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Road ID

Still Don’t Officially Know What’s Wrong with Me – and I Don’t Care Anymore

I love my running shoes.

I love my running shoes.

I am officially over my medical mystery. I don’t even want to think how much time I’ve spent in doctor’s offices and hospitals or how much money I’ve spent on medical tests related to my chest pains, dizziness, fatigue, and night sweats. And we still have no idea what’s wrong with me.

My cardiologists (all three of them) determined I have a hole in my heart but it’s a congenital defect that shouldn’t be causing my symptoms. My primary care doctor drew nine vials of blood and ran every test he could think of – CBC, thyroid, hormones, Epstein-Barr, other random illnesses – and everything came out negative or normal.

I’m annoyed that trying to do the right thing and take care of myself yielded no actionable results. It disrupted my marathon training and left me unprepared so I couldn’t finish the race. I feel like I wasted my time and I am frustrated that I don’t have any answers except what’s not wrong with me. I’m done doing this process of elimination. I’m ready to call it and apply Occam’s Razor. I say I have reoccurring costochondritis, fatigue from the fact that I work myself into the ground on a regular basis and have depression, dizziness from low blood sugar from my eating disorder, and night sweats caused by anxiety. I changed my linens and took the blanket off my bed so I’m cold when I tuck myself into bed at night, but it seems to be decreasing my night sweats so that’s good enough for me.

My Race Shirt for Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon 2015

My Race Shirt for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015

I’m ready to say “fuck it” and get back into cycling and running. When I go on The Undeniable Tour for two weeks, I plan to go running in every city I stay in. I am a much more balanced person when I work out on a regular basis.

Just in case some things really wrong with me and they just haven’t found it yet, I still don’t leave the house without my Road ID strapped to my left wrist. That way, if I collapse or something, my bracelet will contain the information the emergency medical team should know about my medical history.

Will I try to train for another marathon? I’m not sure. I workout more consistently when I have a race on my calendar and a training program to follow, so I’m looking for a race to train for – either a 10K or a half marathon. I’m contemplating doing a half marathon trail run in June. That could be really fun. We’ll see what happens.

I Still have a Defective Heart – But That’s Not the Problem

So here is the update about my heart.

My doctor called me late on Tuesday afternoon to let me know that the transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) showed that I have a hole in my heart (PFO) but there is no blood flowing where it shouldn’t be. My doctor said unless I have a stroke, I don’t need to have the hole patched. I seem to be one of those people who have a heart defect, but it is not problematic.

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

The good news is my fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and night sweats do not appear to be caused by a cardiovascular problem. The bad news is I’m still having the symptoms and we don’t know why.

So it’s back to the drawing board. I made an appointment with my primary care doctor and we can attack this problem from a new angle. I suspect he’ll order blood work to see if my numbers have changed from my last full physical. I may ask him to throw in a hormone test to see if it might be early menopause. I called my other cardiologist to ask if I needed to keep taking the beta blocker. (Remember: I’ve never had high blood pressure.) His office called me to say that he wants to see me for a follow-up. Perhaps he’ll have some suggestions about what else could be causing the problem.

Since my heart defect isn’t causing my symptoms and my symptoms didn’t show up until I was running 15 miles at a time or more, I hope I can start working out again soon. Before I started training for the marathon, I was running 22 miles and biking 19 miles a week. I was doing two 4-mile runs and two 6.5-mile runs each week. I’d like to get back to that.

It’s frustrating to feel like part of my life is on hold. Part of me wants to say “fuck it” and do whatever I want whether that’s running the hills when I’m in San Francisco for the Dad 2.0 Summit, taking a high intensity step aerobics class, or treating myself to a few hours of trampoline tumbling. I don’t like being told that there’s something I can’t do. I definitely plan to have a candid conversation with my doctors about being more active while we figure out what’s wrong with me.

In case you are wondering, no, I haven’t become completely reckless. And yes, I make sure I’m wearing my Road ID before I leave the house, just in case.

Marathon Training Week 16 Recap: Running Scared

16 by  Karen_O'D from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

16 by Karen_O’D from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

If you’ve been following my journey towards running my first marathon, you know that a few weeks ago my cardiologist diagnosed me as having 2 holes in my heart. He said I can keep training and do the race as long as I can manage the symptoms and I don’t have a stroke.

Knowing that I have a potentially serious cardiac condition makes me nervous about running, but not enough to make me stop. I am much more mindful about where I run because I don’t want to find myself getting into trouble and being more than a few miles from home or my car. I’m more likely to choose a route that involves running loops close to home or running on the treadmill or elliptical. I definitely never leave the house without my Road ID on my wrist.

My Medications - Dizziness WarningsOne of the challenges of having this condition and being on my medication is I never know how I’m going to feel day-to-day. Last week I ran over 20 miles, and I felt like I could have run another 5 miles if I needed to. A few days ago, I had to stop running after 1.5 miles on the treadmill and finish my workout on the stationary bike because I was too weak to run anymore. Some days I feel great and other days I’m weak and prone to dizzy spells. (I recently noticed that all 3 of my medications have dizziness as a side effect.) I really hope I don’t have a bad day on race day, because there’s a good chance I’ll be riding the golf cart to the finish line.

Every time I suit up to workout, part of me is afraid of getting to weak or tired to finish my run or worse. I prefer not to collapse or have a stroke. I don’t need road rash or a treadmill burn on my face and I’m clumsy enough without adding in a semi-permanent weakness in half my body. I wonder how being on a beta blocker impacts my workouts, since I think it’s keeping my heart rate from rising like it would in a non-medicated person. My teammates warn me to “Listen to your body,” but they know I’m stubborn and it’s hard not to push through when I can. But I know the big goal is to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, and that might mean I have to take it easy a bit in my training to make sure I make it to race day.

2013 Post RaceThis week I opted to ride the stationary bike at the gym for an hour while reading my book and checking social media for cross training. It was pretty boring but I cranked out 15 miles. (I can’t wait ‘til it’s warm enough to ride outside again.) It made me miss the aerobics classes I used to take when I belonged to a gym. I’d buy a day pass for an intense step class. (I’m sure my cardiologist wouldn’t support the idea of me taking an intense step class, but it’s fun.)

I have good news in regards to race prep – I ordered my base shirt so I can have Brand X make me another custom running shirt for the race. They did a great job with my Masochist/Run Bitch shirt the last time I ran a half marathon.

Weekly Totals:
Running:  5 miles
Elliptical:  20 miles
Biking:  22.5 miles