Truth Telling

The truth is, I keep writing blog posts and not publishing them.

I’m not not publishing because I don’t like the writing. Nope, it’s the words that give me issue. I worry that the content is too heavy and will be not taken for what it simply is – words on the page.

Just know that I am writing but I’m not sharing. It feels strange for me since my philosophy from the outset of creating this blog was to be honest with you. Honest about life as an elite cyclocross racer and being honest about life with an auto-immune disease. So not publishing feels like trickery.

Life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. There have been some very low points for me in this year. I keep telling myself that things will get better and that it’s really not that bad. But geez, some days I wonder how much more is going to happen.

And still, I know I have it very lucky. So it makes it hard for me to tell you about the bits in between the bikes, cyclocross racing, working, living, traveling, and ice cream eating. Just know that the bits in between are making me feel less-than-lucky, not-so-resilient, and definitely-not-inspiring.

I suppose I need to remember a sentence that I recently posted in response to an Instagram post by a young Canadian cyclocross racer: “Remember, you’re only human.”

So this is me, being human. My current answer to “How are you?” is “I‘m tired. I’m tired of being tired. And no, rest doesn’t help. Something is not right. Oh, and I have a raging ear infection. My left ear feels like it’s on fire. Yes, I’m going to the doctor on Friday. Really all I want to do is to put on my track pants and eat peanut butter from the jar, but I know this is only a temporary fix. And besides, the peanut butter is frozen solid. I stuck it in the freezer so I’d stop eating it every single day at every single meal. Instead I’m hooked on decaf instant coffee. I know, not really coffee. But it is what it is. So yeah, this is how I am. How are you? Oh, are you watching Season 3 of The Crown? I’m thoroughly addicted and trying to pace myself.

 

 

Vision, Swimming, and Everything Else

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I haven’t written in a while. I’ve wanted to write but frankly by the end of my workday, I’m tired. Yes, tired.

My brain is working overtime to see properly and it turns out this is very exhausting. I had my cataract surgery on October 22nd.

The double vision hit me hard on October 23rd. And now, almost four weeks later, I’m not a big fan of my new vision. The rampant double vision hasn’t really gone away. I spend most of the time seeing blurry, shadowed, moving, and hazy text on  my laptop, Kindle,  and in anything else I’m trying to read.

I saw my optometrist yesterday. Turns out this is because my brain is struggling to process the two images I’m seeing – the images from my left and right eyes. Complicating matters is that my right eye is  -4… And to make things even more challenging for my little old brain  – it’s extra hard to process two images when wearing glasses (lots of intense science but basically it’s hard for my brain to understand and communicate what it’s seeing because of the distance of my glasses from my eye). I know – fascinating.

So for now, I’m making do. I’ve learned how to cope with this crazy vision. I’m driving but only under ideal circumstances. I front load my workday to compensate for the fatigue.

I have a follow-up appointment on December 2nd. More tests will be done and then there might be a plan. Current ideas are: contact lenses (maybe fancy progressive lenses or maybe mono vision) and an end to wearing glasses. If the contacts don’t fix the problem then I’m off to the Eye Institute for lens replacement in my right eye.

Moral of this blurry story: get your vaccinations! Don’t get the shingles. This is all because of the damned shingles and uveitis that I ended up with last December.

Now for something shiny and bright….

I’ve started swimming! Yep, swimming. I had my ileostomy surgery in August 2016. I haven’t had a bath since. I really didn’t know what would happen with my pouch – would it still stick, would I get leaks, would disaster strike?

For the last few months I’ve had this nagging feeling about wanting to go swimming. I used to swim when I was in university (not on the swim team – just thrashing around in the pool) and when I worked downtown.

After some deep thinking, lots of question asking of my pals in the Ostomy Lifestyles Athletes Facebook group, and some chats with friends who swim – I decided to go for it. I figured the worst that could happen is my pouch would leak or I would drown.

So this past Monday, I did it. I went swimming. Wow – what a feeling. I’ve gone three times this week and have signed up for a technique improvement session with Technosport.

There is something special about swimming. It’s so different from everything else I do. I find it calming and challenging. I’m stoked to improve on my skills and to get better. And no, there are no triathlons in my future. This is purely for fun and another way to relax my brain and get some exercise.

