Archive | December, 2014

How do you measure a year?

31 Dec

As the time draws closer to midnight and the moment we say goodbye forever to 2014, I find myself, like many others, reflecting on the last 365 days of my existence – thinking about what happened in my life and the world around me, wondering how I’ve changed and grown as an individual, daughter, sister, girlfriend, co-worker and member of society. Did I make 2014 actually count for something – or did I waste those 525,949 minutes?

It is no secret that I love music, and often say life would be much more enjoyable if it were a musical, so it should come as no surprise that for the last few New Year’s Eves, I’ve always been reminded of the song “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent. Haven’t heard it you say? Not to worry my friend, I’ve linked it here for you. Take a listen – I’ll wait.

I really connect with this song – the lyrics are so thought-provoking because while we each understand that we have one year, 365 days – we each measure the passing of that time differently.

This past year, that consisted of counting down days until Disney vacations, or adding up the miles I ran while training for my half marathon. But I counted in other ways as well – the minutes until I could clock out after a long day at work, the days leading up to the weekend, and I usually underestimated the hours I spent lost in a book or talking to Scott.

There are times during the year where time almost seemed to stop – watching my baby sister give her co-valedictorian speech and then receive her high school diploma, walking through the airport arrival gates and seeing Scott for the first time in too many months, saying goodbye to my very best friend before she moved across the country to chase her dreams and crossing the finish line of my first half marathon.

Other highs for the year, which you may or may not know about include: being promoted at work and receiving a pay raise, seeing my designs featured in the local newspapers and on billboards, leasing my very first car, renting my very first car and successfully navigating Florida traffic, our family welcoming the addition of a number of new babies and completely paying off one of my student loans!

While the big things are important, the small everyday things matter more – the movie nights and bonding times with my family, spending one-on-one time with my quirky, but oh-so-lovable sisters, the late night chats and sleepovers with my best friend, completely nerdy text conversations with another best friend, reconnecting with old friends, rediscovering my passion for journaling and blogging, and discovering what makes me special, happy and 100% original.

While 2014 was mostly a good year by my own personal account, there were some times of hardship – my family had to say goodbye to a few loved ones who’ve passed on, the world has said goodbye to icons such as Robin Williams, Maya Angelou, James Garner and Oscar de la Renta, there have been many world tragedies and sorrows, and a constant reminder in the media that there is great evil in the world, lurking around every corner.

However, with the start of a new year, comes the hope of a brighter and better tomorrow. People feel an internal desire to try harder, dream bigger and love deeper than they ever have before. While many will give up on their New Year Resolutions within a few short weeks, it is my goal, and hopefully yours too, to stick it out this year, to fully commit to making the change.

I won’t go so far as to say 2015 will be my best year ever, because I don’t know what my future holds – but I do know that I will try very hard to wake up every morning with a smile and a can-do-will-do attitude. I will look for more opportunities to serve others and to accept help when I’m stressed. I will measure this coming year by love as the above song suggests – the love of my family, my boyfriend, my co-workers, my friends, myself and most of all the love I have for God and the knowledge that He already knows how my 2015 will turn out, so I have nothing to worry about – it’s in His hands after all.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, I’m so glad you’re still here because now it’s your turn – how did you measure 2014? What are you looking forward to in 2015? The year is yours my dear friend, what will you do with those precious 365 days?!

Happy New Year 2015

Wine & Dine 1/2 Marathon and the health nightmare that followed…

5 Dec

It is no secret that for months now I have been preparing for my very first half marathon – the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon to be exact. I have logged the miles, improved my time and pace, practiced hydration and fueling along the course and read every advice blog and article I could get my hands on about what to do get ready for your first half. I felt ready. I had a game plan and as long as I stuck to it, I would be golden…however, best laid plans have a way of changing as I would ultimately find out. This post is the comprehensive account of my experience, from the best of times to the worst of times….

