Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happy Tuesday, once again!

Breakfast: kale/spinach/tomato/basil and goat cheese omelet, iced mate with honey.  Woke up this morning to (finally!) a sprinkling of sparkling snow and the tantalizing prospect of maybe eventually beginning studying for a final exam on Thursday instead of using my day off to escape to the snowy mountains.  Ah, to be a busy, working adult/student in Colorado in the winter.  Oh well, soon enough there will be lots more snow and many more days to ski.  Meanwhile, I need to pass my chem exam.

I also woke up with sore abs.  What? you ask.  Don't sore abs require some sort of activity to actually work those abs?  Well, yes!  Since I updated last week, I have run four more times and twice done lift-y things at the gym, including incline sit-ups, hence the sore lower abs.  I have decided to try something just slightly different.  Instead of running with the intention of gradually increasing my mileage for some long-distance race, I am focusing on a broader goal: strength and a solid base fitness level.  I have only been running between 2.5 and 3 miles, which is actually working out pretty well.

Here is a fun update: it has been six weeks since I last received IVIg.  (Immune-replacement therapy I'd been receiving since June 2011.  The chemo sapped my body's ability to produce its own secondary immune response).  I wasn't making my own immunoglobulins, so my doctor out here determined it was in my best interest to receive an infusion of someone else's immunoglobulins every three weeks.  Okay, fine, good, I stopped having chronic sinus infections, slept through the night, changed my diet, stopped having debilitating intestinal issues, blah blah.  And then, six weeks ago, I transferred my care from the children's hospital I had been going to to the adult hospital across the street.  The adult hematologist/oncologist I met with six weeks ago had a different plan for me.  He wanted me to NOT receive the immune therapy every three weeks, reasoning that it isn't necessarily that healthy to so frequently receive blood products.  Are they really doing all that much for me, anyway?  I have this long-term goal to eventually be off all medications and hospital infusions (including IVIg!).  So, while acknowledging my trepidation of just letting my immune system slowly get worse concurrently with flu season, I agreed to pause the IVIg and see what happens with the directive to contact my doctor Immediately if I started feeling sick or if any of my old symptoms came back.

Like I said, it has now been six weeks, and honestly, I haven't felt great, but I also haven't fallen deathly ill (or gotten sick at all, actually).  I go back in on Thursday for another PET scan, labs and a follow-up with my adult doctor.  I am interested to see where my IgG levels are - higher, lower, how much lower... But anyway, the point of all this: with no external help for my immune system and a massive reluctance on my part to rely on any antibiotics, I am focusing heavily on shoring up my body and my immunity naturally and nutritionally.  I am going back to school for nutrition to gain some credibility so I can help others do this very thing, but I am still going to start with myself and start now.  So, while I would love to train for another marathon, I know that running those distances throughout winter is not the smartest choice for my body.  Much more important is to focus on overall health - shorter running distances, strength training, perhaps yoga... Skiing! 

And, of course, food.  I would really like to add more vegetables to my diet.  Comparatively, I already eat pretty well.  (see: breakfast!)  But there is so much room for improvement, so many things to learn about nutrition and immunity and incorporating it all into a sustainable lifestyle.  I still have a sweet tooth; that isn't going away.  I love baking and am having a blast learning how to make healthy, gluten-free snacks.  (Side story: my roommate last night mentioned he tried a piece of the coffee cake I made the other day.  "Is it really gluten free?"  "Yup, sure is."  "It doesn't even taste like it!  It's really good."  Sweet.  I love when that happens.)  I have also found I have trouble fueling myself adequately if I run any longer than half an hour.  For some reason, my metabolism has skyrocketed, and the last thing I need is to lose any more weight.  As winter sets in here in Denver, other people can go ahead and get sick, but I will not be one of them.  I have too many more important things to worry about than viruses and bacteria.  Letting go of stress, maintaining a healthy weight, running, eating super well, and listening closely to my body.

We would all be a little bit better off if we ate more kale.  As the holidays progress, I just hope you can figure out a way to relax and take care of yourself.  Throw some garlic and spinach into your morning omelet!  Make an effort to drink more tea and less coffee (less, not none...).  I'm going to eliminate sugary beverages to make room for delicious homemade baked goods.  Hooray, here's to your health.  :)

Running just a little more, breathing deeply.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It is a Tuesday

Which means: jazz on the radio, garlic and rosemary sockeye, white sweet potato roasties, and, now, organic hot chocolate.  There is a mini Christmas tree glowing in the fireplace-space of my apartment, nestled beneath a large glass jar stuffed with some more glowey Christmas lights.  You cannot have too many Christmas lights glowing all around.  Standing in the corner, right next to my jam-packed bookshelf, are a pair of lime green and black and orange (?!) crazy, ridiculous powder skis that, every time I look at them, make me think of my crazy, ridiculous boyfriend powder skier. (I look at those skis a lot.)  There is a 1950s-era fully functional record player across the room, hanging out beneath our vintage disco ball.  It's time to bust out the Beach Boys Christmas album! which we do have.

