Monday, May 21, 2018

nowhere to go but up. (Part II)

Dear Diary,

So, I’d been admitted to Presbyterian hospital with a Clostridium Dificile infection and resulting colitis Friday afternoon, on the 13th.  The staff couldn’t have been nicer. They had a white board in my room and each shift change they would come in, introduce themselves, and write their names on it. One of the techs snapped a bright yellow band around my right wrist, signaling to everyone that I was infectious and if I left my room, I needed to have a mask, gloves, and gown on. 

But I wasn’t to leave my room, because I was on “fall precautions.” I had to be escorted any time I wanted to get out of bed. I was given morphine in my IV, and assorted other drugs.  I still had problems eating, and couldn’t sit up straight because my colon was so inflamed.  I struggled to eat macaroni and cheese and soup – it took me nearly 3 hours to eat that dinner; my inflamed colon was crowding out my stomach or something like that. I drifted off the sleep.  At 2 am they ultrasounded my liver, which involved the tech coming into my room because they didn’t want me leaving.  At 4 am another tech took one of many blood draws that I would get frequently during the day and night.  Otherwise, I was able to drift off into a nice morphine-induced nap. 

But that was just at night. That’s when the pain was the worse. The next morning, I was still pretty tired, but they discontinued the fall precautions, and the pain wasn’t so bad.  I napped on and off all day.

I also was relieved when I realized I had bought an Aflac policy the previous fall.  Throughout this ordeal I’d missed a week of work, was likely to miss another, and had no more PTO or sick leave left. I hadn't had more than a half day off for illness in the 6 years I'd worked at my job. I hadn’t taken multiple days of sick leave since having a baby in 1987. I worried that they hadn’t really needed me at work. I 

I had time to sit and reflect, between episodes of Fixer Upper, et al. I realized I had fallen into a bad habit of self-care.  I'd been restricting and binging food.  I'd been skipping workouts.  I was stressed out, and way more invested in work than even they work required me to be.  I talked with Sweet Baboo about it, and he agreed that I'd been pretty stressed the past couple years.  

I deleted the work email app from my phone.  

That night, on the 14th, I took what was to be my last dose of morphine.  The pain was finally leaving.  I continued eating maraconi and cheese, soup, and peach tea.  

Baboo visited  frequently and taught me to play canasta.  He was busy washing everything at home with bleach, trying to get his long runs in, and looking after his mother, who had now of course, been diagnosed with C. Diff . That night, I requested one last dose of oxycodone, just in case.  But slept through most of the night.  It was my last dose of pain medicine, and the first full night of sleep I'd gotten in weeks.

On Sunday the 15th, I got to take a shower.  There’s nothing more amazing than a shower.  I also had a cheese omelet with a little bit of sausage. My liver enzymes were returning to normal.  I had a chicken sandwich and more soup. I was getting pretty tired of watching HGTV but it was really all that was on. I was getting antsy and was tempted to don the gown and gloves just to walk a lap around the 3rd floor.

On Monday, the 16th, the doctor said he was inclined to let me go home, but he wasn’t 100% sure.  I told him that if I went home Monday night, I could wake up in my own bed, go sit in the sunshine and walk on the path behind my house. They delivered my prescriptions to me bedside, a very cool service they have there at that hospital, and Baboo took me home about 8:00 that night. 

The next day, I struggled to walk a mile on the trails behind my house. It wore me out.  The following day, I walked 2 miles and slept for a couple hours afterwards.

I saw my family practitioner on Thursday the 19th, and she signed off for me to return to work. I was weak.  My PCP said, “you’ve burned through all your reserves.”  The 11-lb weight loss in less than a week wasn’t fluids, and it wasn’t muscle; it was an imposed fast that probably sucked all the glycogen out of my muscles.  I really felt like I was starting all over. My fitness had been eroded away.  

The first two weeks were tough, especially the day I set out to walk 6 miles and had to bag it at 5.5 miles. That was tough on me emotionally.

But, as long as I eat carefully and rest, my progress has been steady.  Last week, I started actually jogging longer lengths on the trails and did an 8-mile hike.  I had a brief setback this weekend, partially related to allergies, and maybe partly due to the increased mileage, but I rested this weekend, and then this morning I did a 4-mile hike-jog that felt pretty good.  I will never take strength for granted again.

