Friday, March 31, 2017

You Are a Badass: The Book You Need to Read to Rediscover Your Inner Awesome

You Are a Badass Book Review

Do you ever find yourself in a bit of a slump? Like, you know you're a pretty incredible person, you have tons of potential, big goals, wild dreams, but you just don't know where or how to begin? It's such a big world with so much competition, how can you ever possibly achieve your goals when you can barely sort your laundry properly? The answer is simple: You Are a Badass. This is a book I recently discovered and it seriously changed my life. I've inserted affiliate links so you can purchase the book on Amazon if you like, OR if your library participates in the Hoopla program, you can download the audio book there for free! But on to the important stuff...

If you haven't yet read Jen Sincero's book, You Are a Badass, I'm going to tell you right now, your life is seriously going to change when you do. In the book, Sincero explains how she applied the Law of Attraction to her life, but in a much less touchy-feely, hocus pocus kind of way. She uses anecdotes and exercises to slowly chip away the timid exterior to reveal the badass within all of us. You have dreams and ideas, so what's stopping you from putting them in motion? Nobody but yourself! You can totally have the life you've always wanted, whether that means traveling the world as a motivational speaker, doing interior design for the ritziest hotels in Hollywood, or authoring your tenth novel from your secluded log cabin in the woods. And you can start right now, wherever you are and with whatever you have. Because you are a badass and you were meant to do those things! We have passions for a reason, and this book will help you begin your journey and see that your passion is fulfilled.

I can't explain exactly what it is about Jen Sincero's writing that I find so inspirational. Maybe because she's just irreverent enough to not take anything too seriously. Maybe it's because she's quirky and hilarious. Maybe it's because she reminds me a lot of myself... Whatever the case may be, I found her ideas to have a profound impact on the way I think about my goals. I've been thinking and talking and saying that I'm going to write a novel for YEARS now. I'be been waiting and waiting for the perfect story to magically manifest itself to my mind so that I can frantically scribble it out on paper and voila! Automatic best seller. Obviously, authoring doesn't work like that. The truth is, I've been so afraid of trying to write my book and failing that I just haven't started at all. But then I remembered something: I am a badass! After I read Jen's book I knew it was time to get over myself and, as the Nike slogan goes, Just do it! So as of last week, I finally started working on my first fiction novel. It's going to be a suspense/thriller and I intend to self publish on Amazon for Kindle. Boom! I'm a badass!

She takes on topics like conquering your fears and the importance of your inner dialogue, personal empowerment, meditation, time management, and other success skills. She does an excellent job of providing techniques and advice to help you avoid feeling completely overwhelmed overwhelmed by your goals. Possibly my favorite part of the book is the section where she talks about money. More specifically, about your attitude towards money and how that may be one of your biggest hurdles in attaining it! I enjoyed this title so much, and found it so compelling, that I'm currently in the process of reading it again. She's even coming out with another book called You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth which I totally intend to read as well. 

If you've been searching for something, some kind of sign to actually start DOING something worthwhile, this is it. If you're not sure what your next step in life is, read this book. If you really want to do something but you're afraid to try, read this book. If you have an amazing idea that would change the world but don't know how to get started, read this book. If you've failed at everything else you've ever Attempted to accomplish, read this book. If you want to know how to be successful, read this book! I promise, you won't be disappointed. It now has a place on my bookshelf, and I will be reading it several more times to keep me motivated as I work toward my goals! And the best part is, it's super cheap on Amazon. So what are you waiting for? Go, read the book, and change the world! Because, YOU ARE A BADASS!

