Blogging from A-Z – ‘juvenile’ (type 1) diabetes

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “J.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)

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MaddyQuoteI can’t even come close to imagining what it’s like to be the parent of a child with diabetes.

Not by a long shot.

I remember when my cousin David’s daughter, Madisen, was diagnosed in October 2007. She was only 6.

David and Kelly freaked out for a minute, I think (wouldn’t you?), and then they got busy. They bought plane tickets to Oklahoma, where another cousin lives. Our cousin D.P. also has a daughter, Kara, with Type 1 diabetes (aka T1D), and David needed advice. He needed to hear from another dad that everything was going to be OK.

And it was, but it took a while to feel that.

He and Kelly were reeling with the new reality that their little girl had a problem they couldn’t fix. Even worse, it was a condition Maddy likely would be dealing with for the rest of her life.

Or at least until we find a cure.

Because “OK” doesn’t mean it’s gone; it means you find a “new normal” and you go with it. Whatever it takes.

You get educated. You seek advice. You get support from other parents. You use every resource you can find to help you – and your child – deal with it.

You fundraise, you walk, you advocate. You protect your baby girl as best you can.

KellyMaddyDave
Kelly, Maddy and David raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 2011.

This is their reality, according to Kelly:

“She will never outgrow it, and every decision we make regarding her care today has lasting implications for her health many years to come.”

Talk about a heavy burden for a parent.

But Madisen also knows how serious this is.

“Dealing with Type 1 Diabetes is a constant balancing act. Sometimes I WIN and my blood sugars are good, and other times I don’t, despite all the hard work. There are no guarantees. Every day is a battle with this disease that I can treat but never control. I have always said this disease will NOT STOP ME from doing the things I love ❤.”

This girl is strong. (I suppose she has no choice.)

She doesn’t let T1D stop her from doing the things she loves. She shows her grit and strength by playing centerfield on a championship softball team:

“I love to play softball and currently play on the varsity team at school as well as on a travel team. My diabetes has sometimes interfered with softball. If my blood sugar is too high or too low the coach may make me sit the bench until my blood sugar is in a good range. This makes me so MAD! It is like I am being punished or something. It is frustrating because I cannot always know when my blood sugar is going to rise or drop. It is not like I can plan ahead!!”

Kelly considers her daughter a hero:

“This is an emotional and physical roller coaster of which we never get off! Madisen wakes up every morning to finger pokes, insulin injections, highs/lows and everything in between. Diabetes goes to school with her, where she must learn and grow as a student all while dealing with blood sugar. She has managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA all through school despite diabetes. She goes to bed each night with the fear of dangerous highs that wreak havoc on her body or even more dangerous lows that could send her into a coma or even death. We turn around and do it all over again the next day and the day after that. Sometimes we all wish we could get off this ride or simply take a break. We have learned that with diabetes there is no break!

I took this photo the day I met Maddy in 2006.
I took this photo the day I met Maddy in 2006.

Most of what I know about Maddy has been from a distance of about 2,000 miles; I’ve enjoyed her company a handful of times during all-too-brief family visits. But I follow her parents on Facebook and have seen countless photos and reports of her as she has grown from a grinning little girl (with a melt-your-heart smile) to a beautiful and generous young lady.

“She has a kind heart and wants to help other kids dealing with this disease,” says her mom.

In Maddy’s words:

“I have had the opportunity to attend an amazing diabetes camp through the Diabetes Youth Families called Bearskin Meadow, where I can be around people who face the same struggles I do. I have had the chance to meet people from all different cities. I will be attending teen camp this summer for 10 days. I hope to become a camp counselor when I am 18. I would like to pass on the important life lessons that I have learned and make a difference to young kids who battle this disease.

Maddy may not know it, but she’s a role model and she makes her family proud.

______________________________________

SOME THINGS WE WANT YOU TO KNOW:

A group of T1D parents welcomed me recently when David invited me to a Facebook group that he and Kelly are a part of. It’s a place where parents can get information and support from one another, and even share their frustrations sometimes. The first question I asked was, “Do you call it juvenile diabetes, type 1, or what?” Then I asked what else they would like folks to know about T1D.

