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Tuesday, July 02, 2019

July Athlete of the Month

Love Summer Time!

Bring on the Heat!

Can't get enough of being outside when the sun in shinning.

Every day Blood Clot Survivors complete huge achievements as they battle to overcome blood clots and blood clotting disorders.

July will bring a major challenge for me... Checkout twitter through my handle @CLOTBUSTER to learn more about what I will be having going on.  It is not going to be easy but if blood clot survivors can overcome monumental challenges so can I in mid-July.  WISH ME LUCK!!!

Speaking of being able to overcome.  July's Athlete of the Month ALEXIS has remarkable story to tell which I am certain that you will find very interesting.

MANY THANKS to Alexis for her willingness to share her story.  Read on and get inspired to overcome any challenge!

1)  What is you sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it? 
 I love to run. I truly believe that I love this sport because of my fellow runners and the comradery we share on the trails and roads. Runners are a special group of people and I’m thrilled to be among them!
2)  How did you get started in that sport? 
 I started running in middle school as a 400 meter track athlete. I continued to focus on middle distance racing in high school, also running cross country as a means to build up a solid base prior to track season. 

3)  What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve?(Long bike ride, some race coming up or that you did) 
 I recently ran my first 10 miler post-clot in preparation for my upcoming comeback (I’m calling it a “clot-back”) full marathon. It felt amazing to be able to comfortably increase my mileage and heart rate. MCM 2019, here I come!

4)  Tells about your clotting episode.  Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission? 
 My clotting episode occurred in October 2018 amid a myriad of work, travel, and activity. I was 24-years-old and just weeks out from my second full marathon. I was working full-time as the Marketing Director of a Pittsburgh-based law firm, training for the marathon, and applying for MBA programs in my evenings – talk about a full schedule! I had no time to slow down, let alone get sick.
I had just spent two days in South Bend, Indiana interviewing for a seat at Notre Dame’s MBA program when I returned home to Pittsburgh via midnight train. I was traveling alone and was admittedly afraid to spend the night sleeping on public transit, so in order to ease my nerves and get some shuteye, I popped two Benadryl pills, put my legs up, and crashed for a full 8 hrs into the city. When I awoke the next day, I noticed a lump and tightness in my right leg, just behind my knee, of which I foolishly attributed to a tight IT band from a rough night’s sleep. As it turns out, I had a big race planned for the following morning, so when I stopped at the race expo to pick up my bib, I had a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and nurse check out my leg to ensure that I was fine to race…and got the all clear. No one realized that my “tight IT band” was actually a DVT!

The next day, unaware that I had a serious medical problem, I ran my race as planned. I PR’d in the 10k, knocking 5 minutes off my best (I was in the best shape of my life) but noticed that my heart rate was lingering above 195 (a first for my Garmin!). My leg pain, however, was gone, so we no longer thought anything of it.

The next day, I began to feel short of breath. It started gradually – a feeling of windedness on that first early morning run – and progressed to major SOB walking up short flights of stairs by the week’s end. I was stubborn and on a strict schedule, however, so I persisted into my last 20-miler of training that Saturday morning. That run went terribly as I struggled at mile 2 to keep my heart rate below 175. I felt lethargic, my vision spotted/blacking in and out, and my body just not wanting to move. I shut the run down at mile 9, and the next day attempted my 20 again, this time only reaching mile 6 before I called it quits. Something wasn’t right and I knew it, but my coach, running mates, work demands, and MBA dreams were counting on me to keep going, so I continued to press on. 

The following week – 1.5 weeks post-DVT to be exact – I finally went to see my PCP. I told myself I felt fine aside from this annoying inability to breathe, and just wanted to feel better in time for race day. Upon examination, my doctor told me I must have had a virus and sent me home with a prescription for a Z-pak and script for bloodwork, which thankfully included a d-dimer…even he initially missed the signs and symptoms! Thankfully I was called the following morning as my d-dimer was positive. One CT-scan later and I had the entire emergency room staff scratching their heads – I had 3 acute pulmonary emboli residing in 3 different lobes of my lungs…and I RAN that morning! 

