Monday, 23 January 2012

What a difference a week makes..

I'm feeling so much more positive this week.. the 'grumpy old bag' from last week has been well and truly put in her place! In fact I can't believe I wrote that blog.. who was that negative person?? Not me, that's for sure.

But in a way, that's what's so important about writing this blog and recording all of my feelings and experiences.. the good stuff and the bad. It would be so wrong to dismiss my negative feelings and to only write about the good things. In a way writing about it helps get it out of my system and helps me focus on the positive. Life with an ileostomy isn't all roses, but it's really not as bad as anyone might imagine and I believe it's my responsibility through this blog to show both sides of the coin.

Anyway, I've shelved all ideas about running, about doing the marathon and about trying to build up my mileage.. and since having done that, I feel like a weight has been lifted.  It doesn't mean I'll never run again, but for the moment I need to figure out this hip and knee issue and it's not going to get better if I keep running in pain. I can however, still cycle and it doesn't seem to hurt my knee at all.. yippee! So yesterday I went out with my friend Steve and we did 33 miles all around the local lanes and villages. Glorious weather and great company and a fantastic sense of achievement. I was a seriously happy bunny when I got home and had that lovely 'tiredness' from a 2.5 hour bike ride. No knee or hip pain at all and in fact I actually think it helped strengthen and fire up the muscles.

One of the good things about triathlon has always been that if you have an injury of some sort and it prevents you from doing one of the three sports, you can generally still do at least one of the others. And that is what is important now.. not to be miserable about what I CAN'T do, but to be grateful for what I can do and flexible enough to work it into my schedule. Ok, so running might be off the agenda at the moment, but I still love cycling and swimming and that's more than I could do this time last year when I was feeling so ill. 

So instead of setting a unachieveable running goal that's going to make me miserable, it got me thinking about setting an exciting cycling goal that would provide some motivation and excitement. 

And I'm not one for an easy challenge, so the first thing that came to mind was the 325 mile London to Paris bike ride. Perfect ! don't you think? Of course it's not all in one go.. that would be a bit too much.. well this year anyway. 

You spread it out over 4 days. It would be achieveable yet challenging enough to be exciting. And even better it would co-incide with my 40th birthday and I could do it with my hubby. Right then.. better get ourselves organised and plan it. I've got that excited feeling in the bottom of my stomach, and as my life coach friend Tony will no doubt agree.. that must mean it's the right goal.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Grumpy old bag..

Apparently today (16th January) is the grumpiest day of the year and officially called 'Blue Monday'..  According to the news, it's to do with the build up of debt after Christmas, failed New Year resolutions and the 'back to work' blues now the euphoria of the festive break is a distant memory.

I can relate with that..  but my grumpiness is due to a realisation that this rehab process - and return to proper running - is going to be far more prolonged than I thought. I'm trying really hard to be positive, strong and motivated.. but if I'm honest it's not going well.

Everyone around me, people in my running group and even runners that I'm coaching are reporting in with tales of their wonderful mileage, great achievements and big success.. and whilst I'm thrilled for them all, deep down inside I'm feeling just a bit envious and glum.

I, perhaps naively, thought that 6 months after surgery I'd be somewhere close to being back to normal. Ha!  far from it.  It turns out that there are some major biomechanical imbalances developing between my right and left side. I discovered this last week after therapy and a training session in the gym on Friday and the difference in strength and flexibility is getting more and more pronounced. The right side - where the stoma is sited (right in the middle of my rectus abdominus) and where I had the previous stoma (leaving a 5 inch scar) - is significantly weaker than the left.. all through the hip, glute and quad. This is what's causing the constant discomfort in my hip and pain through my knee.  SIGH!  I probably shouldn't be running at all and need to spend lots of time in the gym rebuilding and on the therapists table having treatment and massage. This is always going to be a problem now apparently.. and I'll have to work on it forever. Rather like when you say to the midwife after giving birth 'when can I stop doing pelvic floor exercises'...  and she say's 'err never'. 

It's clearly not enough that I had to have 4 abdominal surgeries, spend a month in hospital, swap all my muscle tone for body fat, end up with a stomach that looks like the surface of the moon (with a bit of bowel sticking out of it), miss out on my Ironman that I'd trained so hard for and lose pretty much 18 months of my life to illness, surgery and recovery.  Huff.

