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Wednesday, February 03, 2021

February Athlete of the Month

Happy Snowy February!

It is very peaceful and calming to have all of the snow goodness around.

That is what I focus on when I am trying to ignore the cold.  Can't have the snow without the cold I understand that but I can't seem to be able to make peace with the cold.  Not now not ever.  These are the hardest months for me to get motiviated.  

Luckily for me inspiration is all around.  If blood clost survivors can do it then I need to get moving and do it.  If cancer survivors can do it then there are no excuses.  

Got the start the year in the month of January with a 30/30 challenge where you had to do something active for 30 minutes for 30 days in January.  It did not matter what sort of activity it just had to be 30 minutes.  From yoga to running, riding, cross-training, even downhill tubing... whatever you did it counted.  That for sure set up my mind set to get going fo the year.  This idea came through the PICKY AmBADASSadors Program which I am very lucy to be a part of this year.  If you are looking for a natural sourrce of nutrition checkout the picky products at www.pickybars.com you will be surprised at all of the goodness you will find.

We all know that blood clots can happen to ANYONE and they can present in many different forms.

February's Athlete of the month DAN sure has an unique story that is worth sharing as we all need to be aware that blood clots can happen anywhere at any time.  It does not matter how in-shape you think you are when all conditions are right the clots will come and all us as patients must be ready to identify the signs and symptoms so that proper treatment can be received.  Dan's story is going to be worth your time... READ ON!

https://www.stoptheclot.org/patient-stories/dan-capobianco/

Truly an interesting story.  Thank you Dan for your willingness to share you story.  It just never stops from amazing me the many different ways in which blood clots can present and where they can come about.  PLEASE BE AWARE!

My CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot season of racing in polka-dots is slowly coming into focus as some races are moving forward with plans for racing later on the year.  We will see how things playout this year.  I am more than ready to go but I have to admit that getting a year off sure allowed my body to recover and I think that I am fresher... we will see about that if and when I get to take on some racing challenges.

One challenge that is coming on just around the corner maybe one that you all may want to consider - check it out...


You know that I am getting ready for this... WILL YOU JOIN US? 

COME ON LET'S RIDE!

Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

January Athlete of the Month

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
#StopTheClot

We made it...

Hope

Insipation

Overcoming

Tenacity

Determination

Survival

Connection

Understanding 

Peace

Here is wishing everyone who comes across this blog the VERY BEST on this new year. May all the GOOD HEALTH, GOOD FORTUNE, and HAPPINESS reach us all.

We are certainly beginning the year with an personal story of a blood survivor that will set the tone for this new year.  Blood Clot Survivors CAN DO ANYTHING and Aimee is a perfect example of the fighting spirit we look to celebrate on this blog.

Thank You so much to Aimee for her willingness to share your story and provide us with the opening light that will make 2021 a bright year for all of us.

I believe that we will overcome and I know that you do too.

Please read and on and get inspired...

What is you sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it? 

I like to say my activity of choice is any social movement. Funtivities, I call them. I got into swimming, biking, running, and eventually triathlons because others in my life were doing them and I wanted to join them. I never liked team sports, but I've always enjoyed group training for individual goals. My parents and my older sister were runners when I was growing up. They trained for and ran races. As a kid, I aspired to catch up to them. It happened when I was 16. We did a Jingle Bell run together and it was the first 5k where I could keep up: an achievement that came with a feeling of belonging and inclusion. And, still, whenever I do a group workout or a race with family or friends, I have that same feeling of personal achievement and belonging and inclusion.  



How did you get started in that sport? 

