Category Archives: Injury and Recovery

Skin Cancer Awareness Month

This is my story of treating some actinic keratosis on my bottom lip in the fall of 2018. I’ve had several “pre-cancerous” or “suspicious lesions” froze off and even have a 2″ scar on my abdomen of the pencil eraser sized spot they had to remove, and then come back to cut more out when the margins weren’t enough. So I am not stronger to skin cancer scares. This treatment was different. Longer and a little more painful. Use sunscreen people. Every damn day.

Growing up in the sunshine state of Arizona, as a redhead with naturally fair skin, skin cancer seems inevitable. It’s not a matter of “if”, more like “when”. Every trip to my dermatologist (6 month intervals) has him cutting or freezing something off. This last trip, I asked him about my lips – specifically my bottom lip. For the last 4-5 months it has been in a constant state of chapped; dry and cracking, bleed than peel. In that order, just cycling through. I’ve tried all sorts of lip balms, mask, coconut oil, and it still cycles through. 

 Actinic Ketosis – pre-cancerous lesions – and he pulled out his little silver can and froze a spot. “That should take care of it, but if it starts to flake again we’ll want to treat it with Efudex cream. Maybe in October because it makes for a gorey Halloween costume”. Sounds fun. So of course when the flaking came back, I did some research on the old internet and completely panicked. This is nasty. But here I am. I was prescribed fluorouracil 5%, directions to apply a thin layer to my bottom lip every night for 7 days. And then stop. 

Here’s what I didn’t know when I started – fluorouracil builds up, so each application adds a little more. Don’t expect a reaction right away, or even after a few treatments. I was expecting a big reaction – swelling, skin peeling off, Bloody oozey lips after the first two treatments. By the 5th treatment, I still didn’t have much of a reaction. My lips were a little red, and maybe slightly swollen – they felt like I had a bit of a sunburn. Nothing I couldn’t live through. Then day 6 had me a little worried. Day 7 it was hard to talk, my lips were starting to sting all the time, and were red and swollen. Day 8 – I didn’t have to apply the medication which was a relief because I couldn’t go more than 2 hours without applying some sort of lip moisturizer. By day 9, the oozing began. 

Fluorouracil works by preventing abnormal cells from dividing, when cells can’t divide they die. As the medication builds up in the cells, they can longer live, and start to slowly die off. This causes the initial inflammation and then the death of tissue. This is what I refer to as the nasty oozing stage – the precancerous stuff is dying, and that’s the reaction. It hurts. Sleeping is impossible for longer than 2 hours, because the Vaseline is absorbed and the lips become dry and start burning again. 

The first 10 days of treatment

Day 10 and 11 the dead tissue has started to peel away, because I’ve kept the area moisturized, it’s less like flaking skin and more like ooze. And when I speak, the dead ooze sticks to the upper lip and pulls off. This is not a pleasant sensation. If the tissue starts to dry out, it gets crusty (not unlike a scab) and is beginning to crack and bleed a little. These are good signs, I’m laying down fresh healthy tissue under this mess. I’ve gotten subs for my classes the last three days, because talking is painful. If I didn’t sweat and talk while I worked, I’d probably be able to work through this stage. The other positive here is that no one seems to really notice the yellow crust that is my bottom lip. Or if they do notice, no one has said anything or even stared at it.


Chances are I will have to use efflux again, probably not on my lip, but on another area. I have had other pre cancerous lesions burned off, and even cut out. In the meantime, I’ve complied a list of things I found helpful during my experience. I’d also like to point out, that for my first time, I probably got off lucky. I have heard stories of people who have undergone the same treatment, but more aggressively; applying the cream multiple times a day for many more days than I did. And in other body area – the entire face, the neck and chest, back of hands… I can just imagine how uncomfortable a bigger treatment area would be!

Wear sunscreen every day. And make sure your lip balm has sunscreen. Wear sunglasses with polarized lenses. Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your ears and back of head. Wear sunscreen even when it’s cloudy. Avoid direct sun exposure when possible, and make sure you wear sun protective clothing when you are outside. And if you really need a tan, the science has come a long way with self tanners – its safer.

Helpful hints:

Advil – pain management and anti-inflammatory

Cold compress – either ice packs, or even wet frozen paper towels, feel amazing and takes some on the sting out of the burning sensation and helps the inflammation a bit.

Aquaphor and Vaseline – I found it worked best when I alternated the two. But applied every 2 hours, or more frequently if you are eating and talking. Basically, never let the area become dry. Dry equals pain. 

Drinking straws – the less stuff touches your lips the better. Even food should be cut into bite sized pieces for consumption. 

