Tag Archives: fibroids

Swim, cycle, run, sulk

As I write this I’m laid sulking on the sofa battling the after effects of a hill focused training ride. Whether it was the potholes, the hills or the overall training load of this week catching up with me my abdomen is screaming at me to rest. This is not how I imagined I’d be feeling 5 days out from my first triathlon. As frustrating as this feeling is I have to remember I’m still recovering, I’m little over 3 months post op and even a sprint distance tri is a big ask at this stage. 


My focus needs to change, it should be on finishing the challenge and a personal journey not on racing others. I’d love to take the credit for this change but in reality it came from a vomit infested pool that led to a chance meeting with an Ironman competitor while waiting for pool tests to give the green light to enter the pool. He had just got back from completing Challenge Roth despite falling ill early on the bike section. Our conversation didn’t focus on him but rather a chance encounter he had had with an older lady at an event in South America.  Long story short this lady had told him that it was all about focusing on yourself and that anything really was possible. As he recited the story I could feel the goosebumps on my arms, I felt on top of the world ready to take on any challenge. As inspiring as this was, it was also a reality check. I’ve spent too much time comparing myself to others (namely my wife and mother in-law) rather than focusing on my own journey. Thank you Mark for the lesson (pretty sure my wife has been trying to say this for a while but who listens to their wife?). I’m pretty sure the 5 minutes I spent on pool side listening to tales of triumph has had a huge impact on me and my journey.


Training wise I actually enjoyed an open water swim, the day had started with tears and tantrums as my fear of water raised its ugly head but ended with a steady 1.3km solo swim. On dry land I’ve broken my race-distance (4km) PB by 3 minutes and seen a marked improvement in my cycle times. The training is paying off, I can’t believe how far I’ve come in such a short space of time. Days like today are a stark reminder of what my body has been through. Am I fit? Am o good to go? Not at all, I’m still early in this journey but it’s exciting to see where this path leads.

Week 7 – feeling almost normal(ish)

A holiday in Greece sounds lovely doesn’t it, and I’m not ungrateful for a fantastic week however this was no ordinary relax in the sun holiday. It was a Neilson holiday, jam packed with fun physical activities from cycling to waterskiing and everything in between. Booked last November there was no thought given to surgery recovery and rehab since we assumed it would all be a distant memory at this point. As it turned out our holiday clashed with a period of conflict between my heart and head, between pushing hard and taking it steady. Holding back and in many cases watching others do these activities was going to be a challenge, and not the kind I like.


As we arrived in Greece my farthest swim post op was 60m and that nearly killed me. I was keen to increase this as it’s the main cardio I’ve been able to do, that and the swim in the triathlon is already making me nervous. Mid week I made a push and reset myself the target of 400m (I’d already failed earlier in the week), 250m down my lungs and shoulders were crying, 300m I’m seriously pleased I had Becky my personal lifeguard with me, 350m, almost there, just one more length and I’ve done it. High fives all round then out of the pool to relax. 400m done, target one ticked off! 


With Becky in love with open water swimming it didn’t take long before she was clambering into her wetsuit and making her way to the sea. I supported from a kayak, apparently looking out for Whales (highly unlikely for a multitude of reasons). With the sea calm and wind low in the morning this would become a regular part of the morning routine. The girl is half fish I swear, her longest swim was 3.5 kms. Not to be outdone I dared to enter the sea, obviously the day I chose was the one day the sea decided to dance. To say I was nervous would be an understatement, thankfully there were no kids around because the air around me was turned blue! Plenty of stops, a touch of seasickness, a number of panic attacks as the waves picked me up and dropped me down and 900m was complete. 

To say I’ve been looking forward to getting on a bike would be an understatement. It’s been almost 9 months since I last rode a bike pain free (my fibroid was large enough so that whenever I pedalled I would force the fibroid into my stomach). One of the bike instructors, Jess, helped make sure I was on a suitable bike (no I wasn’t using stabilisers), reassured me they would pick up the bike if I needed to abandon it, and I was off. My first venture took me on a flat 2.5km, relatively easy pedalling it was nice to be back on a road bike picking up some speed. I waited a couple of days to make sure I had no negative reaction but really I couldn’t wait to get back out. Feeling more adventurous I set out to attempt a 6.5 km circuit to the local “town”, still a relatively short ride but measurable improvements. A couple of steady climbs and my quads were waking up after way too long without a challenge. Now the best bit, where there’s a climb there’s a decent. Yep that was me coasting down the hills shouting “wahoo”, wind in my hair and a smile on my face, yes I am a child at heart! 


Now I’m well aware that a triathlon involves three disciplines. Swim achieved, cycling getting there, run wise who stole my running legs? 8 lots of 60 seconds run and 90 seconds rest and it felt like I’d done a marathon. It was nowhere near as enjoyable as I remember but each step was a step closer to fitness. 