You are a Badass, a book to help you rediscover your inner awesome

Monday, March 27, 2017

5 Things I Learned From Having a Chronic Illness

Things I learned from having a chronic illness

When I found out I had blood clots in my leg and lungs, I was super bummed. When I found out those clots were going to be permanent, I was devastated. My entire life was changed forever, and not in a good way. I spent a few months being horribly depressed and touted a generally "Woe is me!' attitude. But when I finally decided that I'd had enough of that, and picked myself up by the bootstraps, and I found that there truly is a silver lining in everything. For one thing, I was alive. That itself was something to be thankful for. And because of that, I've been able to learn new traits and skills to assist me on my journey. Without further ado, here is what I learned in a nutshell:

1. Awareness. Pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, venous thromboembolism… these are words that meant absolutely nothing to 25-year-old me. I even remember seeing a few of them when I was trying to diagnose myself with WebMD. But WebMD always makes things sound worse than they are… right…? If I had done my research, if I had been a bit more educated about these conditions when I started experiencing symptoms, perhaps I could have prodded my doctors in the right direction a little sooner. But what’s done is done, and here I am. And where I am gives me an excellent platform to help spread awareness to other people about this deadly condition that can affect literally ANYONE! In the United States alone, nearly 11 million women use a hormonal birth control pill. That’s a lot of women who may or may not be aware that seemingly harmless signals like leg pains or shortness of breath should be checked out immediately by a physician. Shortly after my release from the hospital, my friend’s coworker was rushed to the emergency department. She had also suffered a PE, but for her, the results were much more serious. Sadly, she passed a week later. Whenever I find an opportunity to do so, I tell my story. Because maybe, just MAYBE someone will remember it when they have a similar experience and can seek help.

2. How to listen to my body. This one really has two parts. First of all, I can’t help but think of all the times a doctor or specialist told me that they couldn’t find anything wrong with me (mainly because they were looking in the wrong places). I was beginning to believe them, to think that maybe I was just experiencing a standard run-of-the-mill panic attack. Or maybe I had asthma and just didn’t realize it. Or maybe it was just all in my head! But deep down I knew that was not the case. I knew SOMETHING was wrong, I just didn’t know what it was, and I was depending on doctors who really weren’t entirely interested to give me answers. As my condition worsened, I knew I had to take charge if anyone was going to find the cause and fix me. When my doctor told me he didn’t think a CT scan was necessary, I argued!

Now, as an introverted person, I hate confrontation and try to avoid it. But this was my health. This was my body screaming at me that something was wrong and this guy didn’t want to explore every avenue to find out what it was. Was I going to listen to the professional, or to my body? My body didn’t need to go to med school in order to tell me that there was a problem. And at this point, after 8 months of symptoms, it was desperate. So yes, I argued. I even DEMANDED that he order the test, probably on the verge of tears as I did so. He did concede, and that is how I finally obtained my true diagnosis. By listening to my body and advocating for it!

The second part of listening to your body has to do with recovery. Six months after my release from the hospital, my NEW pulmonologist (I fired the old one!) gave me the all clear to begin exercising again. I was so ready to get my old body back! I hadn’t been able to work out the way I wanted to in over a year. I’d gained like 30 pounds and felt so tubby and sluggish, not to mention I wanted to get back to my pole fitness classes! So I was off to the races! I immediately signed up for a pole fit class and made plans to spend an hour in the gym doing cardio. But I was in for a nasty surprise. I barely made it five minutes into cardio before my lungs were screaming “NOPE, NOPE, NOPE! No way, not happening!” Not only was my body so deconditioned that I COULDN’T do those things anymore, but even if I TRIED to do them, I was immediately punished. Wheezing, dizziness, and being laid up in bed due to exhaustion for three whole days was not what I was expecting after being told that it was safe for me to exercise. A very simple one hour workout left me entirely depleted for several days following. How was I supposed to make any progress? The answer, no matter how much I disliked it, was: baby steps. Like, really baby steps. Like teeny tiny itty bitty toddler steps. So instead of half an hour on the elliptical, I just took a walk around the block. I did that several times a week, until I went one time too many and needed 12 hours of sleep that night to recover. So, I scaled back. I only did my walks as far and as often as I knew I could do them without paying dire consequences the following day. And, over time, I felt a little bit stronger, so maybe I took an extra walk. Or, if I was feeling especially energetic, I did two laps around.

