Showing posts with label rheumatoid arthritis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rheumatoid arthritis. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Not Every Race Has Bling: 8 Lessons Learned from Running 2019

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and my experiences should not be used for your medical decision making. I would refer you back to your medical provider. 

Coming off 2018, one my highest mileage years ever, the bar was set high. There was no reason to think I couldn't ride the wave through 2019, right? 2019 started off really well for me, with a half marathon in January, followed by an indoor marathon relay. The polar vortex didn't slow me down!

No, but rheumatoid arthritis had other ideas. In February, I received the shingles vaccine after which I had a reaction. For most people, the vaccine reaction is short--about 24-48 hours, but for this RA warrior, the vaccine triggered a prolonged flare of my disease. For the next 4-6 months, I battled severe fatigue, joint pain, and loss of endurance. While the flare slowly resolved, it was frustrating and I received very little support from my rheumatologist, save for multiple rounds of steroids.

Taking charge of my health, I changed my diet, reducing the amount of 'inflammatory' foods and eating mostly plant-based. I also learned about and started a medication that could help with some of the pain I had been experiencing. I sought out a second opinion from a different rheumatologist and switched my care to her. Time will tell if she's 'the one' for me.

As the year winds down, I am back on track and feeling really good. While I continue to have mild symptoms that remind me that yes, I do have RA, this is the best I have felt in a long time. Instead of doing a traditional recap of all my races--you can find all my recaps on my races page--I wanted to share a few highlights along with some of the lessons I learned over the course of the year. Because running is always teaching us old dogs new tricks.



Sunday, December 1, 2019

Race Recap: Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon

As an ambassador for All Community Events, I received a free entry to the Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon. My opinions are my own.

"You're having a bad race too?"

I was taking a walk interval at about mile 10 during the recent Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon. The runner on the path next to me, who was also walking, looked unhappy. When I told him that I was run/walking this race and actually, no, I wasn't having a bad race, he didn't answer.

I thought to myself about how lucky I was to be out here, running a half marathon. I get to do this! When my walk minute was up, I started to run again.



Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday Runfessions

Doesn't this feel like the longest month ever? With 5 Thursdays this month, I thought Thanksgiving would never come. Hopefully, all of you survived your day with your loved ones and are now recovering from your food coma or hitting the Black Friday sales. Me, I'm at work because illness never takes a day off.

I'm thankful for Marcia and her monthly Runfession Sessions. It's time to cleanse the soles and start this holiday season off with a fresh slate. Do you runfess? It's pretty painless...



Friday, November 1, 2019

Coffee Talk

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

Let's catch up over coffee! Once a month, Deborah and Coco host a coffee chat where a bunch of bloggers talk about what's going on in our lives. Besides running, that is! I'm having a cup of that yummy Colectivo Co-Optiva that I picked up again in Madison last week. Don't you love regional coffees? Do you take anything in your coffee? I've got half and half over here...


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Second Opinion: How Do I Know Which Way to Go?

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to give medical advice, but to share my personal experience. You should always consult your medical provider for any concerns regarding your health. In addition, I am pro-vaccine and am not advocating for anyone to avoid a vaccine based on my experience.

Last February, I developed a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) flare that never seemed to end. Initially, I wasn't sure what was going on but my endurance was suddenly gone. Poof! It was as if I never had run a step in my life. My heart would beat into the red zone if I moved any faster than a walk. I was experiencing an uptick in joint pain and such severe fatigue that I could barely climb a flight of stairs without having to stop to catch my breath. Running became such a challenge that even the run/walk intervals I had used successfully in the past weren't helping me.

Was it the weather? Or something else? As the symptoms continued, I thought about everything that could have caused this flare. Then the light bulb went off. I had received a shingles vaccine week earlier-- could that have triggered an immune response that fueled my disease? Upon the advice of my rheumatologist, I held my dose of Humira the week before and after receiving the vaccine so that my immune system would properly respond to the vaccine. The day after I received the vaccine, I developed a fever and body aches. I figured it was just a typical vaccine reaction. I initially felt better but after a week or so found myself in a full-blown disease flare.

Unfortunately, this flare lasted for months. A course of steroids would tamp down my symptoms, but as soon as I stopped them, the flare would fire up again.

A long time runner, I have always used my runs to measure my health. I might wake up in the morning and feel bad, but if I have a run scheduled and it goes well, I know that I'm well enough to go to work and proceed with my day. I think most runners are in tune with their bodies and can read their symptoms pretty well. As a nurse practitioner, I joke that I have enough medical knowledge to be dangerous. The bottom line is that I have the ability to figure out what is happening with me.
If you have been reading my blog for some time, you know that I struggled with running and other endurance workouts for most of this year. I dropped down to the 5k in many of my planned races as well as DNSing races that didn't have a shorter distance as an option. It was disheartening as well as discouraging. In August, I wrote a post titled "Can I Even Call Myself a Runner". I was really depressed and frustrated. I thought I might not be able to run anymore.

