Day 2 of waking up at 6am to ensure 1 full hour of exercise

I had another 9am meeting this morning, so for the second day in a row, I woke up at 6am to get down to the gym by 6:20 for another intense workout. Right now, my gauge for whether my workout was good is if my heart rate is in the “heart rate calorie burn zone” (I measured it the first few days this week, but now I have a good way of gauging based on how I feel), and if throughout and at the end, if I still have sweat coming down my eyes (a really annoying feeling, but one that is strangely gratifying because I know I’m pushing myself).

Was it hard to wake up an hour early? Yes. But I know I can keep doing if if I keep my mind at it. I was able to do it over ten years ago, so I know I can do it now. While waking up early is not a fun or painless thing for me to do, what I’ve felt the last two days is far less rushed than I normally feel. I actually feel like I have more time to shower, get ready, and go through emails. I have more time to prepare tea when I want to do a double boil of chai. I don’t feel anywhere as time pressed. It’s nice to get on with my morning in a more leisurely manner rather than bulldozing through actions.

We’ll see how I can keep this up.

Weaning from breastfeeding can cause you to gain weight. Who would have thought?

After the semi-annoying elevator exchange with my neighbor yesterday, this morning after my workout, I decided to hop on the scale (my first time since the beginning of the year). Last year, I’d had my weight checked a number of times: at my two OB-GYN visits, at my endocrinologist’s office, and a handful of times at home. I was proud to say that last year, I’d actually lost pretty much all my pregnancy/baby weight as of September and was back at my pre-pregnancy weight of 117 pounds. I wasn’t even sure how that happened so quickly, but I figured it was due to 1) genes, 2) lifestyle and diet, including exercising regularly, and 3) breastfeeding/pumping.

I’ve never been a scale checker; I never even owned a scale before I lived with Chris. So I always gauged my “weight” by how I felt and how I fit into my clothes. Around June of this year, I went to purchase new pants. Since the summer was quite hot, I actually hadn’t worn those pants (or any pants, for that matter) until this month… when I realized that the pants felt very snug around my waist and stomach. I already knew I had developed more belly fat at the beginning of the summer when I put on my swimsuit and looked at myself in the mirror; I wasn’t totally pleased with what I saw, but I tried to do more core strengthening work to address it. Then, because husbands always do what they do, Chris commented a couple times that he was surprised I had developed a little belly. “It must be because you aren’t pumping anymore! Maybe you need to start pumping again!” he teased, while poking at my belly.

That was not nice, but that was just a reminder to me of what I already knew: I was developing more fat around my mid-section.

So I hopped on the scale this morning, and BAM: there was a scary number staring back up at me: 129 pounds. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I knew I had gained weight, but TWELVE EXTRA POUNDS?

I did some quick Google searches, and alas, it’s really because of weaning: it’s very common for mothers who breastfeed to gain weight once they wean. The reason for this is a sudden change of hormone levels that no longer push prolactin (the breastfeeding hormone) and instead push estrogen (they are at odds with each other hormonally). Your body is also adapting to no longer using up a large amount of energy (calories) to create and pump out breast milk for your baby. Your body is essentially adapting to a new normal, a new, postpartum, post-breastfeeding state. Who knew that at 21 months postpartum, I’d still be thinking and talking about my “postpartum state”?!

Late last week, I was already starting to incorporate different low impact workouts to vary things up for myself. But now, I’m also thinking about re-jiggering my workouts so that I always have an hour dedicated on weekday mornings. So many times, I’ve had to cut it short due to morning work calls. If it means I need to wake up earlier to do it, then so be it. Ten years ago to lose weight and get in shape, I used to wake up at 5:45am several mornings a week to go to bikram yoga! And when I wasn’t doing that, I woke up at 6am to get to a 7am hour-long workout class, and then worked out another half hour since I didn’t want to go to the office that early! If I could do it then, then I can definitely do it now, especially with a gym right in my building. I have no excuses, even with a toddler to help get ready every morning. I am definitely doing this: Operation Lose 12 Pounds in the next several months.

Neighbor thought I was fat when I was actually pregnant.

Since we moved into this building in 2017, there is a small handful of faces I recognize who are still here, and we oftentimes will say hi and exchange pleasantries. One of these guys used to be in the gym with me pre-pandemic, but since then, he’s always sitting in our building lounge with a direct view of the elevators. So when I get off on that floor, which is the same level as our gym, he generally will always see me get on and off, and we’ll wave to acknowledge each other just to be friendly.

