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Ruth Carter

I Still Have a Defective Heart

Atrial Septal Defect - Image from Wikipedia (Creative Commons Image)

Atrial Septal Defect – Image from Wikipedia (Creative Commons Image)

Let me start this post with a correction: I misheard my cardiologist last week. I thought he said I have a ventricular septal defect. He actually said I have an atrial septal defect. Today when we went over the results of my tests, he told me I have, not 1, but 2 holes between my atriums.

The human heart isn’t that big. How is it possible that I have 2 holes in one little area?

The rest of my tests were unremarkable. Nothing unusual showed up when I wore a heart monitor for 24 hours and my stress test looked good. Overall, my doctor is unsure what’s causing my symptoms – the chest pain, the fatigue, and the night sweats. He prescribed me a low-dose beta-blocker and said I can go back on ibuprofen for pain. (Yay!) My beta blocker dose is so low my pharmacy had to special order it. Since I’m so small, my doctor’s having me only take half a pill every other day for the first five days to see how I adjust to it. (He said it could make me tired.)

My cardiologist also referred me to another heart specialist to evaluate whether my heart defect is causing my problems and whether they should be surgically sealed. Apparently this guy specializes in these types of defects. I hope it doesn’t take weeks to get an appointment. If my defect should be patched, they go in through the groin, not open heart surgery. That was good to hear.

My doctor said I’m allowed to try running again. I was pretty nervous to see how my stamina is after not running for nearly 3 weeks. I was slated to do 5 miles today and I opted to do it on the treadmill where I could control my speed. I ended up doing a run/walk combo and finished in 53:58. I think that’s a good start. My chest hurt a little bit at first but settled down by mile 3.

I’m scheduled to do 14 miles on Saturday and I think I’ll do it on the treadmill again where it will be easier to manage speed, take breaks, and have snacks. For now, my plan is to keep following my marathon training program, but modify it by walking and running my miles as needed.

Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 9

Minimalism Boxes - December 14, 2014

Minimalism Boxes – December 14, 2014

And then there were 3.

I have only 3 boxes left in my Minimalism in 90 Days Project.  I worked my butt off during the last week to go through my remaining boxes. From each box, I’d say about half the contents survived and half was added to the charity pile. I added quite a few things to my kitchen cabinets that I’ll use on occasion – like a hand mixer and a casserole pan. I ended up with an extra box to go to charity just of kitchenware. I also went through my stationary and got rid of a ton of postcards and ugly stationary that I’ll never use.

I started throwing out empty boxes. The stack of them was getting close to the ceiling and they were adding to the clutter. I need to make arrangements to have the charity boxes go to charity soon because they’re just taking up space on the office floor at this point.

It is challenging to know what to keep and what to throw out from the last remaining boxes. Two of them are mainly filled with books I haven’t read. Some people would say if I haven’t made it a priority to read them yet, I never will so I should probably donate them. I’m going to set them aside but then give myself a year to read them and decide if they will stay or go. If I haven’t read a book in a year, it will be donated so someone else can benefit from it.

One thing I keep saying to myself is “Minimalism is a process.” This packing party isn’t the end all be all of my minimalism. It gave me an enlightening glimpse into how few things I use on a regular basis, and it’s given me the opportunity to get rid of a lot of clutter. But it will be an ongoing process where I’ll regularly ask myself, “What makes my life valuable?” In general, it’s not my stuff. My possessions make my life comfortable and they provide the means to activities I enjoy, but I’m pretty sure I’m not a better person simply because I own an object.  Conversely, I’m a better person when I keep my life simple.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3
What was Unpacked During Week 4
What was Unpacked During Week 5
What was Unpacked During Week 6
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 7
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 8

Marathon Training Week 13 Recap: Walking Sucks

This was a challenging week of training. I saw my cardiologist on Monday and he said I could only walk, not run until we got the results of the tests he ordered (ultrasound, stress test, and heart monitor). There are two main challenges with walking: (1) it takes a lot longer than running and (2) it’s boring!

