Monday, June 5, 2017

My Latest RA Flare

In the last three weeks I have been to 9 doctor's appointments and one ER visit. I came down on the dosage of my prednisone from 12.5mg to 12mg and this small adjustment has led to an RA flare. It has affected my vision, caused bleeding from the bladder, and made it difficult to walk. 

Unfortunately my vision has taken a hit from my Rheumatoid Arthritis - both figuratively and literally. I have been having headaches, dizziness, difficulty focusing, and vision loss. I have inflammation in my eyes due to an RA flare. It turns out I have ciliary spasm and uveitis which is the leading cause of blindness. At this point the doctor is hopeful with treatment we can manage the symptoms and keep it under control. I have to admit it's a little scary. Most days I fight and feel like I'm winning. Other days are a little tougher.
Good news is inflammation is starting to go down. Still working on Meiobian Gland dysfunction. The doctor had to put me in multifocal lenses. To fix my distance it compromises my vision up close so we had to accommodate for both. And there is some permanent loss. Vision went from -6.5 to -7.5 in right eye and -8.0 in left eye.

This is what my urine sample looked like and what had the doctor send me to the ER. I am on a constant regiment of antibiotics due to my compromised immune system and persistent UTI's caused from RA. After several hours, blood work, urinalysis, and CT scan, they sent me home with yet another antibiotic and antispasmodic. At my follow up with my urologist, we decided to discontinue my constant source of antibiotics and treat it reactively rather than proactively to save my stomach a bit. This is the procedure used for transplant patients and patients with a compromised immune system. At the first sign of infection we will treat with a Rocephin series. He feels like the blood in my urine is due to inflammation from the RA flare. 

My activity has been limited from this flare. I am exhausted, but I can usually push myself thru it. In a major flare it is a little tougher. I am dealing with more pain. And both my ankles/Achille's Tendons, knees, and hips are making it difficult to even walk. I'm doing what I can, but it's not been much.

Typically when I have a flare we increase steroids to get me thru it. But I am working so hard to lower my dosage. So I am just trying to tough it out. I am wondering if this is the right decision. My rheumatologist talked to me about us having to consider altering our treatment plan, and I am thinking this is where we are going to have to head next.  

Running and triathlon are not bringing me pain. Exercise is not causing my broken bones or leading to my vision loss. Instead running and triathlon keep me focused on moving my body when I can hardly get out of bed in the morning. Running and triathlon are helping keep my head clear from worry and stress and my heart free from the burden of my disease. Rheumatoid Arthritis is the cause. I can choose to lay down and let it take over or I can continue to live and do what I love. It's not even a choice I have to consider. 
I have gotten many texts and messages of concern and I know these concerns come from a good place and I really appreciate it. I am resting when I need to and I am listening to my body. And I promise I am putting my health first. 

Getting thru this flare is my priority. Then I will get back to my training. Swimming has been good, so hopefully I can do more of that.  

