Category Archives: Health

A Whole New World!

It’s hard to believe five weeks have gone by since the day my life changed forever. 

If you’ve stopped by this site during the past couple of months, you know I elected to have surgery in the hopes of correcting significant hearing loss in my right ear caused by a rare condition called otosclerosis. Since the stapedectomy on October 7, I can’t count the number of times I’ve nearly stopped dead in my tracks as I savor the sounds I missed or strained to decipher for years. 

I am no longer asking people to repeat themselves several times. I have no need to contort my neck at odd angles to hear someone speak from behind a cash register or in a crowded restaurant. There’s just this new “balance” to how I hear everything from the music on my running playlist to the sirens and all the other sounds of the city. Then just three days ago, my first post-surgery hearing test proved the surgery was indeed a success. When the audiologist delivered the news that my hearing tested “within normal range in both ears,” I actually started crying. 

In addition to being truly overwhelmed by how my quality of life improved in just a matter of weeks, I’ve also been blown away by all the supportive emails, texts and messages on social media from people near and far. I will be forever grateful for the support. I also can’t say enough about my ENT, Dr. Neil Sperling and his entire compassionate staff. Last but certainly not least, I have to give a special shout out to my “Uncle” Joe. A retired ENT, he performed countless stapedectomy surgeries during his own career and offered words of wisdom and encouragement from my initial diagnosis in 2018 right through my ongoing recovery. I couldn’t have made it through this experience without him. 

I close with the knowledge that I am truly blessed to have had such successful results following surgery. I also realize while I feel lucky to have had this option in the first place, not everyone is comfortable with having surgery. Hearing loss can be caused by a myriad of factors, and I encourage anyone challenged by it to talk to your primary care physician or an ENT about your options. There have been so many advancements in hearing aids over the years, and I know many people who’ve worn them for years. (You may recall, I tried one myself for more than a year.) 

I’ll see Dr. Sperling and have another hearing test in six months. In the meantime, I’ll continue being thankful for the sounds I hear each day and for all who continue to check in and send good vibes. It’s amazing how the power of positive energy can help us all stay on the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!   

Two Weeks Later…

Even as someone who enjoys writing, I’ve been struggling to find the right words to describe the last 14 days. How can you accurately define what it’s like to be able to hear again? This overwhelming new reality is an amazing gift for which I will be forever thankful.  

After more than three years of struggling to hear out of my right ear, especially in restaurants, gyms or anywhere with ambient sound – and there are just a few of those living in New York City – I decided to undergo a stapedectomy. The procedure has a high success rate – more than 90% – for those diagnosed with otosclerosis. The rare condition occurs when the stapes bone in the middle ear (which happens to be the smallest bone in the body) stops working properly. This prevents sound waves from reaching the inner ear, resulting in conductive hearing loss. On October 7th, Dr. Neil Sperling, replaced my faulty stapes bone with a titanium prosthesis. 

I was placed under general anesthesia for the procedure, which took about 90 minutes. For me, the anesthesia turned out to be the toughest part of the experience. The kind nurses at the Greenwich Village Ambulatory Surgery Center kept me in recovery a couple of hours longer than expected to administer anti-nausea medication intravenously. Back at home, I slept for five hours straight, and continued to suffer from nausea and dizziness for the first 24 hours. As far as any pain, it was minimal. I needed only two Tylenol before my real bedtime that first night to stave off the slight ache in my ear. 

The dizzy, woozy feeling continued throughout the weekend, but thanks to James’ care and a stockpile of movies and shows to choose from, I simply laid low and drank lots of fluids. Being on antibiotics and steroids, I didn’t have much of an appetite. The biggest shock: I didn’t even want wine. (My liver must have enjoyed the short hiatus!) 

Four days after surgery I saw Dr. Sperling for a follow-up, and he removed the packing from my inner ear. Rid of the gauze, it suddenly felt as if someone flipped a switch and the fog started lifting almost immediately. The best part of that post-op visit: I started hearing sounds in my right ear. Heading home from the appointment, I almost started crying on the sidewalk. I think I may have startled James when I suddenly stopped in my tracks and looked around to fully take in the sounds of the city. They were somewhat muffled and definitely overmodulated, but I suddenly realized the traffic, sirens, people yelling into their smartphones – the cacophony of sound that defines New York City – was being processed by both ears.  

