Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon

So the day for me began at 3:40 in the morning. I was so excited I couldn't sleep. I tried and finally when turning over a little too forcefully at 4:20, my pillow sent my water glass flying and I realized that I was being ridiculous, there was no way I could fall back asleep! Might as well get up and make some oatmeal and start the mass movements/stomach gastrocolic reflex for the day tee hee :)
*** for non med-school people,
mass movements: occur 1-3x/day and function to move the contents of the large intestine over long distances, such as from the transverse colon to the sigmoid colon and a final mass movement propels fecal contents into the rectum, where they are stored until defecation occurs. In many people these are strongest for about 15 minutes during the first hour after eating breakfast.

Gastrocolic reflex: A long reflex arc whereby distention of the stomach by food increases the motility of the colon and increases the frequency of mass movements in the large intestine.

I met up with my coworker Paul (awesome guy by the way, I want him to be my primary care doctor, he's super laid back and just puts everyone at ease around him. Everyone who has been paired with him at work opens up and is nicer to be around. He just brings out the best in people!) to jog over to the race. As we were in different corals, we split off soon after arriving there and I met up with my morning workout team. Below is a picture of Tre who runs his own fitness program, which is my weight training, and is just awesome! There is a team environment and all the people are so great that we have now become a team. Plus cross training is what keeps me from breaking :)

The elite start was exciting, with several great people around me (at least they looked impressive, I don't know who they are). The start was very fast and I started at a 5:00 pace, but was able to pull back majorly in pace within .7 miles fortunately! And I let all the other women go ahead of me.

The course was flat and fast. The only problem is that my GPS signal was cut off by all the tall buildings, so for the first time I had no idea what pace I was going. I had to go off of 'feeling', which was definitely not ideal! Especially because due to my sheer exhaustion with spending such long hours at work I have not done a single tempo run in at least 2 months. So I had no 'feeling' to go off of, ha!

But i tried to hold strong and tried to pick people off. A lot of people in front of me dropped out of the race, more than I have seen before. One guy said it was a bad day as I passed him and I said we can't think that way. Many of the miles were not marked (as far as I noticed, and I was looking as my GPS was not working, but I was still more focused on the race so they could have been there). I saw a girl infront of me get frustrated and throw up her arms and yell something towards people working the race near where I expected a mile marker to be located and I realized I had a lot of these people beat. While I may be stressed and under-training relative to ideal, I am learning how to funnel/channel my emotions. I too have many strong emotions and feel like I'm failing. But what happens when I am on rounds and talking to a woman with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy & MS who has in the last 3 weeks gone from being able to sometimes walk and be able to speak to being completely bed ridden and barely able to get a word out? I suck up my emotions and focus on her. I channel my frustration into the race and deal with the problem at hand. I do not waste my energy and that is what makes me a good runner. I hold strong where I can and vent where it is appropriate/useful. So I thought of my inner strength on rounds and beat the people who did not funnel their frustrations appropriately into the race.

While it was my slowest race of the season, in many ways it was my strongest and I am proud of my fifth place finish. It shows my emotional growth and that I have held steady despite having been put through the turmoil of moving to a new city by myself where I knew absolutely no one and starting a new job where I really wanted to do my best. I have to thank my new friends in Chicago and my morning workout team for helping me stay strong when I have felt very weak at many points this summer :) Below is a cupcake that my workout teammate Jimmy and his sister dropped by my house this evening to say congrats! I have never gotten a congrats cupcake before!

Oh, and the theme song for this race was Jay-Z Run this town. Cause we gonna run this town tonight!

Theme lines: Life's a game, but it's not fair. I break the rules so I don't care. So I keep doin my own thing, walkin tall against the rain. Victory's within the mile. Almost there, don't give up now. Only thing that's on my mind is who's gonna run this town tonight... We Are, yeah I said it WE ARE!

We did it! Thank you to my support team! Oh, and I promised my neighbor, Jessica Bauer, that I would tell everyone that if I did well, it was due to the 3-course german meal she prepared last night, as Germany and German food is amazing (or maybe just her cooking is amazing!)