Face Mask (for sleeping at night) – yes, the SARS kind. During the treatment phase, this keeps the medicine on your lips and off your pillow cases. And during the oozing phase, it contains the ooze and keeps it off your pillow cases. Also, the mask prevents the Vaseline/Aquaphor from drying so quickly (more time trying the sleep)


Box Jumps Make Me Pee, and how I fixed that…. kinda

Before I even start on this thread – WARNING: I am about to discuss intimate details about my body and its functions! Turn away if your sensibilities are easily offended or you would rather not talk about incontinence. It’s okay, I get it. We’re not supposed to take about it. It’s “private” – which is why we don’t realize that it HAPPENS TO EVERYONE! And if it hasn’t happened to you, lucky you. Talk to me after your given birth or lived past 35. Continue reading Box Jumps Make Me Pee, and how I fixed that…. kinda

Non-Scale Victories

We are trained to be so focused on what the scale says, and rating our weight loss efforts accordingly, that sometimes seeing the small victories, entrenched in our actual levels of health and fitness, become more and more difficult. While I agree, weighing ourselves is  the easiest solution to tracking weight, maintaining records of our body measurements, fat and body mass percentages, progress photos (I know I hate them too), personal fitness bests, and yes, how our clothes fit day to day, remind us that the scale is not the be all end all.

Two years ago, I weighed about 150 pounds (I tend to fluctuate between 180 and 160, so 150 was super exciting); I had just trained and ran my first half marathon, so I was doing a lot of cardio, my nutrition was on point, and I looked good. I bought a pair of Paige denim jeans that were a size 29. Holy crap, the last time I was in a size 29 jean I was 29. Super exciting.

Then, 3 months later, I herniated my disc, and then herniated it again. Even though I kept my nutrition in check, and staying as active as I possibly could between surgeries and recoveries, my weight crept back up and I no longer could squeeze myself into those jeans. Until this weekend.

I am not training for a half marathon, I do yoga (a lot) and I spin about  once a week, occasionally I take a muscle conditioning class. I am not nearly as active as I was that amazing summer, exactly two years ago. I am also only 8 months since my last surgery, so theoretically I am still in a recovery/rebuilding period. I also do not weigh 150 pounds. I weigh 160 pounds. I am ten pounds above my “goal” weight, and yet, this weekend, I fit into those jeans. Without an issue. No “muffin top”. I didn’t have to lay down on the floor to zip them up.

Anyone who diets can tell you that last 10 pounds is hard. It seems like a lot. And here I am, 10 pounds shy of my goal weight and the jeans fit. I don’t look much different between then and now. However, my fitness life, and therefore my nutrition needs, between the two are dramatically different. I consume a little more protein (more strength training means more muscle synthesis, so protein helps that more efficiently), and a little less carbs (more endurance cardio means your body needs more carbs to fuel those long runs), but my overall calories have remained pretty steady.

The point of this post is to show everyone three main points:

  1. The number on the scale is not the be all end all. While it has a place in your fitness and wellness journey, it is only a sentence in the book.
  2. The type of work out or diet you follow is irrelevant, as long as you stay active and properly provide your body the nutrition it requires to do those activities. No carb/low carb/low fat/atkins/paleo/gluten free – find nutrition that easily fits into your life and properly fuels your body. Something you can manage day in and day out without feeling deprived or bored or punished. Apply that same principle to your activity: find something you can do over and over and over again, that you look forward to doing, that you miss when you don’t do it, and find friends to do that with you. Do lots of things. All the things.
  3. Consistency is the key. Over the course of two years, I had two back surgeries, both sidelining my activities, but I stayed consistent in my nutrition goals (amending them to reflect the decrease in activity, but still fueling it so it could heal appropriately – if you struggle with this hire a coach, I know a few good ones) and as I slowly returned to my active lifestyle (with necessary changes in activities) I adjusted my nutrition accordingly. Today I am active on most days. I don’t do alot of cardio.

Celebrate your small victories, and keep focused on the bigger picture. Take your set backs as an opportunity for change and exploration of your own happiness. Embrace the challenges.

 

And eat your veggies.

 

A word about injuries

Anyone who has been following my blog may already know that I suffered a herniated disc in my lower lumbar spine, specifically my L4/L5. After trying physical therapy and steroid injections I opted for surgery. Surgery was successful and I was pain free and pretty much back to normal. 6 months later, I re-hernitated the same disc, bigger this time and just went right in for surgery. My recovery wasn’t the same as the first time. And this is what I’d like to discuss.