5)  When were you able to get back into your activity?  How did it feel that first time?   
 When I finally mentally allowed myself to get sick, I got really sick. After spending 2 days in the ICU on a heparin infusion, I was discharged with strict orders to stop running and overscheduling! I felt relatively fine leaving the hospital (and actually drove myself home as the determined and willful woman I am) but after 2 days of fighting myself, the intense dizziness, chest pain, increased SOB, constant elevated heart rate, lethargy, and nausea began. I spent weeks at home trying to rebuild my stamina and regain balance. After six months spent on anti-coagulant therapy (I took 1xdaily Xarelto, of which I cannot speak more highly!), I was finally approved to run again! 

My clotting episode is still baffling medical professionals to date. I saw three different specialists, one of which blatantly admitted to having no idea how to treat such a young PE patient, before being diagnosed as having an unprovoked clotting episode. I’ve tested negatively for all hereditary clotting disorders, including Factor V. My new hematologist believes that the combination of extensive travel, paired with 10+ years of daily hormonal birth control, caused my DVT. We hypothesize that my racing the day after I contracted the DVT day caused the clot to break off and travel in parts into three different lobes of my lungs, and the length of time between clot break and treatment caused the clots to grow.

I’ve had many medical professionals tell me that I’m lucky to be alive, of which is true on paper and considering my continued attempts at training mid-clot. However, I genuinely believe that my running is the reason I’m so fortunate! Had I not been so conditioned, I may not have realized that my shortness of breath and elevated heart rate were out of the norm. With so few symptoms to base such a serious, life-threatening diagnosis, I am fortunate that my self-awareness and absurd training schedule allowed me to know that something wasn’t right, and am thankful for my amazing PCP for running that “just to be safe” test to ensure my safety and proper recovery. 
6)  What is your favorite piece of gear for your favorite activity? 
 I’m partial to my SPIbelt and Powerbeats wireless headphones for long runs, but I am SO looking forward to spotting my dots at MCM this fall!

7)  How much are you getting out doing your sport?  
I train with a running group 6 days per week. When time allows, I also like to incorporate strength training, yoga, piyo, and/or cycling as a second daily workout.

8)   What is your favorite food?  
I am obsessed with cheese – I have yet to meet a cheese I haven’t liked!

9)  If you could go some place to visit and explore, where would like to go? 
 I’m planning a trip to Africa in 2020!

10)  What would like to say to someone who is going through a clotting episode, perhaps very similar to yours?  How can people return to do what they enjoy? Tells about your concerns and what you look out after. 
 You have to be your own health advocate. No one knows your body and your health better than you do, so listen to it and speak up/out often! Many amazing and talented medical professionals missed my initial DVT diagnosis because my age and overall health didn’t fit the stereotypical criteria for a DVT patient…if it can happen to me, it can happen to you. Stay vigilant!

To those running MCM this fall, I’ll see ya on the course! Let’s make it a “clot-back” to remember!

Here is hoping that Alexis gets her "CLOT-BACK" !!! 

For sure all of us will be looking forward to see you crush your come back race.


Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster

Saturday, June 01, 2019

June Athlete of the Month


That seems to be the appropriate theme for this month.

As summer is finally settling in and racing season is here the CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots are ready to race.  Well that is true if we are talking about the polka-dots because physically right now I am on battle to recover from this injury that has me on the struggle bus.

I am 4 triathlons away from completing my 100th.  My four races have been scheduled but for every step I take forward in my recovery it seems like I take two steps backwards.

For sure I am keeping my goals alive and on target but it is going to be a battle.  

