Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.


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Sometimes Superheroes Need A Push: A New Year Story

My thought process began last week, after being informed by my doc that I was now taking a bit “too much” Synthroid, according to my labs. Until that point, I’d felt pretty great, with the exception of sleeping like a rock for 9-10 hours and feeling groggy for the first hour or so after waking. I was a bit skeptical of her conclusion at first, but then things started to feel worse.

Hyperthyroid symptoms aren’t exactly the opposite of hypothyroid symptoms. The body’s funky that way. With hypothyroid, your body doesn’t produce enough adrenaline and other energy-giving hormones to move you along to function at highest capacity. With hyperthyroid, the body dumps a ton of adrenaline into your system, so you’re in “fight or flight” mode all of the time, which, obvs, konks out your system, hard. So, sure, I’m going along, feeling skipperdee-dee because, for once, I have energy, until…KONK! And I did konk.

Christmas Eve morning, before packing up and heading down to San Diego for the holiday to see my cousins, I decided to fit in a quick 3-miler. Waking up that morning was, as usual, difficult, but I figured, once I got going, I’d perk right on up. After walking the dog for 30 minutes and after about five minutes into my run, I realized that there was no “perking” to be had. I felt like a lead puppet, that same, sloggy, lurching feeling I felt before this whole thyroid mess. My cardio system was working overtime, trying to move this huge, brick-like body along the concrete. I had to stop and walk a couple of times to get my heart rate back down. All in all, I finished feeling failed and worse than I felt before I started.

The rest of the week, I took a break from the running, opting instead to do more walking than usual, but it didn’t really feel like I was doing anything significantly helpful, fitness-wise, and that was frustrating. Finally, over the weekend I chose to get out there on an eight mile hike with the dog. I woke up that morning with a familiar groggy feeling, and, hitting the trail, felt significantly fatigued at first, to the point where, halfway up the out and back trail, I wondered if I should stop and quit pushing myself. Still, I continued the gradual climb to the top.

It was coming back, though, that the strangest thing happened: I felt energized! I sped back down the winding dust and rock with youthful, athletic zeal, so much so that I felt like I could have done the whole trek over again.

I decided I was going to get in at least ONE hour-long run before the end of the year. A friend of mine posted on Facebook, after finishing a six-mile run himself (he’s one of those annoyingly perpetually fit types who can sit on a couch for a year or two, get up, and run six miles at an eight or nine-minute pace without feeling any pain–grr), that running over three miles made him feel like a superhero. I was going to get my cape back, thyroid be damned.

My body fought the first three miles, even though I tried to keep it “slow and steady,” and a cloud of doubt began to rain little droplets of quit suggestions into my head.

“Maybe you should take some walk breaks. It wouldn’t hurt to walk for a couple of minutes.”

“You don’t have to go the whole hour. You haven’t run an hour in a while. Maybe do 45 minutes today, and build up to an hour again.”

“Maybe your body isn’t ready to handle this.”

But then there was stubborn ol’ me. There was the me inside that took me by my own shoulders and said, “No. You have been very caring and you’ve gone easy on yourself for months and months, always opting out of the harder version of the workout because you were afraid to ‘push it’ because of your health. You will feel worse if you quit. You are doing this full hour, no matter how slow. You will stay on your feet.”

Easy as anything, my energy came back. Not in epic, superhero proportions like it did my first run back after surgery, but enough to where I felt like I could keep going forever. I was in the running “zone”, the sweet spot, the point where running was fun again, enjoyable. Granted, I traveled much slower than my usual pace, but I hit the pavement for a full hour and, as I slowed down to a walk, I felt a wave of gratitude and pride of accomplishment splash over me.

I guess that’s how superheroes must feel all of the time.

Happy New Year!

