Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Fitness Journey: End of Year Report 2013

Since I wrote an “End of Year Report” for My Fitness Journey last year, it only seems appropriate to write one for this year also. However, this year has been a completely NEW journey. If you had told me at the end of December 2012 that I would be dealing with breast cancer in 2013, I would not have believed it. But, such is life; filled with twists and turns we must face.

The first five months of the year I made very good progress. I didn't lose a great deal of weight, but I gained strength and toned in places I hadn't seen look like that in a LONG time. I worked hard and had pride in the gains I was making.

I had my routine mammogram the last week in April. I also tore my left meniscus the same week. I didn't stop exercising, but I changed the way I did things. Admittedly, it slowed me down a bit. I was called back for a repeat mammogram, but I have been called back so many times that I wanted to talk to the same doctor that I talked to last year. We couldn't find a time that we could both be there at the hospital at the same time (he does a lot of seminars and such), so I agreed to the repeat (ultrasound) with another doctor.

I did the repeat on May 25, was biopsied May 30, diagnosed June 3 and in surgery for a lumpectomy June 10. I froze my gym membership for a time, and concentrated on recovery from surgery. I returned to work July 1. I began radiation treatment August 5 and ended September 19. It was good to exercise at the gym during the month of August and September. However, by October, I was at a place of fatigue I had never known. I became ill with an upper respiratory infection that lasted six weeks. I literally had to take two more weeks off without pay, just to get well. I again froze my gym membership.

I gained some weight during radiation treatment, even while I was exercising; and then I had to be on two new medications, Arimidex—an estrogen blocker—which I will take for 3-5 years; and Prozac, which is helping me manage other aspects of my life. While I learned to eat differently, and made the best choices possible, eventually my weight leveled off, at about 10-12 lbs more than the day I was diagnosed.

I am not worried about it. Writing this in December, I AM finally feeling better and I will return to the fitness club in January. I may be starting over in many ways, and I will take it slow. The last thing I need is another injury now.

However, there is one thought I would like to leave with you at this time. If I had NOT been exercising and concentrating on fitness; where would I have been when it came to fighting cancer? It certainly has not been a typical year, but I am at a better place today because of the fitness habits that I adopted in 2012 and the first half of 2013. There’s no doubt about it!

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Day The Cloud Lifted

I knew this day was different. I didn't get a full eight hours sleep. I was awake during the middle of the night as the cheesecake that I had for dessert tried to figure out just where in my digestive system it wanted to rest for a while. It was cold in the late fall morning, and although awake, it was hard to get out of my nice warm bed.

However, once I did, I felt different. I felt like a cloud had lifted and quietly, I was me again.

It has been over fifteen years since I felt this way.

I have dealt with sleep disorders in this blog before. You can find the former entry here. However, I had it backwards. I can remember the time that my depression started. The sleep disorders followed in a relatively short time. I always said, “I’m not so depressed that a couple of good night’s sleep in a row won’t solve the problem.”

I went to three doctors for my sleep disorders. I was given an anti-anxiety medication, and sold a CPAP machine. I used the CPAP for almost a year, and it just didn't work. The anti-anxiety medication was handy. It allowed me to fall back to sleep after waking up, but I never felt rested. I should say, I rarely felt rested. The secondary effect of this medication is that I could watch my son pitch in baseball and not have my stomach in knots. No other sport made me that anxious.

So time marched on, and eventually thirteen years later, I knew that I needed to have a conversation with a clinician about this medication. It wasn't working anymore; what were my options? I never went back to the sleep doctors, which by practice are psychiatrists (or physician’s assistants within a practice). My general practitioner didn't want to take this on, correctly so. I made an appointment to see another psychiatrist.

That appointment was the day after I learned that I had breast cancer. I called the doctor's office and told them that this problem needed to be put on the back burner, and we all agreed.

Fast forward five months to the day. I had an appointment with this psychiatrist. She approached the whole situation differently. Because I am also a "professional," I wrote out “notes” for her; noting dates, treatments (sleep studies) and yes, I named doctors—one of which I am sure she knows, although we did not discuss it. My notes began at the time of my sleep problems.

She went further. She dug deeper. My father had been depressed before committing suicide. My brother was a schizophrenic and also depressed. I have cancer. She said (more or less), “I can’t believe three clinicians did not get into your history. We cannot ignore this!” and later, “Why WOULDN'T you be depressed?”

So, the first step is to prescribe an anti-depressant. By this time, I was ready to listen. As a professional, I understand what SSRIs do. SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. I was going to try and shorten this explanation, but I found it so informative, that I copied it verbatim.

