Tag Archives: support

The Sourest of Lemons

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“…how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.”

This quote was said in episode 1 of NBC’s “This Is Us” which happens to be mine, and Dan’s, favourite TV drama at the moment.  I can say that with certainty because even though we rarely watch it when it is broadcast on Tuesdays (doesn’t air until 10 PM) we record it and he often doesn’t wait for me to watch it.  That show has been my replacement to “Parenthood”, as it really is my “I need a good cry” show.  And a lot of the time, if one of us watches an episode before the other, we rewatch it together.  That same quote was shown on the January 17th, 2017, episode.  And it was timely.

I wrote my last post about a big event in mine and Dan’s life.  I was pregnant.  Note, I say was.  Last week Friday, we headed up to Calgary to get the optional First Trimester Screening test done.  As we did the two hour drive, we talked about baby names, what we really wanted to do when we build the addition, that we should probably look on Calgary kijiji and see if there were any good dressers or rockers we could take a look at on our way home.  We checked in to the radiology centre, I spoke with a receptionist about how I get a free photo of the baby, and we went into the small ultrasound room with a tech.  The tech gelled me up and got the ultrasound up and running.

And  what we saw was just a black, blank space.

Dan was oblivious for a few minutes, as he doesn’t know what an ultrasound is supposed to look like.  I didn’t panic at first; I thought “maybe they just have to move things around and zoom in and there’s the baby.”  But then, the tech had the screen zoomed out so it was the typical ultrasound view you are used to seeing if you were to Google any pregnant woman’s ultrasound.  The black space where there should have been a fetus had nothing.

The tech was taking measurements and very quiet, then asked me to go empty my bladder and come back and do it one more time.  I knew this wasn’t going to be good, but I was still very confused.  I came back, same results.  She said she needed to go talk to the nurse and doctor and would be back.  As she left I curled into fetal position and cried holding Dan’s hand.  What was going on?

Eventually, some people came back and explained I had an “Anembryonic Pregnancy”, also known as “blighted ovum.”  I had gotten pregnant, and when the egg attached to the uterine wall, it never actually became a full blown embryo.  Reading information online tells us the embryo absorbed back into the wall, but a gestational sac and yolk sac still remained.  This gestational sac kept growing over these weeks, and at 13 weeks it was approximately 44 mm.  My body kept thinking I was pregnant this whole time, as I was having many pregnancy side effects-sore breasts, extreme fatigue, more visible veins, gaining weight.  My body had decided to not clear itself of the pregnancy.  This sometimes could happen at 8-12 weeks.  I never experienced any bleeding, spotting, painful cramps.  I was still holding on.

Eventually I dramatically stormed out of the office because a nurse I didn’t know was trying to console me by rubbing my leg.  But then, like in a sitcom, I had to come back into the damn room and grab my jacket.  I was crying in the mall somewhere in North Calgary.  And we had a 2 hour drive home.  As Dan drove, I cried.  I looked at the form the office gave me that had a conclusion statement of “An intrauterine gestational sac is seen but the fetus and fetal heart rate are not identified.  Findings are in keeping with an early fetal demise.  MISSED ABORTION”  What a fucking dark conclusion.

I looked up on reputable websites to find more information about Blighted Ovum.  Apparently it is the cause of half of miscarriages.  A lot of times, women don’t even realize they have it….maybe they didn’t even know they were pregnant and they miscarried before they even had an ultrasound.  I also read that many doctors believe this occurs because when the egg is fertilized, the body recognizes some sort of hormonal abnormality.  The body decides it shouldn’t continue on and it isn’t viable.  I am not a bio teacher, but to me that sounds like a crazy good thing the human body can determine that.

I got myself sort of together and phoned my mom.  I just stared at Highway 2 as she said “oh honey…oh honey…”  I cried.  I messaged two other important people in my life right away.  I had to tell them.  Dan and I stopped at some townie bar in Claresholm to have a beer and dinner.  Dan’s idea for this was that he didn’t want us to taint a place we have good memories of back home in Lethbridge, so we may as well stop at this hole.  Actually turned out to be a good meal.  Damnit.

