Sunday, July 30, 2017


Back in March I started the 2 week test to eliminate sugar & processed foods.  My main goal was to eliminate the garbage prior to starting radiation for breast cancer.   After the test I started to add some foods back into my daily diet.  Mostly fruits & a few whole grains.  I still stayed away from added sugars & processed foods.

Several weeks after finishing the test I decided to start tracking my daily food intake on My Fitness Pal.  I was curious to know how many calories I was eating plus I wanted to know my macro breakdown. I was still eating high fat foods which mentally was hard since I was raised in the 80's during the low fat era.  After a few weeks of tracking I was on average eating about 1500-1800 calories per day & my macro breakdown was as follows: Carbs 30-35%, Fat 45-55% & Protein 15-20%.  This was in the mid-May time frame.  Overall, I was feeling really good health wise & feeling satisfied with my meals.  I was starting to wonder how this way of eating would hold up long term & if it was sustainable as I started to add in longer workouts.

About this time Swim Bike Mom started advertising a new nutrition program she was rolling out with Dina Griffin, a Registered Dietitian & certified MET Specialist, called Optimal Thrive.  Dina works with Bob Seebohar in Colorado.  When I first started triathlon in 2009, Bob came to Lexington to discuss his book about eating metabolically efficient to train your body to be a fat burner instead of a sugar burner.  I knew of several folks that bought the book & implemented this way of eating.  At the time I was just trying to figure out the sport & didn't bother too much with my nutrition.  Fast forward 8 years, hearing SBM was offering this on-line program I was very interested.  The timing was spot on since I had just finished the 2 week test & was looking for direction on how to move forward.  The first Optimal Thrive session began on June 1st. 

Optimal Thrive started out as a 5 week session but they extended a couple weeks during the program so folks could have more time grasping the material.  The format was good.  It was exclusively on a Facebook private group.  No emails. They would send out via Facebook a few worksheets a week. They would have a Q&A thread every Friday.  They also had a meal thread where everyone in the program could add photos / recipes of their meal wins.  There were weekly Live videos with Dina & 2 or 3 Webinars with both Meredith & Dina throughout the program.

About the worksheets - there were a total of 21 worksheets over the program.  So not daily but several times per week.  The essence of the worksheets were to teach you the principles of eating Metabolically Efficient & to give you the tools on how to implement into your life.  The worksheets were not a weekly meal plan telling you what & when to eat. A few recipes were given but not a book of recipes.  A few examples were given on how different athletes should eat for their day but not a slew of meal plans.

In a nutshell, how this program was run can be summarized with this famous quote: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  Personally, I loved it. I rather have the tools to understand the why I am doing what I am doing then just being told what to do.  You need to understand this is how the program is run because some folks don't want to or are not ready to think. They just want to be told what to do.  Sometimes, you need to slow down & learn the basics.

Since starting the 2 week test I am down over 10 pounds and 17 inches in my thighs, hips & waist. My deep sleep has improved significantly, I will talk more about that later in this post.  I am still waiting to get healthy to see how my energy levels are & how this way of eating works with longer workouts.

Below is a typical day meals:

Breakfast: Green Smoothie - Almond milk, Tera's Whey protein powder, spinach, carrots, almond butter or plain greek yogurt, frozen banana & berries or Veggie & Meat Omelette.

Green Smoothie

Omelette, Bacon & Sprouted Rye Toast
Lunch: Spinach or Cabbage Salad with sweet peppers, carrots, almonds, pumpkin seeds, cheese & some kind of meat - grilled chicken, tuna, turkey.  Either olive oil & balsamic vinegar or organic ranch dressing

Cabbage Salad
Dinner: Grilled Zucchini/Summer Squash & green beans, grilled chicken with peanut sauce

Grilled Corn & Summer Squash
Snacks: Fruit & string cheese, almonds/cashews/pistachios, veggies & hummus

