I have a long list of illnesses (see it here). In 1995 when I was fifteen, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (a disease of the large intestine), and I lived with it for seventeen years. In 2010, it spread and advanced to a severe diagnosis. I spent a year on a roller-coaster of intensive immunosuppressive drug therapies, only to end up requiring surgery to remove my large intestine and replace it with a j-pouch. After surviving three surgeries, I developed fibromyalgia, the most debilitating illness of all. (Read "The Spoon Theory" to understand more.) Below are the detailed accounts of my ups and downs on this journey.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Progress

  UC = ulcerative colitis     BM = bowel movement   

"Without struggle there is no victory."  -Me

I am sitting up in bed with my laptop in front of me, utterly sore from head to toe.  Sunday is my day to rest and recover, and my body needs it; I have put it through the wringer this week.  Towards the end of my weight-lifting sessions, when I can barely hash out those last couple reps as my muscles are shaking and I'm grunting out an audible shout to get that barbell up, or towards the end of my runs when both my mind and body are exhausted and begging to give up, and I have to reach down to my toes for the determination to keep going, I tell myself, "This is where I live."  Though it seems like misery at the time, making it through that place of struggle is what gives me such a sense of victory at the end of my workout.  It's where I need to get cozy, because that is where the real progress is made.

When I started the prednisone this time around, I set a goal for myself: to gain muscle.  Well, I am about half-way through my prednisone stint, so I figure it's a good time to check in on my progress.  My training has been a bit spottier than I had hoped: I have had to take a lot of days off due to symptoms, side-effects, bad reactions to the meds, and a couple other things, but each time I have jumped back in to my training as best I could, and so I have been making some slow progress.

In order to build new muscle you need to provide your body with the building blocks to do so, which means a calorie deficit would be counterproductive, especially on a catabolic steriod.  Therefore I have been eating more calories this time around - including lots of protein - and though my weight has fluctuated a bit, I have not really lost any noticeable fat since I started the prednisone.  I have, however, gained a small amount of muscle, as can be seen in these pictures.  (Apologies for the lack of focus - it's a bit difficult to keep the camera steady while taking pics of yourself at odd angles, LOL.)  Keep in mind that this is only a step in the right direction and a work in progress.  I did not take any "before" photos, but I can assure you that the little bump of a bicep in this pic was not there at all a month ago, and the shoulder and calf muscles were much less developed.  In fact, back in January all of my muscles were literally a floppy jello consistency because of all the damage the prednisone caused the first two times around in the last year (combined with severe malnutrition on the first round and a low-calorie diet on the second round).  There are other muscles that have grown, but they are hiding under a small layer of fat and are not very visible yet.

So far when it comes to my weight-lifting, I have only been working on building a strong foundation, which means high repetitions of low weight.  Every time I felt I was ready to start really bulking up, that is when I ended up having to take time off, which resulted in me starting back in with foundation-building again.    However, this last week I noticed that the weight I have been lifting this entire time (10-lb dumbbells, 40-lb barbell) felt way too easy - too light.  This is another sign that I have actually built muscle, and so it's time to start adding weight.  I went up to the 15-lb dumbbell on Friday and have added another 10 lbs to my barbell for next week (may add more than that for the squats and deadlifts).  Over the next couple weeks I will start lowering the reps and adding even more weight in order to get larger and faster muscle growth.

The other goal I have been working towards is training for a half-marathon.  Back in December I signed up for one that will be held on May 27th.  I had planned enough time for me to reach 13.1 miles in my training, plus a few extra weeks of wiggle room.  With all the time I have had to take off in the last month or two, I figured that making the half-marathon I signed up for was a lost cause.  Yesterday, though, I counted up the weeks and worked out that it is still a slight possibility IF I haven't lost too much ground, but it would mean pushing myself pretty hard with vigorous training between now and then, and it leaves no room for error.  I am going to continue training as hard as I can while trying to avoid overuse injuries, but I won't beat myself up if I don't make it by May 27th.  I know I have been through a lot this year, and I can always sign up for another one a bit later in the summer.  However, if I am able to run that half-marathon on May 27th, I will be over the moon!

