Sunday, July 24, 2011

12 Weeks and Counting

As of this morning, my fall half marathon is exactly 12 weeks away. I'm starting to get excited for it. I've been running for 9 years now and I can't believe this will be the first time I'm running my hometown race. Kind of crazy. I've just never been in the right place at the right time training-wise so it's nice to be getting ready for this and able to participate in the growing buzz among the local running community. I feel like my training is going really well right now. I'm feeling strong--nothing hurts, I'm not overly tired, things are moving along like they are supposed to.

Saturday's long run was another test of the new me and how well I can manage differing conditions and situations with my new guts. Aside from blockages, the greatest threat to someone with an ileostomy is dehydration. It will take us down fast and land us in the hospital on IV fluids if we aren't careful. We've been experiencing a pretty major heatwave here for the last two weeks or so and it got especially bad this past week. Temperature indexes have been in the triple digits each day, humidity levels are off the charts, and air quality alerts have been issued on most days. I do most, if not all, of my week day running on a treadmill in the air conditioned basement. It is the easiest way to get things done consistently while taking care of my children. It also keeps me in the safest conditions possible for summer running, and I feel fortunate to have this resources available. I could never train as well and often as I do if I didn't have this option.

Long runs are a different matter. I need my group. I need to get outside. I need the mental and physical break from the monotony of the treadmill. So, I get up stupidly early on Saturday mornings and join my MIT (Marathoner In Training) group for long runs. This weekend we bumped the start time up to 6:30 a.m. in an effort to dodge the worst of the heat. At 5:30 it was 79 degrees with 80% humidity. Bad, bad news. I was really nervous about getting through the run. I'm not acclimated to heat right now. I'm scared to death of dehydrating in good conditions, so this had me really edgy. I decided to take the 48 hours leading up to the run and use them to aggressively hydrate and make sure I was as topped up on electrolytes as possible. I doubled my intake of Powerade Zero (my electrolyte drink of choice) and made sure I had plenty of water throughout the day. I also took a break from alcohol, no evening glass of wine. I did not skip my coffee though....I'm not completely crazy! Friday evening I added some extra salt to my meal and I chose pretzels for breakfast Saturday morning to take a little extra salt on board. I had prepped about as well as I could from a nutritional stand point.

I've been using GuBrew tablets in my hand-held water bottle for long runs. They have a higher level of electrolytes than my Powerade Zero yet are still basically sugar free. With as much as I need to drink, I prefer to keep my sugar and fluid replacement separate at this point, so I start out with a sugar free electrolyte drink. MIT had fluid stations at the 1 mile, 2, 4 and 6 mile points. We would go out 3.5 and then turn around to come back, so we hit stops at miles 1, 2, 5 and 6. I kept up my normal pattern of drinking as each song changed on my iPod. I was also wearing two of my 8 oz water bottles in my Fuel Belt with plans to use one to take my gel and the other was for emergency back up in case I ran out at some point. As we hit the fluid stations, I added Powerade to my hand-held to top it up, so I gradually transitioned over to all Powerade as the run progressed. This worked nicely for me and I think I'll keep doing it. At about 3.5 miles I took a gel, and at the one hour mark I took 2 Endurolyte electrolyte capsules. I think I went through about three bottles worth of sports drink in the handheld (about 60 oz), 8 oz of water during the run (to take my gel), one gel, the 2 caps, and about 12 oz of water at the finish of the run. I didn't lose any weight from start to finish, and my skin wasn't all covered in salt afterward, so I think I managed things well.

Midway through I was feeling strange in my head. I wasn't light headed, but I felt slightly mentally confused. I couldn't decide at first if I just needed my gel or if it was the temps getting to me. I realized that sweat was dripping off of my shorts and the brim of my hat. I knew then that it was pretty bad and I was taking in about all I could without making myself sick to my stomach. I also felt like my heart rate was up and I was working a little too hard even though we were about 20 seconds or so below our average pace (and a full minute below what I'd done the week before!). I knew it was the heat and I decided I didn't have anything to prove to anyone. The smart thing to do at this point was to dial it down and make it back to the starting point without ending up in a dangerous situation. There were a few other runners around me at that time who seemed to be struggling, so I asked them if they wanted to do a run/walk interval with me for the trip back. We settled into a 3 min/2 min run/walk pattern and finished the mileage feeling much better than we did when we were at the turn around. In the past I would have beaten myself up for "quitting" and walking, but I realized it was the smart thing to do. How "tough" would I have looked getting carted away in an ambulance? Not cool at all.

My appliance held up perfectly to all of this punishment. I had a little bit of nerves about it because I had my phone in my Fuel Belt and it made it heavier than normal. I kept feeling like it was pressing down on the top of my wafer, but I don't think it was---or at least not enough to cause any problems. I did a change out when I got home and actually had a heck of a time getting the wafer off because the heat caused everything to really melt onto my skin. I could see that the paste ring wouldn't have held up for much longer, so I'm glad I changed it out when I did. I messed things up when putting on the new wafer. The paste ring I made was kind of glopping over the edge at the top of the wafer, but I didn't really notice until I'd stuck the whole thing on. The paste at the top was rolled inward and very close to the opening of my stoma. I knew it would fail at some point, but it was firmly in place and I didn't want to rip the whole thing off again. I decided to just wear it and keep an eye on it until I had to change it. I was thinking maybe 24 hours or something....turns out it was more like five! I did a quick check of things before we left to meet some family for dinner and I had a leak. No big deal. I did a change and we were on our way. It was my first change outside of the shower in a long time, but I have enough of a routine down now that it was still pretty easy.

