Saturday, April 21, 2012

That Gut Feeling

So...back to my health saga. I have stumped the doctor over and over, yet I think that I have been right from the beginning. Although I do have anxiety, I mean who doesn't, that was not the reason that I can't breathe. They even had me take Xanax for a couple of nights to see if it would help my breathing. The flat out answer was--NO! I still felt like I couldn't get a deep breath. I still could barely get through a two mile run and not only that, it made me feel hungover until about two in the afternoon. Also, it made me feel like I had no taste buds...and I like food.

Next was a stress test. This test was done to make sure that I hadn't received any heart damage when I had pneumonia. Also, it was done because I was still sometimes experiencing chest pains. I was to head to St. V's hospital and onto their treadmill. The nurse explained that I was going to have to walk on the treadmill in order to get my heart rate up to 150. They took an ultrasound of my heart both before and right after the treadmill test to see how my heart was looking. My first response is, "Walk?! That is all I am going to do? That's not going to cut it." She responds, "Do you work out a lot?" I say, "Yeah, you could say that."

In my heart, no pun intended, I have known that my heart was OK, but was doing this anyway. If nothing else, it gives me a baseline of knowing where I truly stand. While the nurse is trying to give me the ultrasound, she says, "Wow. You are really lungy. I can hear you wheezing just laying here." My response, "Yep, and they say it can't be my lungs. Go figure."

Ultrasound of my heart done and onto the treadmill. They had to put it on the highest incline and have me run in order to get my heart rate where it needed to be. Score! The treadmill stops abruptly and I have to jump back on the table in the exact same position. The nurse says, "Dang it. I knew your heart rate would drop like a rock." In the end, the cardiologist says that I have a "more than perfect heart."

So what is next, three unreturned phone calls to the doctor's office. (They are soon to be fired.) I am on my own, apparently, to find a pulmonologist and get my lungs checked out. That is on my "to do" list for next week.

One always says to listen to your heart, trust your instincts and that gut feeling. From the beginning, I have known that the problem was with my lungs. I have never ever had trouble breathing until I had pneumonia and I haven't been the same since. I understand that the doctors were trying to rule out some of the obvious things first, but it will also be an expensive diagnostic process. I am going on six months now of working on getting back to "normal." Thank goodness I started out as a very healthy individual. It is scary to think how this may have turned out, had I been a junk food eating couch potato.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"A Fight to Remember" and An Overwhelming Day

Wow, wow, wow. Yesterday The CrossFit Journal posted my article, "A Fight to Remember." Here is the link. It is about my mom's struggle with Alzheimer's Disease, and why I changed my lifestyle in order to keep Alzheimer's at bay. It was also posted on The CrossFit Journal's facebook page and their Twitter account. (I must admit right now that I have never been on Twitter, but that a friend of mine let me know that piece of info.) I did not even know that it was posted on any of these sights until a friend of mine had told me. Immediately, I checked the sights, including trying to figure out Twitter, although unsuccessfully, and was immediately overcome with emotion. I somehow reposted my friend's post of my article, my head in a complete whirl. I frantically try to call my husband, but it goes straight to voicemail. I am in a tizzy.

Comment after comment on facebook. E-mails from friends and family. Recognition from the local Alzheimer's Association. Comments on The CrossFit Journal. Private messages on facebook. Posts on my facebook wall. Phone calls. It is all so very overwhelming.

I decided over a year ago that I was going to write an article and submit it to The CrossFit Journal. It was on my goal list. When I made the goal, I wasn't sure what I was going to write about. I only knew the immense positive impact that CrossFit had had on my life. The idea came to me while I was taking a shower. Over and over people tell their stories. They tell how CrossFit has changed their lives. There are many stories about people who continue to do CrossFit through cancer, losing limbs, and fighting their own battle with obesity. There were no articles about how one uses CrossFit to fight through a mental challenge, a disease such as Alzheimer's.