  • “I hate referring to it as ‘juvenile diabetes’ because everyone familiar with it ALWAYS assumes once my son is not a juvenile, he will outgrow diabetes.”
  • “There is a whole movement out there to rename type 1 since all the press and public health messaging is around type 2, but tends to be referred to as ‘diabetes’ so type 1 folks are sometimes treated like ‘well if you just behaved differently you’d get over it.’ It’s an easy correction, but unfair for a kid to have to do it.”
  • Finding the right doc can be a challenge: You have to have a Pediatric Endocrinologist Specialist in addition to their regular Pediatrician to treat their T1D. Most regular Endo Docs will NOT treat kids under the age of 18 with T1D because it is much more complicated (due to kids’ constant hormone changing as they grow, the need for 24 hour on call – usually in close connection with a hospital, and growth factors, etc. complicate the regulation of the A1C).”
  • “Life insurance is near impossible for our kids that have gotten onset as a juvenile … that [our daughter] could afford. … It doesn’t seem the insurance industry is catching up to the medical progress that is being made for T1D and still penalizing all T1D.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  • Diabetes Youth Families. DYF’s mission: “To improve the quality of life for children, teens and families affected by diabetes. The organization provides education and recreation within a supportive community, encouraging personal growth, knowledge and independence.”
  • Bearskin Meadow Camp.
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. On a mission to find a cure, JDRF is “the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D.”
  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. The NDIC is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The clearinghouse “provides information about diabetes to people with diabetes and to their families, health care professionals and the public. The NDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications and works closely with professional and patient organizations and government agencies to coordinate resources about diabetes.”

Until there’s a cure, young ladies like Maddy and Kara will keep fighting.

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Monday: K is for (stay tuned).

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

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Blogging from A-Z: Arkansas Children’s Hospital

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “A.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the A-Z page here.)

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For two days every March, the Little Rock radio station I listen to makes me cry on my way to work.

March is when Arkansas Children’s Hospital holds its annual Champions for Children Radiothon.

They’re shameless. (But in a good way.)

The radio hosts – who can get choked up right along with me – tell story after story of patients and their families whose lives have been touched by ACH staff, volunteers and donors. When they broadcast a little voice telling his or her story, I almost have to pull the car over. Waterworks. Every year.

Sheesh.

I would be a blubbering mess whether or not my own loved ones had been treated at Children’s. I’ve known countless families – from church, from work, from wherever – whose kids or grandkids have received treatment there. Heck, several years ago the woman I sat next to at work was treated in ACH’s burn unit after a plane crash in Little Rock. (The hospital’s burn center is the only one in Arkansas and treats adults, too.)

Emily_on_playground
Emily Harmon

TanyaTextBut I do have a family member who’s been treated at ACH. My cousin Tanya’s daughter Emily, now 9, has spent many days and nights at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, having been born with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and spongiform cardiomyopathy. A mouthful, for sure. Em’s mom texted me a little more detail, at right.

In its list of Best Children’s Hospitals, U.S. News & World Report has recognized Arkansas Children’s Hospital for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery. ACH is also known for its teaching, its research and its patient care, especially for those most vulnerable among us: our children.

I could bring you any number of testimonials from folks I know who’ve experienced the care and compassion at ACH. But I’m going to let Tanya and Emily tell the story from their perspective:

“Our first experience with Arkansas Children’s Hospital was when our younger daughter, Emily, was seven days old. During the scariest moments of our lives, not only did the doctors, nurses and other staff members take amazing care of Emily, they also took care of us. From that moment on, I knew we were a team – her team.

“I had never been in a pediatric hospital before, so I’m always amazed at the creativity and lengths ACH goes to make their facility child-friendly. From the playgrounds and playrooms to the personalities and patience of the staff, it’s easy to see who gets priority around there.

“We were very encouraged by the fact that ACH has one of the best cardiovascular departments in the country. It is such a relief to feel confidence in the team that is taking care of your child. I’ve never once doubted them, or even felt skeptical, about what they were telling us.

“Emily goes back to ACH periodically, for examinations and testing. She doesn’t remember being ‘in’ the hospital, but she knows how special ACH is. (She still refers to it as HER hospital.) We should all be very thankful to have ACH nearby. We are very blessed.”

Here are a few things Emily likes about Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

EmilyACH_faves

ARKANSAS CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
1 Children’s Way
Little Rock, AR 72202
(501) 364-1100
http://www.archildrens.org

For more information about Arkansas Children’s Hospital, such as a map and directions to the hospital, printable maps of each floor, and so much more, click here.

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Tomorrow: B is for “The Boys in the Boat,” a book review.

