I'm a believer that life is a journey or rather a process in which we make each day profitable for a quality filled life.
It wasn't too long ago that I competed in my 5th Ironman, the 2012 Ironman World Championships. I remember it like it was yesterday and so lucky to share it with Karel, my parents and so many far-away blog readers and friends.
Believe it or not, I still remember my first Ironman as if it was yesterday. In 2006, I had been dating Karel for around 5 months and I wanted no outside help when it came to my triathlon training. At the ripe age of 24, my training was like a child at her own birthday party. I was stubborn, into my own "routine" and completely obsessed with what the day will bring for me.
Although I don't endorse this approach now a day, I managed to succeed very well in my first attempt at the Ironman distance. After 140.6 miles, I won the 18-24 age group by over an hour, finished in 11 hours and 54 seconds, finished top 20 overall female and qualified for Kona.
Although I had a lot of fun training for my first IM, I was very careful with my training and recovery. I paid attention to every single detail and without any help from others, I found myself really intune with my body and needs.
Although I am finding myself MUCH more balanced after 5 years in endurance sports, I still find myself improving with my power, strength and confidence as an athlete..oh, and I am also having a lot more fun.
One thing I have learned over the past 1/2 decade of my life, is that there is a lot of chatter as to the BEST way to do things. Thanks to FB, Twitter, blogs and feedback from others, there is so much advice as to the RIGHT, BEST and ONLY way to do things.
You see, I am ok with change and I am not afraid to fail. With every opportunity that I have taken in the past few years, whether it is school, speaking in front of others, writing in magazines or online, talking with others or just reflecting in my own life, I have found myself becoming a happier and more relaxed person, because I am constantly open to improving my life journey.
The other day in the hospital I went to assess a patient who was in his mid 40's and was dying from prostate cancer. Diagnosed several years ago, the cancer which was once treated with chemo and radiation, had metastasized to various parts of the body. Upon reading the history of this patient, I read the progress notes and felt sad when reading that my patient had been given only a few more months to live. With nothing more to do to save this person's life, it was my turn to visit this patient and to discuss "nutrition".
Unless a patient is in need of tube feeding or nutrition support (ex. ICU, on a vent, trach or other GI/clinical-related reason), my job is to review labs, progress notes and medications as well as activities of daily living. Once I have a snapshot of my patient, I then visit my patient in his/her room. After discussing current appetite, any weight loss/gain or changes in eating, bowel movements or nausea/vomiting, I discuss the best option, for the time being, to improve nutritional status. Typically, this includes the offering of nutrition supplements like Ensure, Nepro (for renal patients) or Glucerna (carb controlled for diabetics) or other in-house supplements.
My patient had diabetes but his blood sugars were under control - even while being on steroids (which often increase blood sugar levels). After reviewing his other labs and current status, it was under my best interest to care for this patient in the best possible way.
With a patient who has no appetite, has lost a severe amount of weight and is in the end of life....would it be wise for me to offer a carb-controlled diet or sugar-free nutritional supplements?
You see, often in life there is no "textbook" or research-supported answer. You have to do what's best for you, at this moment in life and trust your decision that you are making the best choices right now, that will enhance YOUR life. Often we have positive things (or way of doing things) in our life that start out with good intentions but we eventually become too controlled by these actions. Thus, with goals in mind, these activities of life often become negetative in terms of improving the quality of life. Whether it is loving triathlons for the challenge yet always experiencing overuse injury, burnout/overtraining or constant fatigue due to unrealistic training planning OR desiring a certain body image but having to stick to a regimed way of eating that requires conrol and too many intense feelings when it comes to food....one must learn to discover that healthy living and a quality filled life comes from experiences in life that promote satisfaction and pleasure. For if you are too obsessed with trying to be perfect, you lose sight of embracing opportunities to enhance life.
No one knows your body except for yourself. Sure, as a health care professional, I can give you all the tools in the world to succeed, but really it is up to YOU to find the best way to trust yourself and believe in your actions.
Based on my patient's request, I honored his food preferences by providing everything chocolate that was available in the hospital. Without eating for the past 3 months due to no appetite, I was happy that my patient was excited about chocolate ensure, chocolate healthshakes, chocolate pudding and chocolate milk. I added one of each to every meal tray and charted in my notes that I would certainly monitor labs and status.
I left my patient's room knowing that I might not see him again. I smiled at him and wished him a great day and he said thank you with a smile on his face.
Sadly, this was not my only cancer patient of the day.
Thinking back to the last few years of my journey, I can't reiterate how important it is to never forget that you are living for you. When it comes to eating, exercise or how you are choosing to life your life, DO NOT associate regret with your actions. Understand that you can't change everything in life but with small changes, you can constantly work towards a better you.
Perhaps one day, you will experience a life-changing day and you will say to yourself... "WOW - my life really does ROCK!".