Friday, 29 November 2013

Am I REALLY Okay?

Carla (aka Mizfit Online) left this comment on my blog a couple of months back, and it really gave me pause.

At first it surprised me. I do my best to open and honest here on my blog. I have always consciously worked hard to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Life has not exactly been rainbows, magic, and lollipops over here the past few years, and if you have been reading along than I think you have seen that. I like to think that what you see here on my blog is pretty much what you get. But I also understand that we live in a world of social media and sharing that is not always genuine and sincere. So I also found this comment hopelessly honest.

So today I thought I would do my best to candidly and authentically answer that question. "Am I really Okay?"

The short answer is "yes.. sometimes". But this post is about transparency, so let's get into it shall we...

The this year has been hard. In fact the last few years have been hard. And I won't deny that there is a huge part of me that feels worn down. Losing my Dad, has overwhelmed in a way that I am not sure I can adequately describe. I won't sugar-coat the struggles I have had with my health. They have been stressful, painful, and frustrating. But with every medical misadventure I could see the light. I knew it would be hard in the moment, but I also knew that I would come out the other side healthier and happier. I knew the pain was temporary. And that the struggle was just a means to an end. And that end was worth working for.

Grief is very different. Grief is about accepting a new unwanted reality.

It has been 4 months since I lost my Dad, and that loss still overwhelms me every single day. It often hits me out of nowhere - while walking the dog, out on a run, studying. I will think of him - something I want to tell him, something that reminds me of him - and then I realize that he is gone. In that moment my heartaches and tears flow. I still cry at least once a day. Usually when no one else is around. Usually just a few tears, while I try to carry on with whatever it is I was doing. But the pain is there. It is raw. It is real. And it is all consuming in a way that I have never experienced.

The last few weeks have been especially hard. Last week would have been my parent's 36th wedding anniversary. This week is my birthday. And we are supposed to be prepping for the holiday's. The idea of celebrating any of this without my Dad is devastating. I want so much to drink his homemade wine, hear his big loud boisterous laugh, celebrate with him, and more than anything - hug him. The fact that he will be missing this year, makes me wish I could hibernate until 2014.

But life doesn't wait for you - a lesson I learned long ago - so I know that hibernating is not a real option. My grief has given me pause, made me question my direction, refocus on my core values, and reflect on the life that I have been given. I have spent a lot of time asking "Why?". And I am not sure I have my answer yet. I think my grief is still too powerful and my heart is still too heavy to hear my answer today.

But I know I need to do something positive with my pain in order to heal. And healing is what 2014 is all about. My struggles have become part of my story. Every struggle and every setback has led to something greater. I have grown, learned lessons, come out stronger, and more often than not happier because of the things I have faced. So I am trying once again to find the Opportunity in Difficulty

Which means in 2014, I want to slow down and spend time with the people who matter most. I want to try to be present, and learn how to focus on the things I have, rather than the things I have lost. And in 2014 I want to honor my Dad and train for the Muskoka Ironman 70.3 . I want to work closely with Heart and Stroke Foundation to raise money to fund new research and awareness about Heart Health. 2013 broke me, so in 2014 I want to rebuild.

I am not sure if this is my answer, but I am hoping I will find it somewhere along my journey. I am still searching - searching for my something greater, searching for my light. I know it is out there.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten



Thursday, 28 November 2013

Changing things up with CircuitFit




Race Season and Marathon Training provide amazing workout inspiration. They keep you going on those mornings that you would rather spend in bed. A race helps you keep you focused when a reality TV marathon sounds more appealing than actually running one. Those races always give me an unlimited supply of Workout Mojo. You can’t exactly skip that workout when you have new distances to hit. You can’t cut your speed session short when you have a time goal. But I must confess, with no races scheduled for the duration of 2013, I have been lacking motivation. 

I needed a change – maybe even a gentle nudge – to get moving again. So I went down to CircuitFIT on Mount Pleasant to get put through the paces.

