Remembering back in late August 2011, when I unexpectedly required 5 surgeries in 6 days for massive blood clotting. I had no idea I had such a huge medical issue. I felt really good, yet it easily could have taken my life. I was in the best shape of my life, having lost 100 pounds and gained fitness I never had before just 1 short year earlier. One morning, during my swim, my right arm all of a sudden got numb, tingly, swollen and I couldn’t use it to get out of the pool. The lifeguard noticed me struggling and told me that even though it had started to go away, that I really needed to go check it out with the doctor. Thank God he told me, because I believe he saved my life. It had started to go away, I instinctively held my arm up which helped relive it. If he never told me to go to the doctor, I probably wouldn’t have gone since it went away. The doctor found nothing wrong with me. He found me to be in excellent health, better than most people my age, but agreed that it was odd what had happened and that an answer should be found as to what caused it. He sent me to several different specialists to see what they had to say. 5 specialists later, nothing was found except my excellent health, until the last specialist, and the least likely one to find a blood clot, was a rheumatologist who had the good sense to order an ultrasound.
Everything happened so fast after that. As I lay on the table for the ultrasound, the technician all of a sudden said ‘Do not move, I’ll be right back’. I knew that couldn’t be good news, but had no idea what was to come. Please remember at this point I still felt great and never imagined this would happen to me. The doctor came in shortly after that and told me I have massive blood clotting and require a very specialized set of surgeries that are only performed at a small amount of hospitals nationwide. I was rushed to Columbia in NYC. I had 5 surgeries in 6 days, never leaving the recovery room until after my last surgery. I never knew what would happen to me next because with each surgery, they would say they needed to see until after the surgery what may be next, so I didn’t know at the onset that I would require 5 surgeries in 6 days, which was a blessing because it was grueling and unimaginable. I wasn’t allowed to move or risk dying during that time of about a week. Thank God, I was in excellent physical condition prior to the surgeries because they said they never would have been able to do all the surgeries one day after the other if my body could not handle it and most people never could. As a matter of fact, it was day by day that they made their decisions if they would operate again each day, because typically these operations are performed over a series of months, not days, and this was new to these doctors to do these operations in only a matter of days.
I can’t imagine if I had needed these surgeries just 1 short year earlier, before I had lost 100 pounds and gained fitness where before there was none. I know that if this happened the year before, I may not have survived and if I did, the surgeries and my recovery would have taken so much longer. This is proof that fitness is the very best gift you can ever give yourself. There is no price you can possibly put on your health, until it is taken away from you, yet many of us take it for granted. Make fitness a priority no matter who you are because you never know day to day what may happen and you always want to make sure you are equipped as much as you can be. As a single mother of 2 children and the only caregiver of my elderly mother, I needed to get me home as soon as possible.
I asked the doctors to do what they needed to do as quickly as possible, not to wait the usual time needed, that I was willing to undergo whatever I needed to in order to go home as soon as possible. I had an entire team of doctors working on me, I was the talk of the hospital and all the doctors would bring their doctor friends in to see me and say how amazing I am. Thank God it all worked out, I got home just in time for Super Storm Sandy to hit us hard. I am so very thankful I was home for that, my family needed me and I am so glad I was able to be there. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been for my family without me. I am so very thankful I was able to be home, but it was because I asked the doctors about letting me go home much earlier than they planned. They said I needed to stay in the hospital at least another week, then after that they wanted to send me to a nursing home to recover for about a month. With Super Storm Sandy coming, most of the NYC hospitals were closing and transferring patients to Columbia, where I was, which was staying open. I said I’m sure there are people in more need of this hospital bed than me, then after some reluctance, they agreed to let me go home and taught me how to do what I needed to do carefully in order to heal.