Follow me on Twitter: OakleySuzyT

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Donate: Help us wipe out Crohn’s and colitis

Friends, I’m training to run my second half-marathon for Team Challenge, the fundraising and endurance-training program of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. I ran my first half-marathon (and survived!) last fall in honor of my husband, Bruce, and my cousin Spencer. They both have Crohn’s disease, and I’d like to kick the crap out of Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and every other disease like them.

We’d be honored and very appreciative if you’d donate to my half-marathon efforts. Your donation is tax deductible and will go toward CCFA research, education and support programs. If you donated to the cause last year, a huge thanks to you, but we need your help again.

Here are ways to donate:

1. Click here to go to my official Team Challenge fundraising page.
2. Mail me a check, made payable to CCFA or the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. (Leave a comment, which will provide me with your email address. Then I’ll email you my mailing address. You have the option of making your comment private, too. In that case, I’ll be the only one to see it.)
3. If you prefer to donate to our Take Steps Be Heard walks in Arkansas, click here. Bruce and I volunteer each year at both of Arkansas’ walks (in Little Rock and in NW Arkansas).

And if you’re a runner or walker and want more information on Team Challenge, please post a comment, email me, text me or post on my Facebook page. Or simply click here to visit the Team Challenge site and browse the info for yourself.

We appreciate your support more than we can say. And when we find a cure, you can say you were a part of it.

THANK YOU!
Suzy Taylor Oakley (and Bruce)

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Kicking the crap out of Crohn’s disease

“Go out there and run to the best of your ability,” he replied. “Don’t run with your legs. Run with your heart.” On some level, even as a high school freshman, I got his meaning: the human body has limitations; the human spirit is boundless.

Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes

Mom and me, post-race.

I ran my first half-marathon yesterday morning (yes, it was still morning when I finished!)

In case you don’t know, a half-marathon is 13.1 miles. This was the longest I had ever run (12 miles was my longest training run in prep for the race.)

But this wasn’t just any run, and it wasn’t just any half-marathon. It was the one and only, inaugural (for me) half-marathon I chose because of what it supports: the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).

Many of you know that my husband, Bruce, has suffered from Crohn’s disease since just before our first wedding anniversary. He spent that first Christmas in the hospital, and he was so sick I wasn’t sure he was going to make it. (Among other things, his entire digestive tract, from mouth to anus, was full of ulcers. Sorry for the butt talk, but part of raising awareness is getting people used to talking about unpleasant things – and helping people understand how hideous the disease can be. I’m actually sparing you the grossest details.)

Nearly 14 years and two more ugly flare-ups later, he’s dealing with what is our “new normal”: functioning, but at a diminished capacity from what my once very-active husband had been used to. (He’s the one who taught me to love running.)

And three years ago, my cousin’s then-10-year-old son, Spencer, was diagnosed with Crohn’s. And we have a teenage friend at our church, also named Spencer, who has Crohn’s. And an adult at church with Crohn’s. Get the picture? I want to kick the crap out of Crohn’s disease, and I want to do it, like, yesterday.

So that’s why I ran 13.1 miles yesterday.

I never intended to run a half-marathon. Six months ago it wasn’t even on my radar. But when some of the crazy-running-chick friends I hang with started talking about running a Half in October, naturally my thoughts turned to, “Could I?” I had certainly gotten addicted to running in the past couple of years (as I’ve said before, it’s like crack). I credit my friends’ ambitions with getting me on the road, so to speak, to my decision – to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where Suzy has never gone before (sorry – couldn’t resist the Star Trek reference).

Despite the grand illusions (delusions?), I had more or less decided that I wouldn’t run such a long-distance race. I have a mild heart condition, which worries my mother but not my cardiologist so much, and I had knee surgery 13 months ago, so I thought I’d just be kind to my body and stick with shorter races.

But in mid-June, when my new love of running supercollided with a cause I believe in with all my heart, the decision was practically made. The day after I got the email about Team Challenge, CCFA’s half-marathon training program to raise money for research and awareness, I signed up. (I would have signed up the same day, but you know me: I can’t do anything big without thoroughly researching it first. I left voice mails and emails for the Arkansas and the national people in the know; I texted; I read all the info online, etc. Next thing I knew, I was a Team Challenge member!)

I want to tell you all about Team Challenge in more detail, but today’s post is more about yesterday’s event and what got me there. I’ll cheerlead for the Team Challenge program in a post very soon.

The main thing I want to say about yesterday’s race has more to do with what came before it than with the actual event.

