Training When Pregnant With Adrenal Insufficiency

…is not easy, but so worth it!! Without training, my mood would most likely have been even worse than what it was this spring. I had the chance to experience that I’m capable of something. Getting endorphins from exercise helped with my depression as well. AI wise it’s still weird that physical stress doesn’t affect me as badly as mental kind. Of course it’s easy to just go to the gym, put some good music on and focus on the movement. I still forget almost everything if I don’t put an alarm on my phone and use calendar, remainders and do-it notes. Focusing on complex things was dead poor as well. Only now I feel I’m getting my brains back and am really happy and grateful for even a couple of clearer and more focused weeks during this pregnancy.

I’m also really grateful for the help my husband has given me by driving me to the gym (of course he trains there too), and for friends who have sometimes come to train with me while I’m at my mother’s in Espoo or otherwise traveling.

Resting enough and not having to work has helped to lower my cortisone dose from the really high amounts in the first trimester when everything was a mess in my life, but I still need a bit more than what I used to take when not pregnant. I take Prednisolone 5 + 3.75 mg every day, and if I have something really taxing to do such as a course that lasts for 6-8 hours I need even more. For workouts, I have now taken 10 mgs hydrocortisone for an an hour lasting lifting session. Endurance training I can normally do without extra.

It’s weird that for the first time, summer heat hasn’t bothered me. I can stand being in the sun at midday, and am loving that I haven’t needed to updose with cortisone and stay indoors. Normally I can’t tolerate sunlight and heat almost at all. So the start of this summer with lots of warmth has also helped to uplift my moods ❤ .

I want to share some of my workouts for others to get an idea what you can do when pregnant. The most important thing is to listen to your body. If something feels off, causes pain or discomfort, or if you are just having a day when you are tired, trust your body! Quit any uncomfortable exercise, and rest adequately. You have all the time in the world later on (depending on your child and help you are getting for childcare, of course) to get back into harder training. But taking care of your body and making sure you are keeping yours and your baby’s health at first place during pregnancy is number one. I will write about some exercise guidelines in this post and then share some of my workouts later on.

Latest research has already buffed some myths regarding training when pregnant. Mothers who are used to exercising at moderate to hard intensities can continue to do so as long as they feel okay. And for mothers who haven’t been exercising, NOW is the best time to start! You will lower the risk for gestational diabetes and musculosceletal pains if you exercise when pregnant. You will also most likely deliver a healthier baby, and recover from the delivery sooner. Just begin with really low intensity and make sure to rest enough, and don’t progress over moderate intensity training.

Other myths are that you can’t lie on your back after a certain week. Well, if you feel fine, you can lie and sleep on your back until the end of pregnancy. The risk of the fetus and placenta to pressure your vena cava, the biggest vein to bring blood from the lower extremities to your heart, is not so big as once thought. If you feel nauseous, off in any way, headache, tingling or other off sensations in your legs, then you should avoid lying on your back and use a small incline or side lying positions. The blood flow to fetus is usually good enough if you are performing an exercise on your back and then rise up to sitting position to rest.

Also, if you have been doing high intensity interval training = HIIT, you can continue during pregnancy as long as you feel fine. But if you haven’t, it is not recommendable to start.

A great resource for training during and after pregnancy is Girls Gone Strong and their articles! I’m currently studying to become a Pre- & Postnatal Coach in their Coaching & Training Women Academy ❤ .

Here are some exercises I’ve liked to do during this pregnancy, the pictures are all from second trimester workouts:

Belt squat is a great quad exercise when pregnant and if regular squats begin to feel uncomfortable, as it’s easier for your back

Bench pressing is still okay when pregnant!
Incline pressing is a good alternative for regular bench
Both vertical (up- and downwards) and horizontal rows are a staple in pregnancy training
During pregnancy, different rows are really important as your breasts increase in size – without training your upper back muscles, it can affect your posture negatively and cause back pain.

Half-kneeling side lift is a great core exercise suitable for all trimesters in pregnancy 🙂 :

I’ll also write more about nutrition during pregnancy later on, but I just wanted to add that it has been a big test for me to really think why I’m choosing healthy foods and have a healthy and flexible attitude towards eating. I want to provide the best building blocks for my baby. Even if I’m not able to help having many medications during pregnancy, one thing I can affect is the foods I eat. Eating healthily and enough will not only affect my child but also my possible grandchildren and so on, through epigenetics. You can read a lot about epigenetics online, the main point is that you can affect how the genes your baby (and his/her offspring) has are expressed by how you act during your pregnancy – how much stress you have, what you eat etc. I also want to embrace good eating habits because I will be an example how to eat to my baby boy Leo when he grows up ❤ .

