Everything happens for a reason

10645158_750337425003352_862100971715368878_nIt goes without saying, when a young life has ended, a midst of the grieving, there is often a question of why that young life was cut short.  Whether it’s a child or even a young adult, it leaves us puzzled and wondering why these “bad things (death)” happen to such young/good people; as if death was a punishment that they didn’t deserve.

This year, towards the end of our family vacation, I received a rather unexpected message from my cousins girlfriend, Becca – news that certainly caught me off guard and shook me to the core.  My cousin Jason, who was just a year younger than I and suffering from the same heart condition as myself, had passed away in her arms just a few hours before.  I couldn’t believe it – I still can’t believe it.  His defibrillator, which was working correctly and trying desperately to restart his heart was unable to do so.  No doubt, this began a series of “What if’s?” which started to roll through my mind.  What if my defibrillator didn’t work properly?  What if my heart goes into a funny rhythm that the defibrillator can’t get me out of?  What if it didn’t work at all?  What if I fell asleep and never woke up?  Question upon question continued to roll through my mind.  These were soon replaced with, Why did Jason have to die so young?, How come I’m still alive and Jason isn’t?

Jason was an honest, generous, and very caring man who had very much the same positive attitude and IMG_5313outlook on life as I did.  When we were toddlers, we even looked so much alike, we probably could have passed as twins.  We were a couple of curly, blond-haired, blue-eyed cuties!  As adults, we shared nearly the same exact heart condition, going to doctors to have many of the same tests performed, taking the same medications, and even having the same type of implants put in to save our lives.  With the invention of social networking, we were able to keep in contact with one another even better, often discussing how our appointments went with our cardiologists and how our hearts were doing, perhaps hoping that we could make each others condition better in some sort of way.

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Jason and Becca

During the funeral, my heart sank for Becca.  I could not even imagine what it would be like to lose the one you love, holding them tight as their life quickly slipped away.  No doubt that Becca was likely asking the same question, Why did Jason have to die?  Jason and Becca had not yet married but they shared their lives with one another and with God as well as with Beccas three children for over 7 years. So for all intent and purposes, the only thing that made them different from any married couple was essentially a piece of paper.  Jason was an incredible father figure, raising Becca’s kids as if they were his very own.  He had a big heart and the kids loved him.

With Jason’s passing, I was reminded how precious life is how we never truly know when “our time” is going to be, so we must cherish those special moment’s with those that we love, no matter how brief those moments may be.  A quick visit, a card, even a quick phone call just to say hello – its important to make time for those brief moments rather than allowing them to pass because we have convinced ourselves that we don’t have time to do them.

I think everything happens for a reason and there is a reason that Jason had to pass so young.  Perhaps God had a bigger plan for Jason up in heaven while he still has other plans for those of us still here on earth.  Some of us are destined to have health aliments, some of us are meant to be advocates and fight for cures and represent others facing the same fate.  Some of us are meant to motivate and encourage others to live a happier, healthier life.  Some of us are meant to fight the big fights to teach others what being strong truly means.  Some of us were meant to pass young to help others understand the meaning of love after a loss or to bring a troubled family closer together.  Regardless of the reasons, one thing is for sure…life is a gift so we should live life to the fullest, overcome the obstacles we may face, and never take the life we are given for granted because you never know when our time here on earth will be over.

10562943_10154540075350612_2894253566950992917_nMay you rest in peace, Jason!

Bra shopping, what a pain!

cute-sports-brasRecently, while cleaning out my closet, I decided it was time to stop wearing the old frocks from my collection and shop for some new workout clothes to exercise and sweat in – and that included buying a few new sports bras as well.  It’s not like I hadn’t shopped for bras before; I had done it numerous times in the past.  How long could it possibly take to find the right sports bra?!  And so the hunt was on….and what a hunt it turned out to be!