On a very VERY small scale I can somewhat relate to the challenges that Blood Clot Survivors experience and the many set backs that can be encountered along the way.  But every day counts.  If I have learned anything from keeping this blog going for 10 years is that EVERY DAY COUNTS when it comes to survival and we most take advantage of what we get to experience.

From the Patient Story archives I found the following personal story from KATIE that for sure is representative of many of the struggles that can be faced during recovery with the finishing message of NEVER EVER GIVING UP!

Read on and get inspired to get out and make the best of what we get to have....

I ran my first marathon in 2017, started graduate school for a Masters in Accounting, and accepted a job with a public accounting firm post-graduation. I have always led an active lifestyle throughout high school and into college, which is why it is still difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that I was diagnosed with bilateral pulmonary emboli on November 29, 2014, two days after my 20th birthday.
It all started about a week after I ran a 5k race for Halloween. I started experiencing shortness of breath and attributed it to the cold weather during the race. The shortness of breath escalated into pain that radiated throughout my chest and back whenever I took a breath and it soon became too painful to do almost anything. With finals approaching, it was the worst possible time to be feeling sick. I believed it was only something temporary, and I could push through it.
My roommate finally convinced me to visit health services on campus. When I met with the doctor and explained my symptoms, he told me that it was most likely just stress, and that he could give me a hug, but that all was fine. I headed home later that week for Thanksgiving break. My parents made a last-minute decision to take me to an urgent care before I returned to school, just as a precaution. None of us believed it was anything serious.
I was admitted into the hospital that same day where doctors performed a d-Dimer test, which showed a risk for blood clots. They performed a CT scan of my lungs, which revealed multiple clots in both of my lungs, and swelling in half of my heart. This is the first time I had ever heard of a pulmonary embolism, or PE. They told me it can occur from birth control containing estrogen, in rare circumstances. I was told I could no longer use that form of birth control, and that I had to be on blood thinners for the next six months. If I were to ever get clots again, it would most likely be worse, and I would be on thinners for the rest of my life.
Going from working out everyday to barely being able to walk, took both a mental and physical toll, and it took awhile to feel like myself again. Despite this, I am now the healthiest and strongest I have ever been. Blood clots are often fatal, and I am extremely thankful everyday that mine were discovered in time. My advice to others is to take it seriously when your body is trying to tell you something is off, and to seek a second opinion from a doctor if you feel like your concerns are not being addressed.
NEVER GIVE UP just like Katie did... She is a survivor and now also a Marathoner!
Thanks for reading,
The Clot Buster

Thursday, May 02, 2019

May Athlete of the Month

Once again this year I had the chance to go and witness the Boston Marathon.

Once again this year I took the CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots to the Boston Marathon.
This year I got to go with 3 boys while we attempted to cheer on Speedy Mom... For sure the 2019 edition of the Boston Marathon was rough for all who participated.  This event has a tendency to push the limits of people.  Participants overcame whatever challenges this course threw their way.  It is so inspiring to see people battle and overcome to reach that famous finish line.
Blood Clot Survivors not always have a famous finish line to get across.  

For many the finish line is to attempt to live a normal life.

For some the finish line is at an actual race someplace, long or short, that can bring closure to all of the events leading to overcoming the challenges of their blood clotting incident.

Anything is possible for those who believe.

One of those survivors that can provide us with some of that inspiration is our May Athlete of the Month KIM who is here sharing some of her experiences with all of us... As the racing season gets underway please read on so that you too can find some of that additional spark to get your fire and desires going!

