Tag Archives: health issues

MRI Time (or I Think Being Calm Is Helping)

I had what should be my last pre-surgery MRI this week. I needed this MRI so that we could see if any of my tumors have shrunk in the past few months. If they have shrunk, that will help me keep more of my liver during the surgery. It’s ok if they have to take some out since it does regenerate. But it would be nice to need less of my liver to regenerate because the tumors are smaller.

I previously had a monthly challenge to work on visualization to help my tumors shrink. I won’t know if this worked until I see my surgeon for my pre-op day, but I’m feeling happy with the work that I had done. I don’t feel like there is anything else I could have to help them shrink. And if they don’t shrink, that’s ok too because it wasn’t a guarantee they would get smaller after I stopped hormonal birth control. I’m prepared for anything when I see the MRI results.

Before a year ago, I had only had 1 MRI in the past and that was for my hip. But since then I’ve had 1 breast MRI and 2 liver MRIs before this most recent one. So this one was my 4th MRI in under a year. And all of those MRIs involve contrast which means I had to have an IV put in (which isn’t fun since I still don’t do well with needles). And while I’m not super claustrophobic, being inside the MRI tube isn’t fun and it can feel like the sides of the tube are closing in on me. I’m lucky because my head is toward the outside of the tube so I can tilt my head back and see a bit of the room behind me, but it can still feel very closed in.

For the MRI this week, I was feeling a bit stressed about it. Some of the stress was unnecessary (like feeling guilty that this was during work time but I had already banked the hours to cover it) but I also know that I’ve done well in past MRIs and just wanted to make sure that I would be the same this time. I’m always worried that for some reason things will be different this time (I’m like that with the dentist) and I just wanted to have a smooth MRI day.

Things started off rough with me getting there 4o minutes early because I had put it in my calendar at the wrong time, but I figured that is better than being late. And when I checked in, they let me know that they were running 30 minutes behind so I was worried I wouldn’t be home to start work when I told my manager I would be. But somehow, they ended up getting back on time quickly and I was brought back to the MRI area only 5 minutes after my appointment time.

I feel like a pro at MRIs now. I know not to wear things with metal on it so all I had to take off when I was going in was my sweatshirt and my shoes (the tech there was impressed that I wore a sports bra with no metal clasps and knew to do so). I got onto the table and the techs got everything set up with the various pillows to have me in the right position for the MRI. And then I got my IV in (I had warned them that I pass out but I came back very quickly and it wasn’t too bad) and got into the MRI tube.

Since this was my 3rd abdominal MRI, I knew that I would hear prompts to hold my breath at various times. The first time I had to do this, I wasn’t really prepared and since I was nervous it was tough for me to hold my breath when I needed to. This time, I focused on taking steady deep breaths when I didn’t have to worry about holding my breath. When I had to hold my breath, I tried to count in my head to distract myself. And I tried to zone out while the machine was going since it is so loud and can make it seem more claustrophobic for me somehow.

I have to say that this MRI was the easiest one that I’ve done. It does help that I knew what to prepare for, but I could have said that for my second liver MRI and that one still wasn’t as easy as this one was. When it was done, I was actually very surprised it was over. I thought that maybe we were only halfway through or something. But it had gone really easily and I never felt too panicky or anxious while in the MRI tube. The worst part was when the dye went in my IV, but it was not bad at all and more just a weird sensation in my arm.

I really wished I could have looked at the computer to look at my tumors. I know I couldn’t read it properly, but I am curious what things look like now. I did get a little glance at one image from my MRI where you could see the 2 smaller tumors. But since I’m more familiar with the big tumor, I can’t tell too much from looking at the image of the other ones.

In about a week, I meet with the surgeon to go over all of this and to do what should be the final pre-op step. I’m a bit anxious to hear what he will say, but I know whatever he says that things will be ok. I’m going to continue to focus on being calm and taking deep breaths since that worked so well for me in the MRI. I never expected that test to go as smoothly as it did so clearly this plan is working for me. Hopefully it works for me while in pre-op appointments, surgery, and recovery too!

Surgery Shopping (or How To Prep For The Unexpected)

I know I’ve posted a lot about my liver surgery lately (and I will be posting more about it over the next few weeks). I’m now 2 weeks away from surgery and there is so much that I’ve been trying to get done or need to do. I’m still trying to have a lot of fun, but surgery stuff is taking up a lot of my time.

I have the stuff I expected like various doctor appointments and tests. I’ve already done some blood work and today is my MRI. I’ve got my official pre-op appointment next week and that will consist of multiple doctor appointments at one time so I can meet with the surgeon, the anesthesia team, and possibly the inpatient team. I’ve also been working more than normal because I’m banking hours at work. I can’t afford to take time off (I don’t get paid time off at any of my jobs), so I’ve been working extra hours unpaid to cover the time I won’t be working coming up. I’ve got all the hours banked that I think I’ll need, but that has taken a lot of time in the mornings that I usually do other work.

I’ve also been trying to get things ready to be in the hospital for a while. I’ve been getting ideas of things to have with me from friends who have been in the hospital for a while before. I’m hoping the hospital has decent wifi because I have a feeling I’ll be watching a lot of Netflix or Hulu there (also, if I feel up for it then I could even work from the hospital). I’ve also gotten some dresses that are easy to put on and are cheap to wear after surgery. There’s a chance that things with waistbands won’t work for a little bit for me so dresses seemed to be the easiest solution. I also know I might have surgical drains when I go home, so I found these awesome sticky pockets to put in my clothes if I need them.