A video from Chance & Jimmy from my am workout/crosstraining team lead by Tre :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

12 hours away from the Roll Chicago Half Marathon

I am getting SO excited! I am going to run this for fun! My biggest goal: keep the first mile above 6:00, preferably 6:10! 

Why am I so excited? There are many great reasons

#1. I slept and tapered. I have been working my hardes all summer, doing 2-a-days most days because despite getting up at 4:30 every morning, there is only so much running I can do before rounds. For example, thursday I got to work at 6:15, snacked throughout the day (i.e. two large spoonfulls of peanut butter with a bannana for lunch plus a pre-lunch and post-lunch cookie) then as I was leaving with work in tow at 6pm I was told that I would be giving a presentation in the morning about hypercoaguability in cancer; a subject that I did not know about during rounds, hence why I was presenting (so I would learn about it) and I would be starting from scratch. So I got maybe 3 hours of sleep thursday night. Friday I finished the data collection part of my research, ran preliminary stats, and was in bed by 9:30, passed out by 10 or 10:30, and didn't wake up until 10:30 saturday; I slept!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YAYAYAYAY! I don't remember the last time I got so much sleep.

#2. I have people cheering me on!!!! My morning workout group that I will post more on because they made Chicago a home for me will be all either running it or cheering me on! I haven't had friends come out to cheer me on in many years, not had friends that close and supportive since before I moved back to Va to be with my mom :) It is good to be in a place where your comrades are that supporting and wonderful! YAYAYAY!

#3. My neighbor is cooking me dinner. It is my last weekend in Chicago, so she is making a goodbye meal of traditional german food. A pot-roast, potato-stuffed german dumplings, and cabbage (sorry all, but I LOVE cooked cabbage! YUMM! How amazingly awesome is that! She is amazing! I don't know the last time I had such an elaborate home cooked meal and the last time I had pot-roast was when my mom cooked it 3+ years ago. YAY!

#4. This is my parents home and I will just love touring it. My mom & dad met when they were graduate students at the University of Chicago. My dad mistook my mom for the librarian and was rude. Later when he went up to apologize, she started crying about another guy who was no longer in her life. He sat down and they kept talking. They went to see the fireworks that night and the next morning my dad proposed, my mom accepted, and they were together until the day she died. It is because of Chicago that I am alive. And now I get to run the city.

No matter if I walk, this will be a great time! I am so privledged to run this race and have such great friends. YAY! 11.5 hours until the start :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I went to yoga and didn't hate it: A story of Green Eggs & Ham.

So I have found it very helpful in life to figure out what you want/like and don't want/like and give people clear statements about them. For example: I do not like dieting because it interferes with my eating habits. I like food (if you offer me cake I will like you more). Or the other day I mentioned to my attending, the resident, and other medical student during rounds that "the biggest problem with rounds is it interferes with my second breakfast". During rounds you are on your feet from 7:30 till they are done which can be as late as eleven. You don't get to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom during this time. You are running around seeing patients and paying attention to their needs/issues/etc. So when we met after rounds at ten on Friday to discuss/ give presentations to each other on Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, types, etc, etc the attending kindly took us down to the second floor cafeteria and treated us to second breakfast. See, honesty helps us get what we want (tee hee)!


So things that I like: running, jumping, dancing, learning, reading, exploring, chocolate cake, and coffee (see above). Things that I don't like: sitting still and doing nothing, long road trips where I am confined to one place and get carsick when I read. This is who I am. My mom went into labor with me while hiking on the blue ridge mountains. I think I just wanted to get out of the confined space and get to run around on the mountain too. On the other hand, whenever they tried to strap me into the car for up to an hour, I would ball up my hands and scream/ My mom said she never saw a baby so angry.

Another thing I don't like is the phrase "chill out". Oh Hellllll No (ha!) This is the worst thing to say to anyone who is upset. Not only is it invalidating their feelings, but it is distancing yourself from them, saying that they are wrong for the reaction they are having. So if you want someone to relax, make them feel safe and understood, connect with them, let them know you are listening, and try to understand. Alienating someone further won't help a darn thing but instead further alienate them by invalidating their emotions and point of view.

