Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's Been A Long Time

Yes, it really has. Almost two years. I don't even know if I remember how to do this, but here goes!

If we're Facebook "friends", you have a general idea of how my life has been. If not, I'm going to try to catch up as quickly as possible. Just the main facts:

Melissa retired from gymnastics about 1.5 years ago. Many reasons, most of which included health issues and financial issues. After being home-schooled from 4th to 8th grade, she started her freshman year at Bolingbrook High School. She took all honors courses (except spanish, PE and health). She earned all A's, and finished the year ranked no.1 (out of over 1,000 kids) in her class. She won outstanding honors biology student of the year, had perfect attendance, and all her teachers just loved her. I couldn't be more proud. She is an amazing young woman. She was part of an in-school dance team, participated in the thespian and key club. This summer she joined a local, very well-known dance team called the Bolingbrook Dance Force. She is on the senior company team, and is taking ballet and hip hop. She started her sophomore year of high school on Wednesday, and is happy to be back (I think)!

Ryan--well, what a year it was for him. He graduated from high school ranked 11th of over 800 students and won more awards than I feel comfortable mentioning. After many months of school hunting, we all decided on North Central College in Naperville. He was awarded two amazing scholarships from the school, and with loans and grants, will be able to pay for his own education. He will live at home this first year.

He worked really hard over the summer for the Valley View School District maintenance department. It was a full-time job, and I really think he liked it. He was able to make/save a bunch of money. We are working on getting him a car so he can drive himself to school.

He also started a part-time, mostly weekend job as a waiter/server at the Marriott Hotel where his dad work's part-time in Burr Ridge. He will be able to work during the school year, and will be a blessing financially.

Jerry is still at Sears and working part-time at the hotel. We struggle financially, as always, and he is doing his absolute best to take care of his family. Our 1996 Town & Chrysler finally died in June, so we have been living with one car--not easy to do.

As for me, I'll try to be as brief as possible. My RA was really bad for almost three years. I did no racing in 2010 and 2011, other than one 5K run. Health and $ the main reasons. I was really miserable physically, but I tried to stay as active as possible. I know it is to my benefit to keep moving. Most of this past winter I spent riding a stationary bike at Lifetime (my bike on the trainer was too hard); walking/jogging on the treadmill, and walking/swimming in the pool whenever possible. Core work and strength training whenever physically possible, too.

After five different medications, and being put on 5 grams of presdnisone per day, I finally started feeling better this past May. I started riding outside with a new friend, who was training for her first triathlon at She-Rox. She is MUCH younger than me, and the mother of two young kids. We hit it off right away! She convinced me to race with her at Evergreen--she did the olympic, I did the sprint (which I love because the bike is a 40K). I did better than I expected. An ok swim, really good bike, and a yukky run, which I did expect. I just can't run like I used to--the extra age and weight don't help.

I thought about doing more races this summer, but as the time approached to register, I didn't feel as good. Plus, the expense and timing were issues. With one car, the logistics are also difficult.

I'm glad I didn't sign up for any events, because last Saturday, on Melissa's 15th birthday, I had a really bad bike crash. I was alone, riding about 18 mph, and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground. I'm not really sure what happened, but I might have hit a very small, deep pot hole, or that squiggly black stuff they use to fix the roads--that stuff is really dangerous to cyclists! I'm really careful to stay away from it.

Jerry came and rescued me. Only one lady in a car stopped to ask if I needed help. Kind of surprising. I ended up with 3 fractured ribs, bruises on most of my limbs, a badly bruised wrist, road rash on my leg and knee, and a very swollen, sore knee. It's been over a week, and I'm still miserable. I can't drive. It hurts to sit or walk. Laying down and Vicodin are the only things that make the pain tolerable.

So, if you believe in the power of prayer, I would really appreciate some. I'm not good at "resting" and haven't been this immobile in over 10 years, when the RA was really bad. As soon as the pain subsides, the road rash heals, and I can drive, I plan to walk in the pool. The docs say it will take at least 6, maybe 8 weeks for the ribs to heal completely enough to swim, bike and run. We'll see. While I will be cautious, I will be back as soon as I can.

Hope everyone is having a great day, in spite of the rain here in Chicago.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Finally, A Diagnosis and Treatment!

This post will be about Melissa's almost 6 month battle with nausea and dizziness, so don't say I didn't warn you!

