Lost and Found

It’s been a while since I last posted a page, and in that time, I’ve lost some things, and found some things. Most notably, most importantly, I lost my Dad. On July 3, 2019, my life changed forever when my Dad’s ended. He had gone in to the Cleveland Clinic in a somewhat routine (for my Dad, anyway) manner, but the outcome of this stay was very78752184_10218065750867172_3846661766444482560_n different. I don’t want to relive details. I don’t want to talk about his ending. But nothing can prepare you for it. I lost my hero. I lost a huge part of my heart. But what I found was a new appreciation for taking care of myself and a new perspective on what truly matters. One of the last things my Dad said to me was, “Take care of yourself.” This has become my mantra. My hashtag. Four words that ring in my ears every time I lace up for a run or crunch on my snow peas at lunch time. My Dad said he didn’t want to see me end up like he did (with this heart health). For 43 years, I always did whatever my Dad asked me to do, so why would I stop now?

I also lost my back last year. For a little while, anyway. One day in October of 2018, I decided to lay down on my couch. Little did I know that getting up from that couch would put me in the hospital for 3 days, out of work for about 4 weeks, and in one hell of 44685304_10215206016415598_8918025481589096448_oan amount of pain. I literally could not walk from my couch to the bathroom and back without tears and a mental breakdown. While waiting for the appointment to get the shot in my back, I was on an awful combination of pain meds and a lack of sleep, which in turn had me slurring my speech and unable to find words to make sentences. It was insult to injury. But what I found during this very low point were some amazing friends to lift me up. Friends who kept my family fed through the creation of a meal train. Friends that came over to sit with me and make me laugh and help to pass the time. Laying on my couch, I learned how loved I am and how many caring people I have in my life. Hurting my back was an amazingly terrible experience that was an amazingly wonderful reminder of how blessed I am. 

As a result of my back, I lost fitness. I had built it up pretty good in the time leading up to the day I decided to stand up from my couch. I had just done my second Tough Mudder a month prior and I was pretty strong. And now all of the sudden, I wasn’t able to walk, let alone run. I didn’t watch what I ate and it was Halloween time, so I laid on my couch eating fun sized chocolates. I put on weight. A terrible amount of weight. Once I felt like I could attempt to get back out on the sidewalks to run, it was an awful comeback. I wanted to go out and start from the point where I had left off, which was completely unrealistic. My legs were tired. My lungs burned. Everything hurt. My back… hurt. I was in the mindset that my fitness journey was over and I was ready to quit. My Dad’s 75569669_10217918163857589_5698234605975371776_npassing and his words kicked me back in to gear. I started watching what I ate, cut way back on carbs and sugars, and dropped 30 pounds. But more importantly, I found the joy in my running again. I pray on my runs. I think about people and what they’re going through. I think about my Dad. My Mom. About Carmen. And about Jakob and Alex. I think about my kids, and my husband, and my friends, and my work. I enjoy the time to myself, reflecting and drawing strength from the incredibly strong people in my life.  And I’m getting kind of good at it again. I will never set speed records and I don’t want to. But I do enjoy looking at my watch after a run to see what I’ve accomplished.

Finally, I lost some friends. But I found the confidence in myself to let that be ok. I used to worry about what people think of me. I guess I still do at some level, but I also now have the understanding that if I’m being the best person I can be and if I can go to bed at night knowing that I’m doing the best that I can, then I can’t control anyone else. I can only be who I am. I can only control what I do, how I treat people, and how I behave. I’ve learned that if people don’t like me, I’m ok with it. I like myself and that’s really the most important thing. And because I like myself, I’m going to take care of myself, too.

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Welcome to Waterbury

I live in a development. A rather large one, at that. And our development has it’s own Facebook page, where residents of our little island paradise can post comments, questions, complaints, more complaints, and mostly complaints. I’ve come to expect that 99% of the things posted to the Facebook page are ultimately going to annoy me, frustrate me, or quite simply just tick me off. Posts often include things like the make and model of speeding cars, videos of landscapers rolling through stop signs, adolescents behaving badly, and so on. Today, I thought for sure I was going to be the target of one of those posts.

Of the many, many, MANY things people complain about, dog owners is one of the hottest of topics. More specifically, dog owners who don’t pick up their dog’s poo. And don’t get me wrong here, I’m not a fan of those people, either, but taking to Facebook to call them out just seems incredibly childish.

I took my dog for a run today, like I often do. And Maverick suffers from a very common runner’s issue: the trots. It never fails that at some time between mile .5 and .75, he will have to stop and drop anchor. It happens.. every…. time. And I know it’s going to happen, so me, being the responsible dog owner that I am (who also fears the Waterbury FB page) always carries a poo bag to collect his steamy sample.

Today, as anticipated, he stops at mile .6 and leaves his mark. I bagged it up like a good little development dweller, but today, you know, I just didn’t feel like running the rest of my miles carrying his soft load. We were at the end of one of the walking paths, so I decided to leave the bag where I was and pick it back up on my way back.

For the rest of the run, the only thing that went through my mind was getting home to my phone to see if I had become the target of a blast on the Waterbury FB page. I had visions of pictures of me posted, bent over, with a plastic-bag-covered-fist full of dog poo and a caption that would read something like this: “You know, it’s one thing to bag your dog’s poop, but it’s another thing to TAKE IT WITH YOU!” Or, like, something to that effect. I spent my entire run crafting my response to the Facebook comment that I was sure was waiting for me at the finish line. The response that would not only put this person in their place, but simultaneously save my good name! I was ready to drop a bomb like I was Maverick on the walking path. I had a few options in mind and they went something like this:

The Anonymous-Sarcastic Response: “You should consider yoga.”

The Not-So-Anonymous-Sarcastic Response: “It was me. And I picked it up on the way back home from my run. You need yoga in your life.”