That’s about it. I’ve started sketching again but this only happens when my brain is firing on all cylinders. I’m excited to read Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann.  I listened to an interview with Lucy Ellmann on The Guardian books podcast and I found her to be a fascinating person. Apparently the book is very long – hard to know since I used a mega-large font on my Kindle…. Are you watching The Morning Show? It’s such smart television.

And well, that’s it. This eye/brain connection will get better. When I think back to how awful I felt this time last year – this vision shituation doesn’t feel that bad. It was right around this time that I ended up in the hospital with acute peritonitis, I was asked about my living will, Marc had to change his Belgium travel plans, I had to cancel my trip, and then I topped it off with the shingles and uveitis….

So all in all, wonky vision is frustrating but I feel like I’ve got lots of experience now with wonky and frustrating health challenges. Things can only get better from here.

 

Eyeball Count-Down Is On

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Not many people would look forward to cataract surgery – but I’m not most people. Can I just tell you how much I wish I could speed up time and make it October 22nd?

My surgery was supposed to have happened already…. but an eye surgeon with the flu is not optimal. So here I am, counting down to the 22nd.

My eye is not great. But fingers crossed, it will be better very soon. I know it’s a minor inconvenience compared to what so many people are dealing with, but this funky eye is having a big impact on my life.

No driving after dusk. Terrible depth perception. Headaches. Inability to work a full day. A very tired right eye. And plain old frustration.

Again, minor things in the grand scheme.

This Sunday will very likely be my last  ‘cross race of the season. Kind of a drag since I’ve really had a lot of fun racing this year. But I don’t think racing my bike on bumpy grass and running over barriers is conducive to eyeball healing.

Not much else happening really. Just rolling along with life. Work has been busy in a very good way. I’m very fortunate to have a writing job that affords me a great deal of variety and flexibility. No two days are ever the same or boring.

I’m back to working out with my trusty TRX – seriously how can a few simple movements make it impossible to lift my arms over my head for an entire day?

Last time I wrote about Bullet Journalling. I have to say – so far so good. I’m not doing the uber-Bullet Journalling. But I’ve adopted the system to suit my needs. It helps me feel more focused and organized. I like crossing things off the list and writing a reflection on the day.

I subscribe to James Clear’s newsletter and the other day he touched on having a keystone habit. This is a habit that sets the tone for the day – a habit you do every day and keeps you moving forward. Interesting. I realized I could benefit from this. So, I’m trying to walk every morning. Wake  up, do a few things in the house, drink my lemon water and then out the door for what is right now a 4.2 km walk. I listen to podcasts and keep my head on a swivel. Time will tell if I can keep this up once the cold weather arrives.

Okay, well that’s really it. I’m kind of rambling here and don’t have anything much to say. Last Saturday I watched the Downton Abbey movie – highly entertaining. I did leave the movie with one very good message “I’ll be fine until I’m not“.

Sounds about right to me. No point in worrying or fretting. It will all be fine until it’s not. (Fingers crossed we’re not murmuring a variation of this on Tuesday morning after the Canadian election results….)

 

Breathing In

I’ll just come out and say it –  the last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and emotion. And it won’t slow down for a couple more weeks.

No complaints with the whirlwind of activity or emotions. These, are I think what keeps life interesting and thriving.

This past weekend kicked off the start of the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series. Wow – what a day. There were so many people out racing – Upper Canada Village felt like it was vibrating with excitement and energy.

My highlight was seeing Marc race. Some of you know that Marc has had some health struggles lately. So to have Marc back on his bike giving his all really was very emotional for me. Seeing him ride up the hill had me both cheering and trying to fight back tears of happiness, relief, and love.

The other highlight of the day was chatting with the women who came out to my beginner ‘cross clinic. Hearing the race stories and answering questions about how to  adjust for the next race really does put a funny feeling in my stomach.

So  yes – ‘cross is back and it’s awesome.  I’m still hoping to do five races this season – I  know nothing like my old racing season but, this year the timing has been a bit funky for me.

On Friday I’m having a gum graft done – not awesome. Thank goodness for anesthetic.

Then on October 8th, I’m having the cataract in my left eye removed. Hooray! The original surgery date was November 5th, but I  lucked out with an earlier date.

