Until Now

I don’t know what I feel right now. I keep waiting for this big revelation, but on the surface, it seems like nothing is happening. That’s why a seat at the keyboard is needed, to take some time to reflect and appreciate the journey.

I had another knee surgery last week, with procedures similar to the previous work done on the left knee in June. The feelings this time are different, there is a calmness compared to the days that followed last time. Perhaps it’s because the fear of the unknown is gone, the fear of what’s to come is no longer a fear but more curiosity.

Wednesday was the first trip out of the house, heading back downtown for a post-op follow up. Before this visit, plans were starting to form for a return to activity, ok honestly, even before surgery next season plans for exercising and training were already brewing. Bouncing between what 2017 would hold, post-operative care and rehab and what the long term picture looked like kept my mind busy, but I’m used to this.

For the past three years, there have been appointments after appointments after appointments. I’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of money treating my knees and then torn hip so to have my knees top of mind and feelings of being held back became the norm. And my question to the doctor about “what do I do now for the long term” seemed necessary. He teased me a little a first, as we have a good rapport, but in seriousness he suggested we give it three months and go from there.

I looked away. What!? Go from there? See you in three months, let’s see? What about patella replacements? What about shots of PRP or stem cells? Go from there? I looked back to him and said “Wait, so you’re saying after three years of worrying about my knees, I can stop now? I felt my eyes start to well up, but I forced back any more emotion.

Until now.

tears of joy and relief

For anyone who knows me, really knows me I’m a bit of a steam engine flying down the tracks full steam ahead with no intentions of stopping, let alone backing up. Can you relate to this? So focused on the goal, the finish line the next “whatever” you fail to realize the depth of your accomplishments along the way? You maybe aren’t willing to stop, slow down or even backtrack when necessary? Because taking that step back is not progress right?

Steam locomotive.Hand drawn illustration.
Full Steam Ahead!.

But wait, that’s what surgery and recovery are about. You have to take some steps backward to move forward! I’ve been so focused on the long term and so focus on “what do I need to do next” I hadn’t stopped realize or appreciate that what I’ve been doing were the right things. In my mind, I was just the train flying down the tracks with the final destination in sight ignoring the time spent getting maintenance done or acknowledging the tank was getting refilled.

Until Now.

Rubber stamp with word appreciate inside vector illustration
Appreciate the journey.



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Check Up from the Neck Up

The World Health Organization recognizes today, October 10th, as World Mental Health Day. As per their website, “The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.”

Well, I consider myself and everyone else a stakeholder when it comes to mental health as it affects us all. Mental health is no less important than physical health and when one is not well, nor is the other.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “Mental health means striking a balance in all aspects of your life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental. Reaching a balance is a learning process. At times, you may tip the balance too much in one direction and have to find your footing again. Your personal balance will be unique, and your challenge will be to stay mentally healthy by keeping that balance.”

In Canada, it also happens to be Thanksgiving today. What a special day where we can celebrate, have gratitude and give thanks for so much including our mental health.

How we handle and cope with stress and illness ties in too. It’s no secret that, the last few years I experienced ups and downs, and the downs took me to low places. Deep, dark, scary places. I was in such a dark place; I was scared I would never be able to climb out. But I did.

How we think and feel about ourselves directly affects our mental health.

How I managed to climb out of that darkness was unique to me as I am to the next. It took a lot of hard work and courage not to quit and keep looking for a way out. Eventually, the pieces came together, and I saw the faintest flicker. As I continued to seek out different sources of support, the flicker grew brighter and brighter, and before I knew it, I was out of the dark and standing in the light again.

A Healthy You = A Healthy Body, A Healthy Spirit And A Healthy Mind.
A Healthy You = A Healthy Body, A Healthy Spirit And A Healthy Mind.

A couple of months ago, during the first few weeks of recovery from my knee surgery, I felt myself slipping back into that dark place and it scared me. I didn’t ever want to return there. No one wants to go back after finding their way out, and that’s what was happening.

