Angel of Mine

Nearly 7 months have passed and it still doesn’t feel real. Today, April 29, would’ve been your birthday. Instead of being in a hospital holding you in my arms, I sit here with tears in my eyes and a heaviness in my heart. I’ll never get to know who you would’ve turned out to be. I never got to see a sonogram picture or hear a heartbeat. I had many vivid dreams that you were a girl and while I never got actual proof of that, I know you would’ve been the most adorable baby anyone had ever seen. I hoped that you’d have your daddy’s blue eyes & light hair to go with the same outgoing, fun personality that we both have. I may not have had confirmation of your gender but I had a beautiful name in mind, should you have been the little girl in my dreams. You weren’t around long, but you changed your mommy & daddy’s life, as they knew it, forever. I may not know much for sure…but I do know that you were loved more than you can imagine.

Today marks the end of National Infertility Week. I am 1 in 4. This is by far the hardest blog I’ve ever written. I’ve made the attempt to type everything out & share this story several times over the last few months but I just couldn’t bring myself to write finish it. However, I know how isolating this feels and if sharing my story can help even one person out there to know they aren’t alone…it’s worth the pain it takes to write. After all, with experience comes knowledge & knowledge should shared.

I don’t cry as much these days but I still feel a sadness & emptiness inside. It’s a heaviness that’s hard to describe. I don’t have as many “bad” days and that may be due, in part, to the face that I’ve also come to realize that God may have, in fact, “known better.” As the weeks and months went by, I continued to feel physical pain in my lower abdomen which got progressively worse. After seeking help from two different doctors and having numerous tests, they found a polyp in my uterus which had to be removed via hysteroscopy. While there isn’t any way to know for sure, my doctor believes this could have led to my loss. I try to take comfort in knowing that my little one could’ve been harmed had it not happened. I also know that had it not happened I wouldn’t have investigated…and gotten answers to my on-going health issues.

Let’s back up. Throughout high school, I suffered tremendously every month. I had pain so bad that I would be doubled over in the nurse’s office, often leading to my going home. After high school, I had an episode of pain so bad that the college I was at in upstate NY thought I had appendicitis and rushed me to the ER. It wasn’t appendicitis and I was sent home. A few days later I went to a gynecologist who found cysts and after several tests, diagnosed me with PCOS. I was put on birth control and my symptoms were pretty much under control thereafter.

This past summer, despite birth control and all logic…I got pregnant. I was really scared. Not about having the baby…but about carrying it. I suffered a miscarriage in my early 20s, while on the birth control patch (why was that a thing?!) and combined with my age and PCOS…I knew it was a recipe for a repeat. Still, I did what I could to take care of myself. The pee-stick tests were all coming back negative (aside from one that had a very slight pink line) and a very early sonogram didn’t show anything. Why didn’t I go for a blood test? I don’t know. I thought a sonogram would be better…just in case I wasn’t actually pregnant. I was wrong. I had severe morning sickness and an adversion to coffee (of all things). I was also starting to get a little pooch and my boobs…well, they came back to life in the most painful way. I should’ve had the blood test to get the confirmation and extra care that I probably needed. I won’t lie – that has weighed heaviest on me. I genuinely thought that I was doing the right thing but maybe had we had the full confirmation, I could’ve been under a doctor’s care sooner & prevented what happened. I know that’s ridiculous and that ultimately these things can’t be prevented. Still, when you go through this type of loss you have feelings of guilt & genuinely blame yourself. It takes a long time to come to grips that there was really nothing you could’ve done.  Hell I still have days where I wonder if I could’ve done something different. That helpless feeling doesn’t make the situation any easier – it actually makes it worse. No one talks about that…but it’s real.

