Monday, July 30, 2012

Not Giving Up, Despite 8 surgeries and 3 miscarriages

A compelling inspirational personal story about not giving up from Paige Reagan. 


"...and I have not had to take even one antacid because my digestive issues have disappeared. I am 44 years old now and healthier and in better shape than I have been for a very, very long time."

Before I tell you my story it is important that you know something about me first. I am quiet, extremely private, and fiercely independent. I do not willingly ask for help. I shy away from getting my picture taken and am uncomfortable being the center of attention. In fact, most of my closest friends and family do not know the details of the story that I am about to tell you now. But on this rare occasion I have decided to go outside of my usual comfort zone because of the impact that kettlebells and Lauren have had on me. They have helped me in such a positive way and I hope that my story will help others with struggles of their own.


I was always active as a child. I started figure skating at the age of 8. I competed at the national level, which demanded a lot of time and dedication. For the next 8 years I practiced between 30 and 35 hours a week. Although skating was a huge part of my life I decided to stop at the age of 16 in order to focus on school and college. I remained active afterwards by replacing skating with other physical activities. I went to the gym on a regular basis, became an avid skier, and was known to go biking for miles on the weekends.
I got married in my mid 20's and my husband and I decided to start a family in our early 30's. Unfortunately, our road to starting a family was bumpy and long. I spent the next 3 years undergoing numerous infertility treatments. We were frustrated but refused to give up. And then one day, we finally got the good news! I had an uneventful pregnancy and continued to exercise until I was 37 weeks. I felt great, stayed fit, and only gained 17 pounds.
My daughter was born in the winter of 2002. I was lucky in that I had a very easy and fast delivery. There were no complications except that I never delivered my placenta so my doctor had to remove it. It was the happiest day of my life. But in the weeks that followed I began to feel very sad and confused. I was bleeding terribly but when I called the doctor's office to tell them they just treated me like a nervous new mother and told me not to worry because the bleeding was a result of me nursing. I continued to call every few weeks and was told the same thing each time. The bleeding finally stopped when my daughter was 10 months old.
When my daughter was a year old we decided to go back to the infertility specialist. We wanted her to have a brother or sister and were advised to start sooner rather than later because of the problems the first time. We quickly discovered that once again, things were not going to be easy. Apparently in the year since I had delivered my daughter I had developed a number of new problems, one of which was a large mass in my uterus. The doctor immediately scheduled a surgery to remove the mass but it was inoperable. A biopsy confirmed that it was benign so we were told that it was okay to leave it and that it would not affect future pregnancies. We were relieved by the "good" news.
Following the surgery I became pregnant on 3 occasions but miscarried all 3 times. Two of the 3 miscarriages were after 16 weeks so I had to have D&Cs. When I miscarried the third time, my doctor was concerned because my hormone levels were so high that he suspected that I had a molar pregnancy. They did an emergency D&C the next day and the testing confirmed that the pregnancy was normal. We were given the okay to start another procedure as soon as my cycle resumed and my hormone levels went back to zero.
Four months went by and my levels remained elevated, meaning that I was technically still pregnant. When my levels got to 10, the infertility specialist decided to start me on hormones to trigger my cycle. In my case though, my levels started to go back up and the doctors thought that it was an undiagnosed molar cancer. They administered 2 shots of a cancer drug to terminate the pregnancy and luckily my levels returned to zero within a few weeks.
BEFORE
Three more months went by and my cycle still had not resumed. I was very uncomfortable and could not get up from a sitting position or out of bed without a lot of pain or discomfort. I once again went back to the doctor for an ultrasound. He was completely shocked because my entire uterus was filled with tissue. He feared that the molar pregnancy had started to grow again so I had to head back to the hospital the following morning for another emergency surgery. Fortunately, it was not a molar cancer. However, the surgery revealed that my uterus was severely scarred and had sealed itself shut from front to back. This was the day that I was diagnosed with Asherman's Syndrome, which is a condition defined by severe scarring of the uterus and can lead to permanent infertility. In my case, the large mass that they had found in my uterus was actually a piece of placenta that the doctor had missed when I delivered my daughter 3 years before. It was the cause of the prolonged bleeding. It became scarred over from the D&Cs and led to the repeated miscarriages.
Over the next 5 years I underwent an additional 5 surgeries to try to keep my uterus open. The condition was so severe that the scar tissue would start to reform within a week of the surgery. I was on extremely high doses of estrogen to try to improve healing. Finally, my uterus was open and we were allowed to start infertility treatments again. But despite the high-dose medications and repeated attempts, we were unsuccessful. We had even traveled to Los Angeles from the East Coast to have one last surgery with the world's leading expert in Asherman's Syndrome but the damage to the lining of my uterus was too extensive and nothing could grow.




