Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Only five months left in my thirties… a reflection…

This is it. Today marks only five months left to enjoy being in my thirties. Not sure why it matters to me, but it does. It doesn't matter that I am turning forty. I am perfectly accepting of that. What matters is that I am not sure I have truly done justice to my thirties. Did I put enough in? Did I honour my body? Did I make this world a better place for those around me? Those are the things that concern me.

I think I need to take stock of what has happened in this first thirty nine and a half or so years of my life. I mean, there has to be something there, right? I'm a list person, so I'll make a list. 39 things I've done to make the most of this life. So let's get started…

1. The obvious… becoming a parent…

I was perfectly happy in my life and had no need to have children. After all, they whine, they cry, they have bad behaviour in social setting where people stare and judge you for your lack of parenting abilities. Cleaning up puke and changing diapers. Not so much thank you. Trying to shape a person to be a valued and contributing member of society, all the while never quite meeting society's expectations. The lifelong commitment. I had a dog. That was good enough. The never-ending stories of all the things my kids did. Scribble pictures on the fridge. Really, I didn't need that, right? Or at least that is what I thought. But then a funny thing happened…

 I found myself pregnant with my first child. He definitely wanted to make sure that parenting was a challenge for us, from the very beginning. The pregnancy was relatively uneventful, well, okay, that's not exactly accurate. There was that triple screen, and the subsequent amniocentesis. Wondering what challenges you would present to us. Turns out the amnio was just fine, but lots of emotions going through that process. And then there was the broken leg….

 Thank you Cronos for your nonstop although sometimes misdirected energy, as was the case the day you were chasing Zach and misjudged where he was and knocked me to the ground in the process, or maybe you and Zach were playing human bowling and you both got a strike cause down went Krista and I while the two of you kept running around the dog park. I'd never had a cast before, so I guess that was as good a time as any. Fluorescent pink. But getting to that point was an adventure. Trying to get in and out of the car, Krista herding the dogs who got out at each stop, walking on a leg that just didn't feel so good to walk on (no wonder, the bone was broken!!). The fear of telling the husband, who inevitably would be upset and somehow saying I told you so, who was then more upset that he had to hear it from someone else. All this while, the baby continuing to grow inside….

 Yet that wasn't entirely normal either. I remember the ultrasound. The femur was measuring small. The first clue that things weren't quite the way they should be. Nobody mentions this about pregnancy. All you see are the happy pregnant ladies going about their day. Nobody talks about the parts that aren't quite normal. Like the part where the baby doesn't move much. (NOTE: if you are reading this and ever have a pregnancy and your baby seems to be moving less, get it checked out… not something to mess around with!!). We knew another ultrasound was coming, they scheduled that after the amnio results were in….

 Baby is moving less. The mom-to-be is feeling stress. The husband wasn't allowed to take just a couple hours off for the ultrasound, it was the whole day or nothing. So he took the whole day. Good thing really. It's a date, first up the ultrasound and then physio (that darn broken leg that just wouldn't heal!!). And so begins the ultrasound. A little stressed since baby boy hasn't been moving a whole lot. But we get the student. Yay for learning. But the student needs a little help. In comes the tech. Hmmmm… something must be up cause the tech wants a more senior tech. Hello? We are the parents, and we are sitting here while you don't say anything but keep looking at something. There is a heartbeat. Got that, they keep checking it. Hmmmm… now this tech wants a radiologist. Again, we are sitting here, please say something, I'm starting to feel just a wee bit stressed on the inside. The doctor says she will say something once she gets a colleague to confirm what she is thinking. In comes the next doctor. More chatter between them all. Finally they talk to us…

 Your baby is very sick. Your baby has hydrops. You need to make some choices. If you deliver the baby, the outcome is uncertain. There could be longterm ramifications, disabilities, medical problems, and that's only if the baby makes it, chances of that are not great either. Taking the baby this sick, at 28 weeks, is not ideal, especially as the lungs haven't got the steroids to help them along. You could continue the pregnancy, but the baby will die. I believe I remember the words fetal demise. Hmmmm… well, these are just great choices now, aren't they. This little baby boy growing inside me, cannot stay there unless we want him to die, but choosing to deliver him could have many unforeseen consequences. It's a choice between bad and worse. I believe in you little one, I do. I hope I am making the right choice. But what choice is there really? I am going to meet you today, under less than ideal circumstances. Life isn't seeming very much like rainbows and butterflies at the moment. Ugh, this isn't what they tell you in the books…

Off to the hospital we go. The husband is grumpy and traffic isn't helping. Honk. Trying to call my parents, but the tears won't stop falling long enough to get any words out. I am so very afraid. I've never been a parent before. This is not how it's supposed to go. I want you to be okay little one. Please. Please be okay. I need to call my brother. I have to tell him what's happening. I shout out his number for Jeremy to call. He needs to know what's happening. I'm scared. I just want baby to be okay. Everything is out of my control. I'm not good at this. I have to rely on everyone around me and that's not my strong suit. It's going to be an emergency c-section. The baby wouldn't survive a natural delivery. Wait. That means surgery and needles and ugh… so not ready for this. I still had another three months to mentally prepare. Or not…

Well, the one good thing about being so scared for the baby, I didn't really get stressed about all that was happening to me (not really a needle person here… yeah, really not). And the needle in the back, so not my favourite part. The nurse was amazing though. I remember that. She said the right things and made me feel a little more at ease while someone was sticking a needle into my spine. Ugh, that was a nerve, and it felt so icky gross. I guess that's normal. Lots of hustle and bustle going on in the operating room. Jeremy is drinking orange juice, cause that's what the dads do I guess. Of course most new dads aren't waiting to meet their baby three months early. You are doing good he says, I laugh, I'm lying there, doing my best not to freak out. Inside I'm just so afraid. I just want the baby to be okay. The whole thing is just surreal….

