Monday, November 24, 2008

Time to Eat Frogs Again

This morning I recieved a newsletter from Mac Anderson about their inspirational movie to go with the book "Eat That Frog" by best selling author Brian Tracy. It was perfect as I have been procrastinating many things I need to get done. The time gap of this procrastination seems to be growing while the holidays are fast approaching!

If you need a swift kick in the pants, some guidance to get back on track, or more structure to your life in order to become more efficient, check out this new short inspirational video.

If I happen to disappear for a little while, I am busy eating frogs! ;+)

To take a virtual tour of the book "Eat That Frog" offered by Simple Truths, click on the following link:

What Not To Do Before a Run......

fill your tank at an Indian buffet just a couple hours beforehand!

Also, don't pig out on hummus days before or do kickboard laps in the pool! LOL

My weekly runs have been going pretty great averaging over 40 minutes a run. I even ran the week of our diving incident. I skipped water aerobics monday, my run on tuesday, and any gym activity until thursday to rest up and ensure I did not encourage the onset of DCS (decompression sickness) in myself. As a result, I crammed all of my weight lifting into 3 consecutive days at the end of the week, took sunday off, then returned to the gym on monday for water aerobics, kickboard and back stroke laps in the pool, and an upper body weight routine. So when it came time to run on Thursday I was a little fatigued.

I had planned to meet up with my friend Skip for lunch that day. I was not that hungry in the morning and knew we were going to the indian buffet. So to build up a hearty hunger for a buffet, I skipped breakfast. I knew it was run day and questioned my plan. I never ran after eating at a buffet before. I figured after a couple hours it would be well digested and ok so I went for it!

Big mistake! Not only did my legs feel like lead from the workout the previous day and not ample recovery time, but I wa running with what felt like a humungous rock in my gut! It was a challenging run indeed and several times I wanted to just quit. However, I had a dental appointment and other plans the rest of the week which was going to make it difficult to schedule in the run on a later day. Therefore, I toughed it out so I could just get it done.

The combination of curry and spices churned in my stomach with each step. It took sheer will and mental focus to continue on as carrying the rock in my stomach was just unbearable! I had already stopped to vomet a small amount twice and had to control the urge for a 3rd round until I completed the run.

It was a test of mental wit to pass the time. I had to get my thoughts off of how uncomfortable and tired I felt and onto something more motivating.......something to make me hang in there. The night in ICU after my surgery last fall came to mind. After 6 or so hours of surgery, I had awoke to my body convulsing from violent vometing, shivering, and my head ringing loudly like a police siren when in reality I cannot hear anything. I remember briefly opening my eyes and seeing Harley and our friend KC. I am sure seeing me in that state was a horrifying experience for them. Then I awoke hours later alone in the middle of the night not feeling a whole lot better. I could not sleep at all. Time appeared to stand still. I could not wait for 8 am to arrive when visiting hours opened and I knew I would see Harley and my family again.

While running, I harnessed that feeling I experienced in ICU and the will I had to hang in there. Although my run was exhausting, it paled in comparison as to what I went through that night. Thinking about that situation made the grueling run much easier to tolerate and put it into perspective...a few minutes of discomfort as opposed to hours filled with uncertainty.

Needless to say, I will not be eating at a buffet again before I go for a run! That was so terrible that thoughts of thanksgiving dinner were incredibly unappealing!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bananas and Muscle Wasting

One of the issues I have found important with living with NF2 is proper nutrition. There are many foods I have learned to like simply because I need them as part of my dietary intake (V8 juice, raisens, oatmeal, celery, nuts, bananas, etc.).

I do not enjoy taking supplements so as much as possible, I try to get certain nutrients through food intake (hence the V8, raisens, dried apricots, and bananas as they are foods rich in potassium. For 3 years I took a medication for my vision that depleted my body of potassium leaving me with painful leg cramp attacks. Even with potassium rich foods, I did get to the point where I had to take a supplement of potassium gluconate in addition to dietary intake.)

But about the interesting article I found on the banana......

Diseases and disorders such as NF2 are known for a process of muscle wasting quite easily and if you don't use it, you lose it. It is one of the reasons I lift weights 3 times a week. But if you are not a weight lifter, there is still the banana which has been found to combat muscle wasting.

