Sunday, 27 April 2014

Butterflies and nuclear medicine


Gosh, where to start.  This is a bit of an eclectic post, a little bit of everything.  And apologies first up for the lengthy rant at the end.

So, #operationhomerun is going pretty well.  I did up my rewards chart as that is what was a
My new sticker chart
major part of how I kept on track for #operationbirthday.  To be honest, there could be a few more star stickers on there...the first week / week and a half I was pretty good overall.  This past week I have slackened off somewhat.  My weighs ins so far have been good: 3.1kg loss, and then a 1.5kg loss.  Unless I pull myself together in the next few days though, I am not going to be as lucky on the scales on Wednesday.

The reason (not excuse, reason), is I've been on holidays this past week and I'm a little out
Chart and jars are back
of routine.  I have been slack with food for a few days now and have not been training every day :(  I truly have to kick my own backside though as if I want the end goal, I simply have to do the work to make it happen!  

My holidays have been pretty good...I was so excited for them.  My Christmas holidays weren't everything I dreamed of, so my main aim was to make up for it this week.  I planned 10 days of doing exactly what I wanted to do: it was a really balanced mix of family Easter celebrations, going to the beach a few times, fish and chips by the water, girly DVD night, a few breaky's and lunches with friends, I went to
Cairns and Port Douglas for the day (I just went for lunch!  I had free flights so it was like I was getting away without getting away!), a couple of boot camps, a couple of Kokoda / bushwalk treks, getting heaps of appointments done that I always put off: car clean, a skin cancer check, a massage, eye test, hair cut, all those type of things.  A couple of birthdays, some down time at home and a bit of shopping.  I was sooo excited about these 10 days off and I really needed it.

When I was in Cairns on Wednesday, I GOT TO GO TO THE BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY!  This, as you may have read, was one of my goals for this round - a mini milestone.  "Coco
In Cathy & Sarah's gym
Butter" was derived from the words 'cocoon' and 'butterfly' so it was really meaningful.  I am scared of all animals except for butterflies :)  I was going to Cairns / Port Douglas to visit a friend I haven't seen in 4 years, not to see the butterflies - it was just coincidental that we managed to fit it in and she took me there!  Otherwise I was going to try to go to the Melbourne Zoo butterfly enclosure when I'm there later in the year. It was incredible and the absolute highlight of my day.  I saw real cocoons and caterpillars and so many butterflies; and they landed on me and it was just magical!

So the week has been great - I'm feeling re-energised for work and even though I didn't get too much done at home, I've loved the week.

There has been one bit of down part of it though, that I just need to talk about, to get off my
My butterfly dream coming true!

I don't talk too much about my personal life on my blog, and vice versa.  But this is to do with my health and it's not something I'd share for example on my personal Facebook - everyone I've ever known don't need to know my medical situation.  But it's easier to 'talk to' strangers and I need to debrief, so here goes. 

I've talked a few times about the Pulmonary Embolisms (PE's) / blood clots in my lung that I had in 2012.  I'm so passionate about people being aware of the risks and have only recently started being a little bit open about this, as well finally starting to
recover emotionally.  More on that another day...

I've mentioned the recovery every now and then, but the one thing I don't really talk about, is the anxiety that is associated post having PE's.

When you have PE's, or a DVT (blood clot in your leg), you have a physical recovery period.  Generally, with a DVT it is 3 months, and for a PE it's 6 months.  Mine was 7-8 months.  Some people even have it for a life time - they have medication and constant monitoring for life.

But what you're not usually prepared for, is the anxiety of recurring clots. It's actually a 'thing'. For over 2 years now, every twinge, every ache, every mild symptom that's similar to when I first got diagnosed, makes me turn into an internally skittish worrywart.  I rarely let on
Cathy's Easter boot camp
to people.  I'll be in a meeting at work, at breakfast with friends, lying in bed, driving, anything normal, and have a potential symptom, and the anxiety starts up.  No-one would eyes might glaze over and I'll lose focus for a brief moment perhaps, but that's it.  I've never really told anyone what it's like.  

