April 27, 2011

Surgery Date Set!!!

June 23.

That is the date of my daughter's surgery.

I am over the moon about this. This surgery is to close the stoma (or hole) left from her tracheostomy. My daughter, A had the trach, or breathing tube, in her throat from 4 months old until last July, when it was unexpectedly removed by her ENT at age 4. Since last July, she's had no actual breathing tube, and this alleviated so much stress from me, as now I am able to leave her with someone other than a nurse or my best friend (who was trained in how to care for her) and no longer have to carry around a suction machine, dye trach ties and do the thousands of other things that one must do when your baby has a breathing (and feeding!) tubes. Getting both tubes removed last summer was nothing short of a miracle for us.

Yet, although her trach was removed, the hole in her throat remained. Her ENT wanted to wait a year before closing it, to make sure she really could breathe well without it. A went through this entire past year just fine, even having a few colds and a bout of croup. A few breathing treatments with the nebulizer and she was good to go. So, she's ready to have the hole closed.

Because A has spent virtually her entire life (from age 4 months to present) with a tube or open hole in her throat, giving direct access to her lungs, there has been many things she has never done. Most things involve water; immersion in water, or even water trickling down her trachea, could drown her instantly. So, once she has the surgery and is healed, for the first time EVER A will be able to:

Go in a pool
Take swim lessons
Take a bath with more than one inch of water in it
Have shampoo rinsed from her hair without having to tilt her head back all the way
Have water drip down her face
Take a shower
Go in the ocean
Run through sprinklers

As you can see, this is huge for us. Imagine, being almost 5 years old and never, ever have been in a swimming pool. Or taken a full bath. Before this would have killed her; soon, it will be her delight.

In the same surgery, her opthomologist will also do an eye surgery on her left eye to correct her amblyopia, or lazy eye. Although her left eye is legally blind, with something like 20/200 (or it might be 20/300, I forget) eyesight, it's better than we had previously thought and this should help her even more.

I CANNOT WAIT for this surgery--it will be a one night stay in the hospital, and then a week to heal. Hopefully she'll be healed in time for her 5th birthday, just a week after the surgery.

And I know just where I want to spend her birthday.

Splashing in the local pool.

April 25, 2011

Tommie Copper Compresion Sleeves (product review!)

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Tommie Copper, a new company who manufactures compression sleeves. They asked if I would be willing to try their sleeves and write a review on my blog. I was very excited, as I have never worn compression sleeves before and was eager to try them. As an extra, they agreed to participate in a give-away; details to come on that later this week!

From their website, here is the mission of Tommie Copper:

Tommie Copper is designed to relieve pain 24 hours a day using Therapeutic Copper Compression (TCC). By targeting the problem area with Tommie Copper’s TCC, circulation is enhanced, inflammation is reduced and pain is relieved. Unlike ordinary, bulky compression wear, Tommie Copper is made from a revolutionary, proprietary fabric. All of our products are designed to be comfortable and lightweight, and can be worn under work apparel, keeping you comfortable and pain free all day.

And from their Facebook page:

Until now, compression wear was designed primarily for athletes to be worn for short periods of time to increase performance, enhance recovery and alleviate pain.

Today, everyone can tap into these benefits with Tommie Copper. Our product line is enhanced with copper infused yarn and engineered to be worn all day, everyday. It acts as a support to aching joints and muscles, and delivers the benefits of copper at the point of your discomfort.

I was offered the opportunity to try two types of sleeves, and had a hard time choosing! My choices were ankle, calf, knee and elbow. (By the way, they also make compression shirts and compression gloves). I knew I wanted to try the calf sleeve, as I see calf compression sleeves on runners all over the place and was curious how it would help my legs during my long runs.