I did my share of overdoing it; sometimes I just got a little too ambitious and ignored my body’s subtle signals that I was doing too much, and I always paid for it. But weeks and months went by and I gradually increased my distance. I started going to some beginner fitness classes and did the workout modifications. I did the wimpy moves. I stopped doing reps while everyone else was still pulsing away for an extra 20 seconds. It was a little embarrassing, but I had to remind myself that I was fighting a different battle than everyone else there. I was still pushing myself! I just needed to make sure I didn’t go over the edge. And I see improvement, little by little! Today, I can walk two miles, or alternate walking and jogging for one mile. I can attend an entire fitness class without passing out. I can do 20 minutes on the elliptical in my target heart rate zone. Because I have learned to listen to the signals and not overdo it.

3. Empathy. Do you have a friend who always bails on plans at the last minute? Like, maybe you planned to visit the beach like a week ago, but the day of they send you a text that sounds something like, “Sorry, I can’t make it today, I’m not feeling well?” Yeah. I’m that friend now. Don’t get me wrong, I love a spontaneous adventure, but sometimes I just can’t do it. It has something to do with that listening to your body thing I mentioned in the last section. Some days are tougher than others and I just really can’t do it. Sometimes I feel guilty for being a flake, but I have to remember that this is my new reality now, and I need to take care of my health first. Because of this, I have a lot more understanding and empathy for other people who may suffer from chronic illnesses, no matter how controlled they may be. They’re not trying to ruin my day, they’re just taking care of themselves. And I respect and support that! For more on this, check out 15 Things People with Pulmonary Embolism Wish You Knew.

4. Adaptability. When you can’t quite do all the things you used to, adaptability is your best way to continue living a fulfilling life. Now that I have this chronic PE, I need to adapt to accommodate it. I need to listen to my body, as previously mentioned, and I need to rewire my thinking. Ok, so I can’t do this thing, but can I think of a thing that I CAN do? And then I do that instead. I’m certainly not running any marathons any time soon, but I can try a new yoga or guided meditation class. On days when I don’t have much physical energy, I can write. I’ve finally started to write my first novel! I’ve been saying I would do it for years, but I just never found the time. I’ve needed to cut some inflammatory foods from my diet, despite being totally in love with everything carbs and dairy (See: What You Need to Know About Inflammation). But this gave me an opportunity to explore new yummy alternatives. Can you say cauliflower rice? Who knew cauliflower could actually be tasty! Changing my old, stubborn ways was definitely a challenge for me. But I learned a valuable lesson from it. The more adaptable – the more flexible – you are, the more you can bend without breaking.

5. Patience. I am not a patient person by any means. Like, instant rice is not instant enough for me. I think that’s been the biggest struggle for me in all of this. Learning patience and playing the waiting game. Waiting for my lungs to heal enough to be able to recondition them. Having the patience to make my own food each night and pay closer attention to what I put in my body. Having to take time out of my day to schedule annual tests to make sure my heart is still ok and that there aren’t any signs of pulmonary hypertension. Taking a moment twice a day to take my medicine. Having to wait twice as long to see results from an exercise regimen. But you know what patience is good for? Learning to be in the moment. To not dwell on the past or worry about the future. To not always be rushing on to the next thing. Because all I really have is now. All I have is what I am able to do now. All I have is today, because tomorrow is not promised. I am lucky to be alive! And after all, they do say that patience is a virtue. And one of these days, that patience will pay off.