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The Comeback Kid: A Recovery Story

I won’t lie when I say I have been antsy to get back to some sort of exercise after surgery. My anxieties have been worsened by (not recommended) reading of post-thyroidectomy forums, where poster after poster claims to not only have gained weight after surgery, but to also have trouble losing weight. Feeling already not-so-awesome about the weight I’ve put on in the past year, the thought of putting even more on does not feel great. Furthermore, they don’t tell you this, but your hunger escalates after you have major surgery. You are an eating machine, once you get your appetite back. With every bite of food I never would have thought twice about before this, I’ve started picturing my derriere expanding uncontrollably, like “The Blob.”  Maybe it’s because I have had times in my life where I have been completely out-of-control regarding my weight, and it’s a fear that it could happen again. At any rate, I know I’ve been somewhat irrational. I might have gained a tiny bit of weight through not exercising, but, at this point, I have no reason to think it is unmanageable. Still, I have been very eager to get back to at least FEELING like I’m doing something to contribute to my health.

You don’t realize it, but your neck does a lot of work, and takes a lot of impact. It takes a while for the swelling and tightness to subside, so, obviously, things that heavily involve the neck, such as swimming, are out for a while. I have decided to hold off on things that involve stretching or straining the neck, or holding it in a fixed position, for at least three weeks, so that nixes most exercise, such as yoga, Pilates, cycling and most strength training. The only thing I have held out hope to be able to get back to soon has been running.

My doctor told me to give myself more time than I thought that I needed to recover before going back to vigorous activity. Every morning this week, I’ve woken up early and jogged in place, just to see if my neck would take the jostling of the running motion without feeling any soreness or spasming in the area of surgery. Yesterday, I almost gave myself the go-ahead, except for a nagging little bit of soreness. Begrudgingly, I gave myself one more day to chill and heal up before attempting to run.

Today was the day. I pulled on my faithful Old Navy leggings, my dry-fit gear and new teal colored Nikes, and took the dog out on a walk. I told myself I’d go easy, just lightly jog for about twenty minutes, just to test the waters and see how it went. I promised myself that I would be forgiving of myself and not be disappointed if I had to start back from square one, that I’d get my fitness back fast.

With the “Beep!” of my Garmin, I was off, holding myself back at a nice and easy pace. The tendons around my shins were a bit tight, as I hadn’t stretched them much at all in recent weeks. They burned for several minutes, but then loosened up. So far, my neck was feeling just fine, aside from my breathing feeling a little weird as it pushed back and forth against the swollen tissue. As I neared the halfway mark of my run, my body felt looser, painless, energized, strain-less, free!

“Whee! I’m running!” I wanted to trill gleefully to the treetops.

I looked down at my Garmin, which told me I was running at an 8:45 pace. Suddenly, I felt a small spasm, from deep inside my neck, a little “beeping” pain, as if warning me to chill out. This is supposed to be a jog, I reminded myself, and dialed it back to a 10:30 pace. Effortlessly, my pace kept creeping up to 9-9:30, and I had to keep checking myself to slow down my free-wheeling legs.

I finished feeling like I could have run at least twice the distance, which is a good, good, awesome sign. Either my body has really relished the rest, or it’s finally got enough thyroid hormone, which, I hope, will make me an even more awesome athlete in the end.

I’m back!


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Luck Be A Lady: An End-Of-Year Story

I think I heard on NPR once that people who seem to just fall into luck at every turn actually just expect to be lucky, and have an overall “glass half full” outlook on life, and so are more attuned to the positive things that happen, and see more opportunities than the average person. I don’t think I’m particularly luckier than most, but I do think that, when things seem bleakest for me, they always seem to have a way of working out better than I expected. Maybe it’s just coincidental, but maybe it’s because I put forth a lot of effort in being positive, calm, healthy, insightful and kind to others.

