Friday, December 24, 2010

Thankful, Inspired & Blessed in 2010

As 2010 comes to a close,  I reflect and celebrate all that I'm thankful for this year.  As many of you know I've had probably the one of the most challenging, yet inspiring years of my life.  I started the year with great health, loving family and supportive family/friends. 

Unfortunately,  life has a way of not always going as planned and I experienced a few bumps in the road.  My health challenges began in June during the Boise 70.3 when I started to pass a kidney stone on the run and soon realized all my goals were now out the window, however I felt it was important to finish what I started and get to the finish time.  As I was recovering from this experience I began to notice shortness of breath as I tired to run.  I told my wife I thought something was wrong and she said, "go to the doctor", so I did and they took some blood, etc., sending me on my way feeling everything was fine. 

Two days later I realized everything wasn't fine as I attempted to participate in a practice triathlon with Team Blaze Spokane Triathlon Club ( which is an inspiring and support group of people who I get the pleasure of coaching.  As I got off my bike to run as I had done a thousand times before I began to cough and cough while feeling light headed I finally had to stop after 2.5 miles.  Needless to say I was frustrated and knew my body well enough to now something wasn't right.

As I returned home still coughing and I notice that I was coughing up blood.  I was somewhat concerned, however Tristin was persistent that we go to the ER.  So, before I knew I was being admitted to Sacred Heart Medical Center for follow up tests.  It was during my 3 days at SHMC that an Echo Tech noticed my Mitral Valve wasn't closing properly, which could explain some of my symptoms.  This set in motion probably one of the most difficult times in my life when I felt like my future was out of my control.  I was initially diagnosed with possible HCM or Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Mitral Valve Prolapse.  This caused me to react the only way I knew how which was to learn as much as I could about the unknown.  It was a scary time to think I was being to told to never swim, bike or run again and triathlon were now part of my old life.

I was frustrated and needed more answers.  I feel so blessed to have connected with Dr. Eric Anderson as he didn't realize it at the time, however the :45 minutes he spent with me made huge difference in my mental outlook on the situation.  He's not only a great sport medicine doctor, he's also a father and amazing athlete.  He could relate to me desire to continue to be active and offered to facilitate my care if the heart tests were inconclusive. In small world twist it turns out Dr. Anderson is my neighbor, however hopefully I'll only see him that capacity in the future!  Thank you Tom Deheart and Heidi Peterson for the referral.

In October,  after what seemed like an eternity of more questions than answers I completed my 5th heart test and I now had some answers as to why I was experiencing fatigue and my body wasn't allowing me the freedom to do all that I enjoy.  The interesting aspect of now having the answers relates to the fact that now I had to make some decisions about my future.  As this process began in June when I first met with the cardiologist the thought of surgery was something I strongly resisted, however as I learned more about the process I realized at 37 years old I desired the ability to live a long and healthy life free of restrictions. So, the reality of having robotic heart surgery was becoming more realistic.

I remember feeling more nervous than at any other time in my life when met with the heart surgeon for the first time.  He asked me if I was prepared to sit on couch like a normal person and let all this exercise go?  My response to him was again a question, do you feel like this is living?  After that brief exchange we began to discuss my options.  Unfortunately, my Mitral Valve was so compromised to the point that a basic repair might not be possible which I'll admit was tough to hear.  Tristin asked the Dr. Swick about how confident he was that he could repair the valve?  He paused for longer than I would like and  replied that he was 70% sure he could repair it. 

As many of you know that have supported me through this journey through heart surgery, I ended up having to make difficult decision which I felt 100% confident with my mechanical mitral valve put in if the repair didn't work.  Other than having to take Coumadin the rest of my life and hearing a slight ticking noise when I exercise, I feel so thankful to be on the road to recovery, healthy and alive.

(The amazing piece of art created by team Blaze member Mason McCuddin (Thank you!) was an ideal reminder with the names of all the club members inscribed as to how many people were lifting me up and supporting my through my surgery!  It is also a reminder as to the fact I literally put my heart, my life in the hands of god and through him was Dr. Siwek was successful with my surgery. I'm so thankful to be on the road to recovery!)

As a coach of several athletes I feel fortunate to be able to guide on their individual journeys in setting and reaching goals.  Recently, I had the pleasure of coaching and being inspired by two amazing athletes that I also consider good friends.  They both accomplished different goals and helped me to maintain a positive spirit through their actions.

(Norma with Tristin and I)

Recently, Norma qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater and finished 10th in her Age Group.  She continues to set goals, improve and inspire with her focus on consistency.  Over the last few years she has qualified for the Boston Marathon and 70.3World Championship!  I look forward to coaching her for IM CDA in 2011!

(Chet#10459 is standing next to me after the Honolulu Marathon and Charles Dias on the far right)

Chet recently lived out his dream and repeated his 20 x Ironman effort from 12 yrs ago. Chet contacted me about a year ago and ask me to coach him through this amazing event.  Starting on November 13th and concluding on Dec. 12th, he completed a 48 mile swim, 1200 mile bike and 524 mile run!  Chet did an excellent job of losing +30 lbs and finished what he started!  He proved to many that anything is possible if you stay positive and focused as the mind is a powerful thing.  As an example of the good in people, Charles also pictured above supported Chet everyday for 28 days taking time off work and away from family to assure the Chet accomplished his goal.

(Ultra Marathon finish March 2010)

In closing out the year, I've learned so many valuable lessons this year about faith, positive mental focus, friendship and family.  Life isn't fair and no one every said it would be, however I feel if we all just take time to reflect, support and give back to each other the world becomes a better place. In life we will all experience bumps in the road, although I truly feel it is how we respond or react to this challenges that defines us.  I knew that during this journey the only thing I could control is the ability to maintain a positive outlook and spirit.  This wasn't easy, however through faith, friendship and family I knew I wasn't alone.  Words can't expressed how much I appreciate all the support and encouragement provided to me through this bump in the road.

As I look forward to 2011 with wide eyed optimism I'm reminded through my 5 yrs. of all the good and simple things in life. Each day he's learning, growing and inspiring! Thank you little buddy!

Words can't express how much I appreciate my awesome wife for blessing my life with unconditional love and support! You're my best friend, partner in adventure and wonderful mother!

All the best in 2011 and remember to enjoy the journey!

Team Blazer Fun November 2011

Thanks for reading, encouraging, inspiring, and supporting!