Let’s start at the beginning shall we….I left for vacation at Walt Disney World on Thursday, November 6th. The plan was simple, enjoy catching up with my Disney sister/runDisney addict, Monique, that evening at Downtown Disney until Scott got off work and would meet me at the resort, while also waiting to hear that another Disney sister, Catherine, had safely landed in Orlando and was in route to Disney. For the most part, this night was perfect, although the bus did seem to take forever, but maybe I was just anxious to be back at the most magical place on earth and see the people I had been missing terribly!

Friday, November 7th, consisted of getting to the race expo early to pick up my packet and scope out the merchandise! I’d had my heart set on buying the runDisney New Balance Cinderella shoes, however, I decided that I’d probably never wear them for fear they would get dirty, so when a maroon warm-up jacket in my size happened to catch my eye, it was fate – we sure did belong together. At least that’s what I told myself the entire time I was waiting in the super long check-out line (you would have thought I was waiting to ride Toy Story Mania or something by the wait time!) I also purchased one of those Mickey head car magnets that says 13.1 – but let’s face it, that thing will never see my car, it’s currently living on my dry erase board. As for the expo itself, I wasn’t overly impressed, although I was mighty glad they had printers because I discovered moments after getting to ESPN that I had left my race waver in my resort room. The entire time I’m at the expo, Catherine and I are playing phone tag, we never did meet up. 😦

 

After the expo, I went to visit Scott at work at Animal Kingdom, stayed there for a few hours and then went to Hollywood Studios where we enjoyed the first night of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights after he got off work.

Saturday, November 8th – Race Day. Game plan was to take it nice and easy – so we slept in, hung out at the hotel until late morning and finally made our way to Hollywood Studios. Disclaimer – there is no such thing as an “easy” Disney Day for me, while we mostly only watched the shows and rode the Great Movie Ride, by the time we made it back to the resort at 4:30 PM, we had already walked 6.5 miles. Don’t ask me how, I’m still trying to figure that one out. I knew I needed to start getting ready for the race around 6 – 6:30 PM and that Monique would be coming over around that time as well, so I took advantage of the downtime and took a nap! What I have failed to tell you about yet is the massive rainstorm scheduled to hit at the start of the race…. Bless Monique’s heart for running to the store to buy us ponchos in a pouch – we could carry them until we needed them at least. I was also extremely thankful to the kind stranger on the bus to the starting line who shared his box of zip-lock plastic bags with us. According to him “the fastest way to make friends with runners is to have a box of plastic bags for cell phones and the fastest way to make friends with strangers in the airport is to have an extension cord.” He had a great attitude, I think we would have been good friends!

weather map rain

 

Our costumes this time around were a mash-up of Disney Princess meets The Hunger Games. Check out our pictures!

While Monique and I were getting ready, Scott was creating this! I love him so much!

race spectator poster

And here’s Catherine and runner Peter Pan! Monique and I were FINALLY able to meet up with her, and her sister Alison at the starting line “party”. We were so cool we danced sitting down! (It’s a joke, seemed funnier late at night – just don’t ask!)

 

And the rain came down before the race ever started… standing in corral I, I pulled out my poncho. We were about 40 minutes to the start and I was FREAKING OUT! Luckily, there were some very great people around me who offered advice and suggestions and all around encouragement. I love the runDisney family, doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or Olympic Gold medalist, we support and cheer everyone equally. My group took off around 10:20 PM and then it was 3.5 hours of running in the pouring rain.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2014 course map

I ended up doing the majority of the race blind because by the time I had reached the 3 mile marker I had wiped my glasses off no less than 200 times – in that moment I took off my glasses and fully relied on my other senses to carry me through. Well and the other runners. Luckily at this point I had found a group of people who were just my speed and I was bound and determined to stick with them. I trusted them – if the group veered left or right and then back to the center on a straightaway, that began to mean large puddle on the opposite side of the road. By miles 6 and 7 I was hurting bad. I had blisters, large ones and as luck would have it a few had broken open. But I was only to the half way point – I had to keep going. I was thankful for the rain – no one could actually tell I was crying.

