I’m pressing pause because of health reasons.
More specifically I have issues with the skin along the back of my heels. And I was unable to wear any kind of footwear that put pressure on the area for a whole 6 months!
Describing the problem in words alone won’t do it any justice, so here’s a warning in advance. I’m going to insert pictures so you can see exactly what I was (and still am) dealing with.
It first occurred in November 2018 and didn’t clear up until July 2019.
I then had a long run without any problems until October 2020. At the time I wasn’t too concerned because I thought I knew what I was dealing with. Well, I was wrong and my body said no. Nothing seemed to settle it this time around. My ability to train was significantly impacted and I faced some difficulty carrying out day to day activities.
As you may have realised, I’m generally a positive and happy soul yet this problem had me feeling pretty down.
Life is full of obstacles so I tend not to sit in self pity when faced with them as I know whatever is happening will eventually pass. However, this hit me differently because I couldn’t understand nor control why my body was responding the way it did and I just felt very hopeless about it all. This flare up was so much worse than the first time. I contacted everyone I could think of from my GP, physios, podiatrists, private GP’s and dermatologists, sports doctors, coaches, Lupus organisations, dermatology companies as well as Lupus social media groups. All the medications, creams and natural remedies (including sleeping with bananas wrapped around my ankles) failed to settle the skin. And because of the pandemic my appointments were either cancelled, postponed or changed to telephone or a video call. The more the days went on, the more I was behind with training and the less likely I was going to compete this season. Although we adapted the best way we could (Jane’s ingenious idea of cutting the back out of my trainers) and I’m forever grateful for those around me as they are always so supportive, that sense of hopelessness still remained.
The biopsy confirmed a diagnosis of Lichen Simplex Chronicus (everytime I say it, it reminds me of some sort of Harry Potter spell!) it is a kind of eczema or dermatitis which is an inflammtory condition of the skin.
When you wear shoes sometimes they rub against the back of your heels and that creates friction which is relatively normal.
When my trainers rub, my body responds by creating an extra layer of skin to protect the body from the trauma (friction from shoe) which then creates thickened plaques that inflame and become very painful. Wearing shoes exacerbates the problem and like I mentioned above, it’s a chronic issue that has been very stubborn and so far treatment resistant.
The dermatologists believe this is a separate condition to Lupus yet the Rheumatologists believe Lupus does indeed play a role. The theory is that the Lupus combined with the mechanical nature of what I do (being a sprinter) along with the friction from the trainers is what causes me to experience this problem.
What cannot be wholly explained is despite me living in sliders, sandals, crocs and flip flops for half of the year why I still experienced flare ups. And what exactly caused the bruising as that couldn’t be explained by the Lichen diagnosis (we reckon it may have just been inflammation which presented as bruising).
Track and field cannot be the priority right now because figuring out how to wear shoes without a flare up is my only concern.
Bringing you to the present day, I’m feeling better about the situation. I accepted that life is just one big experience and this is what I’m going through right now and that’s okay.
I continue to move my body (gym, yoga, rehab, bike etc) because I need to for my own mental health and well-being. With regards to the competitive aspect of sport and striving for elite performance, it is a pressure I simply cannot put on myself. The goal has changed from aiming to represent my country at a senior level to wearing trainers whilst avoiding a flare up. I often ask myself how can a runner run if she can’t wear the shoes needed to do so? And before you think ‘why not run in bare foot?’ We’ve done that, but with the high impact and load going through my Achilles it then caused my tendon to inflame also.
I skipped out quite a few parts of the story, however we’ve got to the stage where it’s trial and error now. To reiterate I completely stopped wearing trainers on 18th January and it wasn’t until 13th July when I wore trainers for the entire day. As a result, I had a small flare up and have only worn trainers for no more than a few hours at a time since then. For half the year the only solution was to avoid any footwear that would have contact against my heels. Now, I’m just grateful to be in a position to wear trainers even if it’s just for those few hours.
So yes, I’m pressing pause and I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
All I know, this situation had forced me to question my place in this sport and look at Sabrina outside of track and field. I’m taking control by deciding to explore and pursue other things I enjoy, I’m keeping an open mind and I’m more at peace with my decision.
I’ll keep you posted on any updates but for the time being I’ll continue to adjust, learn and work with my body the best way I can 🙂