It's a new way of life.  No longer can I dismiss something so minor anymore.  To be completely frank, if I ignore something, I could die.  It's that simple.  It is unlikely that I'll get them again - mine were caused from being on the Pill, and they stopped me on that immediately - so the main risk factor is gone.  But, it could still happen.

I've had scares since, and I usually go and get it checked out.  I hate having to do this.  It's so hard to assess that fine line.  I don't want to run to the doctor/hospital with every slight niggle I have, forevermore.  But if I don't, the risk is too huge.  It is awful.  And that's how it's been for
Cathy's cooking prowess - fish tacos on Good Friday
2 years now.

I haven't had a scare for a while, but since Monday, I've had symptoms again.  It started with having a bit of pain in my right calf.  I went to a GP on Tuesday - the receptionists for both the GP and the resulting ultrasound, both squeezed me into booked out diaries and told me to come straight in when they heard what it was for.  It's so lovely that they do this - but at the same time it's a dark little cloud of reminder that it's also sort of the importance that you would never wish for...

No clots showed up on that leg which was awesome.  But the symptoms continued for the next 3 days.  The frustrating thing is that the symptoms themselves aren't terrible in the sense of immense pain or discomfort.  They're slight, just hovering in the background.  Because they're so slight, I feel over the top each time I get it checked out.

But it all came to a head finally and on Friday (ANZAC Day) I ended up in an ambulance,
and back in emergency.

It's so procedural for me now...I always find someone I know or have some connection with. This time it was one of the ambos, he's the father of a girl who was in my brothers class at school.  There's always police apprehending or guarding someone in the halls of emergency.  I always hope for the beds that have good phone reception and then I always think it's sad that I know the mobile phone coverage layout of the emergency ward.  I always want to cuddle the radiographers and orderleys because they are, without exception, always so kind. 

Gown on, cannula in, blood out, chest X-ray taken, multiple ECG's done, blood pressure taken, it's like a checklist and on the outside, I'm always very calm and quiet.

The ECG's and chest X-ray were clear...relief, and they started talking about sending me home.  We just had to wait for the blood test to come back.  It's called a D-dimer.  I don't know the medical way to explain it but I know that it's the test that came back positive and
Sexy gown
signaled to them when I got diagnosed with clots, and it's the test they do each time I have a scare.

I started to plan going home, trying with difficulty to message the two friends who knew I was in there...(I had one of the bad phone reception beds).

The lovely intern who I had been dealing with came back, I assumed to tell me that it was of course negative and that I could go home.

"Hi, so unfortunately the test is positive."

I felt the blood immediately drain from my face, my entire body.  I knew exactly what this
Love this girl
 could mean.

They moved me to a ward as they rang through to organise a VQ scan for me.  I couldn't have picked a worse time to need it.  It was the night time, of a public holiday, leading into a weekend.  I thought that I'd have to stay in hospital till Monday when that department opened again, but they thought it important enough to call in the on call doctor and technician from their days off, to come in and warm up the machine
and test me.

It was now time to tell my family what was going on.  I don't like to worry them, and when this was like I think my 25th visit in 2 years, you tend to think they may be a little over receiving a text to tell them where I am.  But they each called me immediately and of those who were actually in Queensland at the time, offered to come in.  I said no, that I was ok, but one of my brothers and his girlfriend came in anyway :)  And my beautiful friend Courtney had already turned up to sit by my bed. <3

I got transferred from bed to wheelchair and wheeled up to the Nuclear Medicine department.  There's something that really scares me about that department.  It sounds so full on and it doesn't help being pushed into it, in a wheelchair.  I hate having to be in a wheelchair, I feel so helpless.
Part 1

