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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
I truly don’t know where the month went, but here we are on the last Workout Wednesday of October. Election Day is only six days away. In three nights, we turn the clocks back for the end of Daylight Saving time. And every day, I see the alarming statistics and hear stories that prove we’re nowhere near the end of struggling with a pandemic. While I’ve always considered myself an upbeat and optimistic person, 2020 continues to put us all to the test on just how much we can take.
In an effort to focus on the positive, I’d like to turn your attention to a crucial element in our health and wellness routine: self-care. I realize some of you are smirking and thinking, “Sure, Laura, and just when would you like me to fit that into my schedule?” Well, my repeat readers know when it comes to fitness, I’ve always believed 10 minutes of exercise is better than zero. The same can be said for finding moments of me-time -which may be more important than ever.
Here are a five things you can do in 10 minutes or less to de-stress:
- Leave your computer/work station and go into a different room for a change of scenery. (Close the door for extra solitude if you can.) If you have access to outdoor space, step outside for some fresh air.
- Make a cup of tea.
- Practice deep breathing / meditate.
- Eat some dark chocolate.
Just so you know, I’m making more of an effort to follow my own advice as I continue my work as a contact monitor for the Test & Trace Corps. (My colleagues and I get two 15-minute breaks and a half-hour for lunch during our shifts.) The number of cases is on the rise again in New York City and our call volumes have increased in recent weeks. Each day, we hear stories from our fellow New Yorkers different in age, gender, race and creed – but many share the same fears and frustrations. So many parents, teachers and students feel overwhelmed as they struggle to navigate this unprecedented school year. Healthcare workers continue their tireless efforts to care for the sick and worry about bringing anything home to their own families. Essential workers grind through their shifts and remote workers miss the socialization of office life. And many of our city’s seniors are scared and lonely, and need ongoing assistance with necessities including food and medication. After listening to these often emotional stories almost daily for the past 14 weeks, I’ve learned if don’t make time to shut off my mind for even just a few moments during the day, sleeping at night will be nearly impossible.
Meanwhile, I miss my extended family and friends and find myself feeling sad about the strange holiday season ahead. My hope is that each of us find one or two things that give us some peace and comfort throughout the darker, colder days ahead. For me, that means buying some warmer workout gear to keep up my running efforts as the days get colder and incorporating more mini-moments of Zen into the day.
I also encourage everyone to strive to follow a healthy diet, bundle up for those outdoor exercise plans, wash your hands often and of course, wear a mask! Here’s to getting a game plan in place for the new month ahead and hopefully finding more than just a few moments to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
And so we turn the calendar to a Breast Cancer Awareness Month like no other.
As we kick off October, I find myself feeling more out of sorts than usual because I’m not gearing up for what’s been a favorite fall highlight since 2014. There’s no breast cancer awareness walk on my calendar. I completely understand why fundraising walks around the country for all types of causes have been put on hold until at least 2021, but this absence only punctuates another aspect of “normal” that no longer exists thanks to COVID-19.
My repeat readers probably recall my journey in the fight against breast cancer started as a tribute to my Mom, a warrior survivor; and my dear high school friend Elizabeth, who sadly lost her battle with the disease in 2016. The experience changed dramatically in 2018 when the annual 39.3-mile trek as part of Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer morphed into a much shorter walk through Central Park as Avon began a new partnership with the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides campaign. The mission, however, remained the same: to raise awareness about a disease that is still the leading cancer-killer of women worldwide and support patients and their families through the fight. This year, the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer initiative has made changes for less crowd-centric fundraising efforts and the main push kicks off today.
Like so many people, I’m trying to navigate a much different October path this year. My passion for helping in this fight remains, but there comes a point when each of us has to step back and acknowledge “I can’t do it all.” I would have loved to join the Pink Forward Step Challenge, but between my new job in the contact tracing world; caring for my elderly parents; planning for an upcoming move and trying to stay healthy – physically and emotionally – well, sometimes you just have to say no.
What I can do is make a donation to this year’s Making Strides of Central park 2020 campaign. However, I encourage those only with the means to do so to consider doing the same. I realize it’s been an extremely difficult year for so many people, especially on the financial front. I hear about these hardships almost daily as I reach out to COVID cases and contacts around my beloved city.
While everything looks very different, the passions that drive our heart and soul can remain strong and steadfast. Finding a different way to channel that energy will continue to be a challenge as we push forward through these difficult days. All we can do is try our best each and every day and not give up hope for better times ahead and more chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
This Workout Wednesday marks exactly two weeks since my gym re-opened in New York City. While I’m beyond thrilled for the trainers and staff who are back in action after the five-month furlough, I have yet to step foot inside those concrete walls. To be honest, I’m just not ready in this ongoing COVID-19 world. To my fellow fitness fanatics who have been back to those favorite indoor workout haunts, I’d love to hear about your experiences so far.
While I look forward to your feedback, I’ll stick with my running efforts. I can’t say it’s been easy, and not just because of the shin splints I developed back in May after getting a little too aggressive with my speed and mileage in too short a period of time. (Another reason to kick that no-pain-no-gain mantra to the curb!) It’s been more of a mental challenge, and the reason is simple: I just don’t like to run.
