January 27, 2011

Hit Again With The Truth

I don't know why I was surprised to learn today (once again) that A is deaf in her left ear. I've known that fact practically since she was born.

I think that because A is doing so well, I forget sometimes that she has medical complications. Because she seems to see ok, I forget that she has fields of vision missing, due to her colobomas. Because she is talking so much, and even recently tested within normal range on an articulation test, I forget that she has a paralyzed vocal cord and other factors that led to speech delay. Because she is walking so well now, I forget that she has no semicircular canals.

And because she seems to hear so well (in fact, is aided to about normal hearing in her right ear) I forget that she is deaf in her left ear.

Today we had an audiology appointment at Children's Hospital. We usually go there twice a year, and do both aided (with hearing aids) and unaided tests. Today was an aided test. We went into the sound-proof booth, and first tested her right ear, which is her "good" ear. Our audiologist noticed that she wasn't responding to some frequencies as well as she used to, and made a minor adjustment to the hearing aid. After re-testing, A was responding to almost all of the frequencies. I was happy the adjustment was made; now A will be hearing even better.

We then tested her left ear. We have not tested her left ear, aided, in quite a while. An MRI done when A was a baby showed that she has no auditory nerve in that ear, but early testing did show SOME response (albeit in the profound range, but still) in some frequencies. We have always put a hearing aid on her left ear, because frankly no one can tell us what she is hearing except for her...and she doesn't have that cognition and language capability yet. After all, she is only 4 years old.

To test her left ear, we took out the hearing aid from her right ear and masked the ear. This means that the audiologist inserted a small bud in her right ear that made white noise. Because of the white noise in her right ear, she would only hear out of her left ear (otherwise, sound that is meant for her left ear could also be heard by her right). The audiologist then played some sounds to see how A would respond.

No response.

The audiologist turned up the volume. It was loud. In fact, the sounds were so loud that she asked me if I wanted a headphone for myself to block it out (I declined, although it was loud enough to hurt my ears).

Still nothing. Nada.

I sat there, with A in my lap, quietly crying. This test showed that there was NO hearing in her left ear, not even at a profoundly deaf level.

Again, I'm not surprised. We've known she was deaf in that ear for a long time. In fact, when she first failed her hearing tests in the NICU we were told that she was deaf in both ears...so the fact that she is aided to normal hearing in one ear is a blessing that I don't take for granted. And apparently she is hearing all parts of speech, something that we were concerned with, so that makes me extra happy.

Yet it's still hard to be confronted with.

January 25, 2011

Helping Her Vision

Today we had a follow-up visit with A's opthomologist. I was eager to see her, as we had two things to discuss. First, there was the reason we had the visit scheduled in the first place: to do a vision test on A's left eye. Our last visit in December showed that A's eye may not be as in bad shape as we had thought it was, and the doctor wanted to do an undilated vision test. Second, I wanted to discuss A's recent falls and how I thought they were directly related to A's new prescription glasses for astigmatism.

The first thing the doctor did was test A's left eye. With her right eye covered, she was able to see letters on a chart at 20/300, possibly at 20/250. Our last visit she tested at 20/200. However, as the letters got smaller A got bored and was done...so it's hard to tell if that is where her vision really is, or if she could see better. Regardless, even a 20/300 is more than we'd previously thought. It's still technically "legally blind", but that's just a term. What that means for my daughter is that her left eye is providing a lot more peripheral vision, and possibly central vision, than we'd thought, and helping her depth perception. Great news!

Next, we discussed the glasses. The doctor agreed that perhaps A wasn't ready for the prescription, and is sending her new glasses back to be have clear, non-prescription lenses put in. She had never heard of a child falling on her forehead due to this prescription before, but she agreed that it seemed the glasses were the culprit. (Of course, I'm sure not many of her patients are also missing their semi-circular canals and have impaired balance to begin with). Easy, peasy.

We then got in to discussing A's options. As A is only 4 1/2, and still technically "plastic" (the doctor's words) with her vision, she would like to try to improve A's eyesight as much as possible. To that end, she is suggesting two things:

1) She wants us to start patching A's "good" eye (her right eye) daily. This will cause A to only use her left eye, thereby strengthening it. Even patching for a few minutes a day will help, although up to a few hours would be optimal. In reality, I think we might be lucky to get an hour in a day. The doctor recommends that A not be walking around while patched (as her depth perception will be severely impacted and she might fall again) and so we have to do it while sitting down. But any time with the patch on will help, the doctor says.

