May is a tricky month for me, it brings up memories of heart surgeries and for someone who is into the outdoors, rock climbing, mountains and running marathons, it was a tough pill to swallow not being able to move my body. I wrote about this already regarding the Berlin marathon that changed my life. I couldn't exercise for a long time and I couldn't walk up the stairs without being out of breath. For someone who identifies as a person who is into sports and fitness it was especially challenging. If you think of something as part of your identity and it is removed from you then it can impact your sense of self too. Also it was a way of coping for me too, it was my coping mechanism for most things. I loved a good run. I was also part of a club and enjoying social running as well as training with the girls in the club on Sunday mornings. I was also sporty in school so this wasn't something new. I won medals for running and loved trying out new sports that were available after school. In my working life in Dublin I used to do things like the army bootcamp and I was reminded of happy memories only this morning. Memories of training in the outdoors with some army guy telling us what to do and how to do it... fast! I was strong, I loved it and I went most weeks that I could.
Cut to heart surgeries and the second one was in May 2018. Every May since I think back on some of the time that I had spent and how grateful I am now that I do not take any medicine and I can go back to what I was like before 2017 happened. I am one of the lucky ones. I was going in for a consultation and I was distraught because I was thinking it was never-ending. There was no end in sight and the surgeon was happy that I was taking tablets and he said I might need to accept that I'd take them for the rest of my life. I was by myself in the consultation and as ever I was trying to think optimistically (that the future would be better - not positively in that I didn't recognise the situation was tough but optimistically in that I tried to think that the future would get better). I knew it was challenging and I burst into tears at reception after travelling back from Germany for the consultation. Perhaps it was the exhaustion or the fact that I was in a room which was usually empty and this time it was full of people that were upwards of 70+ years old. The thought popped into my head that I was a young person and my body was failing me. I had put it through too much perhaps with climbing several mountains and running marathons as well as stress from life.
A man at reception was really lovely. He saw that I was trying to hold tears back and I couldn't stop sobbing. I was trying so hard to be inconspicuous while in the waiting room. I wiped my face and sobbed while waiting to be called. I was telling myself that it'd be fine, it wasn't so bad but my other thoughts were, I am here in a room with people over 70, I should not be here, was I ever going to be able to run again? My LOVE of fitness, could I ever walk up the stairs without being out of breath? I was really upset and he came over and sat beside me. He said that it's alright, he had the same surgeon and he had had 14 surgeries and he was fixed after the 14th. I'm not sure he knew it but that upset me even more. I thought I could not cope with 14, no way. One was enough and after the first I had to wait 6 months for my heart to heal. I had only the one in the December the previous year and it exhausted all my energy out of me while waiting to recover.
I was called into the consultation and as I left I thanked the man for his support. He really was a lovely warm, friendly caring man. He thought he was consoling me that I was alive and only young. Perhaps it was because I was also in Blackrock and reminded of my previous running club in Blackrock (Blackrock Athletic Club) too that I was a little more upset because of those memories. They did the consultation and again my heart was irregular and fast. The trouble was, it was both irregular and fast. I went up to the surgeon after the absolutely brilliant Fiona Kehoe (the Electrophysiology Nurse Specialist) came down to collect me. Dr. Lyne had said that I could go in and he'd schedule the next surgery. The second one took place on May 18th at 7am and it was a success. Four hours awake on the operating table watching the surgeon slowly guide a camera and their instruments through both of my groin regions is a little surreal. I remember them celebrating and asking the anaesthetist about his trips climbing mountains. I was so relieved and delighted that I was fixed. I was left out of hospital on May 19th 2018. I remember the day very well as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married the same day and my sister and mother both came to collect me after they watched some of the wedding celebrations.
