Make Your Health A Priority

Over the course of my adult life, healthy eating habits, weight loss, exercise and wellness in general have not come naturally – or even easy at times – to me. I’ve had to work hard to run, to lift, to eat fruits and vegetables, hydrate my body and even take care of my health. Running is not easy for me, nor will it ever be, however, the challenge of running and physical activity is also what makes it appealing to me. In 2009, my health reached an all-time record of poorer than it had ever been, and my weight reached an all-time record of higher than it had ever been. I was miserable, I was unhealthy and I didn’t like myself very much. For me, whether or not I like myself, has always been tied to my physical appearance so when I gained weight, my opinion of myself plummeted. Nothing really significant changed in my eyes other than I stopped walking around campus after I graduated and landed a high-stress job soon after that was more conducive to hitting the drive-through than packing a healthier option.  I committed to running a half marathon after hearing I was at high-risk for diabetes. Go big or go home, right? I trained for five months, crossed the finish line and entered a world of racing that took me on one of the greatest adventures of my life. I raced, made friends that have lasted a lifetime, overcame obstacles I never thought I could (like loving myself again), reduced my health risks and even lost nearly 70 pounds in the process.

Everything abruptly stopped for me after I unexpectedly lost my mother just two years later. Mom was my biggest cheerleader – in running and in life. She inspired me and many others to get healthy and fit and to stay that way. At 61 years old, she was for the first time in her life training to run a quarter marathon, right up to the day she died, in fact. When I lost her, my grief consumed me.  I stopped running as much and started eating a few more things that I didn’t eat before. I didn’t lose all control, though, and tried to keep up with my training through coaching other runners. When I had an equally unexpected blood clot in my calf travel to my lung a year after Mom’s death, it was game over for me in terms of fitness and health. I lost all control – although unwillingly this time. I physically, emotionally and mentally could not do anything to take care of myself. Just surviving the injuries my body sustained was all I could do – and I was barely doing that.

Now, over two years into my recovery period, I am ready to begin again. While I still carry the emotional wounds of what happened to me, physically I am ready to start taking care of myself again. It won’t be easy and it won’t be fun – and I face a whole new set of challenges this time because of my health – but, I know it is time to put this body back in motion.

I don’t yet know if running will be my activity of choice. I have a lot of painful memories associated with it that I’m not able to process, yet, but I know it has to be something. Maybe walking or cycling or more hiking. I won’t be going big this time – but I will be going.

Getting into a regular health and fitness routine is difficult – whether you are just starting out or starting over. Whether you’re making your health a priority for the first time or 18th time, fitness, health and wellness require hard work, determination, change and even discomfort. More often than not, it’s hard to get healthy!

Going into 2015, it is my goal to put my health first – again. I believe anyone can do it too. Because I did it and if I did it, so can you. And, guess what? You can take small steps to get there. Small steps add up to something when it comes to your health. If there is one thing I have learned over the past several years it is if you lose your health, you have lost everything. If you have your health, then you have everything.

Here are some simple steps to make your health a priority this year:


Be heard and get screened. Make regular doctor’s appointments and go to them. A lot of health problems can not only be found, but solved early on. As questions, be the one in control of your own health. If something doesn’t seem or feel right, take the initiative to take care of you.

Listen to your body. I didn’t listen to mine and I almost wasn’t there to talk about it. One day I went for a two mile run, and the next day I was in Intensive Care without any knowledge of if I would ever come out. I had a pain in my calf that I thought was a pulled muscle, which was actually a blood clot that traveled from my leg, through my heart and lodged in my left lung, becoming life-threatening. I was having trouble breathing and I could barely walk, but I ignored what was swiftly becoming a problem.

Love your heart. This is where even small changes yield big results. Eat right (you know how – fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, less sugar and less processed foods, drink plenty of water and move more everyday.

Educate yourself and be safe. Facing a chronic and lifelong illness, I have become very conscious about my health. If you’re facing any challenged whether it be recovering from foot surgery or fighting cancer, know your risks and know what medications you are putting in your body. Again, ask questions. You are your best advocate!

Tell me about you. How are you going to make your health a priority in 2015?

Until the next mile marker,

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Thank you to the American Recall Center for providing this Infographic and the opportunity to include my own insight. Connect with ARC on Facebook today.

You Can Get a Blood Clot: Know the facts, Save a Life

Awareness Cover

March is Blood Clot Awareness Month. And before you decide you don’t need to read this post because it could never happen to you since you are (insert that amazing, wonderful thing you are here); I am here to tell you it can happen to you. The National Blood Clot Alliance (a.k.a. Stop the Clot) is getting this urgent message out to the public and policymakers to raise awareness, “So You Think You Can’t Get A Blood Clot? Think Again.” It does not matter how fit, unfit, skinny, young, old, active, healthy, unhealthy you are. You can get a blood clot.

Blood clots affect an estimated 900,00 Americans each and every year and kill up to 600,000 Americans every year. Blood clots kill more people than AIDS, Breast Cancer and motor vehicle accidents combined every year, except there is far less public awareness about them (Source). In fact, the statistics are astounding:

  • Blood clots are a leading cause of preventable hospital deaths in the United States (Source).
  • Blood clots are the leading cause of maternal deaths in the United States (Source).
  • 1 in 3 people who are diagnosed with PE will die.
  • In 25 percent of people who experience a PE, the first symptom is sudden death.
  • One person every minute will be diagnosed with DVT in the U.S. One person every six minutes will die from a PE in the U.S. (Source)
  • 10 to 30 percent of people affected by DVT/PE will die within one month of diagnosis.

