Medical Stuff, Part I

Today’s Happy Note: My run started out terribly and then miraculously turned wonderful!  Love when that happens.

I had 11 miles of speedwork on the schedule, which I was not looking forward to.  It consisted of:

2 miles warmup @ GP (goal pace=10:00/mile)

3×2 miles @ tempo pace (9:00 miles) with four minute easy jog between each

3 miles cooldown @ GP

My body felt so swollen (more about that later in the post) during the first two miles that I thought I was going to have to call it quits.  I was tight everywhere and could literally feel water weight all over my body.  It’s a strange feeling.  I am not sure if it has to do with my period/hormones, but I think it does.  I haven’t had a period in almost two months and I can tell that my body feels weird not having cleansed itself — something is up.

But the tempo repeats ended up feeling great.  I sometimes wish I had a garmin, only for speed workouts really, though.  I am guessing they were between 8:30-9:00 per mile pace.

Yesterday we just had an orientation for the yoga class, so I did not get to do any yoga, sadly.  I did lift weights for 40 minutes though, and my arms felt dead afterwards (in a good way!)

Medical Talk

A bit of background: I was diagnosed with PCOS 3.5 years ago.  Most women with PCOS are overweight and do not have periods.  This was not the case for me, so for a long time, no one could figure out what was wrong.  When I was diagnosed, by a very clever gynecologist who works with my mother, I was put on birth control.  Over the years I have been on yaz, yasmin, and, most recently, ocella.  My PCOS seemed to be under control with the BC.  I reached a roughly stable weight and maintained within a five pound range up until this summer.

In July, I was hospitalized with multiple massive pulmonary emboli in the main arteries of each of my lungs.  I was hospitalized for three days.  Here I am in my hospital room:

Part I of the hospital stay can be found here.

Part II here.

Hormonal birth control (or any other hormonal treatment) can serve as a risk factor for clotting (pulmonary embolism means clotting that occurs in the lungs, which is very dangerous because it can cause you to stop breathing).  Once you have a blood clot of any sort, you can never take birth control or other hormones again, unless you’re on some sort of suicidal mission.  This has obvious implications for sex, but that’s not what I want to talk about.  The problem for me is that the birth control was controlling my PCOS.  Now that I have been off of it for two months, my body’s hormonal and endocrine systems (which are related) are going haywire.  Literally haywire.

I had a really long appointment with the women’s doctor yesterday.  She was extremely nice and helpful and seems like the first doctor who has ever really taken the time to figure out what might be at the root of my hormonal/endocrine problems.

For one thing, I am gaining weight uncontrollably.  I am eating only a little bit more than I was pre-hospitalization, only now I am training for a marathon.  I am running 40-50 miles a week, in addition to strength training twice a week and yoga twice a week.  I am an active, healthy young woman.  There is no logical reason for me to be gaining weight and not having a period, among other things.

Our bodies have many, many hormones, not just estrogen and progesterone and testosterone.  Two of these other hormones are known as LSH and FH.  I don’t know precisely what my levels of these homrones are (or even should be), but I do know that their ratio is 1:1.  This is very bad.  A normal woman has a 1:3 ratio and someone with PCOS has an even higher ratio (e.g, 1:5 or 1:6).  A ratio of 1:1 is typically only seen in anorexic women or over-exercisers.  I suppose marathon training could count as overexercising, but I think she was referring to thin over-exercisers who have lost so much body fat that it screws up their hormones.

Sigh.

The only conclusion at this point is that I might not have PCOS, but may have an adrenal or endocrine disorder. I will have to see a specialist in hopes of figuring out what exactly might be going on.  I know my body quite well, and it has never been more clear to me that something is awry.  It was subtle at first, but has gotten worse over the last few weeks.  I am worried, but I feel comforted by this latest doctor, who was extraordinarily thorough and compassionate.  She saw me for over an hour.

I may need to try a medication called Metformin, which would help my insulin resistance.  As far as I can tell, the only other non-hormonal treatment for PCOS is a low-carb diet.  Have you ever tried eating low-carb while running 40 plus miles per week?  Not fun.

I am scared and confused.  I want this to be over with.  I have a million other things to deal with right now.  I wish my body just worked the way it was supposed to.