Since then the sounds have grown a bit sharper, and I can follow conversations without tilting my head to the left to favor what was once my only “working” ear. A few nights ago, I even asked James to lower the television. I now have some itching and a bit of a “clogged” feeling in the right ear again, but I’m staying positive this may only be a temporary “setback” as the healing continues. (If it continues by the end of next week, I’ll be sure to get to the doctor’s office.) Right now, I am scheduled to see Dr. Sperling again in a few weeks, and I’ll have a full hearing test to officially gauge how things are progressing. Another exciting day to look forward to! 

In the meantime, I’m getting back to some real exercise and slowly increasing the mileage on my power walks in Central Park. Two days ago, I managed to for my first post-surgery short run, (just one-and-a-half miles long) and experienced no balance issues at all. Just one more reason I’m more thankful than words can describe. 

This unexpected journey has taught me a lot about hearing loss. There are so many different types and causes, but not all have a surgical option as a possible solution. So again, I realize how fortunate I am to have had the ability to choose a course of action that could have such a positive impact on my quality of life. To anyone struggling with hearing loss, I encourage you not to suffer in silence. Talk to your primary care physician or find an ENT. (If you live in or anywhere near Manhattan, I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Sperling!) Get your hearing tested and see what options exist. 

I close with a heartfelt thank you for so much love and support that’s helped me through this ongoing journey. The number of prayers, good vibes and encouraging words I’ve received from near and far are simply overwhelming. I’ve also been amazed to learn how many people of all different ages are considering this surgery or struggling with their own hearing loss story. Please don’t be shy about sending along any questions. By sharing our experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – we can help each other gather information and get back to our sometimes sidelined plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! 

My Hearing Loss Journey: Part Two

Happy October! 

I hope these musings find you and your loved ones healthy and safe as we continue our journey through these challenging times. Again, I ask your forgiveness for my absence from the blogosphere. I’m certainly thankful to be in a better space both physically and mentally as we move through this fall of 2021, but I also know I’m not alone in my ongoing struggle to find a steady routine. I also haven’t felt compelled to write about anything, as life has felt pretty uneventful – until now. Tomorrow, I’ll undergo surgery for the first time in my life. 

My repeat readers may recall a “big reveal” on this site not long before life as we once knew it changed forever. In January of 2020, I started wearing a hearing aid. This was the non-invasive path available to address the conductive hearing loss that came on suddenly in 2018 because of a rare condition called otosclerosis.

WebMD offers the simplest definition of this condition that affects a little more than three million Americans:

“Otosclerosis is a condition that causes hearing loss. It happens when a small bone in your middle ear — usually the one called the stapes — gets stuck in place. Your stapes bone has to vibrate for you to hear well. When it can’t do that, sound can’t travel from your middle ear to your inner ear. That makes it hard for you to hear.”

In everyday life, this condition makes it extremely hard to hear and follow conversations in crowded places or anywhere with ambient sound, like restaurants or gyms. While the hearing aid did improve my hearing somewhat, the device never felt truly comfortable and I found there were too many circumstances where wearing it wasn’t an option. That included high-intensity workouts including running or kickboxing. Since I couldn’t risk getting the device wet, it also never accompanied me on days at the beach – my go-to destination for solace during the last two summers. 

The bottom line: after extensive research and another visit with the ENT who first presented me with my options, I decided to move forward with a surgical procedure called a stapedectomy. During the short procedure, I’ll be under general anesthesia while Dr. Neil Sperling removes the non-working stapes bone in my right ear and replaces it with a titanium micro prosthesis. 

I am sharing my story as an example of when plan A doesn’t work, it’s up to you and you alone to determine if and when you’re ready to move on to plan B, if one exists. Am I nervous? To be completely honest, yes. But I’m also excited to see what the aftermath will sound like. I’ll be sure to write about how it goes and what the recovery is like. I do know I’ll be resting for a few days after the surgery and facing about two weeks of downtime from my running routine. I’ll also be having monthly audiograms until next spring to track improvements in my hearing. 

I credit my journalism background with helping in the information gathering process throughout this journey to date. I’m also extremely grateful for the guidance from a dear family friend who happens to be a retired ENT and performed countless stapedectomies during his career. Finally, I thank everyone who has reached out since I first wrote about my hearing loss with so many kind words of support. These are the times you realize how a little encouragement can go a long, long way when it comes to getting back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! 

Laura Loves Fitness Turns 10!

I realize many of my posts kick off with a commentary on the passage of time. While it’s hard to believe we’ve crossed the halfway mark for 2021, I’m having a harder time processing another moment in my personal history. This week marks an entire decade since my very first blog post appeared here on LauraLovesFitness.