I want to say THANK YOU to all of you who supported me. For some that meant donations of money, for others donations of your time, talents and effort, and for still others it meant prayers, words of encouragement and general moral support. Some of you donated money out of your abundance (wallets and hearts), and some of you scraped up donations sacrificially because you believed in the cause, or maybe you just believed in me – or in a gracious God who has blessed you and you wanted to bless others.

I get teary-eyed just thinking about all of you.

My race shirt, bib and “top fundraiser” tag.

And, yes, I thought about each and every one of you as I ran, walked, sweated and even endured a brief bout of stomach cramps and nausea yesterday. I prayed for you; thanked God for such incredibly generous (of heart and wallet) friends, co-workers, church members and family who helped me get to the finish line (heck, you helped me get to the start line); and celebrated how generous God has been in putting you in my life. You will never know how much you mean to me. (By the way, you helped me take fifth-place honors in the fundraising.) And special shout-outs to Bruce, who jogged shortcuts to particular mile markers to take pictures of me, snapped me crossing the finish line and was my main cheerleader, even though he really wanted to be out there with me, running the whole race; to Mom, who traveled with us to Nashville so she could watch her baby cross the finish line (alive!); and to our sweet friends the Tuckers – Betsy dropped by my workplace Thursday morning to bring me a surprise: a great card about “amazing women” and a package of pre- and post-race energy goodies (Betsy has been my second-biggest cheerleader along the way, always telling me how proud she is of my accomplishments, and Tommy has offered his share of encouraging words).

I wish I could say the finish line of yesterday’s race was the finish line of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and every other ugly disease we watch our loved ones suffer through, but for me it was just the renewing of my commitment to raise awareness and funds for CCFA.

Next month, Bruce and I will sit in the Mission tent of CCFA’s Take Steps Walk in northwest Arkansas, as we have done for the past three years. We were on the ground floor of helping establish a CCFA chapter in Arkansas in 2010. Many of you helped us with that, for the Little Rock walks and the NWA walks (thank you).

But this year in our Mission tent will be a huge poster of Suzy’s first Team Challenge half-marathon, because next year I plan to return to Nashville with an Arkansas team! (This year I and the only other Team Challenge participant from Arkansas were placed on the National Team. But we’re gonna change that!) And since my official half-marathon coaching this year was “virtual” (our training sessions were in the form of emails and a weekly conference call from Coach Dave, and we had mentors and other support for the fundraising part), next year I’ll have the benefit of a real-live, local running coach. You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? (His name starts with B and ends with “ruce.”)

So, look out, Team Challenge: Suzy’s on a mission!

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I still haven’t reached my fundraising goal and have a few weeks left. If you’d like to be a part of curing Crohn’s disease, click here to make a donation.

Arkansas had 42 participants in Saturday’s race, including two of us from Batesville. To view the official results, visit Nashville Women’s Half Marathon

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Multifunction dogs

Suzy with Pepper, Bruce with Salsa. Chase Race and Paws, Conway, Ark., March 10, 2012.

At our house, we have a multifunction printer. It does three things: prints, scans, copies – hence its model name, HP 750PSC.

But that ain’t nothin’ compared to our multifunction dogs, whose functions are too multiple to mention in one blog post – too numerous to sum up with a succinct model name. I’ll stick to the highlights.

In some ways, our canines’ services are similar and work in tandem; in other ways, they are different yet still complementary. A few examples:

Emergency Response System (ERS): The girls (or the Spice Dogs, as we like to call them) carry out this function in various ways, not all of them necessarily effective. Salsa (ERS Dog 1) barks a warning – loudly – when she encounters something she perceives as evil. In this category would be squirrels, cats, large flying insects, leaves falling from trees, vampire bats, snakes, representatives of the U.S. Postal Service and small children on bicycles. Pepper (ERS Dog 2), on the other hand, cannot be relied on in emergencies, as she barks at whatever moves or breathes in her general vicinity. That includes people entering the kitchen to feed her, people trying to have a conversation over her head (and many things are over her head) and subtle movements of the human body (for instance, crossing or uncrossing one’s legs, reaching for a tissue or taking a sip of one’s beverage – all perceived as evil acts that must be addressed. Loudly).

Pepper likes to make her opinions known. A lot. And you never know when you’ll get one.