I still have a pretty decent list of things I still need to get for my time in the hospital and while I’m recovering with my parents. Some things I expected to be easy, like getting some slippers to have with me, but somehow they haven’t been easy to find in stores. I’m guessing I’ll be doing a big Amazon order soon. I might wait until after my pre-op appointment so I know what else I might need. Thank goodness for fast shipping with Amazon Prime! I’ve been told I might get a list when I go in for the pre-op appointment, but if any of you have been through any type of abdominal surgery and have suggestions for things I should have please let me know!

And then of course there is getting my house ready for this all. I will be doing some big cleaning because I don’t want things cluttered when my parents are here and I don’t want things to feel dirty when I am back home. After I’m out of the hospital, I will be recovering with my parents so they can help me out with things or buy things I forgot about. But I still want to try to get as much done now as I can. One thing I was trying to do but have been slacking on is getting some food made and frozen so it’s easy for me to eat at home even if I’m tired. I don’t want to go back to ordering delivery food (plus I’m guessing I’ll be on a restricted diet so I want to have food that I made and know what’s in it).

I know it sounds like I’ve got a handle on things and seem really prepared, but I don’t feel that way at all. There are still so many unknowns with this entire thing and a lot of the answers won’t be things I can really know in advance. I have no idea how my body will react to this all and I can’t prepare for what I don’t know will happen. It has been giving me a pretty steady level of anxiety lately, but nothing as bad as a regular panic attack. And I have had a few minor attacks but fortunately my friends and family have been able to calm me down.

When things were 2 months away or even 1 month away it seemed like I had unlimited time to get ready and that it wasn’t going to be soon. I think it really hit me when I had 3 weeks left how soon this was all going to be. I’m very lucky that I’ve had time to prep for this and it wasn’t an emergency surgery where nothing could be done ahead of time. But sometimes having prep time is the worst because I can analyze things to death. I’m trying to stay as calm as I can be which is why I set my monthly challenge to be being calm and taking more deep breaths.

Over the next 2 weeks, there will be posts about preparing for surgery but I will also have some fun posts in there too. And I am hoping to keep this blog going regularly while I’m recovering, but of course I don’t know how I’ll feel. But I do promise that if there are some days I can’t blog I will get back to writing regularly. I’ve been doing this every weekday for so long, and the idea that I might miss a day does stress me out a bit. But I hope that you all will stick with me while I get through all of this and hopefully I can find some fun things to write about while I’m recovering!

I’ve Got A Surgery Date (or Almost The 2 Month Countdown)

When I found out I needed liver surgery, I knew I would be waiting a little bit before having surgery. First, I want my parents to come take care of me when I have surgery and waiting until at least April was best for their schedules (this isn’t an urgent surgery so there is no rush for them to get here). Also, waiting does give my body a bit of time to hopefully shrink the tumors. And finally, I am hoping to lose a bit more weight before having surgery.

I had things set on being the middle to the end of April (I have a 5K in the beginning of April that I don’t want to miss), but when I saw my surgeon the last time the April schedule wasn’t open yet. So I was waiting on the surgery schedule to have April up so that my surgeon could pick the best day for it. He knew that I was looking at the week after Easter and had my permission to just give me whatever date he could that week as soon as the schedule was up. My surgery is possibly going to be an all day thing, so I might be the only patient he operates on that day.

I had been waiting and waiting for the schedule to open up and finally at the end of last week I got a phone call from the surgery scheduling assistant. My surgery has been booked and I’ve got just over 2 months to go before the tumor (or tumors) will be out!

Even though I’ve known about this for a while, having an actual surgery date makes everything seem real now. I have almost all my doctor appointments leading up to surgery booked (I just need to have my final MRI scheduled) and I know the timeline of when everything will be happening. I’ve let my agents know I will be unable to audition or work then and I’ve figured out exactly how much longer I have to bank hours at my box office job. I’m hoping I can still work while I’m recovering, especially in the hospital when I’m scared I’ll be bored, but I am banking enough hours to cover me if I cannot work the week and a half I’ll be recovering with my parents.

During my pre-op appointments, I know that someone will go over with me some of the things I’ll need to bring with me for surgery and my hospital stay. I’ve never had inpatient surgery before, so I am a bit nervous about staying at the hospital. I’m a bit set in my ways and in my routine, and I know this will throw me off. I’m looking online at things that people recommend to have for overnight hospital stays or abdominal surgery recovery. If any of you have been through either, I would love some suggestions.

This have been moving pretty quickly after I got my surgery date. I have several appointments scheduled now, my parents have planned their trip down here, they have found a place to stay, and I’ve got a ticking clock in my head of how much longer I have. I’m sure that since I’ve got about 2 months to go that soon I won’t think about it as each day counts down. Eventually I’ll just have it in the back of my mind instead of the front of my mind.

The only downside with having some time to get ready is that I have time to get ready. I have the time think about what I want to do before surgery or to have with me in the hospital. I have time to do a lot of research and read the good recovery stories along with the bad ones. I have time to think about what this will mean for the rest of my life. Since they are taking out my gallbladder, my diet will need to change a bit. And for the time that my liver regenerates, I’m sure I’ll have a restricted diet too. And after surgery, I will have scars on my stomach for the rest of my life. The scars on my hip have faded to the point you can’t see them anymore, so maybe the ones on my stomach will do the same. But I will always know that they will be there.