Monday, May 29, 2017

10 Tips for Hiking with Kids

Hiking with my boys is my favorite past time. It is a time where we can disconnect and be free of distractions. We can explore and investigate. They find working together benefits the individual as well as the group. And most importantly to me it's where they tend to open up and communicate with each other and with me the most. 
A lot of parents ask me for advice about family hiking. Many have said their children whine or complain along the way. They're hot, they're tired, they're hungry or thirsty, etc. I have learned some tips that help make the most of our outings and keep hiking fun for all.
1. Know their limits. You may need to keep it short initially especially if they are young. You can increase the distance each time you get out there or as they get older.
2. Dress properly and comfortably. Be sure to dress for the weather. Don't wear nice clothes - let them get dirty! I choose bright, matching colors so they are easier to spot! And make sure they are wearing good comfy shoes.
3. Give them a responsibility. And this could vary for age. You can give them a job such as guide or lookout, Let them be the leader. If they are older let them carry a hiking tool such as a compass or multi tool. You can let them bring a camera to be the photographer or reporter.
4. Let them choose the path. Give them a little freedom in choosing whether to turn left, or right, or go straight. This may take some planning ahead of time if it's a trail you are unfamiliar with, but it is worth it! For an added bonus let them carry a trail map.
5. Have them carry their own water. Our boys have their own hydration pack, They each have an Orange Mud Hydraquiver Single Barrel pack. It's great because they can carry their own hydration and it has pockets as well. They carry bandaids, tissues, their own hiking tools, a whistle, etc. 
6. Take breaks. Take time to stop and smell the roses. Take it all in. Listen to their cues. If they are tired find a great place for a break or even cut it short if you need to. You want to nurture a love for hiking and being outdoors.
7. Have a picnic. We almost always bring food and stop halfway thru to eat. It provides them the opportunity to rest and refuel. And we always let them pick the spot which gives them freedom and helps them feel like they are contributing. Plus it makes them work together to agree on a spot.
8. Go on a leaf hunt. See how many different color leaves you can find. Collect leaves for leaf rubbing. Match which leaf goes with which tree. Identify types of leaves/trees.  
9. Geo Caching - At or using the geocaching app you can learn everything you need to know about geocaching. It 's a fun treasure hunt and you'll find hidden treasures all over the place. You use coordinates to navigate to its location. You can find the treasure and leave it or take it and replace it with one of your own treasures for the next person to find. This can be a lot of fun! 
10. Keep it simple! Teach a love and respect for nature. 

A great app I've found that we use is All Trails. You can explore trails near you or enter a city, park, or trail name for maps. Users also post pics and reviews which I find helpful. 

You can find National Parks at Your state also has a website for state parks. Chances are your county does as well. 

Here is a list of local trails we enjoy:

Spring Creek Greenway 

Dennis Johnston Park

Pundt Park

Mercer Arboretum 

Jesse Jones Park

WG Jones State Forest

Burroughs Park

George Mitchell Preserve

Meyer Park 

Huntsville State Park

Sam Houston National Forest

My Ironman Tattoo

I wanted to get my tattoo right away so it could heal while I was recovering from the race. And it was so cool that Lululemon was hosting an after party and invited Superchango Tattoo Studio to come give out tattoos!
Hubby pointed out the grown men wincing before me, but I thought they were being dramatic. Lol! But it sure did hurt! And it bled a lot! But I just did a freaking Ironman!!
I love it! And I wear it with pride! It represents all the trials and tribulations I went thru to earn the title of Ironman!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Family - My Biggest Fans

This was a journey and a finish that is credited to my family! I certainly couldn't have done it without their support and encouragement! And I sincerely believe my family is as happy for me as if they crossed that finish line themselves! To hear how they announce to perfect strangers that I am an Ironman with such pride in their voices makes me tear up every time! Thru this journey they made many sacrifices, stepped up their responsibilities, were my cheerleaders, my entertainers on long trainer rides, my partners on runs, my support crew, they even helped nurse me thru my injuries! They were such a big part of my journey and huge contributors in getting me to that finish line!! This medal is as much theirs as it is mine!! 
My mom and dad helped so much with my training! And as always they move heaven and earth to make my dreams come true! My poor mom, I think she was almost more nervous than me!!
It's hard when you are held back from doing what you love. Rheumatoid Arthritis and injury kept me from performing like I know I am capable of, but it wasn't going to stand in the way of my dream! I wouldn't let it rob me of my victory or steal my joy! #noexcuses
It's moments like these on the run that kept me moving forward and got me to that finish line!
I can never thank my boys enough for helping make my dreams come true!
This guy right here couldn't have been more proud of me! I know he doesn't get my passion or as he calls it my crazy, but that doesn't stop him from supporting me no matter what! The time commitment, the financial investment, the illness and injury, thru it all he is by my side and I love him even more for it! I credit my medal to him, my boys, and my parents because I got it done for them and because of them!

