24 April 2015

I get knocked down...but I get up again....

The past month has been a very interesting one.

The little thorn in my side (Crohn's) that I guess I'm now resigned to live with for the rest of my life (short of God choosing to heal me of it which of course I know and believe can happen!) has sorely tested me and given my body a darn good kicking which has served to remind me that I really do have limits and I'm not bulletproof like I sometimes believe I am.

When I'm well I can pretty much forget I even have an autoimmune disease, which I know is darn lucky since so many people who have auto immune diseases battle with it on a daily basis. Other than remembering to take my 4 Pentasa tablets a day (antiflammatory for bowel disease) and eating a low gluten diet which seems to help my body more easily process what it eats, I could be any other Joe walking down the street - you would never know the difference.

Often times when it comes up in conversation, I've been almost apologetic and dismissive saying I have Crohn's - prior to this flare up I'd only ever had two real episodes to speak of (one just before I was diagnosed, and one this time last year) and I felt a bit of a fraud to be honest - knowing just how sick some people who have the disease can be.

When this flare up hit, I was quite possibly the fittest I'd been since before having kids - running longer, harder and faster than ever before - even a 10km on one occasion, and a 7km bush run literally 3 days before I got completely wiped out. And it was feeling so good to be that strong! We'd also been eating much more healthily too - I won't deny it it was somewhat motivated by the thought of our Rarotongan beach holiday on the horizon.  The combination of the extra exercise and good eating had seen me shed nearly 4 kgs without even trying and I was feeling pretty darn good about myself.

But pride cometh before a fall! When the Crohn's hit I went from this energiser exercise bunny to being literally incapable of walking much further than slowly around the house with debilitating tummy cramps, and then when the associated fever, body aches, leg cramps and headache hit on top, well it's probably no surprise I ended up in bed off/on for a few days.

I'd really hoped that increasing the Pentasa medication back to full strength would be enough this time - as it had been on other occasions but after ten days of increased medication and feeling no better I then passed what seemed like a huge amount of blood in the toilet with no 2's and I knew that sh*t had just gotten real - literally. So after a lengthy conversation with the specialist, we made the call to go on a course of steroids for 11 weeks to try and get this thing back under control with a view to reviewing my longer term medication once this time has passed.

I wasn't thrilled about this as I know steroids come with their own issues but the fact that I started feeling better after literally one dose made it totally worth it. Do I love the fact that I'm waking up at between 4-5am every morning and then I just.can't.get.back.to.sleep? Not so much. Do I also love the super dry cotton mouth I wake up with? No, but it's a pretty small price to pay in the scheme of things I guess, to now have the ability to function near normally especially with all we still have ahead of us in these next 2-3 months. So far I haven't had to worry about the increased appetite and weight gain side effects you can also possibly expect on steroids - but let's face it after losing nearly 6kg now in 2 months (I lost another 2kg accidentally from not being able to eat properly and feeling so rotten) which is more than 10% of my body weight I think I can probably live with that as an outcome!

By far, the biggest thing that has crushed me is how much it feels like starting from square one all over again with the exercise - this week all I did was a 5km walk one morning, and a 4km walk the next - not even attempting any running and still my glutes, knees, hamstrings and hips were NOT impressed with this afterwards and I even got blisters (what the!) from my trusty trainers just from the walking - which just goes to show that the underlying impact on your physical body when something like this hits and you have to take enforced time off can't be underestimated. It's not just like 'having a break because I feel like it' - it really is completely back to basics. A good dose of patience (not something I'm good at especially with myself!) is clearly required together with a very slow recovery regime where I don't get ahead of myself.

I am still very grateful that I even have the option to choose to take a drug (steroids) that has so greatly improved my symptoms this time round. I'm also choosing not to worry about the long term - I know that Crohn's is a chronic condition and the chances are I will have more flare ups which could get progressively worse over time. I also know the statistics - that 40% of people with the disease end up having surgery at some point to fix sections of the bowel that are irreparably damaged. But who wants to live life worrying about that? Not me. Instead I will choose to be thankful for every day of feeling 'normal' that I have. Every day I can get out of bed 5.30 am and go for a walk (even if it's not a run) is still a good day. Every day that I can be with my children and watch them growing into beautiful boys without the distraction of chronic pain is a good day. Every day that I draw breath and am aware of the unmistakable glory of God in the beauty of the world around me is a day to be celebrated.