Mile 8 and we were getting ready to enter Hollywood Studios and I was running low on belief in myself and the will to press forward. And that’s when I picked my “running buddy” for the remainder of the course – the blob (remember I can’t see anything clear farther than the length of my own arm!) in the bright green shirt with the long dark hair. You didn’t know you were chosen obviously, because I was always behind you, but when you ran, so did I, and when you walked I thanked the Heavens above. We were playing a game, you and I, and it was called “Catch me if you can, but don’t you dare fall even farther behind”.

I had convinced myself it wasn’t far to the The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (oh you know, just another short 2 miles!!!!) and once I was there, I couldn’t even enjoy them, not really. I tried to take a few photos, made difficult because I was out of energy, shaking and it was STILL pouring. On the bright side, bright green blob must have been enjoying the lights because we walked this whole time.

 

By the time we left Hollywood Studios, we were saying hello and goodbye to mile marker 11 – we were heading to Epcot and the finish line energy was palpable. Bright green blob was feeling it too, we moved a bit quicker where we could, but the path narrowed and got pretty slippery. I think now is a great time to publicly thank all the volunteers and spectators along the route – you have no idea how much your cheers of encouragement meant to me. When I needed a pick me up, someone was always there with a “you’ve got this!”, “keep going you’re almost there!”, or a “yeah runners! we’re proud of you!”

When we made it to the bridge at The Boardwalk, there were two cyclists waiting off to the side – I thought for sure I was about to get swept (not be allowed to finish for all of you non-runners out there), but they let our little group pass on by. Still my heart had lodged itself in my throat and somehow my stomach had found a new home at my knees. And when I finally entered Epcot something inside me broke loose – all the fear, all the pain, all the excitement, and the knowledge it was almost over was so overwhelming I cried. I high-fived strangers. I smiled when I wanted to grimace. I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward toward my goal. I have a quote by an unknown author that has been hanging in my room for the last few weeks of my training and I thought of it just then – “On the last mile when your legs are tired and your lungs are burning, GET ANGRY. GET ANGRY for being tired, then RUN FASTER.”  At that point I couldn’t feel my legs, my fingers, my nose – I didn’t know if the ground was still solid below me or not, but I knew I was half a dozen turns away from the finish line.

And then, like a beacon in a dark night, there it was – lit up and welcoming. I sprinted with every ounce of energy I had left in me, afraid that if I didn’t, in that moment I would collapse and never make it across. I know there were hundreds of people screaming, but I heard nothing but my beating heart, saw nothing but the finish line clock – I would finish under my time goal at 3 hours and 27 minutes and just before 2 AM.

And then that medal was around my neck and all I could think was “you did it and you are still standing!”

Wine and Dine 2014 finisher

Although it was still raining, I pulled out my cell phone and let everyone know I had made it – I had finished. Then I was focused on finding Monique and Catherine and leaving. I was so sore and cold and miserable I didn’t even want to stay for the party. Catherine finished before I did and had already left. Monique was waiting for me at the entrance to Epcot – sadly she had been swept at mile 8. Like so many others, Monique and I did the broken-runner shuffle to where the buses were waiting to take us all to our resorts for showers and warm beds. When Monique and I got back to the room, we discovered Scott had set out towels and bananas for us! He’s so thoughtful!

I don’t know how long I slept the next day – it was a very restless sleep. Everything on me ached – my feet from the blisters, my back from hunching over in the wind and rain, my head with a splitting migraine for not wearing my glasses for so long – I felt like I was falling apart, but I had earned that medal and I was going to show it off in the parks! I moved very slowly the remainder of my vacation, but I didn’t let that dampen my spirits or stop me from enjoying myself – all day Scott asked me if I wanted a wheelchair. I refused – there was no way I was going to ride around all day with my hard-earned medal. Monday night we did Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Tuesday I had a meeting to go to and had to shove my injured feet into high heels, and Wednesday I flew home.

