Archive for February, 2012

My children, Kaia and Tobias, love to dance to Waka Waka (This time for Africa) by Shakira when they are playing in my office.  Tobias plays the video on my computer for his little sister and they have a blast moving to the music.

Now, I have some of the lyrics stuck in my head and they’ve become a bit of a training mantra for me as I think of running my first race. While this was a song for 2010 World Cup Soccer, the words really speak to me.

This is our motto
Your time to shine
Don’t wait in line
Y vamos por todo

People are raising
Their expectations
Go on and feel it
This is your moment
No hesitations

Today’s your day
I feel it
You paved the way
Believe it

I decided to buy the song from iTunes and add it to my playlist. It’s very motivational and the words will be spurring me forward on race day. It reminds me that expectations have been raised now that I have people sponsoring me to run this race in support of the JDRF and that my dedication and training will definitely bring me to the finish line, hopefully, with a great big smile on my face.

I do believe it.

B(e) positive!


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Yesterday I was chatting with my friend Jen. She’s also a runner and she reminded me of a phone conversation we had about a year ago where I was pretty adamant that I was never going to run. Not me. No way. Never. Over my dead body. Funny the difference a year makes.

I love it. I’m addicted to it. I have to force myself to take rest days. I missed it terribly when I couldn’t do it. I jumped up and down like I was 8 and it was Christmas morning when I got the all-clear to run again.

I’m also excited about the big race. Okay, so 5K isn’t all that big. But for me, the girl who could barely walk to the mailbox 13 years ago, it is monumental. I’ve been through so much to get to this point and that first race is a mere 71 days away.

Speaking of the race… I chose the Ford Race to End Diabetes in Oakville as my first race because I know what it is like to battle diabetes. I’m fortunate that I am not a Type 1 (aka juvenile) diabetic and that I could use exercise in place of insulin. It is only fitting that I do something to help diabetics who don’t have the option I do.

I’d love it if you could help too. I registered the race through the Running Room’s website. Perhaps you’d like sponsor me by making a donation, or maybe you’d like to sign up for the race and meet me at the finish line on April 28.

I never thought I’d say this… but running is fun!

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What better day than Valentine’s Day to tell you about what has been going on and why I took a bit of a sabbatical from posting?

As you, my dear reader know, I feel very strongly about people taking the reins with their health and doing something to improve it. If you are overweight, sedentary, smoking and eating things that you really shouldn’t, I urge you to start making changes now… the health of your heart is far too important to put off.  Love yourself enough to do something good for health today. Your heart will love you for it. Had I not been so pro-active with my own health, I’d be telling you a much different story right now (that is if I was alive to tell it).

Back in the middle of December I decided to ask my family doctor about my resting heart rate which is usually around 50 beats per minute. I realized that this can be quite normal in athletes but I had only been running for a month and not at the intensity or duration of a seasoned athlete. At the appointment my doctor noticed that my blood pressure was high too. That morning I had received word that I was to have laser surgery in both eyes to deal with macular edema. I was pretty stressed out about the whole thing. So with the low heart rate, high blood pressure under stress, and a family history of heart problems, my doctor agreed that maybe I should go for an ECG.

The results were finally revealed to me a month later because my family doctor dropped the ball. The evening before my eye procedure, which I was totally freaked out about, Dr. R. called me with news that my ECG was showing “borderline inferior Q waves” and that she believed that I had a past myocardial infarction which in layperson’s terms is a heart attack. What?!

She referred me to a cardiologist, Dr. J., and said that I would need an echocardiogram as soon as possible. I was to stop running and all other heart rate raising activity immediately and until further notice. She put me on a very low dose of Coversyl, an ACE inhibitor for blood pressure control.

The eye procedure went well but now I was very stressed out about this possible heart issue. I was devastated to think that I may have had a heart attack and not even known it. Silent heart attacks can happen in people with diabetes.  I was very disappointed that I was told I couldn’t run and that I had worked so hard for naught.  I was wallowing—it happens.