Every time I get the slightest cramp in my stomach or gut, or feel tired, I worry that it’s coming back.  I take probiotics at least 2x a day and my post-workout smoothie includes a banana and kefir.  I search the internet way too much looking for assurance that this won’t come back.  

I’m afraid of lettuce because of all the E. Coli recalls.  I use a filtration pitcher at work.  I’m weirdly paranoid about germs and bugs now.  I won't eat stuff from the sample bowls at the store.  Obviously, there’s no guarantee that it won’t come back.  But hopefully, I can beat the curve.

I had to slowly add food groups back because nobody knew what kind of shape my gut was in, what good bugs were left, and what enzymes I might or might not have left. I am the probiotic queen.

I bought myself an Apple Watch, a little tech bauble to mark my new life devoted to good self-care, and to mark the end of this particular grueling experience.  I love all the kudos and chimes it gives me.  I also bought a laptop, which I haven' had in years, possibly why I haven't been blogging.  Blogging from my phone is a bitch.  

With respect  to my fitness, I am starting over.  I’m working my way up again.  I’m following a training plan that Himself and I devised. 

I canceled 3 planned endurance runs this past spring.  My next trail race will be more of an energetic hike, in Montana, called the “Rail Trail Run.”  It has a generous cutoff and I plan to take my poles and plenty of water.  It’s flat with a slight net downhill loss of elevation, and I’m really hoping I’ll be back close enough to finish it, even if I had to stop and rest every now and then. 

So that's it.  That was my spring.  And this is where I am now.  Starting over, from rock bottom.  

Nowhere to go but up.





 ...




Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rock. Bottom



Dear Diary,

I am sitting here in my living room feeling pretty good about the 31-mile week I just had.  31 miles.  Thirty-one.  I used to do that in a day. And this is the most miles I've gotten in the past month, since I started recovering from C. Diff Colitis in April.  It was, without a doubt, the sickest I have have been, and the most pain I have ever experienced for 4-5 days straight.  It was like being in labor.  Waves of pain wrapped around me, usually worsening late in the evenings, carrying on through the night, and abating slightly the next morning.  It is a cautionary tale of what happens when providers don't pay attention, or lack the right training to manage symptoms appropriately.

Part I of II.

In February and March, I had a respiratory thing.  I developed laryngitis from the perpetual coughing, over and above the usual coughing I'd experienced for the past 2 years.  But I had an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat doc...so I gutted it out.  It was actually getter when I saw the physician's assistant (not doctor) who examined me.  She me scoped me and said, "you don't have acid reflux."

Thank god, I thought.  Now everyone can shut up about that.

She prescribed a nose spray...and an antibiotic called clindamycin.  I announced it in rounds the next day at the hospital where I work as a social worker.  The doctors sucked air through their teeth when I said the word.  I didn't know why then. But I know now.  And that sharp intake of breath from my colleagues who went to medical school, that was warning #1.  I just didn't know why at the time, and wasn't interested in hearing about it.

Within a few days I was breathing better than I have in years.  I visited my mother-in-law in the hospital who unfortunately had contracted bacterial pneumonia and was also put on broad-spectrum antibiotics.  I visited her in the rehab hospital where she was for about a week, and drove her home from the rehab hospital. She had diarrhea, which they thought she might have from a norovirus.  Mornings, I started practicing hill repeats, and on March 23rd, I took my last dose of clindamycin.

A week later, on Good Friday, I flew to Pennsylvania for a trail marathon.  I was freakishly tired that afternoon and evening.  I ate some fried calamari, but just wasn't hungry for pizza.  (Warning #2)

That was the night that the diarrhea started.  Except it wasn't like the usual stuff.  I mean, at first it looked like your garden variety diarrhea, but then eventually it became clear, amber-colored.  Maybe a tablespoon at a time.  Like jelly.

Fuck this, I thought.  I'm not ditching this marathon.  There was a much longer run going on at the same time, which meant I had 12 hours to finish it.  I would walk it.  It was exhausting.  I drank like crazy, and walked through the woods in the Pennsylvania countryside.