I  have no idea when I’ll be able to race or even ride after the cataract surgery.  But this is okay.  Priority is in getting my vision fixed and sorted. Bikes will always be there.

The crazy whirlwind busyness that I’ve been in lately has helped the busy noisy brain resurface. This is something  I thought I had under control… nope.

So in an effort to bring things back down and release the noise between my ears,  I’m  trying out Bullet Journalling. I bought a book about it – so I could learn the ins and outs and bought an official Bullet Journal.

At first glance, this seems like a good system. There are lots of “rules” and “guidelines” but I feel confident I can mold these to fit the practicalities of my  day-to-day.

If you see Marc at the ‘cross race in Carp this weekend –  give him a hug or a squeeze on the arm – it means a lot to have people looking out for you.

 

The Latest and Greatest

Okay, maybe the title overreaches a bit, but it’s the Internet and it seems to me that hyperbole is in vogue.

So, how are you?

Me, well, I’m hanging in. This is an honest answer. The summer has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Just when I feel like I’m getting my cycling groove back, I’m wiped out with fatigue.

I don’t know why this is happening. My suspicion is this my new reality thanks to the shingles. The few people I’ve chatted with about the shingles tell me that they haven’t felt “the same” since. And this is how I feel.

No point in ruminating about it. It is what it is. A new normal and something I have to get used to. Fortunately, I have experience with this.

And now, for something interesting (I hope)….  here is what I’m currently into:

#Reading

#Watching

  • Call The Midwife – I’m late to this period drama. In small doses it’s a good one, I find the birth scenes to be a bit noisy.
  • Diagnosis – I’ve long been a fan of Dr. Lisa Sanders’s column in the NY Times Magazine and I’m equally hooked on the Netflix documentary program. In a word:  riveting.
  • The Great British Bake Off – so very good. This program has it all (without the birthing scenes and medical drama).

#Anticipating

  • This weekend I’m running a beginner women’s cyclocross clinic. I really enjoy helping women feel more confident on their bikes and get a real thrill from seeing them learn new skills.
  • Buffy Saint-Marie – Sunday night is going to be awesome. I’ve never heard Buffy Saint-Marie sing live. I once heard/saw her speak live on stage during a taping of Q during the Ottawa Juno week. I was captivated by her verve and spirit. Can’t wait to see her perform.
  • November 5th. This is I hope going to be a life-changing day for me. Some of you know that the shingles has left me with a cataract in my left eye. Well, over the last three months, my left eye has steadily deteriorated to the point where I really can’t see much with it. So, on November 5th, I’m having cataract surgery. Not something I thought I’d ever be having in my 40’s but heck, I didn’t expect to have my colon and butt removed either.
  • Montreal next week. I work for a company in the United States called Know Agency. I’ve been working with the fearless leaders of this SEO and digital marketing company since 2010. And now, finally next week,  I’m going to meet Kevin and Jane. I’m  playing it cool and collected right now but I expect that next Monday I’ll be second-guessing my outfit, my footwear, and hoping my cowlick isn’t sticking up.
  • The start of the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross season. This year my goal is to do five races. I know, not much but I’ve got dental surgery and cataract surgery smack dab in the middle of the race season.

#Doing

  • Just the normal stuff of life. Cycling, at-home yoga, sketching, wasting time on the Internet, chasing Calvin the cat around, and spending time with my favourite guy. I would like to be doing more cycling,  yoga, and sketching – but some days are better than others. I would like to be spending less time on the Internet – I’ve been working gradually on reducing my time wasted online. As for Calvin the cat – well the more energetic he is – the better. And yes, all time spent with my favourite guy is extra special and precious.

#Listening

  • I work from home so I’m lucky to be able to listen to whatever I want at whatever  volume I feel like. In the mornings I listen to CBC Radio One and in the afternoons at around 1:00 I switch to CBC Music. I  take a break  from  12 – 1 – I’m not a big call-in show fan. I’m slowly but surely starting to get the hang of classical  music – big thanks to Tom Allen and the summer hosts of Shift for gradually getting me used to this music.
  • The Cycling Podcast – this is my favourite cycling podcast. The hosts are smart, chatty, and are comfortable poking fun at themselves.
  • The Morning Shakeout – the host, Mario Fraioli has a knack for getting people, mostly runners to open up and be real. Always interesting  guests and valuable insights into life, sport, and balance.
  • Tough Girl Podcast – prepare to be inspired and to think seriously about setting out on a big adventure.
  • And a whole bunch of other podcasts from NPR, BBC, and the CBC.

