The face of pancreatic cancer.

I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer on February 25, 1999. Four days after my 30th birthday. Everyone was terrified that he was going to die on my birthday but I was actually ok with it. The date on which on which he was going to die didn’t matter to me but the fact that he was dying did. He skipped my birthday and died on the birthday of one of my oldest friends from high school. Sorry about that Nikki. I know that sucked for you.

Here’s the thing about pancreatic cancer. It is an ugly, painful and unforgiving cancer and there is no cure. It is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the Unites States and 10th worldwide. People with early pancreatic cancer usually do not show any warning signs and if they do, they are pretty varied. If caught soon enough and if the tumors have not spread outside the pancreas, the pancreas can be removed and survival is pretty good. This usually only happens in about 5% of cases. 95% of people diagnosed with this cancer will die within 5 years of diagnosis and out of those 80% will only make it 6 to 10 months. Most people don’t realize that it is that big of a killer.

Dad

My dad is only 63 years old in this picture. He looks like he is 80. This cancer sucks the life out of you very, very fast. He had no idea anything was wrong until he dropped 30lbs in less than 2 months. My dad fought for 2 years after his diagnosis. He endured a 6-hour surgery called the Whipple Procedure which actually extended his life almost a year longer than they estimated. He went through rounds of chemo and radiation at MD Anderson. When they said they couldn’t help him anymore, we found an experimental treatment program also at MD Anderson that would. After he exhausted his time at that one and they didn’t see any results, we found another one. He wasn’t about to give up. This one was the last one and it was the one that made the most progress. It actually made a dent in his tumors. He lost his battle about 6 months after that last treatment. I am a huge proponent of experiment therapy. They may not cure you but what they learn from your progress may help to find a cure for the future.

I was lucky enough to be able to travel back and forth from New Mexico to Austin quite easily for the last 9 months of his life and I was able to go to Las Vegas with him for his last experiment treatment. I think that watching my dad die of cancer was harder on him that it was on me. No parent wants their kids to see them in that condition. My dad was very proud and humble and he stayed that way until the bitter end. Sean and I along with my grandma were in New Mexico visiting and some of my dad’s childhood friends from El Paso were coming over to visit. He was so excited to see them. They had all kept in touch over the years but it had been awhile since they had seen each other. My dad was doing ok but he was having to use a wheelchair to get around. He was not about to let them see him in his current condition and “no way in hell” was he coming out in that wheelchair. These guys are good old boys who were ranchers so my dad put on his best pair of Wranglers, a pressed button down shirt, a belt with one of his county fair and livestock rodeo belt buckles, his Ostrich boots and I’m pretty sure he even got out his Stetson. When they all got there, he got up and walked to the door. My grandma made them all sandwiches just like when they were kids and they sat around the kitchen table telling stories. Sean and I decided to head out and be tourists so my dad could enjoy his time with his buddies. When we were leaving, he stood up, gave me a big hug and said “I love you.” That was the last time he was able to do that and I’ll never forget it.

More and more people are dying of pancreatic cancer. They haven’t figured out all the genetics yet but it has been linked to smoking, alcohol and obesity. Makes you think about the direction our population is headed with obesity and the increase in cancer overall. Here’s the thing, if there is a history of pancreatic cancer in your family, your chances of getting it automatically go up. Pancreatic cancer runs in a family when two or more first-degree relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, children) are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This is sometimes called familial pancreatic cancer. Families with three or more close relatives (first-degree relatives, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, cousins) diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and with one relative diagnosed before age 50, are also considered to have familial pancreatic cancer.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that the risk of developing pancreatic cancer is increased four to five times for a person with one first-degree relative (parents, brothers, sisters, children) with pancreatic cancer, six to seven times for a person with two first-degree relatives, and 32 times for a person with three first-degree relatives with the disease. If you also have a family history of breast cancer, you chances go up. My grandfather also died from it and I have a first cousin who battled and beat a very rare type of breast cancer. I’m doing all I can to dodge that bullet. Genetic testing is now available and it’s the same as the BRAC test for breast cancer. I am going to have the BRAC done for breast cancer because there is a prevention plan in place for people who test high on the marker for developing breast cancer. If losing my boob means I beat cancer, then I can certainly live without them. At this time, I am not going to have it done for pancreatic cancer. Until there is something put in place to cut my chances by at least half, I’d rather not know. I will continue to do everything I can to keep it at bay. I refuse to live my life in fear of this disease.

If you fall into one of the categories for developing pancreatic cancer, here’s what you can do to help prevent it: don’t drink alcohol in excess, don’t smoke (my dad was a HEAVY smoker), if you do smoke, quit now. Being smoke free for a decade decreases your chances tremendously. Keep your weight healthy, eat a diet that consists of whole foods that consist of fresh vegetables and fruit, limit your consumption of red meat, exercise and do not drink sugary sodas. The common soft drink sweetener fructose has been linked to growth of pancreatic cancer cells. Take vitamin D. A long-term study found that people who consumed in the range of 300 to 449 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily had a 43% lower risk of pancreatic cancer than those who took less than 150 IU per day;150 IU is appreciably less than what was then, or is now, recommended.

Here are the warning signs to look out for:

– Pain in the upper abdomen that typically radiates to the back.
– Loss of appetite or nausea and vomiting.
– Significant weight loss.
– Painless jaundice.
– Trousseau sign, in which blood clots form spontaneously in the portal blood vessels, the deep veins of the extremities, or the superficial veins anywhere on the body, may be associated with pancreatic cancer.
– Diabetes mellitus, or elevated blood sugar levels. Many patients with pancreatic cancer develop diabetes months to even years before they are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, suggesting new onset diabetes in an elderly individual may be an early warning sign of pancreatic cancer.
– Clinical depression has been reported in association with pancreatic cancer, sometimes presenting before the cancer is diagnosed. However, the mechanism for this association is not known.

It has taken me a really long time to write this post. I recently went through a box of old pictures and I was bothered by what I saw. It’s not like I don’t remember all the crazy things I used to do and how I made some bad choices but it was right there IN MY FACE and it compelled me to write this. Hopefully at least one person will read this and makes a change in their life that somehow helps them live longer or shares this information with someone they know that might need it. Spread the word people! One of the reasons that they have yet to find a cure is because of funding. This disease is right behind breast cancer yet more people die from it.

Here’s a picture of my dad that will be more familiar to most of my friends who knew him. But no matter what, he smiled through the whole thing.

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Don’t ever give up.

The fear of the unknown is something that I try really hard not to think about. I try to think of it as an adventure and visualize what I want the unknown to come to be. I used to have a serious problem with the fear of the unknown. I would send myself into panic attacks with never ending questions of “What if…?” My drive home from work took anywhere from 30-45 minutes. Within that short period of time, I would have created these horrible scenarios in my head and I’d be in tears by the time I got home. This didn’t start happening until after Kylie was born. Parenting fears are completely normal if you keep it in check. Mine was so out of control that I started going to a therapist to get a handle on it.

We had a trip planned to go to Cabo with our neighbors and I was thisclose to canceling it. The thought of getting on a plane, not just by myself but with Sean and something terrible happening to us was too much to handle. After a few months of therapy, I was able to keep it together long enough to make it to Mexico. My diagnosis – control freak. The fact that I had no control over the future or things that were not within my reach, completely freaked me out. I’ve learned to acknowledge when I am heading over the edge and I talk myself down. There are still things that set me off like driving so I’m the driver in the family. If I’m not behind the wheel, I turn into a basket case.

My previous career was in advertising and how this fear of the unknown never showed up then, I’ll never know. That’s one volatile industry. Lose a client, layoffs happen. Gain a client, hire people. Moving around from agency to agency was pretty common. For 15 years I either dodged the layoff bullet, found a new job before I was laid off or picked up a ton of freelance work right after getting laid off. Each time something happened, I was completely OK with it. Until this last time. Layoffs where happening and no one was hiring.