I’m going to try to limit the number of posts I do about the upcoming surgery. I’ll do posts when I have updates or appointments so you all know what is happening with me. But this surgery is just a minor roadblock in my life. Once I get through it, things will be different but I will be fine. This is just another crazy story that I will be able to tell one day at a party (I’m sure saying I had a tumor the size of a baby’s head taken out of my liver will be a good cocktail party story one day).

I’ve got about 2 months to go before this is all pretty much behind me and I can just focus on recovering from surgery, getting back to my normal life, and moving forward.

Adventures In Healthcare (or Trying Not To Be Too Political)

Today is the inauguration of President Trump. Those of you who follow me on social media probably know how I feel about this, but I don’t want this post to be all about political parties. But with a new president coming in, there are some things that do concern me as a citizen of this country.

Almost all of the things that concern me are related to healthcare. Mainly, the idea that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed (and potentially replaced with something to be determined later). While I always have had healthcare, it wasn’t easy for me before the Affordable Care Act. And now with the threats that it will be taken away, I’m worried for me and the millions of other people who are in a better situation because of it. And so on inauguration day, I want to share my story of why the ACA matters to me. Maybe you don’t care if it goes away, but hopefully you can at least understand why it is something that scares me.

I was born into having amazing health insurance. Thanks to my dad, I had great coverage through Kaiser growing up. My insurance was covered under his job and we didn’t have to pay a monthly bill and almost everything I needed was covered under my insurance. I was totally spoiled with my awesome insurance and didn’t realize it wasn’t like that for everyone. I just assumed everyone could go to the doctor and it would be taken care of. Even with my hip surgery and all the craziness around that, it was completely covered and all of my bills said that the patient responsibility was $0.

When I aged out of my dad’s insurance coverage (which fortunately was right after my hip surgery), I applied for regular Kaiser insurance. All of my doctors are with Kaiser so there was no question to me that I would continue using them for my healthcare. I applied and assumed that while it wouldn’t be free anymore, I would get insurance and everything would be fine. But it wasn’t.

I got a rejection letter from Kaiser saying that they would not cover me because of my pre-existing conditions. Among my pre-existing conditions were my hip issues, my eating disorder, my weight, having a history of strep throat/tonsil issues, and having a history of gallstones. I was not a desirable person to insure and Kaiser didn’t want to cover me. Being rejected for pre-existing conditions sucked. I had an option to get COBRA for a year or so, but it would have been something like $3,000 a month to be covered.

Fortunately, I talked to someone at member services at Kaiser who explained that there was something called conversion insurance. Basically it was insurance for patients with pre-existing conditions that are considered too high risk to insure but previously had Kaiser insurance so Kaiser didn’t want to reject them completely. I was eligible for conversion, but instead of being about $100 a month (which is what it would cost for a woman to have regular Kaiser insurance), it was over $500 a month. That’s a lot of money, but because I needed health insurance my parents helped me out so I could get insurance.

I didn’t have as amazing of insurance as I did before, but it covered most of the things I needed. When I had my tonsils out, it cost $250. When I needed birth control refills, it was $30 a month. The out-of-pocket costs without insurance would have been insane, so having expensive insurance with higher deductibles and costs was worth it.

Then the ACA passed and I became eligible for regular insurance again! Not only that, Kaiser could no longer charge me more because I am a woman so things would be even cheaper than I thought. My new insurance is about $250 a month (I’m also eligible for subsidies because my income level is below the limit) because I got a silver level plan knowing that I would have more doctor appointments than the standard patient. And this was before the liver tumors so I’m more grateful now that I’m covered.

When I recently had my breast MRI, there was a debate if it would be fully covered by Kaiser. With my dad’s insurance, it would have been totally free. With my conversion insurance, MRIs were not a covered benefit so I would have paid full price. With my ACA coverage, MRIs are $250 but cancer screenings are free so it wasn’t known what my MRI would be classified under. I didn’t pay that day, but the other day I got a bill.

I got charged the $250 that is my standard MRI deductible. But you can see that if I had my old conversion insurance, it would have cost almost $2,700 to get this cancer screening that my mom’s geneticist recommended that I do. To know that a test that doctors felt I needed could cost more than my rent is ridiculous. I don’t know how people could afford that if they had to pay the full rate. That’s so expensive and it made me even more grateful for my ACA coverage.

With my upcoming liver surgery, I know I’ll hit my out-of-pocket maximum for the year. That maximum is about $8,000 (much lower than the $50,000 maximum my conversion insurance had) and while that is still a lot of money, it is a necessary cost and a fraction of what it would cost if I wasn’t insured. I’m not going to worry about the money now because I know I will get help to pay for it and my health is more important than money. Plus, on the positive side, I believe that once I hit my out-of-pocket maximum that I won’t have to pay for doctor appointments for the rest of the year!