So, I went to Dr. J’s for the ECG and the echocardiogram the following week. The ECG came back normal and it was confirmed that I have never had a heart attack but the echocardiogram showed a tiny bit of thickening of the heart wall on the left side. This is known as LVH or Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (enlargement of the left side of the heart). Dr. J. indicated that he felt this was reversible and that I was probably already reversing a more serious case of it but without a previous echo to compare it with, he could not be 100% certain. You see, the heart is like any other muscle and when you work it hard it becomes thick. The thing is, you don’t want to do that with your heart. Being morbidly obese for so long meant that my heart had to work really hard to support my large body.  High blood pressure makes your heart work harder too. In fact, obesity and high blood pressure are two of the major causes of this condition. Like any muscle you can reverse this problem by not working it out so much. The other issues are that I have evidence for pulmonary hypertension and I have a slight outflow tract gradient and mild aortic valve stenosis which is what causes my heart murmur. Yikes.

Then he asked about my medical history as well as my family history of heart disease. He smiled when I told him that I had lost an entire person already and that I try to eat well and be active. I mentioned that I am training for my first 5K race. Then came the family history part. Dr. J. started writing. I told him that my Grandfather was diabetic and may have died of heart failure. I told him that my Dad had his first heart attack at my age as well as a triple-bypass about age 53 and that he died when he was 67. The doctor put his pen down. I said, “I’m not done yet” and I told him about the rest of our family along with how little certain people in my family care for their health by doing detrimental things like smoking, excessive drinking, making poor food choices, being sedentary, and the like.

The man looked quite worried and I asked him what was wrong. He replied, “Laurie, you have one of the worst family histories of premature coronary artery disease that I have ever seen. With that and the fact that you are diabetic, I’d like you to refrain from running until we can do an exercise stress test on the treadmill with a nuclear isotope called Cardiolite.” I started to cry. Then Dr. J. promised to have the testing done and results to me by the end of the next week. I asked a little more about the test and he said that essentially they want to make sure that I don’t have any issues with blood flow to the heart when under the strain of exercise. He’d be looking for blockages and clots.

To say I was scared would be an understatement. I read up on the procedure and learned everything I could about LVH. I finally decided that there wasn’t anything more that I could do for my health beyond what I am already doing. I would deal with whatever comes out of this last test with the same determination and care that I take with being a diabetic.

I donned my ever-so-cute running clothes and headed to the cardiology lab this past Thursday morning. I was in a waiting room with a group of heart patients in various states of poor health and I was excited about being able to run, even if medically supervised. Everyone else looked like they were dreading the treadmill test. I figured it wouldn’t do me any good to be stressed about it, so I put on my best smile and slipped my feet into my running shoes. To make a long story short, I maxed out the test duration which in this lab is 12 minutes. I was a little disappointed—I didn’t even break a good sweat. My lab tech was a former ultra-marathon runner so he totally understood my exuberance. And I went home to wait.

Normally these test results take 10 to 14 business days but Jen called from Dr. J.’s office that afternoon to tell me they’d have results in the morning and that as a precaution with my family history, Dr. J. would like me to start taking the lowest dose of a statin used for cholesterol control. He figured that with the way I am eating and the amount of exercise, I shouldn’t have an issue but he has concerns about familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) which is a genetic defect where there is a lack of LDL receptors to remove cholesterol from the blood (um… thanks Dad). I’ve also inherited teeny-tiny blood vessels. When I asked about the medication he basically said that I could have a perfect diet, be active every day, and be at the ideal weight and still end up with cholesterol issues. With my tiny vascular system this medication is even more crucial because a little arterial plaque for me would be considerably more dangerous than it would be for someone with larger vessels.

I barely slept Thursday night, and by Friday morning I was quite anxious. I wanted to run again  and the treadmill test the day before made me realize just how much I missed it. 11:00 am came and went so I called Jen at Dr. J.’s office and left a message. Forty minutes later the phone rang. It was the doctor and he had my results. I was dead silent, bracing myself to hear the bad news. But the news was better than I could have hoped for.