I didn’t think I could get a blood clot. It never crossed my mind, especially since I decided to start running, lose weight and take control of my health in 2010. I spent nearly three years running – countless 5K’s, half marathons, a marathon and over half of the Goofy Challenge in 2012. I dropped out of the race – and not for lack of trying – at mile 22 of the full marathon (the day after I completed the half marathon) due to severe pain in my left lower leg and knee, which I attributed to ongoing knee problems. I was disappointment (mostly because I had to leave the Goofy Medal behind), but I was content I gave it everything I could in the race – because I did.

That was in January and I took an extended break before picking up coaching again in late May of the same year. Many of you already know my story, but for those of you that don’t, here’s the brief version. I went out for that two mile training run with my group on that Saturday morning and it went well, but I could tell I was out of shape due to not running. My leg and knee hurt immediately after the run and I was frustrated that my knee still had not healed, in my opinion. The pain was slightly different too, and I suspected an early case of plantar fasciitis. I went home to rest, ice and elevate and took a nap.

I woke up with a pain in my left side, which I attributed to a pulled muscle, once again, due to being out of shape. I took a hot shower, stretched and went about my day, hobbling on my leg, which was nothing new to me.

By that evening, I was feeling tired and decided to go to bed early, only, I could not lay down flat in bed. When I did, my side hurt even more. I propped myself up with some pillows and slept – restlessly – on the couch. My husband checked on me a few times and did ask if I needed to go to the hospital, but I declined saying it was from my run.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling better at first, but the situation escalated throughout the day and into that evening as well. By Sunday night, I could barely speak in full sentences because the pain in my side was so great. It felt like someone was stabbing me or jabbing a finger between my ribs. The pain in my leg had also become significantly worse. It felt like someone had the fleshy part behind me knee in a vice and kept tightening. I could barely walk and my breathing was becoming more shallow. I cancelled plans to attend a family birthday celebration, which is not like me, and out of concern, my father called my physician who called me. When I explained I would not be so worried about my “sidestich” if I could walk on my leg, he became very silent. I knew then something was wrong. He instructed me to go to the nearest Emergency Room with a trauma center and he would call ahead to let them know I was coming. He believed a I had a Pulmonary Embolism.

I was admitted to the hospital and spent the better part of the next week in the intensive care unit, unable to walk, eat or use the bathroom on my own. What I suffered from was a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or blood clot in the leg (upper calf in my case) that broke off and traveled through my bloodstream, my heart and lodged in my lung as a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). I was lucky to be alive. I left the hospital a week later on blood thinners, with oxygen and unable to walk unassisted. I had heard of blood clots before – PEs even –  and I knew they had to be serious, but I had no idea the extent of the damage done to my body or that one could ever happen to me. I did not know the symptoms or that I could have no symptoms (of a DVT). I did not know I should put the pain in my leg and the pain in my side, or as I now know, my lung together. Knowing may have saved me a lot of pain and damage to my body.

The symptoms of DVT (blood clot commonly in the calf, groin or pelvic area) can include swelling in the affected leg, ankle or  foot; pain in your leg, ankle or foot (keep in mind pain in the calf can feel like cramping or a charley horse that won’t go away after massaging, ice, elevation or rest); warmth over the affected area; and changes in skin color such as turning pale, blue red or purple. If you suspect you have a DVT, you should make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible or seek prompt medical attention.

The symptoms of a PE (blood clot that has traveled to the lung) can include unexplained sudden onset of shortness of breath; chest pain or discomfort that worsens when you take a deep breath, cough or lie down; feeling light headed, dizzy or fainting; rapid pulse; sweating; coughing up blood; and a sense of anxiety, nervousness or impending doom. If you suspect you have a PE, seek emergency medical attention immediately or call 9-1-1, as it is life threatening.

While there are several factors that put you at risk for a blood clot including a hospitalization or recent surgery, major accident or trauma, immobility due to a long plane or car ride, pregnancy, taking hormone replacements including contraceptives, heredity and obesity, there are also several things you can do to help prevent a blood clot. Your risk is greatly reduced by staying active and stretching often when sitting or traveling by plane or car for long periods; maintain an ideal body weight; know your genetic risk factors and family history for developing a clot; and if you have a major hospitalization or surgery, discussing blood clot prevention with your doctor.

Blood clots, especially those to the lung, are devastating physically, emotionally and psychologically. My entire life was turned upside down. Nearly two years later, I am still recovering from what happened to me and while I have slowly regained my physical abilities almost to what they were, the emotional and psychological impact of what happened to me is something I am still facing on a daily basis. It was discovered I have an autoimmune clotting disorder that will never allow me to come off blood thinners for the treatment and prevention of blood clots. At 30 years old, that is a very scary prospect, as well as the associated complications that come from the disorder and a lifetime of intense medications.

Yet, I am alive and was given a second chance to live my life and for me, a part of that is educating others about this silent killer. Awareness is key. Knowing matters. It could save your life or the life of someone you know one day. Spread the word.

For more about my story, blood clots and Blood Clot Awareness Month, including materials to share, please visit-

Until the next mile marker,

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