I know I will be ok for 2017, but I’m scared what will happen to me after the year is done. If the ACA is gone, can Kaiser tell me that they don’t want to insure me anymore? I’m even more high risk with my pre-existing conditions now. If an insurance company could reject me, I totally understand why they would want to. But for me, I know I need to have insurance because of my pre-existing conditions. I will always have my hip issues, I will be considered high risk if I ever get pregnant because of the tumors (even if they are taken out, there is a risk of them coming back with pregnancy), until I stop getting treatment for my eating disorder that will always work against me if an insurance company can reject me, and I’m assuming that having to have part of my liver removed will make me even more high risk.

I know a lot of people get insurance through their employers and they are mad that their premiums have been going up. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the ACA. Premiums have been going up for decades every single year because health insurance companies can do that. It’s the same as car insurance premiums going up or home or renters insurance going up. And for those people who will have nothing change with their health insurance if the ACA is repealed, I can understand why they don’t care too much either way. But for me and millions of other people, losing the ACA can be horrible. For me I know it won’t be a death sentence, but I have friends who could have their lives at risk if they can’t get insurance to help pay for life-saving medication. Hoping that you can afford to live shouldn’t be something that people think about.

I know that there has been a lot of backlash from the threat of repealing the ACA, especially with no replacement in mind yet. I’m hoping that politicians will listen to how scared their constituents are about this. Maybe President Trump will worry about being popular and liked and realize the majority of people do not want the ACA to go away (or go away before we know what the replacement will be so we know we won’t be uninsured). I can only hope that next year, I will not be worried about this and I will still be able to get the healthcare that I need to stay healthy.

My First 2017 Monthly Challenge (or Working On My Tumors)

It’s a new year and I’ve got a new year of monthly challenges! I did buy the Volt Planner for 2017 and I’m very happy that it’s a similar set up to what the 2016 planner was like. There are still the weekly and monthly goal setting pages as well as the monthly challenges. And I plan on doing a new monthly challenge each month just like I did last year!

I think that having the goals and challenges really did help to keep me accountable and focused on doing things to better myself. It’s one thing to say that I’ll be doing something, but to have a list in a planner where I can see what I set out to do is another. Having it on paper makes me want to make sure I don’t slack because I hate to see unchecked boxes on my goals and challenges pages in the planner. It’s the perfectionist in me that makes me want to get something done if I write it down in a planner.

I’ll admit that January 1st got here much quicker than expected so I didn’t have as much time dedicated to planning out my challenge for the month as I would have liked. There are some big ideas for challenges that I have for this year, but some of them involve planning or setting things in place that I didn’t have time to do for this month. Hopefully I’ll be able to do some of my big ideas later this year, but it will have to wait. But there was one thing that I started doing at the end of the year that I knew I wanted to continue to do this year and dedicate time to working on it.

While I know that I will need to have liver surgery no matter what, there are things that I can do to hope that the surgery and recovery will be easier. And one of those things is to have the tumors shrink. There is no medical way that I can do this (they aren’t cancerous tumors so I don’t need chemo or radiation to shrink them), but I can still work on doing it on my own. I’m a believer in the power of positive thinking and I’ve been trying to think that my tumors are shrinking every day.

My mom did the same thing when she had cancer, and her journey to being cancer free went much easier than most people thought it would be. She imagined her body healing every single night and I believe that doing that helped her so much. So I’m doing the same with my tumors. I had been doing this before the new year, but I still decided to make it my monthly challenge to make sure that I do this every day.

Like most of my challenges, I’m using the reminder app on my phone to alert myself every day to dedicate time to doing this. I’m not using my mediation app for this, but I’m thinking about doing that because there is a silent timed mediation option within the app. But for now, I’m just focusing on how I imagine the tumors getting smaller for a few minutes every single day.

It’s not a huge thing for me to do, but I know that doing it will only benefit me in the long run. And making sure that I do dedicate time every day for this will help me not to slack off and forget. I really do love having all the reminders in my phone going off throughout the day so I don’t zone out and then realize the entire day has gone by without me getting anything done. I feel silly that I hadn’t been taking advantage of those prior to the monthly challenges because they are so easy to set up. But at least now I have them and I am always adding more to my reminder list.

While this challenge is a smaller one, I’m really excited to have another full year of these challenges. From the ones that I set up last year, most of them are still things that I do every single day. I have slacked off on a few (mainly the yoga and mindfulness before eating ones but I’m working on that), but most of them have become habits and my day doesn’t feel complete until I accomplish them. And I know that building a few new good habits every year will add up and be something really great for me for the rest of my life.

Here’s to another year of monthly challenges and hopefully using my mind to get my tumors to shrink before my next MRI and we make my surgery plan!

A Good Therapy Check In (or Focus On The Good)

I had an appointment with my therapist this week. Since I’m only seeing him every 6 months now, there have been a lot of things that I figured we would discuss. Obviously, we would be discussing my recovery but I knew there would be so much more to talk about in the appointment.

When I got called back, my therapist asked how I had been. My first response was to ask if he had seen my regular medical record because if he hadn’t there was a lot to update him on. He mentioned that he had seen some of it, but asked me to fill him in. So I gave him the story about the tumors in my liver and all of that stuff. It’s a lot to take in and I’m sure it sounds super overwhelming for someone who hasn’t heard it before. But to me, it’s not a huge deal and I can almost tell the entire story in a single breath. I’m wondering if it will seem like a bigger deal to me the closer to surgery I get, but for now I’m not thinking too much about it.

