A2A, 38 mile finish line; 2011

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Taking it one day at a time...

To be absolutely honest, I feel like I'm in hell right now. My body feels completely out of sync, and my mental health is also suffering. I have to change the way I'm looking at it - obviously there is no quick fix, my skating/running season is more than likely over for the year; so I need to focus on getting my body and mind healthy again. It's a lot harder than dealing with an injury because I don't even know exactly what's wrong yet. I have ideas but until I can get in to see my GI specialist (4 more days....) then I only have some theories. With an injury it's pretty obvious; this bone/ligament/tendon/muscle is injured, you need to do this and this and this to fix it; and no physical activity for x-amount of days/weeks/months...

My painful realization came this past Tuesday. I went skating. I am having trouble with shortness of breath; and I went skating. I was 8 miles in with 2+  miles left to go, and I felt like I couldn't catch my breath. My limbs and face started tingling, I had to stop to focus on slowing down my breathing because I was beginning to panic. It took me over 15 minutes to get back to my truck. I thought I had it under control but I realized I was having a panic attack and I could not deal with it on my own. I asked a cyclist to call 911 and an ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later. I don't want to write too much about it, just reliving it is making me feel some anxiety. But I have to note that the paramedics were WONDERFUL. I was lucky to have 2 of them who had actual experience with panic and anxiety so they were very compassionate. When the breathing exercises couldn't bring me down and I couldn't get it under control; they gave me 2 shots of Valium and took me to the hospital. I went to Littleton instead of Skyridge this time, and I actually had a much better experience there. The nurses were a lot more caring ad compassionate, and we had a very thorough discussion with ER doctor. 

I had a CAT scan done and it came back normal, my potassium was low and something with my heart was a little off - he said it wasn't alarming but worth noting. I was given a potassium pill and sent home. I slept from 4:30 pm Tuesday until 7:30 am Wednesday morning. I woke up, took my Thyroid medication and a Reglan, and 20 minutes later I was having a panic attack. Upon doing some reading I have come to the realization that the Reglan exacerbates my anxiety so I am no longer taking it. This really sucks because it was helping with the bloating and overly full feeling in my stomach; which allowed me to eat more.

My primary care physician had me cut my Thyroid medication dose back from 120 mg to 90 mg - apparently my labs for my Thyroid were high last time I was in so I may be over medicated. This can cause a whole host of issues; including some of my current ones. He also mentioned I might have some adhesions; I had 3 abdomen surgeries a couple of years ago, including my gallbladder - I've been having some sharp pains in the area where that used to be. Who knows. It's like all of these 'maybes' but nothing definite yet. Frustrating.

For now, I am having a great deal of anxiety around eating. I am hungry but I'm afraid to eat. I feel dizzy and short of breath; I just want to sleep. I cancelled my trip to Minnesota - there is no way I can even think about traveling with my heath this unstable; let alone competing in the duathlon. Northshore is still a maybe but for now I am thinking I won't be doing that one either. I feel like my season is over.

But I have to get healthy again. I know I will. I'm just right in the middle of it so it's hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I feel frustrated. and scared. and sick. I have moments of utter despair and hopelessness but these seem to pass quickly. I just want my life back. I have a lot riding on my visit with the GI doctor. In the meantime, I am taking a lot of Xanax to keep the anxiety at bay so I can at least eat... And I'm watching a lot of movies. (They keep my brain occupied so I quit dwelling on where I'm at right now.) I also had to put my job search on hold as well - I just don't feel stable enough to be starting a new job on top of everything else.

My next update will come after my GI visit. My guess is that I'll have to have another Endoscopy done (camera down the gullet) and maybe some other tests (gastric emptying, etc...) I just need answers; definitive answers so I can start fixing it. The not knowing or just guessing is very, very discouraging.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Life On Hold

*I'm usually not one to hold back when I blog, I like to be pretty frank and open about things - it's like online journaling for me. So consider yourself warned.*

I've been in hell for the past week. Not literally, but it sure feels like it. I've had stomach issues for a couple of years now, usually bouts of really bad acid reflux with some brief periods of appetite loss and an inability to eat very much. I would go see my GI doc, get some acid reflux medication and resume my life. I've had two endoscopies done - I have a minor hiatal hernia, excess bile in my gut (that happened after I got my gallbladder out) and a 'lazy stomach'. I had no idea what that meant but had a visual of my stomach lying on the sofa watching M.A.S.H reruns and eating bon bons. Unfortunately it means that it doesn't empty as fast as it's supposed to. This can cause minor discomfort (like some bloating, burping, and gas) to some major issues (zero appetite, inability to eat, food fermenting in the gut. Appetizing.)

Ever since I ran my first half marathon in May, my symptoms have been getting progressively worse: and after each race they would increase drastically. A part of me really knew I should have skipped running the Sand Creek 10k on July 13th, but I ran it anyway. The day before I could hardly eat - so I know I didn't get enough calories to support even that short of a run. I felt pretty good afterwards, so I was hopeful. I ate some scrambled eggs and 2 slices of toast when I got home, took it easy. That evening I ate a very lean hamburger (I read that lean ground beef is one of the 'easy to digest' foods) and that's when my issues started. My stomach bloated so much that it pressed on my diaphragm; causing me to feel short of breath. This made me feel like I wasn't getting enough oxygen; so I started to panic. I took 1/4 of  a xanax and that helped. The next day was a similar situation - so I gave up on solid food altogether and started drinking Ensure just so I was getting SOMETHING in me. My husband was out of town all weekend so I have to give some props to my little dog, Casey. I was all alone and he was very comforting during those intense moments before the xanax kicked in...