Getting a variety of good quality meals with veggies, starchy carbs and protein as well as healthy fats will provide the energy to train and nutrients for the baby to grow 🙂 ❤

Besides lifting weights 2-4 times per week, I have been doing cardio, mostly walking although it feels a bit uncomfortable now and has been so after about week 16. I started to have light contractions after longer than 30-60 minute walks depending on intensity. Rowing was out of the question also after about weeks 14-16 when my belly started to grow. The best I’ve felt is doing endurance training sessions on crosstrainer indoors, or water running. I haven’t been doing any HIIT training, just walking on basic endurance levels of heartbeat and on crosstrainer. Sometimes I use indoor cycling (usually at my mom’s who only has a bike). I do both basic endurance and some light speed endurance sessions 1-3 times per week if I have the time and feel good. I like the bike, but it has started to cause both tail bone and pelvic pains so the crosstrainer at home is my most precious friend right now when it comes to endurance training 🙂 .

Having a great time at FAF Running Trainer course with my personal trainer friend Eeva ❤

Last weekend I attended a two-day FAF Running Trainer course to learn more about technique analysis and drills, running economy and running training programming with a personal trainer friend of mine. The course was fantastic – I got a huge amount of new knowledge and am thrilled I have a couple of running clients I can start to work my new skills with right away! I also got the chance to get analysis of my own running technique and how to improve. I was a bit surprised but in a nice way, as my technique got praised and the only thing to really focus on improving was to raise the cadence of my running and use shorter stride length. Running with bare feet and focusing on drills and cadence got my running form already into a great shape. We’ll see if I one day decide to start running with my baby after giving birth 🙂 ❤ .

Running technique at slow motion after two days of technique drills and without running shoes, aka “look, a pink elephant is running” !! 😀 :

I was already pretty exhausted from having a short weekend holiday with my mother at Tampere – it’s funny how we adrenal insufficient people need a vacation to recover from a vacation! 😀 And now the really intensive Running Trainer course wiped me out completely. I will now take a break from writing and training too hard and will sleep a lot, and hopefully am in the shape to get back into writing later in June 🙂 .

I wish everyone great workouts, tasty meals and sunny summer days!! ❤ ❤

xoxo,

Veera

Some Kind Of Monster (Inside Me)

Whew, this must be my longest break in writing this blog. Don’t think I’ve given up, though. I may have given up on myself on occasions during these long months. But it’s not my fault. I have an alien growing inside me. An alien that drains me of energy and nutrients and has changed my physiology and behavior totally. In a few months, it will break out of my body violently….

No, not this 😀 … (photo source)
THIS !! ❤ ❤

I’m pregnant – how weird is that !! ?? !!

Sooo. That is why I haven’t been around. I had a crazy last year and had already exhausted my resources with trying to finish personal training studies, fitness coach studies and continue my nutrition coach Level 2 studies with Precision Nutrition. And then we got the best Christmas present we could ever hope for with my husband. A positive pregnancy test.

I’m going to be frank. This baby was kinda pre-ordered. And really longed for. I had been diagnosed with infertility and anovulation issues already almost 10 years ago before my adrenal insufficiency diagnosis. I knew getting pregnant would be an issue and after trying for a few months I went to new round of tests and the problem was still there. So our only option was infertility treatments. I’ll maybe write more later if I have time and energy. But in short, our little baby was a result of ovulation induction and insemination treatment. But we succeeded ❤ ❤ . And after all the troubles we went through last year, at least we could both be sure we really wanted to build a family together – without the strong drive it would have been easy to give up after months and months of negative tests and disappointments.

Leo Kristian is expected due 23th August ❤ ❤

This year has been a total roller coaster of mixed emotions and hardships that have lead to me being on looooong sick leave again since end of Feb, and it will continue til the start of my maternity leave. Both my physical and mental wellbeing have really been tested but I’m still here. If not kicking and going strong, then at least limping and crawling my way through. The reason why I didn’t write this blog was because of the horrible tiredness, brain fog and depression from my problems. I hope that now as summer is coming and it seems I’ve been through the worst life can throw upon me I will have more strength and energy to write about how I’m doing and what this pregnancy has been and is like – there isn’t much information about adrenal insufficiency / Addison pregnancies around.  Sadly, not in the hospitals either and OB/GYNs are quite oblivious about us as patients.

I’ve been able to work out through the pregnancy so far and that has probably kept me from going totally insane. I’m tired as hell and have to rest most of the day – I sleep about 10-14 hours (!) and then lie down most of the time awake as well, but have managed to lift weights 2-4 times per week. My aerobic fitness is probably quite awful right now, though…

From small…
…to a bit bigger baby bump

What else have I done? At the beginning of this year I actually felt better, had no nausea and I was taking more cortisone to be able to do my work and finish my fitness coach studies. I was dancing at the edge of total exhaustion, though, and the crash at the end of February was probably unavoidable and should have been seen already on January. I just tried to be a good doctor, good student, and lots of things that my body just couldn’t handle. But I did manage to push through on my studies and am now an official FITNESS COACH by Finnish Fitness Alliance! 🙂

Me with Finnish Fitness Alliances chairman KP Ourama whos also a distinguished IFBBs international judge, and executive manager Ville Isola 🙂
Hanna Saario placed 6th last year on IFBB World Championships body fitness categorie, shes a great gal, personal trainer and sister of my med school classmate :). 
Hanna is an exemplary athlete, and my idol in being an exemplary mother as well ! ❤

I’m happy and excited to find new fitness & physique coaching opportunities as soon as I get well again…and manage my health and taking care of my baby, of course 🙂 . I currently have one athlete I coach who is aiming at competing in wellness fitness in near future. She has made great progress already! From posing lessons to nutrition and different kind of smart and evidence-based training regime. At first her calories were waaayyy too low for a serious female athlete but now after following my instructions her progress is amazing. From 1500/1100 kcal (training/non-training day) in dieting with less than stellar results, she is now after 4 months maintenance with pre-planned calorie increases dieting with 1650 kcal every day and losing over 0.5% of her body weight every week! I’m hoping to get more athletes in my roster next year and help them shine on stage 🙂 .