What this experience taught me was that my mental health is as important as my physical health and should be taken care of daily. How we achieve good mental health, I believe in a lot of ways, is the same as ensuring good physical health. Eating a balanced diet, getting some regular exercise, getting adequate sleep and finding joy in our day can go a long way. For me, it’s learning to keep things in perspective, being able to let go, and asking for some help when it’s needed.

When October 10 is known for something other than World Mental Health day, that will be a great day! When that happens, it will because we will have ended the stigma and mental health will be talked about as regularly as we talk about physical health, and we won’t need to have a day dedicated to raising awareness.

To celebrate both Thanksgiving and World Mental Health day, I prepared a large batch of my anti-inflammatory shake and pre-cooked a few osteoarthritis friendly meals after attending a hot yoga class led by my favourite instructor.

So, what did you do today for your mental health?

Perfect day for a cup of "nourish the soul" tea.
Perfect day for a cup of “nourish the soul” tea.



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Being a “good” patient

It takes more than patience to be a good patient.

The below was my post on ratemds.com regarding experiences with my orthopedic surgeon, as this journey is not over yet. And it’s up to me in how I deal with the emotions that come along for the ride…

Green two-way street sign pointing to Fix It or Live With It, te

I saw Dr. Dwyer for a second opinion regarding my knees. Before going in, the online reviews had to be read, getting a lay of the land from those who had ventured ahead of me. While it seemed like Dr. Dwyer was harsh during the initial visit (as some others commented about) NOTHING, he said was incorrect or out of line.

He’s honest, and he asks that you be honest with yourself.

Some people, myself included aren’t always ready to accept or hear that level of honesty. Believe me; I get it. We are there at the mercy of the surgeons or other healthcare professionals while we are in a broken state. “Broken” in all senses of the word. Our bodies, sprites, and hearts are broken and in pain, and we just want to be able to do again the things we love. Surgeons or any healthcare practitioner, don’t have it easy when it comes to giving patients potentially devastating news. No one wants to hear the hard truths. Ever.

So, next time you have a conversation with any medical professional regarding your situation before you go online and write a scathing review or storm out never to return again, let it sit for a few days, maybe even weeks. Try to keep an open mind and allow the information they provide to soak in. Also if you can, try to see it from their perspective; remember we went to them for help, it doesn’t mean you have to like what they say. But you have to be willing to listen and hear it.

Having my husband there, someone at a distance from the situation who could listen to both sides and provide yet another perspective was invaluable.

I’ve since had surgery, and I’m happy to say recovery is going well. So well, in fact, the other knee is already scheduled. If you should happen to require the services of an orthopedic surgeon, you couldn’t be in better hands than with Dr. Dwyer and his assistant Angela.



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Recovery is not just for the body.

Surgery is considered a “controlled injury” and while I realized it would require downtime and rehab, I hadn’t given this part of the process much thought. The focus had been mostly on the big day where finally a surgeon would “fix” me. haha. What was I thinking?
“Recovery” mentally feels like you are being held back by a giant rubber band, trying to run forward but that band keeps you from going too far, too fast. Picturing a rubber band feels better than imagining being on a leash and believe me there are enough people who could be holding the other end. I wouldn’t stand a chance in breaking free and taking off and as an “A-type” this is hard to take. Week after week, the resistance will weaken giving a bit more distance, ah, another life lesson in patience.
focusonlife
It was around day seven things were starting to sink in, the reality of recovery was becoming more and more apparent. While looking for some inspiration online, this quote was among the first few results, “Focus on what you want your life to look like – not just your body.” OMG! That’s when it hit me. Coming across this quote was like finally finding the light switch in a dark room. I’d been feeling around in the dark, grasping for something to hold on to, but looking in all the wrong places. All these years, I spent consumed about my body size, shape and the number that appeared on the scale. I never sat back and thought about what shape I wanted my life to take; I was too busy being obsessed with my body weight!

Over the past few months, I’d been trying to focus on making better decisions rather than buy into another plan. Because I honestly can’t take the thought of worrying or talking about my weight ANYMORE. I AM DONE! I am sick and tired of this conversation, with the feelings that come with it. I want to talk about how to get out of it, rather than about being in it.

