Sunday, August 10, 2014

Looking at the numbers: recent lab results

Last Friday I had an appointment with my oncologist.  While it was just an exam, we also did lab work for the first time since February.  I was especially interested in my White Blood Cell (WBC) count and hematocrit as both those numbers have been consistently low since finishing chemo in September.

I am, for lack of a better word, psyched with the results.  Through good nutrition and taking care of my body, my insides seem to be bouncing back, and to be honest I was not sure it was possible.....

Since I keep close track of these numbers, here are some charts I made:


To put things in perspective, I finished chemo September 20, 2013 and radiation November 22, 2013. To my lay person's eyes, everything looks pretty darn good.  My lymphocytes are still a bit low, but they are creeping up and based on my Total Protein, BUN, and Creatinine, it appears as though my (mostly plant-based) protein consumption is keeping up with my body's demands.  

I also had my Iron, Ferritin, and B12 checked:


Iron and Ferritin numbers look good (to me).  B12 is just a touch low.  This is interesting as I have stopped taking a B12 supplement (per the recommendation of my Nutritionist).  Since B12 supplements can serve as a methylating agent (turning genes on/off with no discrimination for good vs. bad genes), she preferred I get my B12 from natural sources (i.e. high quality beef).  I do eat a small amount of grass fed, organic, local beef (approximately once/month).  It may be time to "beef" that up just a touch:)  I will run the numbers by my Nutritionist this week.  

The number I am most excited about is my hematocrit.  I have been hovering in the mid to high 30s for way too long.  I am now back to my "normal" range.  Bring on the Fall racing!

Speaking of racing, I am feeling ready to experiment with increased focus and structure in my training and have called on Plan7 Endurance Coach, Pro MTB racer, friend, and hardest working gal I know, Sarah Kaufmann to be my coach.  In the next few months, I have some exciting races including Steamboat Stinger, Wasatch 360, Draper 25/50, and Moab Rocks stage race.  Even though these races are quickly approaching, and I am not giving Sarah much time to get me in tip top shape, I am looking forward to seeing how my body and mind respond.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Striving to find my "A" game


When diagnosed with cancer there are many choices.  Medical choices need to be made.  Financial decisions need to be sorted out.  Priorities need to be reassessed.  One choice that is less discussed, is choosing how to respond to the often shocking and unexpected news of a cancer diagnosis.  While some of the emotions may be difficult to control, it is easier to control how you choose to treat your body.  Being a competitive athlete, I have a good understanding that the better I treat my body, the better I feel.  Back in 2011 and again last year, I knew that cancer treatment would be tough, however I also knew (well at least I hoped) that the better I treated my body the better I would feel during treatment and the more I would be able to enjoy life.  I made the choice to help support my body as best as possible during treatment and beyond.  One of the ways I did this was through good nutrition.

My point is, I want to be on my "A" game.  While my "A" game, for better or worse, may not look the same as it did 'before', I want to be at my full potential.  I want to kick-ass on the bike, at work, and just life in general.  I truly believe that supporting my body through good nutrition will help me to achieve my full potential "A" game in all areas of life.

Back in 2011, I blogged about my anti-cancer diet.  It has evolved a bit since then, especially with the advice of Nutritional Solutions.  Upon finishing chemo/radiation last winter, I have continued to follow Nutritional Solutions recommendations.

Which brings me to current lab work I had done last week.  I had a simple cholesterol and triglyceride test.  No biggie, right?  Wrong!  My recent oophorectomy and especially my new anti-cancer medication, Anastrazole (Aromatase Inhibitor) put me at increased risk for elevated cholesterol and triglycerides which often leads to heart disease.  There is always a cost to the benefit of cancer treatment.  This is one of the costs of my treatment.  Anyhow, I was relieved (actually psyched!!!) that despite this, my levels are still excellent.

Here are my results from 2012 and 2014:



So while an excellent cholesterol and triglyceride test may not seem like a big deal, to me, it means that perhaps all that hard work and good nutrition is paying off.  A small, but not trivial piece in the "A game" puzzle.


