Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital. I really want to talk to a holistic professional before I make up my mind on the MRI. But the next appointment isn’t for weeks. I take it anyways but also add my name to the wait list.

It’s a waiting game now. Will she improve? Get worse? No one knows. But if it’s a brain tumour supposedly she has about 2-4 months left. About the same for the other conditions. Really, no one knows – and we’ll never be sure unless we get the MRI done. And even then it might not show us anything and we’d be no further ahead.

Wednesday, November 25th, 10am

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Unbelievably, within less than 24 hours, the Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital calls me to say they have an opening for tomorrow! I grab it.

Then I carry Sparkle down to the beach again. She is even more lethargic than yesterday. As we sit on the beach, she begins to shiver, even though I’ve got her in her fleece sweater, wrapped up in a blanket and the warm sun is shining on her. I take my coat off and wrap it around her also but it doesn’t stop her shaking. So I walk quickly back home with her.

Once back, sitting on couch with her, she begins having what I later learn are called focal seizures. Her body tenses, twitches 2-3 times and relaxes. This happens about a dozen times in total throughout the rest of the day. It even happens while I’m hand feeding her dinner on the couch – she twitches and falls over into her blankets, then pops back up looking confused and asks for more food. Genuinely alarmed and fearing the worst, I ask the neurologist about them – but he sounds relatively unconcerned and mentions the Keppra should kick in to prevent these tremors – and the valium we were sent home with is only to be used if she has another grand mal seizure.

Thursday, November 26th, 2pm

Hubby and arrive at the Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital. Upon examination and talking with us, the vet doesn’t sound hopeful. She notes how low Sparkles energy is and how surprised she is that Sparkle even survived the severe grand mal seizures she had Sunday. After talking for 45 minutes I ask her if Sparkle was hers, would she put her through an MRI? “No, I wouldn’t.” she answers. And I’m at peace with hubbys and mine decision to forgo an MRI.

The vet suggests CBD. She also agrees with the neurologist that steroids should be utilized if Sparkle goes any further downhill. We discuss CBD – cannabidiol, the non psychoactive cannabinoids found in marijuana. With no side effects other than some sleepiness and a promise of added anti-seizure protection and possible anti-tumor actions, hubby and I agree to try it.

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We’re escorted by a vet tech holding Sparkle’s prescription for CBD next door, to one of the many medicinal marijuana shops that have popped up all over Vancouver like crazy in the past year or so – relatively recently really. I haven’t yet taken the time to learn anything about them but have kind of been in awe of how many have opened – some within mere blocks of another. Now we’re standing in one with a prescription for our furbaby.

Sunday, November 29th

Today is the day hubby and I were supposed to be running Seattle Marathon. But instead we have spent the past week in a state of distress, knowing very well by the time Thursday rolled around that we’d not be going anywhere to run anything. We now find ourselves nursing our furbaby to what is hopefully back to health. She’s doing better.

We’ll never know exactly why she experienced those awful seizures. We’ll never know for sure if she has a brain tumour – or if it’s a stroke or encephalitis we’re dealing with. But I’m at peace with having passed on the MRI. I honestly feel that putting her through that would have been more traumatic for her than it was worth for us in the long run.

Since we began giving her the CBD 3 days ago, Sparkle quickly began returning to her normal self. She’s getting spunkier, her regular personality is showing through, she’s been eating her 2 meals a day with good appetite and her energy grows with each passing day. We take her for a walk on the beach with friends under the early afternoon sun – and she actually begins running around and even barking just like her normal self!

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Thursday, December 10th

It’s been 2 weeks exactly since we saw the holistic vet and began Sparkle on CBD, once a day with dinner. We’ve continued to give her Keppra 3 times a day also. Either myself or hubby is always nearby with an eye on her, valium close by in case she has another grand mal seizure. It’s been an adjustment – I never really realized how often we’d walk out of the house for a few hours leaving her alone, without giving it a second thought. Now if I left her alone and she had a seizure in that time – I’d never forgive myself.

ImageOverall, she’s doing really, really well. In fact she’s been appearing so normal this past week, I almost forget what we’ve just been through and that we may not have much time left together. I don’t know how much time I have left with her, but I can tell you I’m beyond grateful for each day I do have with her.

When I said everything changed nearly 3 weeks ago… I really meant everything has changed. In effect, life has been put into perspective. I live in the moment more. I appreciate life more. I take more time for the girls (Sparkle and our other fur kids, Sunshine and Daisy).

Hubby and I will run the Seattle Marathon 2016. We’d been tossing around the idea of running CIM next year but funny how sometimes life happens and totally decides things for you. We’re really looking forward to November 27th in Seattle next year.

In the more immediate future, I’m headed to BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 1st, just under 5 months away. My new coach is taking me there with promises of not only finally achieving my sub 3:30, but better yet – my sub 3:21 marathon! And he threw out the fact he believes even a 3:14 is not out of my realm of possibility. Ha, I’ll take it!

In the meantime, I’m not only making it a priority to enjoy my training, I’m also living each and every day I have left with my Sparkle baby to its absolute fullest.

Run faster…



2 thoughts on “Why I Didn’t Run the Seattle Marathon

  1. Pingback: 2016 BMO Vancouver Marathon Race Report | RunFasterSarah (for the love of running)

  2. Pingback: Always in my Heart | RunFasterSarah (my running adventures)

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