Cleanup Crew: Both Spice Dogs are punctual and efficient at taking care of unwanted food, or food that has dropped to the floor, your lap or, in Pepper’s case, within 100 feet of where she’s sitting. When food falls, she’s Johnny on the Spot. I occasionally time Pepper when I feed the girls breakfast. When she was on dry food: 12 seconds to consume her little 2-ounce scoop (she doesn’t chew, she inhales). Now that she’s on canned food (very specific reason for that – more later), I’ve seen her suck it down in a flat three seconds. Right before she burps – loudly. This dog weighs 3.9 pounds and could put a third-grade boy to shame with one of her belches.

Pepper puts Salsa under the table, so to speak, when it comes to eating. In fact, helping Salsa eat is one of Pepper’s many food-related functions. When we got Salsa from the animal shelter in August 2005, it was hard to get her to finish her food. She’d rather play. The experts said to keep her on a schedule, putting her food away after a few minutes if she didn’t eat it. I established a twice-daily meal schedule and began following the suggestions. It helped some, but she’d still rather play and would leave her dish unattended. Same with Potty Outside. I followed expert advice, taking her out on the leash (even though our yard was fenced), walking her back and forth along a short strip of real estate and repeating “Go potty” over and over and over. In the summer, I often gave up after about 20 minutes. Too dang hot to stay out there trying to get her to poop.

The acquisition of Dog 2 changed all that. We inherited Pepper (long story) from relatives (who inherited her from other relatives) on Thanksgiving Day 2005 – three months after we got Salsa. Now, with Salsa and the bowl of food, there was the threat of another little dog stealing what was rightfully Salsa’s. So Salsa started finishing her food before being sent outside to potty. I’m not sure what did the trick on the Potty Outside, but that miraculously resolved itself with Dog 2’s arrival.

Pepper sleeping under her bed. Yes, that’s her tiny heiny peeking out.

Bed Warmer: If we ever worried about being cold in our house, such as during a power outage in the winter, those fears were set aside when Multifunction Dog 2 (also known as Our Little Space Heater) came along. The first night she was with us, Pepper slept curled up in a tiny ball right under my chin. I tolerated that for one night, but if you know me, you know that I have to have near-perfect conditions for sleeping, and having a dog for a beard ain’t one of them. The second night, Pepper slept curled up at my back so that if I tried to roll over, I’d have to disturb her beauty sleep or risk flattening her. Also not ideal, although I did come up with a work-around (which I won’t bore you with). Before long, I had the brilliant idea to put her little doggy bed on top of our king-size bed and pile it with fleece blankets. She burrowed under (under the doggy bed itself, actually) and was more or less content. She is a burrower. (Bonus fact: Pepper fits inside one of Bruce’s sweatshirt pockets.) She’d much rather be glued to a human being than in her little bed, but the bed suffices. Because if Mama don’t get no sleep, ain’t nobody happy. And lest I forget Salsa’s function in this category, let’s just say she, too, is happy to be a bed warmer but knows how to take a hint.

Party Animal: When we take the Spice Dogs to events (festivals, farmers markets, Nanny’s house [where the “event” is a treat they’re not allowed at home]), they get a lot of attention. Pepper gets most of it because she’s tee-tiny and can be picked up by small children and generally doesn’t mind being handled. (Our girls are people dogs.) Salsa is just too happy to be out among people, smells and the occasional dropped hot dog to care that everybody loves tiny little Pepper. Everyone loves tiny little Pepper because they don’t live with her. She may be cuter, but Salsa is by far the gentler, more humble (although not always the quieter) of the duo. When given a treat, Pepper will race up, snatch it out of your hand and zoom away to her treat-eating spot without saying thank you. She acts like it’s the last morsel of food she will ever receive, and you have to count your digits in the aftermath. Salsa trots up, looks at you for a second with her soulful brown eyes, gently (really: gently) takes the dog biscuit from your hand and trots away to her designated treat-eating spot. Which brings me to …

Creature of Habit. If ever we could learn something valuable from our dogs, it’s in the area of consistency. For instance, each dog has a precise spot where she likes to eat her treats. And Pepper can tell time with her biorhythms. She knows when it’s precisely 7 p.m. (the final evening-treat time) or any other time she’s entitled to get a free piece of food. Salsa knows when it’s 4 a.m. and time to be let outside to alert the neighbors to the presence of squirrels, falling leaves, vampire bats and what-not. And you never know when a kid on a bike may be riding past the house at 4 o’clock in the morning.