I am always hesitant about gym programs, mostly because I have a whole lot of medical drama to explain. And as open as I am about all that stuff here, it makes me uncomfortable in “real-life” situations. In truth, when I explain my whole medical situation in one-go, I sound like a hot mess. But CircuitFIT takes a much more comprehensive approach to training. Along with being a fitness studio, all of their trainers play double-duty to provide a whole body/health experience. 

I met with Patrick, who is a holistic nutritionist, training to be an osteopath, as well as a personal trainer. So he wasn’t completely overwhelmed with my disastrous medical history. In fact, he had a ton of advice. And I was really impressed with his medical knowledge.
Evil Evil Planking
 
He put me through a 30 minute circuit workout, and then we did an additional 30 minutes of personal training. I definitely got my sweat on. I burned over 400 calories. And my abs definitely felt all that planking the next day. I needed to sweat in a new way. It helped me to appreciate the burn. But more than anything though, changing up my routine helped me shake the cobwebs off and get back at it. Sometimes you need to try something to reignite the fire. Thanks for the necessary kick in the butt CircuitFit.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

#WIAW - Cook x1 and Eat x4



It is WIAW and things have been busy around here, as per usual. My schedule has been all over the place – between my two jobs, school, finals, and just life in general – things have been moving a mile a minute. I have also been working a lot of nights. So it has been difficult to find the time to prep and make proper meals. I have been working hard not to fall back on convenience food and takeout, so I have been looking for food prep shortcuts. 

I typically have Sundays off, so that is when I try to get my major food prep done. AKA I have been looking for ways to cook once and get a whole bunch of meals. A whole Roast Chicken has been one of one of my meal prep favourites. I can usually get two dinners and two lunches out of one large chicken. The dinners are listed below. I usually use the additional leftover chicken in a salad or combine it with black beans and roasted sweet potato for lunch.


Sunday Prep:

Roasted Chicken
1.       Coat Whole Chicken with 3 tbsp of Olive Oil, Squeeze/Juice Whole Lemon, season with salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano.
2.       Line the Roasting Pan with 1 Onion quartered, and the 3 whole Carrots halved.
3.       Place the seasoned chicken on top of the veggies and Roast in a preheated oven for at 375F for 75 minutes.

Sunday's Dinner
Serve up the two Chicken Thighs/Leg with a side green salad of your choice. This makes enough to serve two adults. Set aside and refrigerate the leftover chicken, roasted onions, and carrots for Monday’s Dinner.

Monday Prep:
Chicken-Veggie and Rice Soup
1.       Chop up the leftover chicken, onions, and carrots
2.       In a large pot add 2 cups of Bone Broth (or regular chicken stock), 2 cups of water, 2 cloves of garlic, and sprig of thyme. Bring to a boil and allow stock to simmer for 30 minutes
3.       At the same time cook one cup of brown rice in a separate pot.
4.       When the rice is ready and the stock has been simmering combine the stock, rice, chicken, onions, and carrots in one pot.
5.       Remove the garlic and the thyme. Add 2 large handfuls of spinach to the mixture, and allow everything to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
6.       And Serve.

      Monday’s Dinner
A hearty bowl of Chicken-Veggie and Rice Soup. This recipe makes 4 serving portions. So our in house that means we have enough for dinner, and enough for both my Hubby and I to have for lunch the next day as well.

That is one day of meal prep and 4 different meals. That is what I call meal prep success! Hope this help with your busy holiday schedules as well.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A Reminder and a Red Dress Gala



2013 has been tough a year, and one that has often left me asking "Why?". It has given me pause, made me question my direction, refocus on my core values, and reflect on the life that I have been given.

But for every “Why?” I have put out into the universe I have always received an answer. It can be hard to hear in the moment. Sometimes the pain and the sadness make it difficult to find. But eventually with time and healing I always find the answer I was looking for. Today answered one of my “Whys?”. Today I had the honour of sharing my Happy Heart story at the Alpha Phi Red Dress Gala for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.



