It Is What It Is

On May 26th, I crossed the 10 K finish line six minutes faster than I did last year, thanks to the magical presence of my amazing running buddy. Ever since I started running, I have been adamant that I would never run with anyone. The pressure and stress of keeping up with someone else was the complete opposite of the tranquil, solitary experience I was looking for. I wanted to be able to listen to my own body, to stop when I needed to, to go the pace I was comfortable with. So, when my friend offered to run the 10 K with me the week before the race, I was hesitant. My friend is a much faster runner and at a level of fitness that more than surpasses my own. When she assured me that she was willing to go at my pace, I happily accepted her offer, grateful for the support and the company. My left leg had been acting up my last few training runs, with shooting pains running up my thigh. I had resigned myself to walking most of the race, but with the distraction of great conversation and the shouts of encouragement and motivation from my running buddy, I stopped only once. It was a surprise for both of us to cross the finish line at 1 hour and 8 minutes. I had forgotten to wear my watch and my friend had left her pacer at home. It was a great feeling to go into it with no expectations and realize that I was able to achieve a personal best. As it always is in life, I couldn’t have done it alone and was grateful for the love and support I had that day, including my parents, who were waiting for us at the finish line.

This personal victory was balanced out by my most recent test results, which once again revealed a very low white blood cell count. This time, it’s 1.4. The up and down of my white blood cell count has been a pretty consistent thing in the last two years and I’m at a loss at how I can be pro-active and preventative. I asked my rheumatologist what I can do to increase white blood cell production and she looked at me apologetically and said, “unfortunately, all you can do is eat well and rest.” She said my low count means that my lupus is active, that it is affecting my bone marrow’s ability to produce a normal count. The reality is that as a lupus patient, my count will always be low, but 1.4, of course, is in a bit of a danger zone. The drill is the same, with me re-testing in a few weeks and hoping that my count will go up so that I’m not prescribed another medication.  I had been working with my naturopath, hoping to come down off my current medication. Sadly, it seems that I’m not as stable as I seem to think I am.  I may not be ready for that kind of step for a while. In the meantime, I’ll try to eat as cleanly as possible and try to do better at normalizing my sleep patterns, which has been a huge challenge over the last four years. Regardless of the fact that I’m prednisone-free, those sleep deprived nights of four years ago are still in my body’s memory. I can’t seem to wean myself off of my night owl habits, regardless of how tired I am. I sometimes feel like I’m addicted to staying up late.

I have been more tired than normal this past week and a little tender around some joints, perhaps in part because of my low white blood cell count, although I can’t be entirely sure. What I can say is that I’m feeling content to go with the flow and deal with what happens as it comes. The lupus in my body is just doing what it does and it’s not my place to judge that as good or bad. It is what it is.

Where I Am

soraya nulliah opening to grace 2


Seven days from now, I will not achieve the wellness challenge I announced in my last post. Due to a schedule conflict, I switched to an earlier half-marathon event, condensing the slow and steady training I had carefully planned.  When I reached 8 miles, my body started to give me messages: Headaches, nausea, increased fatigue, night sweats, and finally, a case of thrush.  Four years ago, my first experience with thrush was due to a high dose of prednisone, a drug that’s been out of my system for a year and a half. Without steroids to blame, my decision not to run the half-marathon was immediate.

An oral yeast infection can be painful and unsightly, but compared to other lupus symptoms, it’s minor and manageable.  So, why give up so quickly?  There were other factors that were affecting my health besides running long distances, but the message was clear: “Stop. Slow down. This is not the time.”

Fortunately, I was able to cure my thrush naturally with an apple cider vinegar rinse (1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in one cup of water) and probiotics. I went easy on the running and with additional rest and nutrition, all the symptoms I was experiencing disappeared. I plan to do the 10 K next week instead, with the goal of running or walking it according to how I feel.  I still want to run/walk a half-marathon one day and although I can’t say I completed this year’s wellness challenge, I feel I’ve passed an important test. When I told my brother about my decision, he said, “if this had been 4 – 6 years ago, you would have gone ahead and done it anyway. I’m proud of you.” So, this is where I am; a long ways off of that half marathon finish line, taking a nap on the side of the track.  If that’s where I am, then it’s a good place to be.