Public Service Announcer: This is really Pepper’s function alone. She lets us know when Salsa should go outside, when Salsa should be let in or when Salsa is occupying her sister’s spot on the couch or the bed. And she is not above subterfuge. Pepper likes to sit outside on the deck in a sunny spot, or occasionally just inside the sliding door in a sunny spot on the carpet. When the sun moves, Pepper’s sunny spot moves, and sometimes action must be taken. If Salsa happens to be in Pepper’s newly positioned sunny spot, Pepper will helpfully let us know that Salsa would like to get up and go outside (or come inside). Sometimes we misunderstand, assuming that Pepper herself wants out or in, but we quickly realize that she just wanted the sunny spot vacated so she could take up residence.

Pepper also helpfully announces to us that she has just made potty on the floor. This is usually about 30 seconds after she has made an announcement that we misunderstood as a need to go outside to potty. It might be 2 a.m., but we’ve learned not to ignore her when she wakes us up like that – just in case it’s legit. We’ll go to the door, assuming she’ll trot right over and go out. She’ll stand 12 feet away looking at us, we’ll grumble and go back to bed (or back to whatever we were doing), and a half-minute later we’ll hear another announcement: “Hey, look what I did! I peed on the carpet! Again! Clean it up!” She’s very helpful and conscientious in that way.

Reminder of the Delicate Balance of Nature: In the aforementioned Cleanup Crew category, I alluded to Pepper’s switch from dry to canned food. My awareness of this necessity came quite by accident. Pepper had been sick, and the vet put her on soft food for a few days. One morning I noticed that when she ate the canned food, she didn’t run up on Salsa and antagonize her after sucking down her own food. It was almost vicious, this daily exchange over Salsa’s food dish. I would have to yell at Pepper in order to break up the fights, which almost came to physical violence sometimes. I thought the wet-food phenomenon might be an anomaly, so the next morning I gave Pepper dry food and stood by to watch. Sure enough, she “attacked” Salsa again. Morning 3: wet food, no fighting. So now we spend a little extra to buy canned food for Princess Pepper so that she will leave her sister alone at mealtime. Little twerp.

Morale Officer: When Bruce had his latest Crohn’s disease flare-up, his buddy Salsa may have saved him. She might not have saved his life, literally, but she saved his morale. In early 2007, Bruce had to quit working full time and before long couldn’t work at all. By October, he didn’t have a job. We had to sell his vehicle, so he didn’t have transportation during the day – even if he had felt like leaving the house – because I had to leave my work-from-home freelance job to get a 60-hour-a-week position with health insurance (but no overtime pay). The lingering effects of this flare-up lasted until 2010, so Bruce considered himself nothing more than a dog-sitter for a really long time. (Bruce literally learned to speak Dog. He could identify what was going on outside by Salsa’s different bark sounds.) And, yes, Pepper is a morale officer, albeit a more aloof one. She’s somewhat like a cat; if you can’t do something for her (feed her, keep her warm, toss her squeaky toy), she’s not always interested in your company. But she, too, is a constant presence and cuddly companion.

Loyal Buddy: We complain about soiled carpet, hairy furniture, middle-of-the-night prowl-fests, stinky blankets, loud barking and the fact that we can’t go anywhere for very long on the spur of the moment (it’s almost like having small children), but we wouldn’t trade our Spice Dogs for any amount of money, any material possession or any other creature on the planet. We’ve grown quite attached to the little goons.

The Spice Dogs. They’re stuck with us. And that’s a function with multiple rewards.

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Correction about Crohn’s donations

I found out today that I’ve been giving people incorrect info about where to mail checks for my half-marathon fundraising efforts.

To recap: I’m running my first half-marathon on Sept. 22 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. My goal is $4,000, and I have to raise $800 of it by Monday, July 23.

I had said that checks could be mailed to the processing center in Washington, D.C. That’s wrong. The fastest way to donate is by clicking here, but if you’d prefer to pay by check, write it to “CCFA” or “Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America” and mail or hand-deliver it to me.

If you leave a comment below, I’ll email you my address, or if you have my email address or phone number, feel free to contact me that way. If you live, work or attend church near me and would prefer to hand me a check, we can work out the details when you contact me.

I’m updating my previous two blog posts in which I gave the bad information. Sorry about that, everyone!

And thank you for any way you are able to support me as I run for a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

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Running for a cure

I’m about to run the race of my life.

In a few months, two of my worlds will collide: running and Crohn’s disease. On Sept. 22 in Nashville, Tenn., I will run my very first half-marathon, about three times as long as I’ve ever run in competition.