2) The doctor is recommending surgery for A's ambyopia (lazy eye). Her left eye tends to wander at times, although it wanders far less now than it did when she was younger. She thinks that having her left eye always looking central will also help to strengthen the vision in that eye. Also, although it's a much lesser, secondary reason to do surgery, it's cosmetic. The good news is that if we decide to go ahead with the surgery, she can schedule it for the same time that A is having surgery to get her stoma from her tracheostomy closed (she says she schedules with our ENT all the time) so A would only have to be put under anesthesia once.

I'm at a loss as to what to decide about the surgery. I'm sure J and I will have lots of discussions about it. I know it's a common surgery, but it scares me. My own mother had the surgery; our doctor has done hundreds, if not thousands of them. But I just need to make sure it's the right choice for A.

All in all, it was a good visit. We already had our patching session for today; she was reticent at first, but it helped that both D and I put our own patches on. Hopefully we can get this resolved, as I would love to help A maintain and even improve whatever vision she has.

January 23, 2011

Carlsbad Half Marathon Recap

Today I ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon, and had an amazing race...in fact, I set a personal record (PR)! I was looking forward to this race especially because I was supposed to run it last year. At the last minute, I had to sell my bib, as I had broke a toe a few months previously, and had no running time under my belt. So just to participate today was a triumph for me. But my weekend actually started yesterday, as my kids did the adjunctive race, the Legoland Kids Marathon Mile. This was D's third race ever, and A's first race since she did the Junior Carlsbad 50-yard toddler trot last year. It was almost a year to the day that she began to walk unassisted. What a way to celebrate!

We got up very early yesterday, as we wanted to be at Legoland by 7 or so. We got our bibs (both J and I registered as companion runners as well, so that we could run with the kids) and the kids' t-shirts. Soon enough it was time to go to corrals by age group. I went with D to the 6-year-old area, and J went with A to the 4-and-families area. When it was our turn to run, D took off! He is a much faster runner than me (not hard, considering how slow I am!) and I was always several feet behind him. I was actually in pain the whole time; for some reason my left heel was hurting and each step I took hurt. Soon enough, we got to the finish line where he got his medal, and we waited for J and A to finish. After a LONG time (not only were they a few groups behind us, but A is a very slow walker and had to be carried much of the way) we saw them head toward the finish. I was so proud of her---she'd only been walking a year and already has two race medals!

After their race, we went to breakfast, then onto my expo. I got my bib, timing chip and t-shirt (my first-ever long-sleeved technical shirt!) and walked around the expo. Unfortunately, my kids were very bored and were misbehaving, so I did not get a chance to really explore the expo as I'd wanted to. However, I did buy myself a triathlon sticker for my car, and a tank top I'd been wanting that says "I'm only doing this so I can post a picture on Facebook". I've been coveting that shirt since I saw it at the Disneyland Half Marathon Expo--and now it's mine!

This morning again started early. I didn't sleep well last night, as I was anxious not only about the race itself but about that heel injury I'd had yesterday, so I was exhausted. I was picked up by my friend and running partner, W, and we headed to Carlsbad. We parked and immediately hit the port-a-potties. A yucky place, but necessary. We were freezing....it was still dark and boy were we cold! I knew it was going to get warm later, so I was wearing warm-weather gear. Luckily, I also wore an old sweatsuit jacket and cheap gloves that helped keep me somewhat warmer. While we were milling around (and waiting in line AGAIN for the port-a-potties) I saw a few friends of mine who were also running. This was great, because there were SO many people there. In fact, I knew of tons more friends who were also running the race, and am glad I saw the four that I did!

W and I were assigned to wave 6, so we had quite some time to wait after the 7:30 start. I think we finally crossed the start line at about 7:50. The horn blew, and we were off! I was happy that my heel didn't bother me at all; after the pain I had yesterday, I'd been anticipating 13.1 miles of pain! After a few miles, I was getting hot, so I discarded my jacket and gloves. They'd served their purpose!