This story is now part of who I am and I can again identify as a person who LOVES fitness. I love pushing my body and doing exercise. I love going for runs and picking up new types of activities. I guess my mindset was shaped since as a result as I appreciate my body so much now. I can say that it is strong and magnificent, it went through a lot already previously with other surgeries too (more than most people I know) and recovered. It has not only recovered but is stronger and more resilient now as a result. It has allowed me to travel, hike, do triathlons and go exploring too. I am truly appreciative of it now. I can now celebrate it for what it is. I love my body. I thank my body for serving me so well. It's like a well-oiled machine. I am comfortable in my own skin. My body deserves such love and respect. I am confident in my body and I love it for every scar and inch that it takes up. Every scar tells a story of what adventures it has had. Scars from two heart surgeries, knee scars from hockey accidents in school, eyebrow scars from falling off my bike, scars from messing in the playground when I split under my nose, appendix removal, six wisdom teeth removal, piercings, accidents and other surgeries - these are all the things I've put it through. These are all the things that I can say, thank you for being with me and being the resilient body that you are. I can be forgiven for forgetting this every so often and May is a good reminder each year to focus on what it can do and it can MOVE and it can LEARN.
Last year I learnt to swim and completed the 10 friends triathlon in Darmstadt where I made so many great friends as a result. This year is a little more challenging with social distancing measures and the corona virus so I've adjusted and adapted to other activities that are also indoors. I also went paddle boarding for the first time the weekend before last and burnt my skin so I had to adjust again and not do anything for a week.
I have now started more core workouts and other exercises. I knew my mini weights, yoga mat and resistance bands would come in handy eventually! So for now I've started into a new core workout plan and I thank my body for going through what it did back in 2018 so that I could get back to fitness and enjoy it to its fullest and most importantly without any medicine needed. I've linked some of these below and the plan that I am now working on. I love a good plan. I like to chart progress. I am organised like that. I believe knowledge is power and data can show evidently what you can do and how you can progress transparently. I enjoy being goal-oriented and having some direction. I believe that having a plan provides the direction that I need in order to accomplish it, so, the plan is as follows:
A: First day 3 * 30 seconds planks on elbows (I do love a good plank), Russian twists with weights and plank crunches.
B: Every 2nd day is to do 3 * 30 seconds squats, press ups, lift weights.
C: After 12 days introduce a workout every 3 days of 3 * 30 seconds panther shoulder taps, butterfly sit ups and half-kneeling wood chops. Eventually increasing from 30 seconds to 40 seconds.
Spotify playlist for this plan:
So the workout should look something like the following:
03/05/2020 Plan A 04/05/2020 Plan B 05/05/2020 Plan A and so on until 15/05/2020 where it becomes C and 16/05/2020 A, 17/05/2020 B and 18/05/2020 (heart surgery anniversary) possibly go for a run that day to celebrate being able to run again.
Aside from working on the plan below are some of the photos that took place in 2018 for the thankfully final heart surgery. Photos for me act as a way to refresh my memory. May 17th was full of celebrations being my twin niece's birthday and my sister's wedding anniversary too. It was great to celebrate everything before taking the trip on the train to Dublin with Mam. I can now celebrate the fact that it's two years already and two years filled with ups and downs. I went running on May 31st but I would say I didn't fully regain energy for a few months afterwards even though my heart was back to normal. I was a bit more careful and didn't want to push it too much. Like a toddler learning how to walk, I was going slowly at first and a little afraid until I got into full swing. Then of course I had another unrelated surgery later that year which was another challenge but that's for another story. My energy was zapped for other reasons on top of that too but today I can celebrate that it's May and marks two years since the last heart surgery. Both surgeries shape a lot of who I am and what I appreciate more in life now and that's that my body can move. I truly appreciate it for all that it is. I am confident that it can do what I ask of it. It's not until something happens that we realise how much we loved something until it's taken away. I can wake up every morning and I can go for a run when I want. It is truly an incredible feeling. I am appreciative of it now more than ever and I am filled with joy as a result. I'd also highly recommend watching the video by Gary Vee.