As for the second sleeve, I finally settled on the elbow one. I am in near constant pain in my left arm---in between my shoulder and my elbow. Long ago I injured one of the muscles there, way before I took up triathlon. It's hard to describe, but where I get the most pain is when I reach behind me, as if to fasten my bra---I get a sharp jolt of pain. I have been to my doctor about it, and all he did was offer me some prescription ibuprofen. Luckily, the pain does not interfere with my swimming, although I do need to be careful doing some of my strength exercises, especially during shoulder raises. Anyhow, although I don't have elbow pain, I was curious to see if the sleeve would help that muscle.

I had help from their company liaison during ordering (they have wonderful customer service, by the way!), and I'm glad I did: I would have ordered the wrong size! My calf measurement was 14", which was the upper limit for the medium and the lower limit for the large. I almost ordered the large, just to be safe, but Jordan, their liaison, told me their fabric has a lot of stretch and that the medium would work. And it does!

A few days after ordering, I got my package in the mail. In addition to the two sleeves, they also sent me a snazzy running hat. I LOVE their logo---very clever! I was impressed at how lightweight the sleeves were, and at first a bit doubtful; could a thin, silky piece of material help me?

I started wearing the elbow sleeve immediately. Even though it's designed for the elbow, the upper portion wraps around my upper arm---in precisely the place where I have my muscle pain. As I said earlier, I am in near constant pain. Sometimes it's a sharp pain, sometimes a dull ache, and other times just an annoying twinge, but more often than not I feel pain in my left arm, even when I'm at rest. Amazingly enough, the pain was significantly lessened while wearing the sleeve. Not just lessened---sometimes I went for hours at a time without feeling so much as a twinge!

Now, I'm not a doctor or scientist. I don't understand the copper-infused yarn used to make the sleeves, or the science behind it. But I am a believer! I've been wearing the sleeve almost every day now. I LOVE that my pain is either gone or greatly alleviated when I wear it. My only wish was that it came in different colors, as I will be rocking the above look a lot this summer with no clothing sleeves to cover it! But I'm thinking the black makes me look somewhat bad-ass. :)

As for the calf sleeve, I wore it during several runs, both long and short. I didn't notice a difference in my legs for the short runs---but man, did it help on my long runs! Just this weekend, I did a 12 mile run in training for next month's half marathon, and wore the calf sleeve on my left calf. I swear, my left calf felt notably fresher after the run. In fact, at one point during the run I had to stop to stretch my legs, and felt no need so stretch my left calf beyond a cursory stretch. Magic!

I am officially a believer in compression sleeves, and a huge fan of Tommie Copper. I am now interested in trying their other products; the compression shirt may be just what I need for my aching shoulders and upper back after a long swim! I whole-heartedly give my endorsement for this product. You can sign up on their website to be notified when they are up and running, so you can place your own order.

In the meantime, I will be posting a giveaway for a Tommie Copper Compression Sleeve later this week. Check back then to enter for your chance to win one of your own!

April 21, 2011

My Guest Blog Spot!

I am so honored to be a guest blogger, in the form of a Q&A, on my friend Steena's blog, Finding My Happy Pace! I know Steena through dailymile and Twitter, and have been enjoying her blog for some time now. Check it out! HTFU With SugarMagnolia!

April 20, 2011

I am not afraid. I was born to do this!

"I am not afraid. I was born to do this."

A few months ago, I read this quote, widely attributed to Joan of Arc. The phrase really resonated with me; actually, the first time I read it I got goose-bumps.

You see, that phrase applies to so many areas of my life, especially parenting and racing.

Raising a child with special medical needs is something I never thought I would have to do. Who does (unless you're one of those angels who adopt a child with needs, of course)? When we were in the midst of her medical crisis, and I learned all that I would have to do to care for her, I was overwhelmed, to say the least. I had to learn how to take care of her feeding tube, breathing tube, and hearing aids; coordinate a huge list of doctors' appointment and therapy sessions; work with her daily so that she would not only survive but thrive; and advocate constantly with doctors and insurance companies. And that was for starters!