Continue reading A word about injuries

DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Just when you think you are really in shape, change your work out. Last week I had the pleasure of taking a Barre3 class (Click here for find a class near you) and it literally kick my butt! Lots of body weight exercises using small movements and high repetition to really work all those muscles. Before I even got home, my legs were already feeling the intensity, so you can imagine how hard it was to get out of bed the next morning!! Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, often referred to as DOMS, happens when we’ve created small minute tears in the muscle, this causes muscle inflammation and thus pain for 24 to 48 hours after the work out. It is not due to lactic acid building up in the muscle, which was a common misconception until very recently.

The best course of action I have found is to take it easy, take a few aleve or any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, drink lots of water, static stretching and utilize a foam roller or schedule a sports massage to help ease the discomfort. If you have never used a foam roller (which is like a self-massage), click here for a great infographic. Since your muscle tissue needs to rebuild itself, this is the time to make sure you are consuming enough protein to get the job done. There is some evidence that BCAA supplementation can reduce the soreness (not alleviate it) associated with DOMS.

There’s no evidence that suggests the presence of DOMS increases your overall strength, so not experiencing the soreness doesn’t mean you didn’t get a good workout in. Likewise, just because you are sore doesn’t mean you got a good workout in. Also, it’s important to distinguish post-workout soreness from injury. Listen to your body.

I personally do not have an appreciation for DOMS, as it prevents me from my normal workout for a few days. I usually experience in mostly after I switch up and try a new class or workout. I end up working muscles I may not workout enough, and I usually work out harder than I normally would.

Heart health and nutrition

My 39 year old step son had a massive heart attack this week. The left anterior descending portion of his coronary artery was 100% blocked by plaque, and another portion is 40% blocked by plaque. The coronary arteries supply your heart with oxygenated blood, thus allowing it to function, when blocked your heart no longer pumps properly, if at all, thus causing a heart attack. These sorts of things can easily kill you. Thankfully, my step son made it to the hospital where they were able to diagnose the blockage, clear it and place a stent in the artery so it stays open. He left the hospital 4 days later. Very lucky to be alive.

My husband had a diagnostic angiogram 7 years ago, while they did discover some plaque build up in his coronary artery, is was limited to only 20-30% and the doctors reassured us that that degree of build-up was normal for his age (58 at the time), we were told that they would monitor it through ultrasound for growth. However, having plaque deposits does show that my husband is a builder and going forward should be careful with his diet in order to prevent the existing build up from growing and becoming a problem. It just so happens my hubby had such a ultrasound last week, and his build up has not grown at all over the last 7 years!! I’m just going to go ahead and take all the credit for that!!

All of this got me thinking: How can someone so young have so much build up? Turns out, after doing a little research, in the last 5 years men between the ages of 30 and 40 are the having more heart attacks than ever before!! In one study, researchers autopsied 2700 people between the ages of 15 and 50, all of whom died from something other than heart disease. They found that boys as young as 15, with no family history of heart disease, had early stages of atherosclerosis (arterial plague). Heart Disease is no longer a condition for older people.

lifestyle

Things that put you at higher risks for heart attacks include conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being over weight, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, diabetic, etc. Even if you work out every day, doing lots of cardiovascular exercise and strength training most days, and have never smoked, but still eat a diet high in saturated fats, fatty meats, sodium and refined carbohydrates, you’re at the same risk of having a heart attack as someone who eats the same diet but does nothing all day. You’re daily nutrition is that important.

nutrition

Eat real foods in moderate amounts. The basic rules that apply to a normal person who is trying to be healthy can also be applied to an individual with a heart condition. Always check with your cardiologist and cardiac rehab nutrition specialist for specific instructions. Most heart specialist recommend the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. This reduces sodium, trans fat and cholesterol from the diet. You can find the details here: https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/The-American-Heart-Associations-Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp

making healthy choices

See my list of rules to follow here: https://rulesbyred.com/2016/05/rules-for-eating-healthy/

Use MyFitnessPal to track your daily nutrition values, as well as monitor your progress

If you smoke, stop. If you need help quitting, see your doctor. These days they are many tools available to assist you.

Set a good example for your kids. If you or a family member has heart issues, there’s a good chance your children could develop those same issues. Help them avoid long term damage by changing their habits now! You can start by providing them with a good example to follow and involving them in the process of changing to a healthier lifestyle for the whole family. Eat as a family; several studies show that kids who sit down with family most nights weigh less then those who don’t. Eating together also provides a great opportunity for unhurried conversations.