I can also now reveal my new fitness team I’m working with – all our coaches and support personnel are simply put awesome persons and all interested in coaching in evidence-based way, athlete’s health and mental wellbeing put first, and focusing on long-term development of our athletes both in sport and as human beings ❤ . Go check out Team Finnish Physique Academy (in Finnish)!!!

Of course, all this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my husband and my mother, who have taken care of lots of daily chores so I could rest and try to finish my studies despite horrible tiredness from early pregnancy. And they have helped heaps with my dogs… Ups! 🙂

I have a new chihuahua puppy, Maksim !! ❤ ❤

Little Maksim at 5 weeks ❤
This is Maksim at 8 weeks in Easter ❤

Franz and Maksim were best buddies from first evening 🙂 ❤

Maksim moved to live with us this Easter. I love him so, so much – he’s such a good and very calm boy, very unlike Franz who was a complete rascal 😀 . I decided Franz needed company as he’s been a real momma’s boy and now when we have a baby on the way, he is not going to get as much attention as he is used to in the future. It turned out to be an excellent decision, as Franz and our new hairy baby Maksim have been best friends ever since he moved in. I have now more free time as they keep each other company and I can rest more. It’s a win-win!

It’s great my dogs love to sleep as much as I do!

Despite all these wonderful, uplifting things I got really depressed as I couldn’t continue to work anymore as a doctor and and was so tired I missed lots of my nutrition coach studies that still continue, not mentioning not having the energy to even read or see my friends for ages. I just slept and cried. And as I’m pregnant, I didn’t have the luxury of being able to compensate a stressful period in my life by taking extra cortisone as too high a dose could have adverse effects on the developing fetus 😦 . Now I even had to quit using caffeine altogether. So there is nothing that could keep me awake. I also had to quit many of my medications that helped me with being more alert and have energy during the day. I still have had feelings of uselessness and shame because of that. I’ve now talked with my fitness team’s mental coach and it has helped to focus my thinking. Right now I kind of understand that my first priority is to take care of myself and that way also of my baby. But in this society where humans are valued only by how much they work, now after a great last year I can’t help feeling like a failure that I suddenly collapse.

I hope this blog text will be a new start to me, kind of different work instead of paid work-work. If I can help someone to realize they are not alone with adrenal insufficiency, having a difficult pregnancy, wanting to work out and lift heavy things during pregnancy (in a safe and science-backed way, of course), writing this was worth it.

Please comment if there is something you might want me to write about, considering pregnancy (with AI) or resistance training during pregnancy.

Hope to write again a bit sooner, 

xoxo,

Veera

 

A Very Fitness Christmas & New Year

Wonderful Christmas and New Year Holiday time for each and everyone!

I’ve again been working and training through both Christmas & New Year… Could have done without the work part, but after many months of sick leave without pay this year I have to earn a little to spend a little :).

Just before Christmas, I had again such a great time in Vierumäki Sport Institute of Finland in my second part of Finnish Fitness Alliance’s coaching certification course, and got to know our group of fitness coaches a bit better.

We learned more about dieting strategies, fitness and bodybuilding research done so far in the world, evidence-based nutrition and supplement guidelines, doping regulations and many other subjects. We also had to plan and run a posing practice to each other in small groups. My group had kind of advantage as we had IFBB bikini World Champion Anna Virmajoki giving us a couple of hints how to do it 😀 …

At Vierumäki with my fellow fitness coaches

The best lecturer in Vierumäki was one of my favorite dietitian / nutritionists in Finland, Patrik Borg aka Pöperöproffa (The Mush Professor 🙂 ). He is renowned from his work on obesity and sports nutrition and he writes a very popular blog in Finnish: http://patrikborg.blogspot.fi/ . His talk was about eating disorders in sport. Some of best pieces of Patrik’s lecture:

-How do you stay relaxed and keep a normal relationship with food and eating? The answer is not discipline and tight control.

-Food is food. It shouldn’t be a reward or a punishment. Allow flexibility in your diet and make conscious choices by free will – “I could have some cake, but I choose not to today”.

-“Shouldn’t” -type of thinking leads to problems, as well as denying yourself certain foods or food groups or stigmatizing some as “bad” or “unhealthy”.

-An alarm should ring in your head if you notice feeling guilty about eating, or anxious when thinking about eating or about certain foods, or you “buy” allowance to eat by (over)exercising.