My therapist asked me how I was feeling about the tumors and if I was letting that affect my recovery, and I let him know that I was working on focusing on the positives as much as possible. Negative thinking isn’t going to change my situation, so I don’t see the point in wasting time on doing that. I’m going to have surgery and I’m trying to plan on making it as positive of an experience as possible (including telling all my friends that they have to come visit me when I’m in the hospital).

We also discussed the issues that I’m having right now with food. I’m worried a lot of the issues are related to hormones (or lack of synthetic hormones) and I just need to learn how to deal with this because this will be my reality for the rest of my life. I’m having more bad days than I would like right now, but I know that this is an adjustment period and it will get better. It’s unfortunate I have to deal with it, but again, thinking negatively isn’t going to help me at all.

My Vyvanse dosage was also discussed at the appointment. I’m getting close to having been on the medication for 2 years and I think we are finally at a good dose for me. I think it could work better if I was on a slightly higher dose, but I want to wait a bit to see if that is how I feel in another 6 months. I don’t want to keep increasing the dosage because there is a limit to how high the dose can be and I don’t want to keep increasing it until I get to that point. I’d rather be on the conservative side of things and increase them later.

We really didn’t have a ton to go over in the appointment. I am doing pretty great even though sometimes I don’t feel like that. My therapist feels that I’ve shown a ton of improvement over the time that I’ve been seeing him and he thinks that things are just going to get better and better. He said a lot of that has to do with me taking responsibility for bettering myself and not trying to depend on medication only. The fact that I’ve been doing monthly challenges are impressive to him and I think he’s still surprised that I’ve been keeping up with my happiness checklist.

But the thing that my therapist feels has been the most beneficial to my recovery so far has been my positive attitude. I rarely put myself in a victim mentality and I believe in the power of positive thought. Even though there isn’t any scientific evidence to prove this, positive thinking can do wonders for a person. You can do things that others may have thought to be impossible. I’m hoping that positive thinking will help my liver tumors shrink before my next MRI so that my surgery will be easier than expected. And in a few months I will hopefully see the results from that.

The positive thinking to get into recovery may take longer, but my therapist and I agree that those results will come for me one day. I just have to be patient and willing to wait it out until things get better. I’m happy to do that because I know it is in my future, but I do wish the timeline would speed up a bit!

The ending point of my therapy appointment was that I just need to continue doing what I’m doing. Thinking positively and looking at the good in situations is working for me and it will continue to work for me as long as I keep working at it. My next appointment with my therapist will be in 6 months, so that should be after my liver surgery. I hope that I will be able to update him that the positive thinking did a great job with getting my body ready for surgery!

And after all that discussion about positivity and good out there, I walked out of my appointment to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I had seen in a long time.

I’m taking that as a sign that good things are coming my way!

Hitting A New PR (or Forgetting To Take Things Easy)

I wasn’t sure how this past week of workouts would go. I knew that Monday would be fine, but since I was getting my IUD in on Tuesday I thought there would be a chance that was going to be my only workout. I was hopeful that I would be able to do my 3 workouts, but I was also realistic. So I figured even if I only did my Monday workout or only made it through 10 minutes of the other workouts that it would be good enough. But because I’m stubborn, of course I didn’t take it easy.

Monday’s workout was the last challenge for the 12 days of fitness. And for day 12 we had a 12 minute distance challenge. Since I knew my mile PR was 13:39, I just wanted to be as close to a mile as possible. Some of my friends were telling me that I could probably do a mile in 12 minutes, but I didn’t believe them. But then I realized I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

For the 12 minutes I did 1 minute of running at 6 mph, 1 minute of running at 5.5 mph, and 1 minute of walking at 3.5 mph. While I’ve done 2 minutes of running with my intervals before, it has never been that fast. There were plenty of times that I thought that I couldn’t do it and by some change I realized I had made it to my walking minute. I was so tired and so out of breath, but when I saw the 1 mile come up on the treadmill screen at 11:48, I’m so glad I did it! Taking 2 minutes off of my mile is massive progress and I shocked myself so much! But since it was a 12 minute challenge, I couldn’t stop the treadmill then so my picture is of my 12 minutes being a little more than a mile.

After that challenge, we switched to the floor (so the other group could do their 12 minute challenge) and it was a very intense floor plan. We had burpees, abs, lunges, squats, and shoulder work and all of them were between 10-60 reps. I made it through most of the floor work and then it was time to get back to the treadmill. I wanted to run on the treadmill, but I was so tired from the challenge so I did walking for all of the segments.

That would have been enough for a workout, but it wasn’t done. After that last treadmill time, we had to do a 1200 meter row. That is such a long row, and it was even harder considering all the other work I had already done. I wanted to be able to do it in under 6 minutes, and I’m happy to have done it in 5:57.

Wednesday’s class was the one I was most nervous for. I wasn’t in too much pain, but my stomach was dealing with some dull cramps and things were feeling a bit off. I figured I’d do the best I could and that would be that. It was an endurance class where we switched between blocks and I think that switching helped make things easier on me. I was able to do my regular 1 minute intervals for the long 3 minute push paces. And while I tried to run the entire 2 minute and 90 second push paces, my body just couldn’t do it. I had to cut them short, but I did run for the majority of the time.