So back to yoga. The culture of "chill". Well, I don't like sitting in one place, I like doing stuff. Making me be still is something I DIS-like. The point of yoga is to remain still in a painful posture trying to let the pain not affect you (let ideas float in and out of your mind like clouds, notice them but don't cling). Sorry, but really the whole time I am aware of the pain and thinking about how there are so many things I want/need to be DOING (i.e. running or studying for the test on monday; it isn't easy balancing running and medical school). And then they tell me and all the rich housewives around me to chill out and relax as though yoga and the americanized expensive zen found there puts us on some sort of moral high-horse. So I don't like yoga.

However, I have been suffering from radicular pain. This means that the muscles in my legs have been cramping painfully for the last year, not because of muscular issues, but because of impingement on my nerves coming from the spinal cord/spinal irritation, probably due the muscles around the spinal cord spasming/being too weak/poor posture. Actually the spasms began when I entered medical school. I thought they were muscular until the the sports & spine doc said they were indicative of nervous problems that were probably due to all the sitting/studying in medical school & that being a medical student is the one of the worst things to ever do to your body. In terms of treatment, what is the best thing to do? You guessed it: yoga. Stretching and strengthening.

Image of Me vs yoga.

So, today, I finally worked myself up to face my arch nemesis. I did it. I went to a yoga class at Core Power yoga, which has a week of free yoga classes for new students. And I loved it.

So what do they do differently there? First of all they don't get all preachy, they just help instruct you to relax and how to relax. They have somewhat of a flow yoga, even for the beginners like me. Where you start out slow moving through the poses and then pick up speed. And they have core exercises spliced in with the painful yoga postures, so I got to move, do different styles of exercises, stretch, and strengthen. All without them getting overly-preachy so I was never told that there is anything wrong with my passionate italian soul (only part italian, but you know what I mean). Also they played good, soulful, relaxing versions of well-liked songs that helped me relax and think about things that make me happy like birds chirping when it was really painful, instead of thinking about how I should be at work or really anywhere else doing something.. Also the instructor, Stefanie, came around and helped stretch us. So when I was pulling on my toes, she pushed down ever so lightly on my lower back to stretch out my spine so that my back got the stretch it needs to help limit my radicular pain.

In summary, it was great, everything that I need from yoga without everything that I dislike about yoga. I would really recommend this for anyone else who wants to do yoga for health reasons, not the group that go to yoga for the feeling of moral superiority, should really try core yoga. I am sold: I do so like green eggs and ham! Thank you Core Power Yoga!I may even do yoga with a goat :)

I will try them.
You will see.
I like green eggs and ham!
I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat.
And I would eat them with a goat…
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good, so good, you see!
So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!
I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How Saturday night phone calls changed my Sunday morning lakefront run

I had been waiting all week for my Sunday morning run. In general, I do my hard run on Saturdays and I do an easy 10 mile recovery run Sunday a.m. This past Sunday the heat wave, which destroyed my runs all week, broke, meaning my first fun run in a while.

Starting out from my apartment (this is the view from the end of my block), the lakeside was cloud-covered. Yes! No sun beating down on my head this morning!

As I continued ~.4 miles up the trail, the wind had the water beating up and over the concrete

A large group of ~20 runners came up around the bend while I was taking photos and I took off to not get stuck behind the group.

While I had downladed Sherlock Holmes to listen to while running, I needed to zone out and listen to music. The Saturday night had been heavy. I went into work Saturday at ~1pm to continue the research for the paper I am working, which looks at adductor myotomy for children with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is "a nonprogressive disease due to a brain insult" that has many different causes/etiologies. While the lesion may not be getting worse, symptoms get worse with time as walking will be more difficult as the child grows in size/weight, etc.

Adductor myotomies are partially severing the tendons connecting the inner muscles of the thigh. This surgery is often performed not to increase function, but because the spasm-based scisoring of legs will prevent cleaning of the genital region by the caretaker and other difficult symptoms. The surgery will thus enable cleaning and other necessary activities within that region (yes, I mean the legs are spasming/contracting so badly that you cannot wipe them and the poor kid is pulling the hip out of the socket), not necessarily make it easier to walk, and are performed on kids with the 'worse' cases of cerebral palsy, the more recalcitrant, severe cases.