From the EatSmart column in USA Weekly

Want More Muscle? East a banana.
by Jean Caroer

You may think eating lots of protein gives you more muscle mass - but you should try potassium packed fruits and vegetables instead, says a new USDA study at Tufts University of older Americans.

Typically, muscle mass declines after age 50. But seniors who ate lot of high-potassium foods were apt to have 3.6 pounds of lean tissue mass than those who had half as much potassium.

HERE'S THE SCIENCE: Researchers believe potassium counters the effects of foods such as meat and cereal grains, that create "acidic residues" in the body, promoting muscle wasting. Vegetables and fruits, including citrus, paradoxically become alkaline in the body helping neutralize the acidity.

GOOD SOURCES: Potassium is high in bananas, dried apricots, cantalope, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, legumes, avocado, orange juice, and tomato products.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Freedom and Perseverence

A friend sent me this heart warming story of strength and the will to live that I thought I would share here:

"Not many people get a picture of this proud bird snuggled up next to them.

Freedom and I have been together 10 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn't
open all the way even after surgery, it was broken in 4 places. She's my baby.

When Freedom came in she could not stand and both wings were broken. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vets office. From then on, I was always around her. We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in. I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We also had to tube feed her for weeks.

This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn't stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn't stand in a week. You know you don't want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn't want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn't bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle.

She was ready to live.

I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day.

We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV. Miracle Pets even did a show about us.

In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair - the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again.

Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone.

So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn't said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don't know how long. That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird.

On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power coarse through his body. I have so many stories like that.
I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom.
Hope you enjoy this."

Jeff Guidry

What is Compassion?

I am normally a daily affirmation reader and I have been going through affirmation books since 2005. My first affirmation book was given to me by a mentor in college when I was 19 years old. Within the past few years, my mom has kept me supplied with a pretty regular supply of affirmation reading.

Me = great quotes, affirmations, inspirational stories, and nature. Those are some of the things I REALLY enjoy and what drives me or keeps me going.

I stumbled upon an affirmation from a couple days ago which is just too good to keep to myself. It is interesting because I have been pondering lately how to define compassion. Voila! Charles R. Swindoll sums it up best in his book "Bedside Blessings".

"Compassion usually calls for a willingness to humbly spend oneself in obscurity on behalf of unknowns.....Truly compassionate people are often hard to understand. They take risks most people would never take. They give away what most people would cling to. They reach out and touch when most would hold back with folded arms. Their caring brings them up close where they feel the other person's pain and do whatever is necessary to demonstrate true concern."

I am very fortunate to have some true friends and very compassionate people in my life. I only hope that I can strive to also become a compassionate being and pay it forward.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Window Into My Soul

Photo by Harley Dufek of me overlooking Puget Sound at Discovery Park in Seattle, WA last Sunday. The Olympic Mountains are in the backdrop.

Nature is one of the most precious things to me. It perfectly describes who I am and echos my personality. Simple Truths has created a new inspirational slideshow which captures the beauty of life which I am so passionate about. Click on the link to enjoy it too! It is sure to help you relax, remember what is important, and to give an uplift to your day!

From Mac Anderson of Simple Truths:

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful. Welcome it in every face, in every sky, in every flower."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Interesting Find

I was going through and doing some pruning today. You would not believe the stuff I save! Anyhow, I am going through old greeting cards I have kept and have decided to cut off the fronts to recycle and send to a program where children at St. Jude's make new cards out of them (thanks to my pal Jen, the recycling queen, for the tip).

While I was doing this pruning I ran across some quotes I kept from a tear off daily calendar. I LOVE quotes and I LOVE using them. I want to send it to my cousin who is undergoing a challenging transformation. Yet, I still want to keep the quote somewhere so I will post it here because I think it is a good one and a quote very fitting for those coping with NF2, medical illness, or any other sort of life challenge that tests our spirit. I hope you find it meaningful and useful in your life too!

"When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn."
- Harriet Beecher Stowe

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


What is "bent", "the bends", "dci", decompression sickenss?

I have some disturbing news. Sunday we went diving again and had a fantastic first dive which was my 6th since getting back in the water. However, we chose not to quit while we were ahead and went on a second dive did not go so smoothly.