I’ve had issues with body image, self image and disordered eating when I was a teenager and exercised a lot. I hope Patrik’s message about relaxed and permissive eating would reach as many people suffering from same issues as possible. Now as I’m older and thankfully wiser I’ve gotten through that phase. Still, many others need therapy and help of a dietitian and other health care providers to heal themselves. A good coach/personal trainer can also help with disordered eating habits, preferably in co-operation with aforementioned professionals.

A few years ago, Precision Nutrition’s coaching program helped me focus on how I perform instead of how I look, and noticing and naming the feelings and thought systems behind my actions that made me overeat junk food or starve myself. If you’re interested in learning more as I’m a certified Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach (and happily doing my Level 2 Cert program!), shoot me a message 😉 .

Finnish winter is long and dark but great teaching, atmosphere and my thirst for knowledge kept me awake at Vierumäki!

I feel so happy about my decision to start the fitness coach course. Fitness is something I’m really passionate about. The sport of fitness, whether it be natural bodybuilding, bikini, physique, figure, etc. requires incredible amount of dedication, determination, patience and self belief, and really teaches you to walk the walk – live by healthy eating habits and regular exercise every day of the year. I’m thrilled and privileged to be able to work with other fitness enthusiasts and famous coaches and athletes ❤ . I hope I’ll be able to finish my powerlifting coach certificate next year, too, though. I still love the bench, deadlift and squat, too (not necessarily always in that order 😀 ).

I’ll be finishing my Finnish Fitness Alliance’s level 1 coaching certificate next February, and have decided to continue straight away to level 2 course that starts only 2 weeks from now! ❤

Aaaannd…. I’m also now a certified personal trainer!! 🙂

http://www.trainer4you.fi/koulutukset/personal-trainer-koulutus.html

I finished my written, case study and live coaching exams this month. ❤ I feel so relieved the long year of studying is finally over. I’m not sure if I learned much new since I had so much past knowledge and experience about training, nutrition and coaching, but now I have the certification to prove it.

The last weekend of studying at Trainer4You was probably the best. We had one of Finland’s gurus of functional movement, physiotherapist and Anatomy Trains -instructor Ari-Pekka Lindberg to teach us movement analysis ❤ . 

When I have the chance in future, I’m want to learn more about functional movement and movement screening. Before my personal trainer studies, I’ve studied fascial manipulation techniques, manual back therapy and acupuncture for my physician’s work. But next year 2018 my focus is on becoming a better coach for my athletes, and learn more about fitness sports, especially the competition prep. I’m happy I have such good contacts and already a great fitness team I can fit – more on that later 😉 .

After New Year I have more time to rest, but just to keep myself in good health and performance I’ve fitted short naps and other relaxing breaks such as cuddling with hubby watching Netflix around my each day.

Me and Franz getting some rest before I hit the gym
Franz takes his naps seriously 😀

I got the spend Christmas with my husband in Hamina – even though I worked, we still went to the gym and had some fun and relaxed time together – that’s all I needed and asked for for this first Christmas as a married couple ❤ ❤ .

We found a new way to put hubby’s medals into use in Christmas decorations! 😀

A very Merry Franz Christmas! ❤

I managed to squeeze in my regular benching session and squats on Christmas Eve :).

After a couple of first hectic weeks of year 2018, I hope I will be sharing more and more often here on my blog about my journey into coaching, how I manage stress nowadays, what’s in my workout program and about my athletic and other aspirations for new year.

xoxo,

Veera

This Awesome But Hectic Life Of Mine

Hiya! Right after getting my strength back I’ve been living life to the full last few weeks – maybe even a bit too full… I’ve had so much fun, met and hung out with friends and enjoyed every moment of it ❤ .

I was invited to my friend’s bachelorette party near Tampere a couple of weeks ago. I was pretty exhausted from all the traveling I had had to do in the near past but wouldn’t have missed her day for any price. I guess I was also suffering from a little bit of post-travel depression since returning from Ireland. Spending lots of time just resting and sleeping isn’t something that I like to do. It’s something that’s required of me if I want to stay functional but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I normally love being around people and not being able to really gets to me. Being all alone and weak in the bed makes me moody and sad.

I guess I would have been more energetic if I hadn’t spent the previous evening attending my friend’s singing gig at Helsinki, but I really wanted to hear her Dance Storm band play there – we had such a great time there with my friend Johanna ❤ . The gig was awesome, my leg twitched like crazy as I would’ve wanted to dance but really then I would’ve missed the bachelorette party due to total exhaustion.

The bachelorette party venue was Vaihmalan Hovi, a hotel and a spa near Lempäälä. The weather that day was fantastic; the sun shone brightly and we spend lot of time outdoors. The bride to be got spa treatments and we had planned some outdoor activity and a treasure hunt for her to test her wits 🙂 . I really enjoyed getting to know the other participants as I had never met most of my friend’s other GFs.