The reality of pregnancy was sinking in and I was getting really excited about this little one. Despite being so sick that I could barely eat or function normally, I knew it would be worth it in the end. Little did I know that the end..and my worst fear…would come just 8/9 weeks later. Early October came…and so did the bleeding. At first, it wasn’t a lot of blood so I didn’t think too much of it but within hours I was all but hemorrhaging. Knowing how the hospitals around me are..I waited it out a little. I figured if the bleeding slowed down, I’d be okay. The blood was extremely heavy, soaking through pad after pad. Still, I waited a little while. It didn’t totally slow down but within a few hours, it slowed enough to where I didn’t think that I needed to go. What I knew for sure was that it wasn’t a regular period by any means – especially when I saw the grayish mass. I knew what was happening. I was losing my baby.

A sonogram and blood test a couple of weeks later confirmed it. The weeks and months that followed were some of the hardest that I’ve ever had to go through. I put on my game face and went to work every single day but the minute I’d get in my car…I’d be inconsolable. Thankfully, I had a great support system/partner by my side through it all. I truly don’t know how I would have made it without him. The whole situation was hard on both of us, for very different reasons. The holidays, which came about a month later, were especially hard on me but once New Years came I made up my mind to not bring this sadness into 2018 and to give the guy…and myself…a break from it all.

Throughout this whole ordeal, I was experiencing dull to moderate pain in my lower abdomen. I didn’t think much of it, figuring this is what happens after a miscarriage sometimes. However, as the months went by, the pain got worse. I sought out a new doctor who, after 2 sonograms, told me I needed a hysteroscopy to remove a polyp in my uterus. Once removed, they would biopsy this polyp for cancer. That word completely shook me. We went ahead with the procedure and I was a nervous wreck. First I lose a baby…now a cancer scare. A couple of weeks later, I had another sonogram and follow up for my results. Thankfully, it wasn’t cancer. However, the pain persisted and while I do have cysts (common from my PCOS), they shouldn’t cause this much grief. My doctor sent me to another gynecologist who specializes in pain management, specifically that of pelvic pain & endometriosis. After a very thorough consultation and examination, she determined that I most likely have endometriosis. She even told me that my “appendix pain,” something that I’ve suffered with since the age of 18, was one of the most common and classic symptoms of a person with endo. She put me on a hormone treatment, which is essentially birth control but with progestin instead of estrogen. She also put me on a regimen of Aleve to manage my pain better. It’s her hope to prolong the surgery, or laparoscopy, as long as we can.

As far as the loss goes, I have been getting better everyday but now that the actual due date is here, I’m a mess all over again. Truth is, this shook me more than anything ever has. With every passing day and sharp pain that I feel, I worry that I may not be able to have babies at all. The doctors all feel otherwise, stating that getting pregnant is the hardest part and clearly I didn’t have that issue. However, I’m more concerned for my ability to carry the baby to term. There’s no way to even determine that…and it kills me. We’ve come so far in so many ways with medicine but we’re so behind in others. Women can suffer numerous losses and not have an explanation why…just because everything “looks good” or “shouldn’t be a problem.” It’s horrible.

Losing a baby at any stage of pregnancy is by far the hardest thing a woman has to face. What people don’t realize is that you form a bond with that baby immediately. Your body starts to change. You start making these plans and daydreaming about what your baby will look like & grow up to be. Then, in the blink of an eye, it’s over. Sometimes it feels like a bad dream that I can’t wake up from.

To anyone reading this, please know that you aren’t alone. Your feelings are valid – you aren’t crazy. Despite what you may think or feel…this really isn’t your fault. Most people, including your partner, can’t understand how this feels and while they may try to be supportive, it doesn’t make it better. Above all please remember, you don’t have to “get over it” until you are ready. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! The healing process differs for everyone and its no ones right to dictate how long that should take. Allow yourself time to be sad but don’t stop living. I have gone through the motions for months, living my life the way I always have. I know that one day things will feel normal again – and I look forward to that day for me…& for you.