Monday I had 2 Ensures and a blueberry muffin. I felt so/so. Tuesday I ate scrambled eggs and toast - actually felt pretty good. About 3 hours later, I started feeling off again. Overly full - like I just ate a HUGE meal, with pressure on my diaphragm. I felt like I couldn't breathe. On top of THAT - I was PAINFULLY constipated. I will admit, I had an epic meltdown, I felt hopeless, helpless and really scared. I just laid on the floor sobbing; with Casey curled up as close as he could get to me. My husband came home from work to take me to the ER. On the way, I was breathing really shallow because of the pressure in my lower gut. I had no idea that this is the same thing as hyper ventilating. As we pulled up to the ER, my body was tingling so bad and the muscles in my arms, legs, and face just sort of froze: I couldn't move. This made me panic even more!! I thought I was dying. The ER nurses rushed me back and got me breathing straight oxygen. Eventually this helped my arms and legs loosen up. A shot of Ativan (for the panic) and a shot of Reglan (for my stomach) and I almost felt human again. Unfortunately I neglected to effectively communicate to them that the constipation was also pretty bad... They sent me home with a prescription for Reglan. (This is a motility drug; it is supposed to help the stomach empty.) That night I ate some rice and grilled chicken. Holy cow, real food...

Then, Thursday came. Oh my fucking God. I've always wondered how awful it would be to have to go to the hospital because you couldn't poop. I am here to tell you that it is just as awful as you would imagine. I don't want to go into too much detail because matters of the bowels tend to be extremely distasteful - so I'll just say that I tried a few home remedies with zero success and I was in a great deal of pain. Believe me, going to the ER for THAT was a very last resort! The nurses were wonderful. They didn't even bat an eye at my extreme humiliation and embarrassment. They did an xray to make sure I didn't have any obstructions (nope, just impacted. Awesome.) They tried two remedies with minimal success, then sent me home with the same stuff they give patients to drink prior to having a colonoscopy done. Lucky for me, once I got home I was able to get relief without having to drink that stuff!!

Yesterday I discovered two things. Reglan makes me feel extremely dizzy and uncomfortable; and just the idea of eating is enough to trigger anxiety. We went to Denny's and I started having a panic attack before we even ordered food. After 1/4 xanax and a bit of walking around I was able to eat a sandwich, strawberries, and some pudding at home. I spent the day on the sofa, I am so fatigued from not getting enough nutrients in me.... Today I took the Reglan and attempted to eat some eggs, a slice of toast and some strawberries. I ate about half but didn't have any anxiety.

One of the most frustrating things has been trying to get in to see a GI doctor. My appointment is on July 29th. I have called so many times to try to change that and no luck. I've also called a few other GI doctors and it's the same thing. I feel like my life is completely on hold. I have no idea if this is permanent or something that can be fixed - I'm not even sure what's going on in my body! I can't run. I can't skate. I just want to sleep. I would give anything to be able to eat a giant plate of delicious Mexican food.

For now I'm thinking I won't be able to do the Minnesota Duathlon on August 3rd and I am extremely disappointed. But I can't train. I have to have faith that this is a temporary setback, that this is NOT how my life is going to continue to be. Even if I have to cut back the intensity of my physical activities I'd be okay with that - this inability to do anything is depressing as hell. I almost think it would be easier if I had some type of injury, it just seems weird that I can't exercise because of my stomach. It seems so much easier to say I can't skate because I pulled a muscle rather than I can't skate because my guts are fucked up. I don't know, I'm bitter and frustrated right now. I'm meeting some friends for lunch today, and I'll admit that I'm nervous. But I need to face this shit and re-train my body to NOT have anxiety. (Anyone who has ever had a panic attack knows that once you're in a cycle it's hard to break it.)

So. That is me. That is where I am. This year started out SO strong and I've done SO MUCH so I'm at least happy for that. I just hope I'll be able to do Northshore in September!!!!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

And Just Like That; Confidence Regained.

Today I tried out the new speed brake I bought from The Skate Shop Now - it is a Powerslide speed brake, and it fits beautifully on my Bont 3PF 7050 frame. It didn't take me more than a few seconds to remember how to heel brake, and I was off. 

I skated 20 easy miles today, the main difference being I no longer slowed down to a crawl to go under bridges, or around blind corners, or down small hills - something I had been doing. I had to brake twice for pedestrians and had no issues. I am very, very happy. I feel confident once more. I am still amazed at how much of my confidence is tied to a tiny piece of rubber, but whatever works!

I also did some tweaking with my hydration - I've been having some major issues with electrolyte imbalances while running; so I figured it wouldn't hurt to tweak this while skating either. It was about 85 degrees when I was skating so not too hot - but I tend to sweat like crazy no matter how hot it is; and when it's hotter I just sweat even more. I soak through anything I'm wearing and end up with a crusty layer of salt all over my skin. So for me personally, I know that electrolyte replacement is essential. I have been skating with coconut water and Gatorade - but that is a LOT of sugar and empty calories. Especially when I drop a GU or 2 in on top of it. Today I had one Nuun tablet in 24 oz of water, and 16 oz of plain water. This is my first time trying Nuun, I had the tri-berry flavor and I really liked it. It's not overly sweet at all. I ate a GU at 30 minutes; I was out for an hour and a half. I drank all of the Nuun water and almost all of the regular water - and I was soaked with sweat. I did one scoop of Max Muscle ARM (lemon lime) in 12 oz of water for my recovery drink. I'll shower, then eat a nice healthy lunch. Right now I feel pretty good; just have a little bit of a headache but NO stomach cramps. I probably could have done a GU before I started but wanted to try this out. Overall I felt like I had a consistent energy level in spite of the heat. 

I'll probably just focus on shorter skates for now - my next race is a half marathon. The next full one isn't until September. Now that I have my confidence back I need to get my speed up! Ok, must shower, I smell pretty rank...