Last March or so, Melissa starting complaining about her stomach. It hurt, and she couldn't describe the exact type of pain. Some nausea, some just not feeling well. Needless to say, this pain had a horrible effect on her gymnastics--she wasn't able to have consistently good practices, which in turn affected her meet results. She was still recovering from the ankle injury she suffered in October. The last time we saw the orthopaedic doc, she estimated she was about 70% recovered. Melissa was released from physical therapy, but continued with the exercises she was given, and still does them very regularly.

In early June, all of a sudden at practice one day she felt very dizzy. I brought her to the pediatrician for both issues. She decided to treat it very conservatively, in other words, rule out the most simple problems. She had some blood work done--everything came back normal. We increased her electrolytes and fluids, but that didn't seem to make a difference.

Back to the doctor (she had a physical scheduled). The next step would be to see the ear/nose/throat specialist. Melissa had her adenoids removed about 5 years ago, so we had a doctor that we really liked and made an appointment with her. I thought maybe a trip to the ophthalmologist wouldn't hurt (other than the fact that it is not covered by our insurance and cost us $186!). She received a clean bill of health, just as she had from the optometrist. However, this doctor thought she should have a CAT scan. After speaking again to the pediatrician, however, we decided to wait to see what the ENT said. (I'm really glad we did, because she felt it would have been a wast of time and money.)

The exam showed that Melissa's vision and hearing are perfect. However, she referred us to Central DuPage Hospital's rehabilitation center for Vestibular testing. It's hard for me to explain, but it has to do with the brain and inner ear and proprioceptor issues. I was SO hoping this was the problem, because next would have been an MRI of her head/brain. VERY SCARY!

We saw the physical therapist yesterday and received amazing news. Melissa has a vestibular issue, which means that her inner ear and eyes and brain are not working together properly. I honestly don't know what the term is for what she has. We also may never know what caused it. A very common cause is a virus that the patient may never have known they had, most likely with very little or no symptoms. Some how this affected her inner ear and consequently her balance, which resulted in the dizziness and nausea.

Evidently, this is something that occurs very often, but is very hard to diagnose. It is particularly difficult to diagnose on a gymnast, since their sense of balance is so much better than the "average" person. Very likely someone else with this problem would be so dizzy they might not even be able to walk straight or stand, and would experience extreme nausea and even vomiting.

Anyway, the treatment is very simple. Melissa has exercises to do at home that involve her eyes, a pencil, movement of her head, and a metronome. Sounds very weird, I know, but the therapist seems to think she should be feeling back to "normal" in four to six weeks. Hallelujah!

The moral of the story for me is this: as a parent, you have to know your child. Melissa is not a complainer; she is a tough kid. When she says she doesn't feel good, I always believe her and listen. The therapist told us that many children are misdiagnosed because parent/teachers think they are "faking" or just don't want to go to school, etc. Many adults are misdiagnosed for years as the symptoms are thought to be side effects of meds or other illnesses. As I said, it is very easy to fix, very hard to diagnose. I'm so glad we had a doctor who was familiar with this condition.

I'm also hopeful that Melissa will have a better gymnastics season. Last year was really tough. She will remain at the same level--not being able to practice and learn new skills over the summer really set her back. But she's not upset about it--she just wants to have fun, and enjoy what most likely will be her last year in club gymnastics. She will start high school next year, after 5 years of home school. It will be an adjustment. Plus, BHS does not have a gymnastic team, and I think doing club will be too much for her.

So, thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. Enjoy your weekend. (It's already too cold for my body!)

Until next time--God bless!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just Some Fun Stuff

It's sort of early, 47 degrees, and I'm not liking the cold. September has been a challenging month for me, to say the least. I started back on a medication for my RA that is really yukky. It makes me tired and sick for several days after taking it (I take it Monday night and usually don't feel real good again until Thursday p.m.). The cold plays havoc with my body. Before RA, I wouldn't have thought twice about riding in 40 or 50 degree weather. way. I really need 60's or better. So....I skipped my ride yesterday and had a nice, long indoor workout.

Oh, and I did a 5K on Saturday! My first race of any kind in over a year. It was a new race, sponsored by the private school my kids attended. The proceeds were for a scholarship fund in the memory of a young lady who passed away at a very young age. She was the sister of one of my son's classmates, and I felt I just had to go to support such a great cause!

I had a wonderful time seeing so many old friends. It was the perfect day for a run--in the 50's, some sun, some wind. I had a very realistic goal--under 29 minutes would be just fine, thank you very much. I did not run the entire months of August and September due to pain (I hate to say injuries....) and only started running a couple weeks ago. I vaguely remembered what it is like to run a 5K without coming off a bike ride--I do much better after the ride. However, I have to say I did OK. My time was announced as 27+, but my watch said 28:17, which is just over a 9 minute pace. Hey, for me, that's not bad! It was my first race in the 55-59 age group--there were two of us there. (I did finish first.)