As I began making the phone calls (I had 110 people to call), I wound up becoming a voyeur into this alternative reality of these parents' lives. I called one house and asked to speak to *Samuel* (not his actual name)'s mother. The woman said this is she. I asked if she had received the letter about the study and if she had any questions. She burst into tears and said that Samuel had passed on and was no longer with us. That she and her husband go to the cemetary 2-4x a day and have decorated his room with medals from his special, private school.

Another mother burst out in rage regarding clinical studies and the adductor myotomy and her daughter in general. *Katie* had been able to walk a year ago when she had the surgery and now could no longer walk (this is common progression of severe cases of cerebral palsy and many of the parents were thrilled with the surgery, so it is MORE likely that becoming nonambulatory was due to disease progression rather than the surgery, but I don't know). Also the family had participated in previous studies regarding different methods of using standard drugs, but had never been told about the results. She had given up her professional career to care for her daughter, but had a master's degree, and deserved to be treated with respect . I listened attentively and responded as best I could, knowing how horrible it feels to give up your life for someone that you can't save, and said what I could to assist her.

One woman was downstairs in the rehab center again with her daughter, so I ran down to meet with the two of them. The daughter had a seizure 3 weeks ago and the mother hasn't checked her mail, but they were going home tuesday. The mother started trying to figure out what caused *katrina's* seizure, saying she thought it was the heat. But it could have been that katrina hadn't slept adequately the night before. Or that Katrina had sugar, or....

This was hard for me to hear and I cut the mother off saying she will never know and that seizures are so idiopathic that it is nearly impossible to determine. Ketogenic diets (no sugar) help in a minority of seizure cases, specifically one girl with cerebral palsy due to mercury poisoning while in her mother's belly has completely stopped having seizures while on a ketogenic diet. (The opposite can also be true, that too much protein will cause seizures if people have difficulty tapping into their fat reserves). The night before my mom's final seizure, which we couldn't get under control for two weeks, and completely paralyzed her except for her eyes, we celebrated my birthday and ate cake. In fact, just a few hours before meeting katrina's mom while on my Saturday morning run I though of the girl without seizures and then thought of my mom's seizures and had wondered whether my birthday cake had killed my mom. It took a few hours for my rational brain to kick in and remember all the cake she ate and did not have seizures.... But the thought will always haunt me.

While walking home I pondered whether there was an association between who was at home on Saturday night and available to talk about their children and the severity of emotional difficulty they were experiencing. I thought about labeling it the Saturday night Psych night. But then I realized that I was the one making the phone calls, I was the one who was at work on a Saturday night. So am I all that different from the parents I was calling?

All this ran through my mind as I was enveloped by the wind, looking out over the beach, and I ran fast. Too fast, finishing over 10 miles in under 70 minutes. But I needed to run. Like Forrest Gump, one of my heros: "Now you wouldn't believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows. From that day on, if I was going somewhere, I was running!"

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Empathy vs Jealousy

The other day, there was a group discussion on medical ethics. One topic briefly touched upon was the thought that doctors have when entering a patients room: that could be me.... I would be in that bed if I had gotten hit by a car that time I didn't/forgot to buckle my seat belt.... The Dr leading the discussion said she still had problems with this from time to time but has gotten better about it. 

But what is wrong with over-empathizing with patients, what is wrong with thinking "wow, that could have been me?"

 Well over-empathizing with patients can be quite harmful because they are NOT you and HAVE different expectations, wants, and needs. You didn't make the same decisions and you have a different body with a slightly different anatomical and genetic basis that wouldn't necessarily react the same way to trauma. Over-identification means that you may not be able to keep perspective to accurately identify the extent of their injuries. It may also mean that you will treat them by the golden rule "treat others the way YOU want to be treated" instead of the platinum rule "treat others the way THEY want to be treated".

But what about the other side of this philosophical argument?

 John Donne famously states
No man is an island,
Entire of himself...
Each man's death diminishes me
For I am involved in mankind
Therfore, send not to know
Forwhom the bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.