Our bachelorette party venue
We all got pretty hair pins to match ❤
Front yard at Vaihmalan Hovi

I would really have liked to go swimming but I forgot my bathing suit…

The day spent in sun and having numerous activities totally drained me and I spent the train ride home shaking and popping extra hydrocortisone. I have no recollection of the evening after I got home…

I haven’t been able to lift as often that I would’ve liked. Well no shit Sherlock. If I’m traveling around Finland and Europe, doing my job and hanging out with friends on this and that occasion I can’t split myself up any further. I have to really start to think about my priorities in the becoming few weeks as I miss lifting and 3 times per week – barely, may I say – just doesn’t cut it for long. I want to get to better, to set PRs, get more muscle. The way I’m living now won’t produce those results. I just need to choose what is most important to me in my life.

Still managed to hit the gym both in Hamina and in Espoo at least a couple of times 🙂
Last set of deadlift drop set left, lunges await…

I have missed spending time with friends and traveling, stuff that I loved to do before I got diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency. This spring and early summer I have been in the best shape ever since diagnosis. I think lots of reasons attribute to it:

  • My body is recovering from the long lack of enough cortisone and DHEA
  • I have learned to recover faster by taking small breaks throughout the day and sleeping wherever and whenever I can
  • I’m in better shape thanks to my powerlifting practice and the rowing sessions I started this spring
  • My nutrition is on point thanks to my nutrition coach, Renaissance Periodization’s Dr. Jen Case 
  • I’ve had a lot of help from my mother ❤ who takes care of Franz while I travel and work
  • Last but not least, I have a wonderful officer and a gentleman in my life who takes care of me when I’m tired or sick, walks beside me and supports all my aspirations in life ❤

Due to all the above, I’ve been able to work part-time since the end of my over 3 month sick leave last winter, begin my studies to become a personal trainer and finish my nutrition coach degree so I can help others.

I now have my first online nutrition coaching group that started in June and I have been so happy and amazed by the people that have trusted me to help them get in better shape and health. We have our own Facebook group and do group training and meet-up sessions at least once a month now. I have had much help from Precision Nutrition‘s ProCoacha nutrition coaching software for their certified coaches that helps me deliver daily educational lessons and workshops to my clients and help us monitor their progress and keep in touch. One month in, and many have already noticed big changes in their mindset about nutrition, fitness and life in general, as well as in their waistlines! 🙂

We had a blast in my coaching group’s outdoor training session!
Just hangin’ my hair out on summery pt course break 😀

My powerlifting coach certificate studies begin in August. Thankfully I only study one or two weekends per month and some evenings. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do my doctor’s work that pays for my “pt hobby” now. Hopefully next year I will be a certified personal trainer as well and can deliver excellent and holistic health services to my clients by combining these two professions.

As always, Franz is being his own cute – and at times annoying – self and keeps me company in my both homes at Espoo and Hamina ❤ .

The summer heat gets to even Franz at times
Franz having a little flamingo action 😀

For an adrenal insufficient individual, I think I’ve done more than well managing my life for the last few extremely busy weeks. But my illnesses are catching up with me at the moment and I really need to slow down soon or I will crash and burn. Right after my annual Utti Krav Maga Summer Camp this weekend, that is 😉 .

I will try to post an update next week about my trip to the European Powerlifting Conference as well as the Utti summer camp. Right after I’ve recovered. Already looking forward to spending time just resting, reading and watching movies, and when I’m up to it, hitting the gym again 🙂 .

xoxo,

Veera

Anxious And Overworked, But Hopeful

I seem to be able to write really seldom these days. The matter is I’ve been absolutely overworked and tired. I’ve done my usual consulting physician’s work and started my personal trainer studies, and on top of that had to start renovating an apartment I own and have been renting after a tenant left it in a bad shape… And of course I’ve tried to work out as usual. I had to end my diet last month as I was so tired with all my responsibilities I didn’t see a point in continuing a diet which would be an extra stressor.

I have also been anxious, probably due to all the stress and hurry. I worry about a dozen little things every day and chastise myself for not being efficient enough, smart enough, good enough doctor/athlete/friend/human/etc. I wanted to write about this as I know I’m not by far the only person in the world who feels this way in a modern society where people are valued based on what they do, how they look, how they perform… I’m sorry I don’t have an easy answer how to get rid of these feelings of worthlessness. If I did I wouldn’t see a therapist. My resting heart rate has gone up from 65 to 72 bpm and I wake up frequently in the middle of the night and my sleep seems to be much lighter than normally.

I’ve found some comfort by talking to my friends and other people who also suffer from same problems and by thinking about my core values – what is important to me in life and how can I incorporate things that make me happy into everyday living?