Dan and I got home and I didn’t even know what to do.  The doctors in Calgary had informed my OB-GYN’s office in Lethbridge, but nothing could be done until at least Monday.  I already had an appointment scheduled for Tuesday, but obviously this would be a very different type of appointment.

The feelings I had were MAD and EMBARRASSED.  I was MAD because if I had been able to get an early ultrasound this could have been determined at as early as week 8.  Still would have been tough to find out then, but instead we got to Christmas.  Then me announcing it to everyone before my Marathon.  And then just earlier that week I told my students I teach.  That’s where the EMBARRASSED feeling comes in.  Now I had to go face everyone and tell them this wasn’t happening.  I know it’s not the right way to feel, but I felt like I had lied to everyone.  

That night, I texted a handful of friends who we had told earlier in December, before announcing it to the world.  I wanted them to know before I told everyone else.  Then, I drank a bottle and a half of wine and stayed up till 3 am.  Saturday morning, Dan made me eggs and I puked up the bottle and a half of wine and the eggs.  I posted an informative Facebook status saying what happened and I sent an email out to the staff at work.  I asked for the staff at work to not reply to my email, which everyone respected.  I didn’t say anything in the Facebook post, but I turned off notifications as I didn’t want to keep getting notified that people commented.

I eventually looked at the comments.  Publicly, people shared they had also experienced a loss.  I also got texts and messages from friends who experienced losses like ours.  Some of my friends I were aware had miscarriages before, others I had not a clue.  Hearing from these friends who have families of their own made me feel better.  I went to work Monday morning, even though many people probably questioned my well-being.  I needed to go otherwise I would have just laid around feeling sorry for myself.  I also had to go because I needed to tell my students what happened.  I teach many mature students, age 15-18.  So it wasn’t necessarily a complete foreign idea to them that this could happen.  But it came as a surprise to many I think.  I told it straightforward and informational…I didn’t cry…I held it together…and then I went on to teach them pre-calculus.  Shit.

At my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, I told my doctor about my ANGER and EMBARRASSMENT.  She said those were totally normal feelings.  And then, we made a comment about it being a ‘fake pregnancy’ and she stopped us right there.  She said if we went on thinking about it that way, we would be really messed up.  It wasn’t fake.  It was very, very real.  It is still a loss.  But we can move on and start over.

I had three options for management of the blighted ovum presented to me—let the pregnancy miscarry itself on its own terms, get medication to force the miscarriage, or get a D&C (dilation & curettage) performed.  I at first had thought I wanted medication, but it was explained that the medication sometimes doesn’t kick in right away….and sometimes it doesn’t clear everything out…and you still need another ultrasound to make sure all the tissue is gone…and you sometimes still need a D&C.  So we booked a D&C for Thursday.

I’ve been in surgery before, so I don’t really get bothered about the idea of getting put under general anaesthesia.  I just wanted this procedure to be completed so we could move forward.  Check in at 6:30 am…in a pre-op bed by 8 am…IV with saline by 8:30…. moved to a different room by 9:50….into surgery by around 11.  Last thing I remember before being knocked out was the strangely soothing jazz/blues/I-don’t-know-what guitar music that was playing in the operating room.  I woke up in another room and all I wanted was water.  The nurse attending to me talked to me quite a bit and I found out she rode her Harley with her husband all over and really wanted to go to Milwaukee.  That provided distraction as I told her all about the summer festivals, tailgating, the microbreweries.  I was a fucking Milwaukee tour guide while hopped up on what I later found out to be Fentanyl.

We eventually were on our way out of the hospital by 2 pm.  Long day.  Requested frozen yogurt, got home, and plopped on the couch in the basement to watch TV.  I was bleeding but not throbbing in pain yet, as the anaesthesia hadn’t worn off.  So I told Dan I wanted to watch “This Is Us” from Tuesday.  He had already watched it earlier that week, and when I wanted to watch it Wednesday night he said he wasn’t sure if I could handle it.  Oh shit.  Watching it anyway.

Well, we watched it together.  It was a great episode.  It was basically the first episode, but from a different point of view.  I didn’t cry, mainly because I didn’t have any tears left in my tear ducts.  I went upstairs to get my water bottle, and in the fridge I find a bottle of lemonade….