I stuck with slower running speeds for everything that day. Even my all out paces were at a speed that sometimes is more of a push pace for me. It wasn’t that I was in pain, but things were feeling weird and I think I was psyching myself out and afraid that I was going to hurt myself somehow. There’s nothing wrong with taking it easy, but I was caught in-between feeling fine and wanting to do things like normal and being scared that I was somehow ignoring my body and going to hurt myself.

On the floor work, we had rowing each block. The first block was 300 meters (I did them in 1:20 and 1:14) and the second block was 600 meters (I did that in 2:42). All of those row times are pretty awesome for me, but rowing was tough. There was something about sitting and bending that way that made my stomach cramp up more. The pain was never that bad (it felt more like a strong pressure in my stomach), so I figured it wasn’t bad to push myself. I did have a tough time with the squats and ab work, so I did modified stuff for those. But considering that this workout was the one that I was going to take it easy or skip, I clearly didn’t follow that plan.

Friday was a power day with a run/row. I was still feeling  some cramps and uncomfortableness, but still nothing that bad. I was still taking Motrin for the pain, but Friday I probably could have skipped it (I just didn’t want to risk hurting a lot during the workout). For the run/row, we had 3 row segments for each distance. For the first distance, we had to do .2 miles 3 times with different rows in between (200, 150, and 100 meters).

I was able to run the full .2 miles each time. I was a pretty long run for me (close to 3 minutes) and it wasn’t easy. I still had that odd feeling happening but I wanted to push through it. I think the exercise helped the pain go away faster so I wanted to keep going. I took the rows easy because it was still hurting a bit to sit down and row. I didn’t pay attention to how long it took me to do each of them because it didn’t really matter to me at that point. I did make it to the .15 miles block (there was also a .1 miles block) and got 2 sets of that done before it was time to switch to the floor.

The floor work was focused on arm work which was good for me. I wasn’t dealing with any weird pain while doing the arm work so I was able to life 20 pound weights for all of the work. We did also have some plank work which was a bit tougher. I was having some weird knee pain so I had to do my planks on my toes and that made things even tougher. I know my plank form was sloppy, but again I just focused on making it through and getting it done.

Overall, I would consider my workout week a huge success. It would be a success even if I didn’t have my IUD to deal with so that makes things even better! I know that my stubbornness can be bad at times, but having it to push me through any uncomfortableness to keep going with my workouts is a good thing. I needed the workouts since my food hasn’t been great and I’m glad that even while one thing is not going so great that the other is going even better!

Dealing With Hormones (or Trying To Work With My Eating Disorder)

Like I mentioned yesterday, I had to stop taking my birth control pills because of my tumors. I’m still having a bit of pain from the IUD, but I know that will be ending soon and I’m so grateful that I’ve had an easier time than most of my friends. But as soon as I stopped taking my pills, my body was no longer on a steady level of hormones. And I’ve noticed that it is causing issues that I wasn’t expecting.

The first few days off of the pill were pretty easy. I was expecting things to be really horrible since I had been on the pill for 15 years. I know that a lot of people have pain and weird issues when you aren’t on regular hormones, but for a bit of time it seemed like I might have escaped that issue (I’m guessing all pain I’m feeling now is from the IUD and not stopping the pill). I’m still doing pretty ok with my hormones not being regulated and getting through the mood swings I haven’t experienced since I was a teenager, but I’ve noticed that it’s been causing problems with my eating disorder.

I have no clue if this is because my hormones are out of whack, I’m going through normal hormone fluctuations, or what it could be but my food situation hasn’t been great for the past 2 weeks. I’m having very odd cravings and I’m not able to ignore them. When I tried to ignore them, that brought on a binge eating episode so I’m trying to figure out what to do to handle the cravings but not let them get overwhelming. But they do get overwhelming from time to time and I’ve had to realize that maybe I have to accept this as a temporary situation.

A lot of the time, I can eat things that aren’t too horrible for me to handle the cravings. Lately, it’s been alternating between salty things (I eat saltines) or slightly sweet things (Cliff Bars do the trick). But those things both cause my weight to go up if I eat too much of them. And when I’m craving something, it’s so similar to a binge episode that I have trouble stopping it. I haven’t found alternatives that satisfy the cravings that aren’t as bad but I’m working on it. And I’m aware that these cravings can change over time so maybe in a few weeks I’ll be craving fruit or crunchy things like veggies.

It also doesn’t help that the day after getting my IUD, my scale went up 8 pounds. I know that it isn’t “real” weight but it was still distressing. The water weight will go down eventually, but when I’ve worked so hard to not gain weight it can be very upsetting to see the number higher than it should be. And I know that my body is extremely slow in losing water weight so it may take a lot longer than I would like. In the past, it would be a reason for me to say screw it and have a big binge episode. But I’m not doing that this time and hoping that my body settles down soon.

Since stopping my birth control pills and getting my IUD were so close together, it’s tough to know if things are caused by one or the other. I’ve been told it can take 3 months or so for your body to regulate with the IUD (and technically even longer to regulate after being on hormonal birth control pills). While this is the time that I wanted to work on my health to prepare for liver surgery in the spring, those months may just be trying to stay right where I am and getting through whatever my body has to go through to be normal again.

I have an appointment with my therapist next week, and I know this will be a lot of what I will be discussing with him. I’m hoping that he can give me some tips or guidance on how to deal with this and not have it delay the progress I’ve been making so far. I don’t know if he is able to see my full medical record, so I’m planning on filling him on everything with the tumors and all. Hopefully giving him the full picture of my physical health situation can help him help me with my mental health situation.

