Friday, January 29, 2016

One Year Around the Sun

My last post was in October 2014 and at that point in my life I was waiting for our precious baby to be born. Our lives were going to change in one moment and we were anxiously awaiting for that time to come. Little did we know that the moment we were waiting for would start with me waking Adam up early Monday morning (March 16, 2015) because I had either wet the bed two times or my water had broken. Eight hours later our lives changed forever as we transitioned into the wonderful world of parenthood.

Our beautiful baby boy, Leo Jordan Walker, was born on March 16, 2015. The moment I laid eyes on Leo my body immediately filled with a love and happiness that took over my mind, heart and soul. He is our miracle. If I ever have a moment of feeling down and out, it takes one second to come to reality and realize that I am beyond blessed.

I have heard Adam say, "Having a baby is the biggest job that we will ever have in our lives and it doesn't even come with an instruction manual." He is right! In the end we have created our own 'instruction manual' and we did it together. It was built upon love, trust, experience and a dash of compromise.

This blog has focused on my journey of being a person living with Cystic Fibrosis who runs. I will always advocate for exercise and setting goals because I need those to inspire and drive me, but I now have an additional piece of motivation........being a mommy.

Having a child is tough. There are no breaks or time outs in mommyhood. It has taken a lot of time and even tears to adjust to my not-so-easy routine with a baby. In between treatments, there were feedings, changing diapers, changing clothes and a lot of rocking and bouncing. We were learning about Leo as he was also learning about us and this whole new world. 

In Leo's nursery there is a picture of my great-grandmother carrying my grandfather on her back in the early 1920's.  I hung this picture in Leo's room because it represents our family, culture and identity as Tlingit people. It is also symbolic of strength and sacrifice. When you become a parent you learn the sacrifices that our parents, grandparents and generations before have given for us to be alive. Each generation faces new obstacles and new remarkable innovations. I am thankful for my family and all they have sacrificed for me to be here.

I would like to think that I gained strength and resilience from my past generations. I have the power to make decisions that can alter my life.  I value the decision that I can make to exercise and I also believe that exercise is the stemming nature of health and wellness for me. At 1 month postpartum I restarted my running journey and learned how to incorporate motherhood into that journey.

 I had worked out through out my whole pregnancy and attended my last boot camp two days before Leo was born. I thought I was in decent shape and it would be easy to jump into running again. Nope! Jogging was hard and I felt like I was learning to run all over again. I felt sluggish and defeated.

I made the decision to not focus on the negative and decided to tell myself there are no excuses. In reality, exercise is a part of what keeps me healthy. It is a part of my airway clearance and helps me rid the mucous out of my lungs.

Despite the difficulty in regaining strength and endurance to run it has turned into a special time that Leo and I can enjoy together. It has also turned into a nap time :)

My main motivation for running has been to outrun Cystic Fibrosis and to prevent further lung deterioration. Sometimes I need more help than just exercise and compliance with my medical routine. This past August I was hospitalized with Pneumonia, Leo was 5 months old, and I had a PICC line placed so I could do 3 weeks of IV antibiotics 24/7. I was in the hospital for three days but fortunately was able to go home with IV antibiotics and manage them myself.

Although I had moments of feeling overwhelmed I didn't want to dwell on how complicated that 3 weeks was going to be. I reminded myself to be brave and focus on things that I could accomplish while on IV antibiotics. I continued to jog and hike, I even ran a 10k!

I am determined to run and exercise for my health. It is not just about me anymore, I have a child who needs me. I want Leo to grow up with his mom.

I want to be able to teach Leo to be kind, humble, follow his dreams, strive for greatness, learn from failure, travel, read, be respectful, gain knowledge through experience and to also pick himself up when life is tough.

Baby Leo is my inspiration to lace up my shoes and get out there and run. There are no excuses today, tomorrow or the next day just reasons why I need to put one foot in front of the other and run.

I ran my first postpartum half marathon in October and on December 5th I ran 10 miles to celebrate 10 years of being cancer free! Adam and I also celebrate 10 years of being together!

 The winter has not stopped Leo and I from our jogs outside. We bundle up and head out the door -- he is my running partner!

A special thank you to my husband who encourages and supports me in our journey as parents. I am ever so grateful to our family who also devotes endless amounts of time and help. I would not be able to focus on my health, mind and body without my behind-the-scenes support system.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pickles, Cheese & Mustard

When I was younger I loved pickles and cheese, and in high school those strange food cravings raised some occasional pregnancy suspicions. I still crave pickles and cheese with mustard but at this point in my life the craving now signifies big life changes and I am beyond excited for them! I am happy to announce that my husband, Adam, and I are expecting our first human child (Lola and Oscar are our dog children)!

This wonderful news is truly a miracle because we were told that I was infertile and may have to seek help from fertility specialists. Having Cystic Fibrosis makes the process difficult and undergoing intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments in my past created the high possibility of infertility for me.

 I pray and hope for strength and health during my pregnancy. I pray that my lungs are stable and strong through these 9 months. There are several antibiotics and medications that I need but I can't take because they may be harmful to the fetus. I am a high risk pregnancy because of my Cystic Fibrosis, cancer history and Factor V Leiden. I now have to take daily Lovenox (blood thinner medication) shots in my stomach to prevent blood clots. In college I was diagnosed with a blood clot and I found out that I have a genetic predisposition to blood clots. Having CF also puts me at a very high risk for gestational diabetes. I am seen often to monitor the pregnancy and my health. 



November 7 is the day we find out if we are having a boy or girl :)

I am not scared that I have a high risk pregnancy, I have received wonderful care thus far. I traveled to Seattle to visit a high risk Doctor that has worked with many pregnant patients that have Cystic Fibrosis. I am 17 weeks pregnant (April 1st due date) and I am relishing each new week that goes by. I've had no morning sickness but I have been extremely tired. I know that it will be hard on my body as the baby gets bigger and I have less room to breathe, but I am still attending my weekly running group, boot camp and running on my own. My Doctors approved me working out and running during my pregnancy. 

My running and distance has slowed down a lot, but I am still out there trying. Running has been such a vital component to my health and I want to keep it up for as long as I can. My lung function has dropped to 67% but I am optimistic that it will go back up to my baseline of around 76%. My breathing has been the hardest factor for me and I have also been feeling Round Ligament pain in my lower abdomen. I think the combination of a growing belly and coughing while running triggers this pain. 

I may not be setting Personal Records while running but I am trying and finishing!

I ran and PR'd in a half marathon at 5 weeks pregnant, I ran in a 10k and finished the Lost Lake Run while pregnant!

 I walk/jogged in a half marathon this past weekend. I felt so lucky because I had a wonderful friend who jogged 8 miles and walked the rest of the race with me, it took us 2 hours and 58 minutes. 

Running is still important to me because it is one of my main forms of airway clearance. When I found out that I was pregnant I was scared to run because I didn't want to damage or hurt the baby. I was cleared by my Doctor's who said that it was okay and important for me to continue exercise. I value my ability to still run and exercise. I researched running and pregnancy (especially high risk)and found very little helpful information on this specific topic. There were some blogs and articles in Runner's World that were helpful. 

I hope to provide inspiration to other pregnant runners. 

So many amazing things have happened in my life since my last blog. I thought it would be fun for me to go back and look at my goals that I posted from my first blog back in February 2013! My current notes are in red and my new goal list is below. I strongly advise people to have goals because they help to achieve personal ambitions, passions, dreams and accountability. 

Sabrina's Goals (OLD Version)

Run a marathon (I signed up for the Seattle November 2014 marathon but I have put this on hold for 2015)

 Compete in the 16 mile Lost Lake Run annually and raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (I have run in Lost Lake for the past 3 years and I raised $11,147. A huge and wonderful thank you to my 29 teammates.)

Start a run that benefits Cystic Fibrosis in Anchorage (This is a goal that I have definitely put on the back burner, and my motivation for this has decreased)

Be in a Play (I took an acting workshop, but have not auditioned for a play)

Do a triathlon (Still on my list)

Travel to Europe (Adam took me on a wonderful trip where we explored Iceland, Spain, Italy, France, Monaco and Germany! I am in awe of the rich history and beautiful architecture!)

Run 3 times a week and do strength training 2 times a week (I have accomplished this!)

Beat my half marathon and 10K personal record times ( I beat my half and 10k PR this year)

Travel to a village in Alaska (I was able to travel to Bethel, Alaska this past February)

Start a Blog :) (Done!)

I would love to travel around the country and world to run in races that benefit CF and raise money along the way. (Maybe I could get a group of CF'ers or anyone who would do this with me.) (I have been able to run in Michigan & Arizona)

Sabrina's Revised Goals

Run in a marathon

Do a Triathlon

Travel some place new

PR in a Lost Lake Run (3:08), half marathon (1:55:39), 10K (52:34) and 5K (24:48)

Run 3 times a week and strength training 2 times a week

Read everyday

Write down 3 things that I am grateful for every day!

Become a mother!

Stay above 67% Lung Function

Surpass the median life expectancy of a person with CF (36 years old)

Be compliant with my daily medicine and treatments

I am going to be a mother and that gives me even more reason to stay healthy and fight Cystic Fibrosis. I am not running and working out for my own well being anymore, I have a human life that I need to be here for. I want to be the best version of myself and help this individual for as long as I can. Bringing life into this world gives my world a whole new meaning and perspective. 

GOALS will help me obtain and achieve this purpose!

Thank you for reading :)


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Courage, Cancer & Cystic Fibrosis

I started writing this particular blog about running and what my running plans are for the future. It was actually all written and ready to publish, but I changed my mind on the topic. When I woke up this morning I received a message from someone that I went to high school with and they stated that they never knew about what I was dealing with when they went to school with me. Their message was kind and thoughtful and had me reminiscing about my high school days which led me down a whole new path of memories. I always talk about Cystic Fibrosis but I have another story that I never tell.

Of course, I always go back to the summer after high school..............

After I graduated from high school I was preparing for my future at Whittier College in California. I was excited and ready to be on my own and explore the sunny beaches of California and college life. I was ready to leave the land of the midnight sun and make California my new home away from home. I signed up to live in the dorms and even try out for their x-country running team. Unfortunately, life had other plans for me and I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in July of 2005, just weeks before I was supposed to embark on my college journey.

I had been experiencing pain in my back for the past year and it gradually worsened over the year. I started to lose feeling in my foot and I would get random episodes of nausea. An x-ray showed that I had a tumor on my spine, but I was reassured that it was probably benign because I was so young and active. The plan was to remove the tumor, recover and leave for school the following month. The day after my surgery I met the neurosurgeon who performed my surgery, and for the first time I heard that I had cancer.

I didn't cry.  I didn't know what to do. I went through the tests, bone marrow extractions, blood draws, appointments and I had a mediport  placed in body so that the chemotherapy wouldn't fry my already used up veins. I was nervous to start chemotherapy, it was called CHOP-R, even the word looks and sounds aggressive. I sat in a green chair, in a room, with other people who were also getting chemotherapy. There were a mixture of native elders and middle aged men and women. It was a two day infusion treatment process and I ended up being highly allergic to one of the treatments. An infusion that usually takes two hours took me eight hours. My skin turned bright red and it was extremely hard to breathe, but I endured it for the whole day.

The chemo was hard on my body, but I braved the trek and only had a few episodes of nausea & vomiting. My oncologist told me I was so tough that I could get hit by a semi-truck and get up and walk away. My immune system was low and my body was tired and I ended up catching pneumonia. I was hospitalized and during that hospital stay I lost my hair (at the time it felt like a part of me had been taken away).  I would go to bed and when I woke up my hair would layer the pillow. I would take a shower and my hair would come out in clumps. I always thought that I had thin hair until the shedding process began.

My dad came to the hospital with his electric razor and shaved my head. For the first time, I felt different and the experience of being a cancer patient became even more real and bitter. I felt anger and jealousy for everyone that was living in a world full of hopes and dreams. I was a 19- year-old self conscious teen and I was extremely embarrassed to not have hair.

