Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Up Side of Down

These last few months have been interesting, and by interesting I mean a struggle. First I must confess that I haven't done all of the things that I should to help myself heal up. Part of this is because we went on vacation and I finally was feeling good. So I tried to keep faking that I was bouncing right back, and I knew that I wasn't.

St. Petersburg, Florida

I thought I was starting to feel good enough to really think about training again. Not just working out but actually training. Then I started to learn that this was a fleeting feeling. One minute I feel like the guy that can wake up and go run for 6-10 miles without thinking about it then the next moment I feel like I can barely move I am so tired.

Regardless, since I developed this extreme case of Rhabdo from a workout I did on Memorial Day I have been finally released from my doctors care. The last 2 rounds of blood work checking my CK levels have been in the normal range, and that is with me starting to run again. Since I have had constant fatigue he did check a few other things this last round, and found that I was severely deficient in vitamin D. So with a little supplementation I am feeling a little better, but it is still evident my recovery is going to be very slow.

I haven't really wanted to update any of you, because this hasn't been the only struggle going on. It actually has seemed like it has been one thing after another for over a year now. As usual when I struggle I look around and can see so many other people that are going through "real" struggles, and I feel ridiculous talking about what really are such small things.

If I really wanted to bare my soul this feeling has been going on for quite some time. I have been pushing every part of my life to the limits for a long time, and if it wasn't for this rhabdo I probably wouldn't have ever taken a true step back from the edge.

The edge is really where I found the title for this post, because you have to be on the "Down side of Up" to really know the "Upside of Down." The "down side of up" can look many different ways to many different people. It can be an addiction, grief, pain, sickness, or any of the many other things that makes us not be able to see outside of our own existence. We become consumed with ourselves even if we don't realize it.

I was burned out from life. I could talk all day about balance to people, but I wasn't doing it. I was just trying to survive near the break point. Then your kid gets sick, then you get another deadline at work, then you get sick, and on and on.....

I knew that I wasn't being the best husband, best Dad, or best anything but I didn't know how to get things back in order. Then everything just stopped. A week in the hospital has a way of doing that for you. I had to quit trying to control everything, and quit feeling like I was failing at everything.

A close friend of mine that worries more about my soul than I think I do gave me a copy of The Gospel of Mark study book by William Barclay. These were part of what Mr. Barclay wrote to help decipher Mark 5:14-17. These words were printed in 1955, but for me they have been as relevant now as I am sure they were then.

There is great deal of talk about what life owes us. Life owes us precisely nothing; the debt is all the other way around. It is we who owe life all that we have to give. We are followers of one who gave up the glory of Heaven for the narrowness of earth, who gave up the joy of God for the pain of the cross. It is human not to want to have our comfort disturbed; it is divine to be willing to be disturbed that others may have more.

William Barclay

Since my Dad died I have had a version in my head of what he wanted me to be, and I probably will never measure up to that version. The thing is that when I slowed down I realized that the man he wanted me to be was just someone that was always trying to be better. Someone that was putting out as much good in the world as he could. Fortunately, he and I both married women that live lives that are perfect examples of this.

I had to realize that my worth didn't matter how far I ran, how much I made, how many people that I tried to inspire.

Now I can't tell you when the exact moment happened that I realized that I was on the "Upside of Down," but I do know that one day I was comforted with the fact that I was on a long slow road for my recovery. I hadn't felt like fighting for sometime, and I sure couldn't encourage anyone else to fight for their health.

Slowly, I remembered how much I loved to fight. I remembered how much I loved to encourage others to fight. I forgot that inspiration comes from everywhere in our world we just have to be open to seeing it, and even more comes from us putting more good out there.

I really don't know if any of you are still out there reading, and that some Google robots aren't the ones adding to my numbers. If any of you are still out there then please stick around. Who knows if this road to recovery will have me on a start line again, or if I will ever be at the fitness I was before. I promise that as long as one of you are checking in then I know that there is still a fight to fight.

There are still people wanting to fight to be healthier.

Life owes us nothing, but as long as we are breathing we owe life everything. Go be healthy and smile at someone. You will either scare them or make their day. Either way it will make one or both of you happy :)


P.S. Sadly, my first training partner passed away since I started writing this post. He will be always be more to me than a dog, he was my friend. See you when I get to the happy hunting ground, old friend!