One thing I LOVE about doing races is being around all the other runners. The energy is always high, and it's great to be around like-minded, fit people. But more than that, I love the sense of camaraderie. Being surrounded by, and running with, THOUSANDS of people who have also been training for the same event evokes feelings I can't put into words. I'm usually a solo runner (save for the few long runs I've been doing with W) and running as part of the community is awesome.

The course was gorgeous. It was an out-and-back course, mostly along the Pacific Ocean. The sound of the waves, the smell of the water, seeing the surfers out there---it was a fabulous place to run. Although it got pretty hot, it was never unbearable; the ocean breeze made it nice. We followed the water until almost mile 7, then made a U-turn and made the turn-around.

The course was described as having "rolling hills". Much of it was flat, but there were definitely some rollers! W and I joked whenever we saw an uphill ahead that we had an "RH alert" (rolling hill alert). A few hills looked HUGE to us and we referred to those as "BFH alert" (big f**ing hill alert). It was nice to laugh..and great to run with W! We pretty much ran together the whole way. Sometimes I took a little walking break and she went on ahead, and sometimes it was the other way around, but we were always within a few feet of each other and she finished right ahead of me.

I used my new Garmin 305 for the first time in a race, and loved it! I was able to tell how fast I was going...and knew I was going to PR. My previous best time in a half marathon was around 2 hours and 47 minutes. Today I did it in about 2 hours and 35 minutes--shaving a whopping 12 minutes off my time (and about 28 minutes faster than my first-ever half marathon back in 1999). I couldn't believe I was going to PR by that much...but I had been running a faster pace than usual, and only took a few quick walk breaks to recover. And having no bathroom breaks on the race really helped; I usually have to stop once, which of course adds minutes to my time.

Coming toward the finish line was emotional for me, as always. I love the finish line. Not just because it means I'm done, but because I love the crowds, the screams, the excitement. And I since I knew I was going to PR, I was in tears as I rounded the last bend. I felt good, just a little soreness around my glutes and calfs, and knew I would finish strong and smiling---which is always my biggest goal.

All in all, I am VERY happy with this race. I am proud of myself, but not just for setting another personal record. I am proud that I have been training so hard for these races. I am really doing my best. In fact, even if I hadn't done so well, I'd still be proud: I put the time in, ran the miles in training, and raced my best today, which is really all one can hope for.

Next on my race docket is the Safari Half Marathon on March 13. This is the inaugural year for the race (at what is previously known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park). It's soon, which means I need to keep up my training and long runs. I look forward to it!

January 19, 2011

My Blogiversary--and Blog Makeover!

This week I am celebrating my blogiversary! Yes, one year ago I decided to start blogging. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to blog about, but felt that I had something to say....between having a daughter with special medical needs, a husband with Young-Onset Parkinson's Disease, and an active son I had experienced a lot that I wanted to write about. Additionally, over the past year I re-committed to fitness, and once again became a runner, and now a triathlete. I love to write about that, too.

In this past year, I "met" some wonderful friends through my blog. First, I have met so many people who have found my blog and comment on it...thereby leading me to THEIR blogs. I love reading other people's blogs, and hearing their stories, especially as it relates to special needs or fitness. After creating my blog, I joined Twitter, and made some amazing friends there. From Twitter, I joined dailymile, another social networking site just for athletes. Between my new friends from blogging, Twitter and dailymile, I truly feel connected in the online world....the support I get is just as good as the support I get from my real-life friends.

To that end, I am grateful to Erica Sara, who has done this BEAUTIFUL makeover on my blog! My old look was plain and bare-bones....I am blown away by the work that Erica has done. If you haven't checked out her blog, please do so. She is runner (marathoner!), yoga fanatic, jewelry designer (check out her gorgeous designs, including race bling!), website designer, and all-around inspiring woman. Her websites (all three!) are definitely worth looking at.

I look forward to my next year of blogging. Thank you ALL for your comments and support. You have read my posts through the good and the bad, the excitement and the fear, the ups and the downs. That's life. And I intend to keep writing.

January 18, 2011

Falls, Blood, Stitches--and Answers?

