One [Frustrated] Beautiful Blogger

It’s no secret I have yet again been MIA from the blogging world. I readily enjoy keeping up with all of you and your amazing accomplishments, but the moments I get to catch up with comments are few and far between. Between battling constant pain, fatigue, my new (and demanding job) and not-to-mention daily life activities – I am pretty much expended by the end of the day.

I spent last weekend in the hospital. Again. Your blogs gave me much inspiration while I was there. Even though I haven’t been able to say it to you individually, thank you. And thank you to those of you who still drop by to say help and leave your thoughts. Your comments do not go unnoticed.

I was admitted to the hospital with intense (but not unbearable like the PE) pain in my right lung (opposite of where the initial trauma occurred). It was causing me to struggle to breathe, which for obvious reasons, was concerning to my doctors. The hospital ran test after test and ruled out problems with my heart. The lining of my lung is inflamed and filled with fluid, which is causing pain and difficulty breathing. It hurts to sit, walk, lie down, cough, yawn – breathe. Yeah, I’m back to that again just when I was starting to find some relief.

They have no idea what caused the inflammation or why it is there. It makes no sense since it is on the opposite side of the PE.

Back to the beginning we go – again.

In August alone I have 12 doctors’ appointments. Hence another reason why I have not been able to catch up in Blogland.

I find it increasingly difficult to live in a constant state of physical pain. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Sure, my knee was an ongoing problem (and a part of my wonders if this is God’s way of forcing me to take an extended rest from running), but it wasn’t constant. I could still do things, hell, I could still run. It just hurt. Now I am constantly in pain. It hurts to do normal, simple, everyday things like get dressed, take a shower or walk to my car. The pain is alwaysthere to some degree or another. Even with pain relievers, it never goes away. I can be sitting on the couch and it hurts – minimizing movement does nothing. Nighttime is the worst. I can’t lie down without gasping for air most nights. I wake up numerous times during the night gasping for air and sometimes wondering if I am still alive. I hobble around on my one decent leg to make sure I really am alive and still able to move. As the hours drag on, I start to become more limber, but the pain never recedes. Maybe I just grow accustomed to it.
Still, no one knows what is wrong. They have pieces and parts – antiphospholipid syndrome, clotting disorders, breakdown of red blood cells, etc.- and even though one might think that is bad enough in and of itself, none of those factors can occur without some overall cause. My doctor described my body as one gigantic thunderstorm. These are the effects – the wind, rain, hail, lightening – but we don’t know what’s up in the clouds that caused the storm. Awesome. My body has literally become one of my biggest fears – a raging thunderstorm.

Every day is just that – one day. I can literally do nothing more but take this a day at a time. I’m not sure my mind can handle thinking any farther into the future. I can barely tolerate the pain now. Every night I go to bed thinking tomorrow will be better. It has yet to be. I fear the day when I can run again is slipping away to where I can’t even see it on my horizon. That saddens me more every day, and I am trying desperately to hold onto the hope – the belief – that I will run again someday. It may not be tomorrow or the next day or the next, but I will.

I don’t know how people live with chronic pain. It has only been two months for me so far and it is nearly unbearable. To live with it forever? I can’t.

There are small things that help. Going to work helps. My job is so busy that it takes my mind off the pain while I am there, especially if we are busy. Talking with friends and family helps. Reconnecting with old friends and discovering it is just like we never lost touch helps. Reading blogs helps. Writing helps. Listening to music helps immensely. I am incredibly blessed to have family, friends and an employer that is beyond understanding and supportive for as long as they need to be.  
Little things make a huge difference and remind me that I am not alone. A sweet message from a running friend I truly admire: 

I’ve been running so well, placing in the top 3 overall in races and going for my Boston 2014 in Cbus and NYC and obviously that has come to a screeching halt, and I just want you to know that your blog and positive fb statuses have really helped me cope and put things in perspective. I want you to know that you are reaching people and changing attitudes and I thank you for it.It has helped me more than you know…as someone who uses running to cope with, well, life i’m scared to be without it. i just want you to know you are so inspiring, even if you might not be feeling the greatest right now.