Staying motivated to do anything you don’t particularly like is a struggle, but I do try to focus on the positives. First, running provides the calorie burn I crave so I don’t feel guilty about that second glass of wine with dinner. Second, tracking my progress using the Strava app since late April has helped. While I’ll always consider myself the tortoise and not the hare, I have noticed an uptick in my speed and the distance I can travel before my legs and lungs start screaming. Finally, while I can’t say I’ve experienced that “high” described by true runners who love the sport, I definitely have more energy to face the workday after getting those four miles in (along with one or two core-focused Tabatas and push-ups) first thing in the morning. Since my contact monitor job does involve sitting for much longer periods of time than I’m used to, getting the blood going first thing in the day has definitely had its perks.
I really do look forward to a time when I’m back in the weight room and back in front of a heavy bag. In the meantime, I’ll keep reminding myself of the good I’m doing for my heart, body and spirit by sticking with the running / power walking regimen. As we all continue to muddle through a less-than-optimal year for all our pre-COVID “normal” activities, let’s remember to be kind to ourselves -and each other – and to be grateful for each day we wake up to do what we can to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Well, hello September. I hope this Workout Wednesday post finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe and stealing some moments of sunshine as another summer winds down. I thought I’d kick off another almost-fall season here at LauraLovesFitness with an update on how my world has changed in a way I never could have imagined.
I find it nearly impossible to believe it’s been roughly six months since New York City basically went into shut down mode. Only a few weeks before, I had decided to make a major career change and leave the world of corporate video production and hosting to become a personal trainer. When the gyms closed, I had no idea what I’d do next. I never could have imagined just a few months later I’d be using the journalism skills I learned during my years at Northwestern as part of the New York City Health + Hospitals Test and Trace Corps.
My official title is contact monitor. From Sunday through Thursday, I reach out to those who have tested positive for COVID-19 (cases) along with contacts they’ve identified. Sometimes I’m the first person to alert a neighbor he or she has been in close contact with a case. The purpose of each and every call is to conduct wellness checks, encourage the case or contact to follow the appropriate isolation or quarantine guidelines and also provide resources. That includes everything from providing the phone number for the city’s mental health hotline to setting up food or medication deliveries and informing my neighbors about the free hotel rooms available for those who need a place to isolate or quarantine safely.
It has been a challenging and rewarding experience so far. I’m able to do my work remotely, though there are other members of Test & Trace who go out into the community when multiple attempts to reach people by phone fail. Thanks to help from translators, I’ve communicated with my neighbors in many languages, including Spanish, Bengali, Russian and Mandarin. I talk to nervous parents of pediatric contacts as young as three years old and happily tell a 75-year-old case they can get back to the “new” normal on their last day of isolation or quarantine. While I do this work from my laptop, I “meet” with my supervisor and the rest of the contact monitors in my team for a virtual chat each morning. We also reach out to each other to vent after a particularly emotional call or on a day when we just need some extra support. We all look forward to the day when the 20 of us can meet in person.
As we muddle our way through a September like no other, my heart goes out to students, parents, teachers and administrators across the country who have either started or are gearing up for a first-of-its kind academic year. I also think of the gym owners and fitness professionals and those still struggling with whether they feel “safe” enough to return to their favorite workout spot. Then there are the struggling restaurant and small business owners; out-of-work Broadway actors and crew members; healthcare and essential workers; and pretty much everyone still doing their best to keep it together day after challenging day. Last but certainly not least, I think of all the victims of 9/11 and the families and friends who continue to mourn them as we approach the 19th anniversary of that horrific day.
No doubt we’re all in for a strange fall season. Here’s to hoping things improve a little each day and we simply do the best we can to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Some longtime readers may recall August is typically when LauraLovesFitness goes hiatus. That goes for 2020, too. However, unlike previous years, I just realized I never left you with a one-last-thought-for-July post before taking the break. Since it’s hard to remember the last time anything in 2020 resembled normal, I imagine you may forgive the omission.
As this strange summer winds down, I hope you and your loved ones continue doing all you can to stay safe. As many of us long for the barbecues and happy hours of summers passed, I also realize parents, teachers and of course students across the country are also struggling with how to navigate a bizarre school year ahead. Meanwhile, back here in Manhattan, we have no idea when gyms or city staples including Broadway theaters and music venues will be able to re-open safely. While New York City’s numbers have improved when it comes to COVID-19 cases and deaths related to the virus, this is no time to get over confident and stop following the protocols. Wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others when you are out in public.
I have heard from many people who continue a daily struggle with anxiety, fear and boredom as we continue to move through a year unlike any other. I hope some daily exercise – walking, cycling or even dancing in your living room – will help you get some endorphins flowing. Also, remember there are many mental health counselors available via Zoom or other telemedicine platforms these days. For my fellow Manhattanites, you can reach a counselor by calling 888-692-9355. You can also text “well” to 65173.
I’ll wrap up this last Workout Wednesday post of August with a huge thank you for sticking with me through my random musings over these past several months. I hope to return with some updated information here on the blog about me (my bio is extremely outdated!) and my newest career adventure. Stay tuned, stay safe…and cheers to better days ahead for all of us and new opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!