The Mic-Drop Response: “It was me. And did you really assume that I would take the time to bag it if I wasn’t going to come back to pick it up? The fact that I was on the walking path in the woods, yet I still bagged his droppings, should have given me direct access in to the Waterbury Dog Owner’s Hall of Fame. And I was running. Do you know how hard and gross it is to run with a bag of crap in your hand? Running for me is enough of a challenge without adding the mental angst of carrying dog shit. And let’s be real, here. I’m not the fastest runner, but I make ok time. And I’m not a crazy long distance runner, either. My dog made his mark at mile .6 and I left it there while I went out and back to the bag in 2 miles. At my average pace of about 9:30/mile, the plastic bag laid along side the walking path for about 19 minutes. That’s 19 minutes that you spent taking pictures, crafting your comment, and stewing about it. Maybe those 19 minutes could have been better spent doing some yoga.”

But alas, to my surprise and delight, I did not become the target of a Waterbury whopper on Facebook. Maybe they’ll get me on trash night, when I dump the bag in the closest can. And hopefully, unlike in my race photos, I’ll be looking camera ready.

So be warned, Waterbury. I’m going to continue to leave bags between mile .5 and .75 of my runs, but set the timer. If I’m not back in about 20 minutes to pick it up, then you may take to social media. (Or call for an ambulance.)

SIDE NOTE: As I was running, I was really cracking myself up with the yoga part of my virtual come back. Reading it now, uh, not all that funny. But it was going to be included in my blast, so the yoga comment remains in the blog about the post-that-never-was.

11705118_10206055860787426_2306591020322597026_nPhoto: Me and Maverick, running the mean streets of Waterbury in 2015. 

 

One Very Gross Word: Bifocals

For a few months now, I’ve been having some trouble seeing my computer monitor at school and have been struggling to find a good distance to hold my phone away from my face so that I can read it. Even my principal noticed and has made a comment about me “squinting again” at my machine. So I bit the bullet and made an appointment with an eye doctor.

I was in denial. I knew that whatever was happening with my vision was just in my head and that my 20/20 baby blues would be just fine. Maybe. Maaaaaaaybe I miiiiiiight need a pair of glasses for when I was on the computer. Maybe. But probably not even that. The doc was totally just going to tell me that if I did something, like, I dunno, look down, blink twice, then look back up I’d be fine. Perhaps he’d joking tell me that I needed to eat more carrots and we would totally have a laugh as he collected my copay and sent me on my way.

Nope. He gives me my exam… I haven’t had an eye exam since, oh, high school?!… then goes through that whole “is this better? is this better? is this better?” routine. (Which sucks by the way. My eyeballs hurt when that whole situation ended and I’m still not sure I got the answers right.) We finish up, I sit back in my chair and he drops this piece of garbage on me: “You need bifocals.”

Say, what, now?

I’ve never had glasses before. I’ve made it 42 years without them. So how does one go from a non-glasses person to a BIFOCALS person?! “Do you have any questions?”, he asks me. DO I HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?! Um, ya, does “What the hell??” count? Bifocals. Honestly that word is still ringing in my ears.

So he says I do have an option and explains that I could just get glasses for when I’m on my computer or phone, but that would require a world where I would constantly be taking glasses on and off my face. With the nature of my job, that’s really just not an option for me. Plus, he said with my vision, bifocals (seriously, what a gross word) would truly be his recommendation.

“I’M NOT GETTING THE LINE!”. Those were the next words to fly out of my mouth. Good Lord. Looking back, I truly hope I was being nice to the doc. It’s not his fault I had my 82nd birthday while sitting in the exam room. He explains to me that they make lenses in a “blend” now and that “the line” wasn’t a requirement. He said it would take me some getting used to, tho, and that I’d have to really keep them on and not give up on them for a solid 3-4 days. He said some people decide too soon that they can’t deal with bifocals (that word. barf.) and that I should really try to make them work. Fantastic.

Next up, trying on glasses. I’m honestly still in shock at this point. The really nice lady helping me acknowledged that she knows I’ve never worn glasses before, but then proceeded to fire questions at me about whether I want a nose pad or not and some other questions that a non-glasses-for-42-years person wouldn’t fully understand. She kindly explained everything and showed me examples. She was very good at her job, as the first pair of glasses she suggested for me are the ones I went with.

“Is there anything you require or need with these glasses?”, she asked me as we prepared for the fitting. I fired back with “That they go on someone else’s face.” We laughed. Honestly, I’m still in shock. We went over options like “anti-glare”, “plastic or glass” (no, I didn’t squeeze them to see the difference #CallBackJoke), and a third option that I’m not remembering right now. She let me test drive “the line” vs “the blend”. Time wasted. NO LINE. “That’s going to cost more money.” Yep. And I. Don’t. Care. I’ll have a bake sale to pay for the upgrade. I’m NOT doing a line. We finish the fitting and she tells me that it will take 7-10 days for them to come in, to which I reply, “Seriously. Take your time.”

I’m not entirely sure why I’m taking this latest development so harshly. Well, maybe I do. This is the first time, ever, really, that I feel… OLD. (OK, that one time when a 4th grader told me I was wearing the same shirt as her grandma did hurt a bit, too.) But this was the first time a doctor… a medical doctor… in his professional opinion… DIAGNOSED me as old. It was a bit of a gut punch and not at all what I was expecting to hear.

I was able to make it back to my car when my appointment was over without slipping on ice and breaking my hip. And now it’s time to get ready for my 4 o’clock supper at Bob Evans before tucking myself in to bed at the break of 8pm. Happy 82nd birthday to me.

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Introducing: My New Face (in 7-10 business days)

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And Now I’m a Tough Mudder

One very big item on my bucket list was to run a Tough Mudder. I’d been hearing about the event for a few years and always came up with reasons not to sign up. “I puke too much.” “I’m recovering from my second GI surgery.” You know, things like that. But it was time for a comeback and I needed a goal, so signing up for Tough Mudder Pittsburgh was it.