Stephanie of Kitchen Kilometers gave me the Beautiful Blogger Award, and it completely made my day to know that someone remembered me. Thanks, Stephanie! It is always a pleasure to read your blog. Plus, you inspired me to write this post and get some things off my mind, which is invaluable to me.

Here are the rules:
  • Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo and post it in your post.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  • Tell all of us seven things about yourself.
  • Nominate seven other bloggers and comment on their page to let them know.

 Here are seven things about me:
  1. My eyes change colors depending on what I wear. They can be green, brown, blue or hazel. I was always happy I had green eyes.
  2. I have a handbag fetish. I love purses and wallets and bags. If I was a celebrity, I would have a whole closet devoted to my handbag collection! It would be awesome to have them all displayed, all the time.
  3. I am a huge Matchbox Twenty fan. Still. They have a new album coming out after ten years. Once, I made my little sister fake an asthma attack so we could sit in the front during one of their concerts. It worked. We could see the sweat on Rob Thomas’ brow. You’re welcome, Mollie.
  4. I am obsessed with weather, particularly thunderstorms. I have seven weather apps on my phone. Yes, it’s true. I will not miss one single watch, warning or update.
  5. I am obsessed with country singer Eric Church right now. If he does a duet with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, my life would be complete.  
  6. Per my husband, I am a pain in the a$$ to watch movies with. If I am not asking 1900 questions, I point out why everything does not make sense or seem realistic. The same does not apply when I read a novel. Weird.
  7. If I could eat one type of food everyday for the rest of my life, it would be Chinese. I love it. 

 Here are my Beautiful Blogger Nominees:
  1. The Beautiful Eat Run Sail
  2. The Beautiful No Standing Still
  3. The Beautiful No Limits Running
  4. The Beautiful Pain, Pride and Perseverance  
  5. The Beautiful Jenn’s Adventures
  6. The Beautiful The Bunny 500
  7. The Beautiful Isle Style Living

Enjoy ladies! You are all Beautiful Bloggers.

Until the next mile marker, 

The Long Run

Today marks the second month anniversary of the event that yet again changed my life forever. On June 3 my husband rushed me to the hospital late that Sunday night with excrutiating pain in my left leg and lung. Early Monday morning on June 4, I was admitted to the hospital with a clot deep within my left leg from which a piece broke free and lodged in my left lung, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE). Both were more serious than I could have ever imagined. I was hospitalized for a week and could barely walk on my own in the hours and days after my admission. I had IV’s, oxygen and spent what seemed like countless days in the cardiac intensive care unit. My recovery since then has been slow and at times, painful.
I am eternally grateful that I am here given one in three people die from a pulmonary embolism.
I may be alive, but I am nowhere near out of the woods yet. Given the severity of the trauma my body experienced and the complications from various blood disorders that followed, my doctors told me I could expect to be in recovery months if not years after my discharge. Not to mention what might happen if something goes wrong.
Late last week I mentioned I wanted to train for and run a local 5K in August.
Yesterday my body decided to remind me that it has a long way to go before we’re up and running again – literally.
Wednesday afternoon and evening I had pain on my right side – in my lung – that hurt primarily when I took a deep breath or tried to lay down. While it was painful, it was nowhere near as painful as the PE; yet, I initially thought I pulled a muscle running that day. This felt like a pulled muscle and wasn’t gone when I woke up yesterday morning.
I admit I panicked slightly. I don’t think I can handle the pain of another PE. I called my doctor who got me in for an emergency CT scan at his office. I was terrified I would ultimately end up at the emergency room, which is where he initially recommended I go. Thankfully there was a last minute cancellation at his office. Did I mention how much an IV hurts going in when you aren’t high on Morphine? A LOT.     
It seems like it took forever to get the results of the scan. “Good news!” the nurse exclaimed, “You don’t have a blood clot.” Thank God.
My next concern, however, was that I was imagining the pain. I’m not, though. My right lung is filled with fluid. It hurts to breath, talk a lot, lie down, yawn, cough, hiccup or move at any pace faster than that of a snail. Again. Still.
I feel like I have taken a giant step backwards. No running. Again. Still. At least not for awhile yet.
My doctors don’t know why my lung is filled with fluid so I’m on prednisone until I can get in to see yet another specialist.
I feel like I’m at Mile 4 in the marathon. I made it a little ways, I thought I could do it and maybe I still can, but it’s going to hurt. Maybe I’ll have to get on a bus at Mile 22 and start all over. Or, maybe I’ll finish the race this time.
Either way, I’m on The Long Run. And I’m at the complete mercy of my auto-immune system. No amount of training, preparedness or fitness will get me to the finish line this time. It will take every ounce of strength and willpower I have just to get to the start line.
I want to run so badlyand right now it is just not in the foreseeable future. Not until they figure out what is wrong with my blood. I can’t give up hope that I will run again, though. I won’t. A running buddy of mine said it best, “I know it’s hard to start over but keep in mind most people don’t ever start to begin with, let alone endure major medical issues and then start AGAIN. You’re an inspiration, Sara!”
I hope so. My biggest challenge will be learning to inspire myself. But, I won’t give up – not now, not ever. It’s just one step at a time to the finish line. Until then, I’ll be on The Long Run, making my way back to the beginning one step at a time.
Until the next mile marker,  