So while I’m laid up, the focus turns to strengthing this beautiful body that has already accomplished and given me so much! Now is the time to slow down and take care of it, nourish it, love it and help it come back stronger than ever while pondering about what the future holds.



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Reflection & Repair, Rebuild, Return

It’s been a while since the last post and I feel like I have a lot to say about what’s been going on with me lately.

A week and a half ago my thirty-sixth birthday rolled around and with it, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how I now felt compared to last year. Grounded. Feeling grounded is the best way to explain it. Last year I felt anything but, filled with anxiety, anger and impatience for anything that wasn’t what I wanted.

The girl from five years ago.
The girl from five years ago.

The day before my birthday, Facebook also gave me a great reminder of the girl I use to be. The girl who five years ago nearly quit training for what would become a life-changing event. As I type this, I can recall exactly how it felt returning to the store after finishing the 3km run. Here’s a little peek into how that night went, the following is an excerpt from the post I wrote after returning home and having serious doubts about the race and a really big cry:

Week 1: Run 1 (if you can call it that)
Or What the %$&@ was I thinking?
Or “back of the pack”.
Or “Oh my god I am going to throw-up in the store”.

All of the above easily could have been the title for this blog but I thought I would keep it
short and sweet and to the point. (if you care the read the rest, feel free here.)

As cheesy as Facebook can be, that blast from the past was what I needed to see and remember. I’m the girl who set a few big ass goals and accomplished them, the girl who was terrified but didn’t quit!

***

If you’ve been following along, or you know me (in person) then you are probably bored of hearing about being benched while I’ve dealt with some injuries. Believe me, I’m bored talking about it! My knees have given me a hard time for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I was in the midst of my triathlon experience that I got the low down. OA. I had OA in both knees, and it was bad. I had been doing injections with little to no relief for a year and half. After my left knee gave out on me last spring, the focus turned to finding a surgeon to see what could be done.

Long story short, I’m happy to say last Thursday had me at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto for a patella lateral release. The goal is to get my kneecap back to where it belongs to eliminate pain on a daily basis. My hope is that with some additional treatment, we can regenerate cartilage with the use of stem cell injections but I’m not ready to jump on that bandwagon without doing more homework. First things first, recovery AND find out if the right knee requires some surgical intervention too.

exerciseThese days, I feel like I’m standing at the starting line, but the gate is blocking my way. There’s no route or map defined, but I know there is a destination. This time, the journey will be different too. This time, I’m coming at it from a place of love, not loathing. I’m not doing this to punish my body, or to punish myself (except in a good way). I’m going to be active because I can, because it’s fun and because it’s good for me mentally as much as it is physically.

So for now, I’m in recovery but in the grander scheme, this is the first phase of my new motto: Repair, Rebuild, Return.



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Making Space

Hope. Denial. Struggle. Conceding. These four words sum up nicely the conflict that was happening within my mind for quite some time. The more I fought against my reality, the more painful it became.

Hope. Hope is necessary for a happy life. It gives you the opportunity to dream and to remain positive in the face of adversity. Hope allows you to believe in something bigger than yourself.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”– Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

When faced with stressful or challenging situations, hope might be what keeps you going, feeding the optimising engine within. We might cling to hope in the face of sorrow, sadness and grief because facing the truth may be too painful to accept. Is this hope, or is this denial?

Denial will masquerade as hope, and it’s dangerous to live this way. It’s misleading, and in the end, you are left with the same (if not worse). Denial is closing your eyes and sticking your fingers in your ears. Now, you can’t hear it, and you can’t see it, but the truth is, the “bad news” is still there. No matter how hard you try to ignore it, to fight it, your reality is your reality.

Letting Go

Heartbroken and scared. Holding onto what I thought was hope, for a long time kept me angry and stuck. Ha, holding. That’s funny. It was more like a death grip where my arms and legs were wrapped so tight they went completely numb. Clinging on to the past, terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do the same things I was use to doing. Wishing, hoping, pretending that I’ll wake up one day and everything will be okay. Visit after visit, doctor after doctor, they all said the same thing. I’m sure some of them thought I was crazy when I pushed back, fighting what they said. Not wanting to believe it, not able to. If I couldn’t participate in my sport, what was I? What would I become? What would come undone?