I'm not going to lie, I can't wait to get through the remainder of my surgeries and get rid of my ostomy. The idea of one less thing to think about and maintain as I go through my day holds a ton of appeal right now. I will say though that the past couple of months have taught me that I would truly be ok if I somehow ended up having to keep it or get another one. I know there would be some mental speed bumps to get over, but ultimately I would be fine.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yes, I Do Mean Anything....

I keep talking about how you really can get your life back and do anything you really want to do after surgery for UC or Crohn's, so I wanted to share this great article that illustrates exactly what I mean. Zak Hammond is a perfect example of what I mean when I say "Life Takes Guts." You just have to get out there and go after whatever it is you feel inspired to do. Don't let your illness stop you. Don't let fear of how the ostomy will hold up or what might happen stop you. Don't let your own self-consciousness stop you. Odds are very good nothing bad will happen. Odds are also very good that nobody will be able to tell you have an ostomy. People don't pay as much attention to us as we like to think they do. Even if they can tell, so what? It's an opportunity to educate, dispel myths, and show your strength.

Don't be afraid. Don't hold yourself back. Get out there!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Go, go, go!

I ran six miles this morning with my half marathon training group. Six awesome miles. Oh, I also went with a faster pace group than I normally do and I did not die. I am running faster and stronger than I have in years. All of this amazes me to no end seeing as I had my abdomen sliced open and my colon removed less than four months ago. I still marvel at the amazing miracle of having my health restored. Yes, there are things about having this ileostomy that are a total pain in the, umm, butt I guess....but what I have gained from it so far outweighs any and all of the negative stuff. I would not go back and do it differently if given the chance, unless it meant maybe I did it a little sooner instead of getting so sick. The thing is though, I think I had to get to where I was in order to be ready. The whole thing is quite the undertaking, so being ready is of the utmost importance.

I only ended up with one little ostomy related snafu during my vacation. At one point, I had a pouch where the adhesive that holds the velcro on the closure just gave out. This meant I could roll it up and velcro it, but it wasn't going to stay closed. Not so good. Luckily, I had ducked into the bathroom for a just in case last minute emptying type thing right as we were on our way out for some shopping. Thank goodness I am in this habit of checking on things one last time before leaving the house! I simply switched out pouches since I use a two piece. It was my first time doing this, but it was super easy. All I had to do was pop off the old one, use a couple of flushable wipes to clean around the snap ring, and then pop the new pouch on. Then I was ready to roll again. I thought maybe the adhesive gave out because of too much exposure to water, but it happened a second time after I got home. That pouch had only been exposed to two showers and no running or swimming. Very odd. I had plans to change the whole appliance that evening, so this time I broke out the super glue and reattached the velcro to where it was supposed to be. That was a nice solution and everything held up perfectly until I did my change later that night. I'm wondering if there isn't a defect in this box of pouches or something? I'm not sure. The pouch I'm wearing now went on Tuesday night and it hasn't had any issues though I've run in it a few times and showered as well. Might have just been a crazy fluke. I will definitely continue to check on them before I go out though!

I am also really happy about my weight loss situation, especially considering a week of vacationing away from home. I didn't really follow all of my Weight Watcher's stuff during my trip, but I did call on some of my new habits such as controlling my portions, deciding which "bad" foods were really worth the splurge and which ones I could ignore, and keeping my exercise up. The end result was a one pound gain. I was thrilled. I completely enjoyed myself, don't feel like I missed out on anything, and the damage was minimal. Yay, me! I now have a little less than 10 pounds to lose to make Dr. L happy when I go back in September. I'm more confident than ever that I'll get the job done. Still hoping to schedule surgery #2 for right after the Columbus half in mid-October. Hopefully he agrees!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Greetings from the beach!

It's kind of gloomy and thundery this afternoon and both of my kids are sleeping, so this seems like a good time to pop in and give an update on how the whole vacation thing is going. I am really happy to say I've had absolutely zero ostomy related issues. I put on a new appliance Friday afternoon and, when I changed it out yesterday, it was still perfect....absolutely no compromise of the seal or sign of impending leakage. This was after a day and a half of car travel, two sweaty beach runs, a day on the beach and in the pool, lots, lots, lots of junk food and a moderate amount of adult beverages. Hooray! Sure Seals are definitely the ticket. They've worked a charm and I feel so confident--even while sleeping. I'm really glad I got them. :-)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fasten Your Seat Belts!

Early tomorrow morning we will leave for a week-long beach vacation. How early is still to be seen. My lovely husband has this elaborate fantasy of making it out of the house and being on the road by 6:00 a.m. I just look at our two little monkey boy children, smile, and let him dream his dream. At any rate, we will at some point arrive at our destination where we are set to spend a week with family at the beach. The house we are staying in looks to be amazing and gorgeous. Right on the beach! I'm really excited.

I'm also excited because this will be a big test of my carefully cultivated ostomy management skills. There will be many challenges and I'm looking forward to seeing what the outcomes will be. I'll be facing the whole swim suit thing head on. There will be time spent in the pool, a hot tub (maybe? not sure how much I'll want to be in there depending upon the temps), and in the ocean. I am also planning to run on the beach. There is the added bonus of my first major car trip with an ostomy. Lots and lots to tackle head on. I'm interested to see how it goes.

The one thing I am doing to put myself at ease is over-packing. I have plenty of clothes and we have access to laundry so if there is an "incident" I will be fine. I'm also taking along a ridiculous amount of ostomy supplies so if I end up needing to change my appliance more frequently it won't be a big deal. I am now very confident with my Sure Seals and paste set up, so I'm not too worried about having leaks, etc. My goal was to plan, pack, and then relax. I think I'm ready!