Walking with Heather

Walking with Heather

I’m still sticking to Hal Higdon’s marathon training program for novices, but walking my miles. I hope I can still do Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona in January.

Monday: Rest Day.

Tuesday: I had work commitments early in the morning so I opted to do my 4 miles in evening – on the treadmill. That thing still feels like a human hamster wheel. Maintaining a 4 mph pace was pretty challenging.

Wednesday: I walked 9 miles today. It took 2.5 hours. It’s so frustrating that I can’t run. I think it’s starting to make me batty.

Walking with Lawton & Oscar

Walking with Lawton & Oscar

Thursday: I was scheduled to walk 5 miles today but I ended up walking 5.4. I did it first thing in the morning which made it less painful. I also had my stress test that morning, so I had to be caffeine-free for 24 hours and not eat for 4 hours before the test, so taking a walk kept me occupied.

Friday:  Rest Day.

Counting Loops

Counting Loops

Saturday:  I walked 19 miles today, and it took over 5.5 hours to finish it. I walked from my place to ASU Tempe campus, walked 4 loops around campus, and then home again. My friends Heather and Lawton (with her adorable dog Oscar) joined me for part of the walk which made it much more bearable – Thanks so much! Every time I finished a looped, I marked it on my wrist with a Sharpie pen so I wouldn’t lose track of myself. I kept myself energized with water, GU Chomps, and an energy bar.

Here’s another reason why walking sucks – when you’re walking long distance, you feel the pain of your first miles before you’re done with your last mile. When I run, I’m done after a few hours and I’m home before the pain sets in. My hamstrings were killing me by the time I got home.

Sunday:  Yesterday’s walk gave me heat rash on both my feet and ankles – sexy I know. The last thing I want to do is put on socks or shoes. I’m technically supposed to do cross training on Sundays, but I walked 19 miles yesterday. I’m not doing anything today. (I think the heat rash is nature’s way to saying I’m not meant to be a long distance walker.)

I’ll see my cardiologist this Thursday. So far he’s said I have a hole in my heart and that my heart skips beats. I hope he’ll know what’s wrong with me and that he says I can run short distances so I can alternate running and walking for the rest of my training and through the race.

Weekly Totals:
Running:  0 miles
Walking:  37.4 miles
Push-ups:  0 push-ups

I Have a Defective Heart

Who has two thumbs and a heart defect?
This guy!

Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) - Creative Commons Image from Wikipedia

Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) – Creative Commons Image from Wikipedia

I feel like I’ve been living at my cardiologist’s office this week. I was in this morning for my stress test when my doctor pulled me aside to share some news about my ultrasound. (That raised a big red flag since I wasn’t expecting any results until next week when all my tests were done.) He told me that I have ventricular septal defect (VSD), better known as a hole in my heart. It’s a genetic defect where there’s a hole between the ventricals of your heart. My doctor said ~10% of the population has it, and not everyone has health problems as a result, so we don’t know if mine is causing or contributing to my chest pain at this point.

(Of course you know the moment I got out of my doctor’s office, the first thing I did was call my parents and say, “It’s all your fault.”)

Then he reminded me not to run this weekend – I can walk instead.

Once I was done talking with my doctor, I got to have my stress test – that’s the one where you run on the treadmill with electrodes attached to your chest. They gave me a half gown thing to wear over my electrodes, but I was in a sports bra and I have no modesty issues so I opted to run without it. I had 8 electrodes on my chest and a blood pressure cuff on my arm where my tech periodically took my blood pressure. We had to go up four levels to get my heart rate up high enough – the speed and incline increased with each level. At each level, the machine produced an EKG printout. When it got challenging, the real issue wasn’t the speed, it was the incline. My calves and hamstrings were burning. I’m glad it only took 14 minutes to get through this.

The worst part about doing a stress test is you can’t have caffeine for 24 hours before the test. I popped a caffeine pill the moment my test was over.