After the race I drove over to Lifetime and had a really nice swim before picking up Melissa at the gym. It was a nice day. However, my quads were sore the next day from running HARD on concrete--something I only do in a race. I stick to soft surfaces whenever possible. Makes a HUGE difference.

Running in that race made me wish I could race next year. Several things will have to happen. First, I really need to lose at least 10-15 pounds. I am fat and not in any shape to race. I tried really hard, again, this summer to drop weight: I trained 15-20 hours every week, but I admit I wasn't always careful about what I ate. I'm going to try again this winter. (Actually, every day I wake up and say: I can eat perfect today. I really try to do one day at a time.) Maybe the additional medication will help with my RA and I'll have more energy and feel better this winter.

Melissa is still struggling with dizziness. We're going to have a Vestibular evaluation on Friday. It's a relatively new kind of physical therapy. I really hope this helps, because the next step is an MRI of her head. Her gymnastics is very limited and meet season starts in December, so we're hoping to get this resolved as soon as possible.

I have decided that Facebook is amazing. I have been able to connect with old friends, and stay in touch with those I can't see on a regular basis. It's a great tool.

Many of my "tri" friends have had amazing races in the past weeks. Many still have their "A" race coming up. Good luck to all of you. Happy training! I hope the weather holds out for you for the remainder of the weeks you have to train.

Hoping to get out on the bike later--but it will have to get to at least 60 degrees with some sun. If not....I really don't want to put my bike on the trainer, because I'm hoping for at least one more long ride this Sunday. There's always the pool!

Well, until next time--God bless!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm Back...Well, Sort of

It's been a while I know, but I thought I'd post an update on what's been happening in my life. Three seasons have come and gone (almost) since my last post. I'll try to keep this relatively brief.

In a nutshell, I had a tough winter. I tried really hard to drop some weight--it didn't happen, and I'm really not sure why. Age, menopause, change of metabolism, not sure. I decided, for many reasons, not to race this season. I think it was a good decision. I had a good June, but had to stop running for most of July and all of August. I just started again, and I now know I will have to limit how much/far I run. But that's OK. The stairs and eliptical are OK for aerobic fitness, but nothing can replace the feeling of a good run--even if it is on the treadmill.

Lots of hours doing core and strength work hopefully have paid off. Maybe not in appearance, but in some ways I feel stronger than in the past. I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that I'm not in my 30's or 40's anymore, and I should be very grateful I can to as much as I can. Being a type A personality, however, I've always been really hard on myself and never seem to be happy with where I am physically. Always a work in progress.

I have put in a lot of miles on my bike this summer--more than ever before! And I just love it. Knowing I can ride whenever I want, whatever distance I feel like has been an amazing feeling. It's been warm and windy, but it sure beats cold and windy!

My kids are amazing. Melissa had a tough year in gymnastics--a couple injuries, major growth spurt, and moving up to the optional level made for some big changes. This will probably be her last year in club gymnastics. Bolingbrook HS does not have a team, and I would like to see her get more involved with school activities, which would be very hard with the practice schedule the team has. She turned 13 in August--an amazing young lady with a great heart and lots of spirit, in a very quiet package.

Ryan just started his Junior year at Bolingbrook High School. He had an amazing Sophomore year. He was inducted into the National Honor Society and received the award for Outstanding Honors Chemistry student for the year! I can't believe he will be 17 in October. He's not crazy about driving and is still working on getting his 50 hours of practice. We're not a hurry for him to drive. He wasn't able to find a job this summer, but kept busy with volunteer work and helping his mom around the house. This will be a tough year for him in school--two AP classes and two honor classes--but we know he'll do his very best and we are soooo proud of him.

I'm happy to say that many of my "tri" friends had/are having amazing racing seasons. They are an inspiration and have worked to hard to get to where they are. Several still have their "A" races coming up. Good luck to all of you!

I'm not looking forward to the cold weather.....I really would like to move someday to a warm, dry climate. But....I'll do my best to make it through another Chicago winter.

That's all for now--will try to post more often, maybe once a week or so, depending on what's happening in my life.

Have a blessed day and God bless!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's Been.....Interesting

This will be my last least for a while. Seems like there's really not much I have to say that interests others, and I've never written for myself, so I guess I'm about done.

This year has been a tough one for me and my entire family. Suffice to say, however, that God continues to be good and meet our needs.