13.1 miles – woohoo!

(Pray for my mother.)

If you’ve read my blog much, you know that I’ve been on “my journey to fitness” for more than a year. In November 2010 – about a decade after I first tried to become “a runner” – I caught the running bug for real. I started walking/running with my sister-in-law, and when her life got too busy to continue, I did it without her. It was harder to motivate myself without a buddy, but I knew I needed to do it for my health. Next thing I knew, two opportunities came along that would help me stay committed: a weight-loss competition at work, and the local women’s running clinic. I lost 28 of the 206 pounds that I started with. (In August 2011, a pesky surgeon had to operate on my knee, sidelining me for a few months, but on Dec. 31 I got back on track with the running. It took longer to get back to healthy eating.)

One of the reasons – no, dozens of the reasons – that I now love running has to do with the people.

First, there’s Bruce.

Besides Jesus, Bruce is the love of my life. He loved running way before he met me, and he has taught me so much about it. I used to go to races and watch him be fast. Whether I competed in those races or not, I was always watching Bruce be fast. God just made him that way.

And I was slow.

But not long ago, the tables turned and Bruce had to see running from my perspective. He took a five-year sabbatical from running, but it was not self-imposed. He was sidelined by Crohn’s disease. He had a flare-up that began in early 2007, and this one hung on for a very long time.

My very fast husband had to learn to stand on the sidelines and cheer while I competed in races, dragging my slow butt across the finish line from near the back of the pack. Witnessing this spectacle has been a lot less fun for him than it was for me, I can tell you. But he has kept a smile on his face, cheering and encouraging me at every opportunity.

Meanwhile, he has become quite the ladies’ man. (My husband, the chick magnet.)

At last year’s running clinic, we were short on coaches, and one evening I roped Bruce into volunteering. (It didn’t take much convincing.) When the clinic ended in mid-May, he was still volunteering and his love of running had rubbed off on the rest of us. Some of the ladies didn’t want to lose their momentum and suggested we keep going throughout the summer. Coach Bruce to the rescue!

We ladies – young and old, tall and short, plump and thin, brown and pasty-white – kept running. And running. And running.

We ran when it was 101 degrees and humid, the sun causing sweat to blind us. Sunshine or rain, we ran. We ran when we didn’t feel like running. We ran up hills – we love hills! (inside joke) – across bridges and overpasses, around tracks, through neighborhoods and even in the middle of the woods. Before long, we were running when it was cold again and our legs were so frozen they never warmed up, even after we ran 3 miles. (Anyone remember that 12-degree February morning at the river? Or the day it was a balmy 19 degrees?)

One hot day in early spring, a bunch of us even ran two races in one day. (I call us The Crazy Ladies of Running, Plus Bruce.)

And, all the while we ran, Coach Bruce was trotting along, doubling back, making sure his baby chicks were OK.

We were OK – mostly because we had a coach who cared about the slowest of the slow as much as he cared about the leaders of the pack.

No wonder the ladies love him.

Bruce has started being able to enter races again, although he will never get back the stamina he once had. Crohn’s disease has just taken too much out of him over the years. But he is our Coach Bruce. (He even has Brupies – get it? Bruce-groupies!)

Coach Bruce, pretty in pink.

And what’s great about it is that he makes it fun. His enthusiasm for running is infectious. For him, it is play, not work. (If you still don’t understand this, listen up: This man refers to hills as “speed bumps” or “extended passing zones.” He’s the crazy one!) At our women’s clinic pre-graduation pasta party this year, his Brupies presented him with a pink and black wig to match his clinic shirt. He wore it proudly, saying he hadn’t had that much hair in years!

At our running club’s Christmas party last year, Bruce won the Spirit Award, voted on by club members. He might not have been able to run in races, but he volunteered and he supported the club and the sport and the runners. (And since I was busy with work and school and never got around to writing the post I wanted to write about that, I guess this is that post.)

Bruce’s love of running and his enthusiasm for helping others to love it … this inspires me.

And so I will run the Nashville Women’s Half Marathon – my very first long-distance race – not for my love of running, which is strong, but for my love of Bruce, which is even stronger.

Crohn’s disease and its companion, ulcerative colitis (collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD), are hideously devastating diseases. If you would like to help find a cure for this demon that plagues more than 1.4 million adults and children in the United States, please support me with monetary donations, encouragement or simply your prayers. I have to raise at least $3,200 before the race in order for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America to pay my travel expenses (at least 75 percent of the money I raise will go to research and education).