We took Mike's zodiac over to Vashon Island to dive at KVI tower which is one of my favorite dive places up here. The visibility was great and when I first dropped down, I found a sandy patch on the bottom where I could experiment with my bouyancy. I am still having problems with bouyancy and getting my weighting right. I am on the heavy (negatively bouyant) side but then I am having major bouyancy fluctuations in my suit because it is too big. After adding and dumping air out of my BCD for a few minutes, I finally got to a point where it felt pretty good and I could go enjoy the dive which I did. I would have to say that it was my best dive yet out of the 6! We saw lots of life (dirona nudibranchs, glassy tunicates, sea cucumbers, sea stars, big plumose anenomes. sponges, ling cod, various fish, crab, and a large octopus sleeping in its den!)

On the way up I had a little bit of a problem with the air vcnting out of the suit. I had to hold on to the anchor line but because there was some slack in the line, it just kept going up instead of keeping me down for a safety stop at 15 feet. The dive was to a maximum of 77 feet for 33 minutes dive time under the water.

When we got out, Harley and Mike inquired if I wanted to do another dive. I said sure seeing it was still light out. We left the KVI tower dive sight and sped across Puget Sound to Redondo on the mainland where we put the boat in. By the time we got there, the daylight was starting to fade a little and Harley had to jump out to go use the bathroom. When he returned, Mike had to go (I didn't because I wear Depends when diving). When he returned, the light was starting to fade more which concerned me a little but I was not anticipating it to be a long dive. I thought we would surface before dark.

I was the first one into the water as Harley helps me get all setup and then I wait for Mike and Harley. I was cold while waiting (I had a minor leak and got a little damp but did not realize until later). So while I waited for them to get their gear on and enter the water, I started doing jumping jacks in the water and running in place to warm up. I looked down at the anchor line and noticed it disappear within just a couple feet. The visibility was not great at the surface which made me a little apprehensive. Meanwhile the light continued to fade out as the sun began to set. I thought about totally aborting the dive and letting Mike and Harley go while I waited in the boat. But that would only kill more time and delay the dive. Plus, I would probably get cold waiting. Rather than going through the hassle of having them take off gear and get me out of the water, I chose to just brave it out.

When they rolled into the water, I asked Harley what was the plan. He signed that we were going to snorkel over to the dock and drop down. "Great!", I thought. I would have a reference for going down in such low visibility and darkness. I figured it was pretty shallow under the dock and antcipated exploring the plethora of life that is normally found growing on the dock pilings. It seemed like a plan that I would be okay with. In the worst case scenario, I could grab the piling if I was having a bouyancy problem again while surfacing. (about the visibility is common for it to be stirred up at the top but clear once you drop down which is did. Therefore, I used all these thoughts to comfort myself and brave the low light/night dive which I had really planned to exclude from my return to diving.)

When we dropped down I had to stay within a foot of the piling for visual reference so I would not get disoriented. Once at the bottom, we did not go under the dock but away from it which was not what I had schemed out in my mind. "Ok", I thought. "Everything will be fine." So I followed and went along for the ride. At 51 feet we came upon a small stack of tires which had some cool life growing on it and surrounding it. At one point near this tire structure, my mask began to flood with water and became a quarter to one half of the way full. "Alright, just don't panic. It is no big deal. You know how to clear it out." I was kneeling on the ground and next to the tires. However, when I first tried to clear the mask, my technique did not work. Further, I started to swallow the water that was going up my nose. I was not breathing in, but when I tilted my head back to clear the mask, water entered my nasal passages when I stopped blowing out! This has happened before since the onset of facial paralysis while eating soup and drinking water since. So it was not the first time I experienced this sort of choking phenomena. At first it set me into a little panic. If I cannot see I am sort of screwed so I had to clear the mask. But when I tilted my head up to clear the mask, I started choking on water. It is times like these that your ability to survive hinges on keeping a cool head and having faith and confidence in yourself that you can solve the problem. So that is just what I did and kept trying until it was cleared. Then I gave myself a few moments to relax before continuing on. When the situation first happened I got Harley's attention and was very uncomfortable. I wanted to go up but then I solved the problem and all was fine again. I did not want to surface from 51 feet in the fading light with a leaking masking and swallowing water. That just would not have been good and may have caused me to freak out (too many factors to deal with at once).