Be active. Even if it’s as simple as parking a little farther away, or taking the stairs. Start taking family walks together.  Make a concentrated effort to move more.

more information

The Weight of the Nation – a look at the obesity epidemic

Skinny Taste – great recipes

 

 

Self judging

 

Back Surgery Update

Finally saw my surgeon for my first post-operative follow up, and received clearance to remove the brace and resume normal activities, but not go crazy. He also said that since there was little to no disc material left in the disc when he went in, it was more or less a complete discectomy; apparently he told my spouse this after the surgery but it got lost in translation. What this means for me is that I will have to be a little more careful and eventually, like 10 or 15 years from now, I will probably need a fusion. And any return to running will have to be slow and should remain under 5 miles. Back to cycling and maybe time to try some new adventures; boxing anyone? lol

Self – Judgement

Judging

Having all that down time, I had a great Pinterest work out! I found this image during my hours perusing and it struck me to go both ways. We tend to judge others based on our own insecurities, so if we focus on trying to stop ourselves from judging others, perhaps we can judge ourselves less as well.

If we maintain a critical eye, it will be critical towards others, but ourselves as well. But if we look outwards with a non-judgemental and accepting eye, we can than be less judgemental and more accepting of ourselves as well. We cannot control how others perceive us, anymore than we can control the weather. We can only make the effort to put our best selves out there for the world, and using the principal of karma, hope that by being accepting of others, despite their short comings, they will be accepting of us, despite our short comings. Try it for a day. Look at everyone you pass and find the negative, accept it and counter it with a positive. Then look within yourself and find the common negative, accept it and counter it with a positive and move on. I think eventually you will see that we all are imperfect, regardless of how perfect we may outwardly appear.

Recipes

Here are the links to some recipes I have made over the last few weeks. Enjoy!!

https://rulesbyred.com/2016/04/vegetable-coconut-curry/

https://rulesbyred.com/2016/04/black-bean-arugula-stuffed-sweet-potatoes-with-poached-eggs/

https://rulesbyred.com/2016/04/summer-couscous-salad/

Week 1 – post surgery

It’s been a week since my back surgery and I am going crazy! I tend to be a pretty active person, and this whole thing with no bending, twisting, lifting, no sitting in a car for more than 30 minutes, coupled with this back brace is the turning out to be more of a pain then the sciatic nerve! Of course, when I contemplate the alternative, which is not following the doctors orders and engaging in physical activity that will actually hurt me and delay any recovery by months, and could even result in a permanent disability, I guess Netflix and chilling for 3 – 4 weeks isn’t that bad.

Being happy with how my body is an ongoing struggle. First of all, it’s always changing so it’s not like I can just be happy with this body right now, I have to agree to accept it in all it’s forms. Even as a runner, I am not a ‘traditional runner’ in that I am not all long and sinewy. I jiggle when I run, and I cannot run very fast for very long. Even my best half marathon time is 2:30; basically a 5 mph pace. But I force my body to do it anyway (and look where that got me – haha). Even with yoga, I am not all that flexible and graceful, but I am more flexible and graceful than I was when I first started practicing, but again, my body has a little more ‘weight’ to it than those small, thin, hyper-flexible girls you see in all the Wonderlust videos!

But that’s all okay. As long as I keep putting the effort into my pursuits, and accepting my limitations, while still pushing the edge, it’s all okay! I may never run a sub 2:00 half marathon (hell, i may never run another half marathon), and king pigeon pose may be stretching my illiotibal band to it’s outer most limit (that’s why i will forever be grateful for modifications in yoga), it’s all okay.  I have I have found yoga, in it’s meditative form as well as active form, helps a lot with recognizing and learning to appreciate my body and all it allows me to do. While I have really missed running in this period of down time, yoga is what I miss the most. Luckily, my meditation practice is still available to me! (if you are looking to start a practice, I recommend the app buddhify )

A few years ago I embarked on a personal mission to try not to focus on my weight, instead focus on being healthy and happy, no matter what the scale or my pant size says. There are limits, like I know I feel happiest when I have fewer rolls in my middle and when I can wear anything that is currently in my closet without a muffin top falling over; that happens mostly when the number on the scale is between 160 and 165. I have come to realize that when my healthy diet habits are derailed, that number starts to creep up towards 170 and I start to feel heavier. Now i have come to use the number on the scale as a guideline; as it creeps up, I start to buckle down. This injury has taught me that when I am active, there is less creeping up and I have more leeway with my nutrition.