 **Dress H&M just $39.95 for those who were asking**


I owe my life to the amazing cutting edge research being done in the medical field, and that is by no means an exaggeration. In a different time, in a different place, I would not have been given these options, and I would not have been given the medical treatment that I am so grateful for. I know how lucky I am that I woke up on that fateful day the summer before my senior year – many people do not. Arrhythmias often only strike once, and once is often fatal. I know how blessed I am to live in age where an ICD is option. 30 years ago, the original pacemaker was so large that it had to be implanted in a patient’s stomach cavity. Today they are smaller than a blackberry. In a different time my dreams of running a marathon would never have even been a possibility, but today I stand before you having finished two. My health is something I work for and cherish every single day, because I know how quickly it can be taken from you.

I know I am incredibly lucky to have the knowledge and the options that I have had. And how fortunate I am to be able to stand here and declare myself healthy. This life that I am so grateful for was afforded to me by years of research and medical innovation. And it would not be possible without the tireless work of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and fundraising events like these. 

Today I finally had the opportunity to say Thank You. Today was a necessary reminder that despite the struggles, despite the ups and downs, despite it all – I am so grateful for my life and truly blessed to have my health.  

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

#WIAW - Festive Fall Recipes

Happy WIAW Friends!

So this time of year is always a dangerous for me diet-wise. Since my Marathon I have been in a self-imposed rest/slacker mode. I know my body needs a break. But with no upcoming races I have been eating chicken wings and drinking wine like it is my part-time job. And my lower mileage does not exactly justify my tastebud's desire to eat loads of carbs at every meal.

Plus November and December equate to Birthday-Extravaganza and Holiday Overload around here. We have a birthday almost every weekend (**including my own - EEP!**) leading up to the Christmas Season. And the next few months are filled with lots of celebratory meals, bottles of wine, and dessert (re: lots of dessert).

But this year I want to do things differently. My tummy troubles mean that I still need to be mindful of my meals. And keeping my body healthy and happy throughout the holidays is still priority number one. But a girl still needs to have some yummy options to keep her sanity. So I want to focus on eating festive, healthy, tummy friendly meals. Which is why Pumpkin, Squash, and Parsnip reign supreme!

These are my top 3 Festive Tummy-Approved Fall Meals...

Vegan Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spiced Muffins

Savory Squash and Corn Soup
Vegan Gluten-Free Parsnip Stuffing
Hope you guys enjoy!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Random Boobie Update

This week seems to be all about the random health updates. And I haven't done one of these in a while. It has been a year and half since my double mastectomy, 9 months since my ICD revision surgery, and I think things have finally healed and settled. So I figure it's time for an update.

1. First and foremost, things have finally healed! (**cue the trumpets and the confetti**) Holy Moley that took awhile! It has taken close to 18 months and an additional surgery. But I am finally at a place where it doesn't hurt to touch them.

2. My left side is still weak. During long runs and after a serious workout my neck and back on that side often cramp and fatigue. It is clear that I am still overcompensating for my weakened chest wall.

3. But I am finally at a place where I think I can safely start work on strengthen my upper body again.  I have avoided any serious upper body workouts to allow the site time to heal. But now I think I can gradually start to incorporate more. And hopefully that will also help improve my triathlon performance.

4. If I wanna be nit-picky about things, then at this point and time I think they are too big. Implants don't change as your body does. And I am probably the smallest I have ever been. Leaving my boobs looking a little more large and in charge than I am probably comfortable with.

5. But in all honesty, I don't care enough to change them. If i could wave a magic wand and make them smaller - I probably would. But in the real world, changing them means another surgery, so no thanks. And I assume there will be a point in my life where I wish they were a little bit bigger. So we'll just take them as they are.

6. The hot topic as of late is nipple reconstruction. And in truth, the techniques they have now are amazing. But I think for me... I am going to pass. There are moments where I feel flashes of insecurity. But I just don't feel like I am up for all the medical rigamarole. So my boobs will remain happily nipple-less.

7. I did see this video and beautiful tattoo idea. I kind of love it! I am not so sure this would suit me. But I think it is beautiful anyways... And I will keep it my back pocket as a solid MAYBE. (**for those inquiring minds who are wondering what things look like post-mastectomy and reconstruction - this gives you a pretty good idea of what I am working with***)


And that pretty much sums up all that's going on in the boob department. It has been a long road, with many other questions and possibilities still on the horizon. But I think I am finally at a place where things are healed, healthy, and happy.