What I learned from having a chronic illness

Friday, March 24, 2017

8 Allergy Relief Ideas to Help You Breathe Easier

Spring is in the air and you know what that means: pollen! If you're like me, this time of year you tend to feel like you're allergic to air in general. When you have a PE, asthma, or lung disease, the effects of allergy symptoms can really be catastrophic. I'm talking sneezing, coughing, itching, and basically being a snotty mess until you seriously can't breathe and your heart rate spikes and your O2 levels drop and you basically feel like death would be a better alternative than suffer another minute of congestion. Dramatic, I know. In preparation for this season, I’ve compiled a list of home remedies that you can use to keep your allergies in check. Some of them I have used with success, and others I just recently learned about and will be trying soon! I've peppered the following paragraphs with a few affiliate links, so if you scoot on over to Amazon and try any of these lovely items, I do get a few pocket pennies for telling you about them! But I want to hear your thoughts as well, so if you find something else that you think works splendidly, please mention it in the comments!

1. Neti Pot

The concept of a Neti Pot may seem odd at first, but it’s become more and more widely accepted in modern Western medicine over recent years. It’s basically a little teapot that you fill with a saline mixture and then pour in one nostril until it runs out the other. The process is anything but glamorous, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that it greatly reduces nasal irritation and itching and flushes out a lot of that mucous-y stuff to help you breathe a little easier, even if only temporarily. Keep in mind that it’s very important to always use distilled or sterile water in your Neti Pot solution to avoid depositing bacteria into the nasal passages.

2. Vick's VapoRub

I swear by this stuff. Really. Maybe it’s because my mother, and her mother, and HER mother used it religiously when the common cold struck someone in the family. When I am at my sneezy, sniffly worst, I know that it’s time to break out the Vick’s. I always slather a nice big glob on my neck and chest like my granny used to do when I was a kid and then tie a handkerchief around my neck like a cowboy in the old west (because that's how granny did it!); maybe it's the menthol, or maybe it's just the time-honored tradition of the application that reminds me of Grams, but I always feel much better afterward! By the way, you may have heard the old wives’ tale that applying it to the bottoms of your feet will stop a cough; I tried it, and it didn’t work. Fair warning. When using the product, always be sure to follow packaging instructions, and do not use it on children under the age of 2.

If you prefer a natural option, try mixing a few drops of Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Lavender essential oils in coconut or almond oil. Alternatively, I have heard good things about this natural product as well. The choice is ultimately up to you, but there's nothing like the comfort of a good chest rub to bring some allergy relief!

3. Apple Cider Vinegar

I haven't tried this personally, but there are resources all over the web touting the benefits of apple cider vinegar for alleviation of allergy symptoms. It's recommended to mix 1 tablespoon of organic raw apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water with a bit of lemon and raw honey and drink twice a day. Be advised, this method could take a couple weeks to be effective, but many people have had excellent results! Dr. Axe (do you think that's his real name??) even says you can toss a teaspoon of it into your Neti Pot when you feel an allergy flare-up coming on.

4. Local Honey

It is believed that consuming raw local honey can help your body build an immunity to the local pollens of where you live. I was advised by a local beekeeper in my area that the best dose is 1-2 tablespoons two to three times daily. She said that for allergy relief purposes, it's best to eat the honey straight or on toast or biscuits. You can mix the honey in hot tea if you wish, just make sure the tea is not scalding. You want to preserve the bee pollen, after all! This is also a great opportunity to visit your local farmer's market and support your community.

5. Stinging Nettle

This one sounds unpleasant, but stay with me: stinging nettle is a natural antihistamine and has been used for centuries for all manner of physical ailments. It can be used in the form of tea or capsules. This is great for a lot of people wanting to go the natural route, but be aware! Stinging nettle contains high levels of vitamin K which could interfere with blood thinners like Warfarin or Plavix! As always, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any herbal supplements.

6. Eucalyptus Oil

This one is another favorite of mine. I love eucalyptus oil because not only is it able to open up your airways for easier breathing, but it also has anti-microbial properties. I like to diffuse it next to my bed at night. There are also lots of really great synergy blends out there containing eucalyptus oil. You can also add a few drops to your laundry, your home air filter, or mix it in a carrier oil and apply directly to the skin. You really can't go wrong!