So here’s an impromptu list what I’ll try to add more of to my days:

  • Seeing my friends, making new ones and having fun
After a great, sweaty crosstraining session with my fellow pt course students 🙂
  • Reading more fiction

  • Taking long walks with Franz ❤

  • Remember to incorporate light, recovery exercise I also enjoy
    Relaxing in the pool after our gym instructor course training session
  • Managing my sleep better by getting to bed early enough, taking melatonin and meditating

  • Lifting hard and heavy but not too seriously 😉

  • Last, but not least – spending time with my man ❤ ❤ (who I see way too rarely)

This is just a phase in my life and right now the amount of stress is huge, but I know things will get better in the long run – in the meantime I have to be more mindful and forgiving to myself. I know I take too much responsibilities and try to manage every aspect of my life and often others’ as well. I have to remind myself I’m only one person and a disabled one on the top of that. If I want to be able to help others I have to start with myself.

xoxo (to myself as well),

Veera

Who’s Afraid Of The Big, Bad Endo vol. 2

Cortisone is a miracle drug. It keeps me and other people with adrenal insufficiency alive. It’s not your enemy, it’s your savior. It’s the thing that keeps you pushing forward when going gets tough.

The instinctual drive to survive and stay alive is strong. It’s ingrained to all living creatures, including humans. Medicine is supposed to heal the sick and wounded and alleviate pain and suffering. It’s what you expect your doctor to do when you visit her / him.

So, considering those above facts, how is it that when our endocrinologist suggests that we lower our cortisone dose dramatically, or even with secondary adrenal insufficiency patients, wean off altogether, we are called emotional, hysterical, overdramatic, mental?

How would you react if you went to the doctor and your doctor started to contemplate aloud whether to cut off your legs, lobotomize you or simply put you off your misery by execution? In my opinion, we adrenal insufficiency patients are way too well-mannered and proper when we simply sit and listen to those threats year after year without yelling, throwing things and surging out of the doctor’s office screaming after restraining order.

But hey, that’s just me.

Starbuck said it.

xoxo,

Veera

Waves Of Healing

waves_of_healing

I’ve still been busy with life. It happens. Today I’m happy and blessed that I’ve been able to work and work out these past few weeks. But as my strength is limited I’ve been forced to take a break from a lot of things I love doing, such as writing this blog.

Last weekend I attended “Selätä säästöliekki” (Beat Metabolic Damage) -seminar in Helsinki. A lot of things we went through on both Saturday and Sunday were already known to me but recapitulation is always beneficial. Best parts of the seminar were meeting new, interesting and bright people enthusiastic about health and fitness, and especially the lectures Anna Riihimäki, a psychologist and psychotherapist specialized in eating disorders, gave there. Her talk really hit home with me.

As I’ve written before, when I was younger I suffered from restrictive eating and black-and-white thinking about food and what is healthy eating. Age, learning more about nutrition, and adopting flexible dieting strategies helped to break the cycle of orthorexia. But I still suffer from demanding personality, perfectionism and black-and-white thinking about other things in my life. I restrict myself from having any “fun” or free time until I have dealt with all of my “responsibilities”. I demand and accept only perfection regarding my work as a doctor, peer supporter, friend, spouse, you-name-it. There are only total successes or complete failures in my life. Again quoting Anna Riihimäki talking about a particularly challenging patient of hers, “that’s why (psycho)therapy takes years!” 😀

She also talked a lot about self compassion and cherishing small victories. I realize I rarely, if ever, compliment myself when I succeed in something. I tend to take my personal victories for granted. Sometimes I think I haven’t really accomplished anything. But I have! I really, really have done many things I should be proud of recently. To remind myself, I decided to list some of my accomplishments / personal victories:

  • I’ve gotten better at limiting my engagements and volunteering work and realizing I need to take care of myself first if I want to help others
  • I have been able to return back to powerlifting and continue my weightlifting practice – “only” three times per week is still three times more than zero – getting healthy, fit and strong again takes time
  • I’ve taken time to unwind – whether listening to music, reading a good sci-fi book or just cuddling with my boyfriend watching a movie without doing anything else
  • I’ve taken care of getting enough quality sleep – in my case, 8-10 hours of real sleep, not just lying in bed, which is already an amount you can’t get by accident, it takes work and dedication

Anna talked about the waves of healing. The picture at the top is courtesy of her lesson. I hope I will someday truly learn and internalize the message. Other good reminder I’ve posted before:

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I guess I’m still going to spend a more than few hours working on my tendency of overt self-criticism and learning to love, forgive, and rest. But hey, I’ve got the rest of my life to perfect this :).

Ride the waves and have a wonderful week,

xoxo,

Veera

No More Miss Nice Girl

~I’m Gonna Live Even If It Kills Me~

And that’s the spirit from now on. What’s going on? Well, I woke up. Into spring. Slowly back into life. I’m feeling more energetic and my brain fog is finally clearing. I still have hypothyroid symptoms but I’m hopeful they’ll abate after some time as I’ve upped my T3 meds and am taking iron. As my brain is slowly starting to reboot and I’m once again able to think clearly, I realized that I’m the best expert on my body. Not my doctors. Not lab results. I’ve always been an odd case anyway, or as a friend would say, “a special snowflake” ;). You can’t always find cookbook solutions to every medical problem under the sun.

I already have very rare diseases and on top of that they aren’t always acting as they’re “supposed to” if compared to medical textbooks. I react weirdly to some treatments. My symptoms and lab results can be off by a mile. I understand that I’m a difficult and annoying case for any doctor. Even for myself. And in today’s health care, professionals just don’t have the time to really dig deep into the affairs of one odd patient. I understand that. I’ve been there. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve the best treatments and best outcomes for my life, and for my health.