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The tears flowed.  I went downstairs and Dan and I hugged.  It had been a really, really, really shitty week.  Extremely.  But we are strong.  We are going ot move forward.  We have eachother.  We have our family.  We have our friends.  We can turn the sourest of lemons into something amazing.

 

 

 

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Volunteering at the Lost Soul Ultra

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Copyright LostSoulUltra.com

For all the races I have ran in over the years, I had yet to volunteer at an event.  Until now.  Each September, Lethbridge is home to a well-known ultra marathon event-The Lost Soul UltraMarathon.  This year’s event fell on the weekend of September 9-10th, and offered three different race distances: The 50km, 100km and 100 mile.  The race winds it way through the challenging Lethbridge coulees, taking you way up on ridges that overlook the river valley, and then down along the river bottom.  The course is not just full of basic climbs and descents—it is filled with grueling hills, single track madness and rough terrain.  It is not for the faint at heart!

I signed up earlier this summer for two volunteer shifts.  I would be volunteering at the headquarters, which was located behind Lethbridge Lodge.  This is the starting and finishing point for all events, plus a transition area for different legs of the 100km and 100mile.  I would be working from 4-8 pm on the Friday evening and then a few hours later, the graveyard shift of midnight-4 am.

The Lost Soul committee put on a nice volunteer BBQ a few weeks before the event on August 29th.  We got to mingle with other volunteers, receive our shirts (I was able to get a long sleeve shirt since I signed up for two shifts) and basic information.  On race day, I reported to headquarters and found Lorelei, our station captain.  The only runners on the course at this time were 100km and 100 mile runners, as their event began at 8 am that Friday.

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Finish area by headquarters

The timing of my first shift ended up being a crazy time at headquarters.  Lots of runners from both distances were coming through transition area.  As a volunteer, we were to help these runners at the aid station.  Whether it was fetching their drop bag (all runners could leave drop bags or boxes with their race number at each aid station) or finding them food or water in the aid tent.  The aid tent was unreal-at my first shift, there was a gentleman manning the grill making bacon.  Lots and lots of bacon!  The runners needed their salt!!!  He later on made burgers for the runners.  There was hot chicken broth, various fruit, sugary candy, chips, coffee, water, pop, and a whole lot more.  Runners had to check in with the timers as their entered the aid station, and could stay as long as they needed.  We then would put their drop bags back and send them off.

I was able to see quite a few runners that I knew during this time as they came through the aid station.  It was great to cheer on friends and people I knew from marathon club.  During my first shift I even got to see the 100km lead runner crush the course record and finish in around 10 hours and 55 minutes!  My friend Bob was helping crew him, so I got to hang out with Bob and his daughter Abby as they waited to see him come in and take the title.

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Shift 1 done!  Also now sporting my Lost Soul buff I received for volunteering

I headed out to dinner with a friend after shift 1, tried to take a nap (but failed) and came back at midnight.  It was a lot quieter at headquarters then, as far as runners go.  The runners have gotten more spread out, and the amount of runners coming in to the aid station at the same time had dispersed.  But that doesn’t mean that headquarters was boring.  There were lights and music, lots of happy volunteers to keep the runners’ morale up, and more food being served.  The later shift was a lot of fun because most of the 100km runners that came through were finishing.  Some of these people were seasoned vets, and some it was their first 100km race.  My friend Aimee came in well under her goal finishing her first 100km race!  She ran the race with her Dad, who is a veteran of these types of events!  I also got to meet a lady also named Andrea, who was also from Wisconsin!  She came all this way to do this race!  I had brought some Sprecher Soda with me to the midnight shift, so I gave her a taste of home by handing her a Puma Kola when she was finished.

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Aid Station at Headquarters between midnight and 4 am

 

Volunteering was an awesome experience, and I wish I had done it sooner.  It felt great to give back to the local Lethbridge running community, as it has already given so much to me.  Honestly, running races in Lethbridge and finding Marathon Club at Runners Soul really has kept me sane as I transitioned from a Wisconsinite to a Canadian.  I have met lifelong friends.  I have been able to reach goals I never thought would be possible. Everyone who runs in races should try to volunteer at a local race to pay it forward.  I am happy I did and I know I will again.