Sure, to some this sounds stupid and insignificant. To some people, I should just shut up and “get over it”. It’s. Not. That. Simple.

Creating Space

When you find a passion, sport or “thing” that lights your fire, it is devasting to lose it, even the fear of losing it. You feel as though you’ve lost a part of yourself, part of your identity. This “thing”, this thing is what I sacrificed so much for, I learned so much from, the very thing that saved my life. Without running I would never have gone on meeting some of the most amazing people in my life, had some of the most incredible and life-changing experiences a person could have, nor would I have found what’s within me, the magical essence that makes me who I am.

So, while this is not news that running is something that may not be in my future, at least likely not long distances, I’m finally letting go, realizing accepting this is my truth, my reality. The more this happens, the more space that’s created to try something new. Sure I can continue to hope and do the work that goes with it, and maybe one day in the future things will be different. But what I can’t keep doing, is living with my eyes closed tight and my fingers shoved in my ears. Now that I’ve unplugged my ears, I can hear. With my hands-free, I can cover my eyes because yes there’s still apprehension for what the future holds but now I can peek through my fingers. And I’m starting to see that everything is going to be okay.



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The Three P’s of Progress

progress. Progress occurs when we are living mindfully, practicing patience, keeping things in perspective, and persevering when life throws you a curveball. When we get wrapped up in always moving forward, not acknowledging where we’ve come from and how much changed has taken place, we tend to rob ourselves of the joy and satisfaction earned along the way! I recently had a conversation about progress and when asked how I would picture what progress looks like this image came to mind.

Plans-vs.-Reality

This picture, to me, represents life. It’s not always going to go according to plan but with patience, perspective and perseverance, you’ll get to where you want to go.

Over the past few months, life continued to present me with a lesson, well, it was yet another opportunity to learn the same lesson I’ve struggled with for quite some time; this wasn’t new by any means. Time and time again, I’ve failed to appreciate the journey and failed to acknowledge my accomplishments; I neglected to maintain perspective. Perspective helps us keep the bigger picture in mind, and this is especially important at times when we are struggling, those times when we are at a dip in the road and the way out seems so steep.

By losing perspective, I looked at every setback, every flare-up as a step backward; since when did progress mean we would only move forward? Well, what I’ve learned is that unless we take that step back or, at least, pause for a moment to reflect on our starting point, we can’t appreciate all the work we’ve done between then and now.

We’ve all heard the saying “anything worthwhile never comes easy” and this is where patience and perseverance come into play.

worthwhile

Patience isn’t something that comes easy for me. I’m serious. If you don’t believe me, ask my husband. I even tattooed “Patience” on me as a constant reminder. When it comes to others, no problem! But when it comes to something I want for myself, for my life…well that’s a whole different story. Without patience, life becomes more and more difficult as we don’t wish to wait for results, for answers, for anything. We become short sighted without patience; we become reactive, and we lose sight of our intentions. Patience is the key to building our endurance. Patience is believing, and trusting that our efforts will pay off in the long run and that our dreams will come true.

Perseverance is what keeps us going. It’s the driving force behind our goals and dreams. Without perseverance, we will never realize our full potential. Perseverance is the fire in your belly, the butterflies you feel when you picture your desired outcome. It’s the fuel that keeps you going when life puts another obstacle in your path, forcing you to change gears, change tactics or even make a whole new plan.

Without patience, perspective and perseverance, there can be no progress and without progress, we are merely spinning our wheels, getting nowhere.



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All it takes, is work.

To some work is a “four letter word”, it’s what some of us do to earn a paycheque. In some cases you enjoy it and in others, you don’t. What we do “for work” and what we “work at” can be as different as night is to day. It’s nothing to be afraid of, and it’s nothing to shy away from, not if you want something bad enough.

