Friday, November 22

Life Stuff: The Scale.

Last week I found myself dreading my annual physical. I am not the greatest patient in the world since I had decided that a yearly physical was not for me, so I had previously skipped them the past two years. I had decided that since I get blood work every 3 months and get my basic vitals checked every month for Tysabri, going to another doctor appointment seemed pointless.

After my stitches came out this summer from my bike accident I found myself cornered at the receptionists desk at my doctors who basically made me make my appointment. I had my appointment last Friday and I realized in the week leading up to it the part that I was least looking forward to was being weighed.

Yup, my biggest fear was the scale. I personally chose not to own a scale. I know if I have one I will focus on the numbers way to much rather than just go with how I feel. If my clothes fit and I feel good then I shouldn't have to worry about some number. I know that I make healthy choices the majority of the time and  I put in a decent effort on my bike too, so I really shouldn't have to worry.

When I get weighed at my bi-annual doctors appointment at the neurologists I always just turn around on the scale and no one ever has a problem with it. Of course my regular doctor has a nurse that weighs you in and she is not the friendliest person around. Since she forces you to weigh in with your face staring at the numbers I've tried closing my eyes but she will still tell you. If you ask her not to tell you, she will do it regardless. From what I can tell it seems like the majority of patients are pretty much 60+ and I have never seen anyone my age there. My mom shares the same doctor and she insists that there are younger people who go. Anyways, I am assuming that this nurse is completely oblivious to the reasons why some people don't need to hear the number which is annoying.

My need not to know my weight has been something that's been around for a while. When I was younger my aunt made a comment that stuck with me. She said that thanks to family genetics I was destined to be heavy. I'd like to list this under things you should NEVER EVER say to a 13 year old. That fear has always stayed in the back of my mind even though my mom always was quick to remind me that it's also based on whether or not you live a healthy life style. I remember staying at my grandparents house for the weekend and my grandpa was notorious for bringing home donuts after church. I was step on the scale after every meal and then try and "work off" whatever weight I had gained for the day. I would run laps with a soccer ball in the backyard convinced I needed to work off whatever I ate.

Luckily for me my focus changed when I started playing travel soccer. My parents did a great job with both my brother and I to make sure we got enough calories for our activity levels and I found that I worried less and less about weighing in. Throughout high school I was sidelined with knee injuries but I was always pretty driven to work hard during PT and always seemed to bounce back.

When I went to college I did well staying away from the freshman 15. I ate well but always found room for dessert. I made sure to get adequate exercise in and was happy with my overall appearance.

During the beginning of my junior year I was diagnosed with MS. High doses of steroids and eating as a way to cope landed me at my highest weight ever. It's safe to say that I was depressed during this time. I was pulled out of classes for the last month+ of the first semester and was able to stay at home and recuperate. I worked through PT and speech, but I spent my days pretty much at home. I remember the first time I went out in public after everything had happened. I was still having horrible tremors and spasms that left me completely unable to walk and stand up straight every few minutes. My mom took me to Target after not being out in public for over a month. I was anxious and even though it was pretty empty in the store I remember thinking that everyone was looking at me. We would walk until my body would spasm and I would hunch over in pain as my arm and face clenched up uncontrollably.

I even went to visit my roommates for the night right before Christmas break. My parents drove me the 1 hour plus to school, dropped me off and then picked me up the next day. Thankfully Steph, who is in the picture above never left my side. I remember walking to the dining hall and every few minutes would have a spasm were I would once again hunch over in pain as my body completely tensed up. I remember walking into the dining hall and grabbing a tray and then having another spasm as it felt like EVERYONE in the dining room was watching to see what was wrong with me. My tray dropped out of my hands as I just did everything not to fall over from the pain surging through my body. Steph picked up my tray and just stood there and talked as if this was a completely normal thing and when I stood up I continued the conversation like it hadn't happened. I am eternally grateful that she was there by my side treating me like she always treated me.