Yesterday was a very hard day.

I haven't blogged about this, but recently my daughter, A, has been falling. A lot. Flat on her face, right onto her forehead. In fact, she has had 4 falls all within the past 10 days or so.

The first fall was about a week and a half ago. We were outside playing with the neighbors, and she was walking on the sidewalk. All of a sudden she was flat on her face. While there was no blood, she had a HUGE black-and-blue goose egg in the midde of her forehead. I iced the knot down as best I could, and as she seemed ok, didn't think much else about it.

Four days later we were at the supermarket. I grabbed a shopping cart and turned to throw away the trash that was in the cart. In the 5 seconds I was turned, A managed to fall again---right on her forehead. There was a tiny bit of blood, just enough to put a band-aid on. My worry started to grow---why was she falling?

Four days after that, a huge accident happened. It was time to take D to karate. We went into the garage, and the kids got into my minivan (as they do all the time). My back was turned, as I was locking up the door from the garage into the house, when all of a sudden I heard a sickening thud. A had fallen from my minivan, facedown onto the concrete garage floor. I picked her up, and there was blood EVERYWHERE. I saw a huge, deep gash in her forehead, right where the goose egg had been. I left D with a neighbor (J was in Green Bay on business, so I was on my own) and spent 4 1/2 hours at Children's Hospital Emergency Room. A left that night with 6 stitches. They warned me to be extra careful with her---more falls could potentially cause brain damage (as any head injury could).

Well, yesterday, three days after getting stitches, A had yet ANOTHER accident. As it was a holiday, J had the day off, and we decided to go to a museum in Balboa Park. We were standing together trying to figure out what exhibit to go to next when BAM, A tripped over D's shoe and fell right onto her head on the marble floor. We were RIGHT THERE---there is no way we could have been any closer, yet she still fell. I picked her up, and saw that there was blood gushing from her her stitches. We ran to the car and took her back to Children's Hospital Emergency Room, where we spent the next four hours. Her previous 6 stitches had indeed ripped open, and she got 15 stitches time. They layered the stitches---3 on the bottom layer, 5 on the middle layer, and the rest on top.

Needless to say, J and I were thrown for a loop. Sure, A has balance issues. She always has and always will. She was born without semicircular canals, which are the part of the inner ear which help control balance. There are supposed to be 3 on each side, or 6 total. A has none. So balance has always been a problem for her. This is one of the main reasons why she didn't walk until she was 3 1/2....it's difficult for her.

But although she falls from time to time, it's never on her head. She often starts to fall, but catches herself. Or she'll fall on her tush. This is new for her--falling on her forehead, without even putting her arms out to catch herself. We've been racking our brains trying to figure out what's going on. We've even discussed getting her a helmet.

On the way home from the hospital last night, J came up with what we think is the reason: her new glasses!

Back in December, we had a wonderful visit with A's opthomololgist, where we discovered that A may not be legally blind in her left eye after all. In that same visit, her doctor said that A has a slight astigmatism. She told us that if she were a new patient, she wouldn't even suggest a prescription, but since A already wore glasses (non-prescription, just to protect her eyes) and we needed new glasses anyway that we should get them with a prescription for astigmatism. The timing was perfect, and I was excited to get a prescription that could help my daughter's eyesight.

She got her new glasses on January 5. Her first fall was January 6. And then, of course, she's had three subsequent falls.

Coincidence? I don't think so. She has NEVER in her life fallen on her forehead, and now she falls four times within 10 days, right after getting her glasses?

A cursory look online shows that astigmatism is linked to depth perception, which of course affects balance. I remember a few years ago when I got a prescription in my sunglasses--I normally have no prescription at all, and it took me quite some time to get used to them. I had a hard time walking...was scared to walk off curbs because I didn't know where my feet were and I felt distorted. Having had that personal experience, I know that having a new prescription can affect how depth perception. And A is just a little girl...she doesn't have the awareness or language to tell me that her depth perception is off.

So, starting today, she is back in her old non-prescription glasses. I hope that this ends the falls. We go back to her opthomologist next week for an eye exam to test her left eye, so I will discuss this with the doctor then.