What do you think about the Tattoo Art Option? Love to hear your thoughts?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail
Krysten 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

#WIAW - My Scope, Tummy Trouble, and the Results

It is WIAW, and for those of you who have been following along, than you know that I have been battling some tummy troubles for the past 6 months. My primary symptoms were acid reflux, nausea, and general upset stomach. We had been treating it like a potential ulcer. I was taking ant-acids, working with a Nutritionist, modifying my diet, and waiting for my scope to get an official diagnosis. Well it finally happened! I had my scope last week and I finally have some answers!

So it turns out I have Hiatal Hernia. Yep, not what I was expecting either. They think it is likely the bi-product of my double mastectomy. While struggling to get around after my surgery, I probably overcompensated, giving myself a little hernia. It is just a small hernia, so nothing drastic is required. But is the cause of all my tummy troubles. (*sigh*).

My Gastro Doc was really happy with how well I had healed my guts with my diet. Despite all the trouble I had been having in the Spring, changing my diet made a huge difference. I went from having some symptoms everyday to almost having none at all - and all of that was thanks to my nutritionist and my dietary changes. Admittedly my diet remained very strict for the better part of 4 months, but it definitely paid off. My insides are pink and healthy again. I even have the pictures to prove it.

I will continue to have watch my diet to maintain a healthy tummy, but I don't have to be quite as strict. I have started to add gluten and a bit of diary back into my diet. But sugar and fat are still things I need to be really mindful of. So there are lessons I have learned over the past 4 months that I will continue to incorpate in my day-to-day life.
  • Whole Foods are Always Best - anything processed, whether it is labeled gluten-free or not, is not ideal. So I will try to base my diet around whole foods
  • Planning and Small Meals are Required - I need to eat every 4 hours to help keep the acid under control. And because I want to focus on whole foods I need to plan my meals, pack snacks, and be prepared.
  • Processed Sugar is Not My Friend - sugar is always what causes the worst symptoms for me, and while I have enjoyed some treats following my marathon, it is something I am trying to avoid.
  • Plant-Based Meals Work Best for Me - because fat-content is something I am also trying to be mindful of, I have limited meat in my diet. I still have lean proteins (like chicken and fish), but plant based meals always seem to be best for me.
As always things are a work in progress over here. But so far so good!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Monday, 11 November 2013

Rest Week was Glorious

Last week was officially dubbed Rest Week. Why? Because all I really accomplished last week involved resting and indulging. And I must confess it was as glorious as advertised.

I slept in.
I ate all of the junk food I could get my hands on.
Chips, Chicken Wings, Pizza, Candy - I ate it all and it was delicious.
I drank wine.
Maybe a little too much wine on Friday night.
I spent time at home snuggling and laughing with my hubby.
I took Clark on long walks through the trails.
We visited with friends.
I got a manicure.
I started my Christmas shopping.
I drank Starbucks - the good stuff - you know the sugary-filled festive stuff that comes in a red cup.
I read for pleasure - not just for school.
I had time to catch up on the joys of reality TV.
I watched all the updates on the current Rob Ford Scandal.
I had time to read the paper in the morning.
Really, I just took some time for me.
It was perfect.

And today, as I slowly get back into my normal routine, I feel restored. Restored in a way that I have not felt in...months. Maybe if I am being honest, even years.

So much has happened over the past 2 years. And I have been struggling just to stay afloat. I have been crawling, kicking, screaming, to get through it all. I have be fighting tooth and nail to be stronger than all of it. But crossing the finishing line of my Marathon, was as cathartic as I knew it would be. For me it signaled the end of the battle. Suddenly, just like that, a huge weight had been lifted. It is a feeling that I cannot adequately explain. But all of the pressure, all of the stress, all of the sadness - it was gone. And I started this week with a calmness and sense of peace that I have long been searching for.