We continued down and came upon an old boat with an octopus in its den underneath. It was cool but I got tired of trying to shine my light that only extended so far into the crevase and trying to maintain a neutrally bouyant to position to see it. Thus, I looked around the boat for a little bit. Did I also mention that the bouyancy was especially challenging for me? I spent a lot of the time landing on my knees which was frustrating. My trim is off and my legs seem to sink lower than the upper half of my body which makes swimming efficiently underwater bothersome.

I started with about 2450 PSI (pounds per square inch) of air in a steel compact 80 tank. I noted when I got down to 1200 or 1150 PSI which was less than half my air. According to my dive plan , half of the amount of air means it is time to head back and ascend to a shallower depth. I tapped Harley and thought he saw my guage and air. Yet, he remained fixated on the octopus while Mike was a few feet deeper taking pictures. By now it was pretty dark and if the light from either buddy shined in my eyes it was greatly disorienting. I chose to just stay next to the sunken boat and octopus to wait a few more moments. The boat was small so I looked within the structure a little bit.

Remember that I was having bouyancy problems so I did not really want to venture around too much. Between handling the light in one hand and alternating between the inflator hose for my bouyancy and guage telling me my air and depth in the other, and every so often dropping my light to fiddle with the inflator hose with both hands (because I have discovered my hand is a little weak and sometimes I am not fully pressing the inflator button) I was fumbling around. This was not good as it became more dark under the water and my air was becoming less at depth (57 feet). I did NOT want to run out of air at that depth, try to ascend, and then be left with having to manually inflate my BCD in the dark which is a problem with my facial paralysis. Therefore, I wanted to turn back and ascend to shallower depth NOW!

At 1050 PSI I tapped Harley on the head and waved my light to get his attention off the dang octopus. I showed him my air and tried to sign in the darkness that I wanted to go back. He pointed in the direction of a rope along the bottom which I sort of remembered. I went up to the tires which was at 51 feet and then next thing you know I was at 63 feet in the direction Harley pointed. It was too dark for me to tell which direction went to a shallower depth. I looked at my guage and I was now down to 950 at 63 feet with no idea which direction to go to get back! I was lost.

Now I love Harley to tears but on land he is not the most efficient of navigators. If I am not paying attention and playing the "Lola - gps", he most often goes the wrong way. At 63 feet and 950 pounds of air I did not want to go the wrong way! I really did not want to ascend within the water column but I felt at that point we had no other choice. My panic level was starting to build and I wanted out of the situation before it became worse. I signalled to him to go up. I know that was confusing because he knows I am not comfortable doing that and prefer to follow the slope to ascend to a shallower depth. Frustrated, I signed a couple times "PLEASE help me go up!" I needed help because first of all, it is hard for me to ascend like that without some kind of reference point. Further, it was now dark and even more difficult for me to find my reference and go the right way.

In order to do ascend together and not loose him, I had to grasp his shoulder strap with my right hand. That means I had to drop my light hanging from my side. In the other hand, I had to manipulate the inflator hose. I did not have a free hand to monitor my guage for air, depth, and ascent rate. I had to look up through the darkness to try to see my bubbles. I had no idea how much air I was at so I grabbed the regulator on his pony bottle a started breathing off of it to ensure I would have enough air.

As a result of all this, the air in my large drysuit did not vent out quickly enough and we made a fast ascent. Harley was not too happy and understandably so. On the surface we snorkled over to the dock and dropped back down to the bottom at 15-17 feet for our 3-5 minute safety stop. It was shallower because the tide had gone out while we were underwater.

Immediately upon getting back in the boat Harley said he was "BENT" which is decompression sickness from excess nitrogen bubbles that form in the blood. He was starting to feel some affects already. He breathed off of Mike's O2 bottle for quite a long time after the dive and back at the condo. By monday morning he was feeling shifting of an arthritic type of pain all over his body. He went to work that afternoon and by 6 pm (24 hours after the dive) he was not feeling any better so we called DAN (Diver's Alert Network) and went to the hyperbaric chamber at Virginia Mason in Seattle.

He was in the chamber all night (8 hours) for a depth of 60 feet. He did not like it in there and said he felt very weird and achy. He slept all day yesterday and began to feel better yesterday evening and was well enough to go to work later this morning.

68 hours later I am feeling pretty good. I did not seem to get bent so I did not go in the chamber with Harley. At 12:30 or 1 am this morning, the pinky on my right hand became numb and thing finger has swollen for some reason. We have no idea what it is from and if it is in fact an NF2 related thing. We were told that after 24 hours if I did not feel anything, I was pretty lucky and unaffected. I did not feel anything at 48 hours either.