Getting laid off and using that opportunity to start a new career is pretty scary and exciting all at the same time. Building a business from scratch is tough. I think building a fitness business is even harder. Everyone needs light bulbs and they realize it’s a necessity. Everyone needs to be healthy, most people realize that is a fact but yet so many people don’t think it is a necessity. To go out and find those people and convince them that working out, sweating and being sore is a good thing and asking them to pay for it can be a difficult task. Throwing in there that I’m a CrossFit coach sometimes makes it even harder. That still scares people away. I am so extremely grateful for my clients that have put their trust in me and themselves and who continue to come back!

The fear of the unknown has slowly started to creep it’s way back in. These last six months have been extremely difficult financially. Summer is a really hard time to keep people working out. Lots of things seem to get in the way. A couple of times I’ve even thought about going back to work full-time. But now that school has started, things are slowly picking up and I’m confident again that this can work. I have to be ok with where we are at and be thankful for the opportunities that are in front of me. I can’t let the “what ifs” take over. I have to replace them with “when this happens”.

It’s been almost a year since I coached my first boot camp. I look back on the year and I’ve come a long way. I’ve never given up the dream and I’m going to continue to work towards it. I’ll be getting my CrossFit Olympic Lifting Certification in October and I’m so excited about that. I’m also going to be coaching kids through the Youth In Motion program in Austin. I’ll be teaching kids how to lead a healthy and active lifestyle through exercise and nutrition. The fitness part of it is based on the CrossFit Kids program which I am really excited about. It kills me to see kids that are overweight and having such a hard time. I believe that if we can teach our kids how to be healthy, they in turn can take that knowledge home and share it with their families. It’s never too early or too late to get on the healthy bandwagon.

Here’s to pushing away that fear of the unknown and charting the future the way I want it to go! Don’t ever stop believing! I think I’ll go turn on some Journey…

Taking on the challenge.

I think that the summer has to be the the hardest time of the year to stick to a workout and eating program. Pool parties, vacations and trips to amusement parks are just a few of the things that seem to push workouts and clean eating to the back burner. In an effort to end the summer on an awesome healthy note, myself along with 6 of my clients and friends are taking on my Elevate program. Four of them have already done it before so they know how it’s going to go down. Everyone else has either started it at one time or been married to me so they are prepared. I’m really excited to do this along with my friends. Everyone needs someone to keep them accountable and knowing that I have to log my food and share it with everyone will definitely keep me in check.

I have an on-line version of the challenge for anyone who wants to do it but can’t make it to Kyle for the challenge workouts. You will get the Elevate Yourself 6-week challenge manual that includes 28 days of workouts, 28 days of meal planning, AdvoCare supplement recommendations, goal setting, guidance on what to do after the 28 days is over, accountability for workouts and food logs along with 28 days of motivational emails. This is great for anyone who is ready to start working out and eating healthy but doesn’t know where to start. Get together a few friends and take on the challenge together! Cost for the online version is $60. Email me for more info or if you are ready to get started!

Here’s to going beast mode for the next 28 days!

5 days of food.

When I tell people I eat paleo 80-90% of the time, I am usually asked what exactly do I eat. Pictures sometimes speak louder than words so I decided to document 5 days of food. I did this two weeks ago in preparation for our beach vacation. I knew that I wasn’t going to eat clean the entire trip so I really made an effort to do it beforehand so I would go into it feeling really good and the temptations wouldn’t be as great. I have to say that it worked! I had a couple of roasted marshmallows, a few cookies and quite a few beers on the beach. Being on sugar white sand and not drinking a Corona with lots of lime would be nearly impossible for me.

Alright – so back to the food. As you will see, if I find something I like, I eat it all the time. Here’s 5 days of tasty food!