7. Mint Tea

I always have a cup of hot mint tea nearby when I'm having a bad allergy day. My favorite is a blend of spearmint and peppermint and the good news is there are lots and lots of minty tea options readily available. Mint tea can ease a cough, reduce congestion, and just make you feel better. And who doesn't love a hot cup of tea! It's also very refreshing when iced on a hot day.

8. Turmeric

Surprise! I bet your weren't expecting to see this on the list. Remember last week when I mentioned the awesome anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric for your diet? Turns out, it can help relieve your allergies too! Turmeric contains circumin, which gives it its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and also happens to block histamine! I found this great recipe for Golden Turmeric Milk from holistic nutrition consultant, Mary Vance.

1 cup coconut or almond milk
3/4 - 1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp raw honey (or to taste)
Few shakes of cinnamon
Pinch of ground black pepper
Few shakes of cayenne pepper
Piece of ginger (optional)
  1. Pour one cup of desired milk into small saucepan on a medium-low flame.
  2. Whisk in turmeric til dissolved, then whisk in remaining ingredients.
  3. Continue whisking until everything is incorporated and tea is heated. DO NOT boil.
  4. Pour into a mug and enjoy.

Now you have a few more ideas in your arsenal of sneeze defense. Let me know if any of these work for you, or post your own suggestions in the comments!

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Monday, March 20, 2017

What You Need to Know About Inflammation

Inflammation can be a very problematic factor in a variety of health conditions, often making symptoms worse and prolonging the illness in question. In fact, according to this article by Dr. Josh Axe, inflammation is at the root of most diseases. More often than not, doctors will treat the symptoms of an illness, rather than attack the root of the problem.

In order to understand the importance of reducing inflammation in the body, we should first understand what it is. Inflammation can be defined as “the body's attempt at self-protection to remove harmfulstimuli and begin the healing process." There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation starts rapidly and usually goes away within a few days (think of a sore throat from a cold, appendicitis, or a bruised knee from a fall). Chronic inflammation, however, can last several months or even years. Usually this is because of failure to eliminate whatever was causing the acute inflammation, or an autoimmune response in which the body thinks healthy tissues are harmful pathogens (common examples of this are Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis).

With regard to blood clots, this can be a serious issue because inflammation is considered a risk factor for deep vein thrombosis. Inflammation on the surface of the lung (the pleura) associated with pulmonary embolism can also cause sharp pains in the chest, as well as exacerbate shortness of breath symptoms. Chronic inflammation over time can also cause destruction of tissue and may lead to fibrosis, or scarring of connective tissue. While acute inflammation is not always bad, chronic inflammation can irritate existing conditions as well as cause more serious ones and needs to be controlled.

So how do we control it? The best method of reducing inflammation are through diet. The first step is to eliminate foods from your diet which promote inflammation. These may include:

  • Corn and soybean oils
  • Pasteurized dairy
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Conventional meat
  • Sugars
  • Trans fats

A lot of these ingredients are known to be found in highly processed or prepackaged foods. My reducing or even eliminating your exposure to these, you can significantly reduce the inflammatory effects they have on the body. So what should you be eating?

Any quick web search will instantly put you in touch with hundreds of resources that provide lists of anti-inflammatory food to eat and why they’re awesome for you. I’ve listed a few fantastic (and yummy!) options below:

  • Spinach
  • Blueberries
  • Ginger
  • Green tea
  • Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Pineapple
  • Wild salmon
  • Bone broth
  • Red peppers
  • Turmeric
  • Coconut oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Garlic
  • Raw honey

And the list really goes on and on! In fact, many of these foods are commonly found in the Mediterranean diet, which is a wonderfully healthy lifestyle to follow. A Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by up to 30 percent.

Other approaches which may help reduce chronic inflammation include ensuring that you are getting enough uninterrupted, restful sleep each night and also being lightly to moderately active each week to maintain a healthy weight.