Since having my defibrillator put in, bra shopping had become an even bigger pain – literally.  With it located under my collar bone and tucked in just above my left breast, finding a comfortable bra had become a huge challenge.  It never failed; some straps rubbed the scar the wrong way, lace made it itch.  In most cases, just moving the breast muscle around too much or having it push the defibrillator up against my skin would cause some serious discomfort.Moving-Comfort-Charity-36

One store, two stores, three stores, and more!! Exhaustion soon set in and frustration would ensue.  It’s no wonder husbands or significant others tend not to enjoy the “thrill” of bra shopping with the ones they love.  Amazing how difficult finding the best fitting sports bra was turning out to be.  Far too many to choose from!  You’ve got one’s with thin straps, ones with thick straps, one’s with fancy decorations, one’s without; under-wire, no wire, extra padding, no padding, push up, or flatten out – the choices seemed endless.  Not to mention the rainbow of colors and variety of patterns each style of bra came in.  Whatever happened to only having a few items to choose from?  I so longed for those days when you didn’t have an overwhelming array to choose from.

Try on, take off.  Try on, take off……the cycle continued on for what seemed like an eternity.  Twisting and contorting my arms to fasten the clasps in back.  Others were yanked and pulled and done up in front.  It didn’t take long for anxiety to creep up and the desire to yank the defibrillator from my chest to set in.  I was beginning to remember how much I disliked these sorts of shopping trips.  Flashbacks of past bra shopping experiences reminded me of all the times I had spent in stores, hunting and searching for the perfect one and how much discomfort I would be in after trying on so many.

Hours passed and I was at my wits end with no potential keepers in sight.  I was tired, sore, and not to mention, feeling a bit discouraged.  I wa36353_ms annoyed that I had this foreign object in my chest, making an already irritating shopping trip even worse.  Ready to give up and walk out of the store, something caught my eye.  Could it be?  Did I just find the perfect bra?  I decided to give the fitting room one last chance.  In I went, closing the door behind me and feeling a bit of hope begin to brighten my day.  I tried it on and it fit!  Perfectly!!  What a relief!!!  I ran back to the rack and found a few more in my size.  A smile began to stretch from ear to ear.

The anxiety quickly subsided as I walked to the register to pay for my purchases.  Waiting in line, I reminded myself that as painful and irritating of an experience bra shopping turned out to be, this defibrillator that I wanted so much to rip out of my chest had a purpose and was implanted to save my life.  Enduring some temporary discomfort was far better than the alternative of not being here at all.  As Lance Armstrong said, Pain is temporary to which I reply, feeling some pain is better than feeling no pain at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Time to begin again

imagesFV5SF81OOk, so I have certainly been slack in the blog posting department these past few months…alright, so it has been more like 6 months since my last post.  College certainly had it’s benefits, but I think I about fried my brain with all the writing I had to do over the two years I was in.  Once I graduated, I was ecstatic that I no longer had papers to write, articles to critique, discussion groups to participate in or exams to complete.  I had plenty of ideas for different posts and had every intention to write, but was constantly  finding myself hitting a wall and words just weren’t flowing as easily as I was hoping when I sat down in front of my laptop.  So, I took a much needed break from writing.  I guess that sort of thing is bound to happen from time to time.

images8QOUAU3XSince it is a New Year, what better time to start up again!  So what is in store for my blog this year?  Like many others, I set some resolutions.  It is time to focus on two challenges I have been facing and have vowed to correct this year.  1) To get back on track with a more consistent exercise routine and 2) To overcome this odd food texture phobia and eat a more colorful and healthier diet.  Lord only knows I need to broaden the shades of color on my plate with more fruits and vegetables.  Sure, I could set a goal to loose a specific number of pounds or to go on some sort of fad diet to get there, but personally, making some lifestyle changes seem like a much better idea.  Eating healthier and being more consistent with my exercising, the weight will begin to come off.  Not only that, my focus is to be healthy for my hearts sake now that I have my heart issues under control, not spend so much time focusing just on a number on a scale.

