Friday, February 26, 2010

4 Months Post Brain Surgery

Optimism Meets Opportunity

A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.
Harry Truman

Wednesday I spent a sizable portion of the day trying again and again to deliver a message with important event info to my team for the Big Climb next month. Each attempt and change frustratingly produced an error message as undeliverable. Then when I thought I could not be anymore annoyed, my session timed out and the message I spent so long composing disappeared from the screen entirely. Mentally exhausted, I complained in an email to my sister and sort of to the event coordinator.

I got an immediate response as to the source of the problem which gave me relief, I accepted, and I determined to use a better way of communication.

My sister also wrote back shortly and reminded me that important messages I should compose in a word file which can be saved (and which I really should have known better from losing countless emails in the past!). It was a good lesson of a productive habit I have gotten very lazy at which is crucial to being an efficient leader, areas in which I would like to develop. Further, I agreed that it was useful for me to learn these little glitches myself so that I can assist anyone else on the team who may encounter the same frustrations.

Later, I went for a 5 mile run with the dogs before my weekly personal training session. I was so tired on Tuesday from the 6.5 mile run on Monday that I had to completely take a rest day off missing water aerbics. I forced myself to get out during a late afternoon sun break Wednesday to run with the dogs. The challenge created an opportunity to warm my body up and get it ready for training in another couple hours.

Still fatigued from consecutive long runs and elevation hikes in a row, I reminded myself that the burn in my muscles was an excellent simulation for preparing to climb Kilimanjaro at an altitude where the lower oxygen levels will exhaust my legs quickly. Further, the longer I ran would condition my lungs for the cardiovascular strain of oxygen deprivation which occurs when exerting oneself at high altitude.

On the 2.5 miles heading back to the truck it started to rain. A groan initially played in my mind as it was a cold 46 degree NW rain. However, the sun was still shining and we were enveloped by the most dazzlingly array of color in the surroundings - surreal. Then the most brilliant rainbow I have seen in a long while shadowed by a fainter second blazed across the sky accompanying us on our entire return trip!

What an opportunity rewarded me for pushing through the challenges of the day!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Working Hard for the NF Community

These pictures of course are from last summer with my shorts and running singlet on. It has been nice and sunny with the absence of snow at the lower elevations. However, the weather is not that warm that I am running around sleeveless and baring my legs.

So Sunday I officially registered for the Seattle Rock and Roll 1/2 marathon to take place on June 26th. I am honored to announce that I will be running as part of the mighty NF Endurance team raising research money to end Neurofibromatosis. My fundraising page is to come soon and I will happily wear ribbons in memory and honor of my sponsors and their loved ones. (last year in the Eugene marathon, I wore ribbons with people's names on the back of my jersey and later made keepsake bookmarks that I sent them for Christmas; ah correction - I did the running and my sister and mother did the creating. I am not that crafty and now fumble with my fingers. I did pick out the quote though and helped do some stamping. :-) )

It was a very short recovery period following surgery and after 39 days I was back in action walking the Seattle half marathon with my sister. Thank you to my sponsors who donated seed money for our brand new nonprofit for NF2 awareness and research - the Help Stop NF2 foundation.

That was probably the first official day I started running again some distance. I didn't really mean to but it became necessary in order for me to catch up after all the bathroom and picture stops! I will write another post with the photos. So since, I have been running weekly 2-4 times a week. I have also started hiking season early (5 hikes and 2 snowshoe adventures) in preparation for our climb of Kilimanjaro in October for NF2 awareness (more later in another post).

I am also preparing and gathering a team to climb the Columbia Tower in Seattle for blood cancer next month. So between hiking and running, I have been trying to balance gym workouts and stair climbing. Phew!

Last week I dropped down to 2 days running (5.5 - 6 miles) and fit in a leisure hike to a lower elevation with Harley. This week an afternoon of snowshoeing, a record hike of 1 hour 1 minute to 2522 feet, a 3.5 mile run tuesday, a 5.5 run wednesday night, training and weights at the gym yesterday, and tonight I fit in another 5.5 mile run that I am in need of stretching for.