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Lost Soul Ultra is a premier ultra marathon ran in Lethbridge, Alberta, each fall.  Runners from all over North America make it out to western Canada to tackle our beautiful coulees and river valley.  For more information about this prestigious event, go to Lost Soul Ultra

Lethbridge Police Half 2015

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OHHHH, I had high hopes for this race personally. It isn’t my goal race of the summer (that’s next week at Disneyland 10km) but it was a local half that I have done the past two years and know the course quite well. The Lethbridge Police Half Marathon (and 5km/10km) was held Saturday, August 29th, 2015. Of the 126 half marathon finishers, I finished 9th overall and 3rd place female…so I even won $75.00! So why am I a little upset with myself? …




Race morning came and I was psyched. I felt positive and strong and ready to go. I did have an awful stomachache the night before and it had sort of gotten better, but I thought it was just nerves. I was hoping to try and run my personal best, so below a 1:35.40. I was aiming for 1:35. I started off quite strong…perhaps too ambitious. I went out way fast for mile 1, and slowed to where I should be in miles 2-4. I could see my friend Bob (the one who paced me in Vancouver) right ahead. I wanted to keep this nice distance between us as I wanted to be pushed.

   
 
I also was lucky to have my husband come help me out today. I had asked him a few weeks ago if he would not work today and bike along the course (he’s an arborist for his own business so it’s not like he called in sick!). I had picked key spots I wanted him to meet me at and then he could let me know how my placing was, and really, wanted his encouragement. By the time we got to Henderson Lake, at around mile 5, my legs were starting to feel a bit heavy and my stomach wasn’t feeling right. Ok, I just kept my eyes ahead and kept looping the lake and when I got to mile 6 I was still on pace for my goal. 


Then, it started to slowly get slower. 


Now that I look at the barely used Nuun water I prepared in my bottles, I don’t know if I didn’t hydrate enough or what. My legs got so heavy and I was not able to keep going in the 7:20s. After mile 7 I officially gave up my 1st place female spot. I could still catch up if I lit a fire up my rear, but the gap slowly grew. I knew I had to make up time when we crossed Scenic Drive down to Lynx Trail around mile 9. So going down that hill I got back on pace. But my insides did not appreciate the downhill descent. 
I have done this hill a ton of times, but my ever present stomachache got exponentially worse as I descended to the river bottom. I had to speed walk in two spots and I almost wanted to stop at the porta potty near Helen Schuler when we got to mile 11. At that point first place was long gone and Heather came up earlier on in the river bottom and passed me. I wanted to hold on to 3rd but I also wanted to stop!

Down in the river bottom was where Dan made all the difference. Up above on the streets and parks, he just biked to a spot, took a picture, and sped ahead. Since I was in pain down here and no one was around us, he stuck close by my side for the final 3 miles. I needed to keep having him tell me I had good distance on those behind me and that if I kept where I was at I could stay at 3rd. We ran under Whoop Up and two of my WCHS cross country kids snapped a great photo that showed how happy I was even though I was feeling the pain. Actually, how happy we both were because in the end, Dan would admit to me that he “...actually had a lot of fun doing that with you today! I’d do it again!”

  
I held onto 3rd somehow but boy, I was glad to be done. 1:40.13…well off what I am capable of. I know I haven’t been running the farther mileage on weekends this summer like I was in Spring training for Vancouver, so that’s a huge issue. Summer heat training has been tough and I’ve been doing lots of short speed work. I’ll be set for my 10km next week as long as I take it easy the next couple days. The smoke-filled air from the wildfires I don’t THINK bothered me…no coughing at all. But who knows? And I really can’t peg what caused my stomachache….other than perhaps still having some of the craziness of Kelowna in my system from last week. 

So all in all, while I wish my time was faster, I am happy about the day. I got to spend the day doing my favourite sport (Running!) while my favourite guy (my husband Dan!) was by my side and I got to celebrate it all in the end with lots of great friends from the running community who also participated. I also got to spread the running love to four of my WCHS Cross Country athletes, as they did the 5km. The other coach was there at the start and finish to see them, but I got to see them all before leaving. They placed 5th, 13th, 14th and 18th overall in their event out of 188 people! So now, I’m going to just try to enjoy my weekend before we are all back to school with kids in our class next week! Final weekend of no exams or papers to mark!  