The operating room is full of people. There is a whole team of people there waiting for the baby. Wow, that's a lot of people that are there just for this baby. And there is the whole team of people dealing with me. Totally different focus for both groups. I'm grateful those people are there, and going to give this baby a chance. Be strong little one, be a fighter.

Soon enough the baby is here. There are no cries. His lungs aren't ready for this. He is intubated right away. They work to stabilize him so they can take him to the NICU. There's a word you don't hear every day. Come to think of it, I don't think I ever really knew much about a NICU before this day. I would learn though, oh yes, I would. Baby is stable, sort of. Time to get him out of there. Wait, says the dad, please let the mom see her son. They stop, hold him up so I catch a glimpse. My eyes fill with tears. He is tiny, but precious. And now he is headed out. They still need to finish with me. Jeremy goes with the baby. Someone needs to be with him. So he can know his parents love him, even though they are so afraid of what is happening.

He is not doing well. He is just so sick. No chance of seeing the baby yet. I need my legs to thaw out from the local anaesthetic. Oh, and let's not forget the broken leg. Things are complicated. Doctors come to visit. We get questioned on so many things. Drugs. What did I take. Nothing, I swear. Even with the broken leg, I didn't take anything more than a tylenol. Wow, this hydrops stuff is so serious. They are trying to find a cause for it. None of my answers match for an answer. I swear, there were no drugs really (they asked a lot). Genetics came, metabolics, cardiology, the neonatologist. They are trying to narrow down the tests to perform. Baby needs blood and ASAP but has so little blood to take, they can only do a few tests before new blood is added and then no more chance for tests….

This is really serious. We are dealing with this minute by minute, hour by hour. The time ticks so slowly. It feels like a nightmare I can't wake up from, only it is real life. How did this happen. Why did the baby get so sick. He needs a name. I want him to have a name. Right now he is just boy. That's what it says on his card. Boy.

Family starts to arrive. The locals first, and then the out-of-towners. It is so hard to keep it together. The expression on my mom's face. I know things aren't great, and they keep getting worse. Ugh. It's a weekend. They call in people to talk to us. More questions. Are they waiting for me to crack? I swear, I'm telling you everything. No answers found. Baby is getting worse. Needs a different ventilator. This one looks like it's from the last century. But apparently it can help. The settings keep getting higher and higher. There is another machine. They only pull this out as a last resort. And now he's on it. It's an expensive machine. This kid blows their budget. Up go the settings even further. There is nothing more to be done. If the baby doesn't start improving, the focus will change. Oh please little one, let the machines help you. We believe in you.

So many wires, so many machines. It is almost hard to see the baby there. Don't touch the baby. My heart is breaking. My first time being a mom and I'm not even allowed to touch my child. Helpless. There is nothing I can do. They ask if we want to call in someone from the church. Time to baptize the baby. Wait. Hold on one minute there. I know what that means. If the baby is baptized, he can go to heaven. I'm not ready to let him go. I won't do that just yet, thank you very much.

Night is the hardest time. My mind races. My mind plays through every possible scenario as I drift off to sleep. I wake up, trying to figure out what is real and what is imagined. Is the baby okay? My heart is racing. I'm totally panicking inside. I am so scared, tears are flowing again, quietly though. The mom in the bed beside me is struggling to feed her child. The baby is crying. I think how lucky she is. I wonder if she realizes it. Her baby is crying. My baby doesn't do that. My baby is being paralyzed right now so he can't fight the machines. Her baby keeps crying. Can someone tell me if my baby is doing okay? Anyone?  I just want it to be morning so someone can tell me if the baby is okay….

Jeremy is the most welcome site ever. He checked in on baby. Still not doing great, but holding on. I am so grateful to hear this. He helps me down the hall again. Wash hands. A new ritual that is critical. Over and over again we will wash until the skin cracks from being so dry. Still just look at baby. No touching. That could make baby worse.

Rounds take forever. This is one sick baby. There is so much to say. It sounds so discouraging. Only one baby for the nurse. This baby is too sick to look after anyone else. The machines are all at their maximum setting. Come on little one. Please. Please. Please.

There are emails. Congratulations. It is guarded. People don't really know what to say. It isn't quite the joyous happy occasion that usually surrounds the birth of a baby. The emails are comforting though. Thanks for acknowledging the baby. He is tiny, but he is mighty… he has a long road ahead of him...

And that was becoming a parent. Kids chart their own path. Our oldest charted quite the dramatic beginning. Nothing like jumping in with both feet. It might not have been the typical introduction to parenting, but I will take it. Sebastian is a fighter. He overcame a lot. I've written about it before. I am sure I will write about it again. I am so grateful to every person who helped him during his very rocky beginning. Say what you want about the health care challenges in our country. It is because of the amazing treatment he got that he is with us today. I am grateful. I am so thankful. Every single day, I am grateful that he is with us. It's been over seven years. In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday, and other ways it feels like a lifetime ago.