The last surgery was rib removal, not only did it hurt, but if I moved the wrong way or did something I shouldn’t do, I would have been in big trouble. I was in a lot of pain, I found every movement extremely difficult. But I could move, so I did. I found this a great blessing to be able to move, because it was movement, although slow and thoughtful, that helped heal me. I pushed myself, but listened to my body to guide me in my healing and made sure I didn’t overdo it. I did this by NOT taking pain medicine, I found that it was the pain that was my guide to healing. Understanding pain, the type and feeling, is vital to listening to your body.
In approximately 5 short weeks, I not only ran in a local 5k race, but was pleasantly surprised to hear my name called after the race as a 3rd place age group winner. It hurt to run, so I just ran as fast as I could and listened to my body. I started by walking around my block, a short block that prior to surgery took less than 10 minutes to walk around, yet it took me over an hour to walk around it the first time post surgery and it was excruciating. I was still not fully recovered for 2 years, although I went on to race and live my life as much as I could. I still was able to do more than many people my age, not because I wasn’t in pain, but because I had the mentality to push myself and keep going to overcome this great challenge. I still had pretty limited range of motion, issues daily with being numb and tingly and at times pain ranging from mild to severe, but it never stopped me, it helped propel me forward. I couldn’t accept this as my fate, I fought it every step of the way. It was not easy. I felt like giving up at times, but glad I never did.
The head vascular surgeon at Columbia told me it would take 2 full years for me to recover. He also said I would never wear a bra, a backpack, and should apply for disability, because I was no longer the same person and would never be. I still felt so very young and couldn’t believe what I was hearing, it seemed like I was watching a very sad movie instead of hearing about my own life. Thank God I had some very supportive friends at the time that where very pivotal in encouraging me to overcome the odds in spite of what the doctor said. I never applied for disability. I couldn’t wear a bra for a very long time, let alone easily put on anything with sleeves that did not slide on over my head, but thank God I am not well endowed. I now have been wearing a bra for years with no pain and no problem. I can wear a backpack with no problem thank God as it is something I wear often as a long distance runner.
I worked very hard to get where I am. I am very proud of being able to overcome this seemingly insurmountable challenge. But even after I was able to overcome these huge challenges, I still need to be reminded, once in a while, that anything is possible. The word impossible itself says I’m possible. I believe anything is possible through God who strengthens us in all we do, always. Even if you don’t believe in God, and I hope you do, He believes in you. Do you want to feel fit forever? I bet your answer is yes. You can overcome any challenge, big or small, and when you do, it will help you feel fit forever. An education, a learned skill, a challenge that was overcome, these are all things that no one can ever take away from you. These are the things in life that mean more than any material thing ever could. These are the things that can make you feel fit forever. #feelfitforever
The picture below was taken almost 1 year after my surgeries, although I am still not wearing a bra. I remember it was a hot and humid day, so I couldn’t cover up under baggy big clothes or layers, like I did in the past to help hide not wearing a bra. Today was a very special day. It was my son’s graduation. I wanted to make sure I looked appropriate. I felt like I had to try to get through the pain of wearing the bra in public, so that my son wouldn’t be embarrassed. He told me “Mom, you could never embarrass me. I am so very proud of you, you are truly amazing to me and anyone who knows you”. My son convinced me. I could feel how very much he meant those beautiful, heartfelt words. I didn’t wear a bra that day. When I first got to the graduation, I felt a little bit like maybe people were staring at me. I couldn’t help but feel a little self conscious, but then so many people came up to me to say how very inspired they are by me and how amazing I am to have overcome so many health challenges. I live in a small town, everyone knows everything, but prior to that day I saw only a small group of people whom I usually see. To be able to now see hundreds of people in my community at the graduation was wonderful in many ways, one of which was that many of them made it a point to come up to me and share with me beautiful words of how very inspiring I am and amazing. I soon forgot I wasn’t wearing a bra. This memory is still one of my favorite days to date and so is this picture. It shows how much fun we all had together and also depicts our daily lives of happiness. I love this picture and this memory. Love and laughter heal all. God bless you and good health and happiness always. #love #laughter #GodBless