Of course, once the initial shock wore off, I was ready and stepped up to the plate with no hesitation. Was I afraid? Yes. Do I still have moments of fear? Heck, yes. Even though she is doing so well (no longer has her feeding or breathing tubes, is walking, talking and is even now writing the letters of the alphabet!) I still get scared about her future, and what role I will play for her.

Racing can be scary, even to this day. How the in the world will I be able to run 13.1 miles in a half marathon? And swim, bike and run in a triathlon? Growing up a non-athlete, the racing world is still new(ish) to me. Yet I train daily, diligently putting in my time in the pool, on the bike and pounding the pavement. And on race days, whether it's a half marathon or triathlon, I put my fears aside and just do it.

So when I saw the phrase "I am not afraid. I was born to do this", I just knew I had to have a piece of jewelry with that on it. Because when I dive in, I am not afraid anymore, and it seems natural. I asked my friend Erica, who not only designed my new blog layout but is a talented jewelry designer, to make it for me. It arrived in time for my birthday last month.

This is a picture of what it looks like. I am using the picture from her website, as my own attempts at taking a picture of it were lousy. On one side it says "I am not afraid" and on the other it says "I was born to do this". I have it around my neck, hanging with the dogtags of my kids' names. I never take it off. During my last triathlon, when I got scared during the swim, I remembered it around my neck and I was a little less afraid. I fingered the necklace around my neck during my last fight with Medi-Cal. And Erica is now selling the necklace on her website, which makes me feel so good.

Remember, whenever you are scared.....you are born to do this.

April 18, 2011

Freedom Trail Run Review

This past weekend I was in Boston for a family function. I had an amazing time; I got to see my sisters, father, step-mother, and some aunts, uncles and cousins whom I hadn't seen in about five years! I also got to meet two women whom I've known for years on my "mommy" message board, but had never met in person. That was so fun, finally connecting with people I've known online for almost eight years! Unfortunately I was not able to stay an extra day to watch the Boston Marathon; as a runner, I would love to spectate this historic race!

One other thing I got to do was a fabulous running tour of the historic Freedom Trail. A running tour? Yes, indeed!

A few months ago, I got a notice that @FreedomTrailRun was following me on Twitter. Whenever someone new follows me, I always click on them to check them out. If they have similar interests as me (ie, if they are a runner or a triathlete, or a parent of a child with special needs) I almost always follow them back. If it's a company of some sort, I may or may not follow back. If it's spam, I never follow back, obviously. When I clicked on FreedomTrailRun, I saw it was a running tour in Boston. Remembering I would soon be in Boston for this family function, I looked at the website. I got really excited realizing I could take a running tour of the Freedom Trail! What a way to get some sight-seeing in, learn some history, and get a workout all at the same time! I wanted to get a run in anyway, especially since I'd never run in Massachusetts before.

Most of Eddie's tours are group runs on the weekends. Since I was tied up all weekend, I emailed him and asked about doing a private tour. A group run costs $35 per person, while the private run costs $50, but I didn't care about that. I wanted to sign up! The price includes the tour, a ferry ticket, and a commemorative t-shirt. We arranged for me to meet him on Boston Common on Friday afternoon, where we would commence my 2 hour 5k tour. Eddie was very responsive over email, giving me detailed directions to the parking garage where I should park, as well as answering other questions I had. Later, I realized that I was friends with Eddie on dailymile....so we had another connection!

The day of my tour, I made my way downtown, found a parking garage, and met Eddie on Boston Common. He asked me how detailed the history I wanted on the tour; I wanted to hear it all! On the tour, it's obvious that Eddie geeks out on historical details, which is the way a tour guide should be. I geek out on the details, too, so it was perfect. He knew everything! He pointed out so many things, and answered questions that I had.