Stay strong ❤

-Gina

*In loving memory of my angel baby, ‘Baby R’, and all of the other angel babies watching over us in Heaven*

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Road to Recovery – 1 year later

 

From day one to now

 

June 2014 – After training for months, I took part in the ROC race (think of the tv show, Wipeout). I trained like I had for Spartan races, focusing on my upper body above all. The day came and I was ready. I flew through the obstacles and then I got to the monkey bars. Historically, I was never any good at those. I was the little kid who’s parents had to hold her as she went across. But that wasn’t gonna stop me. I trained hard, doing many pull-ups. I could do this! I made it half way without a problem. Then I felt something pop and burn. I grabbed my shoulder and let myself fall. I shook it off and continued the race, finishing all smiles. In the weeks and months that followed, that smile quickly faded. At first I thought maybe I pulled a muscle or something…but it wasn’t getting any better. I continued to workout and work around my injury until one day I realized there was no muscle growth on my bad arm. I couldn’t take it any more.

October 7, 2016 – I finally went under the knife to repair a nagging shoulder injury. After trying my best for two years to rehab and “fix” it on my own, I realized that my injury only getting worse. I went to the doctor and was immediately sent for a MRI, which revealed that I had a torn labrum and, because I waited so long, a frayed rotator cuff. The doctor was clear that while I didn’t HAVE to get surgery, the longer I wait the worse it will get…and the less likely I would be to get back to full strength. So I begrudgingly scheduled the surgery.

I’ve never had a broken bone much less surgery like this before. I had my tonsils out when I was 11 or 12 but nothing like this. Despite being clumsy my entire life, I somehow managed to escape the ER. Yet here I was – ready to undergo surgery. I wasn’t so much nervous for the actual surgery as I was for the recovery. I wasn’t wrong.

The surgery itself went fairly well, despite a nonsensical hiccup at the hospital the morning of. I was given a nerve block, meaning my entire arm was numb and feeling fantastic post-op. Until around 3am anyway. They say you should stay ahead of the pain and medicate. I didn’t want to overuse the drugs that I was given…so I didn’t listen. Big mistake. I learned good from that though and made sure to keep ahead of things for the next couple of days. I was religated to sleeping on a recliner for that first week…and almost a month in total. I couldn’t lay down without being in terrible pain so I gave up and slept like that. It killed my back but at least I was able to get some rest.

One week later, I went back for my first follow-up. I was given a clunky, yet very sturdy, sling/support device. I was also told that I couldn’t drive for at least another week, meaning I couldn’t go to work. I hate to sit still so this killed me. It’s important to note that I’m right handed…and the surgery was on my right shoulder. So this meant EVERYTHING was a chore. Basic things like showering and eating became a ridiculous task. 2 weeks after surgery I was able to return to work and begin getting back to “normal.” Which…wasn’t much. I couldn’t do many tasks at my job and I had to drive with my left hand (no sling could be worn…which hurt more than one may think). It wasn’t easy at all but I was determined. I also began physical therapy twice a week, which was a godsend. They got me moving again and helped me regain my strength.

Little by little, with the help of PT, I was able to get back to normal. A couple of months later, my insurance decided to stop paying for PT and that was that. I kept at it on my own, best I could. I had the idea of enlisting help from my co-worker, who specializes in massage therapy along with personal training. I knew that I needed help with correcting the bad form that I created and while I may be a trainer myself, it’s much more difficult to correct things on yourself. See, over the two years that I was injured I had to adapt and make changes to compensate for the pain. Some I knew I was doing…but many I didn’t. So I got the help that I needed and was well on my way to pain-free workouts…or so I thought.

March 1, 2017 – just under 5 months post-op and I was cleared for all physical activity. The doctor was really impressed with my progress, saying that I was healing faster than most. I wasn’t given any restrictions!  Sounds great, right? It was…except I know no limits and paid the price for that. I began working out the same as I always had…which produced the same pain it had in the past. As I write this, my eyes are rolling HARD. It was stupid to stop the PT warmups and just jump full speed ahead. People tried to tell me that – I didn’t listen. The following month, I began my 6 week summer shred. I went balls to the wall in my workouts and by the end I looked great…but my arm was killing me.