In Case You Missed It:

Pace Points: Could YOU Have a Blood Clot? Learn more about my symptoms of DVT and PE and how you can help make sure you don’t have to experience the same thing!

Reflections on Friday the 13th

Normally, I would consider myself pretty superstitious. Don’t step on cracks; don’t walk under a ladder; knock on wood; pick up a penny for good luck (only if it is heads up); put that penny in your left shoe and you will marry the man of your dreams; I will buy something else at the grocery store if (God forbid and yes, it has happened) my total is $6.66 or $66.60; bad luck comes in threes; Murphy’s Law; don’t talk about something bad or it will happen; and for the love of everything Holy or Not-So-Holy, do not even acknowledge Friday the 13th. There are three of them in 2012, in case you wondered. (I always need to know these kinds of things.)
I’ve been like that my whole life. I believe in signs, spirits, ghosts, numerology and all kinds of supernatural stuff. I also believe in God. I used to spend a lot of my life afraid of things I couldn’t explain, didn’t want to explain or that terrified once I understood. Instead, I usually freaked out, overreacted and mostly assumed the absolute worst.
Running changed that for me. When I started running, I gained I confidence that was entirely new to me. I could do whatever I set my mind to. Through running, I have become happier, healthier, and I enjoy my life so much more than I used to. I believe we can achieve the impossible. I believe I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. I control my own destiny – my own race, if you will – and after my first half marathon in August 2009, my life has never been the same. Running has brought me joy, friendships and a freedom that I never even knew existed. Bad day? Go for a run. Worried about something? Go for a run. Need to figure out a problem? Go for a run and you’ll be amazed at how clearly your mind works. 
Now, I embrace my bad luck, to some degree. For example, it just made sense that I coach the 13 minute pace group. It made even more sense to call ourselves the Lucky 13’s. Nothing like grabbing bad luck by the horns and screaming, “Bring it on! We are who we are and we’re not changing!” Um, yeah, that only kind of worked for us. (Duane still made us turn around and run like hell back to shelter when we accidently set out during a lightening storm). His exact words were, “People like us should not run in lightening storms. That’s just asking for trouble.”
(We only pretend to like each other and where the heck is Duane?!)

I’ve overcome my fear of storms. I photograph them now, as a matter of fact.
(From the safety of my very own porch)

I took on the greatest challenge of my life when I attempted to run the Goofy Challenge in Disney this year.

(Don’t mistake our smiles for happiness)

I will be prepared next time. Doesn’t even scare me now. I know what I have to do and do it I will. I’m coming for you, Goofy. 
(Um, one question, where were you when I needed you most?
Oh, Walgreens. Who knew?!)