Fantastic Friend Support

There are so many advantages to doing a race at home. I was so fortunate to have so much support out on the course! There were people I grew up with and graduated high school with, there were teachers I taught with, old friends and new friends, friends from Instagram, etc. I couldn't have felt more blessed to have so many cheering me on!
My best friend Lucinda couldn't make it because her dad has been very ill. But even still she cheered me on from afar!
My friend Tammy sported her Iron Will Iron Jill shirt and cheered me on!
My sweet friend Jackie was such a great support! She worked an aid station on the run, and it was great to get hugs out there where the crowds thinned!
Brian, my Tritats leader and friend, was there for me bright and early in transition! He helped fill my tires and calm my nerves! My friend Sarah was there too, and I swear we took a pic, but I can't find one!
Susan was amazing thru this entire journey! I cannot begin to explain how much it meant to me to have her by my side and to complete this journey together!
Jess not only had to listen to my training woes daily on the phone, but she came down and led my support crew. She did an amazing job!!
It was so wonderful getting out of the water and seeing Donna's smiling face! She was a sight for sore eyes on the run too!!
Everett was loving hanging out with my gorgeous support crew all day!
Could these cheerleaders be any cuter?!?!
My friend Sarah, who I taught with, brought her daughters out to cheer me on during the day and hung out with friends to watch me cross the finish line!
I am sure I had the hottest support crew out there!!
And by far the best cheerleaders!
I found a fellow Mind Over Matter triathlete out there and it happened to be Mike Rocco, a guy I graduated high school with twenty something years ago!
I was so excited to see these beautiful ladies waiting for me at the finish line!
How incredible it was to see these three beautiful smiles cheering me on!! I taught with Sarah, Brandy, and Jennifer! And Brandy made my sweet team shirts!
Kathryn was so excited for me and I appreciate her genuine pride and support for me so much!
Amy is the best! She had these cow bells made for me!! I love her and them so much!
Such a sweet family!! So happy to have them there for me!
There thru thick and thin Jess was cheering me on! She was born to be a cheerleader!!
It was great racing with my friend Matt! He crushed it out there!
Jess came by bright and early the next day to give me hugs and have some breakfast before heading back home! So grateful to have had her here with me!
And this girl right here! We did it Susan!! Now to talk her into doing my next crazy adventure with me!!

Thank you so much to all those near and far who cheered me on along this journey. There were so many more people there on the course and around the world cheering me on! I wish I had pictures of everyone to share! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Best Coach Ever!

I get asked all the time if getting a coach is worth it. The answer is most definitely YES!! I was so blessed to have Gena Alvarez as my coach and friend. She has been with me from the beginning of my tri adventures and seen me thru so much! She has given me a plan to keep me healthy and make it to the start line which is no easy feat, she has held me accountable, she believed in me when I said I know I can do this, and she was there for me at my finish! 
I am forever grateful for her support and encouragement! 
I don't think she had any idea what she was taking on when she became my coach. Heck, I didn't even know! Shortly after I began training with her I had a bike accident that required two surgeries and months of PT. I got back to training and a week before my first triathlon I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Since then I have been plagued with injury and illness related to my auto immune diseases, and she has been there every step of the way! She's not afraid to tell me I am crazy, but she supports me anyway! That is a true friend and an amazing coach!

My PT Support!

I would not have made it anywhere in this journey without this guy!! My physical therapist, Andy Cox, is really the best there is! He fixed me when I was broken, he encouraged me when I had doubts, and he was there at the finish line to give me my medal!! I am forever grateful for his support!
He knows me well! He had my stats pulled up for me right away! Ha! 
I can't tell you the number of times it came into question whether or not I could even do this race! And Andy never doubted me for a second! 
It was a hard race between my Rheumatoid Arthritis and old injuries. Of all things my shoulder injury from a bike accident a couple years ago gave me a lot of trouble. It was this injury that initially sent me to Andy. He took care of me and got me wrapped in ice right away!
I'm not sure Andy will ever know how much I appreciate him supporting me from the start to the finish of this journey!