My rheumatologist downplayed my symptoms. Among the other things she told me, she said that since my inflammatory markers were normal, my symptoms weren't due to an RA flare. Frustrated with her response to my concerns, I decided to seek a second opinion. Even though there was a 6 month wait for a new patient appointment with the rheumatologist I wanted to see, I was willing to wait. I knew that the flare would take time to resolve and that there was nothing magical to make it go away. I just wanted to find a provider who would listen to me.



Sunday, October 13, 2019

I Haven't Got Time for the Pain

Carly Simon sang it back in the 70s. Kimberly "Sweet Brown" Wilkins updated it and is forever immortalized on a meme.  I tweaked it to fit my week. I had a rheumatoid arthritis flare this week. Fortunately, the flare was brief. Because I don't have time for pain!

It's been a busy week! Let's get right to it.


Friday, August 16, 2019

Random Friday Thoughts

Guys, I got nothing for today except a bunch of random thoughts that alone don't add up to a whole blog post. It's been a busy, big couple of weeks. This week has been all about recovery--both physical and mental. Indulge me while I share some of my ruminations from Wednesday's run.



Friday, August 9, 2019

How to Partner with Your Doctor and Take Charge of Your Health

As an athlete, I've always been someone who likes to be in charge of my body. I'm also a nurse practitioner who works in a primary healthcare setting, managing patient care. When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a few years ago, I looked for a specialist who would provide the medical care I needed but would also partner with me in medical decision making. In the early days of my diagnosis, I was more passive as a patient, letting my doctor order medications and treatments she deemed necessary. As time passed, I did the necessary homework, reading up on my disease and treatments and asking questions.

I took a more active role in my treatment plan when a serious side effect occurred with one of the medications I was taking. My doctor wanted to continue the medication but at a lower dose. We debated the pros and cons and in the end, she discontinued the medication. With my most recent disease flare, during which I had severe fatigue, we discussed options of how to best manage my symptoms. I agreed to a trial of a new medication. After 6 weeks of the medication, there was no improvement and I developed tinnitus, a non-reversible side effect. During those 6 weeks, I combed through the medical literature on my condition and symptoms. When I returned to see my doctor, armed with knowledge, I was prepared to discuss my perspective, as an athlete and as a patient. While she stopped the tinnitus-causing medication, alternative medications she wanted me to start would have further impacted my ability to exercise. There was an alternative medication I had learned about and when I presented it to her, she liked it.

Several months later, I can say that I am feeling and doing much better.

I see a lot of posts on social media from fellow athletes who have health problems, ranging from injuries to chronic illnesses like mine. As a health care provider myself, I can say with all honesty that not all medical providers are willing to partner with their patients to develop a plan of care that is customized to their needs. There are also patients who are willing to take a passive role in their health care and follow whatever their physician tells them. I am also amazed at people who refuse to follow conventional, proven treatments for health conditions. While there is a place for alternative medicine, it is as an adjunct to conventional medicine, not as a replacement. There has to be a happy medium here!

How do we partner with our doctors (and nurse practitioners) and still take charge of our health?



Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Heat is On!

While I wasn't loving the cool summer we were having, it did make for some really nice runs. I'm glad I had those because now it is hot and whew, have my runs been suffering. So much for the return to the kind of running I'm used to. It's become all about putting miles in the bank, maintaining fitness until the return of cooler weather.

I'm not going to complain about the heat, though. Besides my runs, I'm loving that it is finally summer! I guess you can't have it all. Even though the running wasn't the best, there was a lot of good happening this week. Let's get to it.



Sunday, June 16, 2019

It's All Good

I think whatever was plaguing my body for the past couple of months has finally left the building. Yes, I'm feeling like myself again!

If you've been following me, you know that I've been struggling with fatigue and general malaise since February. While my rheumatologist tells me it's not RA, my internist and I believe differently. I received the new shingles vaccine in February and probably what happened is that the vaccine triggered a flare. I'm certainly not anti-vaccine but I do have an autoimmune disease and it makes sense to think that this could have flared my RA.

Regardless, it was frustrating for me.

The past couple of weeks, I've had more energy and this week, I've felt pretty much "normal" again. I had 3 good runs totaling 19 miles, which is the most I've run in several months. Bootcamp and strength training went well too.

It's all good!



Sunday, May 26, 2019

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program Already in Progress...

Oh.My.Gosh.

Can I just say how good it feels to feel good again? I knew I had been feeling bad, but looking back over the past month, that was probably the toughest I've had to endure since my initial diagnosis with RA 2 1/2 years ago. I did my best to stay positive, especially here on the blog. I just want to thank everyone for sticking by me while I worked through the flare. The pain is so much better and the fatigue is resolving.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Well, I brought some strength to my workouts this week! It's back to work.



Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Change in Perspective

In the midst of the never ending winter and my ongoing health issues came an invite from my southern sister from another mister. Holly, who used to co-host the Weekly Wrap link up with me, convinced me to book a flight for a weekend visit to her new lake house. She found a trail race for us. I looked for flights and found a great deal.

After I booked my flight, I had second thoughts. What if I don't start to feel better? Will I be able to run? Even more important, will I be able to water ski? Will she still want to hang with me?

What the heck was I worried about?



Sunday, May 12, 2019

I've Got a Good Feeling About This...

It was another frustrating week, health and fitness-wise. I won't harp on it, but my patience and my emotions were starting to fray. I had an appointment with my rheumatologist this week and I spent time prior to the appointment studying up on my condition and my new symptoms so I could be prepared to ask the right questions. Sometimes being a medical provider is a blessing and a curse! I have the knowledge and ability to interpret medical literature but I think that sometimes ignorance is bliss.

On the other hand, it felt really good to take control. At my appointment, my doctor and I discussed my concerns and options. She made some changes in my medications, including stopping the steroids which were making me really emotional. I left the appointment feeling more optimistic than I have in a while. Time will tell if the new medication will work but based on everything I learned, I have a good feeling about this new plan.

Beautiful Picnic Point overlooking Lake Mendota in Madison

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Ramble On

Disclaimer: I received Aspire and Maxus Zero socks from Swiftwick in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

"I guess I'll keep on rambling
I'm gonna
Sing my song
I gotta ramble on, sing my song
Gotta work my way around the world
Ramble on, yeah..."
~Led Zeppelin

Doo doo doo, I can't stop singing this song! This was such a better week. Is the medication finally kicking in? Is the inflammation just calming down? Whatever it is, I am thrilled. I found some endurance, rambling down the bike path and around my neighborhood.




Friday, May 3, 2019

Coffee Talk

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

Let's catch up over coffee! Sometimes it's nice to talk about things other than running. How do you take your coffee? I'm still using the GLG collagen and half and half in mine. Pull up a chair and tell me what's new in your world.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Forward is a Pace

I want to keep on running.

After a little tough love talk from my very wise friend Marcia, I promised myself that I would start to train at an easier, slower pace. After running all these years, when I lace up and hit the road, my legs just go. Sadly, right now my heart doesn't want to keep up. Training these old legs to find a new normal, a slower speed, is much easier said than done. Dialing it down requires a focus on pace and diligence that I haven't used since training for my last marathon 4 years ago.

I'd have to call my week on the road a success as I finished all 3 runs with the distance I set out to do and feeling good.



Sunday, April 21, 2019

Fighting the Good Fight

This week seemed to be a turning point for me with both running and my disease. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am battling the worst flare of rheumatoid arthritis since my diagnosis 2 1/2 years ago. You may be tired of hearing about it. Trust me, I'm tired of dealing with it. As a runner, I'd love nothing more than to share victories than the string of struggles I've been experiencing for the past couple of months. I am frustrated and there are days when I think I should just walk away. I know that would be wrong and because I'm stubborn, I keep trying.

You never know what's around the next corner. So you just keep on fighting. Adjusting the game plan. That's what warriors do.



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

CARA Lakefront 5k Race Recap

The CARA Lakefront 10 miler is a perpetual favorite for me. I've run the race multiple times. It takes place along the Chicago lakefront in late March or early April. Organized by the Chicago Area Runners' Association, the race is a true "runner's race" and as such, attracts some really fast participants. This year, my running friend Steph wanted to run it with me.

I've been struggling with running for the last couple of months and that is mostly due to an ongoing flare of rheumatoid arthritis. Just as soon as it seems that I've gotten my symptoms under control, the disease flares up again. It's been frustrating for me. The week before this year's race was to take place, I had the worst flare since my diagnosis. Not wanting to DNS or risk a DNF, I made the decision to drop down to the 5k. I figured that at the very least, I could walk the 5k while Steph ran the 10 mile distance.



Sunday, April 14, 2019

Learning to Listen to My Body

Apparently, I've been overdoing it.

That's basically what my rheumatologist told me this week, in a very nicely worded diplomatic sort of way. When I protested that this is my usual level of activity, she told me what I already knew but needed to hear it again: I'm fighting an aggressive inflammatory illness and I need to scale back to allow my body to calm down.

I already knew this, but still. It kind of sucks.



Friday, April 5, 2019

Coffee Talk

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

Happy Friday! Let's sit down over a cup of coffee and catch up! What do you take in your coffee? I've got half and half and some GLG Collagen--I swear by this stuff! Have you tried it? Just 2 tablespoons are all you need. Tell me what's new in your world.