I had the department to myself and the doctor and technician, dressed in shorts and a cap from being called in :) were just lovely.  I hate having this scan done.  There's 4 parts - firstly they get me to lie down and breathe in this radioactive gas.  They peg my nose to ensure I breathe in and out of the gas tank.  For someone who's slightly claustrophobic, this is not fun.  I managed to not panic and just got it done.  They then hover a little machine on top of my lungs to measure the gas reading inside me.  When there's enough gas inside me, I move to Part 2.  Part 2 is almost like an MRI but not as scary, but still, another machine that's not good for claustrophobia - I lie in it and it circles me and takes scans.  Part 3 they then inject me with the radioactive stuff and Part 4 is the MRI type machine again.

After it had finished, I sat in the wheelchair, shivering under blankets because of how cold it is in there, waiting for the doctor to read my scans.  And I realised something amazing.  I don't know when it had happened - somewhere in
Doesn't compare to Cathy's cooking :)
between that fateful day two years ago and trying to lie still in the machine this night, but I suddenly realised I was ready for whatever they told me.

Two years ago my life changed forever - it fell apart and I've only in the last month been able to start putting it back together.  I guess I always imagined that if it happened again, that I would deal with it the same way as I did back then - in any way I could.  That everything would fall apart and I would scrape through using any ounce of strength and resilience I had left.

But on Friday, for some reason I had this quote going around and around my mind for a couple of hours: 

"At any given moment you have the power to say: this is not how the story is going to end."

I dealt with it as best I could two years ago.  That's all we can ever do.  But this time, IF I had more clots, I decided I was now older and a lot more wiser and I could cope with it better if I had to.  I knew what I would be in for.  I started making mental preparations of what I would do, and even started visualising myself dealing with it all in my stride.  I even started practically planning how I'd fit in almost daily blood tests around boot camp before work and silently congratulated myself on keeping the sharps container I got given two years ago as there was now a point to not throwing it out.  I promised myself that if I had them, that this time, I would deal with it a lot better.

I was calm and collected and ready.

The doctor came to see me and told me that the test was all clear.


Ok - I was not expecting that!  I was so ready for bad news!  I got wheeled back to my bed
Emily & I bushwalking earlier in the week
and told my family and Court that my lungs were clear, which meant no PE.  The VQ scan only tests lungs, so I wasn't necessarily out of the woods as I could have a clot elsewhere, but it was great news.

The ward doctor came to see me and told me I could go home.

I was thankful I didn't have a PE of course, and happy I could go home, but I was confused and asked the doctor to clarify something before I left. What I wanted to know was, is it dangerous if I have a clot elsewhere in my body? Meaning, the D-dimer was positive, I have a history and symptoms, but my lungs are clear, so should I be worried if they're elsewhere?

The doctor had the worst bedside manner. Before I got my question out, he talked over me, raising his voice condescendingly and immediately said he thought I was overreacting and did I need to talk to someone (counsellor). I was astounded. I said very calmly that I don't believe I'm overreacting, I said I have a history, I
Kokoda treking
have a week of symptoms and I had a positive test. I'm simply asking, before I go home, if it's dangerous if they're elsewhere?

He leant over me in the bed and got really close to my face and said that HE could have clots. My family and friends (he pointed) who were in the room could have clots. Anyone could, there comes a point where they have to stop testing. He said again that he could have clots but he doesn't have symptoms so he's not going to do unnecessary testing! All the while speaking down to me.

I said (still calm) that the thing is, I DO have symptoms. I said I wasn't even asking for more testing, I just wanted to clarify if I should be worried if they're somewhere else in my body.
Sarah and I at boot camp
The lungs are just one part of the body.

He said again that I was being very anxious and said he'd go and check my records and come back.

