Doing What I Can to Stay Healthy

Today was a beautiful day here for those of us whom live along the foothills of the mountains of Colorado.  With temperatures in the low to mid-70's (F), folks in shorts and white legs were jogging and walking and pushing babies in strollers in every neighborhood I drove through.  These warm temperatures are great on one hand, but they also bring the danger of fire.  We have not had much moisture in the lowlands of Colorado this winter.  Right now, it feels like we are living in a tinderbox.  When I look at the snows in the eastern part of the country, I am just a bit envious of all the moisture that such storms provide.

I didn't get out to walk in the neighborhood today, but I did yesterday, and it was wonderful to out walking in such pleasant weather.

Sally with Boston

If you look closely at the landscape, you will see how dry the grasses in my neighborhood are.  Also, the trees are very dry.  I am hoping we will get some much needed moisture soon.

I am working very hard at getting healthy again after being so sick during February with a bad sinus infection and acute bronchitis.  It seems there is always a fall out when one goes on antibiotics.  I dread the questions that come when I am sick.  The doctor looks at my long list of drugs that I have reactions to or am allergic to and then asks, "What can you take?"  "Not much," is my standard reply.  I was given three different antibiotics over the past six weeks and prednisone (one day only before I had a reaction that landed me back in the doctor's office)  and now I am struggling with problems which were most likely brought on by medications and a body fighting infection. Heart arrhythmia and tachycardia (rapid heart rate) have been causing me a lot of concern of late.

I saw my cardiologist yesterday for my six month check-up after my recent "download" from the pacemaker.  Thankfully, the data from the pacemaker looked good, but that data was downloaded before I started being symptomatic again.  I am so thankful I have the most phenomenal cardiologist. He knows me well, and he knows Jim well.  He jokes with us, shares stories, talks about some place that has the best food, or just makes us feel like he enjoys visiting with us while he is also taking care of business and checking out the old ticker.  He said that the lung issues I had can trigger the heart to act up and sometimes those issues can take two months to resolve themselves.  He also said that the antibiotics can cause the problems I'm having.  He ordered blood work to check my thyroid since I have Hashimoto's disease.  He then surprised me by saying he was going to have me wear a Holter Monitor to compare its findings with my pacemaker.  I must admit that I was surprised that he is having me do this testing, but I am also relieved because the tachycardia has been quite troublesome in the past few weeks.

In the meantime, I am actually feeling quite well.  I know that sounds crazy, but I do feel good most of the time now.  I just hate having those spells with my heart.  I thought they were all behind me after the pacemaker was implanted nearly two year ago, and after I had the heart ablation.

Besides the heart problems, I am really fighting my weight.  I put on ten pounds quite quickly last year because of a medication I was taking to try and tame the chronic inflammation I have.  The weight gain caused my A1C to go up.  I am trying so hard to keep those diabetic numbers in the range of pre-diabetes.  So far, I have fought pre-diabetes successfully for about eight years.  I'm trying to limit my carbs to 30 per meal, and I am trying to walk or do some sort of exercise daily.  This has been a challenge because it was after an hour's class in water aerobics last week that I suffered a bad spell of tachycardia and arrhythmia.  The cardiologist said to keep up the exercise, but to listen to my body, make sure I stay hydrated when I exercise, and try not to overheat.

The antibiotics also stirred up GI issues.  Can I just say that I really am grateful for antibiotics, but I hate taking them!  They stir up so many problems for those of us with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and SIBO (Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth). These are not by any means new problems for me.  Over the last five years or so, my digestive issues have become extreme.

A few years ago, my GI doctor handed me a list of foods to avoid.  She said, "This is the FODMAP Diet and many of my patients have found that following it has really helped them."  I looked at the list, smiled, took it home and filed it away.  Then, she asked if I was following it on my next visit.  The answer was, "No."  Being one who hates diets, when my symptoms became more and more severe, I decided to do a bit of research on the diet.  I downloaded all the materials I could find about it on my phone and bookmarked websites on my computer.  Then, finally, I decided to be brave enough to try to follow the diet.

FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found naturally in foods and in additives to foods.  FODMAPs is an acronym that stands for:

  • Fermentable 
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Disaccharides
  • Monosaccharides
  • and
  • Polyols
To know what those terms mean, read the links I am providing.  I am not about to try to explain it all because I am not scientific enough to do so!  Trust me, it makes sense once you study it, but don't ask me to explain it. 

I follow a dietician from the Boston area who is an educator on the FODMAP diet.  Her website is  You can learn a lot about FODMAP from her.  

I've never been 100% successful at following the diet's 21 day elimination phase faithfully,  but I have been faithful enough at following it to have identified some triggers.  When I avoid these triggers, I do well with my digestion.  When I have a flare-up of symptoms, I can be sidelined for days on end with pain.

My endocrinologist recently thanked me for telling her about the FODMAP diet.  She said she had told some of her patients about it and had seen some wonderful results.  She said it was too early for her to know if it also helped with establishing a diet that helped diabetics.

As I said, I hate diets.  I don't like restrictions in my diet, and I don't like avoiding some foods; however, when one suffers badly enough from digestive pain and problems, one becomes more open to taking the advice a doctor gives.

I am absolutely against fad diets where whole food groups are avoided.  I am also against self-diagnosis and treatment for health problems.  For that reason, I haven't written about the plan I have studied and tried to follow for the past year.  I am now taking it much more seriously and am following it more consistently.  If a food doesn't bother me, then I don't exclude it.  I have followed the plan enough to have learned most of the things I must avoid.

I snapped a photo of a recent lunch I fixed myself that is a suggested lunch on the plan.  I made a salad of mixed greens, grape tomatoes, red peppers, carrots, eggs, kale, and a dressing I made with red wine vinegar, dijon mustard (with no added garlic or onion), and chopped green onion tops.  The dressing made the salad especially good.

My father used to say that no one want to hear about health issues.  I have a hard time writing about health issues for that reason.  I do suffer from a number of issues that have taken years for me to sort out. It has also taken me years to find answers from professionals I trust.  Thankfully, I now have a team of doctors that give me great support and care with two of the health issues that I juggle on a daily basis.  I'm doing what I can on my end to do what I can do be healthy.

Smoke, Rain, and Wind

The images that came across the screen last night of the fire raging in Colorado Springs were terrifying to watch even though I saw the images via a computer screen or on the television.  Forty miles away from the fire, I was horrified and shocked at what was happing in my hometown all through the evening of June 26, 2012.  My husband and I could barely take our eyes off of the accounts of the devastation that were being recorded via the television cameras.  My children, though safely in other cities and states, were also horrified and shocked as they watched what was happening by logging onto the internet where they could watch a live stream of what we were watching on television.

Finally, at nearly midnight, my husband and I went to bed to try and sleep.  About 2:00 a.m., our puppy, Boston, now ten months old, woke us up because he was sick.  We have had him to the vet three times in the past ten days.  In fact, we had spent nearly two hours at the vet yesterday as they sought an explanation for his symptoms.   He is suffering from a bacterial infection that seems to get better, and then it comes back again.  At 2:00 this morning, after cleaning up the mess that thankfully mostly just covered his kennel, my husband and I sat on the back deck and just stared at each other.  We were too dumbfounded by all the events of the previous day to even go back to bed.  The smell of smoke filled the night air, a reminder that fires were still burning up north.  Finally, we made our way to bed.  At 4:00 a.m., Jim was back up with our sick pup.  Today, Boston spent the day at the vet's where he will remain tonight.  He is still vomiting and experiencing diarrhea.

We had to be in Colorado Springs by 10:30 this morning.  As we sat on the deck last night, or I should say early this morning, we discussed canceling our appointments.  Jim's appointment was with the cardiologist office, so we decided we needed to go.  (He is doing fine.  He is involved in a research study and must be monitored while he is on the drug that is being researched.)

Our cardiologists' office is on the top floor of Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, the hospital where I was born.  The views from the seventh floor of this cardiology practice are stunning as a wall of windows facing the west allows a panoramic view of the Front Range.  I always love to gaze out of the windows as I drink in the beauty of this those "purple mountain majesties" on the horizon.   My eye is always drawn to my mountain, the one that lived at the end of the street where I grew up, Pikes Peak.  I am home, I think as I peer directly down on the park just outside the window where I played on a nearly daily basis as a child. I look out over the tree tops towards the house where I grew up which is located just a few blocks west of the hospital and park.  This is my 'hood.  I was born here, and I grew up here.  I even went to church and to school within a four or five block distance from the place where I was born.