In the meantime, I hope that our hypothesis is right. I am sick to my stomach about all A has gone through---all those painful falls, emergency room visits, and 21 stitches total. I am worried about the scarring she might have. And of course I am scared that the glasses AREN'T the reason she's falling and then we'll be back to square one.

But I'm 99% sure. And those glasses are gone for good.

January 13, 2011

My Daughter Continues To Amaze

Today I got news about A that blew me away. Not that I should be surprised...my daughter has constantly been amazing me with how she exceeds every expectation, whether it's with her gross motor skills, fine motor skills, or medical issues.

This time, the news was about her speech.

To give some background, A has had a lot of things going against her in terms of her speech. Specifically:

1) She was born with a bilateral cleft lip. While this was repaired at 7 months old (so well, by the way, that you have to look closely to see the scar) she has minimal movement on her upper lip. I think with the scars there her upper lip just isn't as pliable as it should be, which of course affects the production of certain sounds.

2) She is deaf/hard-of-hearing. She didn't get hearing aids until she was 6 months old, so she has always been 6 months behind in her "hearing age". And there may be some sounds that even with the hearing aids in she can't hear very well. Obviously, if you can't hear a sound, you can't reproduce it.

3) She has a paralyzed vocal fold.

4) Up until this past July, she had a tracheostomy, which affected speech production because a lot of air would come out of her stoma. Even though she's been trach-free for 6 months, some of these sounds ("f", "s", and other airy sounds) are just now coming in.

So, clearly, speech has always been an issue for her. We started speech therapy at Children's Hospital when she was only 11 months old. Back then, the goal was to get her to use sign language to communicate, as she was unable to make many sounds at that point. Eventually, she started to sign, and then speak. In fact, most of her signs have dropped now; she is pretty very verbal now, only using sign language once in a while to get her point across. Last year, she started speech therapy through the school district, per her IEP. Between getting two hours a week of school-based speech therapy, and one hour a week of speech therapy at the hospital, she's done a lot of intensive work. The hospital therapist mainly works on articulation, and the school therapist mainly works on language.

This past Monday, our private speech therapist did some testing on her (the Goldman-Fristoe test of articulation). Today she called me with the results:

A's speech sounds are within normal range.

Yes, you read that correctly. My baby, for whom speech has been such an issue, is within normal range for speech articulation!

There are still a lot of sounds she has trouble with, like "s" blends ("sh", "sl", etc). But our therapist said that for a lot of children these sounds don't even come in until age 6 or so. A is only 4 1/2! And she thinks that once A gets her stoma closed, which should be this coming June, even more sounds will improve. So, for all intents and purposes, A's articulation is within normal range, even though she still has work to do.

A's speech therapy is approved with our insurance only through the end of January. Our therapist suggested that we continue to see her for the next few weeks, and then take a voluntary break. We can then have A reassessed in 6 months. If she needs to come back, we'll submit the paperwork with insurance. If she doesn't need to come back, all the better.

I feel ok about this. This is just like her ending the hospital-based physical therapy in December: while she still has work to do with her gross motor skills, she is doing well enough to end, and is still receiving PT through school, plus adapted P.E., horse therapy, and now ballet, tap and gymnastics. She is still DOING physical things. With speech, she will still be getting 2 hours a week of speech therapy through school. And there are language building activities we can do at home. We talk all the time, so this is never-ending.

I cannot believe that A will be done with speech therapy at Children's Hospital! Having done it weekly for the past 3 1/2 years, it doesn't seem real. But discontinuing is bringing us one step ever closer to making her as typical as possible.

January 7, 2011

My Tap-Dancing Gymnast/Ballerina!

This week my daughter became a gymnast and a tap dancer! For most 4 year old little girls, this would be no big deal; don't most little girls dance and do gymnastics? However, loyal readers of my blog know that my daughter is not "most little girls". After all, she just started walking almost exactly a year ago, at the age of 3 1/2.