I was reeling. Apart from the fact that I felt humiliated in front of Court and my family, I was so angry. Of all the times to accuse me of being anxious. I've spent two years being internally anxious and barely telling anyone just how much, and this was probably the most calm I had been that entire time. I was calm in speech and had collected my thoughts, and
Second Kokoda for the week for Leisa's birthday / ANZAC Day
as I always am, had been so patient, hadn't cried or made a scene, not said a word or asked anything all day/night.  All I wanted was a little bit of medical info before I left, which is normal. 

I was so proud of myself at how I was dealing with this but ironically he just made me feel like I was a screaming drama queen. I was so calm and had just one question. At one point I had to say to him "this could be a matter of life or death so of course I am wanting to find out more" because he was making me out to be someone I wasn't.

He took so long to come back that a nurse came in and asked why I hadn't gone home and I said I was waiting for the doctor to answer a question. She said he was doing a shift change and wouldn't be back so what was the question? I explained, but she too was like him and put words in my mouth! She said "so basically you're telling me that you want a full guarantee that you don't have clots, you don't have Cancer, you don't have anything at all,

anywhere in your entire body and won't forevermore."

I was so shocked, I was saying nothing like that and where did Cancer come from?? I explained again that no, that's not what I was asking, I just wanted to know is it possible to have a clot elsewhere and if so, should I be concerned? She went on and said that I could die tomorrow of a heart attack! That any of us young people in the room could have Cancer! She brought up all these other conditions that were off topic. And not a great thing to tell someone who's lying in a hospital bed.  

It was so strange and upsetting. She eventually answered me but didn't really if that makes sense? She said that the D-dimer can apparently be positive from other causes eg. if I have any inflammation. That's all I was asking. I guess it has me a bit skittish because that's the test that was positive last time. I just wanted a bit of medical information and I left just feeling confused instead of relieved. All of the other medical professionals were amazing - doctors/nurses/paramedics/radiographers etc. Just a shame the last two were the ones I
Weight loss rewards!  3 magazines and a new nail polish!
really needed to help explain it to me.

I left the hospital and for the past two days have been just confused and feeling down and blah.  To be honest, superficially I've been more upset about the conversations at the end rather than the potential clots!  I am so thankful that I don't have clots in my lungs, and thanks to the Tuesday ultrasound, I don't have one in my right leg.  But the positive test and symptoms have me a little concerned that I have one elsewhere.  Clots can travel - so it's a bit scary.  I'm seeing my GP as early as I can get in to see him so I'll see if he can shed any light. I'm sure I'm fine and having clear lungs is awesome news but I still need to find out more.

Anyway! So that hasn't been very fun and I'm sad to say I've let my eating be affected by it

all. You do not want to know what I've been eating... :(

But, tomorrow is back to routine and it's a new day, and I'll pick myself up and get myself back on track. The rewards chart is active and it's gonna happen - I won't let a little set back affect that. I may not have had many stickers last week but I'll pull myself together and make sure that changes.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Ready...set... I go! 

I'm copying this straight from my Instagram tonight, as it's kind of a significant part of my journey, and, well, it'll save me from writing it out at blog length.  It might be nice for you to have a short blog post to read for a change!

It's pretty hard to explain some things in tiny Instagram posts but I'll do my best. Like me, lately. It's probably been pretty obvious but I've been struggling lately. Biiiiig time. If IG didn't have a word limit, you guys didn't have a patience threshold, and I was actually able to talk
about it, I would explain it all. But instead, in a nutshell, some stuff happened, it took all my energy to cope, and that in turn made me struggle to push forward with my weight loss goals. I have tried to push forward regardless but I just couldn't, and as a result, my efforts this round, despite brave intentions, turned into a few false starts. 

But you know, these things happen; these rounds happen; nothing is awesome all the time. We learn every day and have to just do the best with what we have, when we can. My weight loss goals, and well, everything, have been pushed to the side and lately I've eventually hampered my own efforts. However I've sorted some things out and, feeling more positive, I tried again. 

You always have to try again. 

And, excitedly, I know I'm back on track. 