The tour consisted of lots of running and stopping. We would run for a bit, then stop as he would describe a gravestone, or a town hall, or a monument. We saw so many historical sites: cemeteries with the gravestones of John Hancock, Paul Revere and Sam Adams; the site of the Boston Massacre; Paul Revere's House; the meeting house where the revolutionaries decided to dump the tea into Boston Harbor; the Bunker Hill Monument; the USS Constitution; and more! I never really felt like I was running; there were lots of stops, and even on the running parts Eddie would be telling the history of where we were running through, or pointing out other interesting parts of Boston. At the end of the tour we took a ferry ride back to the starting point.

Eddie started this company with his daughter, and it feels like a nice, family-run business. He was very attentive to my needs, offering me water (which I didn't need), finding me a bathroom when I needed one, and taking my picture with both his AND my camera. And at the end, he walked me back to the garage where I had parked. He followed my pace (which is slow) and told me that many people use this tour as their first 5k, in order to gain confidence about the distance before doing an actual 5k race.

I highly recommend this tour to any runner who is in Boston, whether you are visiting or a resident. It was such a fun way to spend the afternoon. I really felt as though I got to taste the flavor of Boston, and was able to imagine myself in revolutionary times. Check him out if you're ever in Boston!

April 12, 2011

7 Years of Motherhood

Today my oldest child, D, turns 7 years old.

I have written before about how much I love him; about how much I have learned from him; about my challenges watching him grow up. He is my pride and joy. I simply adore that boy.

Not to say that raising him is all fun. He and I butt heads almost daily. We are very much alike: stubborn, willful and independent. Sometimes we'll be getting into an issue (eating his vegetables, getting up in the morning for school) and I'll think, "Aha! Karma!" for I'm sure my parents had similar issues with me as a child.

He is still a mama's boy, despite my fears earlier in the year. Just the other day he told me I was his "forever girl". He doesn't like me to put on lipgloss, telling me that I look beautiful already. And he loves his snuggles, hugs and kisses, especially at bedtime. When J is out of town on business, D begs every night to sleep with me.

I know it won't always be like this, and that sooner or later (hopefully later) he'll pull away. But until that day comes, I will cherish every hug and kiss.

Seven years ago, my life changed---for the better. I had no idea how big a hole was in my life until my sweet son came and filled it.

April 5, 2011

Dashed Dreams

As a baseball fan, I'd always dreamed that if I had a boy, he would play ball. I had visions of being a Little League mom. I imagined a minivan full of baseball gear. I even entertained, once or twice, the fantasy of my son being a professional baseball player.

As it turns out, my son, D, is not a baseball player. He hated playing T-ball last year (and really, who can blame him? He was 5 years old and bored to tears standing in the outfield or sitting on the bench). He never took to soccer. He did seem to enjoy basketball somewhat, which he played this past winter, but didn't LOVE it. He just isn't into sports. He does like to run, and I will encourage that. Who knows, maybe as he gets older he will be on the track or cross-country team.

What he DOES love to do is read, build things, do science experiments, watch TV, and play Wii. A far cry from the sports-loving baseball fanatic boy of my dreams. We get to read together, go to plays, and play games.

I had always imagined that, if I had a girl, she would spend her days playing house, dressing up in tutus, and excelling at ballet. I pictured a closet full of pink dresses. I envisioned watching all of the Disney Princess movies again and again.

In reality, my daughter, A, never plays house. She plays with her kitchen set, and I hear her pretending to talk to her friends from school, but it's not as elaborate a make-believe scene as playing house. She does not like wearing dresses, and needs to be bribed to wear one. She is in ballet and tap, but her balance and coordination keep her from being the graceful ballerina I had pictured (trust me, I'm ok with that. The fact that she is in dance class to begin with satisfies all of my expectations). And watching ANY movie is futile; she prefers shorter TV shows.

When I got married 10 years ago, I imagined growing old with my husband, J. I assumed that we would have a healthy life together, that if God-forbid we should experience any health crisis it wouldn't be until we were well into old-age.

Instead, I have a husband with Young-Onset Parkinson's Disease. He was diagnosed about 5-6 years ago, when he was in his early 30's. Having YOPD in the family wasn't even on our radar of things to worry about when we got married.