I listened to two very different podcasts on Friday last week, but both had the same message. I have to do the work for the changes I seek. Regardless of what you want to achieve, a new mindset, a new physic or a particular finish time at a race, it all takes work.

The first podcast was an Eat To Perform production, Getting Off Of the Fence – here is the link should you want to to have a listen. https://soundcloud.com/eattoperform/getting-off-of-the-fence-changes-everything Paul Nobles gets right down to it; you have to DO THE WORK. That is the only way to see and feel the changes you desire. As with anything, if you half-ass your efforts then you are going to see half-ass results if you’re lucky. The second podcast was from a very different genre, but again, the message was the same. It’s time to do the work.

Post swim selfie.
Post swim selfie.
Whatever it is you want to achieve, accomplish or take part in, you have to commit and give it all you’ve got. Commit to whatever it is you heart desires, have the belief you are worthy and do whatever it takes to make it a reality.

Is it going to be easy? No, not likely. Are you going to have to do things you never dreamed or would have considered in the past? Probably! Is it going to change who you are? Yes, without a doubt. Is it going to be worthwhile? Absolutely!

Work isn’t something I’m afraid of; I don’t mind putting in the effort when it’s for something I want to achieve or do. So it boils to this, get up every day and just do the work! Remembering I’m worth it, remembering why I’m doing it and remembering what I’ve already accomplished will help me achieve all my goals. It’s about dedication and accountability. Work isn’t always fun, or what we want to do but sometimes it’s necessary in order to do what we want to do. It’s about remembering what the long term goals and doing whatever it takes to make them a reality, no matter how long it takes.

When you think about it, doing the work is simple. It’s everything else that requires a whole lot of effort; you know the stuff like planning, scheduling, and executing, never mind the tracking and meal prepping. That is if your goals are fitness or sport related.

No goal is too big or too small, but I hope it’s big enough to scare the crap out of you. Those huge, terrifying goals are the ones that push you out of the comfort zone and teach you more than you can imagine.

So, what are you goals? What is going to drive you out of bed early in the mornings, keep you up at night and push you beyond your limits?



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Learning to let go, dangling by a rope.

In September, my department at work had a team-building event where we went tree top trekking. There was some nervous energy in the group, as this is not a typical activity for a group of IT professionals. We were all fitted with a harness and helmet and made our way to the introduction course. We learned how to clip and out as well as had to practice a safety fall. After that, we were on our way through the treetop obstacles.

The courses were made up of different types of “games” as they referred to them. They had cable and plank bridges, swinging logs, cargo nets and single track cables we climbed and slid across like ninjas. Ok, so maybe some of us weren’t that graceful but we were in our minds. I was nervous at times, especially after looking down and realizing the only thing under my feet was a half inch thick cable. Or when I was walking along suspended log bridges with logs that swung further apart as I stretched my leg out in front of me reaching for the next step. I had a few moments where I thought “what the heck am I doing up here!?” My coworkers reminded me that I was an Ironman. Somehow in their minds that meant I should be fearless when it comes to being thirty to forty feet in the air among the leaves in the trees held in place by a harness and a couple clips. I reminded them that swimming bike and running all happen to take place on the ground but they weren’t buying it.

I lost sight of the group ahead of me; I knew there were people behind me, but I didn’t want to slow down so kept pushing forward. I had to as there was no other way down from the obstacles. I made my way to the first zip line, clipped myself and got set. I was pretty nervous to let take my feet off the platform. It took me a few tries, but I finally sat in the harness and off I went.

We were out there for about three hours, climbing, crawling and swinging through the trees like Ewoks. As we advanced, the games were becoming more and more challenging preparing us for the next one. The zip lines were getting higher and longer; some lines stretching so far off into the distance you couldn’t see platform through the trees ahead. There was a group of us making our way through the final course. My colleague Andy and I were standing on a platform getting ready to zip into unknown, and it was then that it occurred to me how this was activity was all about “letting go”.

20150911_170438

When you are zip lining, there are aspects in which you have control and those in which you don’t. You have control over how you clip in, and how you stop and steer. But the best part, is the part where you have zero control when you are sailing along the wire, enjoying the ride.

