Photo from the 2014 Ice Age Trail 50 Miler by Ali Engin. Permission to use header photo must be obtained through Ali Elgin.

"It's better to feel pain than nothing at all. The opposite of love's indifference." - The Lumineers

Monday, 4 February 2013

A little less mindfulness, please

Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver "The Summer Day"

A remarkable thing about women who run is that they are very good at noticing when something in their body is off. I used to be amazed by this in the Urgent Care. So many people go around for YEARS not noticing their health problems, whereas women who run tended to come in with the smallest, must subtle complaints.

Noticing what is going on at the time - and being aware of it - acknowledging it. That is mindfulness. And I'm tired of it. I have become way too mindful. And it is time for me to let go of these buddhist tendencies (no matter how much street cred they give me).

Getting really sick last week only highlighted for me how much I dwell and stress and stare in the mirror looking for things that are ever so slightly off.

I had my thyroid tested and it was normal. Hemoglobin - normal. White blood cell count - normal. Gluten intolerant - well, I hadn' eaten gluten and my antibody level was borderline - so maybe.

Spending an adulthood getting tests taken that are normal is no way to live.

Especially when some (5%, inevitably) come back abnormal : my calcium, AST and albumin were slightly high (likely because I was dehydrated) and now I need to go back to get them retested. And I worry - IS there something wrong. Humans have not evolved to deal with the stress of lab tests that come back abnormally when nothing is wrong.

And I can't figure out why my left eye has been swollen for 2 years. I have had entire departments of ophthalmology looking at is and no one can figure it out. Maybe it is just time to let it go. Or stop sleeping with that turniquet of a night mask ... ???

(please don't make me meditate for 5 minutes in a yoga class and listen to my body - be mindful, be "present" - I WILL find something else wrong with me)

Today - I literally exercised my decrease in mindfulness. Run intervals. It is SUPPOSED to hurt. Ignore it.

1.5 km x 3 in 5:45, 5:43 and 5:38!

Here are some pictures from Christian's (The Lorax's) race yesterday:




Every time we saw SR, he took a drink. It didn't take long before he got a cramp. It is good to learn these things while you're young!

Which way?



3.3 km in 32:32 (4 ½ minute improvement from last race in November!)
Answer to my shampoo question:

I shampoo every 4 days. Anything more and you strip the natural beauty from your hair and waste money and shampoo. Anything less and I'd probably start to smell, but I'm trying to increase to every 5 days.

Today's question:

Which Danish rock band has a new album out and a lead singer who Mattias was named after??

Hint:

:-) ah, yes

18 comments:

Marathon Mom said...

I was just having this same conversation about women runners and knowing when something minor isn't right but the general population and go to the other extreme. Sometimes it is tough being a runner who senses a small change.

I understand your frustration on the labs we have been dealing with this for almost a year with O, her AST is consistently elevated over 100 and her TSH mildly elevated and no one has answers :(

Karen said...

I think it can also be a good thing we're mindful of our bodies. We can have injuries and illnesses diagnosed far before others that ignore them.

In my particular case, it saved my life. Back in college I had major aching in my left arm that lasted about a month. I planned to go to the doctor during Christmas break to get it looked at. Three days before my appointment, I fell down some stairs and broke the sore arm. Cancer. It hadn't metastasized when it was found.

The doctor said it would have probably broken 6 mo later just turning a doorknob and would have probably spread. A friend going through treatment was inactive and ignored a sore leg for a year. She had tumors everywhere and the cancer eventually got her.

Sometimes I wonder if I go to the doctor too early, but after they see my chart and history, nobody ever calls me a hypochondriac.

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

Hm, mindfulness does increase awareness, but also decreases reactivity to symptoms/signs that the rational mind can deem unimportant or safe. Mindfulness in running allows one to accept the hurt without pushing it away; if one does that for a long time, then the mind simply habituates to the hurt. This is why some runners can push their bodies to their limits (not always healthy in my opinion), they don't "fight" the hurt, they welcome it and have learned to slow down their minds and not overreact to it.

SteveQ said...

Athletes are more in tune with the way their bodies work, but they also tend to whine about aches that wouldn't even be noticed if they weren't trying to perform at 100%. Everyone has tests that are continuously borderline worrisome; my ocular pressure is high enough in one eye that each time it's measured, the doc says we have to be concerned... but it never goes up; it stays right at that point where IF it went up, I'd have to do something. Every blood test I have also shows an elevated white cell count; I have to ask "leukemia high" or just "allergy high?"

sea legs girl said...

Jen- why was Ophelia's AST measured? I hope she is doing okay! A lot of times AST elevations are caused by medications. Does she take any? Was she on antibiotics? I know you've probably been through all this already.

sea legs girl said...

Karen- well, I am really glad it was found before it had metastasized!! Certainly a broken arm does not sound too subtle, but I see your point that it started out with subtle pain, but you knew it wasn't right. And your story is unusual in that you had pain in a strange place for absolutely no reason. Definitely a red flag for any doctor. And if I had seen you, I would have never thought you were being a hypochondriac. Was it an osteosarcoma? (what a scary thing to have to go trough)

sea legs girl said...

Ana-Maria, good point. There are many different types of pain involved in training and running. Which ones are good? Which ones should be ignored? Which ones should we pay attention to? There could be an entire book devoted to that subject.

sea legs girl said...

Steve, what is the thickness of your cornea in that eye?

Brianne said...