Exercise seems to be one of the top resolutions that many individuals set for themselves in the new year.  Overcoming an odd food texture phobia – now that is something I’m sure most people will chuckle about (in fact, most already have).  Needless to say, my fruit and veggie preferences are very limited, so this year may prove to be rather interesting.veggies

So stay tuned as I work through this years resolutions.  As I’m sure many will agree, a consistent exercise routine can be a challenge, so hopefully you all can help motivate me to succeed.  As for my odd food texture phobia…get ready to laugh as I am sure working through that resolution will be rather humorous at times!

School is out!!

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It’s official!  With what seemed like an endless amount of essays, papers, and projects to write, hundreds of pages of textbooks to read, and discussion groups that seemed to go on forever – I am finally done!!  Ironically,  I was also looking at my calendar and realized exactly five years ago, I was laying on the operating table, having an ICD put in, not knowing where my life would be headed after.  Scared and unsure, I truly didn’t know what to expect at that time or have any idea whether my health would actually get better or continue to get worse.  Nor did I know what path I would continue on in life itself or expect to be going back to school to work towards another degree!  But here I am, closing yet another chapter of my life.  Once all the formalities are done over the next few weeks, I will have my Bachelors Degree in hand, along with a sense of accomplishment in achieving a goal I had set out to do just a few years ago.  Sure, there were some days I was completely exhausted, other days I struggled to keeps my eyes open.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stressed out sometimes – who wouldn’t be.  Trying to balance being a mom with working full time and going to school full time was a challenge.  Anxiety did mount and there were a few times I questioned whether I was putting myself under too much stress, stress that wasn’t good for my heart.

Know your limits, but never stop trying to exceed them. 

~Author Unknown

But I made it – and with great grades to boot!  I could have easily chosen not to go to school, or I could have chosen to quit when the road go tough…but I didn’t.  I had a wonderful family who supported my decision to go back, an incredible son and boyfriend who took care of things at home while I studied and concentrated on school, and incredibly understanding friends who understood my social life would have to be put on hold.  Now I can finally turn my attention to writing my blog and book in my spare time; setting out on yet another couple of goals I want to work towards to complete.  What a nice change of pace it will be to write what I want to write about rather than what I have to write about.

Stepping into a box of crayons

TPurple sneakershere once existed a time when walking into a store to purchase sneakers, you essentially had two colors to choose from; white or black which was then accented with a small amount of color.  On a recent trip to purchase a pair of running sneakers, I felt as though I had stepped into a box of crayons, surrounded by all sorts of colors with crazy names to boot.  From bubble gum pink to zesty orange, electric blue to slim green – the color combinations were endless!!  I had absolutely no idea where to start.  As the salesman approached me, I imagine he could read the overwhelmed look I had written across my face.

“A lot to choose from.” he replied.  “May I make a suggestion?  Ignore the colors you see and try some sneakers on.  It will be the best way to find the one’s that are perfect for you.”sketchers

There were obviously too many colors to choose from and I had no idea which color I wanted to pick, so I took his suggestion and began my search for the perfect fit, just picking up a random sneaker and trying it on.  However, ironically, I would soon find out that the colors were a clear indication of what would or wouldn’t be the best sneaker for me.

First, I tried fruit; a pair of gushing grape colored Asics trimmed in a granny smith apple green.  I was wearing fruit on my feet!  pink nikeFruit don’t belong on your feet and neither did this pair of sneakers, so it was on to the next pair.  Next, black Skechers decked out in a variety of bright candy colors.  Looking at them made me think of the colors of gumballs coming out of the gumball machine.  Pinks, yellows, blues, and greens; a sweet combinations that did not fit so sweetly afterall.  This was soon followed up by a pair of pink Nike’s that looked as though I had stuck my foot in a bucket of Pepto Bismol.  Needless to say, these didn’t fit my feet comfortably and no doubt were making me nauscious just staring at them.  Before long, I was trying to cram my feet into a pair of Caution tape, yellow sneakersbright yellow sneakers.  Perhaps the color was an indication not to try the sneakers on in the first place, warning me to stay away because as soon as I put those on, I knew right away they were clearly not right for me.