I had always dreamed of A dancing, but frankly wasn't sure she ever would. When I was pregnant with A, and found out she was a girl, I imagined us doing Mommy-and-Me ballet like my other friends with daughters did. I fantasized about signing her up for gymanstics....of buying her a little tutu....of going to dance recitals. Of course, when she was hospitalized in the NICU for 12 weeks after she was born, I had a feeling that none of those dreams would become reality. And as she grew older, and her gross motor skills became more and more delayed (she didn't hold her head up until almost 6 months old, she sat up unassisted at 15 months; she finally crawled at about 18 months) it was more and more obvious to me that she may never do the things I so desperately yearned for.

Back in June, I found a dance studio that had a class that seems right for my new walker. I signed A up for a Creative Movement class, which she adored. In July, I put her in the Intro to Ballet class. This was not the Mommy-and-Me class I had wanted, but in a lot of ways it was better: an independent class for 3-4 year olds. I got to go to Capezio and buy her ballet slippers, and outfit her in a leotard and tights. Since July she has gone weekly to ballet (the Creative Movement class ended when school started in September) and has improved so much. She still can't do a lot of what the other kids do, as her balance is impaired and she still lacks the coordination to jump and skip. But she tries her hardest, and loves it. I don't even care what she can and can't do; the fact that she's in the class at all is enough for me.

Flash forward to this month. I had been looking, to no avail, for a gymnastics class for A. It's been hard, much harder than I thought. Every place I called seemed inappropriate. The classes for her age group were developmentally way too advanced, and the classes that were developmentally appropriate were for little kids. However, I hit the jackpot and found a local place that is perfect for her. The instructors actually have experience with kids with needs and varying abilities. I talked to them at length about A, felt comfortable, and signed her up.

This past Tuesday was her first day. She was placed in a class with 5 other kids, all about the same age. They rotated around different parts of the gym: balance beams, a trampoline, slides, rings, etc. The instructor, who had actually read the form I filled out about A and knew her medical issues, stayed with her for all the things she needed extra assistance on (like the balance beams). I was thoroughly impressed with their level of attentiveness. A had a great time and had a smile on her face throughout. And I am satisfied that this will make a great replacement for her medically-based physical therapy, which ended last month after 4 1/2 years. I just know she will benefit from all the activities she will do in gymnastics.

In addition to trying gymnastics for the first time, this week she also got to try out tap dancing! The dance studio started offering it for her age group this week, directly after ballet on Thursday. Most of the little girls in ballet, including A, stayed after the ballet class to test out the new tap class. Again, I think this class will be very good for her. Much of tap dancing involves balancing on one foot, lifting the other, and coordinating when to strike the heel or the toe. Things that are hard for any 4 year old and that are doubly hard for my daughter. But she tried her best, and actually did a heel-toe walk, with the teacher's assistance, across the dance floor!

Today I went back to Capezio buy her a pair of black patent-leather tap shoes. They are now nestled in her ballet bag, next to her pink ballet slippers. Her sweatpants for gymnastics hang in her closet. She has all the gear. My daughter is now a ballerina, tap dancer, and gymnast....just as I dreamed she'd be at age 4 1/2. In my eyes, she's the most graceful one out there.

January 1, 2011

How I Came To Be Addicted

I'm astounded to think of how far I've come, fitness-wise, in only a year.

I've written before at my on-and-off relationship with exercise. I was never an athletic child. My parents didn't put me in any sports; rather, I did ballet, baton twirling, and piano lessons. I never asked to do sports, so who knows what they would have said had I asked to play soccer or something else. Nevertheless, I wasn't athletic at all, and was always one of those kids picked last for teams in P.E.

In high school I joined a local gym with some friends, and went quite often. I loved lifting weights and getting on the Stairmaster (which was a novel machine back in the late 80's). But then I went to college, and exercise went out the window. Sure, I walked everywhere, took a fitness class here and there, and played intermural inner-tube water polo. But for the most part, I was a couch potato, which, coupled with the increased junk food and alcohol I was consuming was not good.

After college, I joined a gym and worked out periodically. I would have spurts of interest where I would go a few times a week, then I wouldn't go at all for months. I loved lifting the weights, but hated doing cardio. It bored me to tears. I just wasn't committed.

In 1998, when I was 28 years old, I began running. I found I really enjoyed it, and trained for my first 5K. Soon enough I was doing lots of local 5K races, and eventually ran my first half marathon in 1999. I kept up my running enough over the years that I wanted to cross something off my "bucket list": run a full marathon. This dream was realized in 2003 when I completed the Suzuki Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego. It was a terrible experience for me....I overhydrated and bonked at mile 20, making me walk most of the last 6 miles...but I did it. I was a marathoner.