My Holter ECG

My Holter ECG

After my stress test, they stuck a Holter ECG on me for 24 hours. It’s a heart monitor with 5 electrodes that connect to a recorder box that clips to my hip. When I saw the box, my first thought was “1990 called. They want their pager back.” With all these cords hanging off me, I feel like I’m wearing 5 iPods. For the duration of this test I’m not allowed to shower or sweat and they gave me a log to record any pain, dizziness, or other symptoms. I ‘m afraid one of the electrodes will come loose so I keep pushing on them. I probably look like I’m molesting myself. We’ll see how easy it is to sleep with this on my body.

I’ll see my doctor next Thursday to get the results of all my tests and hopefully he’ll have a proposed plan of action to deal with my pain. Until then, I’ll still train for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, but I’ll be walking my miles.

Ultrasound!

Heart and Heartbeat by ThrasherDave from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Heart and Heartbeat by ThrasherDave from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

No, I am not with child.

I had an ultrasound on my neck and heart to try to figure why my chest hurts and why I wake up in  a puddle of my own sweat halfway through the night.

Getting an ultrasound is a pretty simple procedure – you just lay there while the tech puts goo on the ultrasound wand-thing and slides it over your skin. They had me take off my clothes from the waist-up and put on a paper tank top that was open in the back. (I wonder if they only give paper gowns to women.)

The tech started with the ultrasound of my neck arteries. Because I had to have my neck stretched, I couldn’t watch the screen. He periodically turned the sound on to listen and/or capture the sound of my heartbeat. The first time he did it I giggled. I instantly realized this was probably the only way I was going to hear a heartbeat during an ultrasound of my body because I have no plans for procreation.

After he finished scanning my neck, I asked how it looked at he only said, “I think you’ll live through the weekend.” We moved on to my heart ultrasound and I got to start laying on my side, which was awesome because I got to watch the monitor. The female tech put some electrodes on my chest that monitored my heart too, which was cool to see my heartbeat going across the screen.

Of course, I couldn’t understand anything I was seeing. I swear sometimes my heart looked like the face of a deep ocean fish and sometimes it looked like The Blerch from The Oatmeal. I’ve decided I have an alien in my chest.

We finished the scan with an ultrasound of my chest while I lay flat on my back. It was interesting to hear the differences in how my heart sounded depending on how I was laying and where the tech was holding the ultrasound wand.  Sometimes it sounded eerily similar to a theremin. (Think of the original Star Trek theme song.)

Hat tip to the Cardiovascular Institute of Scottsdale for handling female modesty well. When the tech needed to scan my chest, he just ripped a small hole in my gown instead of asking me take it off. Modesty is a non-issue for me, but I can see how other patients would appreciate this.

Of course the tech couldn’t tell me anything from my scan, though when I told him I was getting all my test results next Thursday, he said, “Good.” So maybe he saw something on my ultrasound, but if he did, it can’t be that bad because he didn’t seem to mind that I’ll be waiting 10 days to get the results.

New Mystery: Why Does My Chest Hurt?

My new drug of "choice."

My new drug of “choice.”

As many of you know, I’m training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Arizona in January. Unfortunately, I haven’t run a step since November 29th. I feel fine when I run but I started having chest pains after my long runs. After the second time it happened, I felt like a giant lumberjack stomped on my chest while wearing his work boots and then kicked me in the ribs. The night sweats are a bitch too. I woke up soaking wet halfway through the night last night.

I saw my general practitioner who referred me to a cardiologist. They couldn’t get me in for a week so I had to walk last week’s miles. Do you know how boring it is to walk 8 miles?

My friend Bill warned me that I would look very out of place at the cardiologist’s office – and he was right. The only person who looked close to my age was a woman who was there with her father. All of the patients were at least 25 years older than me.