On top of coping with being a hairless cancer patient and searching for my identity I had rumors spreading that I was making up that I had cancer for attention. I don't know who started the rumors but I do remember the person that asked me if I really did have cancer through instant messaging. I wish that I had inner courage and strength at that point in my life to have brushed off the remarks and gave that person a piece of my mind. Instead it was something that I dwelled on.

I rarely wanted to take photos and I never took any photos of me with out a scarf on my head. I was ashamed but I now wish that I had some awesome bald photos to show off. My inability to embrace the beauty of being a warrior in a difficult situation was broken. My heart was also hurting because, Adam, was away at school on the other side of the country.

I grappled with the thought of death being a reality at 19-years- old.

In December 2005 I finished the CHOP part of my treatments, but I continued with radiation for a month and the 'R' (Rituximab) part of CHOP-R treatment for two more years. The Rituximab was the drug that I was allergic to, but as the cancer shrunk so did my allergy. It ended up being a routine treatment that had no side affects. In August 2007 I finished my last Rituximab treatment and I packed my bags and moved to Colorado to pursue a degree in Elementary Education.

I am now graduated from college, married to a wonderful man that I met in high school, mother of dachshunds (terminology inspired by Game of Thrones), a cancer survivor, I am blessed by friends and family and I am a runner. It feels remarkable to be alive and to have the opportunity to enrich my soul with the beauties of this world.

I didn't write this particular blog because I want pity or for people to feel sorry for me. My intention was to write about an experience in my life that was painfully heart wrenching for me. I rarely share my cancer experience because it was a time in my life that I felt very vulnerable.  It was a time of pain but now serves as a reminder for me to be thankful for every moment. Today I am able to see the courage and strength that I developed and I value the growth and learning that this experience presented me with. I wanted to share this story with the world wide web because it is a part of my story that still makes me uncomfortable. I can still relapse. I can't spend my whole life dwelling on the negative or "what if's", but I can spend it with the people I love and cherish and be eternally grateful for the time that I do have on this earth.

I am a cancer survivor but I am also a person that lives with Cystic Fibrosis!

May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness month so I do want to take some time to educate people on this disease. I take about 25 pills a day and have about two hours of inhaled nebulizer treatments as well as running/exercise or wearing a vibrating vest that helps clear my lungs EVERYDAY!! 

I read a blog by a person with CF, they said if you want a glimpse into the life of a person with CF try breathing through a straw.

 I want to prolong getting a lung transplant for as long as I can so I run to save my life and I run because I am able to. I value each huff, puff and cough that I can endure when I run because that is a moment in my life that I am in control of. I run to stay alive!

May is also special to me this year because Team Boomer nominated me as Team Boomer Cystic Fibrosis Athlete of the month. You can read my story here:

The Lost Lake Run 2014 is in August this year. Every year I look forward to this challenge because it gives me a goal and it brings together all the people that I love and cherish. 29 people are on my team this year. This 16 mile mountain run in Seward, Alaska benefits those with Cystic Fibrosis. This year I am the only person with CF running in the race. ALL donations are welcome to help fundraise for Cystic Fibrosis!!

I attend Figarelle's Fitness for my boot camp and personal training. The coaches/trainers are invested in their clients and they motivate people to achieve their fitness and personal goals. They provide support and are awesome at what they do! For the 2nd year in a row they will be hosting a burpees challenge. ALL proceeds go towards my Lost Lake Team :) 9 of my Lost Lake teammates are from Figarelle's Fitness! 

I am so appreciative of the support!
I hope that a cure for Cystic Fibrosis is found in my lifetime. My goal is to bring awareness to Cystic Fibrosis and to inspire people to exercise. Exercise is an essential component to our well being. Everyone should devote time to themselves and care for their body. 

Thank you for reading my blog. 

Sabrina Walker

Friday, December 20, 2013

Embrace the Moment

I have not posted a blog in quite some time!

It did not snow in Anchorage, AK until November! That is very unusual. My husband and I  hiked Flat Top with our dogs (11 lb & 9lb mini-dachshunds) in late October. The higher we climbed the more the wind blew and then snow started to fly by us. It was probably around 25 degrees; Oscar and Lola made it half way up the mountain before Lola got too cold and needed to be carried down the mountain.

