A Blessing in Disguise

It’s been (almost) two weeks since my unplanned siesta from life. Over the past week, I’ve come to realize things that I seem to have forgotten with work and training.

I’ve written about it before, but I am someone who rarely sits still. Even on days off, its rare that you will find me sitting and watching a movie or reading a book or just sitting to relax. Unless I am sick, I’m always on the go. Work days I’m on my feet for 13-16 hrs. My days off when I am not training I am baking and decorating. I sit when I eat dinner, and when I head to bed. But I’m always on the go. There is no time to relax.

Then, there is the element of anxiety and work stress. It is normal for nurses and hospital staff to be stressed nowadays. Hospitals are businesses, and people are sick. But being short-staffed (which seems to be chronic on my floor) has added the element of anxiety to my work life. Each day i go to work I don’t know if I will be allowed to go home at the time I was hired for (12hr shifts) or have to work 16hrs. I don’t mind working 16hr shifts in a crisis situation. But when you are bombarded by your workplace and their need for more nurses brings on anxiety. With this, I developed unhealthy eating patterns– at the end of a long day, grabbing anything that I saw in my kitchen to eat– or “to cope” with the day.

This surgery was like a slap in my face; it was a wake up call to really take a good look at my life and my priorities. And here are some things I’ve remembered or learned.

1. Life is too short to worry about tomorrow. I’ve spent countless nights awake worrying about what the next day at work would bring, or what would occur. How much energy I have wasted on this worry. Did it ever help my situation? No. Focus on the present and where you are. Worry (if you must) about tomorrow when tomorrow arrives.

2. Nursing is not my life. It is what I do so that I may live the life i want. Yes, I am a nurse at heart and will stop to help people in distress outside the hospital without thinking about it. But there is more to my life than working in a hospital, just like there is more to being a teacher than teaching in a classroom all day. I should stop feeling guilt for not going in to work extra shifts, because nursing is not the main purpose of my life.

3. Enjoy each day like it could be your last. You never know what is going to happen tomorrow.

4. Not being able to train for LP/ Quassy is not the end of the world. It has been tough– simply because I love to do those activities, and I adore being outside–but doing  nothing is okay too. When I first had the surgery, I was afraid of all the training I would miss afterwards when recovering. I was able to reach out to some of the triathlon community, and was amazed at how many athletes have been injured and had to take time off to heal, and they still finished the races they were training for. Yes, I have to shift the expectations i have for races from PR’ing to simply finishing, but that is okay. My body still needs time to heal, so that I can go back into training with more focus and determination than before. I know lots of women who are older than me and they are in amazing, incredible shape. Having them as role models has taught me that I still have time to become in the best shape ever. 🙂

5. I love decorating cakes. This is no secret, but during this time I’ve been able to create some cakes that I have not had time to do, and it is so much fun. Give me clean, crisp, frosted cakes and I’m happy as a clam.

A small two-tier rustic wedding cake with sunflowers

A small two-tier rustic wedding cake with sunflowers

I love sparkles!

I love sparkles!

Bunny bottom :-)

Bunny bottom 🙂

Thank you cupcakes for hospital staff

Thank you cupcakes for hospital staff

Memories of the cherry blossoms in D.C.

Memories of the cherry blossoms in D.C.

6. Nutrition is key in healing. With the stress of work, my nutrition slipped off course. I’ve steered it back to where it should be, and remembered that everything I eat is helping my body heal and become strong again. Despite not working out, I feel much healthier than I was pre-operation. My goal is to carry this healthy momentum when I return to work and my other daily activities.

7. I’m not a fan of walking.I’ve been on a couple slow walks, and I’ve realized I’m not a walker. Unless if it is in the forest or around the neighborhood when I can gawk at houses that I wish I owned, I prefer running. Walking simply takes twice the time to get to your destination as running. Ohh well. I’m sure I’ll be able to run soon.

8. There is nothing more important than family/good friends. I don’t know what I would do if I did not have them around. These people are what matter in life. Your race time, work, life obligations don’t matter. It is who you surround yourself with that matters.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I guess you are never really prepared for when the unexpected occur during your life. They seem to happen during the most inconvenient times too, huh? Last year when I was preparing for the Patriot Half, I stopped mountain biking. I could never forgive myself if I had an accident while mtn biking and could not train or complete the Patriot Half. I was somewhat a nervous nelly about doing anything that might cause harm to my body whilst training. Heaven forbid anything come between me, my training, and completing that race. Last week started off great. I got workouts in before heading to work. My t-runs after my rides have gotten faster, and I was feeling stronger all around. I’ve noticed significant improvement in my strength– thank you, strength training! All the extra core work and leg work has definitely been to my advantage. I’ve also found myself finding what nutrition plans tend to help, and those that negatively affect my training. I’ve seen a huge improvement in my swimming. I finished my first 3500 yard swim ever! Only 500 more yards, and I will be at the IM swim distance. Nothing beats feeling physically strong and good about how far you have come in training.

Training is really coming along.

Training is really coming along.

Not even 16 hrs after my strong swim, I found myself in the ER.  I woke up one night with horrible abdominal pain. The combination of pain and nausea was so intense all I could do was rock back and forth in a ball on the floor. After a couple hours, I told Kevin he had to bring me to the hospital. Never have I been in so much pain. Heck I do triathlons– triathletes are kings and queens at tolerating pain, right?!? CT scan after CT scan, with no conclusive answers as to what was causing the pain, I was admitted due to my high WBC count, to be seen by a surgeon. As time passed, my heart rate and temperature increased, and on-off sweating sessions began. Even with the IV pain meds, anti-nausea meds, and IV fluids, all I could do is hold Kevin’s hand and cry. We joked it was hard to keep me hydrated when all the fluids they pumped me with would come out of my body as tears.