It’s crazy how much introducing these activities boosted my mood. It’s almost like being given part of my identity back. Worryingly a small opening has appeared on my incision site, no more than a couple of millimetres in diameter and very superficial, it is still a reminder that I’m still in the “be cautious” phase of recovery. However there’s so much more I want to be doing, so much more within reach, the only question now is do I have the discipline for this phase of recovery? 


As for our Neilson experience, once again it was fantastic. We are already looking at when we can go back. Neilson Messini is definitely staying on our “visit again” list. 

Fear, recovery and womanhood?

Fear! Something you face every day. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of your own mortality, fear of the unknown.  The issue I have with fear is that it’s not tangible. I can’t give you a lump of fear, you can’t hold it in your hands, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  I’m a big believer in facing your fears, putting yourself in situations that scare you, thus making fear an optional concept, I choose not to be fearful.  I’m scared of water, so I completed an open water swim, I’m scared of pregnant women (feel free to continue reading when you’ve finished laughing) I’ve done pilates surrounded by pregnant ladies. In the build up to surgery I had no fear of the surgery, I’d done my research, had confidence in the medical professionals, I put myself in a position not to be fearful. Recovery can be treated in a similar way. Right now I have a choice, I can sit back, rest and do nothing or I can actively participate in the process do what I can, listen to my body and give it what it needs to recover. I choose to take control, to move forward, to be better physically and mentally.

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They say it takes 6 weeks to resume “normal” activities post-hysterectomy, which means today is the half way mark. In reality the 6 week mark will just be the start, the journey back to the activities I miss will be much longer. I miss the feeling of setting a workout, hitting the point where your body is screaming at you to stop and having the strength of mind to keep pushing through. I miss the feeling of sitting under a bar, legs threatening to give way and still finding a way to stand tall. Strangely, I miss the feeling of being on a run, lungs burning, legs feeling like they’re stuck in treacle and hitting that zone where nothing else matters, the minutes fly by as you empty your mind whilst contemplating life’s problems. I can’t understand why people take drugs when these feelings are freely available through physical efforts. With my main goal this year (rat Race Dirty Weekend) already ruled out I’m currently setting out to fill the next few months with as many challenges as possible, after all what says “F**k you” to fibroids and surgery better than pushing yourself through obstacles and challenges with a smile on your face?

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Prior to surgery many of the forums I read talked of a great sense of loss that women feel following a hysterectomy. The loss of ever being able to carry children and frequently the loss of feeling like a woman, the loss of “womanhood”. I often questioned the inevitability of these thoughts, after all I knew I didn’t want to carry children and keeping my ovaries would keep hormone levels relatively stable. Would the surgery really change how I feel about myself as a woman? Three weeks on and these feelings are nowhere to be felt. Am I any less of a woman because I’m missing a few organs? I guess that depends on how you look at things. Biologically yes, without my uterus, cervix and tubes I am less of a woman but in reality? My point of view is that being a strong woman is about being strong physically, mentally and having strength of character. Physically I’m doing whatever my body allows, mentally there have been good days and bad days but I keep working on my frustrations and occasional emotional outbursts, however no matter what challenge I’ve faced I’ve stayed true to myself and that, I believe, is what makes me a strong woman!

 

Another cancellation – Where to next?

This year one of the challenges I’ve set myself is to not get angry or worry about things that I have no influence over. If only I’d have known how challenging this would be.

I’ve tried to be honest throughout these blogs, whether the focus has been on fitness, events, feelings or physical well being and plan to continue this throughout this journey to surgery, recovery and back to fitness. So here is an update on my recent experiences and their impacts.

When my operation was cancelled for the second time I found it tough to move on and carry on with everyday life, just waiting for the third date. The constant questioning and sympathetic looks or comments that are well meaning just wound me up. So when the hospital called with a new date I told very few people. In the build up I tried to remain positive, “third time lucky” and all that. Despite my best efforts I don’t think I every truly committed myself to the possibility of the surgery actually happening, I was anxious about the surgery but more scared of the feeling of disappointment at another cancellation. Things began to feel real the night before, packing my hospital bag I was left wrestling with myself, was I really prepared? Am I really patient and disciplined enough for this recovery process? Would it actually happen?

The morning of the surgery I got up half an hour before I was due to fast to eat some fruit, then went back to bed contemplating what the day ahead might bring. The nerves really hit in when the phone rang. I recognised the number immediately. My heart sank. With trepidation, I answered and to my surprise it was the nurse asking if I could go in early. After discussing my breakfast, it was decided that an earlier slot wasn’t an option but I was reassured everything looked positive. Arriving on the ward everything felt real, the journey to “normality” would soon begin. We sat and waited in the reception area watching other visitors eat and drink and come and go for their appointments, one and a half hours we sat there with the only update coming when I asked the receptionist what was happening – “they are just waiting for the bed to be ready” I was told. The longer we sat there the more convinced I was that not all was well.

