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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

March Athlete of the Month


Come on and join me to make a difference.  Climb more than me in March and get your choice of a performance CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots Trucker Hat or Visor courtesy of this Clot Buster! Let's CLIMB ON!

March is very special month to spread even more awareness about blood clots and blood clotting disorders.

Also March is very special because we continue to celebrate ALL BLOOD CLOT SURVIVORS and remember those we lost along the way.  We should not have to EVER lose anyone so that is why this effort continues to make this condition preventable every time.

As crazy as it sounds blood clots are also linked to INSPIRATION TO OVERCOME.  This is the positive side of having blood clots.  The incredible will to beat this challenge deserves all of our admiration.  I am so lucky to have the opportunity to share these personal accounts with you every month.  Every single one of them provides me with a spark to overcome.

This month MICHELLE M. is sharing her personal experience with us.  THANK YOU Michelle for your willingness to share your story.  Your experience will resonate with someone who is need of answers and guidance.  Every word below has the power to provide someone that spark that can and will provide hope to get them through the challenges of a clotting incident.  READ ON...

What is you sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it?
How did you get started in that sport?
This has changed back and forth between my “story” and an injury, but it has always been running.  I have always struggled with my weight and after the birth of both my children it became clear that I needed more than just nutrition.  I started taking a spin class at my gym and learned that I really liked it.  The rush was like no other and the calorie burn was amazing.  That obsession grew.  Within a few months I was starting to run short distances on the treadmill and learning that running was an even bigger “high” for me than spinning.  It didn’t take me long to begin racing.  I started out with a biathlon, a few 5k’s and then it grew from there.  I also fell in love with trail running.  I wasn’t very fast but being able to conquer the trails and terrain was a bigger accomplishment for me than the actual speed.  Before I knew it, I had signed up for my first marathon.  I would plan family camping trips around races and they were extremely supportive of my passion.  I was a runner and enjoyed my time alone and strength that it gave me.

What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve?
Well, this has been altered due to my health issues.  I had major hip surgery in September 2017 and was told I should NOT run again until I have a full hip replacement (hopefully in 7 years).  My hip has never been shaped “normal” due to being born with some dysplasia but running on it like I did created even more issues.  So, today 4 months post major hip surgery, my accomplishment is making it to spin class 2 times a week and hoping to sneak in an extra from time to time.  

Tells about your clotting episode.  Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission?
No one’s clotting episode is “normal” now that I have learned about PE’s and mine was far from the normal.  I had suffered for about 18 months with abdominal pain.  I took many trips to the doctor, ER, urgent care, etc.  I had been tested for gallbladder issues (which they ultimately removed), possible appendix attacks, and the list goes on.  I had been pushed around, looked at like a drug user just looking to get pain pills, but never got any answers.  Finally, in May of 2016, I went into the ER for severe pain and they found a large fibroid had formed on my uterus.  I followed up with the OB/GYN and was on the operating table less than 30 days later.  Due to the size of the fibroid, I would have to have a full cut abdominal hysterectomy.  This was considered a major surgery and would be about an 6-8-week recovery.  I had the surgery, all was fine, uterus was removed, and the healing began.  About 10 days post op, I woke up and felt like I was getting a cold or the flu.  I was achy, clammy and just felt off.  I went in to see my doctor and he said not to worry, it was probably just a virus and it would pass.  Day by day, the aches got worse, I could barely get up from the couch.  I hurt from the tips of my toes to the top of my head.  I went to see my general practitioner and told him how I felt.  He advised me that I had had major surgery, and this was just a part of the recovery.  I explained I felt different, but I really couldn’t pin point what that feeling was.  During the exam, the doctor noted a dry cough.  In addition to lab work, he ordered a chest x-ray to make sure the cough wasn’t anything serious.

I wasn’t home from this appointment for more than an hour and the nurse called and said I had pneumonia and the doctor would be treating me with antibiotics and steroids.  I was blown away.  I didn’t have any true symptoms of pneumonia.  How could this be?  The next morning, it was a Saturday, my doctor called me.  This seemed odd because number 1 it was a Saturday morning and 2 he NEVER calls himself.  He explained that the x-ray found a spot on my right lung and even though they were not 100% sure it looked to be pneumonia and I should start that treatment, which I did. He also mentioned that my blood work showed some elevated numbers but was very vague about those and didn’t provide a lot of details.  Everything was blown off to being a part of the recovery process. 

By Sunday, I felt great!  My aches were minimal, I had energy again and even threw an impromptu pool party.  I was finally getting better and was ecstatic.  That feeling lasted until Tuesday morning and then I hit a wall again (the steroids had worn off).  The aches, the lethargy and just plain feeling of being “off” had returned.  I called the doctor and he once again, blew me off.  He told me I needed to see a specialist because I probably had the onset of arthritis. 