In addition to all of that, I just found out that my INR (measure of the effectiveness of the anti-clotting medication) is only 1.5.  This is bad.  Very bad.  This means that I will have to gt my blood drawn every three days until we figure out what the correct dosage of the Coumadin should be.

So basically my life is really fun right now!  Okay, so that was a little bit sarcastic.  I do have many things that bring me joy though, and I am going to list them for two reasons.  First, because this post has been a total downer and second, because I need to cheer myself up a little bit.  Happy Caronae=Healthy Caronae!

Things that bring me joy right now:

Fresh fall apples

Baking on the weekends

Studying (aka not studying) with friends on weeknights, chatting, playing

USB (he is amazingly soothing and gentle)

My crazy professor (today I spent 75 minutes learning about how minute differences in wheat/barley vs. millett/sorghum/rice/teff cultivation changed the course of history — it literally is both fascinating and hilarious)

Blended grain “soups” (just had some for dessert with nut butter and dark chocolate, of course)

Crossword puzzles in the newspaper

Yoga

Fall breezes/temperature drops (it’s my favorite season!)

Cuddling with USB

Bubble Tea

Massages

Books of all sorts

See, I’m not all negativity right now.  Just mostly. 🙂  This post was actually originally intended to go in a completely different direction.  Therefore, I am deeming it Part I of a two part series.  The other part will happen tomorrow, and hopefully it will make a bit more sense where I’m coming from at that point.

Goodnight friends!

Letting Love In

Today’s Happy Note: There are so many happy things in my life right now, it’s hard to choose!  I’m going to go with the fact that I feel very, very connected to many people in my life at this moment.  Strong human connections=pure happiness.

Marathon Training: Speed Work Tuesday yesterday!  I won’t lie, a good speed work session makes me feel amazing, but sometimes it is really hard to get out the door for one.  I finally figured out why there are so many “Goal Pace” miles in my training plan: my marathon goal pace is approximately ten minutes per mile, which is basically what my general pace is.  Duh.  Silly Caronae.  A marathon — at least for me — is not a fast race.  If I were training for a 10k, so many “goal pace” miles would be impossible.  But for a marathon, it’s just fine.  All this is to say that my speed workout yesterday involved:

2 miles GP (goal pace) miles warm-up

2 x 2 miles tempo pace (approximately 9 minute miles) — I worked HARD here and it felt great; did an easy half-mile between the two sets.

2.5 miles GP

Total: 9 miles

Today I did a total of 4 miles with 6×100 meter strides sprinkled in through the last mile.  I also did a 45 minute strength class at the gym.  I have been getting a little bit bored with my regular weight-lifting routine lately and this was fun.  It was nice to switch things up.  I loved the tricep exercises we did.

Therapy Thoughts

Sorry for flaking out again yesterday.  I was out all too late for a weeknight.  This whole having fun thing is nerve-wracking and thrilling at the same time.  I kind of like it.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about people and the way we interact and relate and love one another.  I think that opening up to other people — learning and listening and loving and losing — has become the most important thing in my life right now.  Friends, family, loves. Ultimately, running will not save me.  Having a perfect body or a perfect relationship with food or an ideal body weight won’t save me.  People save me — I save me, other people save me.  Not that I even need saving, really. When I say ‘saving’, I mean becoming a better me.  Learning how I work.  Learning how I love.  I have so many special people in my life.  Two caring, wonderful parents.  A beautiful sister.  A handful of close, fun friends.  A very special therapist.  Lovely, insightful coworkers. Cousins, acquaintances, smart classmates.

It scares me a little bit that I retreat inward when things become difficult for me.  I want to reach out with my arms and my heart to those who care about me — I want to reach out with all the edges of my face and say “I love you” to everyone important to me.  I may not quite be there yet, but I am figuring out how I work with others.  The most important thing has been to figure out me.  It’s something that I have known all along — something that has always been inside me.  I know that when I am anxious I bite my nails; that February is the hardest month of the year for me; that I have really flexible knees and hips; that when I love someone I will love them with every angle of my body.  I will let them into spaces that I didn’t know existed —  I will feel them inching along my crooked chest and I’ll smile a little.  I’m coming to accept the way my mouth doesn’t like to sit quite parallel with my chin.  And even more, I am coming to accept the fact that others accept this fact.  Indeed, maybe this makes my face a little more unique.  Maybe it makes me mysterious and readable all at the same time.