I have so, so much to be grateful for this year: the fantastic adventure to becoming an IronWoman, the wonderful friendships I’ve made, the lasting friendships that have gotten stronger, the “A-ha!” moments and life-changing lessons I’ve learned, a career at a great company that has valued my talents SO much that they’ve created a new position for me on a brand new team (I can’t wait to get started), and my personal gift to myself of great health that has helped me through rough times. I’m pleased to announce that I DON’T HAVE CANCER! Also, I’m healing from surgery beautifully, and, thanks to my surgeon, Dr. Kenneth Adashek of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, I will barely have a scar to show for it!

Look, Ma, no scar! (Please ignore the fact that I'm not wearing any makeup).

Look, Ma, no scar! (Please ignore the fact that I’m not wearing any makeup).

Sure, there have been some pretty excruciating moments, where I felt lost, alone in some unreachable place because no one could understand what I was going through, but, through all, I’ve been supported, championed, and cared for in such a way that I almost feel unworthy. I’m overwhelmed by you all. Thank you, from the very deepest place of the center of my being. The support I’ve received has made me fall in love with the world again, and with every person who has touched my life.

I have a five very simple goals for 2014, so I’ll just list them here:

1) HEAL UP! (This is, of course, the first step)

2) Strengthen (incorporate yoga and get back to running–hoping to walk/run Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon in March)

3) Pay it forward (be an active supporter and angel for friends who need me)

4) Squash unemployment debt (the least sexy of my goals, but it must be done)

5) Kick booty in my new job (because I can)

Everything’s comin’ up roses, folks! It’s going to be a wonderful, beautiful 2014!


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Post-Op: A Health Story

Three days sans thyroid and I’m still standing. Nothing earth-shattering has occurred, in spite of my inner buzzing and fussing in the days leading up to surgery. The whole day of the surgery transpired in a rapid succession of vignettes…

Scene 1: I can’t believe it’s 3:30 a.m. already. After a night of periodic waking, looking at my phone, and drifting off to sleep again, it felt like no real sleep really occurred, like I only briefly staved off the full rush of waking life to pause for moments of deep meditation. I grabbed the dog, who was “rarin’ to go” at any hour and we circled the block in the chilly pre-sunrise air. I’m in “go” mode; no emotion, no real processing. I get ready for Cousin Nathalie to pick me up to go to the hospital.

Scene 2: The check-in staff escorts me up to the 7th floor by myself, where I sit in another waiting room. I look around at all of the strained faces of the people waiting to have surgery, gently clutching the hands of their spouses, and I feel overwhelmingly and immeasurably alone. I’m trying to distract myself from the encroaching fear and loneliness that is creeping up my chest and stinging my eyes. I look at the art on the walls as I scuffle down the hallway. They call me to check-in and I get a bracelet.

Scene 3: I sit in my pre-op stall and wait in my backless hospital gown, shower cap thing, and some warm socks with grippies on the bottoms for my nurse to get around to me. He’s asking the older woman next to me a litany of questions, including the last times she took each one of her seemingly hundreds of medications. After today, I’ll be a medication-taker, I think to myself. Everything is going to change. No one here cares. Suddenly the anesthesiologist comes, a resident, who has a dry personality and asks me a litany of questions. I try to jostle him out of his cardboard-like, boxy demeanor, but he gives me a look that’s like soft sandpaper, and I decide to just go along. He has trouble with finding a vein for the IV, and brings in the lead anesthesiologist, who specializes in children, to poke me. This guy is spun sugar compared to the other guy, and he tells me my veins are rubbery and tiny, like baby veins, but he is persistent and eventually finds one. The nurses and doctors come by, bombarding me with information, questions, introductions and the like. My OR nurse shows me her thyroidechtomy scar and tells me it will all be okay, and that she will be with me throughout the procedure. They wheel me into the room and I get onto the table. More introductions to more nurses and staff, as if we’re going to have a dinner party…only my OR nurse and sugar Doc are saying they’ll see me later, when I wake up, and I think, What the heck are they talking about? Then the meds hit me and I’m out like a light.