I went back to the doctor, fearful that I did serious damage again. Lucky for me, doc didn’t think I did anything to my shoulder but he did think that I was suffering from some bicep tendinitis. I was told to scale back my workouts and to rest more. This completely deflated me.

Since then, I haven’t worked out much. I do weekly workout videos and often feel pain in the days that follow. It’s extremely discouraging but I have decided enough is enough. I was able to get back to full strength in just under 5 months…so I damn sure can get there again. I’m not the most patient person but I’m learning how to be better. I began my PT regimen over the weekend and my plan is to do that 3-4x per week (not counting other workouts). I will also enlist the help of my coworker again- not so much for the corrective stuff but for the magical ART work that he does.

I want to ease my shoulder back into things this time. Knowing how I get, I’ve decided to work towards a couple of goals to keep me motivated. My first goal is to do pull-ups again…and do them unassisted. After all, they were one of my favorite exercises. I’m pretty sure that’s how I blew my shoulder out but maybe if I don’t overtrain and do it right, I can do them better than before. Another goal of mine is to do another Spartan race. That’s not on the forfront as I’m a little skiddish about hurting myself unnecessarily…but it IS something I’d love to do again. Lastly, and maybe most important, my goal is to have pain-free workouts. That is going to require A LOT of patience but I’m going to do my very best.

This injury has taught me many valuable lessons. I need to be patient and truly trust the process. I don’t do myself any favors rushing things. No one tells you how hard this is mentally. Everyone focuses so much on the physical aspect that the mental is all but forgotten. After going through this myself, I’ll tell you the mental is so much more important. If you can’t will yourself through the pain and will yourself to do the work, you’ll never recover. It’s truly a testimony of your inner strength so much more than physical.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an injury or injury recovery, know that it DOES get better. Take the time you need to rest and really take the time to get to know your body. It’s a long process but you will come out on the other side…stronger than before.

Until next time, stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

Turning a Setback into a Comeback

img_0451Happy holidays everyone!! I am a little over 2 months post-op and I’m feeling great!! Slowly but surely I’m getting back to normalcy. My pain is almost non-existent and I have been using real weights in physical therapy!! I’m amazed by how quickly I’ve been able to bounce back…and how little pain I experience daily.

Now that I have a semi-normal routine again, here’s how it goes: Mondays and Thursdays is physical therapy. Each session lasts about 45 minutes, during which time I start with the arm bike then proceed on to more fun activities 🙂  I usually start with the seated row followed by lat pulldowns. As of this week, I’m up to 50lbs on the row – which is more than ever before! For the pulldowns, I’m typically at 40lbs but on a good day we go a little heavier. After 3 sets of 10 on both machines, I move along to use the TRX bands which I use for two exercises – The T and The Y.


I always hated TRX and with my current situation, it’s that much worse. Still, I do what I’m told so as to get back to doing what I love on my own. After the TRX (and a healthy dose of complaining), I head over to the tables where get stretched and do a few sets of dumbbell exercises. These include side raises, shoulder extension, and external rotation. Then I stand up to do jumping jacks…without jumping but with weights. My weights for all of these exercises range from 7lbs down to 3, depending on my pain tolerance (which my therapist gauges from the faces I make, since I rarely complain about the weight itself). I also do a swimming exercise, which I must say, is probably one of the most miserable things I’ve done yet. However, like everything else I’m sure a month from now I will sing a different tune. I drop to the floor for a few rounds of shoulder push-ups (or cat-cow) followed by plank to push-up. Lastly, is the VERY best part – ICE!


Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been cleared for any cardio that I desire…so I’ve been taking advantage of that by doing it on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Last week, I also got cleared to begin doing bicep curls and tricep pushdowns on my own! Since all of this is happening, I have begun the process of meal prepping so as to keep my diet in check. I haven’t weighed myself but the transformation I’ve seen in just a couple weeks is crazy!

