Giving It All without Ending Up with Nothing

When I couldn’t lift the toothbrush high enough to touch my teeth, I knew I had damaged my shoulder. The cause of the injury was the usual suspect: doing too much, too fast. My newest love in the fitness world, Crossfit, made me feel like I was suffering from a bad relationship: it hurt, but I loved it too much to let go.

With me, exercise is all or nothing. I’m either sweating and pounding my body into exhaustion or I’m laying on the couch with a carton of ice cream resting conveniently on my chest. I’m either letting my BMI creep up to an unhealthy level or I’m giving it everything I have to bring it back down. So when I was introduced to Crossfit workouts through CaliFit Mamas, my first thought was, “There’s no way in heck I could do that.” (Obviously, that was the ice cream talking.) My next thought was, “I’m going to do that.”

Crossfit is intense. Each morning, I’ll read the workout of the day (WOD), and I’ll think, “5 rounds for time of 20 push-ups, 20 sit-ups, 20 deadlifts, 20 burpees, and 20 knees to elbows? Sounds easy enough.” And fourteen minutes later, I’m bent over, trying not to pass out as sweat drips from my face to my shoes like a leaky faucet. Whether it was during a billion reps of burpees or power snatches, somehow I damaged my shoulder last week. Sure, my whole body is sore and achy, but it all hurts so good–except for this wonky shoulder. Between my husband begging me, “Do NOT workout today,” and not being able to lift my arm high enough to apply deodorant, I decided to skip last Thursday’s WOD.

My all-or-nothing mentality was ready to abandon Crossfit. “It just isn’t for me,” I thought. “I’m not tough enough.” But I was so in love with the high that those intense workouts gave me, that I decided to do something rather unheard of for me: I went to the doctor. I felt pretty embarrassed to be there for “exercising too hard.” Surely they had people with real health problems to attend to. However, the doctor reassured me that it was smart to get it checked, and she gave me the simple advice that I needed to hear: keep doing it, just don’t overdo it.

I’m learning to find a balance between all and nothing. I’m backing off on the areas that need a little time to heal without neglecting the rest of my body. I might have to take a rest day, modify the exercise, or reduce the intensity, but I’m not breaking up with Crossfit. And the strength I’m gaining in the process is evident inside and out.

20130611-112439.jpgPictured: My two favorite workout buddies 😉


My son and the battle that lasts a lifetime…

As previously mentioned, our new little guy was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis several weeks ago. Today, I want to share with you a little about this chronic disease because…

1) I recognized the name of the disease, but had no idea what it actually was prior to finding out about his diagnosis, and

2) I believe that awareness is vital for any disease.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the basic definition of cystic fibrosis (CF) is:

“Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that:

  • clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and
  • obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.

In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have further enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. Many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond.”

“Beyond” is the key word for our son, as far as I’m concerned. Once I got past the initial shock and devastation of his diagnosis, I moved into a state of determination. Like anyone who is faced with a difficult challenge (and aren’t we all in some way?), I truly believe that hope and optimism are imperative to conquering that challenge. No doubt, we have a long and bumpy, sometimes emotional and frustrating road ahead of us, but we are taking it one day at a time and using the knowledge of our wonderful team of CF doctors to keep our boy healthy and happy.

Some answers to frequent questions that I have been asked (or that I have asked myself!) so far include:

  • We found out that he had CF through his newborn screening. I’m not sure if every state now tests for CF this way, but they absolutely should! As hard as it was to learn the bad news right away, it is MUCH better to find out ASAP than to let a child get behind on gaining weight. Good weight gain means stronger lungs, so the earlier the diagnosis the better!
  • Since our son has CF, that means that my husband and I are both carriers of the disease. Every conception that we have together, there is a 1 in 4 chance of having a child with CF, a 1 in 4 chance of having a “normal” child, and a 2 in 4 chance of having a child who is a carrier like us. The only way to know if you are a carrier of CF is to be tested, as there are no symptoms. There is no history of CF in either of our families, so neither of us knew that we were a carrier prior to his diagnosis. Our oldest son was recently tested and was negative for CF, so he can be tested to see if he is a carrier when he is older.
  • He does not need to be a “kept in a bubble,” but he and everyone he is close to should use good hand-washing and hygiene etiquette, since he is more prone to lung infections. If you have a cold, admire his cute little face from a few feet away please!
  • Exercise is vital for improvement of lung quality for our son and others with CF, so we will be starting at a young age with lots of physical activity. Good thing we are a family who loves sports! I have found a wonderful blog entitled Run Sickboy Run by Ronnie and Mandi Sharpe. Ronnie is truly inspiring as a CF husband, father, and an advocate for the disease. He has an infectious positive outlook on CF and life in general.
  • There are many medications that our son will need in his lifetime. Currently, he takes enzymes before he eats anything (just breast milk for now!), and since an infant can’t swallow a pill, we pour the enzymes from inside the capsules onto a spoon of applesauce. He takes it surprisingly well, although he does occasionally gag. He will have to take enzymes before he eats, every time he eats, for his whole life, so he I’m glad we are starting early so that he won’t know any different! He already associates that applesauce=Mommy’s milk, and he gets very excited (and stops crying) as soon as he sees us with the spoon. Thanks, “Pavlov’s dog!” Since his body has difficulty digesting fat and protein, and certain vitamins need these nutrients to be absorbed, he also takes a special multi-vitamin that is water-soluble. Also, we give him 1/8 tsp of table salt per day, to make up for the extra salt that he loses. We divide it between two breast milk bottles, and he doesn’t seem to know it’s in there!

    These are his current meds.

  • Finally (for now), he also gets a treatment for his lungs called CPT (chest percussion therapy) or “pounding” twice per day. This is to help break up the mucus that gets trapped in the airways of CFers. It takes us about 15 minutes to complete each session, and most of the time it puts him to sleep.

    He doesn’t mind that he’s getting “pounded.” 🙂

So far, we are doing great with all of this. His big brother is a huge help to us, and he loves his little brother so much! While we are embracing his CF, and we never want him to feel ashamed of it, we also want him to feel normal. First, he is our son, a brother, a normal boy with hopes and dreams and fears like the rest of us. Second, he has CF, and that just means that his body requires extra care and attention to function properly.

I will update occasionally with CF topics and to let you all know how he is doing. If you or someone you know has CF, please feel free to follow our journey and let us follow yours! One thing I have learned quickly is that the community of those with CF and their families is a strong one with a wonderful, supportive, and optimistic bond. I’ve never known anything like it, and for that part of this disease, I am grateful, because not all diseases have such amazing support, research, and hope for a cure that appears extremely obtainable.

Feel free to comment with any additional questions or information! Keep in mind that I am new to this, and cystic fibrosis is an extremely complex disease with a lot to learn about it. As with any disease, you should always consult your own healthcare professionals for the best advice! A stay-at-home mama can only know so much! Thanks for taking interest in our journey!



The Reason for My Blogging Hiatus: Getting Gestational Diabetes Under Control

It has been over a month since I last published a new post to my blog, and I’m ready to write about the reason for such a long, unplanned break from blogging. On Good Friday, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Before that day, I would have considered myself a fairly healthy person. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been somewhat lazy about exercising during this pregnancy, but I also take care of four infants by myself during the day, (although we just recently enrolled a fifth infant, which means I have an assistant again!) so I’m very active while at work, and then I tend to put my feet up and relax once I get to the comfort of my home. My diet has always been decent, and this pregnancy has been no different. In fact, pregnancy causes me to think about what kinds of food I put into my system even more than usual. I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking for my family, and I love to find new recipes that are both delicious and nutritious. While I do have a sweet tooth, I grew up with a father who was diabetic and a mother who taught me that everything is okay in moderation, so I rarely overindulge on the sugary, fried, or greasy foods. Chocolate and ice cream are my biggest junk food weaknesses, but I satisfy those cravings with an occasional handful of chocolate candy or a small Blizzard from Dairy Queen. I’ve always stayed within the normal weight range for my age and height, and while I don’t count calories or diet often, I keep my weight under control through occasional exercise and portion control. To sum it up best, I took a health questionnaire for our health insurance just a week or two before Good Friday, and after calculating my results, I received an on-screen message to “keep up the good work!”