There it was, I had my idea. Now I had to write it. It took me over a year to get this article to where it is today. You see, it has been painful to write. I had to constantly relive the things that I hated so much. Losing my mom as I knew her, the stories that she created, the daily grief that I endure. It is all very exhausting. So, I would write, ask my friend and my Dad to look over and edit it, and then I had to put it away. Sometimes for months, sometimes just days. Then I would be back at it. I would be adding stories and trying to dig deeper into the story and my emotions. I had to be totally prepared, every time that I sat down to write, to cry, be angry, yet find inspiration.

Now here it is, in all its glory. And it seems almost surreal. It is still powerful, even to me, and I have read it hundreds of times. What is even more powerful is the feedback that I have received. I do not have words for that. Family, friends, and even strangers have taken the time to read my article and then respond to it. People have posted and reposted it in order to share it on facebook. And the I guess it is hard for me to realize how I have impacted others. The things that people said about me are overwhelming. They are overwhelmingly kind.

So, what I am trying to say is, thank you. Thank you to everyone. Those who helped along the way. Those who have offered support in my everyday life. Thank you to those who inspire me. Thank you to those who have taught me what not to do. And thank you for all of the feedback. Without any of these people, this article never would have been created. Not only that, this experience has helped me to see how I have impacted others.

I am really trying to accept all of this kindness and support with grace. Inevitably, I end up in tears. Tears of pain, from reliving my own words. Tears of sorrow for all of the others that have also had to deal with this awful disease. Tears of thankfulness, to my Dad and my friend Jennifer for all of their help. Tears of humility, from the pure love that I have felt. And tears of pride because I did it, I finally did it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Slowing Down

So the doctors think that my problem is anxiety. Chronic anxiety taking a major toll on my body. That is what I get for pushing "it" all aside and pressing on. And without going into a big victim fest about all the toils of my life, I can pretty much sum it up in one sentence: My mom has Alzheimer's. There, done.

I was told just yesterday, by a friend, that maybe I should start taking some of my own advice. I laughed, but deep down I knew that this person was right. What happened to to the smart woman who learned how to deal with her own stress? She got too busy and probably a little too scared to stop and deal with it.

Scared? Yes, it is scary to sometimes to deal with emotion. You have to truly let yourself feel that emotion, totally and completely. And if that means I am sad, that would inevitably lead to least with me. Tears would flow in abundance. And that was something I just did not have time for. It was inconvenient with whatever was going on in the rest of my life. I have kids to take care of, bills to pay, people to train, a house to clean, groceries to get, and whatever else came up each day. I was stressed to the max and didn't even know it. So my mom's stress on top of everyday stress, just became too much.

I believe that the stress mostly all has to do with my Mom. Losing her to Alzheimer's. Seeing someone else have a close tender moment with their mom and me knowing that I can't, and won't, have that type of connection with her anymore. Or seeing or hearing someone be so mad at their mom about something and me, thinking in my head, "At least you have a Mom that you can be mad at, even for a brief moment." Because, trust me, I get mad these days, but never at her. I get mad at "the situation."

"The situation" has many facets to it. There is the fact that she had to get this disease. The historical "Why her?!" and then it turns in to the "Why us?!" and then the "Why me?!" I used to say that the fact that I am the main person in town that cares for her, although she is at a nursing home now, was the main reason. I am the everyday contact, and that has taken a major toll on me. My poor sister, who lives across the country has her own emotions and guilt to deal with. I honestly don't think that one of us has it any easier. And to be honest, there are many days that I wish it would just all stop.

I wish that I could take a remote button and pause that part of my life, just for a while. The entire part that deals with my mom--the worrying, the caretaking, the guilt, the anger, the sadness, the incessant questions of, "How is your mom doing?" I just want to make it stop, just for some time to catch up. Time to process those feelings and be done with them. To be able to enjoy life, just one day without the worry and stress that comes along with my Mom right now. My dream would be to press that pause button, get on a plane, and fly to a warm beach. Then enjoy that beach and vacation for about a week. Soak in the sun, smell the salt air. No schedule. Good food. Good drinks. And not one thought about how my mom is doing, adjusting, being taken care of, feeling guilty that I am not there, that her laundry would have to wait, is she eating enough... Then come home, hit the button to unease, and go on and deal with life.