My blood flow is good. He mentioned that I should continue to try and lose the rest of the weight which he knows I am working hard at.  I was told I have the all-clear to run even a half-marathon if I like. “Enjoy and remember to stay conversational when you run”, the doctor said. He wants to see me in six months just to follow-up on the medications and check on the LVH to ensure that this is indeed a reversal in progress. He told me to keep doing what I am doing and mentioned that if I hadn’t been so tenacious with my lifestyle changes we’d be dealing with a much worse outcome.

So… there I have it… I can run to my heart’s content. Literally, because exercise is good for the heart. I have to say that knowing I can resume my training was a very happy moment. Some day my activities may be restricted but I will do my darnedest to ensure that isn’t for a very long time.

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Hi Bruce,

How I wish you were here today. I was eight when you were ripped out of my life so tragically. That was almost 35 years ago but there is not a day goes by that I don’t think of you.

Eight years is such a short time but you had a big impact on my life. My memory of those camping trips that Cathy and you used to take us on were some of the best I had in childhood. When I met my husband, Bryan, he rekindled that passion for the outdoors—that love of nature that you instilled in me when I was so little.

Those memories saved my life. You see, I was in a real bad way after you died. I gained weight and comforted myself with food. Just over a decade ago, when I saw my future in our other siblings, I took a hard stance with my health and turned things around. I went backpacking and not only did it put me on a much better path from a health perspective, it transformed my self-esteem and my career. I never thought being active would be so much fun.

When I am on the trail or going for a run or getting ready to cook something over a campfire, I feel you there alongside me, in spirit. You taught me so much about the stars and I am trying to teach that to my son. I still love the Perseids. I think of the talks we shared about your beliefs while gazing at the skies. My heart warms when I think of your Buddhist way of looking at the world.  Oh and I finally read some of the meditations of the Dalai Lhama. I see why his words spoke to you so much. I read Khalil Gibran’s writings too—inspirational.

How you loved our planet and how conscious you were about what damage we were causing. You sure used to lecture Mom and Dad about cutting a tree from our forest each year to decorate for Christmas. I remember you saying how long they took to grow. You’d be happy to know that we use a tree farm because of the sustainable crop practices. You would be totally ticked off about how much worse our planet is now and how wasteful people have become. When I see someone using a disposable Bic lighter, I am transported back in time to a night by the campfire and I can hear you saying how bad they are for our planet—how they are indestructible and that you figured aliens coming to our planet a million years later, would be thinking they’ve found some great mineral when it is merely our discarded trash.

I think of some of the funnier moments… like when you polished the hardwood floors to a mirror-like finish or when you played Woodstock for Aunt Gladys after Mom told you not to. And your jokes were awful, especially the one about the pink and purple polka-dotted ping pong paddle. Really awful.

The campsite you made in the backyard and the bridge over the creek were awesome! So was the pond and the white stone path around it. Too bad you never got to finish the cabin in the woods that you started. I used to play on the platform with the neighborhood kids. After you died, Dad and Mom put the cab you built for the truck back there and I would hide in it. One day I was coming out of the little shelter and startled a snowy owl in the tree above. What a beautiful creature.

I’m passing on what you’ve taught me, to my children. You’d adore them. Tobias has an adventurous spirit. I could totally see him backpacking across our country like you did. Kaia has my stubbornness and loves camping. She’s already been on her first wilderness trip. You’d like Bryan too. He still can’t figure out what you loved so much about Winnipeg. We talk about your love of the city every time work leads him there.

When Tobias runs he has the same stance that you did. It makes me smile and think of your white leather North Star runners. They had blue stripes and were so worn and stinky.  When they were falling apart you said that they were “just getting comfortable”.

Remember the big daisy you painted on my playroom wall? I adored that. I painted a mural on Tobias’ wall when he first came to us. Thanks for the inspiration. It was amazing to see how much that meant to my little guy.

I’m living my life to the fullest because you couldn’t.  I’m running my first race at the end of April. I sure wish you were going to be there to cheer me on to the finish line.

I miss you, my brother and my friend.  Happy Birthday.

With all my love,

Your baby sister.

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