I had to train. You can’t NOT train for a 12 mile, 22 obstacle mud race. I was invited in to a group that trains on homemade obstacles in the back of a landscaping supply company. We call ourselves the “Bulkers”. (The business name is “Bulk-N-Bushel”, so, there ya go.) Joining in for our weekly sessions were anywhere from 3 – 11 people. Rain. Shine. Cold. Hot. Cold. Freezing cold. Weather didn’t matter. We met religiously each Sunday. (#punny)

Bulker obstacles include: tire flip, monkey bars (including “Wheels of Bott”), rings, “Pink Floyd” (the wall we climb up and over), “The Engagement” (a set of pegs you move along via a set of rings), log ladder, salmon ladder, chain & bucket drag, log flip, sang bag pull, “Carry Your Wood”, atlas stones, “PegAssist” (a series of holes along a vertical board that you pull yourself up on with pegs), “Dumpster Dive” (cost of admission each week is a bag of ice that we fill a dumpster with and jump into), and “Cliff Hanger” (hang from a piece of wood 2 inches wide and try to make your way to the other side). And to keep up that cardio, we throw in a 1-2 mile run in the middle.

It’s grueling. It’s muddy. (On the good days!) It’s physically exhausting. And I sometimes end up barfing at some point. (When that happens, I call it “Setting a PR”, where the PR stands for “Puke and Rally”. Gotta keep things light.) Now I don’t throw up from being out of shape. I swear! It’s from “GI Journey” hang over stuff. Sometimes when my body gets worn down and tired, if affects my gut and, well, thar she blows. I can get worn down from something as crazy as a Bulk work out, to something as simple as a crazy-busy day at work. My body definitely reacts to things a bit differently since my recovery. But, ok, that’s enough about that.

So I trained up for my very first Tough Mudder. My team was phenomenal. Eleven of the craziest, kindest, most supportive people I have ever met. Through some injuries, including both of my IT bands that seemed to hate running the hills of PA, we all stuck together… and for all 12 miles.

I hyperventilated in the cold water of “Block Ness Monster”, had a small panic attack climbing up the claustrophobic tube of “Augustus Gloop”, had both calf muscles seize up after sliding into “Arctic Enema” (I had to get out briefly to calm them down, but did jump back in to finish the obstacle), fought my fear of heights on the “Ladder to Hell”, and suffered through the last 3 miles of the course with ITBS and knee pain that had me buckled at the finish line. (I had to be carried down a hill or two from the pain.) Sounds like fun, huh?! Well. IT WAS.

And I also smiled the entire way. Looking at the official pictures that the Tough Mudder photographers took, there was a common theme. If i was in a shot, I was grinning from ear to ear. I’ve never had so much fun in my life as those 12 painful miles. It was a blast! From the very first obstacle, “The Mud Mile”, I was hooked. Strike that. From the very first step into the campground where it was being held, I was hooked. But “The Mud Mile” had me at hello. Crawling up and over piles of mud. Plunging into cold, muddy water, and then climbing up the next pile, all the while putting your hand out to help the Mudder who was behind you. I mean, it doesn’t get any better! The camaraderie of this group of strangers is amazing. I remember looking up to one of my teammates about half way through and mouthing to him, “This is awesome!” I was hooked.

My first Tough Mudder hurt. (A lot.) And it was the most physically and mentally challenging thing I’ve ever done. But it was also by far the coolest thing I’ve ever accomplished. And yep, I’ll see y’all again in Pittsburgh for Tough Mudder 2018.

#NotOneAndDone

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Cut Me, Mick

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2015

Thursday, October 1st. It’s MALS release surgery day, baby!

I had to be at the surgery center in downtown Cleveland at 5:15am, so my morning began at the ass crack of 4:00. My alarm went off and even the dog didn’t move. I hopped in the shower to get ready to go. I had to extend my “summer maintenance” for a few more days and shaved all locations necessary in the southern hemisphere. (You’re totally welcome, surgeons.) Just after that, I applied the antiseptic stuff the doctor had given me to my abdomen. Two pretty big hits of the runny red liquid. I realized I should have shaved after applying the cleanser. It burned. I later read the directions which said to apply a small amount only to the area of the body being operated on. Glad I didn’t go with my original plan of dousing my entire body, figuring I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Ready to go and we fly downtown. Zero traffic and we make it there in plenty of time. We check in, take our seat and wait to be called back. (“We” is me and my husband, whose response when I originally told him what time I had to be there was “Good luck with that.”) #insicknessandinhealth

My oldest sister has now arrived and I’m back in pre op. I had said to my mom the night before that the only thing I truly get a little stressed out about when it comes to pre op is the insertion of the IV. I have zero fear of needles, but for some reason, an IV causes my ass to pucker and I get a little skeeved out. Along with sharing my anxiety, I also related that I’ve always had good luck with them. Never once have I had an issue. That was a very stupid thing to say out loud the night before a pretty major surgery.

The IV lady comes in to pre op and asks which vein I’d like to use. While I appreciate the thoughtfulness of  that question, my answer is always the same: whichever looks the flipping juiciest. I don’t care. Just hit it. She finds one that “might work” and injects, noting that I’m pretty dehydrated so my veins are almost non existent. Right side, back of hand: MISS. With that, she leaves, saying it’s protocol to give the patient a little breather after an IV miss and that she’d send another nurse in for the next attempt. Sweet.

IV lady number two comes in and she is armed with a needle full of numbing medicine and an IV needle the size of Rhode Island. SONOFA! She hits me with the “pinch and a burn” numbing medicine and I’m cool. Then before I know it, the IV is in. What the what?! I didn’t feel that. At all. Why not just start with the numby numby goodness? Left side, back of hand: HIT. (I’m later told just before wheeling me into surgery that I’m going to have 3 more IV’s inserted and that one might be into the artery in my neck. *ass pucker* In recovery, I learned that these were the moves they made: left side, back of hand #2: HIT; right side, under side of wrist: HIT; and right side, bend in the arm: HIT.)