All in all, an anti-inflammatory diet is not just for people with autoimmune diseases. People who suffer from pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis can also benefit, as blood clots themselves are highly inflammatory conditions. Remember that chronic inflammation is bad news for anybody! It can eventually lead to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. So do your body a favor! Start making small dietary changes now and reap the health benefits for years to come.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Princess Manifesto

I’m totally overwhelmed by the response I have received to my first “real” blog post. I’m so happy to have helped so many people in similar situations to know that they are not alone, and also to help spread awareness about our daily struggles with people who may not understand what we are experiencing. I want to thank each and every one of you for boosting my confidence and encouraging me to continue this blogging thing!

With that in mind, I began to think about my writing and what I would like to accomplish with it. I’ve grown to learn that the process is just as important as the outcome, so I’ve been trying to zero in on my focus and what type of material I want to offer you here on the Pulmonary Princess blog. I came up with a list of goals, a manifesto, if you will. I basically brainstormed all of the things I wish I’d had access to when I was first learning how to deal with my illness!

On this web page, I want to provide:

  • Articles and content to encourage and assist survivors of pulmonary embolism on their road to recovery.
  • A platform to raise PE awareness and understanding.
  • Resources for people of various chronic illnesses to help improve their quality of life and inspire them to live well.
  • Healthy tips and activity advice for people of various fitness levels and stages of health.
  • Special focus on aerial arts training (Lyra, pole fitness, aerial silks, aerial yoga), because it is a passion of mine and an integral part of my own healing process.
  • A strong emphasis on health, wellness, and positivity!

So if any of the above interests you, I encourage you to stick around! Subscribe and follow me on Facebook, leave me comments, and let’s have a wellness journey together! I look forward to seeing where it goes and what we can learn on the way.

Monday, March 13, 2017

15 Things People With Pulmonary Embolism Wish You Knew

I belong to a group on Facebook that provides support for people who have been diagnosed with Pulmonary Embolisms and DVT. I hear so many different stories, different struggles, many of which I can relate to. But I really wanted to share the experiences that these people like me were having, so I posed an open-ended question: What do you wish more people knew about your condition? I got over 60 responses and the question sparked several conversations within the thread. I condensed these ideas the best I could, and threw in some of my own experiences. Naturally, this list doesn’t speak for every individual, but I think it’s a good starting point for beginning to understand what we’re going through and how the average person only sees the tip of the iceberg. According to my poll results, here are 15 things that people with pulmonary embolisms wish you knew:

1. This condition is serious. “Sudden death is the first symptom in about one-quarter (25%) of people who have a PE” [Source]. Up to 100,000 Americans die each year from PE/DVT. Die. As in, they aren’t with us anymore. This condition is not just serious, it is deadly. When we say we are lucky to be alive, we mean it!

2. This didn’t happen to us because we are lazy. Common misconception. We did not develop this illness from poor diet or lack of exercise. A pulmonary embolism can happen to anyone, young, old, sedentary, or athletic. In fact, young and healthy people often get misdiagnosed by their doctors, which could be a deadly mistake! PE can manifest for a variety of reasons: a long plane ride, birth control pills, genetic factors, or recent surgery being most common. It really can happen to anyone, which is why we champion our cause and try to spread awareness to our friends and family so they can avoid it!

3. Chronic fatigue and pain are symptoms and they are real. When a clot forms in the leg or lungs, it often causes swelling and inflammation, which can be very painful. Some people liken it to a stabbing sensation in their backs, others describe a heavy weight compressing their chests, making it difficult to breathe. An embolus in the lungs can prevent oxygen from reaching the bloodstream, causing lightheadedness, dizziness, and fatigue. During the time that the clot takes up residence in the lungs, these symptoms are chronic. We can go to sleep and still wake up exhausted because our tissues and organs aren’t getting the oxygen they need.