My doctor seems like he knows what he’s doing. He asked a ton of questions, took lots of notes, and listened all over my torso. To my dismay and frustration, he didn’t have any answers for me yet, and if his has any hypotheses regarding what’s wrong with me, he didn’t share them. He created a solid-sounding plan of action to figure out what’s going on:

  • Ultrasound of my neck and heart
  • Stress test (that’s the one where you’re on the treadmill)
  • Heart monitor for 24 hours
  • Prescription for Prilosec in case there’s an acid reflux issue
  • He told me to switch from ibuprofen to acetaminophen (Tylenol)

I think taking me off ibuprofen is evil. Every woman I know (except those with stomach issues) swears by it. It’s the cure-all for everything – headaches, cramps, sore muscles, etc. I was not happy to hear that instruction. When I filled my prescription, I bought the biggest bottle of acetaminophen in the store. Between the headaches I’ve been having and the pain I get in my legs from working out, I’m going to need it.

My doctor echoed my general practitioner’s instructions that I can walk but I shouldn’t run until we figure this out. All of my testing is this week, but I won’t have my follow up appointment to get the results until next week. So I will be walking for the next 10 days – including the 18 miles I’m scheduled to do this weekend. 18 miles of walking?! This is going to suck.

Since I deal with the world and my life through blogging and social media, I’ll be documenting this whole process.

Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 8

These are the empty boxes & stuff that's going to charity - December 7, 2014

These are the empty boxes & stuff that’s going to charity – December 7, 2014

I am just over 8 weeks into my variation of Ryan Nicodemus’(of The Minimalists) “packing party.” I’ve been diligent during the last week about making a concerted effort to clean out my minimalism boxes, so most of what I’ve unpacked lately are items that are being donated to charity or surviving the final clean-out. There are still instances where I unpack things because I need them that day – like when I needed some of my fancy things to go to Julia’s wedding, my rubber gloves for dying my hair, and my black morphsuit to perform in Patrick’s piano concert as the unknown faceless person. I’m still documenting everything in my notebook.

I still have 10 boxes left in my minimalism pile and none of them are full. The interesting thing is I’ve made a lot of progress in the last week but it doesn’t seem like I have that much more stuff in my condo. I have 7 boxes of stuff to go to charity and more 6 empty boxes stacked up in my office. I went through one of my minimalism boxes on camera last weekend if you’re interested in hearing the monologue that goes through my head when I’m examining my stuff. (Warning: It was a full box and it took 19 minutes for me to sort through it – but it’s pretty interesting if this process intrigues you.)

There is a box of books in the minimalism pile. I’ve already pulled out the ones I know I want to keep and I put the ones that add no value to my life in the charity pile. There are at least a dozen books in the minimalism pile that I’ve never read but I feel I should read. Most of them are about investing or running a law practice. They’ve all come highly recommended, but it hasn’t been a priority to read them. I’m considering putting them in a stack in my room and giving myself until the end of 2015 to read them. There are so many books in general that I want to read; it’s hard to make it a priority to get to them all.

Overall I’m pleased with the progress I’m making with the final cleanout. I want to be as productive this week with going through my boxes and possibly making arrangements to have the charity boxes picked up so I can make space for what’s really supposed to go in the corner where I’ve stored them – an extra large plushy armchair that I can curl up and read in.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3
What was Unpacked During Week 4
What was Unpacked During Week 5
What was Unpacked During Week 6
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 7

Marathon Training Week 12 Recap: WTF is Wrong with Me?

12 by Jalil Arfaoui from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

12 by Jalil Arfaoui from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

My training had a major setback this week. My chest has been killing me since last weekend. At first I thought it was just costochondritis, which I’ve dealt with off and on for years. The pain was bad on Sunday night and it extended into my neck, head, shoulders, ribs, and arms. I started having night sweats over the weekend too. And I mean sweating – I had to change my shirt two hours after I feel asleep because my shirt was soaked from the neck seam to the waist seam.

Monday: Holy shit my chest hurts. It hurts to take a deep breath, laugh, bend over, and sit up straight. I called my doctor as soon as the office opened and got a same-day appointment. They ran an EKG, which was normal (yay). My doctor listened to my chest and referred me to get a chest x-ray and to see a cardiologist. My doctor recommended that I walk instead of run my miles this week. (I suspect he’d prefer I not work out at all.)