...and because no blog post is complete without photos.....

 "Solitude"

Angie Harker takes phenomenal photos!

 Moose hanging out on our street is a common sight.  
My neighbors say it never gets old.  I tend to believe them! 
 I named this guy, "Fred".  

Fred has a friend

PS-I have started an Athletefightscancer Facebook page to share blog updates, medical updates, photos, and other stuff I find interesting related to athletes, nutrition, cancer, and other occasional randomness.  Like it here:)



 





Thursday, July 24, 2014

One Year

One Year (and one week to be exact) I started chemo for the second time.  Although only one year has passed since STARTING chemo, so much has happened since then.  Radiation, oophorectomy, lots of doctor's appointments, and even more healing.  Throw in moving twice in the past three months, which in and of itself can be considered a major life event, and we have had an eventful past twelve months to say the least.

7/17/2013:  
One year ago I was in disbelief that I had to go through chemo again.

I am not sure what my point is exactly except that even though treatment feels like eons ago, it wasn't, and we are both still healing.....

Which brings me to training.....

Since this year is all about healing and listening very closely to my body, I am a 'self-coached' athlete for the first time since turning pro back in 2006!  I have had some amazing coaches, who have taught me a lot and helped me get very fast on the bike, however at this moment I am not ready for the type of structure and intensity I have done in the past.  While I definitely try to have structure to my current training program and purpose to my rides, I have to be incredibly flexible based on what my body and mind is telling me each day.  At this point, there is a very fine line between pushing to gain speed/fitness and recovery.  (Note: lingering fatigue from cancer treatment is a common side effect and can last for a very long time.  Personally, although you won't find much literature on this, I feel that cancer treatment prolongs recovery after hard workouts/races, however from experience, I also know that this too improves with time).  I know I need to push myself in my training, but I also require increased recovery (both physically and mentally), which impacts how often I am able to get good, hard training sessions in.  This is compounded when I race as even more recovery is needed.  While I admit that sometimes it is a bit frustrating when I bag a planned session because my body is telling me NO!, it is also interesting to experiment with my body and discover what it is capable of.  I have always been one who enjoys the 'process' of training (almost) as much as racing itself.  I guess you can say that I love the 'art of getting fast'!  Another change in my self-coached program is that I have incorporated more weight-training into my regimen.  While I have always done weight-training in the off-season, for the first time I am continuing it through race season, and since there are only so many hours in a day and a finite amount of energy that can be dedicated to training, my time on the bike is impacted.  That said, being post-menopausal due to cancer treatment/surgery in addition to my current cancer medication that causes rapid bone loss (Aromatase Inhibitor), maintaining muscle mass and bone integrity is vital for my health.

Photo break:
Snowbird ICUP Pro Women podium.  I felt really good at this race and loved the course.  
I love this podium picture too.  Current stars, future stars, and me in the middle!

The Utah pro crew.  I feel like a giant between the two midgets:)

Thanks Angie Harker (Selective Vision) for capturing this 
awesome photo of me doing something weird with my tongue!

 Summer trip visiting family in Iowa.  Had to bring the bikes.
 Visiting the in-laws.  Iowa feels like a tropical forest compared to Utah.

Back to the blog:

So although things are a bit complicated in getting back to where I would like to be, overall
life is going very, very well.  We are feeling settled in our new home in Park City and love, love, loving it!  I pinch myself every day that we live in such a beautiful and peaceful place.  My summer has been filled with lots of awesome mountain biking, hikes out the back door with Dizzy, and weekly moose sightings!...and some pretty exciting racing right around the corner.  Steamboat Stinger, Wasatch 360, and Moab Rocks stage race to name a few!

Dizzy feels right at home on 'his' lounger.  He likes to chill in the cool mountain breeze.