It’s not perfect but it’s some serious progress! I am SO much further along in my recovery than I ever dreamed. So while I’m not where I wanna be….this is a DAMN good start! The biggest struggle for me thus far has been overcoming the mental aspect. I’ve been out of commission, workout wise, for several months. Seeing how my metabolism works, I know that if I don’t workout I will gain weight. And unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. I worked really hard to get where I am and have been working tirelessly to build a career based on helping others do the same. Seeing myself slide backwards wasn’t pretty but I made it through. As with everything else, whatever struggle or hardship we face often makes us stronger in the end. So rather than dwell on the negatives, I’m taking my setback and using it to form my biggest comeback yet! If you are facing any obstacle, I challenge you to do the same. After all, pain is temporary…but quitting lasts forever.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

Gina

 

Living with Invisible Illness

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My life and my journey has taken a very different turn over these last few months. Some issues in my professional life as well as some family health concerns have led me here. Back to a place I never thought I would be again.

Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, is miserable. There is no way to sugarcoat it…no magic words…it just sucks. Everyday is a new adventure in how bad your body feels or how exhausted you are…when on outside you look perfectly fine. People don’t understand…and it turns into the explain game. This can be very isolating..and very depressing. For me, coping with the CFS combined with my PCOS as well as IBS and other undiagnosed stomach issues has really done a number on me. I have had many more bad days than good since the summer but here I stand – ready to fight back.

I’ve lived with this illness for about 10 years. I never had mono or any other condition that would give me this. I have had periods of very high stress. Which is exactly what this summer brought me…and has continued to bring me up until now. I went from losing my job and caring for parents who are not well (and who live an hour away) to taking on two jobs and working 12+ hour days during the week as well as weekends…plus caring for my parents whenever possible. My body shut down. It literally gave me a big middle finger and said no more.

Perhaps I was kidding myself or I just didn’t want to admit it…but this relapse actually began over the summer. I was so tired that I couldn’t function…and no amount of sleep seemed to make that better. I know that CFS never really goes away but I truly believed that mine was cured. Silly, I know, but like it or not it’s back…and now it’s time to figure out how to cope with it in my daily life.

The first step has been to take control of my professional life. It’s not healthy to work almost 70 hours per week. It also isn’t realistic to think anyone could sustain that. So, after struggling for months with a very compromising work schedule, I’ve decided to take a leap of faith to embark upon a career that I set out for almost two years ago. I have begun the process of getting my personal trainer certification! I left one of the more demanding jobs so that I could throw myself full-throttle into this new career venture and, for once, be happy with my job. I am hoping that this lends itself to my feeling better and getting back on track.

Another issue that’s been plaguing me is that I have not been to the gym in a very long time. Very long meaning a few months. This has me extremely concerned. My metabolism is VERY slow and with the lack of exercise lately, I am worried that this will set me back BIG time. While I haven’t weighed myself, I know I have gained a little weight. I can see a difference in how my clothes fit…and I don’t like it. So, I started doing some research. I want to push myself but I don’t want to make a bad situation worse. Turns out there are many workouts that can be done from home that won’t aggravate my symptoms and will still get results! With that, I’ve developed an at-home regimen to help ease my mind and get my body moving. This has included resistance bands and certain bodyweight exercises for strength training and doing run/walks for cardio. It’s not much…but it’s a start.

One step at a time…one day at a time…just keep going! That’s been my mantra and it’s what I hope for anyone that reads this who may be struggling right now. No matter what…I never give up. It can be extremely hard to maintain a positive mindset but I have surrounded myself with some pretty amazing people who help keep me in check. As big of an obstacle and setback as this has been, I know that I’ve seen the light from this tunnel before and I will see it again one day. Push yourself through the darkness and light will come.

Stay strong & stay in the fight 💕

Gina
TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Twitter/IG: @finallyfit23
FinallyFit.1stPhorm.com