One of the little Keeblers and Gilmore a few years ago

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Another Mile Down the Road

The last we got to catch up things were a little rough for Anna, but we started were eating in a way that would help her feel better. We are slowing adopting the Paleo lifestyle. The first thing out of our diet has been anything processed.  This has thankfully helped Anna tremendously. We finally feel like we have our little girl back. This lifestyle does require a little more meal prep and planning, but we will do whatever to make sure she stays well. Not only that, it has forced all of us to eat much healthier.

Even Anna's arm healed up in time for her to play her last few softball games. Which she was very excited about after being laid up for weeks.

You would think that the reality would be that we would be in a good place for a few days but that wasn't meant to happen for us. Our youngest ended up with a bad stomach pain, and we ended up going to the ER with her. Afraid that for whatever reason we were going down the same road with her, but instead it ended up being extreme constipation. Damn you cheese sticks!

Then to make things worse Allie decided to fall out of box in the garage and badly sprained her ankle. We aren't exactly sure why she was in the box to begin with, or why the lights were off in the garage, something to do with hide -n-seek in the dark. Who knows, we never get the full story from her or Anna! After her complaining for a few days and the swelling didn't go down, we went for X-Rays, lucky it was just a bad sprain, nothing broken. Luckily, because of all of the rain she didn't miss any softball games and after about 2 weeks she was much better. 

After we got over the constipation issue, and in the middle of the ankle issue, Anna ended up with a respiratory infection that kept her out of school for a few more days. She was on breathing treatments around the clock for 2 full days. She finally got over this and both girls finished school on high notes! We even found out that Anna passed the STARR test and did a lot better than average. This is really saying something considering she missed 23 days of school!!  

So for the last 2 months is has been a guess every week on which girl was going to have an issue. As parents we were just happy for a day that everybody felt good and nothing happened. 

Over Memorial Day weekend, we were finally in a place to have some friends over to celebrate our close friends birthday. During our visit he mentioned that I should come with him on Memorial Day and try this crossfit workout called The Murph. Since I was not training for anything specific I thought why not do something different. Not to mention it would be a good challenge for me.

The Murph is a crossfit workout that is done on Memorial Day done in honor of Lt. Michael Patrick Murphy a Navy Seal that gave his life for us in Afghanistan. It was his favorite workout that he called body armor and after his death it was changed to The Murph. It consists of:

A mile run
100 Pullups
200 Pushups
300 Squats
Finished with a mile run

I might mention that at this point Susan did say to me I was going to get hurt, because well she is usually right. Just don't tell her I said that! 

Anyway being the athlete I am I knew I could make it through, but since I don't do much upper body I knew I would be sore. Just not this bad. The other problem with being an endurance athlete coming into this workout is that the part that most of us have that says you should stop I have learned to suppress. This it turns out was a bad thing, because what I didn't say at the start of this post is that I started writing this it from my hospital room. 

That's right we were in the hospital again, but at least it is not one of my kids! Since Monday(Memorial Day) I have developed a rare condition called rhabdomyolysis, or rhabdo. It is an excessive breakdown of muscle tissue that is from a release of a damaging protein into my blood. If left untreated will damage or shutdown your kidneys.

I have pushed myself through so many challenges, and I have been sore before but this was a completely different level of sore. I was obviously fit enough to complete it, but my upper body was not conditioned enough for this kind of workout. I am sure that all of the other weird Keebler blood issues contributed to this level of damage along with the statins that I took for years. Either way I was so sore the night after the workout that it physically woke me up, but I still didn't think anything was real serious. Then Wednesday morning I noticed blood in my urine. 

As usual I tried to blow this off as well, but since we were going to go out of town over the weekend Susan convinced me that a doc visit was a good idea. Even though I still had blood in my urine my doc didn't think it was that bad, but he wouldn't know until he got back some blood results. Then he  called me while I was at lunch on Thursday said that I wouldn't be going back to work or leaving town, and instead I would be going to the ER right then. He was also very impressed, because he had never seen levels as high as mine. This has turned out to be a theme with the medical professionals during my stay in the hospital.

Most people's CK levels range from 55-170, mine would only register as >100,000. They weren't even sure how high they were past 100,000, because their test wouldn't measure above 100,000. They typically have seen damage to the kidneys around 6,000. I have been blessed with the fact that I still don't have any damage to my kidneys. Since Thursday I have been a bit of a spectacle, because of the levels of my ck readings. The funny thing is that my nurse last night told me that when he was in Dallas he did see it twice, but it was from severe trauma in an accident, or someone going though extreme cocaine overdose. Nice!