Similarly, in multiple religions, nirvana is reached when one transcends the body and therefore is not separated from others i.e. it is not my body and your body but we are both part of something greater. Or in Led Zepplin's song stairway to heaven the lyrics include "if you listen very hard the tune will come to you at last when all are one and one is all"

 Understanding that we are all similar is important for our development. For example watching someone run with the correct form or win a race by showing multiple positive personality traits is something we identify with and witnessing that makes us stronger, better runners. We AUTOMATICALLY imitate that person. 

But how do subconsciously know we are different? One way is through the green monster of jealousy. For example when I wake up, have be at rounds at 7, work till 6p or 7, eating cake the whole time (or something equivalently sugary to keep my mind bright) then go home, collapse on the floor, and look at facebook. Oh wow, really, YOU went for a 10 mile run and lifted weights and went swimming along with working a full day. And YOU feel wonderful. I am just SO happy for you!

Now did YOU do anything wrong? NO, of course not, and on another day I would BE you, but today I'm crabby and frustrated and didn't do anything but eat unhealthily and work in a white walled hospital. Towards the end of the book Quiet: the power of introverts by Susan Cain, she mentions that we should pay the most attention to what makes us jealous. This is because jealousy lets us identify our unmet desires.

I think that jealousy lets me know how I should be structuring my life. On some level I am acknowledging that I have potential. You have done something that I can do and have not; you have made different choices and structured your life in a way that allows you to do the things that I cannot/have not.

Further, jealousy shows us the basic difference between self and not self. We are both part of mankind, but you get to live my dream. Therefore I am jealous. As I continue in the medical profession, it will be difficult to arrange my life to run as much as I like, but when I get too jealous of others, I will know that I've gone down the wrong path and need to change my lifestyle/job.

 On the other hand, the first time I realized I could run a lot better was the Marine Corps Marathon in October, 2010, the day before we removed my mother's breathing tube. As I ran past all those skinny girls who spent their time running while I had spent my time eating cake and pie while sitting in the hospital with my mom. I thought "hey there skinny bitch, you may be sexier than me, you may have run more miles than me, but you don't have the heart that I have or the strength that I have. you haven't done what i have done by not running. that's right skinny bitch, you're going down." Sorry for the crass language, but that's what went through my head as I ran by those little girls. I wasn't jealous. I was proud.

Me finishing the Marine Corps Marathon with water belt on and shirt tied around my waist on October 30th, 2010 in a time of 3:12:02, a 7:19.5 mile average.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Running Scare Factor #1 and Treatment: proper care of the nether regions

I don't know who else has gotten chafing between their thighs (or throughout the nether regions), but I have. I find it painful and much less fun to run for as long as the chafing continues. I've read about treatments and prevention online (I go with neosporin, lots of body butter, and running in well-washed spandex shorts. If dirty, though, any piece of clothing will make me chafe). These experiences are the first thing that flashed through my mind when I saw my first severe case of cervical cancer.

In this type of cervical cancer, if it is allowed to spread (i.e. not caught early), an operation will be necessary. The incision runs mid-thigh to mid-thigh on the inside of the thigh, right through the areas where I chafe. Then the surgeon just flaps the whole private area open. Once done with the cancer removal, they don't stitch up the wound but instead let it heal "from the inside out." This is because it is so difficult to clean and unhygienic that otherwise abscesses will form. This means a huge pus-filled mass between your thighs (another med student recently related that this happened to one of his patients, but I haven't seen it with my own eyes).

Strangely, the first thing I thought about was what this would mean for my running career. Wow, this makes MY chafing look pretty insignificant. Selfishly, I asked "is this and similar cases of cervical cancer preventable by getting a yearly pap smear?" The answer is YES.

If the cervical cancer gets really bad, as in the patient I saw, then multiple other things happen including having an ostomy bag system which can include a colostomy (i.e. there is a bag on your stomach that collects feces), an ilosotmy (a bag that collects undigested food that looks like feces with corn in it) and a urostomy (i.e. there is a bag on your stomach that collects urine). These are things I would like to avoid as a runner. The particular patient I have in mind was otherwise fully healthy and not young nor old with plenty of family to help her out at home, basically someone with whom I can relate. In summary, running scare factor #1 = cervical cancer. This type is easily identified and then treated with yearly health care.