The other thing I have been doing since being sick is listening to podcasts on health & nutrition. A couple things I recently introduced into my diet is Kombucha & Apple Cider Vinegar.  This is to combat the damage the 3 weeks of antibiotics did to my system.  Both are said to help to rebalance the good stuff in your gut.  Kombucha is definitely an acquired taste. I have been drinking 1/2 - 1 serving per day.  The first thing I noticed is that it gave me an immediate burst of energy.  The first time I drank it was after my first day back to work after pneumonia.  I was drained from the day.  After drinking 1 serving I immediately felt perked up.  I had similar results the next day. I even got Steve drinking it & to my surprise he really likes it.  I have been drinking it for a week now & my belly feels a lot better.  Steve had similar comments.  It's not cheap, about $1.50 - $2 per serving.  There are a ton of flavors & brands so we have been trying different ones.  Even Target has their own brand but be careful theirs has added sugar. So far our favorite is Traders Joe's Pink Lady Apple at $4 per bottle.

This is our favorite so far - Trader Joe's
They even make some with Chia seeds.  If you are not familiar with Chia & what they do in liquid, think bubble tea. If you like Chia seeds, this one is good as well. I have drank about 4 ounces a day & haven't noticed any energy boost like I did with the Trilogy & Pink Lady.  It is also higher in calories because of the Chia seeds.  Personally, I will skip the Chia ones in the future.  Not that they taste bad but because of the calories & no noticeable benefits.

Grape Chia
I will continue to try new flavors & possibly do a post in the future.  For now, read THIS post regarding reviews of Kombucha for a giggle. The first one we tried was the 2nd one in her post, Synergy Enlightened Trilogy.  Like I said, it's an acquired taste but we were able to drink it with relative ease.

On of the benefits since starting the 2 week test is my sleep quality is off the charts compared to before I started the 2 week test.  My average deep sleep went from 3.5 hours per night to almost 6 hours per night. I wonder if that will hold up after getting healthy, fully back to work & working out again.

One of the podcasts I am listening to is Bulletproof.  I pick up one of his books, Head Strong, at the library this week. One thing that really jumped out to me on page 232 is about sleepy snacks.  "If you wake up between three & five AM and can't go back to sleep, it's often because your blood sugar is dipping during the night, causing a cortisol spike, which wakes you up."  Holy crap!  This used to happen to me EVERY night. I would wake up between 2 & 3 every night, toss & turn, for a couple of hours.  After I finished the 2 week test, my deep sleep improved by about an hour a night.  After finishing the Optimal Thrive program & recovering from pneumonia it has improved an additional hour.  Last week, my deep sleep average was 5 hours, 40 minutes which is up from 3 hours 28 minutes in mid February.

So yeah, I am very curious to see if this trend continues after I am fully over the pneumonia & back to my normal way of living.

Speaking of normal way of living....I am 4 weeks into my pneumonia recovery.  Yesterday was the first day that I felt I had good energy & could join the group for a walk.  It was slow but I managed 2 miles around the Arboretum.  It felt great to be out.  It helped the weather was perfect.

First Post Pneumonia Walk
Today I finally was able to join the weekly free Yoga at Ashland.  Again, the temperature & humidity were perfect. It feels so good to move the body.
Outdoor Yoga is the BEST
Tomorrow I go back to the Pulmonary doctor for a follow up.  I am hoping to be able to ease back into the Livestrong program this week.  I have no intention of running or biking until after I see my follow up CT scan on 8/21. I am going to ask the doc about swimming.  It would be nice to get a few more swims in during August.

Stay healthy, y'all!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

3 Month Update

So today is 3 months since I finished radiation for DCIS breast cancer.  The actual breast cancer treatment wasn't too bad.  I was lucky.  I sailed through the surgery & for the most part the radiation was easy.  Fatigued yes but I got through it without any major illness or time off work.

Last Day of Radiation
I took May very easy.  I continued to walk instead of run.  I did a couple short bike commutes to work.  We had a great vacation in Washington. I came back to work after Memorial Day feeling healthy.  I continued bike commuting a couple days of the week.  I slowly started adding run intervals to my walks.  I even hit the pool in early June.