Situations like this always make me feel so special :)

The first few days here my levels didn't really drop much, and when they did they would go right back up the next test. Finally over the last 24 hours they started to drop. At the end of the day yesterday they were 40,000, but my last blood work yesterday came back at 46,000. Then yesterday's was back down to 27,105. This was close enough for us to go home, but I still have away to go before it is back to normal.

I won't lie the up and down is very frustrating, but at least the trend is down. The other problem has been that the pain I had from the workout is very slowing going away. It really has been unlike any thing that I have ever had to recover from in the past. They don't really know why things are going so slow, but they are feeling confident that I am going to make a full recovery. It is just going to be a very slow recovery. 

A couple of positive things have come from this experience. As part of my blood work they ran a lipid panel, and for the first time without medication my total cholesterol was 186. It has never been below 200 without meds, and I can only contribute it to the change in diet. These results gave both of us so much joy,  because we finally feel like we have control over something that is genetic and for the longest time we didn't think we would ever be able to control it. 

The second positive that has come from this little hospital stay is that Susan and I went to see the memorial for my Dad in the Cath Lab waiting room.  A couple of ladies were sitting under it, and we each shared our stories. Her husband has been through so many things like my Dad, and she said that getting to meet us gave her hope. That was really the whole  reason for Dad's memorial. It was for people to have a story to turn to to give them hope and fight. God puts us in some interesting places to help others.

Some people will look at my example and say that it might be another example to NOT workout. Yes I pushed myself beyond a limit that I should have know was there, but that doesn't mean I should not try to be as fit as possible. It was a reminder to build up to what I want to do, but never quit fighting to be healthier. I would have never have ran a marathon or ran a 50K without training, I am not sure why I thought I could do this. Once again, Susan might have mentioned this a few times before I went.

 In my family quitting fighting could mean your dieing. My conditioning and stupidity might have gotten me into here, but it has also helped me survive a bad situation that would have been much worse if I wasn't healthy and fit.

I have said in the past this is the year of just trying to stay fit, and this will be an adjustment for me. Regardless, I am still going to be fighting. Sometimes I might just have to fight at a slower pace than I want.

Living to fight another day,

P.S. To all the doctors and nurses a big thanks, but a special thanks to: Joy, Mariana, Stephanie, Kenneth, Katie, Sara, my nurse practitioner Young, Dr. Kruczek, and of course Dr. Landry. I hope that I haven't forgotten anyone. If so I am sorry I have been slightly delirious :)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Sun is Shining Down

I hope those of you that have always been checking in here at Keeblerville haven't decided to give up on this blog or myself yet. The truth is that I have somewhat been giving up since Ironman Boulder, and am just now in a place to understand why. I started this blog update many times only to delete it, because it just kept sounding like I was complaining. Compared to other people with some "real" problems who am I to sit here and bitch about this or that.

I always have wanted this blog to be a place to inspire others to be healthier in mind, body, spirit. I want it to be that place that people could come read some writing from a guy that proved that anyone can go from really out of shape,  turn it around, and have some fun doing it.  A place that helps people recognize that no matter who you are, or what you have, your health is something that you should fight for.

When we all last talked I was hoping for better days coming in 2015, but life had another plan for us. We'll talk about me first, but I am only part of the story. The first thing is that physically I was feeling like I was never going to be healthy again. It wasn't just the flu that did it to me, but it was the final blow for me to give into reality. The reality is that I am burned out.

I have seen this happen to a couple of very close friends, and believed that if it was going to happen to me I would see it coming. I didn't. As an endurance athlete you train yourself to keep going no matter what. Even in bad times you know they are temporary, and if you just keep going you will pull through. That is the physical part, and I knew how to deal with that. I knew how to listen to my body. I knew when to push, and when to back off for the next challenge.

I ignored the other parts of me that helps me be whole. I ignored where I was spiritually. I ignored where I was mentally.  I just kept pushing through believing that if I just kept going life would ease up. I was wrong. I believed that our family had hit a rough patch health wise, and that things were turning around. I was wrong. I believed that my usual job stress was getting better, and it was going to ease up. I was wrong.

Looking around at our circle of friends we knew of so many that were going through some bad stuff. So who was I to bitch about our little problems here and there. So I kept my mouth shut and put my head down and pushed through.

My first sign came when Tim called me and said it was time to start planning for next race season. Something that we have done for the last 6 years together. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't do it, but I didn't want to tell him. This next thought might not make sense to many of you, but here it is. I was afraid that if I wasn't pushing myself to the next level I was quitting. Then those of you that have made that change in your health would look at me and think that if I quit fighting it was ok for you to quit fighting. I know that is slightly wackadoodle (technical head shrink term), but that is what was in my head.