While I wish that I didn’t have the tumors and I was able to stop my birth control pills on my own timeline, this is probably a good thing. I’ve been on the pill for a very long time and while my time before it was pretty horrible with my hormones there’s a chance I’ve outgrown a lot of the issues I had before. Not having the hormones in my system could be a benefit for my eating disorder. It can be temporary that I have crazy hormone fluctuations but once things normalize I should be able to know when my binges may be more likely to happen. And then I can plan to try to prevent them. This is going to be a long haul journey, and while the beginning has been rocky I hope that in the end it ends up being a really great thing for me and my journey to recovery.

An IUD Experience (or I Wish I Knew It Could Be This Easy)

Warning for my readers (especially the guy readers): This post is about my experience getting an IUD. I’m not shy describing stuff so just know that if you read today’s post.

With the liver tumors, there isn’t much for me to do between now and my next MRI in the spring. I just have to hope that my body will decide the tumors should shrink so things will be easier. I don’t have to change pretty much anything in my life because of them with one exception. I had to stop taking my birth control pills.

I’ve been on the pill since I was 18 and it was weird to stop taking them. But knowing that the hormones in them were what caused the tumors (literally a one in a million complication) made it a non-negotiable thing for me to stop. Ironically, I had to stop hormonal birth control but right now pregnancy could be extremely dangerous. I needed something to make sure I won’t get pregnant before my surgery (even though that is not really a concern for me), and non-hormonal options are pretty limited. But since hormonal options will be out of the picture for me for the rest of my life, I figured now is the best time to figure out what I want to do.

I have a very open relationship with my family. It helps that my dad was an OB/GYN and there is no shame or embarrassment to discuss things with him or anyone in my family. And everyone in my family agreed that I should get an IUD. Several women in my family have them and love them.  And since there is a non-hormonal option (the copper Paragard), my OB/GYN agreed and scheduled me a time to come in and get one. While getting an IUD was something I thought about doing for a few years, I wasn’t too happy about having to get one. This wasn’t totally my choice, but I knew it was the best thing for me.

Of course, I reached out to all the friends and family I know who have an IUD to ask them about their experience. Mainly, I was terrified about the pain I might have with the insertion. I’ve read it can be very painful when you haven’t had a baby yet and I’m not a fan of pain. But since my OB/GYN knew how scared I was, she prescribed me some things to make it easier. I already have prescription motrin for my hip, but she also wrote a prescription for 1 dose of Valium to keep me calm and 2 doses of Codeine to help with the pain before and after.

Since I was going to be pretty loopy going to my appointment (I had never taken Valium before so I had no clue how I’d react), I had a friend who has an IUD drive me. I knew she’d be able to help keep me calm and would be a good person to have with me after if I was in a lot of pain. So this week, I had my appointment and I wanted to share my experience because I think it is important for people to know what it is like.

I took the painkillers about an hour before my appointment and felt fine with them. I’ve taken those painkiller before and knew I wouldn’t have any weird reactions. But when I took the Valium, I got loopy right away. I was shocked how fast it got into my system but was grateful that it did calm me down significantly. But when my friend picked me up, I knew I was acting weird. My brain and mouth felt disconnected and I couldn’t get out what I wanted to say. I was slurring (my friend said I sounded drunk or someone who was in the middle of dental work) and I couldn’t think of words that I wanted to use. I don’t like being out of control like that, but I knew it was for the best.

I was still nervous when I got to the appointment, but fortunately my OB/GYN is a family friend and was willing to work on making this as easy as possible. After doing a pregnancy test (they are required to do it even though I knew there was no risk of me being pregnant), my OB/GYN decided that the best option would be for me to get a shot of lidocaine. Most OB/GYNs don’t do this because getting a shot in your cervix can be very painful and can be worse than the IUD insertion. But for me, I didn’t really feel the shots. I didn’t know she did the first one and for the second one I didn’t feel pain but did feel a slow mild shock going up one side of my abdomen (it was on the side that the shot was going in on my cervix).

After the shot, we had to wait about 5 minutes for it to take effect, so we were just chatting and catching up on random things. I also told my doctor that I was totally going to be blogging about this so she took the IUD out of the box so I could get a picture of it before it went inside me.

You can see that the IUD is pretty small. The device it is in is the thing that is used to put it in your uterus (the arms get folded down before insertion, but I wanted the picture of it before it got folded down). Even though I knew IUDs are small, seeing it before the insertion did make me feel better. I don’t know why I needed more reassurance, but knowing that it was tiny and the device to insert it is smaller than a straw was good.

After I was numb, the next step was to measure my uterus so my doctor knew how far to insert the IUD. They used a device to hold my cervix open, but I didn’t feel it at all. I thought I might feel some pain or pressure, but when my doctor told me it was on there I was shocked because I had no idea. When she used the sounding device to measure my cervix, I felt that a bit. But I only felt it when it hit the top of my uterus and it was a little pinch (less than a shot or needle stick for an IV). I jumped a bit when that happened, but again it was significantly less than I thought it would be.

Finally, it was time to get my IUD. The IUD is loaded up in the insertion device and then it was placed in my uterus. I didn’t feel it at first, but as my doctor was placing it and getting the arms to pop out that was a weird sensation. I don’t know how to describe it. It wasn’t painful but it was odd. It almost felt like something was trying to pull my insides out of my body. It lasted maybe 3 seconds and then it was done. Then my doctor trimmed the strings of the IUD (I felt nothing) and the worst was over.