On another note, you’ll notice I’ve been experimenting with a new look for the blog.  Let me know what you think!

Fitness Goal 2013: First Half-Marathon

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Eliot

My first week of training for my first half-marathon looms before me and I can’t help but feel anxious.  Can I really run that far? Are my joints strong enough to handle it? Am I?  The 10 K I ran last June feels like someone else’s dream.

This fitness goal is not just about running in the same race as my Dad, although that in itself is a huge, meaningful motivator.  To be honest, it’s not even about running. I’ve spent the last three years in an intense state of learning how to heal and listen to my body.  I’m down to one prescription drug, but where am I at physically?  Have I learned enough from my experiences, both in health and illness, to achieve this goal in a safe and healthy way?  Do I have the wisdom to adjust or stop my training if can’t?  I need to try.  I need to know.

In the last little while, I’ve been prepping meal plans for my 17-week training schedule.  I want to focus on mainly vegan, protein rich dishes but will be eating fish, eggs, and some chicken, as well.  I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to go entirely vegan while training, so I thought it would be safer not to make the attempt.  Here are a couple of vegan dishes I’m thinking of including.  If you have any super fuelling dishes you’d like the recommend, please send them my way!

Corn Chowder Quinoa Casserole (Let Them Eat Vegan - Dreena Burton)

Corn Chowder Quinoa Casserole (Let Them Eat Vegan )

Plantain & Pinto Bean Stew (Veganomicon)

Plantain & Pinto Bean Stew (Veganomicon)

10 K Wellness Challenge Complete!


Two weeks ago, my running bucket list got a little bit shorter. On June 17th, I ran my very first 10 km race!  The adrenaline and excitement of race day propelled me to a 1 hour and 14 minute finish. My goal was 1 hour and 30 minutes. I had forgotten my running watch in the hustle and bustle of the morning, so I was floored when I got my results.  It was more than I could have ever imagined or hoped for.

While I was over the moon about my results, the experience wasn’t about the finish time, it was about the process and challenge of getting to race day. It definitely wasn’t easy balancing the huge increase of cardio with sufficient nutritional intake.  I am a light eater naturally and that, combined with the fact that I am still learning about non-meat, protein rich foods resulted in a 12 pound weight loss.  I was fearful that I was pushing myself to the edge, since historically, rapid weight loss had been a warning sign of an oncoming flare.  I based my training on the Running Room’s “10 K to Complete” regiment and did my best to listen to my body, giving myself permission to be flexible with my training schedule.  Fatigue interrupted my training a few times, resulting in week long running breaks.  I continued to dance once a week and added dodgeball in the last month and a half.  It was a busy time in other aspects of my life as well, so I was super conscious of getting the rest I needed to make it to the starting line.  Ironically, getting to the finish line was the easy part. “Easy, ” of course, is a relative term! The time spent in the sun was arguably the most challenging part of the day.  My fatigue post-race was less about the run than it was about the sun exposure.

As I work my way towards my ultimate, half-marathon goal, I now understand that my health situation may require the help of resources like a fitness trainer, dietician, or possibly signing up for a Running Room training group. I have my eye on the half-marathon race next June, so I will be doing my research and looking into recruiting some health professionals to help me achieve my running dream: To run in the same half-marathon race as my father.

So, it’s onward to the next wellness challenge.  I’ve been spending some time brainstorming what my wellness plan will be for the next year. Here’s my list of options so far:

  • Cooking for the Wolf Challenge: Raw food for a week
  • Yoga 5-times a week for a month
  • Half-marathon in June 2013
  • Continue playing dodgeball?
  • Take a third year of dance classes?
  • Swimming lessons?
  • Martial arts?
  • Tai chi?

Let me know your thoughts and ideas, my friends!  Which wellness challenge do you think I should take on next?