I haven't been very nurturing of Operation Home Run - it's just kind of been 'sitting there', only kept alive by the odd hashtag here and there. But that's about to change. I've spent the past week back on track - I feel so much better - and so much more hopeful. 

If something is causing you to stumble or hinder your best efforts, just ride with it for a while. Just accept it or fight it but hold on tight, coz you will get through the other side.

I've spent some time reassessing my goals and I have a pretty clear view (which could change!) of where to from now. I'll share my ups and downs as always - 18 weeks to go till my *planned but we'll see how my body goes* goal weight! Thanks for your support :)

I'll post up my new goals and stuff I'm doing soon!  Love Coco Girl xo

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A lesson in flexibility

Back in late 2013 I made a list of running events that I planned to do in 2014.  I studied all of the available runs that I could find.  Some I had done before, some I dreamed of doing, some I found while researching.  I spent ages on this list.  Let me find it...

Check that baby out!  Not only did I plan my entire running year, I also used about 2 apps AND 2 filters to create this perfect masterpiece.  I posted it on Instagram and here, on my blog.  I think I may have also taken the brave step and put it on Facebook.  I accompanied it with a little disclaimer: "this may change but..."

Umm, aca-scuse me?

Who was I kidding?  If I write a list (and make a photo thing of it (did I mention using 2 apps and 2 filters), I sure as hell will be seeing to that that list is fulfilled to the very last kilometre!

I meant what I said with those words, "this may change but..."  I also said "money and time dependent". I meant that too.

However, on the inside, there is a little part of me, that regular readers will have learnt of by now, that I never bank on.

It's like this mini Macgyver type resolve.  No matter what, I make things happen.  Call it determination, strong will, anything you like.  I think from now on I'll call it MMM: my mini Macgyver.

Look, I'm not Superwoman, sometimes MMM flakes out and I don't manage.  But it's usually after taking a helluva good shot.

However, MMM is the silent type and I seem to never remember when I say things like... "oh
sure this may's dependent on money and time, we'll see how I go...umm...ahhh...yeah..."

Because MMM is on the inside, all like "umm, wtf Kate?  We're frigging doing it!"

LOL. that's where I was at.  At the beginning of the year...I had my little list of 23 events and I was ready!  I even printed out photos of each of the race maps to cycle through sticking them on the little piece of Blu-Tak on my work computer. That plan of 23 events was in print, baby, it was happening!

I did the first six with no issues.  This was going to be easy!  Resolution Run, my 3-in-1-day Triathlon Pink events, Convicts and Wenches Australia Day Half Marathon, International Women's Day Fun Run.  I was so proud of myself - 6 down, 17 to go: yahoo!

Event #7 of 23, the Mooloolaba Twilight Run, made me pull out all stops to be there - MMM worked for it's money that day, it was in overdrive.  But I made it.

Three days after that run, I was on a plane, traveling to Sydney to attend my grandmothers funeral.  I was sitting next to my Dad and we chatted the whole way.  He asked me if I would like to come on a cruise with him.  He explained that he had a 3 day cruise booked in May with my Mum, but (long story), she may not be able to go on it due to work commitments.  He wondered whether, if my Mum couldn't, would I like to go with him?  (I wouldn't have to pay either, by the way!)

I asked what the dates were...he told me, and I sighed.  That was the over the same weekend that I had a run booked in: The Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon.  It was to be my first interstate run, I had flights already booked - - - and, it was Official Scheduled Event #11.....

I asked Dad more details, to see if I could jetset-ingly attend both.  Nope.  Macgyver is good but he can't be in two states at once.

Here's the thing.  I hadn't paid for my entry, and my flights were completely refundable.  Really, all I was stressing about, apart from the fact that I had my heart set on doing this run, was that it was on The List!  And I couldn't let down The List!

Apart from the irony of me wanting to run a half marathon rather than go on an all expenses paid, all you can eat cruise (!), my biggest perplexity was how to work this out.  I didn't want to let my Dad down.  But I wanted to do this run!