It’s a bit overwhelming to think about how this blog – and ultimately, its creator – has changed during these past 10 years. The site started as a place to share exercise and nutrition tips a few times a week. However, a gamut of life experiences reminded me health and well-being are affected by so much more than a specific workout or meal choice. Death, illness, divorce, job loss and tragedies faced by loved ones all take a toll on one’s body and spirit, affecting everything from the motivation to exercise to sleep patterns. While exercise has remained a constant source of solace through the challenging times, writing seems to become an even bigger part of my mental health care routine with each year that passes.

Of course, this past year changed life in a way most never could have imagined. Neither exercise nor writing offered the solace I’d relied on in previous years to bring me back to my center, and the number of blog posts simply dropped off. I’m honestly not sure how much I’ll share here as we make our way through the second half of 2021. Yet, I find comfort knowing I have a space I can share my thoughts when I’m ready. And that is thanks to you, my wonderful readers.

Many of you have been here since day one – July 13, 2011 – and others joined the journey somewhere along the way. I am grateful to each and every one of you for taking the time to stop by and offer your own words of support and motivation. Whether you shared your sympathy after a loss, or congratulated me on one of my Avon39 walks, my first fitness competition or for finally finding my happily ever after, the support has meant more than words can say. While I am uncertain of how LauraLovesFitness may change moving forward, I know the site couldn’t have reached double-digits without you.

I close with a final heartfelt thank you to each of you for keeping me moving on this 10-year journey. Here’s to the adventures that lie ahead of us and all the opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Bring on Summer!

As we continue to navigate through 2021, there are many days it seems time is flying by and standing still at the same time. Yet, here we are on the last Workout Wednesday of spring – and nearly halfway through the year.

With the official start of my favorite season only three days away, I find myself bolstered by energy I haven’t felt since…I’m not really sure when. I realize this is based on a combination of factors, including the fact that COVID cases remain low here in New York City. However, I think the biggest and most welcome change has been experiencing actual human contact again. Each and every second of laughter and the super-tight hugs shared with family and friends after far too long are gifts beyond compare.

As the buzz throughout the city grows a little louder each day, I look forward to a season of getting back to a more normal health and fitness routine. It’s nearly impossible to believe it’s been more than one year since I last stepped inside a gym. The walking / running program I started when the gyms closed in March 2020 has kept me going, but only to a point. I candidly admit I still don’t ‘like’ running, so it hasn’t given me the same mental outlet as other types of exercise. However, last weekend, I took my first NY Best Kickboxing class since pre-COVID times – and it felt incredible to be outside in Central Park throwing jabs and punches again! (And who knew trees make great substitutes for heavy bags?) The soreness I felt for the next couple of days was super intense, but I didn’t mind one bit. I know with time and patience; my body will grow strong again – along with my spirit – as I add weight training and my other “old favorites” back into my fitness routine.  

For anyone who feels off their game – remember, you are certainly not alone. We’ve all done the best we could this past year. Now, it’s time to start living again. Just be kind to yourself and remember to ease back into old workout routines carefully. Going from zero to 100-percent effort on day one is a surefire way to put your body at risk for injury. So take some time to breath as you get back to doing what you love. Of course, that includes spending time with the people you love. Here’s to making this the best summer ever filled with new opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! 

A Shot of Hope

I know, it’s been awhile. I also know the start of 2021 has been a bit of a sluggish one for my body and spirit. However, as we’ve reached the start of another new month in a year following one like no other, I feel more optimistic than I have in who knows how long. 

I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday. The mask I wore to the appointment couldn’t conceal my emotions. I actually felt tears of joy fill my eyes and heard a slight tremble in my voice as I answered the nurse’s questions before she administered the totally painless shot. Then reality hit: in just two more weeks, I’d be considered fully vaccinated. The moment was, in a word, surreal.

One year ago at this very time, we had absolutely no idea when we’d have a handle on the pandemic nor did we know when life-saving vaccines would be available. On a personal note, I wondered when it would be safe to see, let alone hug my elderly parents again; how long New York City would remain in a state of “pause” with sirens punctuating what became an eerie silence in so many parts of this concrete jungle; and of course, when would the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from this horrible virus stop soaring. At this time in 2020, I was also just a couple of weeks away from taking the online Johns Hopkins Contact Tracing course that would lead to a job with New York City’s Test + Trace Corps. I can’t help but smile thinking about how the program has evolved in its outreach efforts, with many of my colleagues now making phone calls to help our neighbors receive vaccines.