When I say I am working for you, I really am! I felt fatigued last night and did an easy 30 minute walk uphill with the dogs and was not as efficient nor accomplished as much as I would have liked to last night at the gym (oh but I did reach my desired 9 minute 30-40 second stairclimb to 69 floors!).

This morning I slept really late and my head and neck ached. I assume I am having a drug withdrawal from the eye medication I take to lessen double vision. After awhile, the medicine has bad side effects such as depression or moodiness or just causing me to easily stress over small matters. I do not like that and I was also running low on my prescription. So I tried taking less and less which seemed to go well for a few days but hit me hard today. I took IB profen before the run and still had a headache. After my run, pain throbbed all around my eyes and forehead. Interestingly, while I was running my head was not that bad - just the double vision I always get. Maybe it was because while thinking, I was trying not to concentrate on my tired legs or that fact that I felt like I was going to crap my pants for over 3 miles! (little tip - on running day do not eat cereal with 10 grams of fiber for breakfast; I thought that would be ok by the evening but apparently not!!!!).

Luckily 1.5 miles from my vehicle, the poop desire faded but was replaced by an acid reflux of the spicy thai food I ate for a late lunch! So there I was working hard for you to get in my run and finish despite a lingering headache, double vision, an incredible urge to poop, and continually regurgitating a nice wash of 32 oz FRS drink with leftover stomach contents of spicy ground chicken and cabbage. LOL I got on the trail after 5 pm and finished right at dark - just after 6 pm. What a way to endure, eh? ;-)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Danger of the Lack of Quality Sleep

Another great article by Dr. Mercola and of paricular interest to those fighting cancer, illness, and with tumors such as NF2. Lack of sleep can affect tumor growth and your immune system needed to fight them.

Lost Sleep Can Never Be Made Up

Researchers, however, will tell you that a sleep deficit can have serious, far-reaching effects on your health. Among them:

•A single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day.

•Good sleepers and poor sleepers experience about the same number of daily minor stressful events, but good sleepers are less disturbed by them. Poor sleepers experience life events as being more negative than do those who sleep well.

•Sleep deprivation can cause changes in your brain activity similar to those experienced by people with psychiatric disorders.

•Sleep deprivation puts your body into a pre-diabetic state, and makes you feel hungry, even if you’ve already eaten.

•Interrupted sleep can dramatically weaken your immune system

•Tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions.

Click the title "Lost Sleep Can Never Be Made Up" link above to read the full article by Dr. Mercola and to learn what to do to get better quality rest.

Reversing Memory Loss

I know this will grab a lot of you with NF2 and other brain tumors or head injuries as memory loss and disruption in cognitive function is a very common side effect of these disorders. The following was taken by Dr. Mercola's newsletter today. I have included the link to read his full article if you are interested. Aside from the physcial health benefits, regular exerise is also good for your mind (especially the lot of us with brain disorders already).

Moderate physical activity performed in midlife or later appears to be associated with a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment -- and a six-month high-intensity aerobic exercise program can improve cognitive function in individuals who already have the condition.

Each year, 10 percent to 15 percent of individuals with mild cognitive impairment will develop dementia, as compared with 1 percent to 2 percent of the general population.

Physical exercise may protect against mild cognitive impairment by means of the production of nerve-protecting compounds, greater blood flow to the brain, improved development and survival of neurons and the decreased risk of heart and blood vessel diseases.


Eurekalert January 11, 2010

Archives of Neurology January 2010;67(1):71-9

Archives of Neurology January 2010;67(1):80-6

Click here to read Dr. Mercola's article discussing the connection between exercise and cognitive function.

Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

Actually, chicken salad and bamboo ginger soup for dinner and that was not my reward. Yesterday, I reached day 15 on the South Beach program and passed the 2 week tough phase 1 elimiating carbs (including fruit) and sugar. In 2006 when Harley introduced me to the diet, I was skeptical. I tried it slightly but was never able to follow it all the way. Finally, I finished reading the book this year and took it more seriously. The science makes sense and I am not a fool so I thought I would give it a fair shot. My cravings for sugar and blood sugar fluctuations were getting out of hand and I needed some sort of control. The South Beach program seemed to be the ticket for me to invest in.