I said I was going to run the race of my life, but it’s really the race for Bruce’s life. He needs a cure for Crohn’s disease. We all do.

Let’s race together toward that goal.

Here are the ways to make a tax-deductible donation:

  • To donate online, click here.
  • To pay by check: Leave a comment here, email me, find me on Facebook or call me and I’ll give you my address or arrange to pick up the check from you.

To learn more about the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s work, visit the CCFA website.

 

Thank you in advance for any way you are able to help. Together we can do this.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

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You say torn meniscus; I say crunchy knee

It’s official: My crunchy knee requires surgery. It will be minor, outpatient and supposedly quick. I’ll be off work Thursday and Friday (Aug. 11-12) and should be back to my routine by Monday. The doc said I’d need crutches for a few days, and I’ll have to undergo some post-surgery physical therapy, but I should be back to normal (and running!) within a few weeks.

People, I wanted to do the Dance of Joy right there in the doctor’s office! (I didn’t, mainly because I didn’t want to embarrass Bruce. Like it would faze him.)

This means my training for the 2012 Olympic trials won’t be on hold for much longer.* And those running-shoe deals they’ve been after me to sign? Well, the shoe companies will just have to duke it out for my much-sought-after endorsement. There have been so many calls, I’ve had to change my phone number. 🙂

Yes, this is very good news. Penciling in my new training schedule now …

Oh, yeah, you may be wondering about the surgeon’s diagnosis. Of course the official diagnosis by my primary-care physician is Crunchy Knee, but the surgeon came up with his fancy new term from some medical book or something: torn meniscus. Sounds like a made-up term, doesn’t it? I bet he got it off some quack website.

Nevertheless, that’s the term we’re going with, unofficially (I’m humoring him by going along with it). So in three weeks he’ll go in with an arthroscope and clean out the area around the injury. He’ll trim off the torn part of the “meniscus” and take out any floating pieces, if there are any. The surgery is called a “meniscectomy.” Supposedly. According to the surgeon’s alleged medical research.

Apparently this diagnosis and the resulting surgery have gained popularity. You can even read about them on reputable websites such as WebMD. So, rather than trying to ’splain, I’ll just let you click here and read about it for yourself. Some clever person was even commissioned to draw pictures of what the “meniscus” looks like.

So the weeks and months of wondering and fretting are over. My crunchy knee can be fixed, and I will run again (Lord willin’).

Woo hoo!

*Lest you think I’m already under the influence of anesthesia and thus delusional, please be assured that I am merely giddy with excitement that my orthopedic surgeon did not give my burgeoning running career the same death sentence my primary-care doc pronounced two weeks ago. Yes, I am over the top (don’t worry; I’ll come back down to earth tomorrow). I like my orthopedic surgeon! Even if he does make up medical terminology.

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Hope springs eternal

The orthopedic surgeon scheduled an MRI for Monday morning (the X-rays this morning didn’t tell him what he needed to know).

He said I may not have to give up running, depending on what the specific problem is. It may be a tear in the meniscus, or it may be this or that, blah, blah, blah. (The only part I heard was that I might be able to run again after the problem is treated.)

I’ll update you again after Monday’s MRI: 8 a.m. – first thing in the morning!

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Just a misunderstanding

I’ve been thinking about this knee thing. (You knew I wouldn’t be able to let it go, right?)

Since the doc told me a week ago that I should stop running, and to walk only on non-hilly surfaces, I’ve been sticking to walking, mostly (only about 1 percent running – really).

But … after a frustrating few days of trying to stay in the flattish parts of my neighborhood, I started doing the 4-Mile Class route again – walking (mostly).

And it really hasn’t bothered my knee (much).

So this morning as I was on my way home, trudging down the overpass over the bayou, a realization hit me: I totally misunderstood my doctor the other day.

She didn’t tell me not to run in hills. She said not to run in heels!

Well, every smart girl knows that! So, really, I’m ahead of the game. I never run in heels. In fact, I haven’t even worn heels in more than a decade, since the last time I had a bout with plantar fasciitis, was diagnosed with bone spurs and spent $200 on a pair of custom orthotics that got tossed out with my old running shoes last year (they didn’t help much, anyway). So I can keep walking in hills. Why didn’t I realize this before?

I’m so relieved.

It was all just a misunderstanding.

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