I swam on a swim team when I was growing up because I loved the flow in water and the rhythmic breathing seemed to help me. I struggled to run growing up because I couldn't control my breathing. Swimming seemed to program my lungs and desensitized me to the panic of being out of breath. Whenever I was swimfit, I could run. In college, I lifeguarded at a lap pool in a fitness center. So many runners and cyclists were coming to the pool regularly to pick up swimming for triathlons. I'd give them tips to make their stroke more efficient and give them sets to build their endurance. I'd swim with them to show them examples of drills and flip turns, and began training with some of them or picking up running/biking tips from them. I started doing swim-run workouts with some regulars at our pool and was introduced to the weekly swim-run aquathon race series that was held in town. It was a $5 entry fee and no advance sign-up needed. It was beginner-friendly. I started doing those aquathons in the summers. Each week, getting better and better. I loved the swim-run events, but I wanted to do a triathlon. I was intimidated by the bike: flats, traffic, gears, money, etc. But, a patron lent me her hybrid and I started riding on a bike path with no traffic. Someone taught me how to change a flat there right beside the pool. Incrementally, I became a triathlete, built by our swimming community at the pool I worked at. My first triathlons were the Tucson Triathlon series. They put on 3 a year on the University of Arizona campus, where I attended. It was beginner-friendly and that allowed me to enter the sport.  


What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve?(Long bike ride, some race coming up or that you did) 

The latest milestone I achieved was completing my doctorate. This isn't fitness, but it was the longest and most painful endurance activity I ever did and all the lessons I learned from training -- setting goals, incrementally preparing, diversifying activities with hard days and recovery days, pushing through the hurt, finding a "training" group for social accountability and encouragement -- is how I was able to complete it. Fitness wise, I switched gears to prioritize my academic needs – using crossfit to maximize outputs with my limited time.

 

Tells about your clotting episode.  Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission? 

I had an extensive blood clot from my abdomen to my left knee and bilateral pulmonary emboli. We believe the catalyst for this extensive clot was a 110-mile bike race I completed 3 weeks prior to being hospitalized. I was experiencing symptoms through those three weeks, but didn’t know blood clots were a risk for me. I have a genetic clotting disorder (prothrombin gene mutation) that I was not aware of, a condition called May-Thurner Syndrome, which causes a vein in the abdomen to compress/close, that I was also not aware of, and I was taking a hormone birth control medication. All those risk factors combined (multiplied) to cause the extensive clotting over the three weeks.

 

I was hospitalized for 6 days and I couldn't walk for a couple days. My leg had doubled in size and turned purple. I had surgery to remove the clots and was prescribed warfarin. My medical team recommended at least a year of warfarin, with a 6-month check in.

 

Losing my ability to walk terrified me and gave me a greater hunger for movement, but I was hesitant to get back on the bike. About a week after being released from the hospital, I started "slogging" (slow jogging). I still had pulmonary emboli in both lobes of my lungs and I had a vena cava filter straining the blood going into my heart. My thought was that it would be safest if I got all remaining clots in veins caught in the filter before it would be removed the following month. I'd slog for barely 2 mins and walk for 2 mins. It felt like running at 7,000 feet and breathing through a big straw, but every run was easier than the next. A little less than a month from when I was admitted to the hospital, I jogged, slowly and carefully, a 5k with my family for New Year’s Day. It was a celebration of being alive and able. My mantra that year became: "I am alive. I am able." And, I kept going.

 

I was scared to get back on the bike while on warfarin. When I first started warfarin, I had a difficult time keeping my INR from getting too high and would be at risk of not clotting if I crashed. I was a bit devastated to lose riding since it was my weakest discipline and I had just gotten into riding with a cycling team, the Keller Williams Cycling Team of Southern Arizona. Once I mastered warfarin and stabilized my INR, I started riding again very carefully. The leader of this team also led a team for RAGBRAI (Register Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) every year. Throughout the year, he organized various RAGBRAI training and "taster" events (taster meaning to give us a taste of RAGBRAI so we'd commit to join the RAGBRAI team). One such taster event was an overnight back-to-back ride from Tucson to Tombstone, Arizona, and back. It was 70 miles through the desert with about 3,000 feet of climbing, an overnight stay in Tombstone as a team, and returning over the 70-mile ride back the next day. Read: A grand Funtivity!! I was still on Warfarin. It was just before my 6-month check in with my medical team to check on my progress. The desert heat, climbing, and Warfarin made for a TOUGH ride, but I did it. The most concerning part for me was the lack of a shoulder and being passed by RVs. I was worried about having an accident on warfarin. At my 6-month check in, I told my medical team about this ride and we discussed the risk of clotting without warfarin and the risk of severe bleeding/injury on warfarin. My team and I agreed that my risk was lower without warfarin, as long as I stayed active and controlled the other clotting risk factors. 