I remember saying “hi” and “good morning” to everyone in the operating room. From their reactions and responses, I don’t think they get that very much. (Nor does every… single… other… person we passed in the hall on the way to the OR.) As they rolled me up next to THE table, I look up and see the clock. Surgery was scheduled for 7:45:00 and the clock read, I shit you not, 7:45:03. I immediately noted the time, told them how impressed I was and asked if there was some sort of comment card I could fill out. Maybe they laughed? I don’t really remember. Anything after that…..

Panic #2 for me (after the IV) comes in post op. Two words: bed pan. I’ve never used one and come hell or high water, I am not using one today! I heard I had a pee catheter in me during surgery and that’s totally fine, because I didn’t know about it. And while I could have gone the rest of my life without knowing it, I’m fine with that. But a bed pan? Awful. It’s now 4:35pm. (I think.) I’m finally awake enough to kind of look around the room, see what’s going on and realize “Oh, garbage. I have to pee.” So I wave down a nurse and say “I need to use the restroom” to which she replies “I’ll go get you a *gulp* bed pan.” (I swear to you she gulped! OK, maybe not.) With every ounce of energy I can muster, I eek out “No! I can walk to the bathroom.” Alien stare. “I’ll have to check with your nurse to see if that’s ok.” *please be ok. please be ok.*

I get the green light to get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. I can only imagine that I looked like a drunk on the street trying to pass their sobriety test while on my way there. Holding on pretty tightly to the IV stand with one hand while making sure my ass isn’t hanging out of my Diane Von Furstenberg with the other. (No, really! I found out she designed the gowns at Cleveland Clinic. *or maybe I was punked with that*) I somehow make it there and back without falling over or having to tap out by pulling the red “help me” cord. Success! And I take comfort in knowing that this will be another hospital stay down without the use of a bed pan. And this is a very big deal for me.

They find me a room around 5:00pm and I’m whisked away to what turns out to be the equivalent of a room at the Belagio. I tell you, Vascular Surgery Step Down’s got it going ON. I lucked out and got a private room with a nice TV and a lovely window. There was a comfy (I assume) Lay-Z-Boy chair, 2 other chairs and a bench that pulled out to a bed. And the nurses?! Oh my world, they were ON POINT. Leslie, Elarry, Marina and a CSU nursing student, whose name is eluding me right now. (Yikes.) I was given tremendous care.

But no one has cared for me like my mom. She puts her life on hold to help me with mine. Taking time away from my dad, her own house and her own commitments to make sure that I can function every day. And that my house, my family, even my dog, function every day. She is amazing. I am so incredibly blessed to have her and there are no amount of words I could ever say to express to her how much I love her.

So now we wait. I’m 6 days post op and feeling all of the normal wear and tear of a surgery. Things ache. My lungs hurt. My incisions are sore. I’m tired. I can’t walk very far or sit up for very long. ….and I’m nauseous at times. These are typical post op symptoms that are getting better as surgery gets further in the rear view mirror. So I guess I’d say my status is “day to day”. But aren’t we all.

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NOTE:
A huge thank you to Dr. Gabbard (GI) Dr. Kroh (GI Surgeon), Dr. Park (Vascular Surgeon) and all of the nurses and staff who helped me at the Cleveland Clinic. Those people are truly heroes and angels for what they do to help people on a daily basis. All my best and love to you all… and may I never have to see you again. 😉

CARLY!!! That was the CSU nursing student’s name. Carly. Thank you, lady.

An Interview with Myself

SUNDAY, JULY 26, 2015

I’d like to say that my GI Journey is complete, but alas, it ain’t. Shortly after the removal of two, granted unnecessary, organs, I started getting sick again. And since then there have been a lot of questions… by me… my family… friends… so on…  I thought I’d do a little interview with myself to answer them. Some questions you’ll know the answer to. Some you won’t. Some you won’t care about. But in my head, these are the things that people have been either outright asking me or have been wondering in their own minds. I may get gross. Deal with it. Or don’t. Either way…

Q: You say you throw up, like, “all the time”. Daily. Sometimes multiple times a day. And since May of 2014. If so, then why aren’t you rail thin and on a feeding tube?

A: I don’t know. And I maybe do know. I don’t know because I, like you, find it odd that I don’t weigh 80 pounds. I do, in fact, throw up daily. But here’s the kicker. I don’t always throw up food. Sometimes I just retch. Sometimes I throw up only a small part of what I ate. Sometimes it’s the whole shebang. This is the only reason I can think of for my lack of a dramatic weight loss.

Q: What’s the best thing to throw up?

A: Bacon. Hands down. It is the same salty goodness coming up as it is going down. It really is true that everything is better with bacon.

Q: What is the worst thing to throw up?

A: There are different levels to this answer, based on various categories. There are things that just outright taste like garbage coming back up. (chips, salsa and a strawberry margarita) There is also the terrible texture element. Things that cause some physical pain as they export the esophagus. (popcorn) Some things burn and are unnatural tasting. (Ensure. Ever chew a pill you weren’t supposed to? Or let an aspirin sit on your tongue a bit too long? That’s the taste of Ensure on the rebound.) But the all time worst thing ever, in my humble opinion? Anything dairy based. Instant rotten milk. It’s a nightmare.

Q: Where’s the worst place to throw up in public?

A: Oh… so many to choose from! Really, any public place sucks, because it is embarrassing as hell. I assume everyone who has ever heard me thinks I’m hung over. Unless I’m at a restaurant, then I assume everyone thinks I’m bulimic. But probably the hands down worst place was the Elyria Walmart. It’s a friggin Walmart, for crying out loud. That was my rock bottom. (Sidenote: I threw up at The Memorial Golf Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club this summer. Air conditioned port-a-jons. Pretty classy!)

Q: You sure do talk about barf a lot. Don’t you think it’s kind of gross and inappropriate?