Thankfully I was put on a few new medications and my spasms stopped completely before I returned for the spring semester. I was still dealing with so much internally though that I just didn't know what to do. I ate, I stopped working out, and I just tried to stay afloat and not drown in everything happening.

When summer arrived I was ready to start focusing on me again. My diagnosis left me in a pretty shattered mental state and having the summer to focus really helped. I started eating right and exercising and I made a commitment that I would start treating my body better. When I went back for senior year I was still carrying some extra pounds but I looked like "me" again. I was eating better and working out and enjoying the new sense of balance I had found with life.

College ended and I found myself living at home for about two years. In those two years I was able to get life straightened out. I found a great job and I was able to save up and pay off student loans. Living at home also meant that I had plenty of time and funds to continue pursing a healthy lifestyle. A year after graduating I met Erik. Erik is great at pushing me out of my comfort zone because sometimes you need a little extra push to go for something bigger. He never questioned my idea to cycle 100 miles for bike MS and he was there by my side through all the long training rides and tears.

This past spring I signed up for my first real bike race. It was a step outside my comfort zone and I remember sitting in the car in the parking lot as people around me unloaded their uber fancy bikes and road trainers to warm up. I was completely panicked, but you know what? Once that race started I had a blast.

If you would have told me a year ago I would have been on a all female cycling team I would have laughed in your face. Turns out, it's pretty awesome and I am so glad I joined.

What I have finally realized is that I am more than just a number. I work hard and I should not let my attitude be dictated my some number on the scale. It's just a number, it doesn't mean anything. Last week I stepped on the scale and the nurse told me the number. I walked back to the exam room and I didn't worry that the number was higher or lower than anticipated. I reminded myself that it's just a number. I reminded myself how hard I worked this year and how much I've grown as a cyclist. The muscles I've built that carry me up hill after hill reflect all the hard work I've poured into a sport I love. Whatever the number on the scale says, I am happy with my body for the first time in a long, long time.

Monday, November 11

Book Review: Shadow Summit: One Man, His Diagnosis, and the Road to a Vibrant Life, by Jon Chandonnet

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for a review, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recently, as in the past few years or so, I've been challenging myself to be more than just my MS diagnosis. I've put myself out their and pushed myself harder then I had pre-diagnosis. Of course, everyone has their own "grieving" process when they learn of a life changing diagnosis, like MS, or really any auto immune disease. Mine, as you know, kicked my ass at first. Back to back attacks left me in the hospital for 3 1/2 weeks. Rehab time after those attacks was months of hard work, but when I look at where I am today, it blows my mind. Sure, it could be a number of things that led to this change, medication, diet changes, exercise, and even just having the right mind set. In the end, no one really knows, but what I do know is that everyone's journey is different.

Jon's memoir, Shadow Summit: One Man, His Diagnosis, and the Road to a Vibrant Life, details his life post MS diagnosis. Jon was diagnosed right before he graduated from MIT at the age of 27. Of course, he had his life seemingly planned out and MS through a curve ball he just wasn't expecting. Jon's initial instinct led him through a road of what some might call denial. He chose to stay off any disease modifying drugs, even as his doctor advised him differently. We basically watch Jon start to push himself to extremes. He starts participating in extreme sports, crazy mountain biking trips and hiking mountains. It seems like Jon is keeping himself so busy to push out any idea that he does in fact have MS.

I feel like a lot of with a auto immune disease can easily relate. You want so badly to just be normal again that you push yourself to extremes to prove that you can do everything other people can do and more. We seem to act like life is limitless and forget that sometimes life has other plans for us.

We eventually seem Jon crash and burn, and he does so pretty dramatically. To some extent it's almost hard to read because as someone who has lived through its like you can just see the car crash that's five seconds away from happening and yet you can't stop look away. We see Jon at his lowest point and then we watch him rebuild himself from the bottom up.

Jon's methods of healing can best be described as a bit controversial and I will admit I did some eye-rolling while reading a bit, but to each his own. I can easily respect Jon for committing to a path of recovery. Jon finds himself at OHI: Optimum Health Institute where he embarks on a seemingly dramatic healing journey. Like I mentioned above in my own story, it's hard to determine what exactly helped Jon heal and recover...was it that fact that his stress level significantly decreased, the change in diet, the almost daily enemas? Like most things, it will remain a mystery.