Recuperating

What I am eating now

Since I can’t be very active physically right now, I am really watching what I eat and staying away from empty calories. Empty calories are the things we eat that have more calories than they do nutritional value. Junk foods like soda pop and potato chips fall into that category. I’m actually eating more red meat, which is a fairly big change up for me as I try to keep my red meat consumption to once a week or less normally. However, this back surgery meant that my muscles along the vertebrae were damaged, as well as nerve tissue, and red meat offers the best source of B vitamins (needed for nerve tissue repair), iron (helps with keeping the blood oxygenated) and protein (to help repair the muscles). Of course, I’m not just eating steaks, but plenty of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Since I have been taking narcotic pain medications, the added fiber in the grains and produce will help keep me “regular”.

It’s getting warm here, which is a perfect time to add big entree sized salads to your dinner menu. This week I’ve made my Cheeseburger Salad, as well as a hearty Steak Salad. The best part of both these dinners is all the cooking was done prior; the burger and the steak were left overs of dinners from earlier in the week, I purposely cooked more than I needed so that I could prepare these salads quickly. I’ll post pictures and recipes later in the week.

The rest of the week is a mix of salads and some comforting favorites, mixed in with some My Fit Foods and Grabba Green. I’ll let you know how is it 🙂 In the mean time, get outside and enjoy the weather why you still can, it’s Arizona and Summer is coming!

Follow my nutrition log on

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/

user name: DawnLawson30

 

Saying No to Say Yes

I’m a little overwhelmed this week, with hockey games literally every other day and trying to prepare for my back surgery, and the 2-4 weeks of activity restrictions. I had a few social invitations as well, and even though I really wanted to go and visit with some friends, I had to decline a few so that I wouldn’t overwhelm myself even further. I am a little anxious about having this surgery to begin with, at the end of the day, although the visit would be pleasurable, I could see the stress that would be created down the road so I chose to attend to the things I need to get done.

I have been saying no to alcohol, with a few exceptions, since my diagnosis. anti-inflammatory medication like Naproxen can cause stomach and esophageal bleeding, and that risk is exasperated with alcohol. Also, I’ve been having a hard time finding a pain medication that doesn’t make me nauseous, and i can’t see how drinking on top of the medication can make that better. I figure my body has enough to deal with, why add another substance to the complicated mix.

Kinda like my diet in the weeks post surgery. My husband isn’t known for his cooking skills, let alone his healthy meal choices, so I really need to do some planning. I would love to just let him handle it, but that would mean burgers, steaks and potatoes for a veggie; it wouldn’t help my body heal itself or my waistline. He also would go out to eat every night. Either would create more stress for me in the long run, so I have to sacrifice my time now in order to make in less stressful for me later.

The problem with getting take out or going out to eat is we always treat it as a “special event”, so we tend to indulge ourselves. We’ll order the burger or high calorie alcoholic cocktail, how often do we get the opportunity to go out to eat? Realistically, for our family, some weeks we eat out 4-5 nights of the week. Was Wednesday a ‘special occasion’? no. I am not sure what was so special about Friday (other than it was Friday, and aren’t all Fridays special?). I won’t be choosing restaurants that I know have limited options for me to make good, healthy choices. And I won’t be ordering the fries (I almost always get the side salad with dressing on the side. But I may steal a few fries from my husband).

Knowing that the next two weeks will consist of plenty of Netflix and couch time, and the boredom munchies that will accompany that time, I’ll be making sure i have healthy, low calorie/nutritionally dense snacks on hand. Some things i’ll be saying yes to, the many scrumptious fruits and veggies coming into season.

Fruits: Apricots, berries, cherries, dewberries, grapefruit, melons, peaches, plums, lemons

Veggies: artichokes, asparagus, avocados, leeks, lettuce, wild greens, spinach, spring onions, radishes, mushrooms

I also anticipate several cups of air popped popcorn in my future (yeah for fiber)! I plan on utilizing the Whole Foods prepared food section, as well as Flower Child and Grabba Green, for the first few days of recovery to make things easier for everyone. I’ll post links to their sites and let you all know what we liked, or didn’t like.

I’ve been processing a lot these last few weeks. Always listen to your body and mind. Practicing mindfulness helps me determine when I need some down time to recharge my batteries, both mentally as well as physically. In hindsight, I should have either said no to more events leading up to the race, or have said no to the race. Trying to train and be socially active, lead to me skimping on the training portion, which meant i wasn’t physically prepared to run, which lead to my injury. Taking care of yourself should be your priority; if you are not taken care of how can you take care of others? Every one suffers. I’m learning that lesson every day.

If you’d like to follow my nutrition inputs and see which foods I say YES to, I use myfitnesspal, user name: DawnLawson30

Eat well!