I have even overcome my fear of physical pain. Nothing hurts more than a pulmonary embolism. Not even a marathon and that hurts. In fact, since I almost died then, what’s there really to be afraid of now? Clearly, God wants me here for a reason still. (Oh wait, apparently the one time I should have actually freaked out, I did not).

(I really have had nothing better to do than take a lot of pictures
and plus I look almost normal now)

Actually, I think Tequila is more deadly than a pulmonary embolism. We celebrated our five year anniversary last Saturday with some Italian food, star gazing and Mr. Montezuma. Never again. I do not know how people drink it! 

(Who the heck drinks Montezuma Tequila anyway?!)

Hell, I think I overcame my fear of Friday the 13th.

Notice I can’t be entirelypositive about it (I’m also a gigantic pessimist for the most part). I’m just thinking WHAT ELSE COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?! The old me wouldn’t even have asked. Now, I feel as if I can handle anything thrown at me. It even crossed my mind to celebrate (not with Mr. M. though, I assure you). 

So, there you have it. The still-very-superstitious-and-very-unlucky-but-I-can-pretty-much-handle-whatever-life-throws-my-way-now-new me. What about you? Are you superstitious? Do you avoid Friday the 13th like the plague? What scares you the most and are you able to overcome that fear?

Until the next mile marker, 

Could YOU Have a Blood Clot?

One of my running friends said it best, “It would be nice to know how to tell the difference between muscle pain and the type of pain you felt. Or maybe the really scary thing was that you couldn’t tell?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that. And yes, one of the really scary things was that I honestly had no idea the pain I was feeling in my calf and lung was anything to be that concerned about until it was almost too late. That being an acute blood clot known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and a pulmonary embolism (PE), which developed as a result of a complete autoimmune meltdown. Why you ask? Because my immune system mistakenly produces antibodies against certain normal proteins in my blood, also known as antiphospholipid syndrome. You can read more about my hospitalization and diagnoses here and here.

The truth of the matter is we are all runners, cyclists, walkers, lifters – athletes – and we have learned through racing, training and pushing our bodies to the limit that pain is not only acceptable, but sometimes just the way it is. I know, I’ve struggled with Patellofemoral Syndrome (a.k.a Runner’s Knee and yes, everything really is a syndrome nowadays) all but the first year I ran. Knee pain for me? Completely normal, something I’ve had to live with if I want to run. It hurts worse at times, feels better other times and with no apparent rhyme or reason can totally make or break my run. And, I’m not alone. Most runners I know and run with seem to struggle with some sortof ongoing pain, injury or bodily malfunction.

We see each other in the Physical Therapists’ waiting room and don’t recognize each other because we are dressed normally. “How was your run?” becomes “How’s your PT going?” or “How’s that knee holding up lately?” We live with pain. In fact, some people might even argue it’s what makes us real. I thought that at first, Yes! My first running injury. I’m a real runner now! Um, no. That got really old, really fast and yet; we still run, bike, swim and tear up the gym with pain. Push through. Get over it. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You can run 26.2 miles with pain, what’s stopping you now? You’re fine. Walk if off. Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. You know all the right things to say to yourself.

Given all of this, it only makes sense that when we have real pain that we need to be really concerned about, we shrug it off. We’re runners, right? We live sometimes everyday of our lives with an ache here or a pulled muscle there. We run long on Saturday and hobble around on Sunday and Monday (and maybe even Tuesday if you’re like me) until we’re recovered. Why are you walking like that? Someone asks us at the office. I ran 22 miles on Saturday (meanwhile we’re thinking, I bet you didn’t). And we go about our day, proudly displaying our battle scars.

Looking back, now? Yes. I should have known something was wrong. Really wrong. I blamed in on my knee.

The pain was different.

First there was the leg pain. I had been complaining about leg pain for a couple of weeks or so. I distinctly remember telling Duane, not only did my knee hurt, but my calf hurt too. I told him this pain extended down into my ankle and bottom of my foot. The thing that was different is this pain was not as a result of running. I had it even when I didn’t run. In fact, when I ran, I noticed it less.

