A Quick Look Back

Well, it has been a year. What a year it has been.

This time last year I was not in a good place. I had the shingles. I felt terrible physically and mentally. I was done. Ready to give in.

What a difference a year makes. I was doing some sketching the other day and I flipped back in my sketchbook to see what I was up to on Dec. 20, 2018… Nothing… There is a big gap between Dec. 16 and 29, 2018. I guess this is when the wheels fully fell off.

The good news is, the wheels are back on and the spares are ready to go. I’m finally starting to feel more like myself. Slowly but surely my energy is coming back – I attribute this to finally getting my vision problems (thanks shingles) fixed. I’ve got a contact lens in my right eye and a brand new eye glass prescription  – and now I can see again.

What a difference. And I fully believe this is why my energy is starting to rebound. Not being able to see is a struggle. Seriously, go get the Shingrix vaccine… I wish I had had the vaccine.

So, enough about that. So long 2019. Bring on 2020.

I don’t set New Year’s resolutions. But I do try to make small changes in my life on a regular basis. There was that time I decided to give up peanut butter… yeah, that didn’t last too long.

I read a post on Instagram where the author suggested choosing a word for the year. I like this one. I wasn’t sure what to choose and then this morning I didn’t go swimming and I started obsessing about not working out/training today. I was doing a good job of beating myself up for not training today…. and then my word came to me:

Flexibility

This word has a lot of meaning for me. I’m a planner. I like schedules. I like to know every single detail and have my days mapped out (well in advance). Kind of the opposite of flexible. I do this planning because it helps me lower my anxiety and stress over uncertainty. But maybe, this planning habit is actually creating more stress. Overthinking, planning, scheduling – whatever you call it – I do it big time.

I’m not going to fully let the reins go and stop planning. But I’m going to work hard on being flexible. I slept in, didn’t get to the pool – no big deal. It’s too warm to fat bike – okay, so I won’t fat bike. And that’s it. No ruminating, overthinking about what I could do instead, and hand-wringing because I didn’t train. Just, accepting it and moving on. This is my version of flexible.

Okay, end serious stuff….

It’s the end of a decade. Here’s a couple photos from what was happening my life 10 years ago:

IMG_1837Run Vicki Run!Just a little bit furtherLet the bike do the work

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was in my prime physical fitness, racing and training in Belgium and getting ready for the 2010 World Cyclocross Championships.

These photos are a great reminder of what is possible:

IMG_1889IMG_3606-800Cyclo-cross World ChampionshipsCyclo-cross World ChampionshipsCyclo-cross World ChampionshipsIMG_3627-800

 

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.