Today, I was not alone, as I gazed out the windows today.  I noticed the office personnel glancing anxiously towards the west as they went about their business.  Sometimes, they would walk over to the window, leaning toward the glass to try to get a better view of what was happening.  Patients were also looking to see what they could see of the conditions to the west.  We saw little.  North of Pikes Peak, the mountains were hidden by a dark, ominous looking cloud of smoke.  I could smell smoke within the hospital itself.    There was not any solid evidence of all the destruction that had taken place the evening before just north of Pikes Peak.   The cloud of smoke hid the damage the fire had caused beneath it.
A view of Pikes Peak from Memorial Hospital
taken with my cell phone on 6/27/12
The grass from Boulder Park can be clearly seen in the center of the photo.
The central part of Colorado Springs lies near the foothills below  Pikes Peak.
The highest peak in the photo is Pikes Peak.

After Jim's appointment,  we drove to one of our favorite deli's, Wooglin's Deli, which is located across the street from Colorado College.  We nearly always have lunch there when we are in town.  I ran into a friend and colleague while we were having lunch.  She had been the professor who organized a trip I took with her and other teachers to Oaxaca, Mexico in 2005.  She said she and her husband were evacuees.  They had to leave their home, located not far from the Garden of the Gods,  last night.  They hoped to return home tonight.

After lunch, Jim and I drove north to his daughter's home to check on her.  All was fine there.  We then went to my doctor's appointment in the far northeast part of Colorado Springs.  As we walked to the office from the car, the rain started to fall.  Unfortunately, I don't think this particular weather cell did much for the area where the fire is located, but it was coming down hard enough for me to grab an umbrella as I got out of the car.

One of my favorite all time women in my life is my ob/gyn doctor.  As all my friends and family know, I adore her.  Young, beautiful, vivacious, funny, smart as a whip, voted as one of the top docs of Colorado Springs, I call her my smart Barbie.  That is not a put down, and I hope it shows no disrespect.  She is smart, beautiful, and a wonderful, caring, doctor.  Many of my friends and family now go to her also.

As soon as she entered the exam room, it was clear she was suffering.  She had left her home yesterday to go to work thinking all was well.  After work, she headed to Denver for a prior commitment.  As she headed towards Denver, she learned  the area where her home is located was under mandatory evacuation.  Her home is located just a very short distance from the Flying "W" Ranch which was totally destroyed by the fire.  When I saw her this afternoon, she was still trying learn from the Red Cross if her home was still standing.  She said, "Sally, I literally only have the clothes on my back at this time.  I had to go to Target to get shampoo and such before I came to work today."  She was dressed in surgical attire.  We exchanged many hugs, I shed a few tears for her because she was standing tall, and remaining professional, but the look we exchanged as we kept locking eyes said it all.  She is devastated, worried, exhausted, and wondering what the future holds.  She didn't even know where she would go tonight.  "Come home with me," I said.  Of course that was not realistic, so I said, "Go to the Broadmoor; I hear insurance will pay for your housing."  We got a laugh out of that.  I assured her that she would come back from all of this.  She will land on her feet.  That is who she is. This fire is just getting way too personal.  It is touching people I care deeply about.

Tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with all of those who don't know what the future holds after this devastation.  My thoughts and prayers are with the fire fighters who are risking their lives as they fight this fire.  I admire and send support to those leaders of Colorado Springs who have handled this tragedy with great wisdom and much grace.  I appreciate the support so many are sending this way.  The Red Cross is doing a tremendous job of bringing in help, support, and shelter for the over 32,000 people who had to leave their homes.

The rain did fall, and that also meant the wind blew today.  Colorado Springs is located on the downslope of a mountainous range.  Storms do not produce gentle rains often.  Storms bring wind and lightening.  I have not heard if the rains have helped much yet in the firefighting effort.  I don't think the winds have stirred up too much damage.  If anything, the wind is scattering ash and embers that are traveling north and igniting small spot fires.  Helicopters are fighting these in an attempt to keep the fire from breaching the ridge that would cause the fire to burn on Air Academy grounds.  As far as I know, there have been no lightening strikes that have caused additional fires.