Hmmmm… this was supposed to be a list of a bunch of things from my life… I'm still stuck on this one… it was a bit of a milestone. It consumed a big part of my life. Still does really. There are more, I know it. I mean, there was his brother too. Definitely less dramatic of an entrance for him, but cherished all the more because of it. I know his beginning gets overshadowed as it was not nearly so eventful. But I cherish him as well. Also, I did manage to see a bit of our world, worked at the happiest place on earth, graduated from university, and became an ironman… I guess I'll reflect more another day. For now, I stop… after all, becoming a parent is pretty epic… and today, I am so lucky to be a mom to two incredible boys. I love them both dearly. I love their unique personalities. I love that they inspire me to be a better person, so I set a good example for them.

For the most part, I think I've done okay with making the most out of life. I think the one area I could do better, is honouring my body on a more consistent basis. I have five months left to show that I can do that. So I am going to work harder at that. Putting better fuel in, working out my muscles and keeping my heart strong. Starting now… literally…. Here I go… off to the treadmill. Time to go for a run!!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Allergies in my little one

My little guy has allergies. Exactly what he is allergic to, we aren't 100% sure yet. Last summer we were convinced it was cats... or the heat. We went to the doctor. We were refered to an allergist. Fast forward to this summer. He still has allergies to something. Still not sure what. Now we are thinking more than one thing... maybe cats... or the heat... or pollens of some variety... or food of some sort... possibly nuts... or wheat... or sugar... we really don't know.

The poor kid gets super puffy eyes and a runny nose. On occasion has had a cough to go along with it. Now we are waiting for our appointment with the allergist, but that is another two months away yet. So we might do another test in the meantime for allergies. Through a naturopath. Have to find something that helps him!! In the meantime, he now has eyedrops, they have been helping. I just want to know what it is that his body doesn't seem to agree with. Allergies is new territory for us. Haven't had to deal with it before. Just hoping for some sort of answer!! For his sake!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

And so the training begins...

My workplace is just finishing up a 100km challenge. Happily, I managed to finish the 100km. I will admit though, that a little bit of cramming was involved. Since I have a half marathon approaching, I want to take the work I've done and keep going at it. I don't want there to be any cramming for this half. I also don't want to go into the half marathon without a nice solid base of training. I will admit, I haven't been very focused post ironman, and even though I did do a handful of races: Melissa's Road Race 10km, Ambulance Chasers 5km (that I ran with my six year old who finished in 35:36... seriously, he didn't stop the whole time... I want whatever he's got!!) and Winterstart in Banff (so pretty with the snow and all!!). However, aside from a few runs here and there, there hasn't been any real consistency in my training, at least until the last few weeks. So now, the goal is to take that momentum and keep going!! A bit of speed work, a bit of hill training, some nice long slow runs, and slowly I will be ready for the Calgary Police Half Marathon. It's a fantastic race and I would like to have a nice solid race without hurting the next day. So please, let's keep this training going!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Quest for Ironman

The Quest for Ironman

Last August, after volunteering and then waiting in line, I was signed up for Ironman Canada 2012 edition. It was on my list of events I must try and now was a good a time as any. And so began the journey. With two young boys at home, sometimes, I just didn’t get the hours in that I wanted, but I did get all the big workouts in. Leading up to the race, I did the Calgary Police Half Marathon, the Mother’s Day 5km and the Ride To Conquer Cancer Alberta edition. Surprisingly, I did no other triathlons this year. Race fees can be expensive, so I put my efforts into training and saved the big race for my big moment. My best training decision was including a training camp, out in Penticton. This gave me a chance to see the course firsthand to to get in a long swim, a long bike and a long run, all on the actual route of Ironman Canada. This was excellent. Especially for the bike. There would be no surprises. I knew exactly where and what I had to ride. 

Enter Thursday evening. The kids run. Now, I don't know for sure how many kids entered, but my kids were numbered 918 and 919, and we saw many numbers well below that!! So, Jeremy took Sebastian, and he rocketed to a 1km in about 5 and a half minutes!! Awesome fast!! And Sully, ran his little three year old heart out, and finished a few minutes after that, so very proud of himself. They were both super excited to have earned their kids medals!!

So there I was, soaking up the ironman experience. I stopped in to register and suddenly things became real. I had a wristband on. I had a number to put on my bike, helmet, race bags etc. I had to organize my gear. I had to drop off my gear bags. There are a lot of them. I had to figure out my special needs. I had to check in my bike. I attended a last minute race prep meeting, and did a last minute ride. Something was clicking on my bike. We couldn’t figure out what. I would hope for the best. 

And suddenly, it was Sunday morning. I am grateful that I started doing 6am shifts at work as it made the 4:30 wakeup call a little more tolerable than it might have been. I got myself bodymarked, and got the special needs bags (filled with popcorn twists, nibs, and peanut m&ms) dropped off. And then it was into transition. Pumped up the tires, added my perogies and homemade rice krispie squares to my bento bag on the bike, attached the bike computer, dropped off the watch into my bike to run bag, and then it was time to get the wetsuit on, and drop off my dry clothes bag. It was just unreal. I was standing among all these athletes. All these people doing ironman, and somehow, I was one of them. Was the work I put in going to pay off? Would I finish?