A: No. It’s been my life for over a year. My world revolves around knowing where the closest bathroom is. Knowing when the teachers have their lunch breaks so I don’t use the lounge at that time. Worrying about the health of my esophagus, tooth enamel, whether there is back splash on my tank top. So no. I make a joke out of it. And I laugh at it. Because if I didn’t, what is the alternative?

Q: You are really pretty.

A: Why, thank you.

Q: OK, so what now? Where do you stand?

A: I have been diagnosed with MALS (median arcuate ligament syndrome). I had a Celiac Plexus Block done just about a week ago that is supposed to help solve my problem, and much to my delight, I have only been sick one time since the procedure. If it continues to work, I will speak with a surgeon about fixing the problem *permanently*.

Q: Last one for now. We always want to leave our readers wanting more. What has been your lowest point and what has been your highest?

A: Lowest, by the sum of one gazillion, is shitting myself… alone… at the Cleveland Clinic after one of my tests. But now, months later mind you, it’s also one of the funniest. My highest point? That happens daily. It happens when I wake up every day and live my life as if I don’t throw up all the time. It happens when I do a Color Run 5K with my kids or go on vacation with my friends and family. It happens when I write a blog post and laugh at myself and share things with people that are happening to me. I just keep going. And that keeps me high.

My GI Journey

FRIDAY, JANUARY 23, 2015

It began in late May 2014 with what I thought was a 24-hour flu bug and ended on January 14th, 2015 in an operating room having two organs removed. I went through 8 months of nausea, almost daily vomiting, weight loss, weight gain, feelings of being full all the time, pain, discomfort, constipation, heartburn, and reflux. I suffered an all around gastrointestinal nightmare from the bottom to the top.

My “GI Journey”, as I’ll now lovingly call it, started simply enough with a trip to my family doctor to discuss my symptoms. His reaction was that I was having gallbladder issues and ordered an MRI. The results came back and much to my delight, I was told I had a polyp obstructing the opening of my gallbladder, causing my issues, and it was recommended I have it taken out. Hallelujah!! I was convinced that this would become a long, drawn out, test-after-test process and they may never find out what was wrong with me. To hit the diagnosis out of the ballpark on the first swing at the plate?! Sweet! From a copay savings perspective alone, I was over the moon.

I scheduled my appointment in mid June 2014 with Surgeon #1 and whistled my way there. I’m getting my gallbladder out! Woohoo! No more “Hold on one second, kids. Mommy needs to throw up real quick before we head off to school.” Life was going to be good again. Until Surgeon #1 broke my heart with one simple phrase: “It’s not your gallbladder.” What the what?! With a referral to see GI Doctor #1 and 2 prescription slips in my hand, I left Surgeon #1’s office, tail between my legs.

Now from June 2014 to January 2015 was just a ginormous cluster. If I went in to every single detail, this would quickly become the length of a novel, so instead, I’m going to break it down by the numbers. Over those 8 months, I saw 5 different doctors. I was diagnosed and/or misdiagnosed with 4 different medical ailments: gallbladder, Gastroparesis (for which GI Doc #1 wanted to insert a pump into my stomach), GERD and Functional Dyspepsia. I went to 8 different medical facilities where I had 11 different medical tests performed: 2 MRI’s, 2 endoscopy’s, 2 gastric emptying scans, a HIDA scan, a small bowel series, a brain scan, a hydrogen glucose breath test, and an upper GI. I’ve been on 6 different medications and had 2 trips to the ER. I even collected 3 different cards to carry in my wallet stating that I was radioactive from the dye injected in to me. (You know, just in case I needed to get through a metal detector any time soon.) I drank what felt to be gallons of barium and spent countless hours having the tests performed. (The quickest was done in 45 minutes while the longest took upwards of 4.5 hours) I had 5 IV’s and 5 rounds of bloodwork. The financial cost? I honestly don’t know. And for the sake of my sanity, it is probably best that my husband keep handling the bills that arrive.

With GI Doc #2 now admittedly stumped, he passed me on to Surgeon #2 in the beginning of January 2015. Surgeon #2 listened to me, looked at the very first MRI taken of my gallbladder and said “I am convinced this is your gallbladder and it should have come out in June.” A short time later, he followed that magical phrase up with another fantastic line: “You’re not crazy.” I wanted to marry the man. He believed me. He had seen “me” countless times in his office. Poor souls like myself who had been through the ringer, only to have every test show that that are “healthy”. My symptoms lined up to a tee with the useless organ that causes those symptoms, so he wasted no time in scheduling my surgery. Six days after that appointment, it was so long gallbladder… oh, and appendix, too… which was also very unhealthy and would have ruptured.

I can look back on certain things now and laugh a little. Laugh at things that were ultimately the lowest points in a very low point in my life. Like running over to the school’s gym a few times a week to throw up in the back bathroom so I could have some peace while I puked. Or the time I threw up in the Walmart bathroom. Lowlight. Or that one fun the time when I crapped myself at Cleveland Clinic’s main campus after one of my tests. I had spent 4 hours drinking barium, then walking, then an x-ray. Every 20 minutes. Drink. Walk. Picture. And then topped it off with a shot of some liquid fungus (that tasted like absolute shit) that was supposed to get things moving faster through my system. It did, but unfortunately at a very wrong time and left me stranded in my poo-pants in the middle of a bustling Cleveland Clinic building… FOR TWO HOURS. Just when I thought I could make it to my car, noooooope. And back to the bathroom I went. I can only thank God now that it was winter and I had a long’ish enough coat on to cover my rear.

Horrifying. From start to finish. From being given an answer out of the gate to then being told no. Being misdiagnosed or what was maybe even worse… undiagnosed. It’s a hard enough game physically to go through, let alone the toll it takes on your sanity. You follow the direction of the doctors you put your trust in. And as I found out, you just can’t always do that. So I learned. I learned that any time someone tells you that you need surgery (or in my case, that you don’t), you get a second opinion. And you CERTAINLY find that second opinion before someone puts a pacemaker in your stomach!