 



What is your favorite piece of gear for your favorite activity?

I have a Viva Bike Vegas jersey that is one of my favorites because it marks a feat of recovery for me. It was a 118-mile bike ride that I did within a year of my DVT/PEs. It was another hot desert ride with lots of climbing. I got my DVT/PEs right after my first 100-mile bike ride (El Tour de Tucson). I remember hanging up that El Tour medal, thinking 'I'm glad I did this because it may be my last century ride." My cycling team started talking about traveling to Vegas to do Viva Bike Vegas. I was committed to not letting my fears be the reason I was limited. I completed the 118-mile ride, riding much slower than I had in the past (about 10 hours, taking more breaks than I had in my first century race before the clot. Finishing Viva Bike Vegas less than a year from having this extensive clot sealed my recovery. I was recovered.


How much are you getting out doing your sport?  

I have been sidelined due to COVID-19 and the rainy season. I live in Oregon now and usually do crossfit through the rainy, dark winter season. I’m a fair-weather athlete and I have an IT band injury that has significantly reduced my running distances. My goal for December is 31 miles for the 31 days. This is my new pace in life and I’m ok with it. With COVID-19 and my clotting disorder, I’m not risk indoor crossfit classes and I’m not provoking injuries that can cause clotting.

  

What is your favorite food?  

Denver omelet, with bacon instead of ham, and avocado, post-workout… and pretty much any time. Next to that, Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups.

 

If you could go some place to visit and explore, where would like to go? 

I've been wanting to do a cycling tour in Ireland or biking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I've also thought of a destination ironman in Australia. 

 

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.

It’s important to note that my recovery situation was different than most. I had a surgery to remove the bulk of the clots from my veins. Most people don’t have this and if they’re getting active, it’s with a clot and the concern that the clot will travel.

 

To those who has a situation similar to mine: It's scary to put pressure on your cardiovascular system, but physical activity is a protective factor. As long as your medical doctor agrees, go slow and easy and start small, but do go…move…be able within your body’s limits. Learn to listen to your body. I had to train myself to listen to my pains rather than ignore them or push through them. Pushing through my pain, ignoring it, embracing the pain as progress – all that contributed to the severity of my condition. The pain is there for a reason and it's our early warning system for injury, and injury is precursor for clotting. The clotting cascade doesn’t start unless there’s an injury or invader that triggers it. Ultimately, it's important to remember what the point of fitness is: health and life. The stats, wins, and status aren't what keeps you alive and thriving and able to enjoy family, friends, and the health you've invested in. 


So glad that Aimee was willing to share our story with us.  Truly remarkable that she has been able to overcome the challenges that blood clots caused and continue in her journey while being healty.  Truly wonderful that you were able to achieve the monummental goal of your doctorate.  So impressive for sure.  No question that we will be hearing about your destination cycling adventures or perhaps your victory in conquering the Ironman in Austrlia.  


I sure want to get on my bike right now and get some miles in to keep up... 


Thank you for reading,


The Clot Buster

Saturday, December 05, 2020

December Athlete of the Month

Time to Celebrate!

2020 is coming to and end.


May this Holiday Season be filled with all the joy and serenity you need to get ready to keep on keeping on!

Hard to imagine what we all have been through this year and what we have left to go.  

The turn of the new year is not going to solve all of our on-going problems but there seems to be a glimmer of hope in the horizon that we slowly will return to some sort of normalcy.  What will this new normal look like? I don't have any clue but I can tell you this... We will for sure continue to spread awareness about blood clots and blood clotting disorders along with continuing to CELEBRATE ALL BLOOD CLOT SURVIVORS.