Overall, I thought the book was a interesting, quick read. I'm always interested in seeing how other people react, cope, and live with MS and I'd  easily recommend this book if that is something that interests you as well.

Shadow Summit: One Man, His Diagnosis, and the Road to a Vibrant Life will be released this week.
You can check out a link to his book trailer here: as well as his website here:

Wednesday, November 6

Bike Shopping

November is the start of trainer season and I'm trying to remember that putting work in on the trainer now will only benefit me in the spring when I finally get to ride outdoors again. To counteract the boredom of riding indoors I have started building a collection of Tour De France videos which seem to entertain me enough to get me through my workouts.

Of course more time off the bike means I have more time to shop for my next bike...or in my current case bikes. Yes, I have a problem, but honestly you can never have to many bikes...right? Currently I have a Cannondale Synapse (color: jet black, plus it has a triple) which is the bike that got me into cycling. I also have a Cannondale Flash F3 Feminine for rides that feature a lot more dirt. I haven't taken this bike out too much, but I just need to build my confidence more on trails, but in the meantime dirt roads are more of my thing.

In December I'll be adding a Cannondale Supersix EVO Womens 4  to the mix which I have been dreaming about all year. I anxiously awaited the day the Cannondale catalogs came out and then an afternoon at the bike shop discussing all the various options for my next bike. I had been deadset on the Supersix for over a year now but when I saw the color options it wasn't exactly love at first site. I was originally going for the Supersix EVO Womens 3 but the all white bike just wasn't my thing. So for a few extra dollars I'm upgrading the cranks and wheels plus the paint job and settling in with the EVO 4. Before I went in to test ride bikes to determine sizing and such the bike shop was nice enough to order me one so it would be in as soon as possible. Of course it will be December by then and I'm not holding my breath that I will actually be able to take it outside and ride it. Upstate winters with salt and bikes don't mix, so it looks like I'll be enjoying some trainer time with my new toy. I have a feeling this bike will be pretty fun to race next season and can't wait to take it out on the road!

A few weeks ago Erik added a new bike to his collection, a single speed no name cross bike that he can commute to and from work on and not worrying about beating it up to badly. For around $400 bucks he has a fun new toy and jealously snuck its way in as we quickly realized that his frame was just to big for me so I couldn't even ride it. Actually, I rode it down the street in a stretch out superman position but finally succeeded to the fact that the bike just wasn't ride-able for me. I spent the next day riding his single speed Surly Karate Monkey and although the gearing was way to low, I still had a blast spinning away. I spend a lot of time riding wondering if I am in the right gear and a single speed makes life so easy.

I have been toying with the idea of a single speed around town fun bike for a while and since hipsters have made them super popular it's easy to find a large number of places that sell that online. You can customize practically everything and basically have one heck of a colorful bike when your done. Of course since these seem to be more of a fashion statement than anything the bikes aren't that great of quality and you're pretty much paying extra for the chance to color coordinate your bike to your favorite outfit. So I looked away from those sites and started looking for a cheaper no name brand alternative that didn't completely suck. Sure for under $300 dollars I could buy a bike and ride around town but the quality wasn't there. Plus, you never regret buying to much bike. Well, maybe you do if you never ride your bike...

Anyways my Internet searching turned to finding a quality bike and plus I know had a nice bonus from work in my pocket burning away. After searching around I stumbled on a Jamis Sputnik and I'm pretty positive I've found my bike. Now I just need to get to my local bike shop and talk sizes and figure out if they are even in stock to buy. The gearing is a bit high with a 46 up front so I'll probably find something smaller if I plan on tackling any hills, but for my favorite weekday flat look this bike will be a beast.

I'm thinking the next MS century needs to be on a single know, just to mix things up a bit. I'm starting to think next year is going to be one heck of a cycling season.