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Winning With Rheumatoid Arthritis – Overcoming My Fear Of Failure

Adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I started my Fitbit too soon, I had to stop it. I was nervous. I was anxious. I was excited. One by one, clouds of emotions rolled over me. Here I was standing under an over cast sky on an early Saturday morning in June waiting for the announcer to yell, “Go!”. I stood still, holding my balance strong while being bumped around by runners rearing to take off just as much as I was. I was at the starting line of The Baltimore 10 Miler. Thoughts of doubt, thoughts of disbelief, and thoughts of pride circulated through my mind.

Twelve years ago I couldn’t have foreseen this race on my calendar. I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of running a ten mile race. I had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age twenty. I cried when I learned of my diagnosis. All I could imagine in that moment was myself crippled and helpless by thirties. I found myself taking nine pills a day and a bi-weekly injection just to relieve the pain from the disease, spending my twenties in a mostly zombie state from the medications. I passed on activities with my friends and spent many of my days on the couch or in bed, too tired to even play with my son. I felt lifeless.

Four years ago, my life was shaken when I was let go from a very stressful and long job. I lost my healthcare benefits and was left unable to afford my medications. Though I didn’t realize it then, this was one of the best things that happened to me. This was an opportunity for a transformation. It was in those moments after that I woke up and realized it was now or never for a lifestyle change or I would wither away, drowned by the pain and the frustration of the disease.  I started practicing yoga twice a day. I gave up fast food and junk food and I started studying my disease. I started reading how to manage it organically. I taught myself how to eat better. I started using essential oil therapies. I meditated, and I learned my limits and how to schedule resting and recoup time into my weeks.

At the end of April of this year I committed to The Baltimore 10 Mile Race. I only had a few weeks to train. My mind was reminding me how tough this was going to be but in my heart I knew this was something I needed to do. I started running about two years ago but not consistently. I hadn’t run more than three miles prior to this. My training was slack and race day came upon me fast. I set a goal for myself to finish the race in two hours.

Standing at the start line I shook, this was really happening. The first mile was awesome. I knocked it out in ten minutes. I felt absolutely liberated. By mile five, I was hurting. This was a challenge, but I refused to give up. I was determined to finish. I told myself to let the fear and doubts go. I told myself that pain was temporary but conquering this was going to change me forever. I continued to push on, through mile six, seven and eight. I made it to mile nine and tears rolled down my cheeks. It all hit me at once. I was beating my disease, and I was beating my fear. Almost every muscle and joint ached. My knees and hips were stiff. Yet I pushed on still. This was it, one more mile…uphill.

The moment I crossed the finish line was so much more than I thought it would be. In all of my life, I had never pushed myself that hard physically. The thoughts racing through my mind were chaotic. I was so proud, so happy, so relieved. I finished in two hours, 10 minutes, and thirty-six seconds. This event was truly a life changer. In that last moment crossing the finish line was the moment I knew from the bottom of my soul that I had made the decision to not let anything stand in my way of the life I wanted.

 

Remembering loved ones on World Stroke Day… and Reducing your Risk & Increasing Awareness

This is a difficult post for me to write but I feel it is important that we share our stories to help others. The risks of strokes are real and many of us are unaware of how much a stroke can affect our lives. My Grandfather had a stroke last December and it changed my and my family’s lives forever. Luckily the Lord was watching over him when it happened… he was in his basement and happened to be on the phone with my uncle when it occurred so we were able to get help to him fairly quickly but the damage had been done. We were able to enjoy his company for several months after until he left us to be with the Lord in August. His quality of life was never the same though. He spent those last months in a nursing home with a limited diet and restricted to bed or a wheelchair. We enjoyed many afternoons in the gazebo watching the geese and ducks in the pond and those moments we were blessed to be with him while we could. He is missed everyday.

Studies have shown that 80% of strokes can be prevented.

Major risk factors for stroke:

  • High Blood Pressure – this is the main risk factor for stroke. It is important to do what you can to make sure you keep your blood pressure regulated. Watch your sodium intake, maintain a healthy weight are a couple of ways to control this; speak with your doctor for help.
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Diseases – know your family history, speak to your doctor about risks.
  • Smoking – smoking damages the blood vessels which raises your blood pressure, it also reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches your body’s tissues.
  • Excessive alcohol intake.
  • Drug Use
  • Age and Gender – as we get older, our risks increase. Men are more likely to have a stroke, but women are more likely to die from a stroke. It is so important to continue to take care of your health even as you get older.
  • Personal or Family History – again know your family history and make sure you are finding ways to protect yourself.
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Stress and Depression
  • Unhealthy Diet & Lack of Physical Activity

I can’t stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself. A healthy diet and regular exercise routine has shown to significantly reduce the risks of stroke. Unfortunately in some cases we cannot prevent a stroke. Here are some signs of a possible stroke…

Stroke Warning Signs:

  • Face Drooping
  • Arm Weakness or Numbness
  • Speech Difficulty
  • Sudden Confusion
  • Sudden trouble seeing
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache

Having a stroke or watching a family member or friend go through a stroke is never an easy process but we can do things to help reduce the risks and educate ourselves of the signs so that we can get them the help they need to survive it.

Resources:

National Stroke Association – www.stroke.org

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – www.nhlbi.org

American Stroke Association – www.strokeassociation.org

In honor of My Grandfather, you will be forever in our hearts. 

grandpa and me