I’m Pressing Pause 2/2

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.

These are my heels in December 2020, at this point I was in the most pain. Anything that touched my skin caused me significant discomfort and it was almost unbearable, I had to wear my ankle socks around the front of my feet only.

In January the doctors advised that I completely stop wearing trainers, back then we were still in complete lockdown so all my grass sessions came to a stop. This picture was actually the last day I ran in trainers for a period much longer than I initially imagined.

After searching for answers from the aforementioned list of specialists and different organisations I finally felt better about the situation because things were moving forward. This picture was taken in February, nearly to weeks after the biopsy where two 4mm punctures were taken from my left heel to confirm a diagnosis.

This is March and I hadn’t worn trainers for 8 weeks, but I still experienced the flares. In terms of redness this was the most inflamed my heels had been since December.

I took this in April and tried to crop out the crusty skin as much as I could (because that really isn’t cute) it was a common symptom too, despite me moisturising my heels on a very regular basis they would often get dry and crack.

In May things looked better, as you can see I still had some kind of discolouration and bruising but I was in less pain which was good.

This was taken last month (June) and two weeks later I had my last dermatology appointment for a while. I wore trainers for the first time since January, flared up and experienced some discomfort nevertheless, it was a big day for me to have finally put trainers on!

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 🙂

8 thoughts on “I’m Pressing Pause 2/2

  1. You really are the most incredibly strong young person I have the pleasure in working with
    What you have been through most would of given up a long while before
    I know this was the tip of the ice berg a final straw just what got to you so much and pushed you over the edge
    We You Abbey Bakare and myself have cried so much stressed and prayed for you
    I’m so so sad for the present So proud of your, our past and so excited for your future
    Love you so very much
    Be happy xxx

    1. Honestly Jane, at times I really
      felt so down and wanted to just give up but I didn’t because of the unconditional support from yourself and all my loved ones! And for that I’ll be forever grateful ♥️

      Exciting times ahead!
      I will thank you ☺️
      Yo también te amo ?

  2. We love you Sabrina you will fight through this, wherever you’ll do next in life you will be amazing at it. Xxx

  3. Sabrina, your strength and bravery in dealing with this horrendous situation is always so inspiring to me. You are such a special woman who always shows positivity even though it was the last thing you probably felt. There is so much love for you from all of us and I know that your future is going to be brighter than ever because of the journey you are on. The example you set by just being you is a gift to all that know you ❤️

    1. Aww Wendy thank you so much! Honestly it’s the support from you all that has helped me remain positive throughout this whole journey!
      Your kind words really mean a lot and I truly appreciate it!
      Thank you for being in my corner ?
      I’m so excited for what’s to come!
      And I look forward to filling you in on all that will be happening.
      Lots of love ♥️♥️

  4. Sabrina, this is so honest and positive despite the uncertainty and frustration you must have felt before and after your eventual diagnosis.

    You have always been such an inspiration on and off the track and I wish you luck in everything you pursue.

    Go use that big brain of yours. I am sure you will soar!

    1. Melanie, thank you so much that means a lot to me 🙂

      It was a frustrating time for sure, but I learnt a lot through the process.

      I really appreciate your words and yes I’ll do my best.
      Thanks again ♥️

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