So what now?

Harley is to abstain from diving for a month and needs a checkup with a diving physician before he returns, he is to rest and not engage in strenuous activity for a week, and drink plenty of fluids (none containing alcohol). The decompression sickness could recoccur so he is to take it easy.

How about me?

After the dive, stenuous activity can encourage the bends. Therefore, I did not go to the gym at all yet and will not do my run this week which normally is on tuesday. Yesterday I also rested with Harley and took a long nap as I did not get consistent or enough sleep while at the hospital.

I asked Harley if he thought it would be okay if I go lift weights today but he was not too thrilled with the idea and told me to just take it easy which is a hard thing for me to do.

The situation is not sitting well with me and I am having a hard time. It bothers me to have caused Harley pain, to go to the hospital, to miss work, and to miss his 3 workouts for the week. I did not like seeing him in a hospital gown on a gurney and hooked up to oxygen and a monitor. I have always been on the other side of the fence and have been the one in the hospital or sick. It is difficult to be on the other side and must have been awful for Harley and my family to see me like that (especially for Harley and our friend KC when I woke up from surgery vometing, convulsing, and yelling; and when my sister heard me yelling in the background when the nurse had called them in the lobby). down to the nuts and bolts.....

How could this have been avoided and what is to learn?

Well there is a GREAT deal we have learned. First things first, I should not have engaged in a second dive in low light conditions before I was ready. I should have called it but instead of being assertive, I was passive and went for the ride. One would not write a book without first learning grammar and how to spell. We skipped steps and you cannot skip steps (especially when your life is at stake). The second thing MAJOR thing is lack of communication. We did not have a good dive plan. It was not clearly discussed (or at least relayed to me) exactly what we were doing, where we were going, what maximum depth we were going to, and at how many PSI we were going to turn back and head to a shallower depth. Had all that information been clearly understood, we would not have encountered the problem.

So lots of things to think about over the next month.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Pruning Your Life

Before I recieved an email from Mac Anderson about simplifying your life, I had already decided that it was about time to do that this month. Time to weed out what I don't want and do not use anymore. Everything is getting way too cluttered and I do not have enough space so that makes life for me hard to manage.

Ironically after my surgery last year, I got a newsletter from the MS society with a fantastic article about why people with MS and other illnesses and disorders of the brain need to simplify things. I for one, have had challenges to my short term memory and get very forgetful so if there are too many things crammed in a closet or scattered around, remembering what I have or where I put things becomes too difficult.

Over the past couple weeks this forgetfulness has been weaving its way back into my life. It is time to go back to making lists of what I need and what I have to do and to get rid of the clutter so that I can think properly and be efficient. When things are too disorganized, it becomes difficult to think clearly and I waste lots of time trying to figure out what has to be done.

Funny thing is that Harley and I were just arguing about this over the weekend. He was saying that "less is more" regarding our decor. I have a packrat habit and like to save everything and put too many things on a table or shelf which to him appears messy. LOL I did not feel like arguing about it so before our party I went to town and to the gym. When I returned, he had rearranged things and took some things out and did a fantastic job! I was so impressed! I wish I had that skill. So this was a good lesson in experiencing "less is more" to get me on the track that I desire to be. The focus is to strive to make things better so that I can be the best that I can be and use my full potential.

Here is what Mac wrote me about the new gift book titled "Finding Joy - Simple Secrets to a Happy Life" that he offers.

Inspriational Video about finding joy:

"One of the conclusions I've reached as I've grown older and, I hope, wiser is that...less is usually more. In other words, when given the opportunity to simplify your life...take it.

I compare it to pruning a tree. By removing the excess branches the tree has more energy to bear beautiful blossoms and healthy fruit. Your life is no different. When you continually prune the areas not bearing fruit, you will be able to focus your energy on what matters most.

That's what Finding Joy is all about...reminding us to uncomplicate our lives and focus on what matters most. The subtitle of this beautiful gift books says it all...Simple Secrets to a Happy Life!

Also, since its release 3 months ago, our 3 minute inspirational movie has been watched by over 5 million people around the world. The music, the photography and the quotes will take your breath away!"

Live with Passion,
Mac Anderson
Founder, Simple Truths