February 16, 2013, about 3 years ago, my daughter, Alexis, and I, both got trophies at the Scenic Hudson’s Snowshoe Race! We placed in our age group! I received 2nd place in my age group and my daughter received 1st place in her age group! Neither one of us had ever ran in snow shoes before. I had only tried snowshoes once before for a hike in the woods. My daughter had never tried snowshoeing at all before that day, not even to hike. This was a really great event! It was the first year (and only as far as I know) and I wish they would do more. They made the snowshoes available for free at the race, plus the race was free. I thought that was very impressive and was really nice of Mountain Top Outfitters and something that most races don’t do. Goodwill is something that always goes a long way and to this day I never stopped thinking about what a great race it was and what a great company that put it together. I am so very proud of my daughter for not only trying this new thing with me, but also because she had not even been running at all, even without snowshoes. We always like to spend time together and no matter what we do, we always have lots of fun. This certainly was a lot of fun and more than we thought we may have had, at the start of the race when we were shivering and shaking it was so cold and the wind was nearly blowing us down, that we looked at each other and said this is crazy, as we smiled wide.
It was a very cold day, with heavy winds, especially since it was located right on the Hudson at Long Dock Park in Beacon, NY. There wasn’t much snow, a lot of it had melted and re-froze, so we ran in snowshoes on all different kinds of terrain including snow, ice, frozen muddy areas and the like, which made running in the snowshoes harder than it would have been if it was all snow. It was such an awesome experience for both us in so many ways! It was thrilling to try something new and fun especially since we were trying it together. The freezing weather and whipping winds made it feel like we were crazy to even be out there on a day like that! Plus I had wardrobe issues! I was fairly new to running and had never ran in the freezing cold before. I got so overheated about half way or less through the race, that I had to start taking off some of my clothes or at least unzipping my jacket, if I could. The only problem was that being fairly new to racing, I had pinned my race bib to the outside of my jacket, but completely covering it in such a way that I actually had to stop running, and unpin my race bib before I could unzip my jacket! It was hysterical afterwards, but at the time I was feeling like such a newbie and a little embarrassed. Okay, I felt very embarrassed, but it’s all good! Runners are great like that! We have all been there and even if we haven’t been in that exact situation, we can definitely sympathize. It was great when a fellow woman runner made me smile as I was struggling with the race bib! Dawn made me laugh so hard and it made me feel much better and I got on with the race with a new fierceness. Once I unzipped and shed some clothes, I was able to run so much better and faster and it felt amazing. Plus, I was still smiling inside from Dawn making me smile about my wardrobe malfunction!
We ran as fast as we could, my daughter and I, but we both felt like we didn’t move as fast as we would have liked, we found that running on snowshoes is harder than running without them! It really felt amazing we both won in our age groups! It was so thrilling to hear our names called after the race! We certainly never expected it! Not many people raced that day, but enough people that it really made us feel good to win. It always feels good to win, but especially when you never expect it.
We haven’t gone snowshoeing much since then, just a few times in the past few years and only while hiking in the woods. It is something we both enjoy and want to do more of, but the snow shoveling that comes with it, is not something we like. The only thing I like about snow shoveling is that it’s great cross training, or it can be. If you make sure you use correct posture and form, work in a controlled manner, and try to make it as aerobic as possible. Then the bonus you get, if you have time and there is enough snow, can be a nice snowshoe hike. It would be great to run again in snowshoes, but around here there are not many trails that are well suited for that. The ones I’ve tried in the past seem to have had an explosion of mountain lions and other animals that I would rather avoid. The trails I’ve been on that were perfect for snowshoeing in the past, are also perfect for the seclusion of the more ‘wild’ wildlife. The area we live in is seeing so much more wildlife than ever before. It was just the other day, my mother and I were driving and a giant cat, maybe a mountain lion or something like it, just ran across the road. It was so beautiful, but it also looked like something you would be better off avoiding. We could both feel how very strong it looked and invincible seeming. It was a beautiful sight to see, neither one of us had ever seen before and this was in a very residential area, loaded with lots of people. But there was just a small stretch in the road that was wooded and it crossed the road, and we could see it turn back and look at us a few times as it walked into the woods.