I flew home.  I wasn't hungry.  I turned up my nose at fried chicken.  (Warning #3)

On Monday, April 2 I went back to the ENT.  She asked me about breathing, coughing, etc.  All were good.  I mentioned the diarrhea, and her eyes widened.  "If you still have that in a couple of days, let me know."  Then, she looked in my mouth, and frowned.  "Do you have thrush?"  I laughed.  No, of course not. Probably just stuff from the chronic sinusitis.  But later than night, I thought of that again.  I went to look in the mirror.

Fuck.  I have oral thrush.  I also still had a couple tablespoons of amber jelly coming out of me every couple of hours.
Related image
The next morning, April 4, Day 5 of the diarrhea, I went to Urgent care.  I told them my story, and said, I'm really worried that something bad is happening. The PA patted my hand.  "We're going to test you for diabetes."

What?  No. I don't have diabetes.

She acted as thought I hadn't said anything at all.  "Yeah, we're going to test you for diabetes."

She also tested me for pregnancy, salmonella, cryptosporidium, shigella, ghiardiardia, all were negative. She gave me a script for the thrush.  Then I told her, "I'm having trouble eating.  My stomach is cramping and it's like I can't get food in.  I've been drinking gatorade and Boost."  She responded, "you have to stop that right now.  It will make your diarrhea worse."  She gave me a handout of the BRAT diet, and sent me home.  I made an appointment with my PCP for the following Tuesday, (April 10).

Days 6, 7, 8--April 4, 5, 6th...went by.  Nothing changed except I started having an ache in my middle.  It was worse at night.  I started eating Tylenol and Advil every 4 hours, and getting up at 11 pm and spending the next few hours with a heating pad, going to the bathroom constantly.  Always that same, weird stuff coming out.  I couldn't eat.  My daily calorie intake plummeted to between 400 and 900 most days.  I started googling CLYNDOMYCIN and  DIARRHEA and reading the articles.


I kept seeing Clostridium difficile. It rang a distant bell in my mind.  I think I did a training on this.  Something about gloves, and gowns being required around someone who had it.

Shit.

I wrote the PA and asked her why she hadn't tested me for it.  No response, except a scripted one from another PA telling me I should go see my PCP.

On Tuesday, April 10, I saw my family practitioner.  She ordered a test for C. Diff, and started me on treatment before the test came back positive.  I had lost 10 lbs.  I called in to work, and they immediately employed a "terminal cleaning" in my office.  I started taking Flagyl.  But it was too late.  The next day, the pain was no longer going away with Tylenol, and I was exhausted and dehydrated.  I had started throwing up.  I was too tired to stand up long enough to comb my hair. My weight had started climbing again back up to normal, but I couldn't sit down for long because of the pain in my middle. I could only lie down.  That evening, Sweet Baboo was working, so I asked Dread Pirate to take me to the emergency room.

The ER dictated to his scribe as he examined me.  He used words like "starving" and said my urine was brown.  My liver enzymes were elevated.  He dictated, "patient is writhing."  He asked me if I wanted morphine.  For the first time in my life, I said yes. I drifted off to sleep. Something during the night Dread Pirate and Sweet Baboo switched places, and I was offered a choice between being admitted and going home.  I chose the latter.  I was sent home about 2 am on the 12th of April with scripts for Oxy and an anti-nausea medication.  I went home, and asked Sweet Baboo to get my some loaded baked potato soup at Kroger.  It's loaded with cream, salt, and potatoes, and I was able to get my calorie count up for the first time in days.

But later that night...the pain started up again, like it did every night.  Oxy didn't make a dent.  The next morning, I asked Sweet Baboo to take me back to the hospital.

And that's the backstory to why, on Friday the 13th in April, I was admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with C.Diff Colitis, on contact precautions, in a single room with intravenous everything (including morphine).

To be continued.












Saturday, July 15, 2017

2016

Even though I was in awful shape in 2016 I was still stubborn and foohardy...so I spent a year running down whatever fitness base I had left. It's probably the reason I started getting interested in art. 

In January, I ran the Bandera 50k. I didn't take any pictures. I didn't do too badly, because by then I'd only been coughing a few months and was still in pretty good shape.  

In March, I ran the Puerto Rico marathon. 

That's blood on the ribbon. 