I have been trying to keep up my training since Lost Lake in August. I ran in the Anchorage 'Zombie Half Marathon' on October 12. I also took a trip to Arizona to visit one of my best friends, enjoy warm weather and run in a half marathon with her on November 3.

My big run of the year is Lost Lake Run. Lost Lake is one of the only races in Alaska that benefits CF and it is such a grueling course, I wanted to recap team 'Sabrina Fights CF' adventures. I was the only person to run in this race with Cystic Fibrosis. We had 25 people run on my team and we raised a little over $9000! The sky was blue and the sun was shining on race day. The trail was absolutely gorgeous but it is definitely a hilly and long trail run. At one point during the race there was a float plane that had landed on one of the lakes, the pilot was handing out donuts to people who were running in the race. I passed up on the donut :[

For every half mile there is a mile marker that has a picture of someone with CF on it. There are 32  markers that are placed along the Lost Lake course, and every marker made me happy for the ability to run and be alive. At the end of the race there are pictures of those with CF who have passed from the disease that line the finish chute. Many people run in this race not knowing who or what it benefits. They pass the finish line and they are happy that its over. For me, the finish line is victorious, but it is also sad because I see faces of people who have lost their battle to CF. This race is so much more than an endurance race for me, it's about my journey and the fight for my life with CF. I run to stay healthy and I try to raise money so that a cure can be found for me and the many of thousands that suffer from CF.

There are people with CF that are marathoners, ultra marathoners, triathletes, distance bikers, surfers, mothers, fathers, etc. There is a whole community of people with CF that are warriors and fighters, they are vibrant and supportive, they are compassionate and caring and they all need a cure to be found. I am so enjoying learning about the diversities of people in the CF community :) I strongly believe that an active lifestyle is one main component that helps me to stay healthy and out of the hospital. There are some people with CF who are exercising and running with 50% or less lung capacity! I find this so inspirational and it keeps me running and going to boot camp. 

When I think back on the month of August, I am overwhelmed with emotions because so many people are willing to help. There are so many awesome and amazing people in this world that motivate and inspire me because they are kind and they care.

I am in awe and humbled by the support of  people in my small circle of family and friends. Many people graciously donated to my fundraiser, lent out space to do a burpees challenge fundraiser, 25 people donated their time, pain and endurance to participate in the Lost Lake event, and many more were just support systems that gave encouragement and motivation during the journey.

I was feeling a little down after Lost Lake because I had another lung infection and needed to do two rounds of oral antibiotics. I was feeling defeated, I had ridden on this cloud of being so strong and able to run  a 16 mile mountain run, but a week later I was coughing all night and wheezing. Luckily, I have my husband who always reminds me of all that I have conquered in my life and that I will get through these difficult battles. I still ran, went to boot camp, stayed very compliant with my nebulizers and went to work. I have even started a training group for running with a local running store. We meet up every Wednesday and are given a tempo work out. These days are hard for me but they work my lungs and help me with pacing!

I now feel much better and I feel empowered to keep running and fighting this disease. I would never willingly choose to have CF, but I am grateful for the outlook on life that it gives me. I will never take my lungs, each breath, or my ability to run and work out for granted. I find the courage and strength to wake up and battle CF within my weaknesses (my lungs). I can't change my health issues, I can't change that I have had cancer and I can't take away CF, but I can be proactive and try to keep my body healthy. I know that I am a fighter and I know that this life is so utterly precious and worth every breath that I am here.

I have found myself taking moments through out the day to stop and give thanks and prayers for being alive. We should integrate positive influence into our daily lives. Be gracious for the simple fact that we are human and get to experience this glorious world. Tomorrow is not a given, embrace the moment!

December 2nd was a huge victory for me. It has been 8 years since I finished my last chemotherapy :) 

I have signed up to run in the 'Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon' on March 30, 2014 in Grosse Ile, Michigan. I hope to beat my half marathon PR (1:59:22) in 2014 :) I hope that I have the opportunity to run amongst some of the other CF'ers that I have gotten to know :)

Thank you,