I am not one to give up easily but infertility treatments have a way of making time disappear. I was always looking ahead. By this time my daughter was 8 years old. The repeated surgeries and long-term medications were starting to take their toll. I was tired, weak, and my body was hurting. I was suffering terribly from acne because of all of the hormones. During this 6-year period I had not been able to exercise regularly, if at all because I was either preparing for, undergoing, or recovering from surgery or gearing up for another infertility treatment. I had lost all of my physical strength and was no longer fit. I had developed terrible digestive issues in the form of severe bloating and indigestion. There were times when I ate just a mouthful and felt like I had eaten a watermelon. Sometimes the feeling would last for days, other times it would last for weeks. I had uncontrollable burping all day long. I knew in my heart it was time to stop but the day that we made that decision was still the hardest day of my life. I have never worked so hard at something to come out with nothing to show for it in the end. I felt like I had failed, not myself, but my daughter. My heart was broken for my daughter and I could not sleep. I was completely destroyed, both inside and out.
Time also has a way of healing, and about a year later I started walking with a friend in the mornings. It was not much in the way of exercise but it was good to get out. However, in the fall of 2010 my job became very demanding, requiring that I work 80+ hours a week so I had to stop walking. Any extra time that I had after working and taking care of my family had to be spent on sleeping. My digestive issues got worse despite my attempts to eat well. I was taking antacids on a daily basis and before meals. I managed to stay thin at 120 lbs but was completely unfit and flabby.
In January 2012, I made the "dreaded" New Year's resolution. I promised myself that I was going to get up at 5:15 a.m. and walk on my treadmill every day. And I did. And I felt good. I was proud of myself and happy that I was doing something physical. But I had also convinced myself that the walking was making me more fit than I really was. In February, my daughter's soccer team participated in strength and conditioning classes at a local studio and the parents were invited to attend. I went there thinking that it would be easy because of all of the walking that I was doing but I was seriously wrong. I was totally exhausted within the first 3 minutes. And it's not because it was ridiculously hard - the girls were keeping up just fine - it was because I was so unfit and out of shape. I was beet red, could not breathe, was sweating profusely, and had severe indigestion. It was so bad that my daughter kept asking if I was okay. I was sore within an hour of leaving the studio and could not walk, sit, or get up without severe pain for at least 10 days. I was so mad at myself but not sure what to do because the gym schedule no longer fit in with my life. I felt stuck.
A few weeks later I caught an infomercial on kettlebells. I was mesmerized and watched it 2 times through. I saw the same infomercial 2 weeks later but this time I stopped halfway through to do a search on my computer. I found a link to the "On the Edge Fitness" website and spent hours reading about Lauren and her exercise and nutrition programs. It was then that I finally made a decision. I was going to try kettlebells and Lauren's nutrition program. I ordered a 10-lb kettlebell and the UBSC Volume 1 DVD. I didn't know it then but it was my first step in the right direction.
When I received the kettlebell package I could barely lift it. I was intimidated by the DVD and when I finally decided to try the 12-minute workout I could not make it past the first set of exercises. I could not do even one push up. I could not breathe. And it hurt to walk up the stairs when I was done. But I loved it! And I could not wait to get up the next morning at 5:15 to try again. And I did!
Within a matter of weeks I could feel myself getting stronger. The 10-lb kettlebell seemed lighter. I was able to do 2 to 3 "real" pushups. For the first time in 10 years my shoulder no longer hurt. And I was able to get through most of the 40-minute workout. I ordered a 15-lb kettlebell and the UBSC Volume 2 DVD. I also contacted Lauren about her nutrition program. I wanted to get stronger and healthier and hopefully eliminate my persisting digestive issues.
Lauren was very responsive despite the thousands of miles between us and put together an easy to follow nutrition program and sent me some suggestions for working out with her 2 DVDs. The second DVD was much harder and the 15-lb kettlebell was much heavier. But I did not give up. I interchanged my workouts between both DVDs and switched between the kettlebells instead of stopping in the middle. I learned how to eat clean and fuel my body with the right foods. I got stronger very quickly. After 6 short weeks I had lost 10 lbs and discovered that I actually do have muscles! I can now do 9 to 10 "real" and diamond kettlebell push-ups. I can easily swing a 15-lb kettlebell and have just started using a 20-lb kettlebell with little difficulty. My acne is gone and my skin is clear.  And I have not had to take even one antacid because my digestive issues have disappeared. I am 44 years old now and healthier and in better shape than I have been for a very, very long time.




AFTER (Age 44 - lean, strong, healthy, and fit.  Digestion issues GONE)

My story is only one in a million of others. With Lauren's gentle encouragement I chose to tell it here with the hope that it may inspire others who are dealing with their own struggles to never give up. I have a long way to go but have come so far. My discovery of kettlebells and clean, healthy eating were the key for me. They have changed my life significantly. I am no longer focused on what I could not do but rather what I can do now. My daughter may never have a sibling but she does have me. And I will do everything possible to be strong, healthy, and fit so that I will be here for a very long time with her. I am motivated once again and will continue to use kettlebells and clean eating to help me reach this goal. I have learned that I may have lost the fight but I did not fail. I am strong now and will continue to get stronger, both on the outside and the inside. Once again, I believe in myself.