It’s been a year that I have seen L, almost. I am trying very hard not to exalt her, but she has pretty much been nothing short of heroic: she has taught me that not only can I save myself, but that I can let other humans slide into my life and curl up there.  I can let others settle into my life and stay a while.  Or maybe even forever.  I have a gratitude for L that I have had for few others in my twenty years.  I don’t know how she does it, to be honest. But the last 12 months have shown me how beautifully capable I am of connecting with another person.  It’s such a simple act, really, but also difficult, at times.  Coming to love myself has helped the most.  As I am about to start my senior year of college, I’m looking back at where I was one year ago, two years; three years.  I have been lost, wild, isolated, crazy, sad, confused.  But most of all, I have been growing. I have begun to let people burrow deeper into my life.

Yesterday I asked L why I deserve to be loved and cared for and thought of.  She responded by saying that, by virtue of being human, I deserve love. We all do.  Every single being on this earth is equally deserving of love, affection, warmth, and connection.  It is a simple but powerful answer.  Sometimes I catch myself out of the corner of my eye — I see my cheek in a furniture store window; I feel suddenly exposed and unmasked.  Usually, I am not sure what to think.  Most often I say something about how hideous that cheek is, how un-centered and pockmarked and off-color it is.  I am not sure that I will ever entirely leave this way of seeing myself behind.  But I am clear about one thing: I want to be loved more than anything else in the world, and, hideous cheek or not, other people want to love me.  Not in a greedy, silly, childish way.  But deeply and clearly and smoothly.  This kind of love can come from all sorts of places.  I can name maybe 8 or 10 people right now for whom I feel this.

But there is also another kind of love as well.  It’s all this but also more intimate.  When I started seeing L, about this time last year (beginning of September), I felt very alone.  Alone is not a happy place to be.  I believe that much of my unhappiness has come from this loneliness.  I can’t even describe how thrilling it is to hear a friend’s voice on the phone or to hug someone after not seeing him or her for three months.   That’s happiness.  A year ago I did not believe it was possible to carve a small crack in my being and let another person in.  I could not fathom the crack, even from a distance.

Well, there’s a crack now.  A small one.  But it’s there.  It may not get any bigger with this particular connection, this person.  But I have reached a turning-point because I now understand the possibility of the crack.

I met a beautiful, sweet man two weeks ago in the park.  He sort of fell into my lap.  I feel vulnerable and nervous. Alternately pretty/unique and bizarre/disproportionate.  I have been doing a lot of rethinking of my body.

I like him a lot. I feel like I don’t deserve this.  Then I feel mad at myself for feeling like I don’t deserve it.  Silly, really.  The thing is, so far, he is making me very, very happy.  When he touches my arm or my shoulder or my chin, I am so very proud of myself for letting this happen.  I am being brave and open and exposed in new ways.

What do people mean?  What is it to let someone into your life?  How do you know who to let in?  How do you know they won’t break your heart?

The answer is that you don’t know precisely who to let in and how and whether or not they will hurt you.  But it will be right and beautiful and soft.

I want to go back to my 17 year old self and hold her and rock her in my arms and let her know that she will love and be loved.  It will not be easy but it will be happy.

I don’t know how long this particular connection will last; dating and relationships are scary things.  I think I have gone on dates with two other boys this year; both fizzled out.  I hardly consider making out in a club romantic.  So I am not writing this to say that I have met a man and my life is different and perfect and everything has been fixed.  Not at all.  What I’m saying is that I understand the crevice — the opening in me where others might step in and offer me their love.

Okay.  That was a little bit intense.  But my feelings are intense right now.  I’m processing and sorting and figuring it all out.  I’m pretty sure I’ll always be figuring it all out, even when I’m 101.  The point here is that this last year has been monumental for me.  I understand myself better.  I understand how important my friends and family are.  And I can see the possibility of romantic love.

Thoughts?  How have you let love into your life lately?  What does it feel like, for you?