Tuesday: My chest and head still hurt but it’s not as bad as yesterday. The idea of walking this week’s miles make me cringe. I run partially because I don’t have the patience to walk. I walked my 4.5 miles this afternoon. My foot hurt a bit and my chest and ribs hurt a bit. I kept myself entertained by listening to multiple episodes of The #AskGaryVee Show.

I got my chest x-ray results: normal. I’m glad the news was good but it’s annoying not knowing what’s wrong with me.

This is my night shirt after a night of night sweats. I took this photo 6 hours after I took this shirt off and it was still drenched!

This is my night shirt after a night of night sweats. I took this photo 6 hours after I took this shirt off and it was still drenched!

Wednesday: My chest and head still hurt but the chest pain is continuing to improve. Walking is boring and I don’t like how much time it takes up. It took 2:10 to walk 8 miles today. I entertained myself by listening to the Dr. Drew Podcast and Evo at 11.

Thursday: I had to get my car serviced and pick up mail from my office. When I realized they were 2.7 miles apart, I opted to do 5.4 miles instead of the 5 miles I was assigned to do. Yay for killing 2 birds with one stone. Boo for the fact it was raining. I wore my raincoat from when I lived in Oregon but that didn’t prevent my jeans from being completely soaked by the end.

Here’s something that’s weird. When I run, my left leg and my right hip hurt. When I walk, my right leg and my left hip hurt.

Friday:  Rest Day.

Saturday:  My plan for the weekend was to skip cross training and walk the 12 miles I was scheduled to run on Sunday. That didn’t happen. I was pretty run down on Saturday and by Saturday afternoon, I was feeling weak and warm. It turned out I was running a fever. I slept from 5pm on Saturday evening until 6am on Sunday morning, waking up twice to change my sweat-soaked shirt.

Sunday:  I may be a masochist, but I’m not an idiot. My temperature was back down to normal by 7am, but I was still weak from the previous day. Plus something in my liver/lower lung area was hurting. I opted for a mellow day and did housework instead of walking for 3 hours.

I’ll see my cardiologist on Monday morning. Hopefully we’ll get some answers and I’ll be back pounding pavement soon. Being sick sucks.

Weekly Totals:
Running:  0 miles
Walking:  17.9 miles
Push-ups:  0 push-ups

Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 7

I'll be going through these boxes by the end of the month.

I’ll be going through these boxes by the end of the month.

I am just over 7 weeks into my variation of Ryan Nicodemus’(of The Minimalists) “packing party.” I still have my notebook where I track what I unpack and get rid of each day, but at this point it seems almost redundant to post the day-by-day list of what I’m using, unpacking, and donating to charity. If you’re really interested in seeing the daily lists, let me know.

I finally went a day where I didn’t unpack anything because I needed it. However, I’m unpacking things if I know they’re going to survive the final cleanout and adding them to the charity pile the moment I know that an item is not going to survive, so even on that day where I didn’t “unpack” anything, items still came out of the boxes. But in case you are wondering, that fateful day was Day 49.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m using this minimalism project as a way to avoid fully settling into my condo. So I’m using this month to do the final cleanout. I’m trying to go through a box a day and at least unpack the things that I know for sure are going to survive the final cleanout. If I find an item that I’ve forgotten that I had, that’s a pretty good indicator that that item can be added to the charity pile. If it wasn’t important enough to remember, it’s probably not important enough to keep. Also, as soon as my brain has placed an item in a particular place in my condo, I try to unpack it, even if it’s an item that someone might consider frivolous like a flower vase or a stuffed animal.

Charity boxes 12-2-2014

Four full boxes going to charity! More to be added I’m sure.