As for the aftermath of the vaccine, I did feel pretty crummy after both my first and second dose. However, the side effects only confirmed my immune system was doing its job and after 48 hours, I was pretty much back to normal following each shot. I’ll take two days of feeling “off” versus ending up in the hospital – or worse – if I somehow contract the virus in the future.

Meanwhile, plans are underway to get New York City completely re-open. Broadway tickets go on sale today for shows starting September 14th. Restaurants are open later. In a couple of weeks, you can catch a Yankees or Mets game and get a vaccine at the stadium. Warmer sunshine and throngs of people have started filling the parks. There’s just a buzz of new optimism in the air. With the unofficial kick off of summer on the horizon, that buzz can only grow louder. As we head toward that growing light at the end of a painfully long tunnel, I wish you and yours good health and safety. Here’s to better days ahead and making some serious plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Happy World Sleep Day!

It certainly doesn’t feel like it here in New York City, but here we are two days before the official start of spring. How’s everyone holding up?

As we all continue to navigate our way through the pandemic, I did want to offer what’s usually a semi-annual reminder about one of the most critical but often overlooked components to staying healthy: sleep. As if getting quality sleep wasn’t hard enough before 2020, many people – including yours truly – are suffering from a new condition some health experts have identified as “Coronasomnia.” While not surprising, this new classification only highlights the importance of trying to find ways to unwind and give your body a chance to rest and recover, especially during these stressful times.

We all know how hard it is to focus or find energy to do even the most basic tasks when we don’t get enough solid zzz’s. But research shows lack of sleep can contribute to other less-than-optimal health issues including weight gain, a rise in blood pressure and even increase your risk for heart disease.

So while there is no surefire way to get better sleep, I’ll offer some of the tips and tricks that work for me:

  1. Sip carefully: It’s no secret I love my libations, but while a glass or two of wine can help soothe the spirit after a stressful day, too much can wreak havoc on your system and end up doing just the opposite.
  2. Kill the Screen Time: I know. Throughout these monotonous days, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be much to do than mindlessly scroll through a feed or read the latest statistics on the virus or other stressful news. I’ve been working hard to shut off any blue-light devices at least an hour before bedtime. Try reading a real book or magazine instead.
  3. Pamper Yourself: Maybe it’s a hot shower or bath with lavender scented soaps. Or lighting a calming candle and sipping some herbal tea. Or putting on your favorite fuzzy slippers. Whatever creature comfort gives you peace, cling to it and unwind!
  4. Get Moving: Exercise always does a body good, but just wrap up the workout at least one hour before bedtime.
  5. Let It Out: Jot down some thoughts or list of worries in a journal or on a piece of note paper. Or sing out loud to your favorite “angry” song. Talk to a best buddy. Just get the negative “stuff” out of your system.

If you’ve found the secret to better sleep in these challenging times, please don’t keep it to yourself! As we move toward a new season together, sharing ideas is a great way to keep pushing forward and not lose sight of our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Quiet Start

Wow. Welcome, February! So, how is everyone handling 2021 so far?

Let me start with a heartfelt thank you to all of you who’ve taken the time to to check on me recently. It seems my silence here and on social media has raised some concern. Overall, I’m fine. And I realize I’m beyond blessed to be able to say the same for James, Mom and Dad. However, as someone who suffers from seasonal affective disorder during “normal” years, let’s just say this season has been particularly rough. I just haven’t had much motivation to do the things I usually enjoy. It’s been a struggle to get on the treadmill and break a sweat, and that’s definitely a shift from my usual self. (The fact I’m nursing an ongoing lower back / sacroiliac joint issue isn’t helping.) Then there’s writing. I’ve avoided that outlet mostly because I fear many of my musings have been darker than the ones I’m used to sharing. As for my unintentional hiatus from social media, I guess it was my way of shielding myself from the negativity and hate-filled posts and tweets that filled too many feeds for my liking.

So what have I been doing? I’ve remained beyond busy at work as part of the Test & Trace Corps. And there’s no let-up in sight. My other focus is trying to find more time for self-care. The newest addition to that routine is acupuncture. In addition to helping me find relief for the ongoing SI joint dysfunction that’s been plaguing me for years, it’s helping with my overall sense of well-being. I leave those sessions less anxious and more rested. My only regret is that I didn’t give it a try years ago.

As we kick off a new month, I garner new optimism for what lies ahead. (Even in the midst of a monster snow storm.) I hope all the beloved elderly people in my life can get vaccinated as soon as possible. I pray for the continued safety of all my family and friends. I look forward to the slow but steady arrival of more daylight in the days, weeks and months ahead. And I know my mood will eventually lighten just as it has through winters passed. In the meantime, I thank you for your ongoing support and look forward to days filled with more sunshine and more opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Buh-Bye, 2020!