That is about the only normal that I can hold on to for the moment.  My CLOT BLUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots may not be actively racing but for sure they are actively out doing what they can to make new connections and bringing folks into this community to perhaps find some support while they are navigating the challenges of their very own blood clotting incident.

The goal of this space is to celebrate all levels of ability because we all walk together through our experiences of overcoming the unknowns of survival.

December's Athlete of the month sure has an interesting to share and I am so very thankful to Michele for her willingness to share this wonderful write-up that I am certain you will find engaging as well.  Please read on and be inspired to overcome!


I have always loved hiking and taking long scenic power walks or jogs. Luckily, I live in Sonoma County, California where, between the redwoods, the coast and the vineyards, there is no shortage of natural beauty to enjoy. I find that it clears the mind, and is the best remedy for the typical anxiety or depression that most people experience from time to time. It’s also an activity I have always been able to enjoy with my young son, Hunter. Unfortunately, due to an injury obtained 6 years ago from parkour gone wrong (a story for a different time), I started to slowly develop arthritis in my left ankle. When I couldn’t even walk without pain at only 30 years old, I realized that I needed to take some drastic measures. It seemed so silly that a random accident like that could have such a negative impact on my quality of life. So, in January of 2020, I had had an elective ankle surgery to fuse the ankle that was, at that point, riddled with arthritis.

At the time of my surgery, I was on hormonal birth control pills. I also had a family history of blood clots, although I did not know it at the time. Due to my age and the fact that I was relatively healthy, no anticoagulation therapy was ever discussed with me. The surgery went well, and I was placed in a splint for two weeks to allow for swelling. During those two weeks, I had little to no mobility, as the pain was very intense and I was told to ice and elevate. Shortly after I had the plaster cast placed on my leg, I noticed a change in how my calf felt. I experienced new onset throbbing and swelling, as well some discoloration of my toes. I called the advice nurse who told me to come in to have the cast removed and reapplied. When I went in, my podiatrist informed me that the swelling and pain was common, and that it would dissipate soon enough.


A couple days later, I woke up to a dull ache behind my right shoulder blade. I assumed I had slept in an awkward position (if you’ve ever had a leg cast- you know what I’m talking about), so I did some stretching and foam rolling throughout the day to try and relieve the pain. As the day went on, I started noticing that the pain got worse with inhalation. By about 9:30 PM, the pain was so excruciating that I couldn’t breathe without crying out in pain. Luckily, I was recovering from surgery at my parent’s house. My mom, who works in cardiology, told me that it sounded like symptoms of a blood clot. She told me we should go to the ED to get it checked out. I reluctantly agreed, and I’m glad that I did!

On my way to the hospital I called my paternal grandmother to ask her if she had ever had a blood clot, as I had briefly remembered hearing about it a few years prior. She confirmed that yes, she had, and that my aunt had as well. When I arrived at the emergency department I had the information I needed to share with the nurses and treating physician. I told them about the surgery, the swelling, the birth control, the family history and the shortness of breath that I had just started experiencing.

One EKG, chest x-ray and chest CT later, I was greeted by a physician that bluntly told me, “You’re not going to die, but you do have several blood clots in your right lung.” I had developed a blood clot in my leg called deep vein thrombosis, which had broken off and traveled to my lungs causing a pulmonary embolism. I was prescribed Eliquis and admitted to the hospital. I was confused, however, when the pain and shortness of breath continued to worsen after starting the prescribed medication. The doctor told me that it was likely from scar tissue caused by the lack of blood flow to some portions of my lungs, and that it would soon go away. I had no idea that it would get worse before it got better, or that it would take months until I got any kind of relief.