Restored. Rested. Balanced. And Hopeful for the first time in a long time.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Hamilton Marathon Recap

I look terrified
I have been sitting here for the last few days trying to figure out how to write this race recap. How can I adequately describe this past year? How can possibly explain what Sunday meant to me? So bare with me...

I was nervous going into Sunday's Race. My experience last year left me with MUCHO respect for the Marathon distance. 42.2 kilometers is no picnic. And I definitely questioned if I was going to have what it took to conquer it.

I tossed and turned all night, and before I knew it my alarm sounded for my 4:45am wake-up call. The race started at 8am, and we about and hour away from Hamilton and the start line. So the hubby and I piled in the car bight and early. I picked up my race kit, nervously spilt my coffee, and then met up with Christina and Danielle (who were both running the half) in the gym for a pre-race pow-pow and necessary Instagram pics.

Coach Michelle had emailed me my race plan the night before. The goal was to run the first kilometer a little slow, settle in to a 6:24km pace, and then drop the pace at 36km for a negative split if possible. I was trepidatious, but I vowed to follow the plan as best I could. So I tried to remain calm and start easy.

The First 10km
I felt like lots of people were zig-zagging by me for the first few kilometers. But I kept a close eye on my watch, and stuck to my pace. My moto for that first 10km was "run YOUR race". I didn't want to kept swept up in other people's excitement. I had a goal and I was sticking to my plan. I hit the 10km mark 1:04:56 - maybe a little fast, but pretty much exactly on pace.

10km to 21km
After the 10km mark the race started to shift. I stayed on pace, but all those people who had blazed by me early on were starting to slow down. I was slowly picking up steam - and gradually picking off people has I went along. This was a new feeling for me. I generally go out too fast - but in the last few months I have learned a lot about race day strategy and pacing. So I knew I was staying on plan and that I was running well. I felt strong, and my pace was comfortable. I reached the half way point before I knew it, and at 2:15:03.


21km to 30km
This first part of this stretch felt long. 21km-27km ran down the highway, so it was a little uneventful. The road was very slanted, so I felt slightly lopsided. And I was ready for a change of scenery. I found coach Michelle on her bike shortly after 28km. She, as always, was a ball of energy. She rode beside me checking my pace, taking pictures like the paparazzi, and chatting with me about the course and the plan. We found Jamie and my sister Kelly at the 30km mark. They ran with us for a bit - just 12 more kilometres to go.

I headed down the stretch by the Lakeshore. The wind had picked up, but I was still feeling good. We passed the 32km mark - and I remember how terrible I felt at this point last year - this year was completely different. First of all I was actually running - not just shuffling and grimacing in pain. And more importantly I was still smiling. My hips were getting tight and my legs were tired, but I felt okay. I kept plugging along at my 6:24km pace.

At 35km Michelle asked me to pick up the pace. I dropped it down to 6:15km but struggled to maintain it. The legs were getting tighter with each step, but I fought to stay on pace. Michelle kept encouraging me. She even called Christina and the Clif Bar team to give me a pep talk via speaker phone as I headed into the final 5km. I stopped feeling very chatty around 39km. She told me to dig deep. So I clenched my fists and my teeth and kept pushing.
I spotted Jamie and my family 600m from the finish line. Jamie hopped on the course to run me in, while Michelle hopped off to ditch her bike. I rounded the corner and heading down the shute with my support team in tow. I crossed the finish line at 4:33:36 - exhausted, with a 47 minute PB (<--- which goes to show you how rough my last marathon attempt was)
The girl who ran the Scotiabank Marathon last year,  is not the same girl who the Hamilton Marathon this past weekend. So much has happened between then and now. More than a year has past. I took yet another trip to the OR for surgery #6. I spent months rehabbing. I spent many more months sweating, running, training, and trying to rebuild my fitness. I lost my Dad unexpectedly, and my heart broke. I found myself questioning my strength and wondering if this marathon was even possible.

So crossing that line on Sunday, and crossing it at my goal time, was overwhelming. This year was hard. It was hard in ways I never expected. But on Sunday - I did it. Despite it all - I did it. I ran my marathon. Running really has taught me that Anything Is Possible. Maybe things are finally starting to look up.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten