Monday, June 4, 2012

What do you do all day?

I get this question frequently when acquaintances realize that I've had to take a break from working due to POTS.

Well depends on the day and how adventurous I feel.

Occasionally I'll do some errands by myself. Sometimes I feel energetic and good. And sometimes I seriously consider taking a sit down break in the check-out line.

If it's a bad week, I feel successful if I feed myself 3 times a day, and exercised. I'm a rock star.

Oh, and paperwork! I'm excellent at doing paperwork. From appealing health insurance claims, to proving disability to my insurance company, to figuring how to get my doctor to correctly fill out forms, to providing enormous amounts of documentation to student loan companies. Oh yeah, bring on the bureaucracy baby. I'm not afraid of you!

Perhaps in another post I'll list out some big things I've done the last year.  Since I've developed POTS I've decided to use this time to experience new things. Despite my limited energy, I've done that.

Exercise update:

I've reached the point where I can exercise standing up. I'm so talented.

Standing can be quite exhausting for someone like me. My heart can reach speeds of 160 beats per minute just by standing still. So I have to incorporate standing exercises slowly. I've been doing standing cardio for 3 weeks now. Here's my current approach:

25 minutes recumbent bike
5 minutes elliptical.

*Initially I only spend 2 minutes on the elliptical. 

I had the gym to myself the 1st day I elliptical-ed it. Listening to peppy music I definitely threw some fist pumps in the air and sang along. It felt awesome to stand and exercise. Even if I could only do it for 2 minutes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easily manipulated by peppy music

Exercise update:

So there I am, laying on my face on the workout bench. I've finished doing quads and calves. One last set of hamstring curls remains. My internal monologe goes something like this, "girl you've significantly upped the wieght for quads and theoretically that also works them hammies. How bout we just bow out now."

"but that makes me a wuss."

"um, your legs feel like mush. and you look pathetic." (see my reflection)

"yeah you're right."

*cue ipod to begin playing peppy song on shuffle (apparently this background music to playing a FIFA videogame GOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL!)

"Thank you shuffle feature!!!"

"oh my gosh, girl, you are so easily manipulated by peppy music."

And then I finished my last set. Yeah!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ya, mon. Exercising is great, mon.

Did you know you can use a recumbant bike and do leg exercises in paradise? Me niether.

Working out in Jamaica is great when that's the only thing you have to do each day.

I will say POTS changed the way I vacation for now. I would've loved to go to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro. I will climb that mountain one day. Just not right now.

A. I don't have the energy.
B. Don't have the money.

Caribbean all inclusives where all I have to do is show up for meals and sit on the beach is a POTS vaca I can handle.

So how did I get my husband and I out to Jamaica?!  We did the travel all on points and miles. Thank you to daily reading on Frugal Tavel guy, the points guy, mommy points, and million mile secrets. I've got more time on my hands since I'm not working. Might as well put it to use banking up miles for travel, eh?

Exercise update:
Haven't missed a single day.

Today I recumbent biked it. I broke a new record with resistance at 5. 5?!?! At like 70 ish rpms consistently. When I started I could barely do a resistance of 1 without have to take a break!

Way to go body.

Note: I'm pleased I've been able to keep up the exercise, however at this point I haven't seen an improvement in my POTS symptoms. Doesn't mean it won't happen. Just haven't seen it yet after 6 weeks.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

1 year

It's one year since POTS happened.  March 15th. Beware the ides of March!
I went into Dr H's office and told him about a tricky patient. Dr H embodies dental praticality so I knew he would know what do. I sat down to explain what was going on. All of the sudden, I felt as if all my strength and energy dropped like a releasing dam. Everything sunk down to my fingers and toes.

I knew what that meant. I'd passed out before.

"Just so you know, I feel like I might pass out. I don't want to worry you Dr H, but I figure it's best to say something before I pass out."

Ha! That's a relaxing conversation to have eh? And thus began my POTS journey. I went home that day, and relaxed. Came back the next day and the same thing happened again. I knew something was wrong with my body.

So now what? Well, I'm still pushing to get better. I'm exercising and doing all I can to regain my strength. I'm reading up on dental continuing education. I want to be extremely knowledgable when I get back into my profession. I'm keeping up with friends and family. I volunteer at my dental school when I feel good. I'm learning how to get frequent flyer miles so I can visit people for cheap.  I'm reading great books. I just started to brush up on my Spanish. I'm growing an awesome windowsill garden.

POTS totally messed with my life course. But you know what. I'm still here and I'm at peace. I'm celebrating today.

I'm adding some of these beauties to my windowsill

These airplants get nutrients from the air and humidity rather than from dirt.

I think these guys have spunk. I love that they can grow in unusual places.

I like to think that I'm developing that skill, being able to grow despite this wierd illness.

Happy POTS-o-versary

Exercise update:
Big day yesterday! I broke 150 calories during cardio.  Ever notice that when you exercise around other people you tend to adjust your speed to thiers? This girl was trucking along and I checked out my speed. Holy smokes I was going fast! I'm bouncing against my seat my heart was pounding so hard. Slow down! S'okay!

Get excited everyone. I'll have to take a picture at the iron I'm pumping. I'm getting stronger.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Short sentence day.

Ditched big book. Too ridiculous. Reading another medieval historical fiction. Better.

Downton Abbey = evening diversion.

Ran out of toothpaste. Sorry dentist I am.

Strength : me as steel : mud

But here I continue pushing.

Exercise update:


Leg sore. 4 weights with quads. 1 weight with hammies. yay.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Learning to laugh at myself

The other day I mentioned that I did 3 things to prevent living with POTS from turning me into an angry, cynical person . (PS It was an Umbrella! Umbrella! day today. Please forgive typos and poor sentence structure. Hoping to work on that with this blog.)

Thing #1 - Watch, read, take note of stories of other people (or cute puppies) overcoming challenges.
Thing #2- Learning to laugh at myself.
Thing #3- To be revealed later. Get excited.

Learning to laugh at myself:
I'm a volunteer clinical instructor at my dental school. It's so much fun, the students like me, I like the students, I teach them stuff, lovely.

Confession: It's been a week since I could make it in to teach, despite living 6 blocks away. Thus is POTS.

The silly part is, it wasn't for lack of trying. In fact, I've gotten fully dressed every morning and I have been ready to get out the door on time. However, I'm so thoroughly exhausted getting ready each morning I end up resting all morning despite being ready to walk out the door.

And then I snicker at my predicament.

If I walked to the school in my PJs, with dragon breath, and messy hair, perhaps I'd have enough energy to get there. However, I imagine a dentist teaching would-be dentists to be dentists without brushing her teeth wouldn't go over well. I guess that's why I'm exercising everyday. So I have enough strength to brush my teeth AND go teach.

It's also a good thing I'm not crucial to the functioning of the operative dentistry course. And I'm a volunteer.

Exercise update:
Still exercising! Haven't missed a day yet.

Today was recumbent bike for 30 minutes. As I was a pedaling I thought, "why are my arms getting tired while I'm biking?!"  And then I realized, "Oh yeah, I'm reading a book."

For the record I did NOT think "Why is my heart pounding when I'm biking super slow?"

"Oh yeah I have POTS" ;)

For those curious, I'm reading World Without Endby Ken Follett, It's 1014 pages.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Human Barometer

Occasionally I'll hear "Umbrellas! Umbrellas!" outside my apartment. A very enterprising guy watches the weather closely and takes advantage of peoples' unprepared-ness. It's just part of the charm of where I live. But since I got POTS, the Umbrellas! Umbrellas! is a friendly reminder why I may not feel so awesome.

You see I am now a human barometer! Mwha-ahhahah! Sometimes I forget that weather changes bring on more POTSie-ness.

Sure enough, today, I'm building an amazing Sim City when I realize I feel dizzy and lightheaded and I'm super tired. I don't get it. I feel worse than usual and  did everything I'm supposed to.

"Umbrellas! Umbrellas!"

Oh yeah. I forgot. I'm a human barometer.

Exercise Update:
30 minutes on the bike. I had to drop down from the lofty Level 2 resistance back down to my original Level 1 at around 15 minutes. Human Barometer-ness turned my legs to jello. I'm pedaling along thinking "Wow! This is really difficult, this may be the first day I won't make it 30 minutes." And then I thought "By golly I could make it if I take it down a notch." So I did. And I made it to 30.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Unlikely inspiration

“Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect.”
Margaret Mitchell

Exercise update:

I sat down to do leg presses, the pin was placed 5 weights down. Mind you I've only graduated to the 3 weights down mark. I thought, "pshaw, I got this." After a mighty push, my POTSie legs moved those weights and inch. "I guess not." I was so disappointed I didn't even try 4 weights down.

Ah well.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why I didn't fall into dispair when I first got diagnosed.

I imagine to an outsider observing me when I first got diagnosed with POTS, I seemed pretty pathetic.  If I walked any faster than an elderly shuffle, my heart would go so fast I would pass out. And I was only 25! I remember just standing in the middle of a hallway because I was too exhausted to take another step.

I was pissed. I had JUST graduated from dental school and I had no idea if my body would even let me make it down a hallway.

I had good reason to be upset. No one gets a debilitating illness from left field with no clear cure, and immediately goes all Pollyanna.


I also realized that if this was my lot for the time being, I didn't want to go around be angry with the world. So I did 3 things. I'll talk about the other 2 later.

1st thing was to watch and read about overcoming challenges. Sounds trite, but it was awesome for the soul. For instance, Dogtown on instant viewing Netflix totally saved me that 1st month. It's about these dogs who have bad injuries or behavior problems who get placed at a no kill shelter. And they get better! Or learn to deal with missing a leg! Or survive a brutal attack, heal and get adopted by cute families! Hurray!

If these sweet animals have a shot at healing, perhaps I do too.

(Definitely beat watching 24 where any minor character Jack Bauer encounters dies!  Cute doggies get better or imminent death and destruction? )

Exercise update:
I felt pretty icky today so I hadn't true cardio by the time my husband got home. He's pretty supportive and said he'd go down to the gym with me and we could put in 30 minutes together.

Wed is 30 minutes on the recumbent bike again, and thanks to my husband I got it done. Still felt my legs get jello-y at minute 10. By minute 23, I realized "huh, I feel as if I am on a boat." And then I realized "it appears I'm feeling dizzy." Furtively glance over to husband to see if he notices. "Good, he didn't notice." 6 minutes left.

"Slow down girl, we got this." (I talk to myself as a dualistic being when giving myself a pep talk.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Famous POTS person goes back to work

The majority of POTsies are women. But I don't want to leave the men out! 

My husband told me some big news yesterday. The Yellow Wiggle is returning! I realize you may think I'm a little off my rocker for being so excited, but I it's big news for the POTS world.

When I was getting tested at Vanderbilt one of my nurses told me about the yellow wiggle who had to step down a few years ago due to POTS. I was like "the yellow what?!" My nurse, a grown man in his 30s, responded with a straight face, "you know, the yellow wiggle, preschool kids love them. They put on concerts all over the world and they are millionaires"


Well the original yellow wiggle is well enough that he can take his place again as the energetic, singing, money earning wiggle. I love how in the article says int he side bar about dysautonomia that "most sufferers have hereditary illnesses as a contributing factor. " Disagree. We actually don't know what causes the majority of POTS cases.

Exercise update:
Tuesday is leg strengthening.

+1 Now lifting 3 weights for quads and calf exercises. I was feeling ambitious today and I could do all 5 sets!

+0 Hammies - still don't have the pin in at all! But at least I could lift the bar for 5 sets. Unlike Thursday.

Today I simply have a splitting headache post exercises. Thanks POTS! We shall do this again tomorrow!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Working toward strength: Someone else did it

Warning: Don't know what it is about Mondays, but I just feel all motivational speaker like. I'm just a seeing inspirational principles all over the place.

Last Monday I talked about how allowing yourself to be a beginner can be very powerful when working to develop personal strength. Personally I'm overtly working on physical strength. However, strength of will is hugely important in the journey for personal strength.

Something that helps me develop mental strength is to see other people who have overcome similar obstacles.

Little background on Marilyn: I went to a religious university.  Unfortunately during my studies to get into dental school, implicit cultural messages arose that women who got professional degrees were somehow strange, undesirable, less than, etc. Why are you working for this when you really should stay home a take care of children? (Note: I find nothing wrong with this way of life, but I do have a problem when this decision is expected and culturally forced upon a woman) And it was discouraging!  I really, really, really wanted to be a dentist. I wanted to help people stay out of pain, feel comfortable with their smiles, and I wanted to be challenged. But I took this journey in a sea of men. It seemed if it was ok for women in my faith to be pursuing this, why was I in such a minority?

And then I read about a woman from my faith. Who was a dentist. Who had her own established practice. Who did annual dental service missions to Central America.Wow. I was over the moon. I wrote her a fan letter. Seriously! She was beautiful, put-together, well-spoken, and professional. She was passionate to serve people, and  involved her two daughters in her service. I felt as if I was given permission to pursue this passion. Someone else did it.

Which is why it was a breath of fresh air to watch this woman talk about her experience overcoming POTS through exercise. She was part of the study which inspired this blog. She got her life back! Totally awesome.

Exercise Update: Monday 30 Min Recumbant bike
Something seemingly small, yet significant happened today pedaling on that recumbent bike. I felt the burn! At the 10 minute mark a new phenomenon happened. Instead of feeling POTS symptoms like rapid heart rate, dizziness, or total body malaise/ legs felt tired. That's right, I worked out my legs today. In fact as I pushed through the tiredness my legs were like,"ha-ha! We got this!" So I went from Level 1 to Level 2 resistance. And then my legs were like "aaaaand we can just stop there." Good job legs.

Friday, February 17, 2012

You know you have POTS when...'re so exhausted you want to take a nap after aerobic exercise.

Exercise Update:
Happened. 30 minutes on a recumbent bike.  I feel like POTS is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get! Monday was super strong palpitations, Wednesday was feeling super lightheaded, Friday is straight up exhaustion.

Did I mention I'm gonna go to sleep now?



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spanx - ing POTS

Warning: Despite drinking lots of water, taking my drugs, salt tabs, compression stockings and exercising today...head is full of POTS fuzziness. Proceed with caution.

At some point I'll do a post about POTS. But frankly I don't feel like it right now. Just take my word that smart researchers and doctors recommend POTS people wear compression stockings. Problem: compression stockings are expensive and mostly marketed to old people with heart failure whose legs swell up.  And they can be a pain to put on. And they can be really uncomfortable.
My cheap Spanx from Zulily

Enter Spanx. Some of them have cute patterns. They are breathable.  And they fit the bill for compression stockings. They are also on 50% at Zulily for the next week or so.  I bought all my Spanx of Zulily a few months ago. There's no way I would've been able to afford so many otherwise.

(Full disclosure: If you use the link above I get $15 in Zulily credit. I'll probably use it to buy  more Spanx. If you don't want me to get $15 credit, just google Zulily.)

Exercise Update:
Yeah, yeah.  I did it. Thursday is weight lifting.  My hamies where still sore from Tuesday so I warmed up with 4 minutes on the recumbent bike.

I can now say I lifted weights, since we moved the pin up. That's right folks, 2 weights!
Watch your back Chuck Norris...

Quads and calves weren't sore, so I figure it was time to up my game.

Hamies, now that's another story. They are still sore from Tuesday's lift. Despite hearing Angels and Airwaves sing "I will not surrender" in my ear...well...I surrendered.  2 sets instead of 5. That was all I could do. I imagine in 4 days when I lift again, the hamies won't surrender.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Women's boxing at Summer Olympics and internal exercise monologue

I don't know how I stumble upon these things.  I got a kick out of reading up on the 2012 Olympics hopefuls for women's boxing. This is the first year women will be boxing for Olympic titles. They have a weight category call "Flyweights." What's so awesome about it is these women are my size! Perhaps I shall take up boxing when I get my strength back. I'm a flyweight! ha-hah! Rock on ladies.

Exercise Update

The first day I exercised as seen below, I did not push myself much. Why? Every time I started to go a little faster, my body started thumping against the seat because my heartbeat was so intense. Don't be hatin, It's a POTS thing. Today, no heartbeat knocking on the exercise seat effect. I was all, "woohoo!" So I went faster! Until, I began to get lightheaded.  That means my heart was probably going too fast that it was no longer efficiently getting blood to my brain.  And then I was all, "Well played POTS, well played." So I slowed down.

And then I thought, "Well maybe I was just being a wuss and it wasn't that bad." So I went faster again!  But alas that blasted feeling of my head turning into a hot air balloon appeared again. So today turned into finding that border where I was still pedaling fast enough to be breathing heavier, but slow enough that I didn't get lightheaded.

2 days ago

Is it just me or does the calories burned seem to have no correlation with the distance? I mean, I added another "mile" and the calories burned only increased by 10.  I'm not sure how to measure how much improvement and energy I put into my workout.

PS The hams were DEFINITELY feeling it from yesterday. Yeehah!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day weight lifting

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program so that Marilyn can gush about her husband. Happy valentine's day.