I have realized--again--that there is way more to life than triathlon. It's fun, it's rewarding, but it has to be kept in perspective.

At this point in our lives, our children are a high priority. They are at an important age--we won't have them for much longer. My priorities now are my relationship with God, husband and family. Triathlon is only important to me because it is a goal on the road to trying to keep as healthy as possible. The older I get, and the more RA takes over, the harder this has become. But, I will continue to press on, doing the best I absolutely can.

My goals for 2010 are very simple (yet not easy): Stay strong, fight hard to lose 10-15 lbs., and Lord willing complete several triathlons next year. At this point, making it through the cold of winter will be the toughest challenge. My body is totally rebelling to the change in weather. I will do my best.

Jerry and I are thinking about moving to Arizona when Melissa finishes high school--that's about six years from now. I'll be over 60 and more than ready to get out of this cold weather. We will pray and work toward that goal, and hopefully it will happen.

I will still be on Facebook, although I have decided to be a little more discerning regarding "friends". That's all I'll say on that topic.

I pray everyone has a great holiday season and finishes the year strong. Thank you if you've followed me over the last 18 months or so. It's been very interesting.

God bless!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Everything's Relative and You Can't Always Get What You Want

I know, it's been a while. Spending too much time on Facebook, I guess. Have thought about a million things to write about, but I'll limit it to just a few.

October/November are interesting months if you're a triathlete. It's considered "ironman" season around here. OK, not so much "here", but many athletes from here are participating in iron distance races across the country: Wisconsin, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona are the ones that come to mind, as I know people who have done/will do races in these states this year. Also, the 70.3 championship is in Clearwater on November 14th. As I said in a previous post, this is not the time of year for me to train outside. I did it for many years, believe me, and I loved it. But sometimes, you can't always have what you want.....

Which leads me to something I've wanted to share for a while. I have heard many triathletes make the comment that "anyone can do an ironman (or iron distance race) if they really want to." This statement is soooo not true. And, it is wrong for so many reasons. First of all, this takes away from those athletes who have completed this distance. Most triathletes know that an iron distance race is usually a life changing experience. It takes so much more than just swimming, biking and running to complete. There are so many other factors that influence an individuals ability to compete at this distance.

Many are limited by physical issues. For many, swimming is a huge issue. If you weren't a swimmer as a child, it can be very difficult to learn as an adult. Even people who have swam for years find open water to be very challenging. When you mix in the fact that most races are a mass start, well, for many that is a deal breaker. Some can learn to deal with this situation, but not everyone. I know people who are amazing swimmers, but the thought of swimming in open water with 2500 other athletes at the same time is mind boggling.

Some of us who are older and have been doing this a long time have other physical issues. Bad knees, backs, feet. Too many years pounding the pavement, running on hard surfaces. For some women, after having children our bodies are never the same. (I know, some women race even better after kids, but I believe those are "elite" athletes, and definitely the exception to the rule. I'm faster than I was in my 30's, but I was NOT FAST then.)

Family and career choices can also influence or limit completing this distance. Iron distance racing is very time consuming and very expensive. Those of us who have younger families know that we have to keep our priorities in order. My family will always come before my triathlon goals. Before kids, we spent a lot of time (and money) training and racing. I remember a couple years when Jerry and I would do a long bike ride on Saturday, and then run a race on Sunday. It was fun, but as your life and priorities change, so does your life style and life goals.

I consider myself very blessed to achieve what I have. I have had both my feet operated on (for plantar fasciitis, when they used to do that; would not do it again if I could do it over); one knee operated on once, and one knee has been scoped three times. I had a hernia operation after my second child was born. Two miscarriages, two D&C's. When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2002, I did not think I would ever be able to ride or run again. In fact, several doctors told me to forget ever running--just be happy walking and swimming. And don't ever even consider trying a marathon again.

I have thought of a million more reasons, but I think you get what I'm trying to say. If everyone could run a 4 minute mile if they really wanted to........if everyone could swim across the English Channel if they really wanted to......if everyone could set a world record for the marathon if they really wanted to....well, we KNOW these things are not true.

My daughter is a club gymnast. She is near the level where many kids drop out of the sport, and I'm starting to understand why. Not everyone is BUILT PHYSICALLY to be a high level/elite gymnast. I see girls try really hard--never miss a practice, have special coaching, have amazing parental support, unlimited financial resources. But some of these girls will never get to the next level. They physically do not have the ability, for whatever reason. Some get injured over and over and have to stop so they don't ruin their bodies at age 11, 12, 13. Some realize there is more to life as a teenager than practicing 20-30 hours a week. The kids that make it are usually the ones that have not only the mental but also the physical ability to do so.