Bring on 2021!

Well, we made it to the last day of the year most of us would like to forget. While things won’t magically reset to the pre-COVID life we all miss when the clock strikes midnight, there’s still something empowering about ripping the last page off my 2020 desk calendar. (Yes, I realize I’m a little old school.)

Through these endless months of darkness, there have been some brief moments of light. James and I were able to join in two wedding ceremonies for two special couples this year – one we watched with a very small, socially-distant group at a Church; the other via Zoom. While there have been predictions about what’s being called a potential “COVID baby bust” in 2021, little bundles of joy did arrive in this altered world in 2020. Here in our all-too-quiet New York City, there were long walks and newbie running adventures in Central Park, along with a new appreciation for peaceful parts of the concrete jungle I hadn’t really explored despite living here for 12 years.

Of course, the most precious moments were those spent with Mom and Dad. Trust me, I realize how blessed we’ve been to share those together times in 2020. Especially when we know of the heartache experienced by so many – some within our own extended family. My heart goes out to all the families who lost fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, grandparents, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. My thoughts are also with the doctors, nurses and all the frontline heroes who have spent countless hours away from their families and so close to this devastating virus. Of course, I also send a heartfelt thank you to the essential workers who’ve kept businesses open, transit lines running and city services going so the rest of us could stay home. Finally, I offer my sincere gratitude for all my readers. Whether you’ve been following this blog since its beginning in 2011 or just started checking in this year, I appreciate you sticking with me through some very random topics ranging from new workouts to new ways of staying mentally healthy through a pandemic. 

I realize the first day of 2021 won’t look much different from the last of 2020. And I have no plans to hang up my masks or put away the hand sanitizer anytime soon. Yet, there is something about saying good bye and good riddance to this particular year that offers a spark of new hope in my heart. I close this final post of 2020 sending heartfelt wishes to you and your loved ones for a safe and healthy New Year ahead. Here’s to the times in the not-so-distant future filled with opportunities to once again have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! 

 

Eat. Trace. Sleep. Repeat.

Caffeine fix before the work day

Six weeks since my last post. Yikes. Aside from my summer hiatus when life was “normal,” I’ve never taken such a big pause between sharing my thoughts. But life is far beyond normal, and somehow time seems to stand still and race ahead at the same time. I do find comfort in the knowledge there are only three weeks left in this horrendous year. 

Writing has always been one of my escape mechanisms. During these past six weeks, however, I’ve simply been too tired to put more than a few sentences together. And it’s not just physical fatigue. This is the most mental exhaustion I can remember pushing through since I don’t know when. Of course, I realize I’m not alone. Especially since I hear more fatigue, fear and frustration in the voices of the people I speak with every day in my work with the Test & Trace Corps. Twenty weeks into the job I never could have dreamed having during my lifetime, the number of those voices has exploded. When our call center opened yesterday, there were 10,000 calls to be made to cases and contacts throughout Manhattan and the five boroughs.

My 2020 Survival Tools

So forgive me if this isn’t one of more eloquent posts. Like many New Yorkers and I imagine, most Americans, I’m tired. Tired in my body, heart and soul. So finding daily comforts has become increasingly important with each day I’m blessed to open my bloodshot eyes. As the official start of winter creeps closer, my 2020 self-care indulgences include wine, baths, Vitamin D supplements in addition to my daily multi-vitamin, lots of candles and anything scented with lavender. I encourage everyone to find your own creature comforts and moments of Zen – no matter how fleeting – whenever you can.

I don’t mean to sound so heavy. I do love the ability to talk with my fellow New Yorkers and know the Test & Trace program is helping many of them by providing everything from the phone number for the city’s mental health hotline to assistance with food and medication deliveries. I am beyond thankful I’ve gotten to see my parents this year, especially when I know many families have been separated since the pandemic began. I am thankful for my husband, family and friends who worry about my well-being. I am thankful for the doctors, nurses and researchers who keep fighting the good fight and the essential workers who keep our city open. And I look forward to celebrating another Christmas – even if it involves a virtual get-together with our usual holiday crowd – and of course, to ringing in the start of what has to be a better New Year.

Thank you for entertaining my random thoughts through these difficult months and for all the support you’ve offered from near and far. I wish all of my readers moments of peace and happiness during this strange holiday season. Here’s to a safe end to 2020 and all good thoughts for a 2021 filled with new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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