I didn't take pictures of the PR course, but I started taking pictures around this time...during the trip. 




After the marathon, I passed out. My glasses cut next to my eye when I fell. It turns out that when you get stitches right next to your eye you get s he'll of a shiner. 


I ran two half marathons soon after, the same weekend. 

In June I ran the North Umpqua Trail (NUT) 50k, otherwise known as Now I Hate Oregon 50k.  It is an all-uphill run through mosquitos and poison oak. It is also breathtakingly beautiful. 


I drew a picture of my legs after this trail marathon. That's a picture of Poison Oak in the upper left corner. And that's why I hate Oregon. 

I was doing a lot of pencil drawings about this time. This is one I did of the Oregon coast during the trip to do the NUT. 

I took this picture at the finish line of the NUT50k



=========
In July, I finished the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k. 



Sweet Baboo started the 100 miler, but ran into some problems and only finished 50 miles. He's running the 100 again today.


I did this painting of a picture I took of the course.  

In August, I tried to do the La Luz. It's a 9 mile climb up to 10,400 feet. I was so slow people were worried and wondering where I was. But I finished. I painted this picture later, with watercolor, Pitt pen, and micron pen. 



In the fall, finished the Morgantown marathon. Easily the hardest road marathon I've ever done. Finishing directly and accepting a finishing medal behind me was a woman who admitted she "probably" cut the course when I passed her the second time. I write the race director three times. They never wrote back, and never removed this local from the results. Ergo, it's cool to cheat at the Morgantown marathon. I guess.
This is the only picture from the course.  



In October I completed the Cloudsplitter 50k, which rivals Tahoe for the hardest 50k I've ever done. 

It's also probably the most beautiful. This 50k, which has over 9000 feet of climbing and rubs along a rudgeline that comprises the Kentucky/Virginia border, I would so do again. 
It was beautiful. The kind of beautiful that fed my soul and filled me with hope for all the wonder that ultrarunning offers. 
Experiences and memories like this kept me going through some pretty hopeless times. 




It was so beautiful, I had to make a slide show. Enjoy. 


(Above:Birch Knob, Kentucky. )



===================

A week later, I did the New York marathon.  I got in on the lottery. Sweet Baboo ran it with me. Of course, I was appallingly slow. But it was a great time. 




And, well, that's it for 2016. I spent the year not able to train but doing things anyway, and wearing down completely. 

...

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Art journaling

Dear Diary,

Even though I haven't been blogging, I have been journaling.  It's just a different kind of journal.  



I journal about things that are important to me.  I journal about times that I'm happy

          






I journal about things that I'm frustrated or angry about






(above) on this day I was tired of seeing all the "bloom where you're planted" posters. 




I journaled selfies to get my feelings out of my head about how I felt about myself that day.







I did this little watercolor when I was near my heaviest.  



sometimes I journaled to try to say to myself, "buck up, little cowboy".




i journaled (sometimes) about runs I did
which I did do. 

slowly.


so this is one thing that's different now.  I journal in pictures that I draw myself.  

...










Saturday, July 08, 2017

shattered. (long post)

Dear diary,

is anyone out there?

it doesn't take a genius to notice the rapid decline in the number of posts on this blog in the past few years.  going back, it would seem that it started around 2012, 2013.  Ish.  which is when today's story begins.

i think things are on the upswing.  i hope they are.

this is long.  but here we go.

in 2011, i was at the top of my game.  i'd been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, but was on good meds.  I ran four marathons in 9 days, and the third one was my personal best: 4:45.

I was battling my weight, but hey, who wasn't?  in 2012, i started a new job, which i love.  and that was the last year i really felt good.  for the past five years, i've been applying every bandaid i could to the increase in weight, decrease in depression, as well as someone without any medical training can.  each new bandaid was followed by a declaration that things are going to be awesome now.

in late 2012, or perhaps 2013, Sweet Baboo went back into the military full time.  i was required to give up my family doc, who'd treated me for 12 years and who had started me on estrogen, and i also had to leave my endocrinologist.  my care was now at the military base, clinic. they do an adequate job there on base, especially with healthy young servicemen and women who aren't approaching maturity, and who doesn't love free prescriptions?  however, the care providers on base, nurse practitioners, have been rotated out every year.  i'm about to begin on my 4th or 5th PCP.  i've lost count.