And on that same note, I'd like to address the topic of relativity. As I said, I feel very blessed to be where I am physically. So many people in my position are not able to do what I can. Yes, I am a very disciplined and driven person. But I believe God has blessed me with things other RA patients don't have. I have learned to be satisfied with any race or training effort. You know, it's really hard for me to read about women 10, 15, 20 years younger than me, complaining about how "slow" they ran in a race, or how their bike split sucked, or they just don't know why they can't swim faster than so-and-so. They are swimming, biking and running faster than 99.9 percent of people I know. You ladies need to get over yourselves. Be grateful that you have such amazing ability and have been blessed with that ability, determination and other things that make you so good at what you do.

I read a blog where the writer noted that being an ironman is not the same as being a hero. I COULD NOT AGREE MORE! Another blogger commented that while completing an ironman is an accomplishment, it does not, or shouldn't be as momentous as say, your wedding day, the birth of your children, finishing your degree, finding just the right career, etc. I AGREE!

I did not complete the one ironman I started, but I learned a lot about myself in that year. I don't know if or when I'll try again. But I do know that I am still a triathlete, I will continue in this sport as long as I'm physically able and am having fun. The minute it's not fun, I will re-evaluate why I do this. This is what I tell my daughter all the time about gymnastics. We will support you as long as you want; but when/if you're ready, you can stop anytime.

So, to those of you who have become an "ironman" this year--CONGRATULATIONS! And CONGRATULATIONS to allwho completed their first sprint (or any other distance) triathlon--you are a triathlete, and should be proud of your accomplishments. To those of you complaining about how slow you are--get over it--be grateful for what you can do.

(To those women who wrote the story in the New York Times about 6 hour marathoners--you ladies are major losers. What a horrible article. I'm so sick of the whole "you're not as fast as me so you can't possibly be on official marathoner" articles--get over yourself and keep those stupid opinions to yourself.)

On a personal note, I'm still trying to deal with the colder weather. The sun is out today, which always makes me feel better, regardless of the temperature. I've cut back on my training, hoping to give my body time to adjust to winter. I'm swimming about 4-5 times a week--swimming seems to be the thing that hurts my hips the most right now. Running/biking two to three times a week, and doing strength training 3-4 times. I'm really struggling with my weight/eating right now also. But......hoping/praying things will get better.

Good luck to everyone going to Florida, North Carolina, Arizona. Have a great time/race and consider yourselves blessed just to be there.

Until next time--God bless!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Already Cold

Today is October 13th, and we've had the heat turned on for about a week now. This is way too early, even for Chicago, to be this cold. Friday is our 27th wedding anniversary. The weather on October 16, 1982 was about 75 degrees, sunny and perfect. My parents were married on October 23rd, and it was a scorching 90 degrees. So, tell me some more about that global warming thing?!

Anyway, it has been a tough couple weeks for me with the cold weather starting. My rheumatoid arthritis is on a rampage now, my body is trying to adjust to the cold, damp weather. It really does a number on all my joints. Last week, my neck was really sore. It took we a while to realize it was just the RA in a flare up. Today I woke up with a horrible headache, and actually went back to bed for a couple hours (can't remember the last time I did something like that). If there were any way......I would be living in Arizona.

One thing I know--I will most likely never train for a race that takes place after early September. The change in the weather is too unpredictable, and my body would never be able to adjust. I really feel for those in the area training for iron distance races now. It would be next to impossible for me to be riding long outside in 30's and 40's. Heck, I ran 8 miles outside on Saturday in 45 degree weather and it was cold. Today is supposed to be 40, and while the sun is shining, it is windy and still too cold for my body. I will run inside on the treadmill.

I put my bike on my trainer last week. It will take me a couple weeks to get back to "love" riding inside again. The good part is I can catch up on TV/movies I otherwise would probably miss. Also, when the weather is really bad, I can ride inside early and not leave the house until later in the day. Makes it much easier.

Congratulations to all who ran the Chicago Marathon on Sunday--it would have been a little cold for me, but I know it was much better than the heat of the last two years. The World Championship Ironman Triathlon was Saturday in Kona. It was great watching on the internet, although I didn't get to watch the people I know finish, due to the time difference. Looked to be a tough day, and everyone did a great job.

That's all for now. Hope everyone is enjoying fall--feels too much like winter to me.

Until next time--God bless!