At times during the day, a flash flood warning has been in place because the rain could cause flooding as the water runs off  the fire de-wooded hillsides.  We need gentle rain, but that type of rain is rare around here.  I just keep hoping that every little bit of moisture we can get in the air will help a lot.  The temperatures were not as hot today.  All of that has made things appear better than they were yesterday.

Thank you all for the love, support, prayers, and kind wishes for Colorado.  Keep them coming.

On a final note, please read my daughter's blog entry.  She captured so well what I wish I could say about my beloved hometown.  Click here on: "Memories Aflame" to read Keicha's beautifully written piece.

Fire Update

Dear Blogging Friends,

At about 4:00 this afternoon, June 26th, 2012, the Waldo Canyon Fire fanned by 40 mile an hour winds, suddenly flared to cause the wildfire to grow by leaps and bounds.  I am located forty miles away and am in no danger whatsoever, but I have many friends and family in my hometown of Colorado Springs.

A perfect storm set the scene for what has happened.  Colorado Springs has never reached 101 degrees before until today.  For three straight days, the temperature has been at 100 degrees.  Wind up to 65 miles an hour also hit late this afternoon.  The area is in a drought.

By 4:30 more than 7,000 more people were evacuated from their homes.  This meant that 12,000 people were evacuated in the area.  Since that time, more people have been evacuated from homes near the Air Force Academy.  In fact, the housing area for those personnel who live on the Air Force Academy have had to evacuate.

Structures have now been lost in the area.  Since Sunday, the firefighters have been able to keep all structures from burning.  As one broadcaster said on air, "It has all changed on a dime."  This was because of the wind that brought the fire roaring through Waldo Canyon and Queen's Canyon into the west side of the City of Colorado Springs.  Think of smoke from a fireplace going up a chimney.  This is what happened when the fire, pushed by wind, roared through Queen's Canyon.

The photos and live shots coming out of the area are absolutely heartbreaking.  As heartbreaking as the photos are, the knowledge of the impact that this disaster is having on so many is even more heartbreaking.  All over Colorado Springs, family members are reporting that the air is thick with ash and smoke.  Many say it is difficult to breathe.

As I write this post, the word is that all homes west of I25 from Garden of the Gods to the Air Force Academy is on evacuation orders.  Word is out that Flying "W" Ranch, a place those of us who lived in Colorado Springs always took visitors out of town to experience a true Western experience and meal, has burned.

The wind is shifting, even though it is dying down.  It is now headed south.  We need rain.  We need prayer.  The fire is out of control.  Neighborhoods are burning.  The fire is unprecedented.  There are no words.  The air craft is no longer able to go in the air to fight the fire.

If you wish to watch a live stream of this fire, you may do so at this site:  KOAA

As many of you know, we have been trying to sell our home so that we can move to Colorado Springs.  The home we have hoped to purchase is not too near these areas that are burning.  None of my family lives near the fire.  All are on the other side of town.  Officials have asked all to stop using cell phones. Gas has been turned off to many neighborhoods.  I can't even imagine what those who live in this areas are experiencing.

Truly, the backdrop of my earliest days, the beloved skyline of my life,  is on fire.  I am heartbroken.

Colorado Fires

I am very distracted tonight.  I have been watching the news continuously since about 4:00 today because there is a fire near Colorado Springs that has caused over a thousand homes to be evacuated in Colorado Springs.  Thankfully, as of this evening, the fire itself has not crested the ridge that separates the town of Colorado Springs from the mountain areas where the fire is now 0% contained.  Not only are the small towns that line Ute Pass or Highway 24 west of Colorado Springs all evacuated or are on voluntary evacuation, but also many homes are evacuated right in the town if Colorado Springs.  None of these populated areas are on fire now, but evacuation is mandatory because of how quickly the fire can spread depending on the wind direction.