From now on, I’m taking full responsibility for my health. I will consult with my doctors on how to treat me but I will make the final decisions. I will not outsource my health and wellbeing to other people anymore. They might mean good and have my health interests in their mind, but I’m the one who has to live in my body 24/7.

I’m not settling for just barely coping with my illnesses. I will not cohabit with weakness. I will fight my way back into life that resembles more normal than just lying on the couch suffering. I want to travel and see the world. I want to be able to stay up late(ish) with my friends. I want to train hard and become an better athlete. I want to experience life. I want to feel – and be – alive.

I have to decide whether I can and want to withstand low cortisol symptoms just that I might have a slightly smaller risk to develop osteoporosis in the next 30 years or so. Thanks to my genetics, I already have a huge risk of vascular heart disease, for example – cortisone substitution or not. If I’m too weak and nauseous to exercise, how can I prevent the health risks of the future? If I’m too tired and brain foggy to work, who will pay my bills? And will my doctors take responsibility if I make wrong decisions at work and a patient suffers because of it? No, they can’t and won’t. I will take full credit from both smart and dumb decisions I make. But I will learn and improve.

Never Quit.

xoxo,

Veera

 

Tired With My Thyroid

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The quote above seems to fit my situation perfectly – ah, the irony of life! I battle with my body every single day. In my mind I will conquer all obstacles and win… at times. This week has yet again been full of “heck, no” -days instead.

I haven’t had any problems with my thyroid for so long I almost forgot what it feels like. Now I remember 🙂. I’m cold almost all the time. My muscles ache constantly as if I’ve been beaten – twice as much after I’ve execised. I’m swollen up, mostly at my face and ankles but there’s extra fluid under my skin all over the place. It’s some days hard even to get my shoes to fit. And my tiredness has reached completely new heights. Even 10-12 hours of sleep won’t fix it.

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My newest lab work showed normal free T4, my TSH was low as usual but free T3 was low for me, 4.1 (I feel best at upper limits, 5-6) and I upped my T3 medication slightly. My ferritin levels were 40, and thyroid patients should have up to 100 so I started taking iron and vitamin C. I really, really, really hope I will begin to feel better soon or I’ll flip. Honestly. I’m so tired at times all I want to do is cry. I’m terrified I mess up with a patient at work as I’m so brain-fogged all the time. All my spare time is used sleeping.

Hmmm… What else? I managed to drag myself to weightlifting class. Need to work on my snatch lift-offs and form, and focus on doing lifts slow enough with good technique, not to rash into the lift. This week we did cluster sets. But I’ve totally missed powerlifting practice. I’m still sick all the time, slight temperature and sore throat and trouble with asthma etc. etc. I need to stock up on my inhalers.

Hey, at least I don’t have a broken leg or anything. Only broken mind. Willpower pending.

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Franz is trying to cheer me up by licking (and biting) my arm as I type. He’s still a godsend. ❤

With high hopes (but low expectations),

xoxo,

Veera

“Would Pass Me The Hydrocortisone, Please?”

Phew. I should really be counting my blessings right now that I’m not in hospital. I was in a pretty bad shape last week and being that close to injecting wasn’t the best feeling in the world. I’m still recovering from terrible AI hangover…

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On last week’s Tuesday I traveled to Tampere to participate in “Harvinaista Työniloa” – Rare Enjoyment of Work – occupational health seminar. “Harvinaista Työniloa” was a local project in the Tampere / Pirkanmaa area meant to offer support and ways for people with a chronic, rare disease to cope at work better. It consisted of meetings with a occupational health coach and regular group support meetings. Every participant got an individual assessment and rehabilitation plan focusing on their personal strengths and resources. The plan’s actualization was also followed during the program.

I was asked to participate in the seminar by an employee from The Finnish Association of People with Physical Disabilities. Last November I attended their peer supporter course in Lahti where I got my certification for organizing peer support for my patient organization, the APECED Addison. She remembered that I’d been previously working as a doctor in occupational health care and asked if I’d like to attend and perhaps give comments at the seminar. I was really delighted as I’d met the project’s coordinator Susanna Koski last year at another rare disease seminar and we had a long, good chat about the program and her work.

Actually, at the seminar I was then asked if I’d like to give a short speech there about my own story and how I’ve been coping with my diseases and demanding work of a physician. It was a great compliment and of course I accepted. If you are new to the blog, my story of how I got diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency and what happened afterwards was first published at The Adrenal Diaries blog – A Doctor Diagnosed With Adrenal Insufficiency.

The seminar was held at Tampere-talo (Tampere Hall) at the heart of the city:

Tampere Hall – image source from website

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We had participants from the program telling their story about how they have been coping with their work while being chronically ill. We also had expert lectures and a panel discussion with doctors, occupational health care workers and the patients as well patient organisation employee talking about options how to improve the ability of patients to continue to work and how to support them and their work community better. A big topic was also how to increase communication between health care professionals in the hospital, primary health care and occupational health care about the patient’s needs. People seemed have benefited from the program – the final results are still pending – and I truly hope it gets funding to continue and hopefully the good practices can be also be applied elsewhere in the future.