Talking this over with Susan she eloquently reminded me that if I wasn't going to race that was fine, but the option of sitting on my ass was not acceptable.  She is very aware that she is a wife that married someone that must always fight for their health if they want to or not. Sometimes I even have to be reminded of it. Finally, I knew that I couldn't plan any race, and I made that call to my friend and the best coach ever, to say I was done for now. When that talk was over an enormous pressure came off, and I believed that things were going to be easy from here on out. I was wrong.

Susan was planning on training for her first marathon, and I thought why not run with her. So a goal was born. I even talked it over with my good friend Jerred, and we set up a schedule to run together at least once a week. Now I have rarely trained with other people over the last several years not because of some great scheme I just usually couldn't make my schedule fit with others. I didn't know it but running with a friend was one of the things that I needed. Our weekly runs have been filled with anything from talking about serious stuff, training ideas, to not talking about anything that matters. This time was going to be more important to come then I ever imagined. The weekly talks and runs either with friends or by myself have become a treasure to help release the pressure.

We really thought that after Anna's surgery last November that her stomach issues were over, but then one Sunday she started hurting bad just like when her appendix was inflamed. No appendix meant that something else was going on. So back to the ER we go twice during the week only to find out that she has something called mesenteric-lymphadentitis. The fix for this is you just have to let it pass, and try to manage the pain with some pain meds. That's easy to say to an adult, but try to say that to a 9 year old girl. She put her head down and took her medicine and we eventually got the pain under control, and thought ok this is it, she's good.

Then a few weeks later the pain comes back, but this time the pain meds don't work. So back to the ER again, and this time she gets admitted. Many of you that have had loved ones in the hospital, know how time stands still almost immediately. So for a week Anna goes thought every test you can think of for her stomach pain while we are also trying to keep life somewhat normal for Allie. All of the test done, comes back negative which we were very grateful for,  but we still didn't have any answers.

Now with everything thing I have put myself through I know what endurance is all about. Then you see the bravery and strength of a little girl that just wants her Mom and Dad to get the pain to stop. You see the bravery and strength of a Mom that rarely if ever leaves the side of her daughter. Now I  know what endurance and strength really look like. You know how fragile our health is no matter how "healthy" we think we are, and sometimes no amount of training prepares you for some fights. Then when the fight is almost out of you it dawns on you that strength comes from the prayers of a little 9 year old girl that just wants to be better.

Anna during her last test that took 2 1/2 hours

After all of the tests done we had no answers except all of the bad things were ruled out. One set of blood work results showed that she might have issues with some foods, and now that was all we had left to try. Anna had to fast for her last test so we decided that day we would cut out those foods, and that really cut out all foods that were processed. Since that day she hasn't had a pain one. Now is this the final answer? We hope and pray it is, but it will be a long time before we aren't afraid of the pain coming back.

I would love to tell all of you that Anna has been smooth sailing since then, but then that would just be a lie.  After about two weeks of no stomach pain Susan and I decided to go through with her first marathon in Dallas, and then drive on to trade her company car out in Tennessee. The run went great and we had some well deserved catch up time on the road for a few days.The whole time we were driving we were afraid that we were about to get the call that the pain was back. It didn't! So now for the happy ending. Nope!

Happiness before the Big D Marathon

Susan finishing her first marathon!

Well we made it home with no reoccurrence of pain, and had a great dinner with the girls. While we starting to clean up the kitchen we sent them off to take a bath, and within a few minutes all we heard was Anna screaming. Well she was using the soap dish as a way to lower herself into the tub when it broke off from the wall. Her arm was hurt and she was bleeding like crazy from her nose. You can't make this stuff up. So off to the ER we go again. Even after a few doc visits since then we are still not positive that her arm isn't broke, and we aren't sure on her nose but we think it is good.

If you are all still with me I finally will get to why I titled this blog what I did. It is from a song from a group that over the last few years I have really connected to their music.

The Sun is Shining Down by J.J. Grey & Mofro. Now this song is about the last conversation that his Grandparents had on the way to the hospital. When I listened to this it reminded me that every day we wake up and the sun is shining down is a great day. We have another chance to do good, to do God's work, to smile through the bad stuff in life. Sometimes it piles on all of us, but we just need to keep feeling the blessing of another day with the sun shining down.

For better or worse I am back and no I don't know what the future holds, or what races are to come or not come, but I promise we aren't done fighting.

Yours in the fight,