The only potential obstacle I really see at this point is the Remicade.  I start my first infusion on Wednesday, and there is no predicting how I will react.  Best-case scenario is that I have no side-effects and am able to continue with my progress uninhibited.  Worst-case scenario is that I have major side-effects (common are fatigue, headache, nausea) or a bad reaction or intolerance to the drug, which could cause me to lose even more days of training.  At this point, though, I am feeling strong and remaining optimistic.  I'm ready to start really tacking on the miles and the weight, ready to throw 110% into my training, ready to see some real progress.


T H I S   W E E K ' S   H E A L T H   L O G
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My Condition:  mild/moderate ulcerative colitis since 1995, severe pancolitis since 2011.

Current Symptoms:  almost none - loose BM 2/day, small amount of gas.

Prescription Meds:  prednisone (25mgs), Asacol HD (4800mgs), mesalamine enema, Prilosec.

Current Side-Effects:  mild weakness, mild shakiness, occasional fatigue, elevated heartrate, arrhythmia, insomnia, moon-face (still growing), ultra-sensitive teeth, anemia/low hemoglobin count (carries oxygen from lungs to rest of body).

Supplements:  creatine, BCAAs, CLA, L-glutamine, glucosamine, whey protein (post workout), casein protein (before bed), Omega-3, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, biotin, multi-vitamin.

Diet:  Breakfast - 6oz. Odwalla Superfood, 3-egg spinach scramble topped with salsa, whole wheat english muffin.  Lunch - large spinach salad w/ 1-2 diced chicken tenderloins and 1 hard boiled egg, low-cal dressing.  Dinner - 1 cup chicken/veggie stir-fry seasoned only with lemon & garlic, 1/3 cup rice, 1/4 crunchy chow mein noodles, 3 giant strawberries.  Snacks - apple, protein bar.  Drinks - water only, Gatorade during workouts.  (Binges: Thursday- huge chimichanga @ dinner out with coworkers, Saturday- mac 'n' cheese, ice cream.)

Exercise:  Mon - 60 mins weight-lifting (upper body "push"), 20 mins leisurely bikeride.  Tue - none (messed up cal intake, severe weather).  Wed - 60 mins weight-lifting (legs), 20 mins leisurely bikeride.  Thu - ran 3.5 miles.  Fri - 60 mins weight-lifting (upper body "pull").  Sat - ran 6 miles (hills!).

Stats:  height 5'7", weight 148 lbs, body fat 16 %.

Have Tried:  Imuran, Lialda, Endocort, Prednisone (dependent), Canasa, Cortico-foam, probiotics, L-glutamine, licorice, various other supplements, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, FODMAP diet, various other dietary changes.


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4 comments:

  1. Sweet. Looks like good progress to me!

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  2. It looks like you eat too much animal protein, considering your health problems. You could probably get rid off Prilosec if you did not eat eggs and chicken every meal. Have you ever heard of Dr. Mcdougall's diet? I respect your exercise routine but between the diet, the meds and working out. you are really hurting yourself.

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    Replies
    1. If you'll notice under my "Have Tried" section, I have tried various dietary approaches, including veganism and vegetarianism. If there is anything I have learned in my seventeen years of research and experience with this disease, it is that everyone reacts differently to every type of treatment. What works for some does not work for others, so it's all about experimenting until you find something that works for you. I am happy for you if you have found a diet that has worked for your own condition, but I have found that dietary changes have very little effect on my UC since it has spread to my entire colon. (Or my acid reflux, for that matter.)

      If you do any research on Prednisone and it's side-effect of muscle disintegration, you will find that the only thing recommended to counteract the catabolic affect of the steroid is exercise. And since it takes a lot of protein to build new muscle, need to eat a high-protein diet in order to reach my goals.

      Right now I have no symptoms and am making progress towards my fitness goals, so I don't really see how I'm hurting myself.

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  3. Awesome job, your a definitely very motivating to me. Gaining muscle is something I am really trying to focus on. AS far as the diet, in just the minimal research I have done, there is no straight answer on what you should eat. SO as long as your not having reactions. then it sounds good to me. Right now nut, and peanut butter, cause me issues, but meats and dairy have not problems.

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