I have always had a discolored left leg:

June 2012

You can see the brown, which now looks like freckling, but before this incident, it turned almost purplish. In fact, the other thing that makes my situation complicated is that I have had more than one doctor look at my leg for the discoloration. It had been discolored ever since college, from what I can remember. I even had a biopsy on the skin about two years ago in which a dermatologist determined it was a pigmentation issue and not cancerous or anything like that. Even my gynecologist was fascinated by the color of my skin and listened to my blood flow. No one ever heard a disruption of blood flow. Hence, no one assumed it was a clot. I didn’t have varicose veins, either, further indicating a blood clot was out of the question.

DVT Causes:

  • Slow blood blow (often due to lying or sitting still for an extended period of time – such as in the case of a long plane ride or car ride)
  • Pooling of blood in the vain often due to immobility, medical conditions, or damage to valves in a vein or pressure on the valves, such as during pregnancy
  • Injury to a blood vessel
  • Clotting problems due to aging or a disease
  • Catheters placed in a vein

Symptoms of a Deep-Vein Blood Clot (DVT):

  • Swelling in one or both legs
  • Pain or tenderness in one or both legs, which may occur only while standing or walking
  • Warmth in the skin of the affected leg
  • Red or discolored skin in the affected leg
  • Visible surface veins
  • Leg fatigue

DVT can partly or completely block blood flow, causing chronic pain and swelling. It may damage valves in blood vessels, making it difficult to get around.

Half of all DVT cases cause no symptoms.

My Symptoms:
  • Swelling in one or both legs
  • Pain or tenderness in one or both legs, which may occur only while standing or walking
  • Warmth in the skin of the affected leg
  • Red or discolored skin in the affected leg
  • Visible surface veins
  • Leg fatigue

What I Felt:

Excruciating pain that extended from the back of my knee down to my ankle whenever I put any amount of weight on it. I was nearly dragging my leg by the time my husband and I went to the hospital. I have said it previously and I will say it again because it is the only way I can describe it: It felt like someone had the soft, fleshy skin behind my knee in a vice and just kept on tightening. Runner’s Knee caused me to hobble, caused me to scoot down stairs, sidestep curbs and grimace when getting in and out of the car. Runner’s Knee never caused pain in the back of my leg. Also, the side of my calf was tender to the touch, but not overly warm, now I know that soreness was primary along the femoral vein. I did not notice any swelling, especially in my lower leg. My knee is always slightly swollen to being with. I will note, remember Goofy when I was limping at Mile 4 of the full marathon due to my severe kneepain? It wasn’t knee pain. It was this pain that caused me to slow to the point of being pulled from the course and after a three hour plane ride and countless hours on my feet after that, I’m not at all surprised in hindsight.

I just wonder how long this clot had been building. It is terrifying to think about.

Then there was the side pain. I texted Judi on Sunday when she asked how my knee was doing, “Sore but okay. The weird thing is my left side. Hurts when I breathe like I can’t catch my breath. Slept propped up. No idea what the hell happened. Started mid-day yesterday.”


Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism:

  • Shortness of breath that may occur suddenly
  • Sudden, sharp chest pain that may become worse with deep breathing or coughing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Coughing up blood or pink, foamy mucus
  • Fainting, lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Signs of shock

Pulmonary embolism may be hard to diagnose because its symptoms may occur with or are similar to other conditions, such as a heart attack, a panic attack, or even pneumonia.

Also, some people with pulmonary embolism do not have symptoms.

My Symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath that may occur suddenly
  • Sudden, sharp chest pain that may become worse with deep breathing or coughing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Coughing up blood or pink, foamy mucus
  • Fainting, lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Signs of shock

What I Felt:

I honestly thought this was a really bad side stitch. Only, it got worse over time. A pretty good indicator that it was not a side stitch was that it did not happen while I was running. It happened much later in the day once my body had a chance to relax. As time went on, the pain became nearly unbearable and not only that, it became hard to breath. I could not lie down at all – the pain was excruciating.I never really felt chest pains, but I did feel like someone was jamming their thumb into my rib cage. My breathing became shallow and I could only say two or three words at a time. The best indicator? I could not draw in a deep breath – very similar to when you are trying to catch your breath during a hard or hot run, but it doesn’t go away with rest or pain meds. One of my doctors told me, there should have been a moment in time when I realized I couldn’t breathe (when the clot entered my lung and obstructed air flow); however, I think this happened when I was taking my nap and I didn’t know the event had occurred. If I had been up, walking around or running errands, I may have noticed it as it happened and thought differently about it. Although this was serious, I am convinced my symptoms did not feel more life-threatening because thankfully my heart was not affected by the trauma to my lung.

The pain in my leg/knee/calf combined with the new pain in my side should have been an indicator that something was wrong and I needed immediate medical attention because a PE is most commonly caused by a blood clot that breaks off from a leg or pelvis vein and travels to the lung, creating a big problem.

(Now we know? I should have put the two pains together.) 

So there you have it. If you at all think you are suffering from a blood clot in your leg or lung, please do not wait to get emergency medical attention. Most people who are going to die from a PE do so within 30 to 60 minutes of the event, which is why I am so lucky (since I took well over 24 hours to go to the hospital). PE causes or contributes up to 200,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone. One in every 100 patients who develop DVT dies, due to a PE. Immediate medical intervention is essential to reduce the risk of death to less than 10 percent. I’m still here!

As runners and athletes, we all live with pain, some of it more severe than not. We will probably always have to deal with pain. Its part of what makes us who we are – we push and workout and run until sometimes we just can’t go anymore and in those moments, we do sometimes find victory whether it be setting a new PR, going a new distance or achieving a negative split. But, listen to your body. If something doesn’t seem right, doesn’t feel right or just as even the slightest tweak to it, seek medical attention. Even if it is putting a call in to your family doctor. After all, I am convinced that is what saved my life. I wouldn’t be here had my family not been persistent in checking in with me and eventually calling my physician who then called me and told me to go to the E.R.

Until the next mile marker,

In Case You Missed It….

  • What the #$%! Happened. In June 2012, I was incredibly lucky to survive a pulmonary embolism (or blood clot in my lung) that broke off from a clot that had formed deep within a vein in my lower leg. Read my story here.
  • What the #$%! Happened: The Aftermath. What caused this, what my treatment entails and what the future holds for running, my job and life.

  • “That’s Why I Pray.” God is not finished with me yet – and that’s why I’m still here! Do you believe in the power of prayer to make a difference? Do you believe there is hope when all seems hopeless? Do you believe in better days? I do now more than ever! The lyrics and meaning of this song got me through some seemingly hopeless moments in the days after my discharge from the hospital.


What the #$%! Happened: The Aftermath

Drugs. That’s what I remember most from the hospital. It seemed like every half hour, a nurse was coming into my room and injecting me with or having me swallow drugs. I could barely stay awake. I remember falling asleep with half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich hanging out of my mouth while I was visiting with my Dad. I remember he let it dangle, then I woke up and chewed on it some more. Being on pain relievers – heavy duty ones at that – is a weird sensation. I won’t say that I liked them, but the few moments without them were excruciating. I think I would rather feel spaced out, but that is unnerving in a different way. It wipes away your memory. And God knows what you might say. As evidenced by these few shining examples of incoherent text messages. 