I’m 9 days past my surgery now and I’m feeling human again. I have a bit of a kick back in my step and color in my face. Color that my parents said they haven’t seen in months. I have thrown up twice, but it was totally my own fault. “Don’t eat spicy food, fatty food, fried food or dairy” is what the surgeon recommended for a few weeks until my body learns to function again without a gallbladder. My first offense was my dad’s spaghetti, which I can never pass up. The second offense came on my daughter’s 9th birthday when I ate a piece of her ice cream cake. (That one, I’d absolutely do over again.)

I’m looking forward to starting running again in about 5-6 weeks and getting in to regular yoga at home, which is a 2015 goal of mine. And mostly just learning to find the fun again.  It puts in to perspective just how incredibly crappy you’ve felt when you finally start feeling good again.

_______

NOTE: Dr. Brent Bogard with the Cleveland Clinic is “Surgeon #2” and the man I wanted to marry that day in his office. He is a great surgeon… patient, kind and genuinely cared about me and making me feel better. Before he left my side prior to my surgery, he grabbed my hand and said to me “May God be with you and watch over you.”.  I can not say enough good things about him and the quality of care he provided to me.

Hot Diggity Dog

TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2014

I had to pick up Peyton early from school today so that I could get her to an orthodontist appointment. I was dreading this appointment, as she hadn’t been wearing her palette expander in a couple weeks because it was “broken” (I found out it wasn’t), we missed a couple appointments due to illness and the Polar Vortex knocking out our power and I knew the new retainer we were going to pick up wasn’t going to fit. I didn’t want to get yelled at. I HATE getting yelled at. Deep down I knew it was kinda my fault, so the lickings I would take were justified, but I still didn’t want to hear it.

We’re cruising along I-90 and Peyton was playing on the iPad in the back seat. She mentioned she was a little warm, so I knocked a log off the fire and cooled the car down a bit. (Crap.) Another mile down the road and I hear “Can you roll the window down, Mommy”. (Double crap.) I roll the window down, she sticks her head out like a Lab and for the moment, she’s fine. We begin our ascent on to the exit ramp and I roll the window up. Why? Because the air flow was making my ears do that popping thing and instead of equalizing the pressure by rolling another one down, I decide to roll UP the window of the possibly-about-to-be-carsick child. (Mistake.) We stop at the light of the exit ramp and I hear it. The gurgle. I turn around it was like a scene out of a suspense flick when the camera zooms in from your perspective, but the rest of the world kinda zooms out. I hit the roll down button on the window, turned in to the first parking lot I found and thar she blew. Almost opening the door in time. I fly out of my seat, head to the back door and see the nastiness that is the return of a school lunch hot dog. She finishes up and I take a wad of tissues out of my purse to try to salvage… well… anything. I do a basic wipe down and back in the car we go. It’s now time for the orthodontist appointment. (Poor bastard.)

In all actuality, the orthodontist is probably the best possible scenario as your next order of business after your kid ralphs. They’ve got everything you need to freshen up. New toothbrushes, toothpaste and rinse. I did, however, still decide that I should tell the orthodontist’s assistant that she had, in fact, just vomited less than 5 minutes prior. Just in case there was another return. The lady was so nice. She just smiled and said “Ok.”

The rest of the appointment went exactly how I had imagined. I got that “do you even CARE about your child’s dental health?!” look from the doc as he heard about our lack of dedication to the crank and to her palette expander. I deserved it. I hated it, but I deserved it.

Now back in the car, kids! It’s time to find a car wash!

It’s bad enough that I’m going to have to clean the inside of my car, so I decide to splurge and let a laserwash handle the chunks of hot dog stuck to the door on the outside. There’s a long line and I’m about 5 cars back. Only one of the two bays is working. Of course. A car goes in. We inch forward. It’s now the turn of the silver Toyota to pay her money and wait. She’s hanging out her car window playing with the machine. Hanging. Still hanging. Trying to pay. Nothing is happening. We’re not moving. Peyton, in her perfect and unplanned comedic timing says, “Mom, I’m hungry. I lost a lot of hot dog back there.” Immediately, I laugh and the stress of the technologically challenged silver Toyota leaves me. The white SUV behind her gets of her car to offer assistance, so I roll down my window to listen in. “It won’t wooooork! It’s taking my card, but nothing is haaaaaapening!”. Ugh. I’m in a position where I can bail out of the line (thank God) and do just that. Off to Speedway I go.

I pick Speedway because I know they have a car wash, I needed gas and, most importantly, I had a coupon for a free coffee. A free coffee coupon is like gold to me! I’ve been hoarding that sucker for a few weeks, waiting for a perfect moment to use it. After cleaning up returned hot dog, being scolded by the orthodontist and waiting 10 minutes in line for a broken car wash, today was for sure the day!

I pull in the Speedway, insert my rewards card (that’s an extra 3-cents off!) and read “Can not read card” on the screen. MOTHER PUSS BUCKET! This is not my day. I try again. Same message. One more time… ya know… just in case. Error. I climb back in my car and change pumps. I scan my Speedway card and the machine yet again mocks me. I can only imagine that others were now looking and wondering what the problem was for the technologically challenged blue Saturn Vue (karma for me being impatient with the silver Toyota.) I decide, screw it! I don’t need the 3-cents off and just insert my credit card, which the machine was ever-so-pleased to accept. I fill the tank and as I drive away, I look up to see the huge sign that says I’m at… Sheetz. And thus explaining why my Speedway card didn’t work.

Peyton decides that she likes the look of the laser wash across the street better than the Sheetz drive-thru, so we make our way over. I opened the sunroof cover so the kids could see the soap and water hitting the roof. Simple things make them happy and I dig it. Per the usual, there was bird poo on my sunroof and they thought that was hysterical. Ben offers up that “if it was bird pee, it wouldn’t have been that bad.” Hmmm. Do birds pee? I honestly didn’t know. I don’t like potty talk and my immediate gut reaction to Ben was my standard “Don’t talk like that!” response, but I held off. I had no idea if birds pee, so I decided to turn it in to a National Geographic-type potty chat. What to do now? I asked Siri. And the kids are practically dying in the back seat as they hear their Mom question “do birds pee?” in to her magical device. Siri took me to a web search, perhaps too horrified to answer the question herself.  Maybe she doesn’t like potty words, either. (If you’re wondering, bird droppings contain both urine and poo. Thank you, World Wide Web.)