And that’s it.

 

‘Cross Is Coming Stay Calm

Did you see the latest on the WWW? Cyclocross is coming. In fact, depending on where you live it might already be here.

It seems that in the last few weeks of August, so many people start to get into cyclocross-panic mode.

Stress about tires. Panic about tire pressure. Worry about mounts/dismounts. Much chatter about call-ups. So much stress and worry.

Well, here is what I think about all of this cyclocross panic:

  • Why are you racing cyclocross?
  • Are you a professional cyclocross racer who is making a living racing your bike?
  • Why are you freaking out?

As someone who has raced a lot of cyclocross at many different levels in many different countries – I can attest to the cyclocross-panic mode being universal. I also think it’s getting worse with every passing year.

If your dismount before the barrier is not super smooth – it’s okay. Sure, you haven’t been running – that’s okay – you’re a cyclist. And yes, even the top pros grab a handful of brake when they know they shouldn’t.

Have fun. Go out and race. Keep some perspective on why you’re racing. Don’t get sucked into spending hours obsessing over call-ups.

Get on your bike. Line up. Start hard. Keep your head up. Look through the corners for your exit.

Set your dismount speed. Remount when you’re ready (the number of steps after the barrier doesn’t matter).

Try not to brake too much but remember a controlled speed is always better than chaos.

Be friendly to the other racers. Thank the organizers. Encourage people when you’re standing on the sidelines watching.

Remember that it’s bike riding.

It’s cyclocross season – it’s the best time of the year. So enjoy it. Stop stressing.

See how much fun it is when you smile and goof around?

3-Year Stomaversary

It’s a pretty big day around here today. Actually today, August 8th and yesterday, August 7th are pretty damn big days in my life.

On August 7th, Marc and I celebrated our 15-year wedding anniversary. Wow! We were together for 10 years before we got married. 25 years! Amazing.

And today, August 8th is my 3-year stomaversary. Three years ago on August 8, 2016 I had my colon removed and was gifted Reset (my stoma) by a very smart surgeon and talented surgical team.

To say that August 8th wouldn’t have happened without August 7th is putting it mildly. I would not be here right now writing this if it wasn’t for Marc. This man has put his life on hold countless times to take care of me and to support me in chasing my goals. I’m truly overwhelmed when I think of the sacrifices he’s made for me.

It can’t be easy to love someone with a chronic  illness. I’m the lucky one – I don’t know what it’s like to see my favourite person crying, hurting, and truly wanting to give up. Sadly, Marc has gone through this.

The best thing about August 8, 2016 was that this all stopped. Yes, there were some blips and low points, particularly in late 2018 and early 2019, but I do believe that we’ve turned a corner now.

I feel good. I feel great. Life is good. There are still a few bumps and niggles, but together, Marc and I can get through anything. How lucky are we to have one another?

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So, three years with a stoma. Three years living with a pouch attached to my abdomen, Three years living with my small intestines sticking out of my stomach. Kind of rad really.

As my dear friend Blanche said to me on Tuesday after a 72 km bike ride, “Three years? And look at you – you have a whole new life!”

It’s true I really do. I no longer feel any limitations. Okay, truth – I haven’t taken a bath since my surgery nor have I gone swimming. But this is the year – I’m going to do both – you make sure to hold me accountable!

This morning I played hooky from work and went out to my favourite place for a fun 2 hour cruise on my mountain bike. It’s so hard for me to describe how free I feel riding at Larose Forest.

This morning was extra special – there was no one else there. I rode for a solid 90 minutes before I saw another person. It was just me, the birds, chipmunks, and the trees. Doesn’t get much better.

Something about being in nature truly helps settle me. I feel less rushed. I feel zero pressure to ride hard, fast, or whatever. I’m just there on my bike – totally free.

I took these on my favourite trail – trail #6. There is a point on this trail where the MTB track meanders through huge trees. It always feels super calm when I get to this part of the trail. It’s hard for me to explain, but I feel so at peace on this section of the trail.

Three years!!! I feel like I’m just getting started. I hope Marc is ready for whatever happens next – ha ha!