My weight gain is another bug bear.. (and one I'm not entirely comfortable blogging about). I'm now about 12lbs heavier than I was before (sshh!).. I guess going from being an athlete to a sick couch potato would do that. And believe me, it's all fat! A fellow runner pointed that out last week at a club run 'Oh your body shape is TOTALLY different now isn't it'.. he says. A very helpful observation!!! Not.  But I don't feel ready to put any pressure on myself to worry about losing weight just yet. The motivation to have a flat bikini stomach has gone forever and the desire to lose a few pounds to get my 10km time down.. well that's not exactly a priority. So I'm hoping that one day soon I'll wake up and the desire to really work on the weight loss will be there.. for the moment it's done a runner.

The whole thing has been an interesting process though and taught me a lot (see I'm trying to find a positive here!) about myself and others.  Like I said in my last post, it's just going to take a long time and I need to be super patient and persevere. I know deep down that I'll get there eventually.. it's just uber frustrating. 

Ironically, the bag is actually the least of my concerns. All I want is to be able to run without a knackered knee, hip or leg. It's not much to ask is it?  I know things could have been much much worse. And in some ways I'm lucky to be here at all. But I want more from my life than that. I want to be able to compete in running and triathlon, to take part in crazy events, to feel fit and be able to run properly and freely and to just be me again.  In the meantime, I'm just going to have a moan. Thanks for listening. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Pros and Cons of being a 'bag lady'

It hardly seems possibly that I've been living with my ileostomy for 6 months now. Life is very much 'back to normal' and the crazy juggle of kids, training, life, dog walking, work and all the other various commitments are keeping me busy to say the least.  The bag really just fits in with my life and for the most part I forget it's there.. luckily the operation has worked really well and I'm feeling much better and able to cope with 'normal' life again.

There are moments however when it itches or annoys me and I just want to tear it off. There are times when I find it pretty repulsive to have a bit of bowel sticking out of my stomach.... well you would if you thought about it too long!

But I have to push those thoughts aside and remember what my health was like before.  Over Christmas I found a letter I wrote to my surgeon back in May last year before I had the surgery.. here's an excerpt from it:

...things are no better.  In fact I feel absolutely terrible most of the time.  I have no quality of life, am not working and can’t train. The most I can manage is a dog walk and shuffle around my beginner running group.  This is mainly due to the constant bloating, distention, constipation and nausea.   My diet is very limited as I cant’ tolerate fruit, veg, fibre, meat or even a sip of alcohol – and there are days where I have to resort to liquids or ‘mush’ food just to get through the day.  I got to the point where I was taking 10 senna every day and it did nothing.  Once or twice a week, I get to the point where I cant’ sleep I am so uncomfortable and spend the entire night awake, distended, feeling sick and miserable...

When I'm feeling grumpy about having the bag - which to be fair isn't very often - I just have to re-read that letter and it puts things in perspective. It sort of reminds me of childbirth or marathon running in a way. The memory of the pain and discomfort rapidly fades and you find yourself thinking 'oh that wasn't so bad'. I'm glad I've got that letter as it's a reminder of how bad things really were and why I'm where I'm at.  In some ways I wonder how I managed to get through that time.. it was really rough.

For the most part I'm feeling pretty good now. I don't think my digestion will ever be 100% again.. but I'm certainly a lot better than when I wrote that letter. I have a few food issues which have caused some minor blockages which make me feel quite unwell. Sweetcorn, mushrooms, beansprouts, green beans, bamboo shoots and nuts are all off the menu.. as well as high fibre foods and large meals. Alcohol is tricky.. half a glass of wine and I have a headache the next day! I'm becoming and expert in 'low alcohol' choices and spritzers.  I'm not sure, but guess that's something to do with the colon which assists the liver in detoxification. Without an active colon my poor liver must be under more strain. Not that it's an issue, just an observation really.

I still seem to need more recovery from a training session that I used to take for granted, and find it hard to cope with late nights and need more sleep.  Of course that might have nothing to do with the stoma and is just old age! I'm hoping that will improve as my fitness and health returns..

On the plus side however.. I'll never suffer from runners trots again. The bag does have its advantages for long runs :-)

Talking about running, my training is a bit hit and miss at the moment. Just before Christmas I was thrilled to complete a 9.3 mile run - my longest since June 2010 - and I was feeling really hopeful about taking part in the London marathon. I've signed up for Silverstone half marathon on 11th March and was hoping to build steadily for that.. and then onto the marathon in April. Well maybe..

But since then, my right knee has been niggling.. sigh. Probably due to muscle imbalances caused by surgery, bed rest and postural changes. And despite pilates, core work, stretching and sports massage, there's a still a problem. So it's back to the drawing board. It's one step forwards, two steps back as always and it's going to be a long battle. I have a feeling I'm going to need to dig deep into my reserves of patience and perseverance if I'm going to win it!

In the words of Winston Churchill 'Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."