4. Just because we look ok does not mean we feel ok. With PE, most of the damage occurs inside the body. We may look the same on the outside, but our heart and lungs have experienced a trauma. The rest of our bodies have been affected as well because of low oxygen levels in the bloodstream, so our organs are literally starving for air.

5. Anxiety and depression are part of the territory. After PE, life is full of requirements and restrictions to prevent another occurrence. We are medicated with daily blood thinners either orally or by injection. Some of these medications require us to drastically change our diet to ensure they continue to be effective. Women must stop using hormonal medications and birth control, which may have been managing other conditions. The threat of another PE is always present in the back of our minds. We were lucky this time, but what about next time, if there is a next time? Add to that depression caused by not being able to participate in our favorite activities anymore as well as being criticized by friends, family, bosses, and doctors alike for not getting well “soon enough.” All of the added stress is enough to make anyone a little crazy!

6. Recovery can take years. A pulmonary embolism does not conform to anyone else’s timeline. Not yours, not your doctor’s, not your boss’s. If caught very early, some people may recover in a matter of months. But, more often than not, the recovery process can last for years or even a lifetime. I’m nearly two years out from my PE diagnosis and I still have chest pains and my blood oxygen saturation still drops quite a bit when I run. Some people still have symptoms 10 years after their diagnosis! It really is different for everyone, and often depends on the severity of the condition, how long it took to diagnose, and what systems were affected.

7. For some of us, our bodies are never the same afterward. Some people are fortunate enough to make a full recovery, and how wonderful that is! But others will experience extensive damage and scarring, and still others will be left with something in between. We may be able to eventually work up to living a normal life again, but there will still be limitations to what we can do.

8. Unless you’ve gone through it, you probably don’t understand how exhausting it is (doctors included). Because PE presents a little differently in everyone, it seems like even doctors don’t always have a firm grasp of what we’re experiencing. Some are surprised when we tell them that 8 months later, we still can’t breathe well. Many will deny time off from work after discharge once our medication levels are “therapeutic.” For every caring physician out there who strives to understand what their patient is going through, there are at least ten more who would prefer to sentence us to a textbook recovery and insist that the lingering symptoms are all in our heads. No, doc. We are not crazy!

9. We want nothing more than to go back to the way life was pre-PE! Seriously. If we knew then what we know now, we would not take anything for granted. We would go to the gym and do hours and hours of cardio on the treadmill, just because we knew we could! (Alright, that might be a stretch…) Life really was so much easier back then.

10. Our symptoms are intermittent – some days we will be fine and other days are very difficult. This is a rather interesting facet of the PE. It is very easy to identify when we are having a bad day. We can’t breathe, our chest feels like an elephant is sitting on it, our legs are sore and swelling, and we are just beyond drained. But then we’ll have an odd day that actually feels pretty good! Maybe even several odd days of feeling rested, productive, and happy to make plans and have fun! It’s such an exhilarating thing to feel normal again, like you’ve been cured. But then we push it a little too far, make too many plans, stay out too late, become too active… and boom. We’re laid up in bed for a week. It happens.

11. We aren’t just trying to get out of work. This one drives us crazy. No, we’re not just trying to get free vacation days. We’re sick. We’re trying to recover so that we can get back to something that resembles a normal life. We’re allowed to be proud of ourselves when we have good days, and we are allowed to rest when we have bad days. We are allowed to look after our health first. Please do not make us feel guilty for that.

12. Walking up stairs makes us sound like we’re dying, pretty much always. Take me up more than two flights of stairs and you’ll think we just climbed to the top of Everest. Seriously.

13. Some of us are in constant fear for our jobs because of interference from our condition. On our normal days, most of us are still able to work. But what happens when we have a string of bad days? What happens if we can’t obtain or even exhaust medical leave because of complications? What if the job we had for 20 years now requires physical labor that we just can’t do anymore? This is a complicated and frightening issue for many PE sufferers.