A voice I recognised called my name, it was the nurse that had called me 24 days previously to cancel my operation. We went into a side room where she began “it’s not good news I’m afraid”, following it with something about a bed crisis. To be honest I didn’t really listen to her, and my response was not particularly positive, how many times can this happen? what happens now? and how much longer do I have to live through this? She explained that these decisions were not taken lightly and when we fired a response of how long can this go on for she confirmed that actually cancelling “electives” was becoming normality over the past few months (note to self must time needing the NHS outside of the bed crisis next time). She could offer no other advice, no clue as to where I go from this point, other than confirming that my operation wouldn’t be happening within the next 4 days and would therefore fall outside of the NHS 28 day pledge. Her only other comment was that the surgeon (who had never spoken to me let alone met me) wanted to know why I had chosen a myomectomy over hysterectomy – Do they really think this was an appropriate time for this discussion? I left the room with anger, frustration, confusion and sadness all flying around in my head, I wanted to scream, shout, kick and punch yet here I was sent away with no answers, no support (other than a leaflet) and expected to just get on with it.

I called St James hospital Patient Advise and Lisason Service (PALS), these guys apparently deal with complaints and ease concerns over issues such as operations cancelled at short notice. The lady I spoke to was quick to comment that my experience was “not good”. She then told me she had logged the issue and someone would be in touch within two working days, since this was a Friday it would be Tuesday before I heard anything – this also happened to be the 28th day from the previous cancellation. Why did I feel like I had just called a helpline and reported my kitchen appliance wasn’t working? Not happy with this response I called Leeds west CCG, the response? Pretty much the same only I would be left until Wednesday for a response.

Tuesday arrived and no response, I called, left a message and eventually got a call back from a woman who was as rude and patronising a woman as I have ever spoken to, she gave me the feeling that I really was nothing but an annoyance to her. She offered no advice, no date, no new information other than I needed a new pre-op assessment and that “they were not working to the 28 day pledge”, that was that! When I asked her whether she would be happy if her family member had received the service I had, she told me she could no longer help, a manager would call me back and the phone went dead. Yes St James this is your PALS service, I’m sure you are proud! Leeds west CCG was just as helpful with continuous empty promises of phone calls back. I found myself a week on with no answers – for those counting that’s 7 of the 28 days wasted.

Desperate to make some progress I took matters into my own hands, called the secretary of my original surgeon. In that phone call I had a (potential) new date and a phone consultation with the surgeon. If I could do this in one phone call why was the hospitals own organisations having so much difficulty? The date was some weeks off and so I continued along the PALS and CCG route in the hope of a sooner date. After numerous more phone calls I finally received a call from Emily – GM of women’s services. Firstly, thank you for actually apologising and at least acting as if you were listening to my concerns. Unfortunately, the information you gave was so far from reality it could be filed in the “fiction” department.  I was given a new date, a number of a secretary to call to arrange a pre-op and everything looked hopeful. I called the number and was told the list for that date was full and there was no way I would be placed on it since…..wait for it……none of that surgeons cases ever gets cancelled – not only that but (in her words) it shows how out of touch management is because she doesn’t even deal with pre-ops. Imagine, if you will, you are a patient that has had numerous cancelled surgeries, you are given hope, made to feel like someone was actually listening and trying to help then you get this response.

The final straw for me was calling the CCG to tell them about the call with Emily and subsequent disappointment of false information. I explained how I’d arranged a surgery date and a phone consultation but just needed help arranging a pre-op, I’ll look into it and call you back was the response. Less than an hour later I actually received a call back, “Good news” it started, now here I was thinking they’ve sorted everything out, everything will be moving forward someone is actually going to help. Then she continued, I had been moved from the surgeon who’s list was full to my original surgeons list and her secretary would call to arrange a pre-op. Hardly good news and proof of just how well they listen since this was the information I actually called to tell them earlier. Hoping for something useful to come out of the conversation, I asked what the chance of the surgery happening and what happens if it’s cancelled again – the response well we just have to hope that it’s not and if it is call her back. With that my “complaint” was closed.

Throughout the past two weeks of calling numerous people, waiting for call backs, listening to empty promises, trying to arrange operation dates, pre-ops etc, I still had to hold down a job, manage constantly fluctuation emotions, pain and fatigue as well as holding myself together while every Tom, Dick and Harry gave useless advice or commented on how frustrated they were. Not exactly a walk in the park.

