21 March 2011

If you book it, they will run

As my age expands and I rapidly approach my 30th birthday, so too does my flabby post-partum waistline. Eighteen months after Drew’s birth, I still find myself hopelessly clinging to my elasticized pants and baggy shirts. I fear I have fallen into the trap that many mothers do, one that I swore I would avoid…I don’t take care of myself.

In general, I have become lethargic. The working mom gig leaves me with precious few hours to myself in the evening. By Andrew’s bedtime, I’m already eyeing my own comforter and the TV remote. Before Drew, it wasn’t uncommon for me to start exercising until 8:30 p.m., so I’m not sure what my excuse is now. As much as I’d like to blame motherhood, I think I’ve simply fallen into a funk.

Enough is enough. Given my current health scare, I have decided that I need to start training again and getting my body back into peak form. If this thyroid issue turns out to be serious, I’m going to need all the strength that I can muster to deal with it – both emotional and physical. There are many aspects of my health that are out of my control, so I might as well take charge of the things that I know I can influence.

One goal I have yet to achieve in life is to become a runner. Anytime I see someone pounding the pavement, a small part of me is envious. I have never enjoyed running, but I haven’t ever stuck it out long enough to get myself to a place where I am comfortable doing it. I feel awkward, like my body is built for heavy lifting rather than light-footed sprinting. To make matters worse, being well-endowed by the chest fairy does nothing to contribute to comfort or confidence levels.

In a desperate attempt to motivate myself, I have signed myself up for the 5K Army Run in September. I tend to do better when I have tangible goals set, not to mention a bit of money committed to the cause. Hubby has also signed up and we plan to train throughout spring and summer by following the “Couch Potato to 5K” program. I have heard good things about this approach as it builds up running endurance gradually throughout a six-week period. I did try week-1 last summer, however stopped due to a non-related injury. It’s as simple as strapping on an I-Pod and following the instructions – run now, walk now, etc.

I can’t remember the last time I have felt this excited about exercising. I’m very eager to start running as soon as the snow clears. When I strap that number on my chest in September and cross the finish line, I have a feeling it will be the start to many more races. For now, I’m starting small and we’ll see where it leads me.

16 March 2011

God is great, but money talks

Everyday my heart sinks lower as I read about the horrible situation in Japan. I know a girl working over there on a contract as an English teacher and I can’t even begin to imagine how frightening the atmosphere must be. It’s one thing to survive one of the country’s largest earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis, but add on the fear of exposure to radiation from nuclear power facilities, and it’s a whole new ball game. Thankfully, she weathered the storm and plans to head home on the next available flight out of town – back to Canada and her hubby’s waiting embrace.

The situation in Japan looks grim, there’s no two ways about it. While I have no doubt of the resourcefulness, grace and intelligence of the Japanese people, they still have one heck of a mess on their hands. With crippling debt already facing their economy, I’m not sure they can simply bounce back and land on their feet. It’s going to take help and a whole lot of humanity.

Have you ever sat down to read some of the reader comments posted on CBC or otherwise? So often people are quick to pray and or say “God bless Japan in their time of need.” While I’m no stranger to prayer, I think the most helpful response at this time is to open up your pocketbooks, forego your latt├ęs for a few weeks, and give what you can towards a reputable humanitarian relief organization. Thoughts are nice, but financial aid will go further towards rebuilding the country.

Situations like this really drive home the fact that we really ARE intrinsically all the same. It doesn’t matter whether you’re born in a palace, a hospital, field tent, or alley; we come into this world the same – Human. We are powerless to a certain degree, a product of whatever environment we are born into. Some have the misfortune of being born in war-torn countries, others along precarious coastlines, etc. No matter the race, class, colour or creed, nobody deserves this kind of human suffering. It drives home the fact that, as humans, we are all vulnerable and subject to whatever Mother Nature or life wants to throw at us.

I don’t think there is ever a way to eradicate human suffering, these kinds of disasters are beyond our control, but we can facilitate the healing process and the continuation of life by donating a little of our own good fortune. If the shoe were on the other foot, which I am not fool enough to ever discount, I would hope for the same sort of compassion.

15 March 2011

Scary Soccer Mom

I love soccer. Since going on an exchange to Italy and getting to live in a soccer-mad nation during the World Cup finals, I have dreamed of having my own kid someday that could pursue the sport. No I do not have illusions of raising a pro athlete; I just think soccer is a wonderful and inexpensive introduction to team sports.