I don’t know what I was talking about: 

Apparently I did see bugs (spiders per my husband) and was scratching to get them off of me so the doctors adjusted my dosage immediately:

Yet, I was calm as could be when I texted Judi at 5:30 a.m. to tell her I was in the hospital. She had previously wished me a happy-first-day-of work:

We laughed about that later. I was also told to sleep by the nurses because I was becoming “delusional”:

I was also slightly irrational (I believed I failed Duane as a matter of fact):
(Apparently I did)

The truth is, I had no idea how truly lucky I was to even be in the hospital:

The truth is, I would not have made it in the hospital without the love, support and encouragement of my husband, my dad, my sister, my mother’s friend Gail and a few of my favorite friends. Judi who combed and braided my hair and massaged my hands and feet; Rachel who visited daily on her lunch break and brought me a Pillow Pet (which Sadie thinks belongs to her now) for comfort, magazines and Brain Teasers (also fun on drugs); and Chrissy who brought me magazines and helped me walk those first wobbly steps once I was out of critical care. Not to mention all of the cards, Facebook messages and emails you all sent. All of you and your kindness means the world to me.
“I just knew I would get something out of you being gone, Mama!”

I was discharged from the hospital exactly one week after I was admitted with pages of instructions on medications, next steps and follow-up referrals. I couldn’t tell you how many different doctors I saw in the hospital, let alone which ones were the ones listed at the bottom of the page. The medication list was daunting – I was afraid I couldn’t do it, even with my husband’s help. The clot was (and still is) in my leg and excruciatingly painful when I moved it. I was discharged with oxygen and needed help walking. Everything was so slow. The stairs is my apartment looked like a mountain and some days they still do. Still, I was home and that meant I felt a little better, at least. We took the medication a day at a time. I had three weeks to make the follow-up appointments. Hopefully I could walk by then, right?
I still don’t think I realized how serious my condition was until one of the doctors called me the day after I got home. We’ll call him Dr. H. His card, which somehow migrated home with me from the hospital, said “Medical Oncology and Hematology,” which terrified me. Preliminary causes of my Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – or blood clot in my leg – were ruled as a result of birth control, not cancer (which everyone assured me I didn’t have) or blood diseases (which no one seemed sure if I had). I listened to his voicemail and there was certain urgency in his voice when he requested I call him immediately at his office. He sounded a bit taken aback that I was no longer in the hospital. 

Me: May I please speak to Dr. H?
Nurse: Sure, hold on please, I’ll get him right away.
Waiting for what seemed like forever.Nurse: He had to go to the hospital for an emergency, but I have him on the other line. He needs you to come in to see him first thing in the morning.
Me: What? Why? The paper says three weeks!
Nurse: He believes your clot may be getting larger, which is very concerning. He wants you to go get a scan at the hospital in the morning before you come here. He wants you to stop taking Coumadin immediately and only take your injections. He wants you to take Aspirin daily. He’ll see you tomorrow at noon and explain everything then.
Me: Okay. Should I panic?
Nurse: No, but if you have any chest pains, shortness of breath or pain like before you came to the hospital, you need to go to the E.R. right away! Dr. H. takes the Pulmonary Embolism very seriously and if he wanted you to panic, he would let you know.
Me: Okay?

