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Archive for January, 2015

If you’ve been following my blog ramblings for any length of time then you’ve read about my battle with heart disease. If not, let me get you up to speed. If you already know about my journey then feel free to skip ahead to the update.

My History

I have horrible family genetics when it comes to premature coronary disease causing death and there is also a history of diabetes. Couple that with my former self being severely overweight and sedentary… well you have a ticking time bomb. That would have been the case but I decided, after watching family member after family member suffer from heart disease, that I was going to change my life. I lost weight. I lost a lot of weight. Then I was diagnosed with diabetes. I became even more proactive about my health and reversed the need for diabetes medications. I fought for my life and fought hard.

I saw a cardiologist for a full work-up when I first started running. I had to push for this because it isn’t a standard part of a physical from a family doctor. I was diagnosed with left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) and my aortic valve had a very mild stenosis. The LVH was likely due to my former size as it was reversing. Things were going swimmingly and I ran my first half marathon. Then I accidentally kicked a dumbbell and broke two of the toes on my left foot. After they healed I returned to running and my cardio was worse than it was when I was obese. It didn’t make sense. I thought something wasn’t right, that this was more than a setback due to the toe business. I went to the cardiologist and failed a treadmill stress test but before I got the results I decided I should go to the emergency ward. I still felt really off. Less than a week later I was at home recovering from what is called Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty. In other words, I had two stents placed in a branch off the left circumflex artery. You can read the whole story in the blog post named Fixing My Broken Heart.

I had to come to terms that no matter how perfectly I did everything, genetics will always play a role. My cardiologist, Dr. J. has explained to me that I am doing everything right and that is why I didn’t have a heart attack or heart damage despite having a significant blockage. He told me my heart was strong. I was cleared to run a full marathon but I was to avoid things like heavy lifting. What followed was months of anxiety. Panic would set in when I would run longer distances. I was stressed and upset. I dropped out of all my races including the marathon. I had worked so hard to prevent heart disease and I was very disappointed in myself even though I didn’t have control over much of it due to genetics. I was bummed.

The update

So, now that you have the background, here is what happened on Friday’s visit to Dr. J. I stressed for days about it. I went to my appointment expecting to be told that I had to limit things like weight lifting at the gym and serious hill training for races like Run for the Toad. What happened next caught me off guard. Here is how the appointment went…

I had an echo-cardiogram first, followed by an EKG and measurements for blood pressure, weight and abdominal circumference. Finally it was time to consult with the doctor. Dr. J. is a rather pompous guy but not so with me. Well, not since the first visit when he started to lecture me about weight loss and I handed him my before photo. He knows I’m really proactive and that I take his advice very seriously.

So I am still dealing with Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (say that five times fast) and that is something genetic which I have no control of. In other words, I will likely be on a cholesterol lowering medication for the rest of my life no matter how healthy a lifestyle I lead. Thanks Dad! We talked about some new research into a monthly injection that has had great success in Europe and is going through trials here. It won’t be available to me for several years but it could be an alternative that is less harmful to the body.

The verdict… everything is great… really great! I can go off the blood thinner in 60 days. No more polka dot bruising from having NERF dart wars with my kids. No more anemia! I asked about lifting heavier amounts at the gym. I asked about training for Run for the Toad and other trail races where there are wicked hills. When I heard his response I was compelled to ask him two or three times to be sure my ears weren’t deceiving me. I have the all clear for anything I want to try. He said run hills, climb mountains… whatever I want. In fact, I have NO restrictions whatsoever!! I had to completely restrain myself from doing a happy dance in Dr. J.’s office. NO restrictions!!

Much of the success of this appointment and all of what I have been through with my heart and with diabetes has been due to my dedication to having a healthy lifestyle. Losing weight in a healthy way, keeping fitness fun, and having a balanced way of eating has proven to be the best medicine. I may not be skinny but I am healthier than I have ever been.

PS I did the happy dance in the driveway when we got home… lol.

PPS I’m going to tackle Run for the Toad again. It’s redemption time!

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I have never been so happy to have put a year in the rear-view mirror as I have been with 2014. What a year! It started out with broken toes that weren’t quite healed and the roller coaster continued from there with the heart issues, bronchitis verging on pneumonia, and this last few weeks… the bloody flu. On top of that I was still grieving the loss of my Mom and there was quite a bit of anxiety that came to light after the heart procedure. Despite all of this, it was a good year with many firsts including my daughter’s first time at school and joining a gym.

As I have mentioned in years past, I don’t believe in doing the whole New Year’s resolution bit. I came to this conclusion several years ago. I feel that it sets me up for failure and when something I had resolved to do wasn’t realized I would beat myself up emotionally. Instead I like to look at the year as a book consisting of 365 blank pages for me to fill with the things that keep me healthy, happy, and fulfilled.  I prefer to choose milestones and make general plans with no set timelines punctuated with events such as running and camping trips. This year is no different and here are some of the things I’d like to accomplish throughout the year.