in any case, the first thing that happened is that my second PCP informed me that i didn't need to be on two thyroid medications.  am i a doctor?  i am not.  so, i said okay.  and that was how citomel, aka liothyronine, was dropped from my regimen.


the weight began creeping on.  i blamed it on the new job, which i imagined involved more sitting (it didn't) and the fact that early menopause occurs in my family.  the hot flashes began.  with a vengeance.  two to three times each hour, sweat would bead up on my legs, roll down between my breasts--i stopped sleeping through the night.

a black depression descended on me.  i woke up weeping, and when i wasn't sad, i was numb.  they upped my dose of wellbutrin.  when i started at the base clinic, they had changed my estrogen pills because the ones i had been on weren't in their formulary.  the new pills were making me nauseated, so we tried several iterations of estrogens--vaginal cream was just gross, and the patch had a latex-based adhesive that made me itch like crazy.  finally, my third PCP said, "we really don't like people to be on estrogen more than 5 years anyway." all attempts to treat menopause symptoms with hormones ceased.  i tried decreasing my caffein and taking black cohosh, which really didn't help much.  i told myself it was temporary, and i could ride it out.  right?

the weight gain accelerated throughout 2014 and 2015 but then leveled out at around 165, assuming, of course, that i ran a few miles nearly every day and did olympic weightlifting 2x per week, and kept my average calorie around 1600 per day.  i still felt a little dull, and sluggish.

then in october 2015, while out on a walk with Himself, i started coughing.

i didn't quite put it together that this was when i started using my new office; i simply assumed it was because of the fall bloom of the chamisa bush.  i looked into getting allergy shots at the base clinic, and was told that my asthma was "too poorly controlled".  they offered a referral to a civilian specialists.  after a six months' wait, i saw a pulmonologist.  he said my asthma was under control.  he referred me to an allergist; after another five months i saw the allergist, who said that my asthma was well-controlled, but a chronic post nasal drop was aggravating my airways and causing my coughing.  he tested me for allergies, and then started me on allergy shots.  ever monday and every friday, for seven months, i went in before work for three shots each.  i'm allergic to molds, evergreens, grasses, molds, dust, mites, and cats.

none of this explained why i was coughing now.  i've always had a lot of allergies, especially to grasses and mold  it's why i live in New Mexico.  why was i coughing now?

my mood continued to decline.  i struggled to accept that this is what a body in its 50s looks and feels like, even though it felt like it was someone else's body.  someone's older, heavier body.

i coughed throughout the winter, and into the spring of 2016.  by the summer of 2016, i was nearly incontinent and my marathon time had increased by an hour.  i couldn't run. i began studying drawing and painting; i figured if i couldn't run, i needed something else to give me meaning.  i gained another 5 lbs.  i struggled, daily, with fake it until you feel it. i bought air cleaners, dust covers, and everything had HEPA filters it.  i was constantly tired...depressed...heavy...sluggish.

in early 2017, i had gained another 5 lbs.  i was up to 175.  i went online to buy some second-hand clothing to fit the new, larger me because after consulting with a nutritionist, i gained another 10 lbs.

but, by early 2017 i had also figured out that there was something about my office making me cough; although i coughed almost constantly, sometimes until i gagged, it was worse at work.  i brought in an air cleaner.  that seemed to help a little.  the allergy shots continued.  i started feeling a tiny bit better.

then in february 2017, i came in one day to find that the walls near my office, which is partially subterranean, were encased in plexiglass.  men in suits and respirators were walking in an out, and inside the enclosure, were removing wallboard.

mold, the workers told me.  lots of it.  as far down as they could dig.  after 6 weeks they had cleaned up and removed everything.

and i had stopped coughing, abruptly, after 15 months of coughing.  my cough was gone.  i took the air cleaner home.  i started running again.