And then came the phone call from my OB’s nurse, stating that I had failed the three-hour glucose test, which meant that I did in fact have gestational diabetes. I was shocked. I was upset. And as the words sank in, so did all the questions and guilt:

“Why is this happening to me?”

“What did I do wrong?”

“I didn’t do enough to take care of myself and my baby boy.”

When we got home, I cried and cried. I felt like a failure.

And after my one person pity-party was over, the next question came: “What do I need to do now?”

I Googled it, and read about ten different sources worth of information on the subject. I changed my eating habits immediately. This was hard to do, especially over Easter weekend! Filling my five-year-old’s plastic eggs with some of my favorite candy felt like torture! Not being able to talk to the specialist until my appointment the following Thursday meant I was on my own for nearly a week, not knowing exactly what this disease meant for myself and my baby, but I was determined to try my best to fix the problem immediately. So I cut back my carbs. A lot. By the time I got to the doctor’s office for my appointment with the diabetes educator, the dietician, and the specialist doctor, I had lost three pounds, and I was spilling ketones in my urine. Thankfully, I have a great team of medical staff who all set me straight on the best diet, exercise, and blood sugar testing schedule for my situation. Instead of eating three large meals each day like I used to, I now eat six small meals about three hours apart, and I include appropriate amounts of protein and carbohydrates at every meal and snack. I also take my blood sugar by sticking my finger with a nearly painless One Touch, four times per day. I also incorporate a fifteen minute walk every day, usually after supper. And I am very happy to say that the diet change and exercise are working well for me! I may have a high reading here or there (146 has been the highest so far, when it should be 130 or less when I test one hour after eating), but for the most part, my blood sugar is staying very stable, and I do not need to take insulin to control it. Phew! An ultrasound last week showed my baby boy to be developing and growing at a normal rate, which is the main goal of managing gestational diabetes.

According to statistics, both women who have had gestational diabetes and their children are at a high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. Although diabetes is in my genes and therefore also in my children’s genes, all is not lost. By maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program post-pregnancy, I can help my family avoid this disease. I don’t plan to take all sugar away, but I will make sure that all of our diets essentially follow a diabetic meal plan similar to the one I am on now. I will continue to occasionally splurge on a sugary treat, but the visits to Dairy Queen will be less frequent, and adding more protein into our diet is a must. We will also maintain a very active lifestyle, because exercise does wonders for maintaining blood sugar levels, in addition to many other benefits for the body!

I grew up watching my father struggle with diabetes. Watching him take insulin shots. Watching him check his blood sugar. Watching him go through low blood sugar reactions, where he sounded insane. Watching his kidneys fail and have to go on dialysis. Watching him go through two kidney transplants (because the first one was rejected by his body) and one pancreas transplant, two hip replacement surgeries, eye surgery, and countless doctor appointments, lengthy periods of hospitalization, and medications. I am so happy to say that today, he is healthy, and because of the successful transplants, he is diabetes-free. But it took a couple of decades for him to get to that point, and it’s something that I never want my children to have to witness their parent go through, let alone to have to go through themselves.

Throughout this whole situation, my husband and son have been unbelievably supportive. My husband and I explained in an appropriate, easy-to-understand way about diabetes to our son, and he knows the types of foods that I can’t have. We go on evening walks after supper as a family. We buy, prepare, and eat foods that “Mommy can eat.” They remind me to take my blood sugar when I get busy and forget. They clap and cheer for me when I have no-high-blood-sugar-reading days. They have been simply wonderful, and going through this with them and their love and support has made me appreciate the family that I have even more than I already did. And for me, that’s the silver lining behind what I originally thought of as such a dark cloud over my head: that we are learning to be healthier as a family, and that instead of alienating myself with a wall of self-pity, my family and I are getting stronger and closer together through this each day.