Shillito Pool
Then came the second week of June.  It started with a scratchy, dry sore throat.  Then a little burn in my lungs with any exertion.  I figured I had a cold or allergies.  Several folks I knew had hacky coughs so I figured  it was my turn.  I managed to stay really healthy all through the cancer treatment so I was due.  I went to the work doctor & he said it was just a cold.  So I didn't think much about it.  Just went on my way.

The problem was I just wasn't getting better.  I dialed my workouts down even more.  No more jogging, only 1 bike commute each week, used fins at the pool but nothing helped.  I was tired.

We went to New York to visit family for a long weekend at the end of June. We always hike & explore while we are there but this time I was perfectly content to sit & hang out all weekend. That damn cold was really hanging on. Over 2 weeks since the first symptoms.

Queensbury, New York - Mom, Grandma, Steven, Jason & me
The following weekend was 4th of July weekend & we headed to Savannah to visit Nina.  I had to take naps every day.  We barely did anything.  By Saturday I knew I was heading downhill fast.  We had rented kayaks & I could barely keep up.  The effort was exhausting.  I felt bad but I had no interest in exploring Savannah. Just the thought was exhausting. I was so freaking tired.

Tybee Island - Me, Nina & Steve
I had 2 extra days off at home thanks to the holiday so I was just trying to get home knowing I could rest.  By the evening of the 4th I was done.  I was coughing, barely could breathe & my chest hurt something fierce.  I thought I had bronchitis.  I called my GP office first thing Wednesday (7/5) morning.  Thankfully they were able to see me that morning.

To my surprise the doctor told me I had pneumonia or possibly radiation induced pneumonitis.  Huh?  I was stunned.  She sent me to have a chest xray to confirm.  While waiting, I was googling radiation induced pneumonia.  I didn't like what I read at all.

Later that afternoon the doctor called me to confirm that I had pneumonia & that I needed a CT scan.  They got that scheduled for Friday morning & she started me on antibiotics. By Monday (7/10) morning I had zero improvement so I called to schedule a follow up with my GP.  When she walked in she said they are trying to get me in with a Pulmonary specialist ASAP because my pneumonia was severe.  My entire left upper lobe was full of pneumonia.  The CT could not determine if it was bacterial or radiation induced.  She assumed bacterial so they gave me a shot of antibiotics & a stronger antibiotic prescription.  She also told me no work for 2 weeks.  I thought she was nuts at the time but believe me I have needed every bit of those 2 weeks off.

I went to the Pulmonary specialist on Tuesday (7/11) morning.  He showed me my CT scan & explained how the next couple of weeks were going to go.  He re-iterated that they couldn't tell if the pneumonia was bacterial or radiation induced without a lung biopsy.  He treatment plans were this: 14 days of strong antibiotics & steroids.  If I get better, then it's bacterial.  If I am the same in 1 week then we do a lung biopsy.  If I get worse, go straight to the ER.  No exercise, no work, no being outside in the heat until I start to feel better.  Period.

See all that white?  That's pneumonia.
That bright white spot is most likely pneumonia on my right lung
Well, you would think being cooped up inside in July would be the worst thing in the world for someone that enjoys being outside & active.  The reality was I was so miserable I didn't care about the mandatory couch time.  The first 10 days were spent sleeping 9-10 hours each night, a morning nap & an afternoon nap.  When I was awake I watched the Tour de France & HGTV.  Each afternoon I would try to spend a few minutes online checking work emails but that was pretty much the extent of my working.

I had such a hard time determining if I was feeling better.  The improvements were so minor.  I remember telling the doctors that if I stay still & don't move I could convince myself that I am feeling better but as soon I got up it was a completely different story.  I was exhausted.

I had my first follow up with the pulmonary doctor on Tuesday (7/18).  I had little to go on from my perspective on whether or not I was truly improving.  I resorted to my Garmin data & a couple of things others said to me.  First, one of my friends said it didn't sound like I was as out of breathe when I spoke.  OK, that's good.  I still felt like I was out of breathe but that was good feedback.  Second, the same pulmonary nurse saw me each week & she said I looked better even though I still felt rough.  The rest was on my Garmin data. Yeah, total data nerd.