I was still in a lot of pain and by Friday afternoon at work (November 14th), my feet were red, swollen and extremely painful to walk/stand on. After a trip to the local urgent care center, I was diagnosed with Cellulitis in both feet from the broken blisters I got during the race. I was given a 10 day, take twice a day prescription for Bactrim, told to drink plenty of fluids and keep my feet elevated above my heart for the next few days – and if the swelling didn’t go down or the pain stop, head to the Emergency Room.

So for the next two days I could be found with my feet up, watching Hallmark movies, drinking lots of fluids and taking my medicine once in the morning and once at night. It seemed to work – the redness started to fade, the swelling went down, I rediscovered my ankles! By the time Monday rolled around I was feeling better and seemed to be on the mend. By Thursday, however, my energy levels had dropped. I wasn’t sleeping even though I had started going to bed by 6:45 PM – and when I did manage to catch a few hours, I had terrible nightmares. And on top of it all, I had a migraine like you wouldn’t believe – and nothing soothed it.

Monday, November  24th – After a night of being unable to get comfortable and having less than two hours of sleep, my alarm went off at 5:30 AM for work. When I turned on the light, I noticed I had the beginnings of a red, itchy rash running down both arms – and since I work at a hospital and knew they’d probably send me home for fear it was something contagious, I took two Benadryl, called out sick and tried to go back to bed.

Tired of tossing and turning by 8:30 AM, I got up and made my way downstairs. At 9:00 AM I took my last dose of the Bactrim and fell asleep watching a movie. I woke at 11:00 AM in terrible pain – the Benadryl had worn off, thank goodness it was time for another. While I was sleeping, the rash had spread quickly to my chest, back and legs. It was harder to breathe (not like an asthma attack where you feel like you are trying to breathe air through a clogged straw, more like trying to expand your lungs while a sumo wrestler is standing on them – it took a lot of energy to inhale and exhale shallowly).

It was about this time my dad text me to see how I was feeling. I told him about the difficulty breathing and the red itchy rash spreading. And he responded with what I already knew was coming – “call Papa and see if he can bring you into the ER. Also tell me the name of that medicine you’ve been taking for your feet.”

I relayed the information and made the call. Then I sent my dad this photo:

Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Disease

And then his instructions changed – “Call the ambulance. Tell them you are having a severe allergic reaction to a medication.” But I already knew this – I don’t remember much from my first go-round with Stevens Johnson Syndrome, but this was how it started and this I remember quite well.

Oddly enough, my sister Megan’s boyfriend, Austin, was the EMT who answered the call. When he walked in the door, I think I scared him – I wasn’t doing well at that point – red, swollen and breathing hard. I watched him take a deep breath and go to work. Papa was here as well helping to keep me calm. When two other EMTs arrived from the next township (need more than one person to transport) we all loaded into the ambulance, Papa following behind, and headed for the Emergency Room at the hospital where both I and my dad work. There was nothing they could really do for me in the ambulance other than give me pure oxygen to help ease my breathing (I wasn’t wheezing, so I didn’t need a breathing treatment) and give me ice packs to put on the rash to help ease the urge to itch. They monitored my blood pressure.

My dad met me in the ER and mom was there not long after. By now it’s 12:30 PM and I am in such intense pain, the rash is still spreading and becoming a deeper red. I am exhausted. In a word, I was miserable. I felt bad for the nurse who had to put in my IV, but luckily she found a spot on the inside of my arm where there weren’t a lot of blisters, and she had this cool black light type tool that helped her to find a good vein on the first try. And then I felt bad for yet another nurse who had to put the sticky EKG pads on my already irritated skin.