By Tuesday afternoon, I was in tears and felt lost.  Was I losing my mind?  What was wrong with me? I called a patient rep at our local health system and asked for help.  She couldn’t do anything but sympathize with my “pain”.  By Wednesday morning I called my OBGYN and learned he was on vacation.  Finally, after getting to his nurse, I spoke with another OBGYN and he explained that it sounded like my pneumonia had gotten bad and I probably needed to be admitted.  He got me into see a pulmonary doctor that afternoon (which was a miracle). 

The pulmonary doctor was very thorough and I really thought this was just another blow off.  I took my mom with me as my husband was at work and it didn’t take long to see the x-ray up on the screen and him to explain that he was convinced it was something more.  He sent me to the hospital where I learned very quickly that the CT Scan had discovered multiple clots in both lungs and a large infarction on my right lung along with pleurisy.  I was admitted immediately.

After a whirlwind admittance, a lot of doctors and a lot of nurses it was decided that because I was just about 4 weeks post op with a large abdominal incision, choosing the right thinner was imperative.  I was put on Eliquis due to its mild side affects and hopes that there would be less chance of bleeding issues.  I left the hospital 2 days later, lost, confused and angry.  Why had this happened to me and how do I move on?  No one could explain how it happened, why it happened and why it took so long to find. I had lost all faith in medicine and didn’t know which way o turn. I was instructed to stay on Eliquis for 6 months, be checked by my GP and good luck!

When were you able to get back into your activity?  How did it feel that first time?  
The first few weeks after my PE diagnosis, it took everything I had to just walk around the block.  Living in the Midwest and it being July, the humidity played havoc on my healing lungs, so my process was slow. I was out of work a complete 12 weeks due to healing of both the hysterectomy and the PE’s.  By fall I was ready to run.  That first run, I laughed, and I cried.  It felt amazing and I had a feeling of being blessed to just be alive and able to get back to my sport.  

What is your favorite piece of gear for your favorite activity? (Bike brand, running shoes, perhaps a running singlet or the Clot Buster's Running Polka-Dot Technical Shirt…
Today my favorite piece of gear is my polka dot running shirt paired with my old (and falling apart) Under Armor capris running tights and my spin shoes.  

How much are you getting out doing your sport?  (Everyday you do some training, 2, 3, 4 times per week)
Part of my PE recovery included learning the condition of my hip and the limitations that were included in that so, I have had to rediscover my passion for biking to preserve my hip.  Right now, I’m at the gym 2 – 3 times a week attending a spin class and strengthening my hip.  

What is your favorite food?  Either generally or after a workout.  For me there is nothing better than a Chipotle Burrito...
My favorite food is pizza.  I love pizza in all its many forms.  My favorite is fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella but am learning to make my own cauliflower crusts and use my own ingredients.  It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting close to perfecting my process.  Add some homemade sauce and a nice glass of red wine and I’m a happy camper.

If you could go some place to visit and explore, where would like to go?
I’m not a big traveler, but if I could go anywhere internationally it would be Italy.  Pizza and wine 😊 

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 as you got back.
If I could tell anyone anything about my clotting episode is find a solid support system and depend on it.  If I didn’t have my husband and my mom to lean on, I’m not sure where I would be.  This is a disorder that is hard for others to understand because you cannot “see it” by looking at someone.  If you are lucky enough to survive the clots, find a way to embrace that.  There will be a number of “after effects” that follow and I’m about 18 months into my recovery and I still have a lot to learn.  I have learned that many of the issues I am facing are related to what is called PTSD.  I didn’t get in a terrible accident, I didn’t fight in combat, but I have been diagnosed with a disorder that will forever live within my subconscious and some days it haunts me more than others.  Physically, I’m clear of clots.  My lungs are healed and there was never a specific place identified that the clot came from. I’m still working through the mental side of things and I don’t think I will ever be 100% but I can tell you that I wake up every day and hope that I can help one person get through their day as a survivor.  This is a condition that I do not wish upon anyone but today as I write this, I am a changed person and although some days I don’t like that person, other days I am so very proud of the obstacles I have overcome, and I cannot wait to see who I will become.

We are all looking forward to see who you will become Michelle as you continue to navigate the challenges of the survival from your clotting incident.  Never Stop trying to overcome.  I am looking forward some day to share in a slice (or two or there... in case you did not know I can eat...) of your home made pizza pie!  I will be sure to bring the best vino I can get my hands on...

Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster

Saturday, February 03, 2018

February Athlete of the Month

Here we go into the second month of the year and the cold still around.

The struggle for me continues but I must overcome as many people is doing right now... I hear you..."Suck it cup-cake!"