14. The side effects of our medication can be brutal as well. Headache, stomach pain, heartburn, vomiting, diarrhea, bruising, joint pain, swelling, fever, or severe bleeding that could result in death… I’m sure you’ve heard all the horrific side effects in pretty much every pharmaceutical commercial. Add them to a sick person and you have one very unhappy camper!

15. How much we need someone to listen to us. Have you ever told your doctor about some symptoms you were having and they didn’t believe you or told you it was nothing? We have. Have you ever tried to explain to someone that you just don’t have the energy to go out tonight like you planned and they thought you were ditching them to do something else? We have. Have you ever just wanted to cry because nobody really understood what was happening to you? We have. What we really want more than anything is for the people around us to listen. To understand what’s really going on under the surface and to support us when we feel like we really can’t make it another day. We encounter so many people who downplay what we’ve been through, who act like it’s no big deal. It is a big deal and we survived it! Celebrate that with us! And reach out when we need a hand or a listening ear. In our world, it’s the best thing you could possibly do for us!

I hope that maybe I’ve provided a little more insight into what quite literally tens of thousands of Americans (and even more people throughout the world!) experience every year. These things can sometimes be difficult to express with friends or family, but feel free to share this article with your loved ones. If you have more to add from your own experience, leave a comment!

Monday, February 8, 2016

What Is A Pulmonary Embolism?

If you know me (or have read the "About Me" section!) then you know that I'm trying to get back in shape because of an illness. Unless you're a med student, most people my age have no idea what a pulmonary embolism (PE) is or what causes it, or that it can even happen to them! So, let me break it down for you.

Pulmonary Embolism and DVT

Pulmonary embolism is most commonly associated with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Basically, a blood clot forms in the veins of the leg. The clot can break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing a blockage in the pulmonary artery. Watch this video from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to see a short animation of how a clot travels from one area of the body to another. The two conditions together are referred to as venous thromboembolism (VTE). 100,000 people die from blood clots each year, and 1 in 4 people who have a PE die without warning.


Common symptoms of PE include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and lightheadedness or dizziness. Symptoms of DVT may preceed or even occur in conjunction with these. DVT typically presents as pain, swelling, or redness in the leg. However, it is important to be aware that PE and DVT may present will all, some, or even just a few of these symptoms and may not seem serious at the time. In fact, less than 50% of people with VTE show any symptoms. In my own case, I experienced frequent lightheadedness, extreme fatigue, and shortness of breath on exertion. The doctors also noticed that my blood-oxygen saturation would drop below 88% with mild exercise. I felt no pain or swelling in my leg, despite the fact that I had a clot behind my knee which led to my embolism. 


So what causes a clot? Many things can cause the blood to clot, with some of the top offenders being:
  • Family history and genetic causes, such as inherited blood disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Prolonged immobility (such as during a hospital stay or on a long trip)
  • Surgeries
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Medications containing estrogen (like birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy)
  • Pregnancy
In my case, they did not find any genetic disorders, however I have several family members who have suffered from clotting issues. This coupled with oral contraceptives increased my risk. But remember, a blood clot can happen to ANYONE! Just because you don't identify with any of these risk factors doesn't mean that you shouldn't get checked out. I was 25 years old when I was admitted for this condition. Clots are DEADLY! 

The good news is, there are treatment options, and if caught early there is a high survival rate. YOU know your body, and YOU know what feels normal and what doesn't. I had many tests and doctors who told me that my symptoms were attributed to anything from anxiety to asthma. But I knew none of them were right. Be your own advocate! If you are not satisfied with the answers you are getting, request additional tests or seek a second opinion. And most importantly, if you are experiencing ANY one of the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, go to the Emergency Room immediately. At least there they can run the proper tests and you can know for sure. 

Please visit the following links, all of which provide a great deal of helpful information regarding blood clots and pulmonary embolism. Be well, friends!


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