I promise I will be less intense and serious tomorrow.  🙂  Love and people and connections=happy Caronae.  Happy mental self, happy physical self, happy Caronae.

Dear Men At The Gym

Today’s Happy Note: Saw a beautiful pink and blue sunset during my evening run.

Workout: Three easy miles with 4×100 strides and about 40 minutes of full-body strength training.

So.

This is an open letter.  To certain members of my lovely NYSC gym.  Members of the XY chromosome variety. Members who are more likely to have a rather higher concentration of testosterone.

Dear Fellow Gymgoers (of the mostly male type):

Hi there!  My name is Caronae.  I am a twenty year old woman living in the wonderful city of NY.  I am about to start my senior year of college.  I also work in an archive and for a non-profit.

I am kinda geeky.  I love books, poems, writing essays, and history.  I like learning new things about the world and the ways people relate to one another.  I like going to class, most of the time.  I am a pretty good thinker.

Other likes: running, yoga, peanut butter, movies, laughing with friends, massages, smoothies, blogging, swimming, cooking, baking, muffins, human rights, and social justice.  My favorite TV shows all involve hot doctors.  I like flowers and trees and am generally pretty girly.

Of course, you do not know any of these things about me, which is fine.  Most of the people I encounter in a typical day don’t know these things.  But, because you have presumed a certain level of intimacy with my body,  I thought maybe you might want to learn a little bit about the rest of me.  Let me explain.

Boys: I am not a piece of meat.  I am a woman who has a body. I have thoughts and feelings and dreams.  I have virtues and flaws.  I may have a somewhat ample chest and slightly curvy hips.  I may have long, feminine hair. And maybe you find all of these things attractive, when scoping out a potential mate.  Maybe.

But.  I am not at the gym for your viewing pleasure.  I know that the cardio area tends to be mostly female and the weights area, well, mostly male.   I know that when a woman crosses this line it might be a little scary for you.  I have entered your domain.  I have entered the land of grunting, lifting, and sweaty barbells.  But I have some important news for you: I have as much of a right to be there as you do. And I also have a right to get my lift on free of your wandering eyes, I’m pretty sure.

I have never quite understood why men stare hungrily at my body.  I am young, I suppose.  I have a certain type of figure.  I think that it is socially acceptable for men to be with — to date, to love, to marry — thin women.  I am not saying this is the only acceptable sort of union.  But the idea of the thin, beautiful woman as the ideal partner has certainly pervaded our system of social conditioning.  And I am not that woman.  I am kind of the opposite.

I am not disparaging my body or my looks at all.  What I am saying, rather, is that my body has a very distinct appeal to men — one that is only free to surface in the completely public, mostly male sphere: places like the weight room at the gym. Men are socially confined and encouraged to be with women who have a certain look.  But biologically, let’s face it: curves mean something.  I think males are hardwired to see something, hungrily, in females who look like me.  But that doesn’t give them free license to constantly visually exploit me.

It’s so simple.  Just.  Stop.  Staring.  If you want to say “hey, great job!” or “you’re looking really strong today” or “how about we get coffee sometime” that would be lovely.  I would love to engage with you on an intellectual (or at least verbal) level. I would love to hear about your hobbies and your work and your feelings.  But until you stop staring and we start having meaningful interactions that don’t leave me feeling ashamed and exploited, none of this can happen.

So this is a plea of sorts.  I know that I am not the only woman who feels this way.  And perhaps there are some men who feel exploited as well.  I don’t know what the answer is, really.  All I can say is this: when you stare long and hard directly at my chest (and yes, I know you are not looking deeply into my eyes — I know perfectly well where my head is and it is not that far down), it isn’t good for either of us.  You perpetuate the stereotype of the crude, promiscuous male.  And you make me feel like crap.  So please: stop.

Sincerely,

Caronae

I hope that didn’t come across as all feminist-ranty.  I just feel like it is my basic right to have a calm workout at the gym in which I don’t have to be on the lookout for wandering eyes every five and a half seconds.  If you have thoughts on this issue, I would love to hear them!  I know I cannot possibly be the only woman who experiences this unfortunate phenomenon.

Tomorrow is going to be a crazy day.  I might now be in.  But I shall be back in blogland in full force next week!  Promise. 🙂

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