I am blessed.  I am grateful and lucky and beyond amazed every day that I am here, living this life.  A blog I was reading earlier today contained this statement: "Life can change, powerfully, in six years."  She was referring to having been diagnosed with celiac disease six years earlier.  Six years ago, for me, I was diagnosed with cancer.  Life changed, powerfully, in the course of one week.  Six years ago, I had no idea what the next months, weeks of my life would bring.  I knew only that I had to do everything possible to stay alive, to go back to school the next year.

I don't think there is anything in this world that can prepare you for a life-shaking, paradigm-shattering event.  Doesn't matter if it is celiac or cancer or lupus or the birth of a child or whatever.  Other people say things like, "I couldn't do what you've done."  But that isn't true.  If you want it badly enough, you will do whatever it takes to adapt to this new challenge.  Even though I used it once, I really don't like the term "new normal."  Can anyone define for me "old normal?"  Is it normal to sleep 4 or 5 hours a night, depend on caffeine and processed foods to sustain us during the day, use alcohol or substances as a means of relaxation?  Don't tell me that is normal; don't even try.  We are all so individualized.  The glory of our lives is that we have the freedom to choose how we want to approach our days.  We really can choose our attitudes.  There is no science to confirm or deny that my (mostly) positive attitude helped me beat cancer, but I am cancer-free six years later despite still consuming mass quantities of sugar.

It's funny: most high school and college kids have a plan for their lives; they have at least a vague idea of where they'll be in five years' time.  When I was a senior in college, five years ago, I had no remote vision of my future.  I was still entrenched in the reality that I might not live to see the next semester.  Everything has gone in a completely different direction than I would have thought.  I always thought my younger brother would live in Colorado, not me.  I would have said, "Oh wow, that's super cool!  But so unlikely!" if someone had told me by 2013 I'd have completed two marathons, Chicago and Boston.  I'd have climbed in Wyoming and Utah and Colorado, photographed the President and countless bands, friends, mountain bikers.  Worked at Starbucks.  Still worked at Starbucks...  If someone had told me that in five years time, I would decide to go back to school for science.  Like, for real.  Science.  Who does science??

And yet here I am, six years later, doing science.  Doing science because I want to know what happened to my body and how I can fix it nutritionally.  I, too, was diagnosed with celiac, but it popped up as a result of the immunodeficiency caused by chemo.  Chronic inflammation, sinusitis: things that I can control with diet and exercise, things I so badly want to help others understand and control with diet and exercise.  "I couldn't do what you've done..."  What, couldn't eliminate gluten because it was a life or death situation?  Of course you could!  And discover quinoa and quinoa flour and garlic rosemary sockeye and white sweet potatoes!  Life is worth figuring out how to make it work.  It might even end up infinitely better than what you imagined.

In the meantime, so much for running and blogging about it.  I haven't been running almost as much as I haven't been writing.  I have been running a little bit, but not enough and with no motivation behind it.  I think I need something to work towards.  I'm not one of those people who can just Run.  I need to train, even if it's half-hearted.  I need a reason to haul out of bed when it's dark and cold when I would much prefer to sleep a little longer.  So, if anyone wants to suggest a spring/early summer race, OR, if someone wants to train with me, please let me know!

There are so many beautiful things in this world, in my life.  Again, so much to be grateful for.  I am normal (hah) and lose sight of that perspective sometimes, but I also always come right back to it.  It's been six years, and I am still kicking, and kicking it in Colorado, no less!  I have my very own pair of gnarly skis!  I have a plan and a vision for my future.  It's an incredible one, too.  I have No Idea how any of it will work out, but it is there, at least.  It is something to work towards while still living every day and appreciating everything I have.  We are all so lucky to be here.  I only ask that you consider everything you're blessed with, realize that nothing is permanent and it is all we can do to appreciate what we have right now.  Thank you for tuning in, hopefully I'll be back sooner.  There has been a lot on my mind lately; maybe I'll share some more of it.

Trying to run more; thinking less about the small stuff.  Love!