Soon enough, the pros were off, and then I was in the water awaiting the start. O Canada was played. There was a helicopter overhead. I was in the water, and then it was go time. Only 3.8km between me and my return to the beach. At this point, I should probably mention, I’ve never actually done an open water triathlon. I mean, I’ve done lots of open water swimming, and I have done some triathlons, but to this date, none had been open water. I tried to let all the fast people go ahead, but there were so many of us. I quickly understood the whole washing machine thing. A few kicks in the head, and I was watching a lot more closely where I was. It was a long swim out to the first turn, then a quick swim across, and then just a swim back in. Nice and easy!! This would be the shortest part of the day!! And it took over an hour and forty five minutes. 

Back at transition, it was very cool to realize I had completed the first part of the ironman journey. As I crossed the timing mat, there were volunteer wetsuit strippers there, to help get the wetsuits off. Awesome!! Next up another volunteer handed me my swim to bike bag, and off to the change tent I went, were another volunteer helped with getting into my bike stuff, and then gathered up all my wet stuff and made sure it was all together. The volunteers were absolutely incredible.

So now I headed out on the bike. Once again, it just felt so unreal to be part of this amazing event. I was decked out in my Brand Champion gear from SUGOI, and just taking in all the people who were cheering as I rode up Main Street. Soon enough, I was settled into a groove on the bike. Managed fine on the first part, riding through the beautiful country side, through OK Falls, noting that I wanted to return for ice cream!! And next up was Oliver. This was a special moment for me, because back in 2010, I had been chosen as a torchbearer for the 2010 Olympics, and I had carried the torch in Oliver. It was such a special moment, and here I was riding past the same place!! A part of my heart will always be in Oliver, because twice now, it has served as a place which helped my dreams come true!! I continued onwards and soon enough was in Osoyoos. My mind was preparing for the daunting Richter’s Pass which was next up. Stopped at the aid station, filled up my bottles with awesome Skratchlabs liquid, and after a quick hello to Tera (who rode past), I was on my way. It’s a tough climb, but I knew I could do it. And soon enough, I had!! Loved seeing Spotted Lake. Asked a few others about it, but nobody else could recall it, but it was so cool!! Next came the rollers... oh they seem to last forever!! Was glad when they were finally behind me!! Soon it was onwards towards Keremeos and before I knew it, I was turning off for the out and back portion. 

It’s at this point that things went a little rough. On the road with the quick out and back, I managed to wipe out on my bike at the turnaround. Managed to scrape up my ankle and hand. Thank goodness I had gloves on or it would have been much worse. I dusted off myself, and with tears streaming down my face (thank goodness for sunglasses), I continued on my way. My ankle stung from the abrasion. There wasn’t going to be a med tent until the special needs stop, so I sucked it up and just kept riding!! I slowly began to calm down and soon enough I was at special needs. It was nice to pick up some new treats. Popcorn twists, nibs and peanut m&ms.... mmmmmmmmmm... And by this time, I couldn’t feel the sting on my ankle anymore, so I just left it since really, getting it bandaged up would be counterintuitive with the constant pedaling anyways!! Next it was up to Yellow Lake. This is a really tough portion of the ride. Like Richter Pass, there is a lot of up, but now, the body is more tired, and it takes a lot more convincing on the part of the mind to get to the top. But, I pushed on through, and got to the top with a few minutes to spare. It’s beautiful riding along the lake, and then soon enough it’s heading down back into Penticton. Now this part of the ride, is the ultimate reward for all that climbing!! Lots of down and flat, and speed and pure awesomeness. A time to reflect on the journey so far!! It was excellent. A sad moment was seeing someone on the side of Highway 97 with a broken chain. Unless technical help got to her quick, chances of getting the bike done in time were slim to none!!

Heading through town, I got to see Jeremy and my mom. That was nice!! Provided an extra boost of energy!! Back into transition, after 180km of biking, I handed off my bike to more awesome volunteers, and was handed my bike to run bag. I changed fully into new clothes for the run. Might not have been totally needed, but I wanted to be comfortable. I switched to my NYFries SUGOI jersey as well (and this jersey went over very well, got lots of fun comments and it kept me smiling!!). And soon enough, I was off. Running, walking, running walking. This would be the story of my life for the next six hours. I heard them announcing the last few bikers who were coming through and knew I didn’t have a lot of time to spare on my run. I alternated between running and walking. I had tried in transition to get my stupid Garmin watch to work, but it’s been an issue almost since the day I got it, and even with other volunteers helping, we couldn’t get it off the first screen, so I had no watch with me. It was neat seeing all the people along the run course. The beginning follows the end, along the beach, and it was a tiny bit depressing seeing all the people finishing the race, knowing I still had 42km to go!! But, I pressed on. As I made it towards the outskirts of town, by Skaha, I was treated to a visit from my boys, and my mom. It felt so great getting the hugs from the little ones. Next up I came across Grant, from Vitalize, who had helped me with open water swimming and just racing in general. I knew I was going to finish, and I worked hard, walking up the hills and running in between. I pressed on. At each aid station I grabbed a swig of pepsi and usually some fruit. And mile after mile, I continued. I was happy, smiling, and just kept at it. The sun went down. It got dark, very dark. And soon enough, it was the halfway point. I was ahead of where I needed to be, and continued onwards. Eventually, I was back in Penticton. So now, it was getting through to the lakefront and out and back for the finish. Without a watch, I was forever asking people for the time. I just wanted to make sure I was still on track, and I was. 