After spending an hour or so trying on numerous sneakers in nearly ever color of the crayon box, I settled on a pair of electric blue sneakers, complete with hot pink shoelaces and trim, reminiscent of a neon sign shining brightly.  They fit like a dream!  Finally, a pair of running sneakers that were the perfect fit complete with a color to suit.nike

Its time to run!

Alright, it’s time to get my run on!  Many of my coworkers as well as myself will be participating in our first ever 5K Corporate Challenge this summer.  Needless to say, I can’t remember the last time my feet have hit the pavement in a full force run.  Chances are, it was probably high school!  I am a originallittle nervous about how my heart will handle it, but I am certainly up for the challenge.  Without a doubt, plenty of training to build my endurance will be necessary if I am going to make it to the finish line, and this week I shall venture out on that journey.  The fact is, if I don’t try, I will never know if my body can do it.  To some, a 5K run seems like nothing…just a walk in the park.  For others, like myself, it will be a huge accomplishment to succeed.  With confirmation from my doctor to go ahead, I just have to remember not to push so far beyond what my body can physically handle.  I have to listen to my body when it says “slow down” or “take it easy”.  Most importantly, I can’t allow myself to get discouraged quickly.  It’ll take time to work up to a full 5K run and plenty of baby steps will finish-linebe taken to get there.  Without a doubt, since I started going back to school, my diet has been horrible, a regular exercise routine non-existent, and the stress level has certainly increased.  Thankfully, however, school is nearly over and I am ready for a change and training as well as participating in this 5K will certainly offer me the stepping stone for some changes a truly need.

I look forward to sharing this experience with you and hope you all can provide me with the encouragement to succeed!

Creating a Family Health Tree

It never fails…you visit a new doctor, and as part of being a new patient, a wealth of paperwork is handed your way.  You take a seat in the waiting room and begin to write down what seems to be your life story.  Without a doubt, there will be a section completely dedicated to writing down your family health history.  The only problem is, you are either unfamiliar or have forgotten about the details.  This was the case when I started to see multiple doctors when I initially got sick.  So, to resolve this, I came up with my own family health tree to document all of the health issues and events that my family members had faced.  There are numerous templates available online to follow or even print out and put to use, however, I decided to create my own using an Excel spreadsheet.  Whichever one works best for you, go ahead and put it to use or create your very own.

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“Like branches on a tree we grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one. Each of our lives will always be a special part of the other.” —Anonymous

What information do I include

First things first, be sure to talk with your family, let them know what you are creating and be sure to get their permission.  Next, ask them questions; you want to be sure that you have recorded the correct information.  What information you want to include is entirely up to you and your family.  Include such things as date of birth, date and cause of death and most certainly, medical conditions such as heart diseases, cancers, depression or other mental disorders, developmental problems, known genetic conditions  (if your family members can tell you what age those conditions began at, that is even better).   Include yourself, your parents, your grandparents, siblings, aunt, uncles…essentially anyone who is part of your family.

The best part about creating an electronic family health tree is that you can save the document on the computer and return to it as often as you need to, updating events as they occur.  Going to a new doctor?  Simply print off a copy to give to the new office to place in your medical file.  Not only will this save you the hassle of trying to recall all of the history of your family when filling out new patient forms, it will also provide the doctor with helpful information, especially in cases where illnesses or diseases are common in your family.  Knowing what conditions exist, a physician can ensure to keep his/her eyes open to early symptoms of those conditions, allowing them to address them sooner rather than later.

To assist you in creating your own Family Health Tree, check out some of these links….

http://health.utah.gov/genomics/familyhistory/documents/Toolkit/new%20entire%20toolkit.pdf

http://nihseniorhealth.gov/creatingafamilyhealthhistory/howtocreateafamilyhealthhistory/01.html

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/medical-history/HQ01707