22 April 2015

Autumn awesomeness at the Arboretum

The weather was a little grey and dull on Easter Sunday and once again it took us a fair while to get out of the house with the distraction of another game of Phase 10, coffee and hot cross buns to wile away the morning. And who could forget the easter egg hunt - the Easter bunny decided it needed to be an indoor one at this holiday house as the weather was threatening rain, but the boys didn’t seem to mind. What we did mind was the early start - blimin clocks going back always mess things up for a few days, most mornings on the holiday this meant the boys were up before 5am, usually Mylo first, and once one is awake when sharing a room they both are!

On this day we headed inland about 50 minutes into the hills of Gisborne to Rere Falls and Rere Rockslides. I was a little disappointed that the flow over the falls was so minimal, but shouldn’t really have been that surprised given the hot and dry summer we’ve had. After taking a few shots, the drizzle started and we headed up the road to see if any brave souls were taking on the Rere Rockslide - which they were. We’d half contemplated that Mark and Noah might give it a go but after watching a few others do it, we decided that a wetsuit should be a minimum requirement - maybe another time! It was still fun watching a few fearless folk flying down the slide at a rate of knots though.

Next stop was the Eastwood Hill Arboretum - although the drizzle looked to have set in and we weren’t sure how much fun we’d have walking around in the wet for a couple of hours. Luckily we managed to nab a brolly at the visitor centre and just as we started walking the rain stopped! The arboretum is a really impressive place and has been cultivated over decades and decades - there are a huge number of trails and extended walks you can do within its boundaries and you could easily lose yourself there for a whole day. One thing that amazed me in general about the whole Gisborne area was how far advanced the autumn colours already were here - given how warm and dry the region is known to be, but perhaps that's actually the reason why?!

Fairly early into our walk, a friendly little fantail befriended us, flitting from one tree to the next and following us for quite some time. He was a little tricky to get a picture of though, as he never stayed in one place very long!

The boys were so intrigued by the fantail, calling to it and encouraging it to keep coming after us!

After a few minutes, he must have decided he was getting out of his natural territory as we walked further into the depths of the forest and as quickly as he'd appeared, suddenly he was gone again.

I loved this clearing we came upon - the algae (or something like that) made for a glorious green glowing reflection of the light above.

High on the hill we found a conker tree, and the boys enjoyed weighing their pockets down completely with as many as they could fit in.

The views from our vantage point showed the lovely autumn colours turning to their best.

Home made tommy knocker anyone?!

This one speaks for itself really?! Boys just being boys. I must admit I am a little envious of their ability to just go when the moment takes them - especially from one who has such an active bladder and is always never too far away from needing the loo - being able to just 'go on demand' would be kinda handy. That's not to say I haven't done my fair share of 'bush wees' either mind you!

The Eastwood Hill Arboretum is well worth the visit - it wasn't a cheap day out at $36 for the family when really all you're doing is going for a little jolly jaunt in the bush but it is a very, very beautiful spot especially at this time of year with all the colours so well on the turn.

It's a place I can imagine some of our nearest and dearest family and friends who are nature lovers would also be in raptures over!

20 April 2015

Gallivanting at Gisborne's great beaches

The drive to Gisborne from Wellington is not for the faint hearted - some 500km and approx 7 hours of driving, more when you take into account any stops you might want to make on the way. Which was another reason I was so nervous of making the journey after my Crohn’s disease had flared up - tummy cramps at home are one thing, tummy cramps on the road and the nasty violent smell they produce and I end up inflicting on my poor family in the car as well as the thought I may need to find a toilet in a hurry are quite another. But in any event, we decided we would try and make the journey.  Armed with a hot water bottle for my tummy, and leaving at 9am on Good Friday we’d decided to head over the Rimutaka Hill and avoid any Easter traffic issues on the main drag out of Wellington. Both the boys (who aren’t known for getting car sick) complained that they weren’t feeling great on the short and windy hop over the hill to the Wairarapa but we said to take deep breaths and look out the window. Lo and behold, Noah opens up the window and sticks his head out - I thought he was just getting fresh air but he was actually puking out the window at 100 km/hr. 