I looked at Garmin Connect to check my average resting heart rate & sleep trends.  My average resting HR on June 4th was 57 bpm.  Through the month of June it creeped up to a high of 67 bpm by July 2nd.  I started antibiotics on July 5th.  By July 9th it was down to 60 bpm & by the 18th it was down to 54 bpm.  The antibiotics & the rest were clearly helping even if I didn't feel better.

The next thing I looked at was my deep sleep time.  Prior to starting antibiotics my deep sleep was 3-4 hours per night even though my total sleep time was 9-10 hours each night.  After two weeks of antibiotics I was sleeping deeply 5-7 hours each night out of the 9-10 hours.  I interpreted that as I was breathing better & not coughing nearly as much in the night.

Using this data & feedback from others we decided to delay the lung biopsy which relieved me greatly.  This was not something I wanted to do AT ALL.  My next follow up is 7/31 & I am optimistic that I will be feeling much better.  I still have a few days before going to work but I have gone 2 days without a nap.  I have much more mental energy than I did even earlier this week.  I am definitely breathing better.  I am still very fatigued & don't see myself doing any real workouts for several more weeks.

In addition to my inhaler optri-chamber, I got a breathing apparatus called a flutter valve this week.  The way the pulmonary nurse practitioner explained it was it is like doing bicep curls for your lungs.  I use it 6 times a day & I noticed right away that it noticeably improved my breathing.

Flutter Valve

The doctors said the total recovery time was 8-12 weeks provided I don't have any other underlying issues.  I go back on 8/21 for a follow up CT scan to see how much my lungs have cleared up.  At that point we should be able to determine if this was just a nasty case of pneumonia or something else is lurking.  Fingers crossed it is the former.

Sammie - My couch surfing buddy
While on rest, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Tour de France this year.  I have watched all but 2 stages so far.  It has been the highlight of my days this month while recuperating.

Conversely, I am entirely sick of HGTV.  I'm so over those shows. I think HGTV will now always remind me of radiation treatment & pneumonia.  That channel is always on in the waiting rooms.

I read a few free prime books this month nothing worth noting.  Just easy reads. My biggest accomplishment this week was that I finally got our paperwork in order to meet with a financial advisor. I have been putting that off forever.

Tomorrow I go for another craniosacral massage.  It helped a lot during radiation treatment so I am hoping it will help a bit with my fatigue since Monday I go back to work. I am hoping that I can make it a full day but we shall see. 

Stay healthy, y'all!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Adirondack Camping

My mom finally retired in June.  One of her first trips was to visit Grandma in upstate NY.  We decided to fly out there to visit.  Since we just broke the piggy bank in Washington we decided to give camping a go.

During one of my many campground searches I came across this website.  They take photos of campsites across the country.  This was so helpful since we were planning to bring our hammocks & we needed to make sure we had trees.  They had a video of photos showing every site in Luzerne Campground.  The campground looked perfect. It had plenty of sites & didn't look like they were filling up for the weekend we were going to be there.  Plus it was about a 15 minute drive from Grandma's.

I called a few days prior to leaving Lexington to ask some questions about availability & if they accepted walk ups.  Then on a whim I asked if hammocks were OK.  With some hemming & hawing the women on the phone said technically they can be used but not as your main sleeping arrangements.  Huh?  Puzzled, I asked if they had any signs posting this & she said no.  She said if we had any issues we could just get a cheap tent at Walmart.  Huh?

After some more google searches it appears there have been some issues of nudity amongst hammock folks in campgrounds so the government put some caveats on hammocks.  I found a forum discussion that talked about this crazy rule.  After talking with Steve, we decided to go ahead & bring our stuff anyway.  He was able to fit his 2 person tent in the suitcase along with our hammock gear.

We flew into Albany on Thursday around noon.  We picked up our car.  We had a few options & choose the Nissan Rogue which happened to be brand new with only 3 miles on it!  It was a great option since it gave us the extra room we needed for all of our gear. It was also a very comfy & nicely designed car.