Friday Breakfast: I pretty much have this every day for breakfast. My mornings start at 4:15 and I don’t have a chance to sit down and eat until after 7:30 so this is a great way to start the day. Fill your cup up about halfway with UNSWEETENED coconut milk. Microwave it for 30 seconds. Pour it in the shaker and add one scoop of protein powder. Shake like crazy. Pour into your coffee cup and fill the rest with coffee. It’s like a latte but much healthier! A fun coffee cup is also a must.

 

Friday Post Workout/Late Breakfast: It’s really important to get some protein in you within 30 minutes of working out. This helps rebuild your muscles and for me, it helps regulate my blood sugar. If I wait too long to eat, I’m left with a raging headache. Here we have a hard boiled egg with sea salt, pepper and Central Market Organics ketchup. Sounds crazy but it is so good. Half an avocado and one link of nitrate free chicken and apple sausage. This is a great combination of protein and good fat sources.

 

Friday Lunch: We had grass-fed burgers for dinner on Thursday and I had one left over. Lucky me! Lunch was mixed greens, cucumbers, red bell peppers, black olives, crumbled burger and feta cheese. Dressing was olive oil and vinegar. Tasty!

 

Friday Dinner: Green night! Costco has this awesome frozen basil pesto Talapia which is super easy to make. It goes straight from the freezer to the oven and you have fish in 14 minutes. Steamed broccoli and organic frozen green beans tossed with butter and sea salt.

 

Saturday Early Breakfast: Protein powder and coffee.

Saturday Late Post Workout Breakfast: Half an avocado, nitrate free chicken and apple sausage and organic grapes.

 

Saturday Lunch: Mixed greens with cucumbers, carrots, black olives and nitrate free turkey lunch meat. Olive oil and vinegar dressing.

 

Saturday Snack: I know, I know – popcorn? Really? I know it’s a grain and corn is bad for you but I love popcorn. I do make sure that I buy Central Market’s organic brand.

 

Saturday Dinner: I didn’t have any dinner on Saturday. All of my meals and my bowl of popcorn were pretty late in the day so I wasn’t hungry.

Sunday Breakfast: Fried organic egg, nitrate free bacon and organic strawberries!

 

Sunday Post Workout Lunch: I LOVE the AdvoCare shakes. If you use coconut milk, they thicken up like milkshakes. I added strawberries and a teaspoon of chia seeds to mine.

 

Sunday Dinner: Here’s the 5-10% of my not eating clean. Neither one of us was in the mood to cook dinner so we went out. As you can see, I had a Corona and some chips and queso. YUM! I was really jonesing for enchilladas but I opted for the stuffed avocado instead. It’s a fresh avocado stuffed with shredded chicken and topped with sour cream and cheese. I peeled off the cheese and ate everything else. I left the beans and rice and then realized I payed out the nose for one avocado.

 

Monday Early Breakfast: Protein powder and coffee.

Monday Late Breakfast: Coffee with coconut milk creamer and a dash of cinnamon, half an avocado, strawberries and chicken and apple sausage. Familiar, no?

 

Monday Lunch: I had breakfast pretty late so I wasn’t hungry for lunch.

Monday Snack: The other half of the avocado. The perfect snack!

 

Monday Dinner: Grilled sirloin, baked sweet potato fries and tossed salad with oil and vinegar dressing.

 

Tuesday Early Breakfast: Protein powder and coffee.

The rest of the day on Tuesday: I had a TON of running around to do on Tuesday to get ready for our trip so I knew that sitting down to eat wasn’t even going to happen. I armed myself with snacks and lots of water to get me through the day. Lara Bars, OsTrim sticks and nuts. Easy to pack up and eat on the go. I wish I could remember what I had for dinner. My guess is that it was probably grilled chicken, salad and a veggie.

 

That’s 5 days of food for you! Easy to prepare and super tasty to eat!

May Elevate results are in!