For sure Blood Clots Survivors overcome challenges everyday more than you can imagine.  Their inspiration and example is with me everyday.  As we continue to progress in 2018 and we approach March which BLOOD CLOT AWARENESS MONTH I wanted to draw your attention to the following event for your consideration.  Please check out the link below and if you have it in you please plan on participating and let's see who can climb the most...I hope to get my climbing legs going against yours!

From the website I found the story I am featuring below as a personal experience story that brings with it a message of awareness that we should all take the time to read.  Thank You Cristal for sharing your story which can and will provide guidance to others trying to figure out the challenges of their own clotting incident.

My Strained Muscle was a Blood Clot: Cristal’s Story

I am a female, in my mid-twenties, and I am very active. I experienced calf pain for about two weeks, which I attributed to a strain from uphill running, and other cardiovascular and weight lifting workouts. Towards the end of two weeks, the pain in my right calf was to the point where I couldn’t ignore it, and I found myself trying to prop my leg up under my desk. The pain was worse when I was sitting down, and it felt better when I started to run. I decided to pop into a nearby physical therapist’s office. I explained my symptoms, and the doctor recommended a few stretches. In hindsight, I did not experience what I would call typical symptoms of a blood clot. My leg pain wasn’t excruciating, but more of an annoyance, and I didn’t have any redness or swelling.
One morning, after a run, I sat down at my desk and noticed my back had a dull ache near the middle and right side of my spine. I thought I needed to drink more water. The pain gradually worsened throughout the day. By the end of the day, I decided to cancel my afternoon plans, and go lie down. By 8:00 p.m. my back pain had reached noticeable discomfort. By 10:00 p.m., I realized I was altering my breathing to not have to take full, deep, breaths, which were painful. I decided it was time to go to the ER. Going to the emergency room was not my usual reaction, and even though I still didn’t except anything serious, I figured if it hurt to breathe, it was better to err on the side of caution and get it checked out.
Once the doctor in the ER examined me, it was determined that I had a strained muscle from my workouts, and the discharge process was started. I’m not a dramatic person, but I know my pain tolerance is high enough to handle a pulled muscle, and I knew that wasn’t what I was experiencing. Thank God I pushed back on the ER doctor, and asked to speak to her boss.
A second doctor came in and said if we wanted to err on the side of caution, we could do a D-dimer blood test to check for increased clotting factors in my blood. I hate needles, but I knew at least my peace of mind would be worth taking the test. Shortly after the test, the doctor came in and said they suspected a blood clot, and I was taken for an immediate CT scan. The scan showed I had not one, but two massive clots in both my right and left lungs.
They suspected the pain in my calf was a DVT that travelled up my right leg, and split into both my right and left lung. The situation changed immediately, and I was told to minimize my movements, when just 12 hours ago I was in the middle of running five miles. Now, I was being told that I couldn’t even walk down the hall to go to the bathroom. The doctors brought me up to the intensive care unity (ICU) and started me on a heparin drip. That night they discharged me with a prescription for a new oral anticoagulant, which worked very well for me.
After the fact, we did several blood tests to determine the suspected cause of the clot. I had not traveled or had a recent surgery, and I do not remain stationary for long periods of the day. I am young, active, and healthy. I did not test positive for any genetic causes, and my family does not have a history of clots. I was on estrogen-based birth control pills for 8-10 years without any prior issues, but given that my particular birth control has been linked to blood clots, I determined that this was most likely the cause. My hematologist was adamant I never get back on a birth control containing estrogen.
After my experience, I called the physical therapist who first examined me, to let him know what happened, in hopes that he can help someone else in the future. I’m so thankful I listened to my body, when I knew something was off. I’m also very thankful to have stood up for myself and questioned the ER doctors about my situation. I hope my experience can help others.
Cristal is overcoming the challenges and so can you.
Never stop trying.
I will see you out there in the CLOT BUSTER #STOPTHECLOT polka-dots spreading awareness and celebrating all blood clot survivors. 
Thank you for reading,
The Clot Buster

Friday, January 05, 2018

January Athlete of the Month

Another year begins...

Do you have any resolutions?

What are you looking to accomplish this year?

One goal?

Multiple Goals?

What are you going to do to accomplish whatever is you are looking to accomplish?

One of the goals I have for myself is to continue to CELEBRATE ALL BLOOD CLOT SURVIVORS who are doing everything that the can to overcome the challenges of their clotting incident.

I want to celebrate these folks because their dedication and taking action end up INSPIRING US ALL. 

2018 will be another interesting year... it already started challenging me with this weather for instance.. Who knows what else the next 360 days will bring along.  One thing I know is that I have the power of inspiring stories from clot survivors to keep my perspective grounded and moving forward...