Brand New Nissan Rogue
After a lunch stop in Glens Falls we headed to the campground.  The folks at the gate gave us a map, told us to drive around & pick out a few sites we liked.  The campground is huge with several loops.  Reading the reviews on the web the first loop was to be avoided if possible. Too close to the main road.  The second loop was completely empty & about 1.5 miles from the entrance.  We checked out the main loop which pretty full since it was right on the lake plus the sites were pretty close to one another.  I don't think we bothered checking out the last 2 loops.

We had picked one site that we really liked in the second loop & a few other back up sites in that same loop.  We got our first choice. Site #22 was available all weekend long but we only booked the first night in case we didn't like it.  We spent the next hour setting up the tent & both of our hammocks before heading to Grandma's.

Site #22

Very deep site

Loop Road - So Many Trees!
The first evening we spent a couple hours visiting Grandma & mom before heading to the store for some supplies like water, beer, bug spray & a few snacks. Mom brought us a cooler to use to keep our beers cold.

The thing about campsites with so many trees is it feels like it is almost dark for like 3 hours.  The sunrise was around 5:15AM & the sunset was around 8:30PM.  The first night we were in our hammocks early & I got an amazing nights sleep.

Friday morning we drove to the little store across from the entrance for coffee.  On our way back in we booked the following 2 nights stay.  Steve spent the next couple of hours re-arranging his hammock before we headed out to the grocery to pick up some food for Grandma's. When we got to her apartment only mom was there.  Grandma was out running an errand. While she was out, she had a dizzy spell & ended up at the ER.  At 94 people don't take chances.  Grandma didn't want to go the the ER but her friend pretty much made her go.  So that is where we spent the afternoon.  Waiting in Glens Falls ER while they ran tests.  In the end, she was fine & we were home around dinner time.

Friday night Steve & I had a fire at the campsite.  During the night we woke up to rain.  It was warm that evening but the rain was soothing & brought in a cool front. The tarps did their job keeping us dry.

In the morning, Steve woke up & did his morning run while I went for coffees.  Afterwards we went back to Grandma's to make breakfast & to await the arrival of my 2 cousins from Connecticut.  None of us had seen them for 20 years so we didn't know what to expect.

They arrived around mid afternoon.  You are never sure what to expect when you haven't seen someone for 20 years. Plus they were 5 & 7 the last time we saw them.  They really didn't remember any of us.  The reunion was perfect.  They are such great young men.  The conversations were easy.  I am so glad they came up. It is only a 3 hour drive for them to visit so I do hope they will visit her more now.
Mom, Grandma, Steven, Jason & me
After dinner, Steve & I headed back to our site.  Since the cooler weather came in there were a few more people in our loop but it still wasn't full.  Thursday & Friday there was only one other person in our loop.

Sunday morning we again got coffee & started taking everything down. We had to cram everything back into our suitcase so we had to make sure we took our time.  As we drove around the campground we saw a few other sites with a tent & hammock so we weren't the only ones.

We were all packed & showered up by 10AM.  We again spent the majority of the day hanging out at Grandma's.  Steven & Jason left early afternoon & we headed back towards Albany around 4PM since we had an early flight out in the morning.

Overall the camping trip was a success.  We really didn't spend much time at the site but used it like a hotel room.  We also didn't do any hiking like we usually do when we go to New York.  I was still feeling sluggish from what I thought was the radiation treatment.  I didn't know it at the time but I had the early stages of pneumonia.  The pneumonia wouldn't come out in full force for another couple weeks though.

We got all our camping gear in one suitcase that we checked.  Plus each of us had a carry on bag for our clothes, shoes & toiletries.

Camping Gear contents:

  • 2 Hammocks & Straps
  • 2 Sleeping Bags
  • 2 Under Quilts for Hammocks
  • 2 Tarps
  • 1 2-person Tent w/poles
  • 2 Thermarest Pillows
  • Bag of tarp & tent stakes
  • 1 Camp stove --> Never used on this trip
  • 1 bag of plastic wear
  • 1 Helinox Camp Chair for me
  • 1 Seat mat for Steve


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