When I got home from the hospital, I didn’t know what to do. I felt so lost, alone and still in an excruciating amount of pain. I didn’t feel like the trauma I was going through was understood by my family. I didn’t know that post-clot PTSD existed yet, but I knew I couldn’t continue to live in constant fear. This led me to join a pulmonary embolism support group on Facebook. It was through this group that I finally got the relief I needed. I became informed on my condition, received great advice and met some amazing people that helped me get through the hardest time in my life. They explained things to me in ways that no clinician was able to do for me.


Even with all the virtual support I received, the road to recovery was a long one. I saw a hematologist who diagnosed me with two different genetic clotting mutations- Factor 5 Leiden Heterozygous and Factor 2 Heterozygous. He told me that I would need to stay on Eliquis for at least 6 months, possibly even longer. After an echocardiogram, my cardiologist informed me that, thankfully, there was no long-term damage done to my heart. My pulmonologist said that there was some scarring in my lung tissue, but that the clots had dissolved. Through all of this, my chest pain persisted and remained somewhat of a mystery. Post clot PTSD was, by far, the biggest struggle of all. Since I still wasn’t able to walk, I wasn’t getting the exercise that I previously relied on for emotional regularity. Over the next few months, I was seen in the ED two more times, had two more EKGs, chest x-rays and chest CTs. The words “chest pain” with a history of VTE are not taken lightly.

It wasn’t until I was slowly able to start walking again that I got the relief I needed. I started out slowly, walking up and down the hall once or twice with my walking boot. Unfortunately, I realized quickly that it wasn’t just my ankle that needed rehabilitation, but my lungs as well. Walking to the corner and back left me feeling like I had just run a marathon! It was, however, an amazing feeling to be walking again. I felt independent for the first time in 10 weeks. This feeling of freedom lit a fire underneath me. I was determined to get back to my long walks- possibly even hikes! I started walking 1-2 times a day on the creek path behind my house, sometimes only making it a few hundred feet before my shortness of breath got the best of me and I had to turn around. Within a few weeks, though, I was able to walk a mile. Now 10 months later, I’m walking 3-5 miles every few days, and I’m back on some of my favorite hiking trails. I recently completed a walk/jog 5k with the National Blood Clot Alliance’s Team Stop Clot while sporting my favorite New Balance Fresh Foam Sport shoes and Clot Buster’s Running Polka-dot shirt on the very creek path that my recovery started on. My shortness of breath is mostly gone, and I suspect that with more endurance training I can be back to “normal” by the new year.

I am still a part of the Pulmonary Embolism Support Group on Facebook, where I see so many new survivors with the same fears that I had only a few months ago. They want to know if they will ever recover. They want to know whether or not the constant anxiety and fear will ever go away. The truth is, recovery looks different for everyone. It seems to me, though, that determination and belief in yourself is key to making steps in the right direction. I was able to turn my anxiety into motivation and began my patient advocacy journey by raising awareness about blood clots. I have started working alongside the National Blood Clot Alliance helping with fundraising for their many programs and resources. I feel like I have found my community, and it’s one where everyone is welcome, appreciated and celebrated.


This experience has lead me down a previously unimaginable path of self-love (our bodies are capable of just about anything!), strengthened my relationships with my family and friends, and taught me never to take a single breath for granted. I have new goals of traveling (when safe, of course) to Europe, visiting family more often and, of course, sharing my story with anyone who will listen so that I can take this experience and use it for good. If I could save even one life by telling people about the risks, signs and symptoms of blood clots, it will all have been worth it.

A word of advice to my fellow PE warriors: Take that vacation, eat that pizza, do what makes you happy! Most importantly, though, give the support and be an example for others that are unsure about whether or not they will be able to make it to the next day. 

Yes indeed Michele let's eat that pizza after that killer hike! For sure you will have to be my guide for those favorite trails of yours.  We will have to tackle those trails in our CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots!

Celebrate this holiday season that some sort of normal is coming soon.

Thank you for reading.

The Clot Buster


My 100th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 100th Triathlon Finish !!!
#100 TRIATHLONS