Emergency Room

Finally after an IV, blood draw, two bags of saline fluid, a shot of pain reliever and 6 long hours of trying to explain to the ER doctor that this is how my first reaction of Stevens Johnson Syndrome started and that I needed to be seen by a specialist at a burn center, I was discharged and feeling a tiny bit better. My parents and I were then on our way to hospital number two so I could be seen by a burn specialist. At one point during my stay in the ER they were discussing admitting me, but that was vetoed because they didn’t feel there was anything else they could do for me there, so then the discussion switched to which hospital I’d like to be transferred to – the hospital with the burn center was not one of the choices at that time. I’m glad we decided to just drive there ourselves – I was STARVING at this point (I hadn’t eaten since 8:30 AM and we were now pushing 7:00 PM!!), so thankfully we grabbed some food on our way!

It has been 10 years and 2.5 months since my first visit to this burn center. I wasn’t scared or nervous – I knew what the treatment would be if in fact this was Stevens Johnson Syndrome and if it progressed. I just wanted to know what this was and how I could relieve the pain long enough to get a few hours of sleep. There was a nurse waiting for me when we arrived. She led us over to one of the Outpatient Rooms, had me change into my second hospital gown of the day and asked me the same set of embarrassing questions I was asked earlier. I was informed the specialist wanted to see me himself to determine what I had, but he was in a surgery and his resident was attending to a trauma in the ER and she wasn’t sure when either of them would be up.

Outpatient burn center

About 15 minutes later, the resident walks in and while looking at my chart says “hello, my name is Dr. Burn, but you can call me Nick.” The irony of his last name was not lost on my mom or I, we exchanged a suppressed giggled glance. Oddly enough, he could have been EMT Austin’s twin. Then he looked up and I had the privilege of shocking him. Here’s why – this burn center is located within a CHILDREN’S hospital, and seated before him was me – a fully grown, 26-year-old female. THIS WONT BE AWKWARD AT ALL – HE’S MY AGE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! (sarcasm) Dr. Nick checks me over, asks questions, writes some stuff down and let’s us know he’s going to go talk to his supervisor and they’d be back.

Another 10 minutes or so and Dr. Nick and the specialist return. Again I am examined from heat to toe and everywhere in between. Thank goodness the sweet nurse I met at my arrival has been there the whole time – she makes it less awkward. The diagnoses – Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) Disease – another form of Stevens Johnson Syndrome, but on a lesser scale. Just as before – there is no treatment, no magical cure, it just has to run its course – however long that may be, no one could say for sure as everyone reacts differently. Because I did not have any blisters or open skin wounds, I was fortunate to go home and not be admitted to the burn unit this time around. I was given a medical release slip from work for 10 days as stress could cause my reaction to worsen. I was told to take Benadryl and Tylenol for the pain and if after a few days that didn’t help, I was given a script for another pain reliever. However, this was passed along with a caution – it is not known what introducing a new drug to my system during a reaction would do, it may help, it may cause things to get worse. I made up my mind right there I wasn’t going to be filling that script. My only job for the next two weeks was to drink lots of fluids to help flush the toxins from my body and to rest.

After a few days I was finally able to get some much-needed sleep. The redness faded and the spots began to go away as well. The migraine came and went. The itching and the aching pain in my muscles and joins held on longer. Slowly even the bruise from my IV began to heal.

IV bruise

Everyone thinks having two weeks at home on the couch sounds like a wonderful thing – however, once you begin to start feeling like yourself again, you start to go a little stir crazy wishing you could leave. I am looking forward to going back to work on Tuesday (December 9th) – I miss my normal routine, I miss feeling productive, I miss my work friends and I’m ready to put all of this behind me. And with two weeks off work I know there will be a mountain of projects each demanding my attention that will carry me through the end of December.

Needless to say, this was not the experience I had been dreaming about for my first half marathon. And I honestly feel like that moment was stolen from me due to the rain. At this moment in time I don’t know if I’d sign up to do another half marathon, certainly nothing longer, but then again, I’m dying to run through Magic Kingdom (it’s the only park I haven’t run through yet) and I really don’t want this to be the only half marathon experience I have to reflect back on. So with that being said, I’ve got some time to think about it, to weigh the pros and cons, and probably be convinced by my Disney sister that next time will be better – and IF I decide to run again, I’m looking at you, runDisney Princess Half Marathon 2016.