We happened to run into each other in the elevator today when I went to pick up Pookster from school. He asked me how my workouts have been going, and I told him that I might have overworked my legs yesterday because they are extremely sore today. Out of nowhere, he says, “Can I be honest, and I hope you aren’t offended… you have lost, so, SO much weight since last year and look great!”

I was so confused. What is he referring to? I haven’t lost weight since last year…? And then it suddenly hit me, AFTER I got out of the elevator: he likely confused this for when I was actually pregnant — you know, he probably thought I was fat when in reality, I was actually growing and carrying a BABY? Most people’s perceptions of time have been muddied from 2020 through now, so everything seems to blend.

Freakin’ men. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them.

Turning to TCM in an attempt to cure myself

Today marks four weeks of being sick. To be clear, I no longer am experiencing fevers, body aches, congestion/stuffy nose, but I am still suffering from a lingering cough, which still results in the occasional violent coughing fit that then leads to running to a toilet to either vomit up phlegm or what I had previously eaten. I still get choked up and my voice changes, or my breath is weird, so my voice sometimes sounds strange. Sometimes, it seems benign, like I literally just threw up my Theraflu that was honey-lemon flavored or my black tea. Other times, I have vomited up my entire dinner of chicken, rice, and soup. Regardless, it is never pleasant, and I usually feel like my eyeballs are about to burst from the sheer force of the vomiting. Because, as you probably are aware, food is meant to leave your body in one way and one way, only. When it comes out the way it came in, it’s generally not great for you.

So my mom got worried that I’d been coughing this long, so she insisted that she send some Chinese herbs for me to prepare a cough/lung tonic for myself. She sent this along with some dresses and gifts for Kaia. And I took a look at the herbs she sent and discussed instructions on how to prepare them over the phone. Then, I started referencing my Cantonese cookbook and some TCM websites for other “moistening the lungs” tonics I could make. On Sunday, I started brewing the tonics. At this point, I figure I have nothing to lose, and if nothing at all, these will still serve to hydrate me. Unlike some people, I do believe in some aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), as it’s clear that most of the western medicine I have taken to date for my illness has done absolutely nada to help me. The ENT doctor can go ahead and tell me to take Prilosec or Pepcid or Tums or whatever, but nothing actually feels like it’s moving the needle for me and getting me on a real road to recovery. Maybe my body does need a cleanse, and these herbs will actually help me get across the finish line to full recovery? We shall see.

Chest x-ray results are in

This time last week, I was getting a chest x-ray done at a radiology lab. The results got sent back to my pulmonologist’s office this week, but given he’s been out since he’s on vacation, no one has followed up with me, even his backup doctor (how nice). So I called the office today, when the receptionist said the backup doctor would be available to review the results with me, and the receptionist said we actually didn’t need to have me talk to the doctor because she could see the notes from the radiology lab on the x-ray: everything was normal.

I wasn’t sure whether to be happy about this or not. Obviously, I didn’t want to hear anything dire or terrifying (like a tumor or abscess) in my lungs. But I did want some understanding of why the heck I keep getting these stupid coughing fits. It’s clear now, after over three weeks of being ill, that the only symptom I have left is the coughing, which is occasionally accompanied by coughing attacks that result in vomiting up phlegm or a little food. That is not normal. No one has given me a real, easy to understand explanation of why this keeps happening. The ENT doctor telling me that it’s just recurring silent reflux when I get sick just is not helpful. Why can’t anyone help me understand this better….?

ENT visit and silent reflux

This morning, I made my way over to the east side once again for my ENT doctor visit. I have only ever had one ENT doctor visit, and that was almost six years ago after I lost my voice during a Hamilton Island/New Zealand trip and got another bad virus that also felt like it was going to kill me. I decided to go back to the same ENT since he already had my history, and I remember enjoying meeting with him. I thought he was quite friendly and smart, so why try someone new?

Somehow, after six years, this doctor still remembered me. He said he remembered my symptoms, voice, and face (how sweet). We talked through what’s been happening in the last six years, and once again, we did the dreaded laryngoscopy: he sprayed my nostrils with numbing spray and got me ready to thread yet another camera down my freaking throat. It lasted about 15 seconds, and somehow, it wasn’t as awful as I remember. After the exam, he told me I still had evidence of silent reflux. It may just be that I had always had it but was asymptomatic, and whatever virus I picked up six years ago just triggered it in me and drove me over the edge. He suggested that I try the following for the next three months (!!): Prilosec at least an hour before dinner; famotidine/Tums or Pepsid Complete before bed, and to elevate my head so that my throat was above my stomach at bed time. Somehow, being diligent this way had cured many of his other patients with the same recurring coughing fits when they had colds. And maybe, he said, I could be one of the lucky ones this works for. He insisted I do this for three months straight and be consistent about it; I had nothing to lose… other than all the money I’d have to spend on freaking Prilosec – NOT a cheap OTC medication!