We finish up at the car wash, head to the real Speedway (I still deserved my free coffee) and home we went. An unplanned trip with some bumps in the road, but instead of stressing out, we laughed. A lot. Which may just be worth the hot dog I have yet to clean out of the inside of my car.

My Half-Half Marathon

MONDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2013

I wanted this blog entry to go a a lot differently after my first crack at 13.1 miles, but what I’m learning about running is that there is no normal day. Every time you lace up, you really have no idea what’s going to happen. And my first ever appearance at the first ever Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon in Cleveland was no exception.

The day started out great! I was pumped. I was nervous, but they were controlled nerves. I was full of energy, excited and could not have been more ready to tackle 13.1 miles… physically and mentally.

It was supposed to rain that morning. Supposed to. And with every fiber of my being, I wish it had, if even only some sprinkles. I was prepared for it and quite honestly, I dig running in rain. Not torrential downpours with lightening, but running in rain is refreshing and badass. Who wouldn’t love it?! But it never did.

I’ll skip ahead the first four miles and go to mile 5. We had just come up a monster hill out of The Flats (irony?!) and my heart was pounding. It was brutal, really. One of my running partners said while we were going up that she wanted to cry. So did I. It really sucked. But we absolutely made it and looked strong in the process, despite the mental angst it caused.

It was shortly after the hill that I looked down and noticed the goosebumps on my arms. And it was pretty hard to miss the chills that were starting. CRAP. This isn’t good. I got quiet. A few point-something miles more and I started getting really lightheaded and dizzy. It was about at this point, maybe mile 5.5, that I figured I should say something to my running partners, before I just fell over out of nowhere.

“Uh, guys. Something isn’t right.” My voice was soft and it was all I could do to form the words coming out of my mouth. My face was feeling numb. They asked if I wanted to walk and after some arguing with myself about it, decided that was probably for the best. We slowed to a walk and as soon as I did, I got super dizzy and veered off a bit. And that’s when my friends took over and had me sit in the grass, then put my feet up. All I could think was that I was screwing up their time. And all I could say was “I’m so sorry” and “I swear, I trained for this.”

After laying there for a few minutes, I got back up. My friends wanted to call the EMT’s, but I bargained my way in to going for one more mile and if at that point I didn’t feel well, I promised I would stop.

As we approached the 10K mark, I saw the red medical tent. I was feeling a little less dizzy, but still pretty cruddy and ultimately decided that my day was done. My running partners assured me that there would be other races in my future and that no race was worth risking my health. They were exactly right, but hot damn, is that a bitter pill to swallow when you think about all of the work it took you to get to that very point.

MEDICAL TENT 1 (10K Mark)
I make my way in to the 10K medical tent and they start taking my vitals and what not and that’s when the tears started to fall. I’m feeling lousy, to say the least, and it’s hitting me that I have just epically failed the task in which I had worked so hard to achieve. They put some cold cloths on my back, took my temp, blood pressure, etc. My running partners figure out the communication plan, which included getting my phone number and my husband’s, which I couldn’t remember. At that point, I just handed them my phone.

I heard part of the phone call to my husband. “Hi, Mike? This is Julie. I was running with Becky and….” I didn’t hear the rest, but I felt bad for the panic that was potentially ensuing on the other end of the line. I mean, who wants to get that phone call?

After some heavy convincing that I was “fine”, that there was nothing more my running partners could do and that I was in good hands now with the EMT’s, I shoved my friends back on to the course. I am so grateful they were there with me. So grateful.

At this point, I’m ready to barf. I look over to one of the EMT people and rather calmly say “I’m going to throw up now.” Their response was “OK.” I was hoping for more. Like maybe a bucket or a finger pointing me in the direction of the nearest trash can. So I replied “Where should I do that?” Blank stares. So I got up, headed behind the port-a-potty and proceeded to dry heave until my stomach cramped.

That’s when EMT Jackwad (really, he was a nice man, who just said an incredibly stupid and hurtful thing) came over to me, put his hand on my back and asked “Are you a runner?” AM I A RUNNER?! What I wanted to say: “No, a-hole, I just woke up this morning and felt like going for a 13.1 mile jog on a freaking whim.” What I actually said:“Yes, I’m a runner. And I trained for this all summer.” Queue the tears again.

After that, I sat back down while they determined if I needed to be whisked away in an ambulance or if the limo bus was substantial. I heard them determine I was “stable enough” to go in the limo. I stood up and started walking. I nailed the open back door of the ambulance with my right shoulder as I walked by, then managed to hit the door to the limo bus with my left one. The limo bus driver turned her head and looked at the EMT, at which point the EMT assured her that I was well enough for the ride in her bus. (I saw her face. She wasn’t buying it. And that did make me a little nervous.)

Due to all of the road closures, it took FOREVER to get back to the finish line. I really don’t know how long it was, but it felt like an eternity. In reality, it was probably about 20 minutes. I sobbed in the limo. Just sobbed. I was in there with the driver, a knee injury, another woman who was dehydrated and a medical tent representative, who I’m pretty sure thought I was going to either chuck all over the limo bus or pass out. I made her very nervous.

MEDICAL TENT 2 (The Finish Line)
After getting lost and not knowing where the medical tent was, the limo bus finally dropped its passengers off “pretty close” to the finish line medical tent. “Can you all walk from here?” Uh, yep. Sure. The Knee asked me if I needed help off the bus and I gladly accepted. The Other Dehydrator was helped by the Med Tent Rep.