A girl can dream, right? In all seriousness, I really do need to listen to my own advice. The "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time" kind of advice. Because I can only do so much and obviously my body can only handle so much.

The other day I watched a video on TED about slowing down. This video explained the importance of not being in a rush all of the time. The benefits are tremendous and I, in fact, know this. I know that when I take my time getting things done, I actually get more accomplished than when I am running around in a frenzy trying to get tasks completed.

So, somehow I need to hit that pause button and slow down a bit more. I need to once again truly experience each day, each moment that is thrown at me, no matter what it is. I will cry, scream, smile, laugh...whatever the moment entails.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Just Breathe

It's back...or maybe it never left. Trouble with my lungs again. Last week I headed back into the doctor. My allergies were horrible and so I thought maybe, just maybe, it felt like I was breathing through a cheese cloth because of them. It certainly couldn't be helping the situation.

I went into the doctor last Thursday. If you haven't read my posts from before, you may not realize that last November, I suffered form pneumonia. I have never had any trouble breathing before. I grew up suffering from horrible spring allergies, which would swell my eyes shut, but never had trouble breathing. I played sports my entire life and still, no trouble breathing. The doctor, she asked me questions like, "Is it only when you exercise?" No. "Is it worse when it is hot out?" No. "Could it be just anxiety?" No. (Although my life has been rather stressful lately.) She heard my lungs only weeks ago, and she was the one who described them as "wheezy." I said to her, "Look, I realize that I can do more with my breathing like this than most can do on a normal day. I ran 2.5 miles yesterday feeling like this, but this is not normal. I have only had this since last November when I got pneumonia. Do I think it is worse because of my allergies? Yes. But, I feel like this on days, like today, when my allergies seem to be fine." I described that it feels like I always need to get a deep breath. Even when I am able to get that deep breath, minutes later it is back to that same feeling.

Anyone that knows me even remotely well, knows how healthy I am. I work out 5-6 days a week. I eat very "clean." I have never smoked a day in my life. Even with my lungs feeling like this, I still work out. I also let myself rest more now since the problems with my breathing. I take vitamins. I drink water. I rarely drink alcohol. There, you see? I am pretty dang healthy.

Anyway, back to the doctor... I was then given a breathing test called a spirometry test. Basically I had to breathe really hard into a tube that was connected to a machine for six seconds, three times. Problem was that I couldn't do it for six seconds. I almost passed out on the first attempt as well. The nurse held onto me the next two rounds and I got it done...barely. Then, as the results were printing, I was given a breathing treatment. This was given to me in hopes that it would open up my lungs and give me some immediate relief. Afterwards I felt dizzy and jittery, which they said was normal. Although eventually, when those side effects wore off, I felt better for the night. Before I could leave the doctor's office, I also had to get a large steroid shot in my backside. This was to alleviate the allergy symptoms. This, of all things, has been a wonder drug. I have not had problems with them since! The next day, I had to have a chest x-ray.

She came back in the room to show me the results of my breathing test. I guess I can use the "top part" of my lungs really well. That is why I was able to blow out a lot of air right away. But then, the lower part of my lungs are failing me. Those small bronchioles aren't working. I honestly don't know why...yet. That is why I am heading back to the doctor tomorrow. She told me that if I wasn't feeling 100% better on Monday, which is today, that I needed to come back in. She reassured me that she had a plan. That she wasn't throwing a shot and an inhaler at me and sending me on my way. Well, it is Monday and things are not better. In fact, I feel worse. I still can't breathe well, plus now I am having chest or lung pain and sometimes there is a tingling sensation in my hands. Tomorrow, I will also get the results of my chest x-ray. A nurse over the phone said that they looked normal, but I want to hear it from my doctor. They sure as heck don't feel normal.

At least I know that there is a plan. That helps take some of the scariness away. I know that she will take care of me and that this will be figured out.   will continue to live my healthy lifestyle and rest more, as that seems to be what my body is asking for.