Snowshoeing and getting out in nature in any way that you can, so long as you know the area and feel safe, in both knowing what to do in different situations and terrain, is one of the best ways to stay fit in the colder weather and it will make you feel fit forever being in nature and staying mobile. #feelfitforever
The best exercise in the world to do is the one that you will actually do! Exercise must be actually done, consistently and over time, in order for it to be good for you. Prescribing an exercise program is only the start, you must make sure it is something you like so that you will actually do it and often. Exercise must be done consistently. Consistent exercise, overtime, gets you results and will make you feel fit forever. There are so many different types of exercise, there is no best exercise, specifically. Not everyone is going to like exercising the same way and that’s okay. Exercises suggested to someone based on what their body needs, is a great place to start, but these exercises are no good on their own if they are not done. It is very important to take into consideration all the many parts of choosing an exercise program. I suggest trying different things, as long as you are cleared by your doctor, and see which ones you like. You may surprise yourself. Do not limit your choices. The only way to find out if you like anything in life, is to try it. Many times we will have to try different exercises before we find the right combination that works for us. And we need to keep trying new things over time because we are always changing and hopefully growing in our ability and strength. Also, sometimes we all suffer setbacks, once in a while, and need to make adjustments accordingly. No matter who you are, or what your ability is, even if you are injured, there is usually some type of exercise you can do. The sky is the limit, if you open your mind to lifetime learning and being open to trying new things. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of different exercises, with so many different variations. Never do an exercise that is too difficult and risk injury. Better to modify it and play it safe and work your way up to doing more.
I have been doing exercises with my elderly mother, I am her only Caregiver, she will be 96 years old soon. She is doing great, thank God. As a matter of fact, when I brought her to the doctor the other day for a regular check up, her doctor’s first words to her where, “I love the way you’re walking!” It’s true. My Mom is walking better than she was last year, and its because I found an exercise that she loves and does often. It has built strength in her legs and made walking easier for her. Her doctor went on to say that her legs are straighter when she walks and seem stronger and she is very pleased. We tried lots of different exercises, many that were recommended by a physical therapist though she no longer goes to him, we keep in touch. All the exercises were good, safe exercises, that if done, would work for their intended purpose. But my Mom didn’t want to do those exercises. She has never been a fan of exercise, but she knows how vitally important it is to her. So, I devised an exercise that she loves and works great in building her muscles. Plus it is very safe and she can do it whenever she wants. I designed this exercise myself, but I ran it by the physical therapist first and he said it was great and safe! The exercise I designed is that my Mom sits in a chair, with good posture, she then raises one leg at a time, holds it there in the air for as long as she can, to build strength in that leg, then she alternates sides. She does this several times a day and can even do it as she is enjoying other things such as reading. It’s important we all do things that we love. My Mom gets to do what she loves and gets stronger as she does it. She loves that it’s working and she is looking forward to 96 years being even better than 95 years was. Who would think that someone her age would think that as she gets older, she is actually getting better? My Mom thinks this, and she is the best! It goes to prove that no matter what your age, you can always improve your health and your outlook on life. Enjoy every day to the fullest. Do everything you can to be healthy and enjoy what you are doing. Eat healthy, exercise and enjoy every day life to feel fit forever. Never stop learning. Never stop growing. Remember it takes time to see the results of exercise, so hang in there, there is no set amount of time. The amount of time is different for each one of us, there are so many different factors. The important thing is to keep moving, get as strong as you can, feed your body right and love every part of it. #feelfitforever