We made our way over to the medical tent. These people are all now assuming that I just crossed the finish line and am about to pass out. They were acting very fast. One guy quickly found a wheelchair and sat me in it, while the finish-line-medal-hander-outer-lady is putting the medal around my neck. All the while I’m yelling “I didn’t finish! I didn’t finish!” The medal lady was hilarious. Obviously assuming I was hallucinating, she pushed my hand down as I tried to take the medal off and said “It’s ok, honey. You did it! It’s ok.” while I’m yelling back “I only made it to mile 6!” They all thought I was out of it, since no one knew I had just come off the bus.

I’m wheeled over to a golf cart, they put me inside, then drive my still-sobbing-ass over to the main medical tent.

MEDICAL TENT 3 (Main Medical)
I’m helped off the golf cart and escorted in to the main medical tent. They lay down one of those aluminum foil looking “blankets” on a cot and tell me to take a seat. I’m shaking uncontrollably and sobbing. They take my pulse-ox, which was low. They also took my blood pressure, which was wonky. While this is happening, I hear one of the EMT’s say something about a taking someone’s rectal temperature. In my mind, I’m thinking that I sure pity the poor bastard who’s about to have a thermometer shoved up their rear. And then I hear them tell me to lay down on my side… which I did… and then it hits me. I’M THE POOR BASTARD! The EMT then tells me directly they are going to take my rectal temperature. I popped up like an actor out of a sitcom and say “Oh, no you’re not!” to which the reply was a gentle shove back down on to my side with a “Yes, I am!” She pulled my pants down and… mooooooon river! Yep. That just happened. As if my day couldn’t get any worse.

The IV lady then came over and told me she was going to start a line and that I’d feel a “big pinch”. “A really big pinch.” “Big pinch coming.” “Here’s the big pinch.” I GET IT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! It’s a big pinch! And did she not see what happened just 10 seconds before that? I think I can handle an IV at this point.

I’m still shaking and completely freezing, laying there covered in blankets. I sat up to drink some chicken broth they gave me, but I was shaking so badly that it was splashing up and out of the cup. I managed to find my mouth a few times and drank it half way down.

Still freezing, they decided to move me to a chair out in the sun. I felt like I was in a M.A.S.H. unit. People were streaming in to the medical tent, attached to IVs, shaking. In a strange way, it was comforting to know I wasn’t the only one who didn’t make it, but I felt terrible for everyone in that tent.

I’m seated outside, IV bag hanging on the tent, wrapped like a mummy in 2 blankets, shivering and still crying. Adding insult to injury, (well, I should say further insult due to the temperature reading incident) I had the perfect view of the runners just after they came across the finish line. They’re elated, exhausted, wearing their medals, knowing they just accomplished something big and celebrating that moment. I was happy for them! And so sad for me.

Saying that my day didn’t go as planned is the understatement of the century. Never did I imagine that I’d go through a couple of hours like the ones I experienced in those medical tents. And I certainly didn’t think there would be an anal probing at any point!

One of the EMT’s asked me if I had done anything different before this particular race and I really didn’t. He asked if I drank enough water and I proudly said YES! I had done a great job drinking water and professed so to him. He responded by saying, “Next time, you also need to hydrate with electrolytes and not just water.” DANG IT. I didn’t do that.

The only other difference in this race, which I realized on the walk to the car, was that I wore a hat. I wore it to keep all that rain (which never came) out of my face. I’m wondering if the hat kept too much of the heat in and perhaps I overheated as well?

Who knows. Like I said, every run is different and every race is a learning experience. And now that I know how they take your temperature at the medical tent, I learned that next time, I should just keep running!

The 7.1 Mile Mark

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2013

I’m not a double digit runner. There. I’ve said it.

Training for a half marathon has been one of the craziest rides I’ve ever been on.  It started with a simple Couch-to-5K program where I struggled and pushed and hyperventilated my way through every interval. Yelling at my iPhone, begging it to tell me I was permitted to walk for 90 seconds. Fast forward about a year and now I call 3-4 milers going for a “quick run” and have two 10Ks under my belt. (I know, I know. That doesn’t guarantee a spot for me in the Runner’s Hall of Fame, but for a gal who has been “not a real runner” all her life, I’m holding my own.)

So in theory, the next logical stop on my trip up the runner’s ladder was a half marathon. But the thing of it is, I hate really long, double-digit mile runs. And if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, my wheelhouse really exists in the 8-miles-and-under realm. Ok, ok. 7-miles-and-under. That is when I feel my best. That is the distance where I come home and think to myself, “Hot damn, girl! Look what you just did! And you can still walk and not spontaneously cramp up or cry for no reason!”.

So it amazes me how at mile 7.1 (yes, there may be some mental work at play here, too, and I get it), my body totally falls apart. It doesn’t want to go any more. My knee starts hurting. The outside of my foot feels like I’m hitting straight pavement. My hip aches. My back side strikes me with sciatic nerve pain. My left side tenses up and my neck cramps. My legs feel as though they weigh a thousand pounds each. Everything. Hurts. And I’m thirsty! So thirsty. But I can’t drink or I’ll get a side stitch. (So who’d like to join me on my next long training run?! Bueller? Bueller?)

Does all that make me a crappy runner? Hells to the no. But I’ve learned my limitations. I put a lot of pressure on myself. To make a goal, reach it and not suck in the process while getting there. In working my way to a half marathon, I think I’ve reached the suck. But I’m actually OK with that. This whole thing has been such a learning experience. I’ve tested my body at each new distance and have fought through some injuries. And since I’m too much of a chicken-shit to go out on a really long run with my runner’s group (I don’t want anyone to witness the 7.1 mile combustion), I’ve been doing it all solo.

My last long run before the half marathon is slated for two days from now. I’m tackling a 12-miler. And even after everything I just wrote about hating the distance, I’m excited for it! I want to see how far I can go. How far my body can push itself. How far my mind will let me push myself. You just never know what’s going to happen until you lace up and get out there. And who knows, there may just be life for me after the 7.1 mile mark after all.