I will not lie to you. Following the program precisely is not easy! There is sugar in virtually EVERYTHING! It is hard to find dressings, condiments, marinades, any food put into a package, that does not contain some sort of sugar. It is really hard to eliminate it all together and thus there were some things here and there with 1-3 grams of sugar per serving but I tried my best to keep it at a minimun. Therefore, you will find that you need to do mostly all of your meal preparation. Even at Trader Joe's I found a nice convienent bag in the frozen isle of mixed approved chopped vegetables not acceptable. Upon reading the nutritional label, I discovered that a sauce or marinade was added which had added sugar and fat. Make it on your own and you can control what is being on your vegetables. It is also healthier to use fresh vegetables. Thus, I end up constant chopping, cooking, cleaning, and measuring out portions as Harley counts calories with his challenge program at the gym.

I also found it hard and limiting going out to eat anywhere on phase 1 because you really do not know what is being put into the food. How many grams of sugar are in that dressing? Is there sugar in the marinade for the meat? If teriyaki, you bet your bottom it is loaded with sugar. While it is possible, your choices are severely limited. We went out for Thai one day and I ordered a soup and a curry vegetable and chicken dish with no coconut milk added. Generally thai dishes with coconut milk add sugar in the recipe. I only know that from cooking it myself. It is often difficult to find an entre with both meat and vegetables. Often the choice is one or the other and vegetarian dishes almost always are loaded with carbs used to replace meat. :(

So back to my reward for a job well done.......

I probably over did it a little yesterday with the addition of carbs in phase 2 (steel cut oatmeal and a cup soy milk for breakfast, meatloaf for lunch which has either oatmeal or bread in it, sugar free chocolate pudding for a snack, a little too much lite cool whip, and an overabundant handful of dried apricots and another of dried blueberries, cherries, and craisens with peanuts). I was just so excited to make it through the 2 weeks and lose exactly what it tells you will happen (8-10 lbs or more in phase 1). I started out at 131.8 and yesterday morning (start of day 15, day 1 of phase 2) I weighed in at 121.8! :D Last Wednesday I had an electronic body fat composition done which was 20% at a weight between 124-125. This morning I gained a little back, weighing in at 122.6. But that is probably accounting for water weight which I had been expecting. No harm done though. I probably needed a little break day before getting back on track again.

So now at phase 2, I can add back in certain carbs again slowly. I can also reintoduce dairy items such as milk and yogurt. In phase 2, you lose only 1-2 lbs a week but the idea is to start getting your body used to a more normal healthful eatting cycle now that your insulin levels are regulated. You continue on this phase until you reach your goal weight with the objective to maintain that weight. The maintainence phase is phase 3 which you stay on for life and if you slide away to overindulge, you just shift back to phase 1 for awhile.

My goal is 123-125 which is the healthy range I have determined to be at. When a surgery or treatment comes up, that weight provides me a safe "cushion zone" of 10 lbs to gain or lose as the result of recovery (115-135). Thus, it is always my aim to stay within this range and maintain that magic number which I have for over 3 years. I will stay within phase 2 until I reach 120 which gives me a safe + or - 5 buffer to keep within the 123-125 range.

I decided posting my daily menu plan was kind of monotonous and boring as well as time consuming. Please write a comment if you would like me to post a couple days of the phase 2 so you get an idea of what it looks like.

I do want to tell you that it has been fun and I have learned to explore more healthy food options and try new recipes.

I never before ate edamame (soy beans) or radishes but discovered a very tasty and filling edamame salad. And I made the Chicken Larb Gai recipe I posted earlier with a little modification (cilantro). It was FANTASTIC and even better than at the restaurant! Harley loved it and it was all gone the day after I cooked it.

Other recipes I ventured with and enjoyed:

Oven roasted veggies with italian dressing (green, red, orange, yellow pepper, mushroom, frozen artichoke hearts - TraderJoe's, and either asparagas, zuchini, or red onion).
spinach stuffed mushroom caps
oriental cabbage salad
rosemary broiled king salmon
brocoli slaw/spinach mushroom baked eggs
lime marinated baked tillapi fish