The photo below is an amazing photo that was taken of the fire earlier today from the top of Pikes Peak.  You can see Colorado Springs in the distance.  Some of you may remember that Katherine Lee Bates was inspired to write  "America the Beautiful" when she saw this same view from the top of Pikes Peak.  She wrote the following about the experience that led to her penning the words for this song, "One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse." photo
This photo was taken by someone on top of Pikes Peak about 2:30 today

I have no idea how many fires are now burning in Colorado.  As of this afternoon, the one near Colorado Springs is a new wildfire for the state  After beginning around 1:00 p.m., by 8:00 p.m.,  the fire spread to 2,000 acres.  Fighting the fire is a challenge because of:  terrain, wind, and heat.  The terrain is very steep, and there are many big boulders.  The fire loosens the boulders and causes even more dangerous conditions for those who try to fight the fire on foot.  The wind has been blowing, but it has now calmed down some. This does not mean that the winds will not pick up again.  Thankfully, the temperatures are now going down, but records were broken today with 100 degree heat in Colorado Springs.  (It was 108 at our house in Pueblo.)  The hillsides are incredibly dry.  We have had little rain, and we had little snow this winter.  The forecast is for more heat tomorrow, and there is no forecast for rain.

My cousin Donna who has a cabin west of this fire has been under mandatory evacuation since last Sunday because of a fire known as the Springer Fire that was burning near her cabin.  (I wrote a blog post about Donna which you can read if you clink here.)  She was just allowed to go back to her cabin today.  She literally just got up to the cabin before today's fire broke out about 30 miles away from her cabin.  Thankfully the fires in her area were contained.  This freed up firefighters for the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs.

She is safe; there is no threat to the area where she is living at this time.  She was looking forward to spending the summer in the cool mountain air of Colorado by living in the cabin her father built in the early 70's. She lives in the Phoenix area during the rest of the year.  Last summer we had a great family reunion at her cabin.  We have plans for another one this year in July at the same cabin.  Many of my family have built cabins in this area over the years.  Many family memories have been made in the area around my cousin's cabin.  Thankfully, that area is safe at this time, and Donna is back home in her cabin.

This photo shows how much of the area is surrounded by trees.  Unfortunately, the ground under the trees was very dry even last year.  It is worse this year.

My brother and his wife visiting a cousin's husband
Donna's cabin - 2011
Wagon Tongue, Colorado

Two cousins I had not seen in many years attended the gathering.
Barbara, on the left, works has worked at the gate on the highway that goes to the top of Pikes Peak.
She has worked there for years.
Her brother is the forest ranger stationed at the top of Pikes Peak.
Family Reunion
2011 at Donna's cabin
(Donna is in the green/blue top  She is the first person seated on the second row.)
Our roots go deep in the Colorado Springs area.  Our family is rare in that those of us in my generation are third generation natives of El Paso County in Colorado.  We grew up driving up and down Ute Pass near where the fire started.  We spent many happy summer days as children not far from this area in Victor, Colorado where our grandparents had a summer home.  Four generations have worked on the top of Pikes Peak.  My brother's grandson is working up there this summer.  We have never seen anything like this.  No fire has ever threatened our beloved mountain areas surrounding Colorado Springs.

My mother who is 96 years old lived in Woodland Park as a child.  Woodland Park, a small mountain town set at the foot of Pikes Peak,  is just about 20 miles from where today's fire broke out.  When she was just a small child, I think she was only about five years old, she watched her family home burn to ground in the middle of winter.  It is one of her earliest memories.  They lost everything they had.  All through my childhood, I remember hearing stories about this fire and how it marked my mother's life.  All of the precious photos which they saved are singed.  These scorched, treasured family portraits are grim reminders of the devastation of the fire my mother and her parents experienced.  These were the only things that were saved.  Today, as I spoke with my mother about the fire burning in the area so close to her childhood home, she said, "Fire is a terrible thing."  I just saw a photo the night sky lit up by the bright red flames burning west of Colorado Springs.  I was shocked.  It looks life the world is on fire.  That is fire, not the sun setting!

Photo by:  Kristen Bennett of Wildflower Photography

We are praying for all those who are affected by this wildfire.  We pray for those who have been evacuated from their home.  We pray for safety for those fighting the fire.  We pray that no lives or structures are lost.  We are praying for rain, no wind, and cooler temperatures.  Dear blogging friends, please join me in praying for a quick end of this fire.