Waiting in the ER...

Waiting in the ER…

The surgeon saw me early in the afternoon. At first, he said I might need surgery . If it was the appendix, it could not waitI. If it was something else, the gall bladder, etc, then surgery probably would not be needed. So, onto more tests. Through all of this all I could do was think about my training. Seriously, surgery? NOW? What sh*tty timing. Right after I was starting to feel really strong and good about how far I have come. At one point I wondered if the surgery–if I needed it–could be scheduled for August–after IMLP. Yes, incase you are wondering, IMLP means a lot to me right now. I even asked how long it would be before I could resume my normal activities if I was to have surgery. The answer: everyone is different, but it can be anywhere from three to six weeks.( Insert wide eyed emoticon here. ) Around 4:30pm, the surgical PA came in to tell me I was going to need surgery. It wasn’t the gallbladder. Even though they could not clearly see the appendix, they wanted to make sure everything was okay. Now, working as a nurse, I have seen my share of people going into surgery. Heck, I’ve even seen a lap-appe back when I was in nursing school (so neat!). But, the surgeries have never been on me. I have never been intubated, nor have a foley. I’ve never had anesthesia. You could say I was in a fever induced state of delirious shock.

After hearing I needed surgery. Who knew I was being photographed?

After hearing I needed surgery. Yes, I stayed in that position since I entered the hospital.

An hour later, I signed consents and the surgeon came to bring me to surgery. I met the anesthesologist and signed more consents. He explained what was going to happen. I know most of what happens during surgery, but hearing everything as a patient and not a nurse was worrisome.  In my profession, I have learned to keep tears at bay. You learn how to control your emotions. But in that bed, I wasn’t a nurse. I was a patient. I was in pain. And I was scared.  Despite the circumstances, before giving me an IV cocktail to help me relax, as the surgical team hovered around me, they helped me actually laugh about some things. Then, like clockwork and exactly how the anesthesiologist said it would happen, I transferred over to the surgical table in the sterile, bright lights of the OR, laid down, and as someone applied corticoid pressure, I swiftly fell asleep. I was warned that coming out of anesthesia can make you feel nauseas. Sometimes you feel happy. All I remember is opening my eyes and crying. I know, I know. I sound like a blubbering emotional mess. Well, I guess you could say that I was. I spent some time in the PACU and received some IV pain meds. They ended up taking out my appendix, and when I asked how it looked, the anesthesologist said, “Well, this is not in medical terms, but it looked nasty.” (I would later learn that had they waited to do surgery until the next morning, it would have been too late and my appendix would have ruptured, causing more serious complications.) I was then sent back to the floor to “get some rest.” (We all know that it is nearly impossible to get rest when you are in a hospital).

Post-op photo op

Post-op photo op

So, that is my story, of how despite the caution and care you take of yourself, things happen that are out of your control. And you just have to let them be. We cannot control everything in our lives. And if I had waited to go to the ER, things would have ended up being a lot worse than they are.

Gotta keep those lungs healthy.

Gotta keep those lungs healthy.

I am still in pain, but am home now. I can finally use a computer without feeling the urge to vomit. Each day it gets a little better. I’ve come to accept that it is okay to be in pain– it is not a sign of weakness as I (for some reason) thought it was. It never really dawned on me how having the abdominal muscles “messed with”  affects, basically, everything you do–from walking to bending to reaching to coughing and sneezing (ugh that is the worst!). Not to mention, the amount of gas you have. Note: I found that a warm compress to your shoulders really helps with all the gas you get. 

Lucky resting with me.

Lucky resting with me.

I’ve been able to sit up and walk around more with each passing day. We made a joke that I should make a Strava segment of the walk I do around my house. I would definitely be QOM of that segment after my walk today :-p My goal is to walk halfway down my driveway today, and tomorrow, walk all the way to the postbox. (We have a long driveway). Yeah, it stinks that I wanted to run a 5 mile race yesterday and couldn’t.It is hard seeing pictures of everyone enjoying the weather outside running and doing activities that I can’t do, and will not be able to do for awhile. Sitting outside in the sun, thinking about the biking I could be doing, or long runs I could be doing causes tears to well in my eyes. Through this harsh winter I pushed myself to do all those negative-degree runs, and hours on the trainer; to keep myself in shape with the dream of completing Ironman Lake Placid. It makes me sad to think of all the progress and steps forward in training I have done thus far, only to be forced to take steps backwards.

But I need to give it time–give my body time to heal properly, so as to not cause any further damage. My coach tells me I’ll get back to where I was in my training and to have heart; I still have time before IMLP.

I saw the below picture the other day and thought, you know what? I’m not going to give up. I’m not a quitter. IMLP means too much for me to simply give in. Life happens, whether we want it to or not, and I’m not going to let a small setback stop me from completing–or at least trying– to finished a full distance triathlon.

tumblr_mle4lt1siv1qm99efo1_500 This post is dedicated to my man, for being right by my side for those two long days…and apparently documenting the whole thing on his phone. 😉 And a huge thank you to my sister for driving up to see me. What would we do without family and friends? And, to everyone at NDH. What amazing care I received. 

When was the last crazy post written?

March 2015
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