What is you sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it? 
My activity of choice is running; trail running when I have the time and can fit in longer runs. Running gets me out of my head and clears my mind. It gives me time to listen to my body. Something about connecting with my breath and my feet pounding the pavement is very therapeutic.   
How did you get started in that sport? 
I wish this was a simple answer. Growing up and in early adulthood I never like
running. I would see people running in the rain and snow and think I could
never be that committed to anything, let alone running. I had a stress induced
cardiomyopathy (takotsubocardiomyopathy) in 2013. After that event I
struggled with ongoing chest pain and shortness of breath. After numerous
visits to my cardiologist it was determined the lingering symptoms were due to
anxiety. I did the only thing I knew how to do to deal with the “anxiety” andthat
was to expose myself to the symptoms. So I essentially started running as
exposure therapy. When I started I couldn’t even run a quarter of a mile. I used
a run/walk training plan to build my endurance and provide structure. This was
really helpful because I could see my improvement over time. It was grueling
and totally unenjoyable at first, but after a few months of sticking with it I
slowly began to enjoy it. I ran my first race, a 10K trail race, in 2016.

What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve? 
I have a 50K trail relay race on May 4th. I’m super pumped to be back out on the trail and rock my new polk-a-dots!

Tell us about your clotting episode.  Are you on blood thinners now?
How long were you out of commission? 
I was diagnosed with bilateral pulmonary emboli, with a very large clot in my right lung, on December 14th, 2018. I took a long flight to Australia in September and I think that’s when I got the clot. I had some symptoms when I landed in Australia but they resolved in a few days and I even participated in the Blackmore’s Sydney Running Festival and enjoyed a 10K over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When I got back from Australia I noticed increased shortness of breath and heart rate when running, but nothing extreme. It wasn’t until I completed a work out at Orange Theory in December that I realized something was seriously wrong – I felt faint and my heart rate was over 200 for most of the class. I went to the ED a few days after that. In hind sight, I waited far too long to seek medical attention. However, with a history of cardiac issues and being told numerous times that my ongoing SOB was due to anxiety it was easy to brush it off.

I was out of commission for a good month and eased into walking in February. I started run/walking in March and was back to full on running in April.

I’m currently on blood thinners and may be for life. I now know I’m heterozygous for Factor V Leiden and am currently ruling out Still’s Disease with my rheumatologist. Still’s Disease can also cause you to be in a hypercoagulable state. I have an appointment with a hematologist soon who will have the final say.

When were you able to get back into your activity?  How did it feel that first time?   
After getting back to running and feeling like myself again (for the most part), it’s really made me appreciate the physical ability I do have and to not take that for granted. Having to take time off from running also made me realize how much I rely on running for stress management. I think my family would agree we’re all happier when I’m running. ☺
What is your favorite piece of gear for your favorite activity?
I haven’t worn my polka-a-dots yet, but I suspect that will become my favorite gear! For now it’s my La Sportiva Bushido’s and pair of Oiselle leggings.

How much are you getting out doing your sport?
I run 3 times a week and do Orange Theory once a week. That seems to be the right amount for me. With autoimmune issues I have to maintain a fine balance of rest and exercise. If I push myself too hard I can tip myself into a flare.

What is your favorite food?
After a long run, especially on the trail, there’s nothing better than a cold beer!

If you could go someplace to visit and explore, where would like to go? 
There are too many even to begin to list...

What would like to say to someone who is going through a clotting
episode, perhaps very similar to yours?  How can people return to do what they enjoy? Tells about your concerns and what you look out after
I recommend people listen to their bodies and return to activity slowly. I learned the hard way and pushed myself too soon and would pay for it the next day. I think it’s difficult to know when to return to exercise and we received very vague guidance, very similar to what I just stated above. But in hindsight it’s very true. One day and one step at a time.  
Here is wishing for Kim to be rocking the CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots while racing on May 4th. Can't wait to see pictures of polka-dots out and about on the trails.

No question that we all have to take "One Day and One Step At the Time" there is no really any other way to overcome any of the challenges that we face.

Sounds like Kim is ready to race her 50K and many more races.

I hope that I am ready to race this summer as well... 4 Races to go ahead of my #100th Triathlon. Let's see how it goes.

Here is wishing ALL THE BEST to all reading this who will be going after a finish line out there this summer and beyond. NEVER EVER STOP TRYING!

Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster

My 95th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 95th Triathlon Finish !!!