Again I got to see my little guys and this just made a huge difference. Those hugs meant the world!! I continued on my way. I could hear the finish. I went out, seeing Charles and the Solo Sport System crew on the way out, and eventually reached the turnaround, and then headed back, for the last part of my marathon. As I got closer, my smile was brighter, I knew I would make it. I was ecstatic inside. The crowds were cheering me, and high fiving me, and soon enough, I was crossing the finish line of Ironman Canada. It truly was, one of the most amazing moments!! All those rides, all those swims, all those runs, together, brought me to the finish. It felt incredible!! 

Finishing an Ironman was a goal I had set for myself. I wasn’t exactly sure when, but just knew it would happen. I had lots of help and support along this journey and for that I am truly grateful. For the awesome grandmas that took the boys and the dog so I could get in the training rides, and training camp, and so that Jeremy could help me on race week, thank you!! For the awesome words of wisdom, coaching and words of encouragement from Vitalize and Solo Sport Systems, thank you!! For the kind words from so many different friends and family leading up to, on race day and afterwards, thank you!! For my amazing boys (Kids of Steel actually) who just think having parents who do Ironman is normal and hug me just cause I’m mom, thank you!! And Jeremy, who was my coach, my spouse, my nutritionist, my bike mechanic, my weatherman and overall ironman sherpa, thank you!! I am so grateful to have the people in my life that I do... this first ironman journey may have reached its’ end, but I know, without a doubt, there will be more to come, exactly when and where remains to be seen, but this is only the start!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Ride To Conquer Cancer 2012 Edition...

Where to begin... well, with the people who made it all possible!! I am so very fortunate to have had such amazing support. Thank you to each and every person who donated to the Alberta Cancer Foundation so that I could participate in this ride. There were a lot of you, and I am so grateful!! Seriously, last year when I went into the ride, I still had a LOT of money left to raise. And, the only way that they let you participate is if you put down your credit card, and for our family, that was a huge risk. It was very stressful, but I hoped I could do it, and I did. This year however, I actually reached my minimum well ahead of the ride. Seriously, so much nicer to be riding without that looming over me. So once again, I can't thank all you amazing donors enough!! It means the world to me to have your support. The money helps fund research and helps patient care in our province. One of the crew members on my team is living proof of the benefits of that research, having been involved in several clinical trials with her treatment plan. And the dollars from the Cancer Ride alone, have helped launch more than 50 cancer research projects!! So truly, every donation matters!!

Now, about that ride... I woke up rather early, and was pleased to see the ground was relatively dry. I took that as a positive sign, of course that was short lived!! I got down to Spruce Meadows (in the rain), and proceeded to get my gear checked and my bike set up.

Exactly what gear was involved, you were wondering, well, let me tell you!! I had my new ride jersey on (made by SUGOI of course), my shockaborber (if you don't know what this is, don't ask haha), my Garmin heart rate monitor & bike computer (so I could know my cadence, speed, temperature, time of day, total elapsed time, average speed, average cadence etc... yes I'm a numbers geek), my SUGOI shorts, my Giro helmet with SUGOI rain cover, my keen clip sandals (with SUGOI bootie covers), MEC gloves and hydration system (with Platypus insert, filled with 1st Endurance EFS (a sports drink similar to gatorade only a better mix of electrolytes), my SUGOI jacket,  my Norco CRR road bike, and a little bag under the seat with spare tube and CO2 cartridges. I also had a snack bag with a couple of GU gels and another bottle gel from 1st Endurance but that got lost overnight somewhere.

So, the opening ceremonies are always special because they remind you about why this ride matters. They remind you of the people we have lost to cancer, and the ones currently battling and the ones lucky enough to have survived the ordeal. And collectively, we raised over 8 million dollars. That's huge. That funds a lot of research. One of those research projects might lead to a cure!! And then away we went. Over 1800 of us. Bikes came in every shape and size. There were road bikes, hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, tri bikes, recumbent bikes, tandem bikes (seriously, I don't think I could ever get along well enough with someone to ride tandem for 2 days!!), and some fancy sort of elliptical type bike. Some bikes were brand new, some looked like they had their debut back in the 1800s or something.

And riders, they come in all shapes and sizes as well. Of course there are the Lance Armstrong wannabe types, that treat this like a race and probably arrived at camp just as the last people crossed the start line (okay, maybe it took a bit longer, but not by much). And there are the people who think they are Lance Armstrong, but clearly are not (you know, the ones that insist on riding in the passing area making it so nobody can get around them!!), there are serious riders, there are riders who are there for the experience, and there are riders who are cancer survivors. And there are tall riders and short riders, fat riders and skinny riders, there are even the occasional riders who smoke (although how their lungs handle some of those hills I'm not so sure!!). Anyhow, my point is, some people train for months and months to get ready for this ride. Others, barely put in a ride or two ahead of time. Yet, they are all there because they believe in something and have passion behind finding a cure for cancer. Some people are hardcore athletes, but others are just regular people, and all of them are doing this EPIC ride. So if you have considered doing this ride, but been scared off, don't be. Really, anyone can do it... you just need to believe in yourself. Of course now I'll tell you about the ride, and that might scare you off, but it shouldn't!!

