I un-boxed a pair of New Balance shoes and handed them to the animated and chatty middle-aged woman across from me as she told me her story of getting back to running after a two year hiatus.
"Reconstructive ankle surgery followed by foot surgery on the opposite foot: an entire year on crutches," she explained, "I'll never take things like automatic doors for granted again."
She had literally gotten the go-ahead from her surgeon to start running an hour before. First stop: new shoes. Naturally.
I was pretty flattered that she chose to stop in our shop as her first step towards taking her first running steps again.
As she continued, the story got wilder.
"I ruptured some of the tendons in my ankle when I fell off of an embankment during a trail run," she continued.
Fair enough. Sounds like something I would do on even the most level, groomed surface.
"A mountain lion ran out on the trail a couple of feet in front of me. It scared the s**t out of me, and I tripped."
"So they repaired the ankle, then sentenced me to 6-8 weeks on crutches, 2 more in a boot, and 5 months off running. But a couple of weeks later, the ball of my opposite foot just started killing me."
Probably from compensating, I was thinking in my mind as I listened to her story.
"It got so bad that I went back in to the doctor, they told me it was from compensating and just putting too much weight on it from crutching around. I didn't think that was it and insisted on and x-ray. Which they did. Turns out there was actually a malignant osteosarcoma (bone cancer) tumor growing on my metatarsal. They did surgery to remove it. So then I was off of both feet in a wheelchair," she laughed good-naturedly at the last part.
"A couple more weeks and they told me they told me it would have spread enough that they would likely have had to amputate my lower leg. I'm so grateful that I ran into that mountain lion--or that it basically ran into me--it might've saved my life."
She left a few minutes later with her purchases, and I don't know if I've ever seen someone so giddy to get back to doing what they love.
It's true that not everything that glitters is gold, but then again, not everything that stinks is crap.
Who knows what life's supposed misfortunes are really sparing us from.