You get what you get, and you don't get upset. Right?

The thing is, I have learned to roll with the punches. Some of my expectations were silly (not all boys love sports; not all girls love dresses) and some were appropriate (who expects their young spouse to get diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder that typically afflicts people in their 70s?). Regardless, even though I have had my share of heartache during the past 5 years (a daughter with a million medical issues and developmental delays, a husband with YOPD) I am happy with the family I have. I love my husband, son and daughter more than anything in the world. They are who they are.....and they are not the people I had long ago dreamed about.

They are better.

April 2, 2011


I had the most inspiring day today. I was inspired by both by my own children and by a slew of amateur athletes.

This morning my kids participated in the Junior Carlsbad Race. If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you might remember that my children did this race last year. I had signed them up when my daughter, A, had only been walking for 6 weeks (she didn't walk until age 3 1/2); by the time race day came, she had only been walking for about 10 weeks total! She did the 50-yard toddler trot, making me so proud. My son, D, who was then 5 years old, did the 1/2 mile run.

Today, a year later, their distances increased. D moved up to the 1 mile run, and A did the 1/4 mile. D's group was first. I stood with A on the sidelines (my husband, J, ran with D; or, should I say, ran behind him!) When I saw D streak past me to the finish line I was shocked---he was doing about a 10 minute mile (in comparison, his slow mother does over an 11 minute mile!). The look of sheer determination and concentration on his face was priceless; he saw the finish line ahead of him and he was sprinting to the finish. I couldn't have been more proud. Tears of joy may have been shed. D is not a sports kid (we have tried soccer, t-ball and basketball) but he does love to run. He must take after his mama!

Soon after, it was A's group's time. Again, I stood on the sidelines, with D this time, and watched all the four year-olds run by. I knew that A would be the last kid; she still doesn't know how to run. Sure enough, behind all the other kids, I saw A & J ambling along. She made it the whole 1/4 mile without help, and was proud to receive her medal, just as her big brother did.

Besides being wowed by my own children, I was inspired by all the other kids! I heard there were 3000 kids there total (from age 12 down to babies doing the diaper dash). The sight of all these kids running made me so happy. I hope that most of them continue to run into adulthood.

After the race, I separated from the family (we had taken both cars). They went home, and I went to cheer on a friend at the California Ironman 70.3. This half Ironman consisted of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run. My friend, T, is the one who got me into triathon in the first place (I had always been just a runner until last summer) and I really wanted to support him. I also hoped to see some other people I have gotten to know on dailymile and twitter, but unfortunately I never saw them. Luckily, though, I saw T twice. It was great to be there to cheer him on.

Seeing all the other competitors was incredible too. Everyone, to a man (and woman!) was giving their all, digging deep and pushing through the pain. I was situated by about 100 yards from the finish line, which also served as the turn-around point for the double-looped half-marathon. So some people that I saw had to turn around and do the course again, and others were nearing the end of the last part of their run and were almost done. Some people were smiling, some people looked miserable, but they ALL looked proud. I felt extremely motivated just watching.

Best of all, I saw several challenged athletes competing. I saw a few people with prosthetic legs running. The announcer said that one woman, who was running by with one real leg and one prosthetic leg, had gotten her leg blown off by stepping on a landmine in Iraq. One man that stood out to me had no arms; one arm was missing from the shoulder, and the other arm was missing from the elbow. I was wondering how he swam and biked! But he did it...and not just a little swim or bike ride, but as part of a grueling 70.3 miles. I was deeply touched, and realized that if these athletes, who had overcome challenges such as missing a limb or limbs, could do a half Ironman, then I myself could do anything I really put my mind to and trained for.

All in all, it was a very motivating day for me. Tomorrow, when I am running my scheduled 8 miles and start to feel tired, I will think of these everyday athletes: the children in the kids race, the challenged athletes, and the thousands of men and women who trained all year for this event, and I will push through my own pain and fears.