Day One was different this year. We started out at Spruce Meadows and slowly made our way to Okotoks. From there, it was down to High River, then over to Highway 22 and down into Chain Lakes (camp for the night). It was a beautiful ride, although it had several moments of wet weather, finishing with some pretty good rain. Last year, it was sunny at the finish, not so much this year!! I had the best treat ever though, in that Jeremy and the boys drove down to cheer me on and wish me well!! Seeing those familiar faces was amazing and gave me the perfect boost to finish the day (I met them around the 120km mark). Oh yeah, about that!! With this new route, it was slightly longer than we were told. I believe I read that day one was 115km. Well, It was more like 125km. And let me say, that is really annoying!! In a ride of such a great length, just tell me. Let me be mentally prepared for that. I wanted to be done at 115km. Thank goodness I got to see my boys at that point because it gave me a charge to finish, but I felt bad for some of the first timers, because that's a big difference!! I don't mind doing it, just tell me!! (I felt the same way last year, when 100km was actually 115km haha).

So we finished on a rainy note. To be more specific, it was a muddy note. Right at the end was all mud. Seriously, my feet had stayed relatively dry up to that point, but with the finish, I ended up ankle deep in mud... uuugghhhh!! I took my bike and racked it up in the bike area, and went off in search of my gear, in the pouring rain of course. I found my bag and headed to my tent. I quickly grabbed some clean dry clothes and headed off to the showers. You can't imagine how good it felt to be in a hot shower!! Yes, they bring in mobile showers. I was able to get warm, clean (well, I couldn't quite scrub the mud line off my ankle, but close!!), and dry. The past part was to finally be in dry clothes. The tent was okay, but after finishing my recovery drink (another awesome 1st endurance product, thanks Jeremy!!), I headed for the big mess tent. I grabbed some food (chicken souvlaki with various salads and pitas... and there is always a vegetarian option, oh by the way, you just have to sign up for that!!). I went in search of a chair, because most people were "saving" them for teammates that had yet to appear. I headed to the far end of the tent and found a place to sit. To this point, I hadn't seen anyone on my team, but did manage to run into a couple of people I swim with!! I sat with another guy, and a family of four from Edmonton (dad rode, and mom and kids came to celebrate). Eventually the family left after finding other riders they knew (her parents)). I finished my meal and a short time later, a group of about five people came and sat down with me, and voila, it happened to be some of the team I was a part of. Everyone exchanged stories about their day and we got to hear about the crew, and various riders, the trials and tribulations of riding in less than favourable conditions!! It didn't take long for them to convince me I should join them in their trailer. It was still pouring rain, and thundering, when I headed back to the tent, repacked and walked over to the trailer. It felt SOOOOOOOOO nice to be in a warm, dry place, rather than the tent that was slowly starting to take on water!! We chatted a bit, heard more stories of the day and life in general, and soon enough, it was time to sleep!!

I wouldn't say I slept well, but I was warm, dry and truly appreciated the roof over my head. I would go so far as to say I now "get" the point of a trailer (vs a tent), especially in weather like that!! Although I still think I'm more of a backcountry girl!!

So, Sunday morning. It came early. Three of the people in the truck were crew, so they had to be up early. They headed off for breakfast, and slowly us riders began to figure out our day. I decided to wear  my compression tights under my bike shorts. I had everything packed to take with me, and stuffed everything else in my backpack to check at the gear trucks. I was a bit slower getting ready, so the others headed off to breakfast while I finished packing. I was a very effective packer. So much so, that I packed the bike shorts I was planning to wear over top of the tights. Whoops!! Too late now since the bag was checked. I grabbed my bike and walked back to the trailer with it. Before long we were off.

It was great leaving to the beats of "Feel So Close"... it was perfect, some great beats and awesome cheering got me pumped to get going (and since it's uphill straight away, that's a good thing!!). The weather was not great on Sunday. Not at all. It was misting in the morning, and that very quickly turned to rain. I skipped the first pit stop. Stopped for a bathroom break at the second one. Grabbed a quick snack and fake mocha (half hot chocolate/half coffee) at the lunch stop  (Popcorn Twists are my new favourite... they dissolve easily and are salty... mmmmmm), and kept pressing on... Next up came Millarville, and soon enough we had to ride through a river that had washed out part of a road. Seriously, it was a river... and the tricks it played on the mind were intense!! A car turned right, and the waves the car made while you drove through were almost too much but thank goodness I didn't fall cause I would have been soak soaked!! Shortly after the river, came the hail. Yup, a nice hail storm, cause it wasn't already crappy enough weather. I was glad I was wearing a helmet!! I passed the final pitstop and soon enough it was back onto Highway 22X. That is a fun road to ride, although it was much rainier than I might have preferred.

As the end approached, the bike computer died, but it sure was nice to have that company for the first 220km!! Only ten to go!! Ten kilometres left to think about what the ride really means. To think about how I saw my grandpa going through radiation years ago when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. About going out to visit my godfather (and uncle) when he was nearing the end of his battle with brain cancer. About watching Jeremy's dad get sick so quickly and dying from gall bladder cancer. And more recently, my friend Shelley going through colon cancer, and now finding out another uncle has colon cancer. It is truly frightening. Some of these cancers are easier to battle than others, but in no case is the outcome certain. And the pain and suffering while in treatment are so hard to see and hear about. Cancer is devastating. I also think about the research that goes into cancer, and how a lot of times those projects spin off to benefit other diseases as well. I watch my mom battle Lupus, and that is tough to see as well, yet many of the medications and drugs that help her are a direct result of research aimed at cancer. The research this ride funds, is really important.