Great. I didn’t sleep that night. Doctor’s orders, though, and by 11:15 the next morning, I was in his office, scan completed and practically shaking with anxiety. I was the youngest person in the waiting room – or anywhere I had been relating to my illness, for that matter – and I was certain the doctor had nothing but bad news.
I was right. He even said it, “Sara, are you okay? You don’t look okay.” I told him it all sounded horrible as he explained what was happening. “Well, you’re not wrong. It’s pretty bad, I will say. You had me more than a little freaked out. You were pretty sick – the sickest I have seen someone in a very long time – and you have a long road ahead of you. But the good news it, it’s treatable.”
Great? I have at least learned to appreciate honesty. I now know exactly where I stand.
So, where is that exactly?
I have been diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome, which caused an acute clot in my left leg (DVT) which extends from just above my left knee all the way to my ankle. There is no blood flow in my femoral vein. Hence, it is excruciatingly painful. I can’t describe it accurately other than it feels like the soft and delicate flesh behind my kneecap has been put in a vice that keeps tightening. This pain extends all the way down my leg.
Antiphospholipid syndrome is a disorder in which your immune system mistakenly produces antibodies against certain normal proteins in your blood. It can cause blood clots to form within your arteries or veins. Antiphospholipid syndrome may lead to the formation of blood clots in your legs, (DVT). Damage to other organs depends on the extent and location of the clot. For instance, a clot in your brain can cause stroke. If a clot travels to your lung, as in my case, it causes a pulmonary embolism (PE). There’s no cure for antiphospholipid syndrome, but medications can be effective in reducing your risk of blood clots. I am currently on an injection (versus oral blood thinners like Coumadin) to ensure there is no change in my blood flow to prevent the clot from breaking apart again. It is unknown how long I will be on this injection, but it will most likely not be forever. It will be until my body “calms down.”
The clot itself may always be present in my leg. Some people’s bodies dissolve the clot, others do not and it turns to scar tissue. There are no medications that can dissolve the clot. It is up to the body. Even if it dissolves, I may always have pain in my leg and I may always have to wear a compression stocking to prevent further clots (lovely). The leg will now re-route blood through smaller capillaries and veins and may eventually bore through scar tissue if that develops. The pain is still intense, but little by little, it is getting better than it was.
A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one or more arteries in your lungs. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from another part of the body — most commonly, the legs. Pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening, but immediate treatment with anti-clotting medications can greatly reduce the risk of death. I was not given a clot-buster because the risk of hemorrhaging was too great due to my age. If my heart had been thrown into arrhythmia, it would have been different and the doctors would have had no choice. I am thankful that did not happen.

Right now, I have a collapsed lung. About an eighth of my lung was killed as a result of the PE. The lung will not heal or “come back.” The rest of my healthy lung will compensate for the loss and eventually the dead part will just be cut off from the rest of the lung to save the body’s energy. This is why it still hurts to breathe and will for some time. The clot in my lung just dies with the long. Again, no measures other than blood thinners were taken to break it apart due to the risk of internal damage. Sneezing, yawning, coughing and even laughing still cause a severe stabbing sensation.
Thankfully, none of my other organs were damaged in this ordeal. And believe me, they were all inspected, scanned, poked, prodded, X-Rayed and who knows what else!
So, what does this mean?
I will live to run again. Don’t worry, I asked Dr. H. that right away! He said I can start to workout and walk (or run) as I feel like it. I’m afraid that won’t be for quite some time, seeing as that right now I am breathless after walking ten feet. Dr. H. said I should be able to do everything I used to do before, but it might take me some time to get there. Again. What’s new?
Total recovery time is six months to one year.
The hardest part for me will be not being out there to coach my group. I’m afraid I’m not handling that too well because I feel like I am letting them down.
I plan to start working early in July. I am off narcotic pain relievers (except for bedtime) and have even driven my car (not very far) a couple of times this weekend. It is painful to keep my leg bent in the driver’s seat. My new job has been nothing but understanding and supportive and they are excited to have me join them. For that, I could not be any more grateful. I know how lucky I am in that respect.
I’ll see Dr. H. every couple of weeks for awhile. I’ll have another scan in another few weeks. Tests are still out for other autoimmune indicators such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and I won’t know anything in that respect for another three months or so.

The hope is that I do not experience another PE, but if I have any symptoms like that night, I am to go to the E.R. without hesitating. I got that now. 

I may not need to say it, but always listen to your body. You never know when it might be trying to tell you something important. When you refuse to listen, it just goes haywire and forces you to take in interest. 

Just look at me, I’m living proof. 

Until the next mile marker,

In Case You Missed It….

What the #$%! Happened. In June 2012, I was incredibly lucky to survive a pulmonary embolism (or blood clot in my lung) that broke off from a clot that had formed deep within a vein in my lower leg. Read my story here.     

Pace Points: Could YOU Have a Blood Clot? Learn more about my symptoms of DVT and PE and how you can help make sure you don’t have to experience the same thing!

“That’s Why I Pray.” God is not finished with me yet – and that’s why I’m still here! Do you believe in the power of prayer to make a difference? Do you believe there is hope when all seems hopeless? Do you believe in better days? I do now more than ever! The lyrics and meaning of this song got me through some seemingly hopeless moments in the days after my discharge from the hospital.