   
   

I Had Good Intentions When I Signed Up For This–A Guest Post by Mom

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While Andrea is diligently training for her Dopey Challenge, I wish I could say the same was true for my first experience with a 5k. I had every intention of really working on a true 5k training program, but my orthopedic doctor put an end to that. Changed my approach to training at my health club with a walk 3 laps, run 1 lap plan. Twelve laps equal a mile. Tried that a few times, but my knee just wasn’t cooperating. Since I probably can walk faster than my slow jog was, I am now walking as many laps as I can in 45 minutes. My goal is do the 5k in 45 minutes or at least less than an hour. I’m going to try to do some “running” during the race, most likely at the start and again at the end. Since this is not only going to be my first 5k but also my last, I want to look good coming across the finish line!

You may wonder why I even decided to sign up for this 5k given my knee problems. The answer is simple. I’m doing it to support Andrea in her fund-raising efforts in memory of her dad. I’ve made yearly donations to the American Heart Association each year since Andy’s death, but what she’s doing goes much deeper. I am so proud of her efforts, both with her running and fund-raising thus far. Since she asked me to do another post, I’m also going to ask those of your who haven’t donated yet to do so. It doesn’t matter the amount. Even though she has surpassed the goals she set for both United States and Canadian donations, I know those amounts can get even higher with additional support from the followers of her blog. Not only will additional support help Andrea’s cause, it will give me the extra support I need. I’m freaking out about this little 5k! I am not nor have I ever been a runner. Andrea will attest to this!

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Running in Memory of Andrew Lammers-Fundraising Information

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Below is a copy of an email I have forwarded to family and friends in my personal email contact list. I wanted to share it with everyone as a general note and reminder about my purpose and goal of this page. If you regularly read my page, you probably know what I am doing and why I am doing it! If not, here is some general information and more details about my fundraising goals and efforts. Thanks!

Hi everyone. As many of you know, I have started a year-long running journey in memory of my dad, Andrew Lammers. I am documenting this journey through entries on my website, www.jemesouviens2004.com. If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at the site, I hope you find time to see some of the things I have included. Every Sunday, I update the page with a new post. The posts range in topic—about my training, race recaps, family history, Disney trips, and more. I try and tie everything together with the common link of my dad, and the important role he played on my life, and others.

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My dad and I on his 50th birthday, presenting me at the Franklin Junior Miss Competition.

By running numerous road races and reflecting on the past through blog entries on my website, I am honouring my day’s memory, as it has been 9 years since his premature passing on April 25, 2004. My training will culminate in January 2014, where I will now officially be participating in the Dopey Challenge during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This challenge covers four days, where I will compete in a 5 km, 10 km, half marathon and full marathon. This is 48.6 miles in four days!

I am asking you to show your support in my journey by reading, commenting and sharing my web page. I would also appreciate you considering donating to one of two charities—-American Heart Association (USA) or Heart & Stroke Foundation (Canada). I have created personal fundraiser pages directly associated with their organization. From my webpage, you can view information regarding the charities and links to their national web pages. My personal page for each organization offers secure donations, much like the national pages would. The direct links to my fundraising page with even more information can be found below:

American Heart Association

Andrea’s American Heart Association Fundraising Page

Heart & Stroke Foundation

Andrea’s Heart & Stroke Foundation Fundraising Page

I have set a goal of $1000 for each of these organizations, for a total of $2000. I have raised $635 for American Heart Association and $435 for Heart and Stroke Foundation. I am on my way but could definitely use your help! This time is better than ever, as I have 5 races in the next 8 weeks! I have also been very proud of how my past races this year have already gone, making my personal record in the half marathon (1 hour 53 minutes 52 seconds) and placing second in my age group at the Lethbridge Ten Mile Road Race (1 hour 23 minutes 14 seconds). Your love and support over the next 8 week stretch will be crucial and appreciated, as I am sure my body is going to want to quit on me by the time the “Millarville Run to the Farmer’s Market Half Marathon” occurs on June 15th!

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Feel free to share this email with anyone whom would find it of interest. Take care.

 

Love,

Andrea