The neighborhood moose taking a snooze next door!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Last week I received an email from a HuffPost Live Associate Producer asking if I would be able and willing to participate with other athletes in a live discussion on how sport had a positive impact on healing from cancer treatment.  The "other" athletes included headliner, NY Giant Mark Herzlich, who also discussed his new book, Alex Niles, writer and former collegiate soccer player, and Jake Gibb, Pro volleyball player and Olympian.

Despite being right-smack-in-the-middle of moving, I did not hesitate to say YES!

The morning of the discussion, while still in my "moving" clothes from the day before, I had a short conversation with the Associate Producer and set up the webcam in my living room full of moving boxes.  The rest of the morning was spent figuring out a somewhat presentable 'studio' in our home full of boxes, finding respectable clothes to wear, and prepping my favorite accessory-my bike-for a studio backdrop.  Somehow, I was ready to go and 'on-air' by 11:45 that morning.

All dressed up for HuffPost Live wearing slippers:)


The discussion in its entirety can be seen here.  It was truly inspiring to be in presence of other athletes who have returned to high level competition after cancer treatment and I was honored to be included in the discussion.

Fortunately for me I had my hair cut earlier in the week.  Since I was showered, dressed up, and styling presentable hair, we took a photo!

36ish weeks and four haircuts since completing chemo

In other news, I raced my new green rocketship at Deer Valley this weekend.  I can say with absolute certainty that I love this bike!  Deer Valley has some of the steepest climbs around and the Pivot Les 27.5 makes them feel effortless.  Cornering has taken some adjustment as the bike is so quick and I was oversteering a bit, however I am getting it more and more dialed every ride and railed Deer Valley's tight switchback downhills faster than ever!  Good enough to finish 4th in a solid Pro Women's field!


The smile says it all:  I love racing! 
Photo: Trevor Hooper

Up next is my first MRI since completing Round 2 of treatment.  While there is nothing that is especially concerning to me at the moment, I will happily take positive thoughts and energy for negative scan results; especially at 8:00 tomorrow morning:)  




Sunday, June 8, 2014

Wasatch Back 25 and other happenings....

I posted a little teaser photo of my new ride last week.

Racing my new bike at the Midweek race in Park City Photo: Lori Leger

It is a Pivot Les 27.5 hardtail.  The 27.5 represents the wheel size.  There are now three standard mountain bike wheel sizes.  The 26", the 29" and my new 27.5".  Pros and cons can be argued for each wheel size, although even though I only have a few rides (and one race) in on my new bike, I am feeling confident that the 27.5" wheel size is the perfect wheel size for me.  Once I have done a few more rides on varied terrain, I plan to write a comprehensive review of my new bike.  Something to look forward too.....

In the meantime, my mountain bike race season is ramping up.  This past weekend I raced the Wasatch Back 25.  It is a lumpy, chunky, rough 25 miles so it was a no brainer to ride my Pivot 429C dualie!  After over two hours of racing I beat my goal race time of 2:20 by 6 minutes and ended up finishing 2nd overall.  That said, there is always the goal of getting faster, although I do feel like I am making progress in that direction.  My race starts are improving and I am not coughing up a lung after the race.  Progress!  Additionally, all the core work I have been putting in to regain post-abdominal surgery strength is paying off.  This was my longest, roughest race of the year and my back held up nicely.

Some photos from the weekend:

It was a warm, dry, and dusty day in the Wasatch.   Photo: Lisa Palmer Leger
Lori's photos always make me look fast:) Photo: Lori Leger
Leading a group of super fast Summit Bike Club girls up the climb Photo: Dusty Powers
A few minutes into the race.  My starts are still hard, although improving.  Photo: Lori Leger

There are so many highlights from the weekend, however the bottom line is that I love riding/racing my bike.  It makes me feel strong, healthy, happy, and most importantly.....alive; something I strive and work hard for every single day.

Shannon and I also have some other exciting news.  We are officially Park City homeowners.  We pick up the keys tomorrow!  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pivot Les 275

 A little teaser on my beautiful new ride.  Stay tuned for a full review.  I want to race it a few more times first!