Five years ago this week, I was in an ambulance heading to the hospital. For almost a week, the doctors really couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. It was terrifying, but that was also, finally, the light at the end of the tunnel. For almost six months, I had been slipping slowly into…something.
It was so slow and inexorable, it was almost invisible. Until the end. Near the end, I’d lost almost forty pounds, grew tired climbing the stairs, and freaked out about an electric tea pot. That was not invisible. God bless, Michelle and the girls for putting up with me. There are now a whole block of photos that we refer to as the sick times.
At the end of the summer, I passed the three year anniversary of my crazy week in the hospital and subsequent Addison’s diagnosis. It came and went and I didn’t really notice until a week later. If you met me today you’d likely be surprised to learn of my condition. With some management and daily medication, things have returned pretty much to pre-diagnosis normal. Mentally, however, I find it can still get a bit rocky at times. Turns out being suddenly diagnosed with a chronic disease can mess with your mental state a bit.
In just about a month, it will be three years since one very scary week in the hospital and my subsequent diagnosis (and relatively happy ending) with Addison’s disease. I’ve learned a whole lot about the disease, biology and how best to handle my own personal situation, but the biggest learning has been about how to continue to exercise safely.
I’m an active person. One of those strange breeds of human that truly enjoys sweating, exercising and pushing the limits of my heart rate monitor. It’s one of the things that makes me happiest. I believe it makes me a better person to be around. It’s also one of the things that was most threatened with the diagnosis.
Three years on, I’ve learned a few best practices about how to exercise with Addison’s in a way that doesn’t put myself at further risk. In fact, exercising and continuing to workout is something that can help with many of the symptoms of the disease (bone density, chronic fatigue, irritability), as long as you do it safely.
With Addison’s even if you follow your treatment plan and take your medication, you will likely have higher levels of fatigue. The body is very good at regulating your hormones and while the medications can replace the cortisol and corticosteroids that your body needs, sometimes that regulation can get thrown off through no fault of your own.
You can feel tired or lethargic. This happens to me most days in the mid-afternoon. Not a surprise as the afternoon affects most people this way, it’s the normal time the body’s circadian rhythm kicks in. It also makes it the perfect time for a quick nap.
After all the partying this past weekend, Cecilia came down with a cold that kept her out of school the past two days. She was back at it today, but I started feeling crappy yesterday afternoon.
Michelle and I have very different reactions to feeling a cold coming on. She will try to bull her way through it. I basically go the opposite way. At the mere tickling of symptoms, an errant sneeze, I throw all the switches and do my best to head off any cold before it can get started.
Triathlon training is about balance. You need to prepare and train for 3 very different disciplines and there are only so many hours in the day. But it gets worse because to really succeed and give your best effort and avoid injuries there is a fourth discipline you need to consider: strength training.
Strength training is where I struggle most whether it’s in a training block for a triathlon or a marathon or something else. It just seems like it’s the first thing to fall off the plan when things get squeezed. This is doubly true during the season. I’ve found some success using HIIT sessions that combine cardio and weights during the off-season, but I still struggle to maintain a regular strength session within a training block.
It’s been three weeks since the addition of the new meds and I still sometimes catch myself smiling for no reason during my runs. The difference is just so drastic that I’m almost giddy. I’ve gone from cautiously pessimistic of even finishing without walking to cautiously optimistic of having a really good run.