Learning to let go of what you can’t control isn’t easy but life gives us all sorts of opportunities to keep trying. At IMMT they reminded the athletes that their attitude was the only thing they had control over that day. If we lived by that on a daily basis, how different would our experience be?

2015-09-14



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Walking the Walk

I love talking-the-talk and can stand up here on my soapbox and say whatever’s on my mind and go on and on about how my “mindset” is changing and that’s great. But unless I start putting action behind my words, then what’s the point? How am I motivating anyone, let alone myself, if I don’t put my money where my mouth is and get down to work? Sure it’s my blog, and I can say what I want, but that’s not the point of this, not the point of this post, this site, this life.

During the past two months, my body slapped me sober with a flare up. Yes, it’s nasty Osteoarthritis letting me know that some things need to change. This experience has given me a better understanding of what this disease is all about and how it affects me and as they say “shit just got real.” Thank you Martin Lawrence!

I can sit around feeling sorry for myself, or I can pick myself up, dust myself off and get down to bid’ness and start doing something to help myself.

So, again, more words, but what’s changing you ask? Well, for starters, my diet. The Arthritis Society has a website with lots of useful information and that along with some other random Google searches I decided to modify my diet accordingly. Ok, great, what does that even mean? Well, it means I’ll be dining on more colourful fruits like raspberries, blueberries and pineapple. Vegetables such as peppers, kale, sweet potatoes, white potatoes and broccoli and don’t forget spices like cinnamon, turmeric and cumin. I took a bunch of what I just mentioned, chucked it in my blender and drank it the other day and the results were, well they were interesting to say the least. I’ll keep tweaking the ratio’s to find a combination that’s a bit more palatable.

I’m moving away from gluten again; it was fun while it lasted, but we just aren’t meant to be together. Going “gluten free” means using alternative flours like almond meal, coconut flour, tapioca and grains like amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat. Yes, buckwheat is not wheat, nor a grain, it’s actually a seed.

This list isn’t the whole list, but what it doesn’t include is food that wreaks havoc on my system by causing more and more inflammation. I love my steak topped with blue cheese, but this along with chicken and pork will take a back seat on my plate, you know for rare occasions (LOL I couldn’t resist). Cutting back on the meat leaves more room for fish, shellfish, eggs, beans and tofu. This isn’t Paleo or some other random “diet”. This isn’t about right and wrong food, it’s about having what’s best for me and my body.

I’m still unlearning all the bad nutrition practices I acquired over my lifetime; this is a big part of Eat To Perform. ETP is NOT another “diet” this program is about learning how to eat properly. I honestly can’t say I have been “doing ETP” up to this point. Doing ETP means following the nutritionist’s recommendations for my daily Calories based on my activity levels. It’s a mindset change, and it requires patience, persistence and some faith in the process. It boils down to the number of calories made up of X number of Carbs, Protein and Fat per day. For me, if it’s a workout day, then my Carbs will be a little higher than if it isn’t. I read their posts and articles and it makes a difference in my understanding of how our bodies process the fuel we give and when it uses the most. They also have a private Facebook group and have been spending a little bit more time in the forums lately, trying to keep me accountable and active in the community. It makes a difference when you interact with like-minded folk.

Today's lunch brought to you by ETP!   This was a fraction of my marros today (55g Carbs, 31 g Protein, 6g Fat).
Today’s lunch brought to you by ETP! This was a fraction of my macros today (55g Carbs, 31 g Protein, 6g Fat).
Gluten free, ended up being Vegan after all...Blueberry Banana Almond Flour Muffins.
Gluten free, ended up being Vegan after all…Blueberry Banana Almond Flour Muffins.

As they say, you got to start somewhere, and this is my starting point. I’m still embracing the fight, doing this because I love my body and want to help it be as healthy as possible. It’s going to take baby steps for now as I work to shed the weight and get my knee and the rest of me in better shape.

Today’s recipes are courtesy of the Minimalist Baker and All Recipes



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