Soon after the race, I got pregnant with my son, D, and stopped running (and exercising) altogether. After he was born, we bought a jogging stroller with the thought that I would run with him. Of course, I rarely did. I still had my gym membership and would go once in a while, but really hardly ever. A few years later, my daughter, A was born. She had so many medical issues (NICU for 12 weeks, breathing tube, feeding tube, tons of doctors and therapy appointments) that all thoughts of taking care of myself went out the window. It was all about her. Whatever time and energy left over from taking care of her went to my son, who was only 2. My needs were in last place.

About a year and a half ago, in May 2009, I had a bone scan at the doctor's office and was diagnosed with osteopenia, which is low bone mineral density, and a slippery slope to full-blown osteoporosis. I was told I could take medication, or try to help it via life-style changes (namely, doing weight-bearing exercise). I had another medical reason to exercise: my family's horrific history of heart disease. My mother had a heart attack at age 63 (luckily she survived it). My father has had by-pass surgery. His mother died very young from a heart attack. Between them and other family members, I have heart disease history on both sides of my family. And while I have low cholesterol (thank you vegetarian diet!) and have always had very low blood pressure, I am still at-risk. I didn't want to take medication and opted for the life-style route.

I quit my old gym, which, while cheap, was several miles away, and joined a nicer, much more expensive gym only a half mile from my house. I began running on the treadmill, and soon got the idea to train for another half marathon. I found one that would be taking place the following January, and began training. However, in the fall I broke a metatarsal (part of my toe) and was in a walking boot for two months. I stopped all exercise, sold my bib to the half marathon, and became a couch potato once again.

In January 2010 I got the clearance to run. I signed up for yet another half marathon, the America's Finest City, and started to train. My training was pretty half-assed. I was committed to my weekly long run, and faithfully increased the mileage every week. But I would only do 1-2 short runs in the week, and nothing else. I wasn't too motivated for some reason, and I kept injuring myself. During this time, I asked a friend, who is a runner and triathlete, to train me. He kept mentioning that I should be cross-training to increase fitness and avoid injury. I would always ignore him.

In June, I injured myself yet again, and, yet again he suggested cross training. This time, something clicked. That night, I went out and bought a swim cap and goggles, and the next day I went to the pool and did a few laps. When I told my friend, he informed me about a triathlon I should sign up for. Triathlon!?!? I had only been in a pool once, and hadn't biked in about 10 years. However, a few days later I signed up, and started to train daily.

Since June, I have completed two half marathons (the America's Finest City Half Marathon and the Disneyland Half Marathon) and two sprint triathlons (the Mission Bay Triathlon and the Fearless (Double) Triathlon). My race schedule for 2011 already has me signed up for 3 half marathons and one triathlon, with more of each still to be registered for.

I pretty much work out 7 days a week now. Every day I either swim, bike or run (or do the elliptical machine if I am too injured to run). I also started to lift weights again. I only take a day off if I am sick, exhausted, or if logistically I can't fit it in (as in childcare issues). When I don't work out, I don't feel right. I am addicted, and that's ok. I have never felt better, and feel like I look the best I ever have. I am still slow---heck, I almost came in last place during my last triathlon--but I get it done. I'm slow and steady, a proud back-of-the-packer.

I have spent so much money this year on my passion. Not just on race entry fees, but on gear! A wetsuit, goggles, Garmin 305, new iPod, running shoes...I even just bought a used bike off of Craig's List. But all my gear gets used, and is money well spent.

I can't wait to become even fitter in 2011. I want to become the best athlete I can be. I may always be slow, and always in the back-of-the-pack, but I'm out there trying, and I want to be as healthy as possible. I was watching the coverage of the Kona Ironman World Champion a few weeks ago, and there was a competitor who was 80 years old. He has been doing the Ironman yearly since he was 55. He said something to the effect of "if you want to be healthy when you're 80, you'd better be paying attention to what you're doing to your body when you're 40".

I'm paying attention.