I’m committed to  spending less time online, plugged in and on the phone especially with social media. Those of you who follow me here and on twitter may have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet since October and lately I’ve been less active on Facebook as well. Yes, I am ignoring you.  Instead of being consumed with social media, I’m spending more time with my children, husband and friends. I have been teaching my four year old little girl how to knit, sew, and cook. Next up… snowshoeing (if we ever get any snow). I will continue to walk back and forth to the school twice a day with the children. I could simply let my son walk his little sister as he is very responsible, but I choose to add the 15K to my fitness every week. I’m fortunate that being a writer allows that freedom and it is a great time to chat with my teenage boy. In the Fall he is off to high school and walking with Mom would just be uncool.

I mentioned in earlier posts that I am rebuilding my running base. I’m still working on that although I’ve been slightly sidelined by the flu. While progress has been slow, I’m still moving forward. My goal race is the Toronto Yonge Street 10K on April 19th. I’m very excited and I’m hoping to make it a personal record for 10K. Of course, I’ll be training smart and coupling that with workouts at the gym. The goal is to run another half marathon too. I’m not sure which one yet but I’m leaning towards the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon in June or the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in the Fall… or both. I would like to do another trail race too. That reminds me, I need to do some running shoe shopping.

I hope to cross a few things off my list this year such as the climbing lesson and belay certification that was put on the back burner when I first broke my toes. It didn’t end up being in the cards for 2014 but perhaps I’ll tackle it in 2015. And… I still want to try zip lining. Did I mention I am terrified of gravity? Boxing is still on my milestone list, as are many other things. What I tackle will depend on time. Our family plans to return to Le P’tit Train du Nord for a cycling and camping trip. Unfortunately between what was going on with me and Bryan’s travel with work, we didn’t make it back to the trail in 2014 but I’d love to revisit the area this year… without the rain.

Over the holidays I had the chance to spend some time with one of my dearest friends, Sandi. It’s hard to believe we’ve been friends for over 25 years (where did the time go?) and the last few years we haven’t been able to see each other as much as we would have liked. The weekend before Christmas we talked about making a point of seeing each other more often. Our boys (and husbands) get along famously plus we have similar interests which is great. We both love cycling so there will likely be some bike rides together in the Spring and Summer. Who knows, maybe I can even talk her into running a race with me or maybe not… lol.

While I still want to lose a bit more weight, I haven’t set an actual number because I’m more about the complete picture… body, mind, and spirit. I haven’t let the scale define me in years and will continue with that mindset. I’m more focused on being active, hydrating properly, and eating healthy. Speaking of food… my goals with nutrition remain the same as in previous years— I will continue to eat foods that are kind to my body in order to keep the side effects of diabetes and heart issues at bay. I appreciate being able to use nutrition and fitness in place of diabetes medications. I don’t diet, I simply eat according to my goals and to ensure I have balanced intake of nutrients. This is important for our whole family. Children, as you know, learn by example.

Eating fresh and local whenever possible is something I strive to continue although it’s nearly impossible at this time of year. In 2014 I started relying on our local farmers’ market and farm stands for produce. I would venture out on Friday and our menu for the week would revolve around what I came home with that afternoon. I plan to continue that throughout 2015 as I found the quality was often better than the grocery store and the produce seemed to last longer before spoiling. It’s a great for the children to learn more about where our food comes from and I like to support our local farms. I’m going to get back into growing sprouts and making my own yogurt. Both are really easy to do and will be good skills to pass onto the children. I have even done both on wilderness camping trips. I also love that this way of eating means avoiding some of the unnecessary things that are added to our food. Sure, it takes a bit more effort but that is nominal in comparison to the benefits.

Hobbies have come to the forefront lately. I’ve been teaching myself to knit plus I’ve started to do needlework and sketching again. I find that activities like this help me reduce stress and give me a way to unwind. Hobbies are much like running or the gym in that regard—being immersed in the task at hand takes the focus off whatever stress there is.

Work-wise, I completed my last client website and redefined my business. I’m still in the process of finishing my third cookbook manuscript. It’s due in March but I’m in good shape with it other than needing to take some more photos. My fourth cookbook proposal is on the table too. I’ll tell you more about that once I sign a publishing contract. I can tell you that it is going to be an amazing project and I am very excited about it. I’m also working on telling the story of my personal journey and, although I feel somewhat vulnerable, look forward to sharing that with my readers. Once again, I’ll be writing some freelance articles for a variety of publications. The outdoorsy project for families and kids that was to launch in 2014 should come to fruition later in the year.

2015 is all about forward momentum. It will be interesting to see how this year unfolds and what adventures my family and I get up to. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy New Year!

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