The final step was having an ultrasound to make sure the placement looked good. My doctor turned the screen so I could look at it too and she pointed out where the IUD is and where my uterus and ovaries are. It’s not easy to see in the image, but the long straight line in the center is the IUD.

The placement looked good to my doctor and we were done! If you don’t count the 5 minutes we waited for the lidocaine to take effect, the entire thing was probably less than 3 minutes. And I’m aware I had more painkillers than most people and I got the lidocaine shot too, but this entire process was pretty close to painless. Getting an IV for my liver MRIs were more painful than this process.

I have to go back to my OB/GYN in 6 weeks to have the placement checked again, but if everything looks good I’m protected against pregnancy for 10 years! There are no hormones in the copper IUD so it won’t affect the tumors at all. And if I want to have kids within the next decade, it’s pretty easy to have this removed.

I know that most people have much more difficult experiences than what I had. Even after the lidocaine wore off, I wasn’t in much pain. I have a small cramp in my lower abdomen, but it’s a pretty dull pain. I am still taking motrin as a precaution and after getting the IUD in I used a heating pad that night. But this was not unbearable at all. I know this could get worse later, but I’m not too worried about that. The thing that scared me the most was the insertion and I was laughing after it was done about how easy it was. If I had known that before, I probably would have gotten this years ago.

While I still wished that this was more of my choice and not something that was my only option, I’m glad I did it. I’m glad that I was able to manage the pain with the options I was given and that the experience was easy. All of the stress and worry I had before was so much worse than anything I experienced in the appointment.

I want to thank everyone who shared their stories of getting an IUD with me when I reached out for advice. You were all right that it wasn’t bad and that I was worrying more about it than I needed to. And if you are considering an IUD, know that while it can be painful that pain is usually over pretty quick. And maybe you will be lucky like I was and have an almost pain-free experience. Feel free to reach out to me through the comments or the contact form if you have questions or want to contact me about this. Obviously I’m an open book and happy to share whatever I can with you all.

Health and Not Weight Loss (or My Current Game Plan)

Since getting sick, I’ve lost a pretty significant amount of weight. This is a good thing since I’ve been working on losing weight and I’m pleasantly surprised that the weight has stayed off. Typically when I lose weight quickly like I did, it comes back just as quickly as it came off. But this time has been different and I’m starting to be ok with that and not in constant fear that the scale is going to jump up like crazy the next day.

It does freak me out that many people are commenting on my weight loss. I’m hearing it from so many people lately. I know it’s a good thing, but I still feel like I didn’t earn it. But I’m trying to just accept that now I’ve been keeping the weight off even though I’m not sick anymore and focusing on that.

While I am trying to lose weight, I’ve decided that it isn’t my focus right now. I’m basically preparing my body for surgery now and I take that very seriously. When I was preparing to have my hip surgery, I did the UCLA RFO diet to lose weight. Being at a low weight was good for that surgery since it was helping to make my joints have less weight on them while I was recovering. But I still hate that I lost and gained that weight so quickly. But that was the best option at the time to get my body ready for surgery.

I’m really working on the physical part of surgery preparation. And yes, that does involve working on weight loss but that is more of an after thought for me. I know that this surgery will be tough on my core, so I want to get my core as strong as I can. After surgery, I won’t be able to do any core or abdominal work for a while as I heal. So being extra strong there will help with that. Being flexible will help too since I know I won’t be able to bend like normal for a bit of time too, so I’m working on stretching a lot and making sure I won’t have a hard time when I’m not able to move around as much.

I’m doing this by pushing myself even more at Orangetheory. I know I won’t be able to work out like normal right after surgery, so I want to make as much progress as I can now so the setback won’t be as bad. I’m looking into more workout stuff I can do at home that will help get my body ready for this. And I’m working harder than ever on my eating disorder recovery because that will help with the weight loss aspect of preparation. I know that the smaller I am the easier the surgery will be. The surgeon will have an easier time getting the tumors out and my scars should be smaller. Those are good things to focus on when I’m having a bad moment.

And there is a lot of mental preparation I’m doing to get ready to have surgery next year. Right now, the only thing I need to focus on is hoping the tumors get smaller. The smaller the tumors are, the less of my liver that they will have to remove (which means less liver I need to regenerate). My mom is a big believer of how much thinking positively can do to help your body. When she was dealing with chemo and radiation, she spent time each day imagining that little Pac-Men (that’s what she called them) were going to her tumor and eating it away.

I can’t see Pac-Men in my liver working on my tumor, but I have my own thing. For some reason, when I think of my tumor getting smaller, I think of the Dwarfs in Snow White with their pickaxes. So I spend time each day thinking of them using their pickaxes and busting up the tumor. I know that the tumor won’t go away completely from this positive thinking, but I’d love to see them significantly smaller when I have my next MRI in April.

I’m doing whatever I can to make this surgery successful. I’m grateful that I have time to get my body and mind prepared as much as possible. I know that even if I’m not as skinny as I was during my hip surgery, that doesn’t mean that I can’t be healthier than how I was back then. Health is the focus because that is what will control how successful the surgery is and how easy my recovery will be after.