The results from the May Elevate 6-week challenge are in and these ladies killed it! They gave it 100% and their hard work paid off. They feel great and are continuing on with their new, healthy lifestyle. Next session starts on July 21st! Contact me for more information or if you are ready to get started!

Sonya Himmerich started out in my boot camp class in March. She decided she wanted to take things to the next level so she signed up for group classes in April and took on the challenge in May. She is a machine and brings it all when she comes to class. I’m so proud of how far she has come. Sonya lost 4.2lbs, 10.5 inches total that includes 2 inches off of each arm and 2 inches off her waist!

 

Lisa Tirk started group classes along with boot camp in April. She works her butt off when she comes to class. When she took on the challenge, you could see results happening almost immediately. She was made for this! I’m excited to see her grow to be stronger and healthier than ever! Lisa lost 13lbs, went from 26 jumping pull ups in one minute to 40 in one minute and increased her sit ups from 23 in one minute to 27! She’s a rock star!

I can’t work out for how long?!

There’s nothing quite like an injury to get you discouraged. Right now, I have a few athletes out dealing with injuries and I am trying to keep them motivated and keep them from getting discouraged. Ladies – you know who you are and each one of you is an ATHLETE.

Here’s my take on injuries and if anyone out there has anything to add to it, I’d love to hear it. A few things can happen when you get injured and I think a lot of it depends on where you are at mentally and physically when it happens. First, you get discouraged when you hear you have to take a break from working out. This is particularly hard to hear especially if you are on a roll and are seeing results. A few thoughts that went through my mind when I knew I had to take 8 weeks off and then ease VERY slowly back into training: “I’m going to lose everything that I’ve done.” “I’m going to gain all my weight back.” “I’ll be starting over from square one.” Once that emotion passed, then next one set in: FEAR. “What if the surgery doesn’t work and I can’t ever do CrossFit again?” “What if I hurt myself again?” A couple of things can happen at this stage. You can say screw it. Getting hurt again isn’t worth it so I’m done. The other choice you have is to work through your injury, do everything your doctor says and get back in the game as soon as you can and not let the fear rule you.

I had only been doing CrossFit for 3 months before my knees took me down. Because of the transformation that was happening to me mentally and physically, I made the decision to take whatever measures I needed to in order to get back in the game. My head was in the right place. I still didn’t think of myself as an athlete but I knew I would be one someday and bad knees were not going to stop me.

I am one for pushing the limits. All the time. I think every athlete out there who continues to grow, pushes the limits. I have pushed myself harder than I should have more than once but how else was I supposed to know how far I could go? You can tell me all day long that I won’t ever be able to squat more than 100lbs but until I try to do 105lbs, I don’t believe you. I was born with jacked up knees so I knew exactly what I could and couldn’t do. But now that I was having them fixed – GAME ON. The sky is the limit. I drank the Kool-Aid that is CrossFit and there was no looking back. Those limits were meant to be pushed. The squat rack was screaming my name.

Show me an athlete – any athlete – professional or amateur who hasn’t been injured at least once. My question to you is would you rather be that athlete who got hurt doing something you really enjoy, that is good for you and making you stronger for life or would you rather be that person who was injured because of what they weren’t doing. That person who hurt their back lifting something because of a weak core? How about that person who can’t keep up with their kids because their knees hurt because they haven’t taken care of them? CrossFit isn’t for everyone but there is something out there for everyone. Just get up and move and don’t be afraid to get hurt. If you are taking care of an injury, get your MIND right and get back in the game. Don’t stop working out because of one injury. KEEP MOVING. My 8 weeks of downtime didn’t mean sitting on the couch the entire time. I did upper body work, I rode the bike very slowly and I walked on the treadmill. I kept moving. I showed up 15 minutes early to my personal training sessions so I could get on the rower and get my knees warmed up. The longer you sit out, the harder it is to get back in. As much as my body said NO, my mind said YES, you can do this.

Never forget that you are strong, you are amazing and you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to. So get out there and get you some!

A little snipit from my vision board.