One story that can get our year started down the right path comes to us from WES STUMBAUGH who wants to share his story because he knows that it can help others find a way to overcome the obstacles blood clotting incidents can cause.

Read on...

"There is so much power in sharing your story…

My name is Wes and I live in Spokane, Washington. 2017 started off just like any other year for me. Resolutions were made to get into better shape, be a better husband, and spend more time with my two boys. February came and a friend of mine challenged me to climb Mt. St. Helens in August. I figured it was an easily attainable goal. Permits became available in February and they filled up fast so we needed to get them right away. I quickly made the decision to hike this mountain and was excited.

I was introduced to cycling in 2015 through a friend of mine in Spokane. I instantly enjoyed it and was hooked. Being outside, with the wind in your face, turned out to be a great outlet for me. This year, 2017, I was planning on putting thousands more miles on the road bike and had the ambitious goal to ride in a few century rides around the area. In addition, I began commuting 20 miles round trip to work a few times a week. Throughout the day, I would walk up 30-45 floors at work. I was feeling great and was well on my way to hiking Mt. St. Helens.

The beginning of April came and I noticed some soreness in my right calf. It seemed to hurt more when I was climbing the stairs. I instantly wrote it off in my head as muscle pain, as it felt normal, so I did not think anything of it. After a few days, the pain persisted and I began to take notice. A week later I noticed an area on my calf turning red and there was some swelling. My calf and ankles would swell up a little from time to time in that leg, as I had ACL surgery in 2009, when I tore it playing rec league basketball. It didn’t really become alarming to me until the pain began to interfere with my ability to ride to work. When I was pedaling, or when I laid down to go to bed, my calf would not stop throbbing. Easter weekend came and I decided to go to Urgent Care (there may have been a little urging from my wife). The doctor on duty took a look at my calf and told me to head straight to the ER. Ultrasounds were done on my right leg and I was informed that I had a few small blood clots causing the irritation and swelling. They put me on Eliquis and advised me to follow up with my primary care doctor within the following two weeks.

I need to give kudos to my primary care doctor as he thought that this event needed to be checked out further, as this was an unprovoked clot. He referred me to a hematologist as he just wanted to be cautious and make sure this was a one-time event or if there was something else going on.  At this time, I had no knowledge of any family history related to a blood clotting disorder. The only family event I was aware of was that my grandfather had died of a heart attack at age 58. The hematologist ran quite a few different blood tests and called me with my results. I was floored with what she told me. My tests came back positive for Factor V Leiden and two R506Q mutations were identified (homozygote). She strongly advised me to stay on blood thinners and told me that if I had two gene mutations, then she was pretty certain my parents each had one copy of the gene. Because of that, she also encouraged me to have my parents and my sister tested. Throughout the next few months, my family had tests done and it turns out each one of us has Factor V Leiden. Upon further investigation regarding my grandfather, it appears the heart attack that killed him came from a blood clot to the heart. It was an eye opening experience for our whole family to say the least.

My world slowed down a bit after I found out the news. I was nervous about exercising while on blood thinners and I stopped climbing the stairs at work and didn’t want get on my bike for about a month. It was during that time that I found this blog and began reading all the inspiring stories about how each person featured in this blog shared their story and overcame blood clots. Each person you read about set a goal and accomplished it.  I found that so inspiring. I began to work up the courage to accomplish the goal that I set back in February… to climb Mt. St. Helens. The training continued. I was able to get back on the bike and I eased back into long rides. I went back to climbing flights of stairs at work and slowly regained the confidence to push forward with this goal. August 11, 2017 I was able to make it to the top of Mt. St. Helens and it felt so good. It wasn’t the tallest mountain in the world, but it turned into a bigger feeling of accomplishment than I was ever expecting. The feeling was amazing to not give up when a setback arose, and finish a goal that I set my mind to earlier in the year before this obstacle came up.

This next year, with the clotting episode behind me, I am looking forward to setting a few cycling goals for 2018. I have signed up for the Coeur d’Fondo (116 miles) next September and am planning on signing up for the popular Seattle to Portland ride (204 miles) in July when registration becomes available. I am looking forward to sporting the clot buster gear at these events as well!" 

For sure we will see you sporting the CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots during your upcoming events... I am looking forward to see pictures of you in action all over the West Coast!

So glad to have this story to get 2018 started.

THANK YOU once again to Wes for his willingness to share.

NEVER STOP as long as you take it one day at the time and overcome.  Anything is possible for those who believe!

Thanks for reading,

The Clot Buster

My 60th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 60th Triathlon Finish !!!
First Time ever My Son got to cross the finish line with me. Without a doubt a Wonderful Experience