One of my key goals as a parent is to instil self confidence in my child, and I have always believed that team sports go hand in hand with this. I never want my child to be apprehensive in gym class or to know what it feels like to be the dreaded last pick on a team. Sadly, I was among that awkward pack when I was young and I regret it. What I later discovered, as an adult, is that I’m actually quite athletic. Because I never had the confidence to try out for any teams (aside from volleyball in grade six...where everybody made the cut), people likely perceived my reluctance as a lack of ability. I'm hoping that by introducing Drew to sports at a very early age, he’ll simply come to see it as a familiar and enjoyable part of his life.

Aside from the fitness and confidence aspect, I must also selfishly admit that I am looking forward to being a crazy soccer mom. Is it sad that I already have plans to kit him out in full-on soccer gear – Ireland jersey and all? My only stipulation about being a soccer mom – no van! I already drive a small SUV and I think that fits the bill nicely.

Poor Drew, he has no idea what he’s in for – years of embarrassment and yelling from the sidelines. Go on my son, make you Mother proud! Above all else though, just have fun!

14 March 2011

Add another notch to the belt of life

I suppose life would be dull if we never faced challenge. Difficult situations toughen the soul, they build character and, more importantly, they bring us perspective. If there is anything I have learned so far in life, it is that family and health are everything; the rest is just gravy.

Just shy of my thirtieth birthday, I found myself sitting in the waiting room of a thoracic surgeon’s office this morning. I was the youngest one in the room, a picture of perfect health on the outside and yet no different than any of the other patients, we were all there because something isn’t quite right on the inside. One, twenty, fifty, eighty –age is no match for the eccentricities of the body. The fact is, we’re all powerless to a certain degree.

My own journey to this “wait” actually started two years ago. After a routine physical examination, my doctor detected a small lump in the region of my thyroid. To be on the safe side, I was sent for an ultrasound. Fast forward a few months to the day that I found out I was pregnant with my son, only to get my ultrasound results on the same day – multiple nodules around the thyroid, with one measuring 1.0 cm, just within range for nuclear diagnosis. Because I was pregnant, no further testing could be done and I was scheduled for a follow-up ultrasound several months later. It was a bit of blow on what should have been a happy day, but I put it out of my mind and focused on my pregnancy.

Towards the end of my third trimester, I went for my second ultrasound and was happy to find out that the nodules seemed to have shrunk in size, some almost completely undetectable. I was thrilled and considered the nodules “case closed.” I knew that my doctor planned to continue routine annual ultrasounds but I honestly thought nothing would come of it. This past January, following my third ultrasound, I was shocked to find out that the nodules had grown again in size. The largest nodule was back within range for testing and I was sent to the hospital’s department of nuclear medicine. I went through a fairly painless two-day test with a radioactive isotope injection and thyroid scan. To be honest, those two days scared the hell out me, watching sick patients being wheeled in and out of the unit on gurneys. Suddenly, I found myself having to contemplate the fact that I too could end up on one of those gurneys or, worse still, another in the long list of people battling the big “C” that shall remain nameless. I didn’t want my mind to go there, but as a mother it did…I have a lot to live for.

Unfortunately the nuclear diagnosis did not give me the results I was hoping for. The largest of the nodules turned out to be “cold” – a foreign lump that is a non-active part of functioning thyroid. There is still a very small chance of malignancy, but the “cold” nodules are the ones that have to be analyzed further to rule out every possibility. And so I found myself at the surgeon’s office today, awaiting the next step.

My meeting was a little more grim than anticipated. While I knew that he would recommend a biopsy, I did not know that I would likely still need surgery to remove at least half of my thyroid. The problem with fine-needle aspiration biopsy is that it often yields false positives. In the presence of any positive marker for cancer cells, the nodule must be removed along with surrounding tissue. That half of my thyroid would then be sent for further testing to determine whether the original biopsy was in fact positive or negative. It is invasive, but it would also be a final answer. So, I could very well end up with half a thyroid even if nothing turns out to be wrong and thus begins a life of daily medication, hormones, etc. In short, this is not a problem that can simply disappear – I have to deal with whatever comes my way, bad, good or otherwise.

On a more positive note, this is treatable. Even in the worst case scenario, my odds of living a long, productive and normal life are good...and there is no point putting the cart before the horse right now. I thank my lucky stars that I care enough about myself to have yearly medical examination and I hug my family a little bit tighter these days.