But this weekend, I did my part. I did what I could to spread awareness and fundraise to help make a difference. I ride because I am healthy enough to do so. I ride for those who would, but can't. I ride to make a difference. I ride to honour the memory of those who have been lost, and to support those who are fighting. And because I know cancer will not go away unless we try and do something to stop it.

This ride isn't easy. This year was tough. Really, tough, but seriously, it pales in comparison to someone going through chemo and radiation and various surgeries to try and rid their body of cancer. I had one tough weekend, but that is nothing compared to the marathon of a cancer diagnosis and treatments. But even though the ride is tough, it's very doable. Consider it. Seriously. Even though it's tough, it is an incredible weekend and one that you won't soon forget. If you have any questions, ask away!! It would be great to have more company again next year!!

I will ride again next year. It's the effort I will make, to help make a difference. I know though, that I can only make that effort because of those of you who have cared enough to donate. I ride for each one of you as well, because without those donations I couldn't ride!! So thanks for that!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Prepping for the 2012 Mother's Day Run for NICU

Well, we are gearing up for the Mother's Day Run again in Calgary. It's always a very special day for our family and something we've been doing since 2006!! The run raises money to buy equipment for the Neonatal Intensive Care Units in Calgary. We can tell you firsthand that the money goes to good use. And the neatest thing is, the foundation asks the units what equipment they want or need and then they actually buy that exact equipment. It's very cool!! We put together a little slideshow showing some of the NICU days, along with shots from the run over the years.

Every year, I look forward to this day. Partly, because I'm a mom now, and Mother's Day is just kind of fun that way, but mostly, because this run highlights a cause that's very close to us, and helps ensure future babies have the best equipment available as they begin their NICU journeys!!

And if you are checking out this page for the first time, in 2006, we were blessed with our first born son. He was born at 28 weeks after an ultrasound revealed he had fetal hydrops. He was in rough shape inutero, and we were given the option of continuing the pregnancy, knowing our child would die, or take our chances and deliver, and he may have a chance. We opted for giving him a chance, and rushed to the hospital for an emergency c-section. It was a very scary day, and I remember vividly being in the operating room and seeing a whole team of doctors and nurses waiting for his arrival. He was born and immediately intubated. His road was very rough for the first couple weeks and we didn't know if he would even make it. He was maxed out on the ventilator, moved to an oscillating ventilator, nitric oxide was added, he was maxing out on that and all sorts of meds. And then, at one week old, he had a code blue because of a bowel perforation. This became a turning point for him, and slowly after the code blue, they began weaning his settings, his meds etc. At 17 days old, I got to hold him for the first time. As they laid him on my chest, tears streamed down my face as I felt so special to finally be holding this precious little boy!! He continued his NICU journey for a total of 72 days at which point we finally got to take him home!! Unfortunately, ROP in his eyes was rapidly progressing and two weeks later, he was back in the hospital for surgery to fix his eyes and we piggybacked a hernia repair onto that as well. He spent another two nights in Intensive Care and on Father's Day, came home for good!!

We went on to have a second son, monitored very closely throughout the pregnancy, and born full term. And today we have an amazing little 6 year old and 3 year old. We will always be grateful for the amazing doctors and nurses and the care they gave to our little one in the NICU at Foothills and PLC. We will spend the rest of our lives trying to give back for the amazing care we had.

So, if you are looking to support an amazing cause, go for this one, cause truly, it will make a difference to many families!! Sebastian is 6, and once again, he will be running 5km to raise money for the very units that saved his life!! Here is the link to make a pledge online. http://goo.gl/JwzjO

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Happy 6th Birthday, my little preemie miracle

Wow, little man, you are six years old today. Where has the time gone. I'm sure I say that every year, but every year, I look at you, and I am truly in awe of what and amazing little boy you are. But of course, first I'll remember the day you born. That was such a scary day. Truly. You never moved a whole lot as a baby but it was getting to be less and less. I didn't know if I should worry or not, but as we had an ultrasound scheduled, I figured my mind would be put at ease. How wrong I was!! We got to the ultrasound and it started out normal enough, but pretty soon, the tech student was getting the tech to come and check things out, and that tech wanted the senior tech, and of course that tech wanted a doctor, and then that doctor wanted a second opinion. I mean really, we knew something wasn't right, but we also knew there was a heart beat because they kept checking that as well. We were trying to stay composed, but inside freaking out. I suddenly just felt like we'd be meeting you that day. And, once the doctor came to talk to us, and give us our choices, that's when we knew we would. We had two options. We could continue the pregnancy, and you would die, or we could take our chances, and deliver you, and you still might die, or you might end up with all sorts of problems, but really, we wanted to take that chance, to give you a chance in this world. Normally, with a preemie, they try and give the mom steroid shots to help the lungs out of the baby, but there wasn't even time for that. You had to come out, and you had to come out now. It was scary. So scary. I remember so many things about that day. But mostly that I wanted you to have a chance at life with us and in this world.