Scene 4: Everyone’s all happy and laughing, like Wasn’t that a lovely dinner party? I clearly don’t remember any of it. I don’t feel much of anything at first. I see the doctor, on the phone with my mother already, telling her how things went. It sounds good. The recovery room nurse is flitting around me, asking if I need anything.  She doses me with pain meds and I suddenly feel like I’m going to vom, all over the place. I can’t vom, my stitches will explode. I call the nurse. She shoots some kind of nausea medication into my IV. Shortly thereafter, the pain becomes unbearable again. She gives me more pain meds, which lead to more nausea. I’m beginning to think I’m going to feel horrible for the rest of my life. After the second IV infusion of nausea meds, I feel a moment of calm, where I can drift in and out of sleep.

Scene 5: My nurse’s name is JP. I’m beginning to hate his face, as, it seems like every five minutes he’s waking me up to pester me about something: pain meds, how am I feeling, etc., etc. I just want to sleep and I’m uncomfortable, for life. I don’t understand why everyone’s goal at this place is to poke and prod and pester me, when all I’m trying to do is recover. My neck hurts and my throat is sore. It feels like I have strep throat. My room phone is ringing off the hook and I don’t answer it for a while, until JP comes in to force me to answer it, because my parents have called the nurse’s station and want to talk to me. I waveringly talk for a few minutes, and then lapse back into this restless-restful cycle. JP keeps insinuating that we will go for a walk. Ha, I think. That’s what YOU think, JP. I make doubly sure I’m sleeping whenever he enters the room, just in case he comes in with any of those crazy “let’s walk around” ideas.

Scene 6: I decide that JP isn’t a bad guy. In fact, he’s pretty cool. We talk about How I Met Your Mother and X-Files, and he seems to genuinely give a hoot about my pain and comfort. I’m almost sad when his shift ends, and my night nurse, Alex, comes on board.

Scene 7: Alex is pretty cool too. She reveals that she may have to undergo a thyroidechtomy as well, and has a lot of questions for me. By this time, I’m not feeling quite so awful and am able to converse fairly regularly, as well as get out of bed to pee (apparently anesthesia makes you not have to go for a while).  My general physician, Dr. Shammas, comes to check on me, and I am so grateful to see her. She has a very motherly quality, but in such a way that she understands exactly how I’m feeling. She gives me further instructions to help with recovery and I hang on her every word. At that moment, she is my favorite person on the planet. She cares, she gets me. Alexis still doesn’t let me sleep, but I’m not quite as sleepy now, and watch a bunch of sitcoms, plus the movie, “Win A Date With Tad Hamilton” (totally predictable and unrealistic rom com—yawn).

Scene 8:  I don’t like the day nurse.I was hoping JP would come back. This girl seems to have as much personality as a dead rectal thermometer. Luckily I get to go home after breakfast, which comes in freakishly copious abundance: oatmeal, yogurt, a bagel, hardboiled egg, two juices, tea, and soy milk. It’s a lot of stuff. I eat most of it, of course, because I figure I need to eat for recovery. I don’t end up eating lunch that day anyway.

Scene 9: It’s weird to come home and be thyroid less. I’m not sure what to do with myself, still in pain, but trying to get on about my normal life. I’m grateful that my friend, Kristie, is staying with me to help deal with the Beags and also to make sure I am okay, just in case. It’s comforting to have that. She stays for the whole day and overnight, and she leaves early in the morning, after taking the dog out, of course.

Conclusion:

Benjamin Franklin said, “Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”

I don’t think that I feel much different without a thyroid than I felt before. If anything, I think I might feel slightly better than before. I don’t know if it was the stress of the surgery or the synthroid, but I feel as though there is a low-grade depression, a heaviness, that has completely disappeared. I hope that this is a good sign, that things are going to be better now that I don’t have a thyroid, that I’ll have more energy and be faster and stronger, and a much more awesome version of me, but let’s just take one day at a time.

Tomorrow May Rain, So I'll Follow The Sun...

Tomorrow May Rain, So I’ll Follow The Sun…