Four years ago at the age of 48, something was ‘not right’ with my heart during one of my indoor spin workouts. My heart rate kept dropping without reason once it was in my target heart rate zone. When I stopped spinning, my heart rate resumed back to my target heart rate within 30 seconds, so I started spinning again. This cycle (pun intended) repeated itself about 4 more times until I realized I needed to stop. ‘Stop’ is a word not often used in my vocabulary when it comes to fitness. As a personal trainer and fitness instructor for 20 years at that time, I knew something was happening. It ended up being life-threatening.
Within one month I had an ICD implanted (pacemaker with a defibrillator). 13 months after that I was told I had an inflammatory disease throughout many parts of my body. Most significantly I had the rarest kind, on my heart: cardiac sarcoidosis.
Out of the many medical teams I belong to, I then became a patient of Dr. Heather Ross. A treatment plan was initiated promptly with the hope of removing the sarc off my heart and hopefully with minimal scarring. Six months after treatment began, scans showed my heart was clear. I did a 14 month slow taper off the steroids and other sarc meds. However, even doing that, the cardiac sarc presented itself six months after treatment ended. So the same protocol commenced once again.
Left facing my sentence once more, I was able to mentally gear myself up with more confidence and strength than the first time. I was facing steroids again, with the weight gain and other unpleasant side effects, but I was determined to conquer the changes that could alter my body again. So, I decided to create my own research assignment: could I beat the side effects of prednisone if I walked a minimum of 6 miles every day (as well as strength train and spin within my heart restrictions)? Yes, I could. In six months, I have walked 889 miles. I have lost 10lbs, many inches, and I feel happier. My goal was to maintain my weight, so when I actually lost weight it was a very pleasant surprise. When I was on my protocol the first time, I gained 20lbs, so I was now back to my starting weight from 2 and a half years ago. I still have a moon face, but that’s part and parcel with steroids.
There are days I’m completely exhausted, in pain, and defeated with this disease those are days when I’ve had to leave at 4am to be in Toronto for 7am (because I live 2 hours away). There is a part of me that says it’s okay to take a break, and just take the day off, but the stronger part of me insists I get in the gym and get going, because I know how great I feel afterwards. Being in tune with my body more than the average person, I’m constantly monitoring myself to see if I can keep moving forward. For example, if my hands swell too much while walking (a new symptom), I make the necessary adjustments so I can keep going. I am being monitored quite closely due to issues with my pacing and my ICD, and I just had my most recent PET scan to find out if the sarcoidosis is off my heart once again. I believe it is.
Now, I am taking my walking to another level. I have decided to create an indoor walkathon/spinathon in my studio, to support Dr. Ross’ ‘Test Your Limits’ (TYL). Not only is this my main mission, but I also hope it will help me in the future, as well as other people like me facing the same sentence. “The funds raised will be for support of heart disease and heart failure research. 100% of your support will go directly towards making research in heart failure and transplantation possible."
My goal is to walk 75 miles on the Victoria Day upcoming long weekend, May 17-20. I am encouraging family and friends to come out and support me and /or participate during this week end while I keep my body moving as much as it will allow me.
So I ask you, can you help Dr. Ross with her initiative by supporting mine? To make a donation directly to Test Your Limits, fill out the form below.
To read more about TYL follow this link: www.testyourlimits.ca, but please only donate on my personal page that way we can keep direct track of who donated through my fundraiser, which funds will go straight to Test Your Limits from my page.
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