I may just be more genetically inclined for this. I guess it makes sense: my maternal grandpa did die from choking on his own mucus when my mom was six. My mom gets mucus constantly.


Throwing up spicy pork on a Saturday afternoon

My vomiting episodes since Monday have been pretty unpredictable. To be fair, they are always unpredictable, but since Monday, they have been far less frequent, but far more violent and scary. We didn’t go far at all today since I felt miserable today, so Chris decided to pick up some food from Bang Bang Bar at the Time Warner Center for lunch. We shared the food, and about 1.5 hours later, I found myself kneeling over the toilet, throwing up the spicy Korean pork and rice that he had ordered. It was not pleasant or fun. This vomiting session truly felt like I was dying: the force of the vomit through my throat was really intense, and at times, it felt like I could barely even breathe. All the force of the food coming up pushes on my entire face, and everything is coming out everywhere else: huge tears streaming out of my eyes, and more mucus is bubbling up in my nostrils. I’m hot and sweaty from the force of the vomit, and my body is exhausted from all the coughing and vomiting… because that’s what coughing and vomiting does: it wears on your entire body. And if we really had to be TMI about this, the force of the vomit went the other way, too: I even managed to pee a little in my underwear. Yep. It went there. That never even happened to me ONCE during pregnancy, so that goes to show how strong my pelvic floor has usually been, thanks to all my kegel exercises!

Then, I got a headache and another body ache. And I thought, wow, if this happened more frequently, maybe it would be better just to be dead? Because that’s what it really feels like when this type of coughing fit happens: it feels like your whole body is just giving up and not protecting you anymore.

Radiology SNAFU and contemplations of potential terminal illnesses

I attempted to go to the radiology location close to my apartment yesterday after my pulmonologist appointment, and although chest x-rays are usually drop-in and don’t require an appointment, I apparently came on a bad day. I knew it was a bad day immediately as I entered the facility. There were so many people in the waiting room that all the seats were taken, and at least a dozen people were standing and waiting. Plus, the line for the receptionist had at least half a dozen people there. When I finally got to the desk, they told me that today was an unusual day: they were behind by over an hour, and so I’d have to come back tomorrow. To be safe, I made an appointment for 9am and returned today… to find out that the x-ray machine was down at this location, so I had to go down to Chelsea. They claim they called me twice and I never answered, but I know this was false because a) I never saw any missed call, nor any voice message (hello? isn’t that medical protocol to leave a MESSAGE?), and b) at least seven other people were standing there, yelling at the front desk workers because they said they never received any calls or voice messages. These are people who had commuted out of their way and weren’t anywhere as young or mobile as I was. Plus, from the pamphlets they were holding, they seemed like they had far, far worse, more serious conditions than I had.

Annoyingly, I made an appointment at their Chelsea location and hopped on the train downtown. And as I sat in the waiting room, I noticed the patients around me waiting to get called in for their x-rays. And they were holding pamphlets about everything from breast, lung, to pancreatic cancer. Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer in the U.S. Breast cancer unfortunately is more common than it is not. And pancreatic cancer is known to be one of the most painful cancers in existence. All I could think when I saw all these people around me was: wow. I just felt so terrible to think they were all looking at these x-rays and appointments as another step along their way to a potential death sentence. It must be so terrifying. One patient looks like she came in with the emotional support of both her son and daughter.

And then I had this dark thought: what if the x-ray results came back and they found I had something more serious that was wrong, like a tumor or malignant growth of some sort? How would I handle the news? How would I share that news, if at all, and to whom, and when? How would I even look at my young baby and think that my days could be numbered with her, this tiny little being that I had wanted so badly and waited so long for? It was a bit unsettling, but a real thought, a potential reality. It doesn’t escape me that death could always be knocking on my door at any point in my life. I am not one of those people who is in denial that death is a part of life, and it doesn’t always happen when you think it will, or when you think it will be convenient. I’ve known too many people who have died too young. Ed is just one of them, the closest of them. And my friend Raj is still the biggest mystery for all who loved him, as we still have no idea what took his life just over two years ago. Life is not long for everyone, unfortunately.