In normal function of the brain, messages are carried back and forth between brain cells by specialized messengers known as neurotransmitters. These messengers consist of highly specialized chemicals and carry specific messages based on their chemical compositions. When the neurotransmitter has completed transmission of its message, it is absorbed back into a brain neuron in a process known as reuptake; this process allows the brain to transmit messages and reabsorb chemicals as a way of regulating its internal operations.

One of the highly specialized chemicals that serves as a neurotransmitter in the brain is known as serotonin. Although there are numerous chemicals in the brain that regulate numerous mental and physical functions, serotonin is specifically linked to mood, sleep regulation, emotions and feelings. If the serotonin neurotransmitter experiences the reuptake process too quickly, the brain's natural serotonin levels can become out of balance and disrupt the issues regulated by the chemical. A shortage of serotonin, commonly linked to an accelerated reuptake process, is a primary cause of depression.

Reuptake Inhibition
SSRIs, an abbreviation for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, help a patient control the issues regulated by the serotonin neurotransmitter. SSRI drugs work by slowing (or completely blocking) the reuptake process in brain neurons, effectively increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. With more serotonin present, the brain can more efficiently transmit messages regarding sleep, mood, emotions and feelings; this efficient transfer of messages using the serotonin neurotransmitter helps control symptoms of depression.

Read more:

If you or your best friend or relative are taking Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa or Lexapro, you are taking a SSRI. This is how they work.

It takes time, usually from 4-6 weeks to fully get into your system.

I was prescribed 20 mg of Prozac a day for starters and scheduled to see her in four weeks.

Today was one day less than three weeks. This morning life looked differently.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Derges' Digest 2013

All of us on New Year's Eve.
We rang in the New Year 2013 on a high note with the wedding of our son, Joel and daughter-in-law, Lindsey on New Year’s Eve. The wedding was held in their church in New Carlisle, and the reception was held in the basement of the old Wren’s building in Springfield, which was marvelously transformed into a black and white elegant event.

The first part of the year included: redecorating our basement within 8 days of the wedding, and going to Greenon ladies basketball games, which our son was coaching. It was fun to watch them win the league championship for the second year in a row.

I went to the fitness club with a vengeance. I did three boot camps and one personal training session a week. Usually, I exercised 5-6 days every week. I was feeling strong, although I wished that I was losing more weight. One day in April, when I walked further on the treadmill than I had in many years, I realized that something had happened. I saw the orthopedic surgeon and after x-rays he said I had a “slight” torn meniscus. Nothing we needed to worry about at the time.

That same week I had my annual mammogram. Then, I needed a repeat. I repeated on May 25th, was biopsied May 30th, diagnosed June 3rd and in surgery June 10th. It was stage 0-1 breast cancer and I had an excellent prognosis. Radiation was the treatment recommended. Let’s do this and move on.

I went back to work the first of July, and radiation began August 5th and ended September 19th. I felt that I did well with it. That was until the sixth of seven weeks, when I hit the wall. I cut back hours at work, went on a postponed trip to the Smokies with an upper respiratory infection, then returned to work, only to realize that I needed a couple of weeks off just to get well! I look forward to 2014, so that I can focus on my better eating habits, get back to the gym (maybe not with such a vengeance) and generally concentrate on my health.

This is my "60th Birthday" picture.
Jerry has added a third day of volunteering at the Springfield Regional Medical Center and occasionally subs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He was awesome through my surgery and recovery and has been with me during decision-making times with the oncologists. He has done very little that he wanted to do this year, other than taking care of me, and his volunteering.

The biggest news with our son is that he got a full-time job with Tipp City Exempted Village Schools. He is an Intervention Specialist, and Defensive Coordinator for their varsity football team, which went 10-0 during the regular season and was the regional runner-up in SW Ohio for Division III; further than the school had ever gone in playoffs. He and Lindsey are in the process of building a home closer to that area. They are using the same builder that we did, so we know it will be a fine product. They hope to move in April 2014. They also got a dog, Lily—our third “grand-animal.”

Yes, she has Grandpa wrapped!
Our daughter Jessica’s family is doing well as our son-in-law Brent moved from one insurance company to another company, in Columbus. Jess ran marathons and actually was a trainer for the October Columbus Marathon. She ran her personal best and a sub-four hour time in the (Fairborn) Air Force Marathon in September. Our granddaughter, Kyah, turned two in June and is as cute as a button. She takes little vacations with Grandma and Grandpa and we also FaceTime with her, a skill that we are all still learning.

We had the “big” Thanksgiving with Jerry’s entire family at our nephew’s church in Kenton. We do this every other year. This is the first in many years that I have not sung in a Christmas program, and I do miss it, but next year, I plan to be back! I am hosting my annual High School Class Christmas Party on December 10th and look forward to that.

It should be a much quieter Christmas Season since there is no son moving out and no wedding to plan, but that’s OK. It’s all part of the circle of life.

May God bless you and your loved ones during this season. Remember why we do this!