The only negative part of the day was the probable issue with bad indoor air. I’ve been exposed to mold toxins in my previous workplace and react pretty badly with my asthma whenever I get re-exposure. My friend’s boyfriend told me later that Tampere-talo is going into big refurbishment this year. Hopefully they’ll get rid of the problem… Less than an hour into the seminar I was losing my voice and having trouble to breathe and had to use first my short-acting asthma inhaler and then also my long-acting inhaler. I developed a headache and started to feel feverish with shivers and troubles with concentration. It would have been more endurable if there would’ve been more breaks so I could’ve gone outside to get some fresh air but the timetable was very tight the entire day. I’m thankful that I didn’t completely lose my voice and I was able to croak through my speech in the afternoon. I also had to take more hydrocortisone as I started to feel weak and dizzy and my pulse was all over the place from the inhalers. It didn’t help that I of course had a slight stage fever because of my upcoming speech.

Overall I really enjoyed the day, especially the lecture of docent Marja-Liisa Manka from Tampere University about positive psychology, work engagement and enjoyment of work. She’s a Finnish pioneer on the subject and has written several books about positive psychology, stress and work. She also has her own coaching business, Docendum. I was so honored that she came to talk to me after the seminar and thanked me for my speech and congratulated me for my efforts and positive attitude! 🙂 ❤

Marja-Liisa Manka, docent, leadership of wellbeing at work, Tampere University

After the seminar I had to updose with more hydro just to stay upright – I was dizzy, nauseous and shaking and my every joint and muscle ached. I pondered if I should inject when I started to have this really out-of-this-world sensation and again my vision was blurring / narrowing as I stood up. I really hated the idea so I dissolved 20 mg more HC under my tongue and kept my fingers crossed that it would help. Luckily I didn’t have to stand or walk very far as my friend Anu came with her boyfriend to pick me up from outside Tampere Hall. We went to a small, local Chinese restaurant with her. The extra hydro tablets slowly begun to work and at the restaurant I started to feel I wasn’t in immediate danger of passing out in my chair.

The food and good company then picked up my mood and blood sugar. I had one of my life’s best beef with cashew nuts, and their Kääg chicken was also simply mouthwatering. If you happen to visit Tampere, check out the Shanghai restaurant – the food’s delicious with great value prices :).

Restaurant Shanghai, Tampere

After the meal, Anu had another treat for me planned – an ice hockey match ❤ ! It was my first Finnish Hockey League game where Tampere’s own Tappara played against Lukko from Rauma. My friend Anu is a big Tappara fan – I’m grateful she suggested we go to the match as I really enjoyed it! Luckily I started to feel better just before the match and was able to follow the game. Of course due to our enthusiastic cheers the home team won 4 – 2 :).

At Tappara – Lukko Finnish Ice Hockey League match in Hakametsä Icehall, Tampere

After the match I seemed to have exhausted my good luck charm abilities as we had a run-in with a local bus. A foreign driver drove straight at our side as Anu’s father was giving us a ride home, scratching his van badly. The bus driver then got out and started to yell and accuse us of the accident. We had to wait for the police for over an hour to sort the mess out. I was fortunate enough to be told to wait in the van as the weather was chilly. I had already enough hydro so I didn’t need to updose any more. In the end it was actually quite amusing to watch the bus driver make a complete ass of himself in front of the police as we only had about couple of hundred witnesses leaving the match that could vouch that he crashed us. At 11 PM we were finally at home and I immediately crashed in to get some much needed sleep :).

The end of last week was then a disaster and I spent almost all of the time in the bed or sofa recovering. I haven’t been able to lower my hydrocortisone dose and my asthma is still acting up so the day before yesterday I had to switch from HC to prednisolone in order to try to control my asthma. I’ve been forced to take extra inhalations every day as well as mucolytes and decongestants and I still get shortness of breath if I walk uphill and at times even just sitting still / lying in bed. I’m now taking prednisolone 7.5 mg + 5 mg + 2.5 mg what is an equivalent of 60 mg’s worth of HC. According to my previous endos, I should be unable to sleep and ballooning up like an elephant. Instead, I’m almost losing weight even though I’ve been eating like a horse due to blood sugar crashes and am feeling weak, dizzy and tired so I sleep all the time. Figure that.

To end with a positive note, Franz is growing up to be an absolute charmer! ❤ ❤ He sleeps well every night, gets on well with children, other dogs and animals including cats and tortoises, as well as our hamster Tara 🙂 . We’ve been to puppy training school and later in spring I’m thinking about enrolling him into competitive obedience training classes!

Learn more about obedience training and competitions from The (British) Kennel Club: New To Obedience?

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Proud flamingo hunter
Looking smart today!
Looking smart today!
Zzzzz... Let me sleeeep...
Zzzzz… Let me sleeeep…

Wishing you all a wonderful and healthy rest of the week,

xoxo,

Veera

❤ ❤ ❤