Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Turning 50

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”

~ Helen Keller

I turned fifty this week. And shifts in who I am, what I am able to tolerate, what I want in my life, what I don't just seem to get more and more clear. I am ok with it. Actually, I am great with it.

Many years ago I was wanting to "date."  I met a woman on line, we IM'd back and forth, sent emails and eventually I gave her my number.  We talked several times and decided to meet face-to-face.  I don't even remember if we actually ever went on a "date." But after spending time with her a few different times, I decided I didn't want to pursue a relationship with her.  I was at a total loss as to how to end this. A friend of mine said to me, Leigh! This is what dating is all about. To see if you even want to continue. But I felt guilty and terrible about this. I rehearsed over and over again my words. I wrote emails and deleted them, and in the mean time I avoided her IMs and phone calls. Days went by and I finally had to say something. I don't remember my words, but she was hurt and angry and I felt like shit. For a day or two. Best thing I ever did. I really need to learn to generalize this.

Usually I put my feelings aside or ignore them. I do this all the time. I tend to put up with way more than I am comfortable with and then start resenting the person or situation for what it is. I have learned to speak up better. It helps to not feel so walked on. But when the situation continues, I need to figure out how to shift it. Shift so often for me means end. And some endings are really a relief. But there are others that just boggle my mind.  Like really?

The last seven years have kicked my ass in so many ways. So many. But nothing compares to losing Taylor. My focus has so narrowed.  Life is too long to have optional things be hard.

Many people comment on how well I am doing. They see me posting about going to the gym, biking 30 miles, hiking 12, bla bla bla.  Yep, I do all those things. They give me great pleasure although I am fully aware that what I am trying to do it build a strong ass body to protect my so vulnerable spirit. But I also like the challenges. Can I hike farther? Can I swim faster? Can I climb the rope higher? I have always been like that.

Two things seem to be wanting to challenge me here. My elbow and my lungs.

My elbow hurts all the time.  Specifically my left one. My doctor first called it "tennis elbow" but
when I googled that I came across "golfers elbow." Now having never played tennis or golfed, I find this really amusing. However, I am pretty sure I have golfer's elbow.  It is the inside that is killing me. I start physical therapy, uh........... in a week or two? I should probably look that up, lol. In any case, I am seeking help to help heal this while still working out.  I am not willing to stop. I hope I can get a PT that understands and can help me and not just say ice, ibprofin and rest. The rest part is not going to happen.  Too much idle time means too much time to think, and thinking is too painful. Such a cycle.
My mom. She is 20 here.

As for the lungs, I am so not thrilled about this new turn of events. Back in 2007, after being sick with sinus infections and bronchitis almost continuously for 6 months, I ended up with a pulmonary specialist. He put me on three different steroids, a controlled antibiotic I had never heard of and a prescription for chantix to stop smoking. He said if i was not getting better in 48 hours I would have to be hospitalized. I did respond to the meds. He also did an MRI of my lungs and sinuses and a breathing test inside a booth. His conclusion was that he was stopping just short of diagnosing me with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). That was a wake up call as my mother, after smoking her entire life and was never very active, had been  diagnosed with that and it was ugly.

I did stop smoking on April 4, 2007. My health slowly improved. Slowly. It was months before I could walk to the barn and not get winded. It was months before I fully stopped coughing.

My sinuses and lungs remain my achilles heel.

Fast forward to 2013.

I ran the Urban Warrior Dash in San Diego in early March. I had a great time, was really, really happy with my time, felt really strong, did all the obstacles and coughed/choked/hacked a lung up the entire drive home (over three hours). I walked in the door with my medal grinning from ear to ear, held up my medal and squeaked out, "look what I got." Everyone looked at me and said,  "what happened to you?"

Days later I ended up at my doctors office. The nurse practitioner that I saw told me this was a classic case of EIA (exercise induced asthma). WHAT? I have never been diagnosed with that before. I don't have asthma.  She instructed me on how to use an inhaler and told me I would be fine.

I coughed for 3 weeks. It was not pretty.

Two Sundays ago I ran a 10k--the Merrell Down & Dirty. I felt great. Euphoric. I did all of the obstacles with no help and ran my fastest time. When the race was over, I coughed a few times and hit the inhaler as soon as I got back to the car.
Down & Dirty. Note: band on my left elbow.
The coughing started slowly this time. By day five post race, I was flat out annoyed. By day six, my throat started to itch and I began losing my voice. Here I sit, day 10, waiting to see a doctor. My lungs hurt, my ears hurt, my head hurts and this cough is something else.  I cough until I choke and then I cough some more.

And now, my mom is dead. Probable cause of death: COPD.