My goal by the end of this month is to have all the minimalism boxes out of the condo and to have at least ordered the final pieces of furniture that I want, which include a dining set, armchairs for the living room and office, a white board for my office, and a floor lamp for my office. I might end up with more furniture than what other minimalists might have, and I’m OK with that. Minimalism isn’t about having less than what others have, and using it like a badge of honor. It’s about having things in my life that give me value without having the things that don’t. For me, it’s important to have a home that is cozy, inviting, and comfortable so I’m diligent about selecting furniture and fabrics that are comforting.

I’ll keep shooting videos of this project, and I might start doing some where I open the remaining minimalism boxes and to talk about what will survive the final cleanout, what definitely won’t survive, and to talk about the uncertainty I have about whether I should or shouldn’t keep an item. One thing I know that has been handy in the past is Joshua Fields Millburn’s 20/20 rule which he talks about in his book Everything That Remains. His suggestion is that it shouldn’t be a big deal to get rid of something if it takes less than 20 minutes and less than $20 to replace.

I’m looking forward to having this portion of my minimalism project complete and sharing the journey with you.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3
What was Unpacked During Week 4
What was Unpacked During Week 5
What was Unpacked During Week 6

Marathon Training Week 11 Recap – Geez that Hurts!

11 by MaretH. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

11 by MaretH. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I am 11 weeks into Hal Higdon’s 18-week marathon training program. It was mostly a good week of training until this weekend when the excruciating pain started. I switched up my aural entertainment from podcasts to mostly music and it made a big difference.

Here’s the recap of the last week:

Monday: Monday is usually a rest day, but I knew I’d be hiking on Thursday so I did the 4.5 miles I was scheduled to do on Thursday today. I entertained myself with my race day playlist. It’s easy to zone out with good music and just run in time with the rhythm. It was a little chilly but it felt good towards the end. I didn’t have any real pain until Mile 2 or 3 when I started having a little discomvfort in my hip, left calf, and left shin/post-tib. I was pretty sure I was going to need KT Tape on my left shin and post-tib for Wednesday’s 8-mile run and Saturday’s 16-mile run.

Tuesday: I accidentally slept in today so I ran my 4.5 miles in the afternoon. It was an uneventful run – just my standard pain in my left shin and right hip.

Wednesday:  I ran 8 miles early morning and watched a beautiful sunrise. It had hip pain from Mile 1, but it wasn’t that bad. I wore KT Tape which helped but it didn’t stay in place very well. I ordered Tuf-Skin when I got home. That stuff makes tape stick like glue.

I’m stepping up my push-ups this week: 5 sets of 25.

Thursday: Today was the Annual No Guilt Thanksgiving Hike with my cousin Marian. We hiked 5 miles up Shaw Butte. It was a good trek with good conversation, and as a bonus, I felt no pain.

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: I had a Forrest Gump moment during today’s 16-mile run. I started my run just as the sun was coming up and I was running next to a park that has some beautiful red rocks. There weren’t any cars or people around and I could just begin to see the sun peaking up over the horizon. It was very peaceful and gorgeous.

The run went well. I listened to Profiles with Malone and Mantz followed by my race day playlist. I put KT Tape on my left shin and post-tib and I was annoyed that it wasn’t staying on even though I followed all their directions – and then I realized that I got this roll of tape almost 2 years ago. The adhesive is probably drying out.

I felt good after my run until the evening when my entire body started to hurt – especially my chest. I felt like someone stomped on my sternum and kicked me in the ribs.

Sunday:  Holy crap my chest hurt this morning – but some ibuprofen helped take the edge off. Instead of biking, I went hiking with my friends at the Wind Cave Trail. It was 4 miles with a lot of rocks to climb. Toward the end, my legs and glutes could definitely feel it. After the hike my chest was killing me. Some of the people on the running Subreddit suggested that I might have a posture issue. I definitely plan to hit the Runner’s Den injury clinic this week to get their opinion about this.

After a nap I felt much better and cranked out 4 sets of 25 push-ups.

Weekly Totals:
Running:  33 miles (130.6 miles total for November)
Hiking:  9 miles
Push-ups:  225 push-ups