After stopping to check out the carnage - luckily most of it seemed to have missed both him and the car we were on our way again, and a much less eventful trip ensued after that. It takes about 4-4.5 hours to reach the Hawkes Bay, all on pretty good roads, but we knew the next section through to Wairoa would be a lot more windy so were a little nervous how that would go. But the boys feel asleep for a good chunk of that section and we arrived unscathed in Wairoa mid-afternoon. After a ice-cream stop we were on our way again, and hoping to stop  off at the Morere Hot Springs about half an hour further on.

It was more than a little frustrating to come to a complete stop only a couple of kilometres from Morere along with all the other traffic on State Highway 2 because some numpty hadn’t secured their trailer load of feed and it was spread all over the road. After waiting about 20 minutes at a standstill while the road was cleared, we were on our way again. We arrived at Morere at 4pm and had a delicious soak in their Nikau Plunge Pools which are a 7 minute walk up into the native bush through the gorgeous nikau palms. I found I was only able to manage a slow decrepit walk to get there but it was worth it for the lovely warmth of the mineral pool - so much so that I didn’t really want to get out again afterwards.

From there, we drove over the hill and Poverty Bay was suddenly spread out before us, a vast coastal plain. Coming into Gisborne we were surprised at how tropical everything seemed with palm trees dotted right along the main street. We found our accommodation, a very spacious 2-bedroom villa in Inner Kaiti, very close to town, and gobbled takeaways. The boys watched McCaulay Kulkin in Richie Rich while I dozed on the couch, just happy to have made the journey there in one piece!

We were treated to brilliant sunshine on our first full day in Gisborne. However, my illness and general well being meant I had to take it very easy each morning, so there was no rushing out the door to get to an activity - rather a slow and leisurely pottering around that might eventually mean we got out the door near lunchtime. The boys and I got stuck into a game of Phase 10 (from the makers of Uno) whilst Mark went out and got some shopping. Then it was coffees and hot cross buns before we decided to make our way down to Waikanae Beach for a picnic lunch.

The boys set up their cricket set and had a happy couple of hours playing although the wind had definitely gotten up by this point. After walking the promenade and spotting both the monument to Captain Cook and Young Nick we then drove up Kaiti Hill to take in the views of the whole town and local area.

I had some appreciation for the importance of Gisborne in NZ’s history - I knew that Captain Cook had landed here first but it was wonderful to read and take in more of the history - the fact that Young Nick’s Head (the white cliffs clearly visible across the bay from Gisborne) was the first sighting of land made by Nicholas Young in 1769, a young lad on board the Endeavour. Also interesting was that Poverty Bay was so named by Cook after his first landing and communications with the Maoris did not go well resulting in him leaving without being able to trade for any provisions and the name has stuck despite the fertile region being anything but poor. It was fascinating to see how far Cook travelled in his three journeys around the world, and the impact he had on the understanding of the world in those days, sailing through and charting largely unknown areas of the globe. After his first mishap, he also landed at Anaura Bay and Tolaga Bay further north of Gisborne with more success. As well as being the first to circumnavigate NZ, he largely mapped out the whole of the country with relatively minor errors. He returned to NZ on both his subsequent expeditions before being killed in an incident with Hawaiian islanders in 1779. Amazing to think the impact this short 10 years had on world history.

After taking a photo with another state of Cook up on Kaiti Hill we headed out to Wainui Beach, which despite being a surf beach was remarkably less windy and warmer than the main town beach had been. Mark and Noah got good use out of their body boards while Mylo made a new friend and enjoyed running and splashing in the waves for a good hour.

The waves were just right for catching some great waves - I love some of these action shots I got of Noah weaving in and out of the waves.

Gosh it's a lovely beach and we could have spent much longer there, either that or come again if we'd had more time!

It's hard to believe looking back now that it was so lovely and warm when the country then had its first widespread snowfall just two weeks later.

We had such a lovely day out there that I can guarantee it won't be the last time we visit Gisborne's glorious beaches!


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