Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pulmonary Embolism - 4 months later

Remember that pesky trait I have of being an impatient woman? Yeah, it occasionally bites me in the ass. Like now. I like to think that I've been a model patient through this whole pulmonary embolism ordeal by being very involved in my treatment and following all of my doctor's orders. When I got to stop taking Coumadin at the end of January (totally unprovoked with no whining or bitching on my part I might add), my doc told me to come back after a month for some follow-up blood work. I knew Hubby had to go in for his own blood work mid-March so I just planned to go when he went and calendared it without another thought.

I felt great in February, started training for my half marathon, kicked ass with my weekly yoga class and all around felt great. Then March hit and I started making excuses about mid-week runs, started putting off my long runs and just felt run down. I chalked it up to warming temps in Utah and the return of my seasonal allergies and didn't think much more about it. I was still active, just not doing all that I had intentions of doing. It happens to the best of us.

My calendar - the secret weapon of my overachiever behavior - reminded me it was time for my blood draw two weeks ago so I stopped in on my way to work to open a vein. My insurance company has this cool tool where you can access your own health records online as long as your doctor participates, which mine does. Lucky for me since Monday night I was impatient to know the results - weird, I know - and logged on to see if they were back already. They were but I was devastated. My levels were still elevated and my doctor had made a note that he wanted me back on Coumadin. I immediately began stressing about what all this could mean and Googled what else could cause an elevated result on this particular blood test. Bad idea to Google anything health related I think in hindsight but hey, I need data!

The next day, stressing about possible cancer and liver disease and heart disease thanks to my friend Google, I got a call from the doctor's office to schedule an appointment. I continued to stress about the possibility of being required to take Coumadin for the rest of my life on top of whatever else could be going on until my appointment on Thursday. When I finally got there I was reminded again about how amazing my doctor is and how lucky I am to have found him. I told him all the things I'd been stressing about which he was able to dismiss since I had started this whole ordeal with a full blood workup showing no heart disease or liver disease. We decided that we both wanted to know what exactly was going on in my lungs. I was willing to undergo and pay for another CT scan for real answers rather than assumptions that this elevated level was just because I *only* took Coumadin for three months initially. In true Terra fashion, I then negotiated with him on my treatment options. We agreed that if I still had the exact same clots, he'd be okay with only three months of Coumadin and if it turned out they were new clots then I'd give him six months without bitching about it. It was a fair deal that felt win-win for both of us.

Last Monday morning was very unsettling when I had to stop in the middle of yoga class because I was out of breath and wheezing. Considering I've been doing yoga since a month post-diagnosis I was super scared that my test later that day was going to yield far worse news than I hoped. Well, it turns out I've still got clotting in my lungs but thanks to being able to compare both of my CT scans we know for certain they are the same ones I originally had and that they are significantly smaller. YEAH for no new clots!

So, I've resigned myself to Coumadin for the next three months - without bitching about it - and all the crap that comes with it. Goodbye spinach and all my favorite green veggies.  Hello weekly blood testing and bleeding issues again. But truthfully if being on the stuff makes me feel well enough to run like it did in late January and February, it will be a welcome addition back into my life until these pesky clots are for sure gone. Especially since I've already registered and paid for my half marathon in June.

I have one last hurdle to complete from my follow up - my first mammogram this week. Apparently I'm of the age (yippee!) and since malignancy can cause blood clots my doctor says its a good idea to do it. I was hoping that all the recent controversy in the medical field about doing them in your forties was going to get me out of them for a few more years. But no, I'm not so lucky. Unless you count that I am still kicking and didn't die from this insanity that I still marvel about happening in the first place. Here's to the next three months passing quickly so I can finally put this all behind me for good!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Evolution of Fitness

Last week I realized that my personal fitness has evolved, in part because of my irritating pulmonary embolism which still isn't gone as much as I wanted to will it behind me. (More on all that later.) Like all evolution, little things got me to this current place where yoga has replaced running as my mainstay.

I've loved yoga since I first did it by myself in my basement about 5 years ago. At the time I was super self-conscious about "doing it right" and thus didn't do it very often and never in public. Then a couple of years ago I started occasionally doing yoga classes at the gym when it fit into my schedule. I loved it just as much in a class with others as I did alone in my basement so I stuck with it. Remember my friend who I dragged to yoga last summer when I discovered how much I like hydro training? (You can read about it here) Well, she loves yoga - like LOVES it - and does it faithfully at the gym. It turns out she and I have a neighbor who is a yoga instructor and agreed to teach a class in our neighborhood once a week. A class I have faithfully been attending since December even though it happens at the ungodly hour of SIX AM on Monday mornings. Me, the worlds biggest night owl awake and somewhere by six a.m.on purpose and before coffee. It's insane! Last week, this same friend who I introduced to yoga a mere eight months ago agreed to lead the class because our instructor was going to be out of town. She said something at the beginning of that practice that has really stuck with me. "There's just you, your breath and your mat." I think that's why I love yoga so much. Even though you do it in a group it is such an internal and personal thing where you can push yourself to new limits and every time you do it something different happens.

One of the greatest things I've learned practicing yoga with my close friends is the realization that everyone is different and everyone has their own strengths. I tend to be so judgmental toward myself in comparing where I am with where everyone else is and this class spent with the same people week after week has become a full expression of each of us as individuals. Not in a negative sense but in a very positive one. I'm short and have super flexible hamstrings so I'm really good at down dog and I adore flip dog while there are other poses that I can't even begin to get into like crow and hero that others of us excel at. I get to secretly gloat when we are in down dog and my heels are flat on the mat and everyone else is crying out in pain. Then they get to gloat when they do what they are good at and I'm struggling. This morning we had a conversation about finding "our" poses which also keep evolving the more we practice.

Last week I was on cloud nine after I did my first major inversion. It's called shoulder stand and basically you lie on your back with your chin tucked into your chest with your torso and your feet pointing straight in the air. The first time I couldn't even begin to get my torso off the mat let alone perpendicular. I was dejected but did the modified version instead while vowing that I'd keep trying and "someday" I'd be able to do it. Who knew that someday would only take a couple of months when I finally did it a week ago. It was visible and measurable proof of how much my body and all the muscles have changed. My posture has improved, my walking gait, everything.

Our instructor sometimes asks the question "where do you go when it gets hard?" and I've been thinking a lot about that lately. I think the answer also evolves over time. I used to say I wanted my health and my weight to improve but wasn't willing to do any hard work that took me out of my comfort zone. Now I have to keep reminding myself not to push too hard because I'm still healing from that whole almost dying thing. I used to get dejected and simply give up when I couldn't do something, now I keep trying until I'm finally successful. One thing I've learned is that it really is important to find something you love to do to stay active. It doesn't have to be the same thing as the next person as long as it keep you motivated to keep working hard. I may love yoga even more than running since I never considered waking up early to run but am considering adding another couple of early mornings for yoga. It doesn't mean I'm giving up running, but right now I get more joy and less frustration with my limitations with yoga. Perhaps when all the blood clots in my lungs are completely gone things will change yet again. That's the beauty of evolution - you never know where things will end up. Some days you just hold on for the ride...