It wasn't a sudden light bulb moment, I'm afraid to say.  It's a bit silly, but it took my next event, the awful Twilight Half Marathon...(yes, that Struggle Street one), to make me wake up.  If you read my post about how tough that run was, I described pretty clearly about how I didn't feel up to it.


Because, it was on my list!

I pushed myself to buggery on that run.  There was a reason I was super jealous of the 10km runners, because that is the event that I actually wanted to do!  I didn't feel like doing a half that weekend.  I wasn't up to it.  But I ignored myself, paid extra money to enter and used extra mental power to cope, for the pleasure of...meeting Jess.  Because really, that was the only good thing to come out of that night. #muststicktolistatalltimes  

I pushed myself to almost breaking point, for what?

However, within that week, I woke up.  I suddenly realised that my Dad was asking me to spend a few days with him...and he asked me this when we were on the way to my grandmothers funeral.  This grandmother was my Mum's Mum.  Mum can't spend time with her Mum anymore - and I know she would give anything to even have a brief moment with her again.  So many of my friends can't spend a few seconds, let alone days, with their parents - and here I am, my Dad offering, and I'm getting all funny about having to change other plans...

I'm so ashamed that it took me a week to realise this.  I think my MMM was active, I had my heart set on sticking to that list no matter what (just trying to stick to goals), and I was a little frustrated as I already had my weekend planned (flights booked). 

But really, what the hell was I thinking?  I am so embarrassed.  I am really close to my family and we all drop everything to be there for each other.  But sometimes I guess, ambition and focus and determination gets so high that it mars what I already know is actually important.  Determination and chasing your dreams are vital.  But sometimes I think we get caught up in life and take goals just that one step too far.

But when I realised what I was doing, the lesson learned pretty much changed my life.

Over the last couple of weeks, I finally realised the true meaning of the word 'flexibility'.  I don't even need to describe how unimportant that particular half marathon is.  Or any run, for that matter.  A few more events on The List that are coming up are seemingly not going to work, either, but for the first time, I don't mind.  I'm readjusting The List at the moment - crossing some out, finding replacements.  I'll do my best to stick to the number of runs, but whether they change from what I had planned in 2013, it doesn't matter.  And if I don't stick to the number, that's ok, too.  Life shouldn't be measured on a published photo (using 2 apps and 2 filters).  We have to go with the flow.  I forgot this for a few months... I'm so thankful for the Twilight Half now, as it really helped me see all of this.

Oh, and I forgot to say.  The day I realised this: I cancelled my flights, booked my Annual Leave, crossed that run off my list and emailed my Dad to say I couldn't wait for the cruise. xx

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Hey there

Hello!  12 days and no speak.  Sorry...thought I'd jump in and say hi even though I don't have much to report on.  But I did want to say hi (and a special shout-out to Melissa and Nene!) :)

I truly don't have much to say...but I've stayed in touch on here through my whole journey and I'm not about to go anywhere any time soon!

Firstly, my blog is nominated for The People's Choice Award for The Best Australian Blogs Competition.  If you enjoy reading Coco Butter then feel free to vote for me here.  Voting closes 5th May 2014.

Also my story was published in the Sun Herald's liftout magazine Sunday Life on the weekend! 
Sun Herald, 6 April 2014

Apart from that, I don't have much to report, to be honest.  Aside from usual day to day stuff that I document on my Instagram, I actually don't have much to say at the moment.  Other
than I have lost so much self confidence lately.

The 'why's' are difficult to talk about thoroughly but when it comes down to it, the 'why's' are not what matters...the 'how am I going to fix it' is the most important thing.  And, I guess, the difficult thing right now, is, I don't know how.

I have lost a ridiculous amount of self confidence and I just don't know how to get it back.

That is all for now...any tips would be gratefully appreciated <3

Love Katie Coco xx