5 months later,  i was up to running 4 miles per day, except for Tuesdays when I have crossfit.  my mood started to lift.  and in 5 months of substantial exercise, i lost 4 lbs.

after i stopped talking, i was feeling particularly energized by the lack of coughing and had a new mission to be assertive with health providers.   in march i requested and received a referral to see a specialist in women's issues.  i waited 3 months for an appointment.  she referred me out "you really should be followed by an endocrinologist."  i requested and received a referral to see a civilian endocrinology specialist.  i waited another 2 months for an appointment.  that appointment was 4 days ago.  

there were blood tests for estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and thyroid hormones.  the new provider explained why: "it's not about the numbers," she said.  "it's about how you're feeling."  i nearly started crying on her office.  she listened to me talk.  i told her, forget that i'm a 50-year-old.  i'm a 50-year-old who's done a lot of shit.  she prescribed a different thyroid medication that includes liothyronine.  she scheduled me to begin hormone replacement therapy.  on July 13th, i will have pellets implanted that contain hormones that last for about 3 months.  tricare will not pay for it.

i'm so tired of being tired.  i'm so tired of not sleeping, of feeling to heavy to run.  i am up to 4 miles per day now, running and hiking on trails each morning.  i realize that you can't be "young" again but i would like to get back to where i have been, to enjoy running again..to have energy...to not feel like my days of competing in sporting events are over.

I've had my hopes dashed repeatedly.  I"m more cautiously optimistic.  i've talked to some women who have had the pellet HRT, and although it's anecdotal, they talk about "getting my life back." I would just like to have enough energy to be able to run and do the things that make me healthy.

i hope.




Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Taking a break

if you hadn't noticed, I'm taking a bit of a break from blogging to pursue a new passion. Don't worry, I'm still doing ultra running. For now, you can catch up with me here:
Lynn's Daughter.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

How Misty got her groove back.

Dear Diary,

This past two months have been difficult.  My asthma flared up during last fall's pollen bloom…and then never went away. I finally went to the doctor and ask for help, and after several false starts, and after having nearly lost my voice, she put me on some new asthma medication. I may also be starting allergy shots soon.

As a result of not being able to breathe, as you might guess, my training fell off by quite a bit, as evidenced by me passing out after the Puerto Rico marathon. I lost a lot of my robustness, my ability to recover quickly, my ability to run every single day.  But finally, back in late March, I was able to slowly get back on the trails again.

As a result of my airway shenanigans, my "marathon double" that was planned for Pennsylvania and Virginia became a "half marathon double".  However, I was able to complete the Cedro Peak 45k, A somewhat rocky trail run in the Manzano mountains.

This weekend, that is to say, next weekend, I'll be attending the "ham is" i mean "hey Ms." 50 K. [gotta love Siri! that's supposed to read "Jemez 50 K"] Here's the profile. 



I've even painted my nails blue in preparation for the high altitude.



I am prepared to fail. But I'm not prepared to quit.

I have discovered that I am lousy with my nutrition. I spent the last month trying to do Weight Watchers. Weight watchers does not work for old runners or ultrarunners. Weight watchers works for people who perhaps do yoga or Pilates to keep fit or maybe jog a couple miles every day, but it doesn't work for people who run until they throw up, or for cross-fitters, i'm guessing.  I was getting dizzy spells while climbing.  I would eat my plan dutifully, and then around 3 pm, go look for a pie to eat.

 I started to suspect this earlier this year when I do the 50 K and, at mile 20, I ate a small bag of jellybeans. It lit a fire under me and kept me going. I also drink cola at every single aid station and just put the worry about calories out of my mind.  The problem is, I frequently lose my appetite when I'm running. But there are three things that will keep me going: First, any kind of hazelnut spread on anything at all. Second, certain flavors of jelly beans. Not the sportbeans. The real ones. Buttered popcorn and coconut are my favorite flavors.  Third, cola, which I rarely drink in any other context.

I also confess to subscribing to the belief that maybe if I don't eat very much I can get my body to burn some fat. And then immediately after a long run I would eat a whole pizza.  Or an eight-piece chicken dinner.  Because a girl's gotta replenish, right??

So i"m going to try something new. At least I think it's new for me.  I'm going to eat like a normal person so that i have the energy to run snd work out, and so I'm not prowling through the hospital at 3pm looking for day-old birthday cake.  

...

nowhere to go but up. (Part II)

Dear Diary, So, I’d been admitted to Presbyterian hospital with a Clostridium Dificile infection and resulting colitis Friday afternoon,...