You were born weighing 830grams (just 1lb 13oz) and you were 28weeks, 5 days. You were small for your gestation, and you were overloaded with fluid. I remember being in the operating room, and seeing a whole team of doctors and nurses there waiting for you. We bumped a bunch of other births, because you needed help and you needed it now. They intubated you right away and soon you were whisked off to the NICU. Your dad got them to stop and let me see you. And then you were off getting the help you needed. I had to wait for my legs to get their feeling back before I could come see you. In the meantime, we were inundated with visits from doctors and specialists, quizzing out everything to try and figure why you had developed hydrops. Despite all the testing and questions, no answer was ever found. Life continued to get a bit worse for you, every day. The regular ventilator wasn't working for you, so they moved you to the oscillating ventilator, then you were maxed out on it, and nitric oxide was added. You were on drugs for pain, blood pressure, heart problems and even a drug to keep you paralyzed so you wouldn't move. It was scary. There were so many lines going into you. You needed blood transfusions. And then, your heart stopped, not just a slow down, like a brady, a full on code blue. Your bowel had perforated and your poor little body, just couldn't handle it. Lucky for us, a bit of CPR and some emergency surgery, and your heart started once again. Scary, I tell ya!! After that, your journey in the NICU became a fairly typical one. There were always risks of infection, and they were testing your blood quite often for that. And slowly you grew. Line by line, tube by tube, machine by machine was slowly removed as the medicines had done their work, and you started doing what the machines had been doing for you. At six weeks old, you moved from a level three NICU to a Special Care Nursery. It was a huge accomplishment for you and meant you were one step closer to coming home. Four more weeks, and we finally got to take you home. I remember the silence. How quiet our house seemed compared to all the noise and machines at the hospital. Sadly, you were back in the hospital two weeks later as your ROP had gotten so bad, it needed to be operated on immediately. Since then though, we've had you home.

Over the years, it's been such a pleasure to watch you grow and change. To see you sit for the first time, and rollover, and crawl, and walk, and talk. Most of these milestones took a bit longer, but you were on your own timeline and we were happy with that. But let's just talk about five. You were great as a five-year-old. We watched you finish your second year of preschool. We watched you take swimming and finally, after several tries, passed sunfish, and then flew through crocodile, and now you are working on the final preschool level of whale. We saw you complete your first two kids of steel triathlons, including an open water triathlon. We watched you run your second Mother's Day race raising money for NICU along the way training for that. You've also been in a gross motor group working on different skills for physiotherapy. You spent the summer learning your letters and practising various fine motor activities. And then you started kindergarten.

We put a lot of thought and research into where to send you for school, knowing we could always change our minds if things didn't work out. We toured schools, we chatted with parents, therapists, and weighed out the pros and cons. In the end we settled on a French Immersion school. And it is just an amazing little school. It's Catholic, so you are getting some spirituality that we have not been very good at providing to you. Your teacher is incredible. Mme Trish. With 16 boys in your class, it sure is busy!! Msr Nathan is helping now, and I think that has helped a lot!! And wow, the French. It's crazy!! You are just soaking it up. It's actually quite fun to see.

Chapter books have become fun as well. We started with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, moved on to Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, James and the Giant Peach, the original Peter Pan, and are just now starting Harry Potter. We've read some really cute French books as well, but these are shorter stories. Your favourites are Cocorico and Bonjour Docteur. Even you brother loves those ones. And you are starting to recognize words and it's so exciting to see!! Reading is so fun, and I sure hope you enjoy reading!!

Sebastian, you are an amazing little boy. I love your passion for life. I love your willingness to try new things, even though sometimes those things can be a challenge for you. You wow'd your physio group with your amazing climbing this year. And I try and find time to work on letters and such with you since I know it is a huge challenge for you. Some favourite foods: tacos, mayo cheese pickle sandwiches, nutella toast, pancakes, quesadillas, pizza buns, Clif bars, groovy strips, BearPaws. You have a weakness for cookies and chips!! Oh, and you love popcorn. And let's not forget all the time you spend outside exploring in our yard, on snowshoes, building obstacle courses, playing in the sandbox, the playhouse, you truly have an incredible imagination!!

Next up, your school is starting a running club. This is perfect timing as you are going to be running for the third time in the Mother's Day Run. The race always raises money for the NICU units in Calgary, and buys equipment for those units. Equipment that will help future babies get the same sort of amazing care you did while in hospital. (Hello reader, please consider donating to his run by clicking this link for the Sports Chek Mother's Day Run). You've also been doing gymnastics this year, and are learning cartwheels and working hard on the bars as well. These skills work well for your Cirque inspired dances you and your brother do to the music of Ovo.

Oh, and I should mention your brother. You have been an incredible big brother. Sully is very lucky to have someone that looks out for him, plays with him, and shares with him. Of course you have your moments, but that's true of all siblings. And you are always so excited whenever you get to see any of your relatives, but especially your grandmas!! It's a treat to see you dressing up, and using your imagination, Harry Potter, Captain Hook, Public Safety, Firefighter, and now you long for a Spiderman costume (just a tough time of year to ask for such a thing my little man!!

Today, as I watched you be the special helper for the Mad Scientist, I just loved the wonder and excitement both you and your brother had, as you got to learn about how science can be almost like magic!! And let's not forget your cake. You asked for Harry Potter, and you got it!! I love you, my little super trooper!

Sebastian, I wish you another year full of wonder and excitement. Thank you for making me smile every day. Thanks for the incredible things you say.
Thanks for the incredible things you do (like your amazing squeezey hugs). It is such a treat to be your mom!! Keep on smiling and being the incredible boy that you are!!

Love, Mom