If it makes you feel any better, (not really), my A/G ratio just came back slightly high and my alkaline phosphatase came back slightly low (from everything I read, people usually have high levels, and these are the ones to be concerned with.) I can't seem to find any info on what these things would mean, definitively. What is actually bothering me is that I am going pee a thousand times a day and don't believe I am actually consuming that much water. Maybe it's my levothyroxine? Some people report increased urination as one of the side effects, though it's not listed officially. I'm trying to let go of all of this OCD of mine, but it is hard when you know people who had small complaints that ended up being something real. ie. cousin with sore leg that died of bone cancer, bloated friend who is now battling ovarian cancer for the 3rd time. You know?

SteveQ said...

Only an ophthamologist would ask that... and I have no idea!

The Lorax really overstrides in those photos. The heel-striking though looks inherited.

Katie said...

I don't know if I'm mindful...I do notice the little twinges, but generally take a wait and watch approach, and often whatever was squawking goes away with no intervention.

I did notice a lot of pain and discomfort when I had my emergency C-section with Kaylee. Everyone was so surprised when I got up and walked a few hours later to go the bathroom by myself. They all exclaimed that I was "doing so well!" And all I could think was that these people were nuts. I felt like someone had just sliced me open and ripped out some of my insides. Oh wait, that is what happened...And then later talking to other people they would say that their c-section wasn't bad and that they recovered fast. Again, I knew that I recovered fast (the doctors told me so), and I was in great shape from running. Yet, I felt absolutely awful. My conclusion was that most people don't know that actually feel like crap most of the time...

(For the record, my c-section was completely necessary and everyone involved made excellent medical decisions, but it was still difficult.)

Fast Bastard said...

This is something I struggle with every day. Several times a day, a patient has a minor complaint or just a general fear that their cancer has returned or progressed.

It's such a fine line between telling someone it's nothing to worry about or order a scan or other test.

The easy thing for the doctor is to order a test, like a scan, "just to be sure". The majority of the time, you end up findng no obvious cancer, but maybe a spot on the lungs, or in the thyroid or the prostate, or osteoporosis or some other chance findng that was better left alone. These things lead to more tests and maybe biopsies. The patient learns the sick role and goes through all the tests.

And then 3 months later there is another little ache and the doctor gets a scan "just to be sure". There is even a name for it: Ulysses syndrome. Patient have died from it, and millions have been hurt by it.

A good doctor is able to take the time and have the clinical confidence to tell a patient when a symptom can be given some time.

(If a young lady breaks her arm from minimal trauma a scan is probably a good idea. Karen, I'm glad to know you did well. Breaking your arm was probably a very good thing at that point).

Jen, there is no such thing as low alkaline phosphatase. It's a good thing, if anything. It's like seeing better than 20/20. There is an urban legend about an overworked intern being woken up by a nurse in the middle of the night about a low alk phos on a lab result. He told her to hang a bag of IV alk phos stat and hung up. She didn't know he was joking and went frantically looking for IV alk phos. The intern was fired.

sea legs girl said...

Brianne - I'd never heard of the A/G ratio! Albumin/Globulin, huh? Any idea why that was tested? If it's only slightly high, I wouldn't give it a second thought after what I've read about it. Kind of boggles my mind why someone would check that in you. I just don't know what sort of helpful information they were hoping for. Sorry - I mean, I know I don't know the whole story. I second what SR said about the alkalline phosphatase.

In regards to peeing a lot - coffee? lots of vegetables and fruits (they are mostly water of course)? Certainly excess urination does not make me think cancer or anything worrisome for that matter. I'm guessing your blood sugar is normal, too??

sea legs girl said...

Steve, the thicker the cornea, the higher the eye pressure measures. I'm telling you - our answer may lie in that measurement!

The poor heal striker. Oh well, just read barefoot children runners also heal strike when running slowly. So maybe it's not such a bad thing after all.

Brianne said...

Thanks for the info re: the alkaline phosphatase. Because I was due for a cholesterol check, my doc just ordered a myriad of other tests to be done. He (a PA) has obviously not heard of that joke because he seemed worried the low value was indicative of liver or bone damage, which, obviously it is not. Yes, my blood sugar is perfect, so the increased urination is not because of diabetes. I only drink one small cup of coffee per day and have been doing so for years. I have been eating more 'paleo' for the past year, ie. less grains and more protein, fruits, and vegetables, so maybe that has something to do with it. Anyway, I'm happy that my blood work sounds like it is just what it should be and am going to try not to be too worried about the peeing thing. My second child was a VBAC, and a posterior one at that, so I'm wondering if the difficult pushing caused my bladder to prolapse slightly and that's why it feels like I have to pee again as soon as I stand up from, er, going pee. My kidneys, at least according to whatever tests he ran, seem to be functioning normally.

sea legs girl said...

Brianne - An important question I forgot to ask was - when you urinate, is it a small or large amount of fluid? If there is a lot of fluid, then it is because you have taken in a lot of fluid and/or because you have taken a diuretic (coffee, tea, etc). If you just frequently have the urge to go, but not much comes out, then there is something irritating the bladder or urethra´(infection, again caffeine, pregnancy). A prolapsed bladder would tend to cause painful, difficult urination.

Brianne said...

Lots of fluid, generally very dilute, like the one time they tested it, it was nearly all water. Guess it's not prolapsed. Maybe I just drink too much Perrier.(though it sure doesn't feel like it, based on my thirst.) Maybe I have a mental disorder? Anyway, thanks for your input! I think I'm probably just fine.

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

Fast Bastard, you are my kind of doctor! Much of my work is with patients with hypochondriasis and/or idiopathic conditions (mostly pain)! Hard, very hard!