I’m aware that there are individuals in greater need of a bed than myself, but I’m also aware of those that are medically fit but in need of social care beds or care packages that are left in hospital beds because of issues within these systems. My frustrations – beyond the obvious of 3 cancelled surgeries, 2 on the day, 1 whilst actually on the ward – if as stated by the staff this is becoming a common issue there must be an outlet that is able to deal with those of us lost in a cycle of preparation, disappointment and uncertainty. A complaint/liaison service that allows people to express concerns and have these dealt with in a swift and reassuring manner should be the corner stone of any organisation with such fragile systems.  This is not the first time we have experienced a bed crisis in the NHS, nor will it be the last!

Taking it easy Vs Being sensible

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This blog was supposed to be a review of, what would likely have been, a great afternoon of fun at The Suffering, 6 months and 7 days before the big one, Rat race Dirty Weekend . However rather than a tale of excitement and fun, feats of endurance and strength as I dragged myself and family through what looked like an adults playground, this blog is about road blogs, sulking and geeking out!

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With my final Obstacle run of 2016 just days away and excitement building my body gave me a sharp reminder that not all is well, Body 1 – Fun 0! It may have been a shift at work involving lots of lifting, stubbornness at pilates (Note to self – that look and “is that ok” question actually means “try the lower option”) or it may have been the culmination of a busy training week. Whatever the reason the result was the same, a missed weekend with the family and an unused race entry. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement, and even by my relatively unsociable standards, I have been in serious need of an “approach with caution” sign above my head as I pulled off a rather impressive angry elf impression.

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Two days of sulking and being fed up is over, it’s time to return to being grateful for the progress I’ve made and look forward to the remaining journey to the Full Mucker. Six months, six days and 12 hours to prepare for a challenge that will test endurance, strength and guts. Plenty of time in normal circumstances however, in just over a months time I am expecting to undergo abdominal surgery with a 6-8 week recovery period. Yes that is cutting it fine, but I like a challenge.

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I’ve written before about controlling my competitive/stubborn streak and although I still need to work on that I am making progress. More and more I’m able to ignore others and focus on myself, my form and my movements. Despite this shift in attitude friends and family still insist on telling me to “take it easy” something I find difficult to understand when it comes to training.

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How much progress can actually be made by “taking it easy”? My thinking is not much! So here lies the problem, how can I make progress towards my goals of being in the best shape possible for surgery, facilitating my recovery and preparation for the rat race weekend whilst not aggravating my current circumstances. As a geek knowledge and understanding are my tools of choice, my thinking being, that if you understand how and why things work it’s easier to make informed decisions, make the most of training time and avoid anything that might aggrevate or detract from training. So this weekend my kindle has taken a hammering, a reading list containing texts on calisthenics, Heart rate training, Yoga and pilates  has been created as I look to plan my training for the next month in the most “sensible” way I know. Stay tuned to find out if it works or if the angry elf returns.

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Why I’m doing what I’m doing

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Accept, adapt and overcome. 

Training has always been an escape, an opportunity to forget “real life” and just focus on one more rep or putting one foot in front of the other. Lately though it’s not been that way, it’s a battle, a battle between what I want to do and what I can do pain free. It’s a balancing act between being stubborn and pushing myself within limits. The truth is training in accordance with common advice on exercising with fibroids is frustrating, in reality nobody knows my body as well as me. Having initially been advised against high impact, heavy lifting and core work. What I’ve found is that whilst running is fine cycling is a form of slow painful torture resulting in abdominal pain for up to 48hours. Lifting and core work is more complicated certain exercises are fine others aren’t, anything face down is off limits whereas anything overhead is fine.  Every workout is a lesson and that’s what I’m trying to take from this period, even if, at times, I’m frustrated, annoyed and want to hide  away kicking and screaming (does that count as cardio?), I’m hopefully this experience will also make me more understanding when helping others on their fitness journey.


So what has my training involved? Running Wise I’ve dropped the volume and frequency whilst aiming to maintain some consistency. I’ve discovered that I can actually swim(ish), prior to he summer holidays 4 lengths would leave me knackered, I’m now up to 60 lengths, happy days. I have also found a fantastic ladies fitness class based in Whiterose crossfit, Horsforth. The ladies are so welcoming and the class allows you to work as hard as you want, usually whilst using what little breath you have left to have a laugh. There have been some tough workouts that have pushed me to the limits. I’m looking forward to more sessions with this great bunch.


Overall I’m learning to have some patience, to take a workout, listen to my body, adapt exercises when I need to and keep pushing forwards. This will, I’m sure, be tested this weekend at my first Spartan Race, there will be obstacles, there will be burpees and there there will be fun. Bring it on.