Pulmonologist visit, tonsil infection, and the search for a new PCP

Yesterday’s GI doctor suggested I visit a pulmonologist to get my respiratory system checked out given my coughing fits. It may be that something in my windpipe or lungs was causing all my recurrent coughing fits and phlegm build up, so I took her referral and was lucky enough to get an appointment with this doctor on the very same day I called. I called at around noon and sounded so pathetic and sad on the phone that the receptionist took genuine pity on me. She told the doctor how awful I sounded, and despite having a full schedule of patients today before he left for his vacation to the Galapagos Islands tomorrow for the next 1.5 weeks, he told her that he could fit me in at 2:20. So I hauled myself over to the East 60s to his office and waited.

I thought he’d be the kind of doctor I liked before I even came in. I took a quick peek at his Google Reviews before I called the office, and almost all his patients raved about him, saying he had excellent bedside manner, was super friendly and thorough, never rushed you, and was extremely smart and knowledgable even outside of the pulmonary purview. Once he came into my exam room, we spent about 30 minutes together, discussing history, the events that led to today, my symptoms, and chit chatted about work, travel, kids, and life in New York. He told me how he knew and previously worked with my GI doctor, and how he had seen so many crazy things while working in an ICU for many years previously. So he’s clearly knowledgable about a broad range of things despite being focused on the respiratory system now. He did a thorough exam, which included listening to me breathe, a breathing test, examining my mouth and throat. He let me know that I actually did not have hand foot mouth disease — I had a tonsil infection. All those white blobs I could see on my tonsils were pus pockets everywhere, as lovely as that sounds! So he prescribed me a z-pak antibiotic and a nasal spray…. which he suggested I use every day, morning and night, to ward off all the nasty germs my child would continue to introduce me to… until she’s at least age 6-7. He was NOT joking about that. He also gave me a referral to get a chest x-ray done and suggested I do it either today or tomorrow so we could get the results in ASAP. He reassured me that while he’d be out the next 1.5 weeks that the other doctor in his practice would review my results once the x-ray was in and give me next steps.

I really liked this guy. He was just so normal, so smart, and even funny, like the kind of doctor I’d want as my primary care provider. Why can’t HE be my PCP….?

Visit to the GI doctor… yielded nada

This morning, for the very first time, I actually commuted during rush hour. My appointment with the gastroenterologist was for 9am, so I rode the B train for three stops and walked over to the GI office. The subway stations were packed; there were lines to get on and off the stairs in the subway station. I was quickly reminded how much I do NOT miss morning commuting on the train and am grateful for the ability to work from home, even if that means I do far less socializing than I did before.

The highly sought after gastroenterologist that I got a referral to see was quite down to earth and lovely. I generally always know that I will like a doctor when we first meet ,and s/he introduces herself by her full name, as opposed to “Dr. X.” We talked about my previous experience getting sick in Australia/New Zealand, the silent reflux I got diagnosed with that left me with my larynx swollen, red, and awful. She came to the conclusion pretty quickly that this was, fortunately for me, NOT a GI issue, but rather an issue of a cough that gets unwieldy and needs to be controlled, likely with some level of codeine, before it gets hacky with phlegm and vomity. She saw no potential issues with GERD or acid reflux. And so she had two suggestions: go back to my ENT doctor to see what his thoughts were and if he could prescribe something stronger to help my cough from getting too unwieldy (or even give a recommendation for an OTC medication that would control how debilitating the cough gets), and/or see a pulmonologist. Since she’s a GI doctor, she had no recommendations or knowledge of pain killers or cough medications that could be prescribed, but suggested lightly that I lay low, drink lots of hot/warm fluids, and suck on lozenges to keep my throat happier.

She was really kind and personable. I enjoyed meeting with her. I guess as she says, I should be happy that this is NOT a GI issue because if it was, it would likely mean a lot of changes in my lifestyle. I just wish she could have prescribed me SOMETHING to help me.

Yet, after I got home, I realized quickly that I had a weird bump on my lip. I also noticed that my throat was getting quite sore and painful, and after shining a light inside and self examining, I realized part of the back of my throat had turned white. And around the same time, Kaia’s daycare sent a notification to all parents of her classroom that a kid had been diagnosed with hand foot mouth disease.

You have got to be kidding me… Is HAND FOOT MOUTH what I have again, on top of being sick for the last two weeks? WHAT the actual FUCK? How can my luck get any worse than being sick for the last 2+ weeks…?!!!! If anything, this explains my body aches from yesterday!!