-He likes to cook chocolate chip cookies with me.
-He noticed the symptoms relevant to my final diagnosis that were ignored. And pushed my doctors to investigate further. (ie isn't it strange to have vertigo with a resting heart rate of 105?)
-He's into economics.
-He chose POTS as a medical school presentation topic to doctors who probably see POTS but don't know enough about it to diagnose it. And he invites me to come.
-He made a POTS recovery plan backed up by the most recent journal articles. And he takes time each night to talk out what's working, what isn't, and what we can do about it.
-He speaks French, young children adore him, he has 5% body fat, and he's hot. Oh, and I don't think he even realizes he has an unofficial fan club. Everyone asks about him and followed by the the mantra "oh we love Mike!"

It's powerful what someone in my corner can do to help me develop strength. Love you blue eyes.

End gush. On to our regularly scheduled program.

Exercise Update:

I had an terribly difficult time of getting my exhausted body to the gym. It really helped that I've told a bunch of people what I'm doing.  Score 1 point for the psychological push I set for myself! I have some accountability and I'm gonna see this through.

In other news. I lifted weights! Or perhaps I lifted a weight. I still have a lot left to go.

Huzzah! I did 5 set of 12 reps for quads and calves.

When it came to hamstrings, it was more like 5 sets of 6 or maybe as 10. HA! Whew, that was unbelievable! I could only do a rep after I took out the pin. I was like Westley trying to fight Fezzik in the Princess Bride. Except instead of trying to lift a hulking giant, I'm lying on a bench with my ankles under some bar on the lowest weight setting. It was only after I took the pin out and lifted only the bar that I could muscle my legs up. Do we think I will feel this tomorrow. I think yes.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Allow yourself to be a beginner

In dental school, I took an elective titled "What's possible in dentistry". I figured we would be talking about all the lastest gadgets and technologies. It was actually taught by a hippy dentist who wore Birkenstocks with a toe ring.  Sometimes we rang a gong and dedicated the class to an ancestor or progenitor.  It was very zen despite its misleading title. Well, one of the session titles I found extremely valuable developing strength in any aspect of your life.

"Allow yourself to be a beginner"

As a newly graduating dentist he emphasized allowing yourself to be imperfect and a beginner at working with an assistant, getting used to the flow of a practice, or even learning where all your materials are. Change becomes much less stressful because you can give yourself a break when you don't hit perfection immediately. After all you are a beginner at this. He also suggested that when you declare yourself a beginner in an appropriate way others are much more willing to help you.

I'm a beginner at exercising with POTS. My body is weakened right now and I don't expect strength immediately.  I've never exercised with this illness before. I'm a beginner with figuring out what schedule works for me, working out on recumbent bike, and trying to keep an exercise schedule with POTS. This doesn't make me a failure, it just makes me a beginner.

Note: Isn't that seriously of cheesy? Most definitely.  Do I care? Nope. Why not? Because I feel better about myself when I change my thinking. Deal with it.

Exercise update
Monday - 30 minutes on recumbent bike
What you don't see is the resistence level of 1. Buya!
Lowest resistance possible. I pedaled a bit faster when I shot this. I was hovering around 44 rpm only because if I pedaled any slower the time paused. But I did it! Better yet, I feel like I could do it again.

Did I mention I'm on my last pair of clean socks? I'm a beginner at this!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why this?

Tomorrow is a big day.  I'm on a mission to get my strength back.

This all started when my husband decided to do a presentation on my illness for his medical school class. In reading up on the most recent scientific articles on POTS he found this beauty. After 3 months, 53% of the POTS patients who underwent this exercise therapy no longer met the clinical criteria for POTS. That is, the change in heart rate from sitting to standing did not increase more than 30 beats per minute for the 53%.


Every. Single. Person. Who completed this study reported an increase in quality of life. It didn't matter how severe or mild the POTS.

The last 11 months, my body has pooped out on me. I felt like I was in a video game where my character had the wimpiest energy bar and got left behind.  I'd rather not live the rest of my life like that. If doing a graduated exercise regimen means I will feel better, then I'll do it.

So here's the deal:
MWF  recumbant bike for 30 minutes.  Start slow and with little resistance.
T/TH leg strengthening with wieghts for 30 minutes.
S/S I can relax

I'll fill you in on how things go tomorrow. In the meantime, here's some pump up music. I wanna be able to rock out at a concert again.