Health Scare, Trust, and Second Opinions

Alan and I spent several days last week looking at death.

That sounds a bit dramatic I know, but it’s true.  At his doctor’s appointment last Thursday Alan was told that he had an aortic aneurysm. And that it could kill him at any moment.

Let’s back up a bit. This is the second time in less that a year that Alan has been given a serious, life-changing diagnosis. Last year he was told by a Pulmonary specialist that he had COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. This for an athlete who never smoked, lives a healthy lifestyle, and aside from asthma, had no previous indication of such disease.  We knew that he was very sick at the time, but when we heard that diagnosis we were in shock. Alan, who had really been too sick to train, felt that any hope of recovery or competing in another Ironman had been ripped away from him.

Health Scares - aneurism

That lasted for about two weeks. He was given a prescription for the appropriate COPD drug, but because he is a stubborn (and brilliant in retrospect) man, he refused to believe, as he put it, that he was now relegated to a life of shuffleboard. He made an appointment with another doctor.

Doctor #2 scoffed, “You don’t have COPD! This is just your asthma!”  Alan was put on a prescription for montelukast (I’ve raved about it here before and have since started taking it for my own exercise induced asthma). At the same time, Dr. #1 got back results on the second culture test that she had ordered. The first one, for which Alan had been told to submit his sample after finishing a course of steroids and antibiotics, had come back negative. It seemed ridiculous to us that they would wait until he was (temporarily) well to take the test, so Alan insisted that they do it again when he was in the midst of illness. Thus he was finally diagnosed with a fungus in his lungs, finally treated correctly, and finally was able to get well. If that story seemed confusing and convoluted to you, imagine how Alan felt..this was his lifestyle that he was fighting for!

One of the tests that Dr. #2 ordered was a CT scan on Alan’s lungs, just to see that everything had cleared up and if there was anything else to worry about.

That brings us pretty close to the present, where because of an insurance change, Alan went to see Doctor #3 last week.  Dr. #3 is a general practitioner, because now we are dealing with an HMO system. This was when Alan received, for all intents and purposes, his death sentence.

He has an aortic aneurysm, said Dr. #3. Alan was pretty much told, that if he continued his active lifestyle of running, swimming, and cycling, that it could burst at any time, and that he would be dead on the spot. At 4.2 centimeters, the aneurism was not considered an immediate threat, though if it grew, open heart surgery would be the recommendation. While his low blood pressure and fitness were in his favor, here was another doctor telling him he might be better off playing shuffleboard.

Health Scares - aneurism

As you can imagine, Alan left the doctor’s office in a state of shock and disbelief. When he told me, I could hardly take it in, it seemed so unbelievable. Alan put on a pretty good front for me, as we talked about lifestyle changes and what we would have to do, but he was deeply upset and disturbed. Pretty soon though, he got to thinking, “I was misdiagnosed before. Could it happen again?”

We are very fortunate to have a friend who is a radiologist. Alan called him the next day, told him what was happening, and he basically dropped everything and told Alan to bring in his records and he would take a look. So, on to Doctor #4.

Health Scares - aneurism

After taking a look at the reports and the actual film (it’s on a disc so I’m not sure if that is the right word), Alan was told by his friend, who is a highly respected and experienced radiologist, “don’t worry.” In fact, he was surprised that it was made out to be so serious. The location of the aneurysm was on the curve of the ascending thoracic aorta, which made it seem slightly bigger than it was. It was also what is called “ectatic,” which means that the artery, though stretched, is unruptured.

Alan is waiting to schedule another CT scan, but in the meantime, we are feeling a lot better. Dr. #4 said he didn’t think that there would be any change in the size of the aneurysm. At this point, it seems unlikely that Alan will have to make a huge lifestyle change (no shuffleboard in his near future!), and we don’t have to worry about surgery or imminent death.

My husband is a lot more private than I am, which is why you never heard the COPD story before, but he agreed to let me write about this. We both want to share because it shows the importance of asking questions and always getting a second opinion! Don’t let any doctor relegate you to the shuffleboard courts without a fight!

The week ended on a much brighter note. On Friday, my daughter-in-law texted me a video of Samuel, which really made my day. They prefer to keep it in the family, so I removed it from my post.

We also had a chance to meet Carrie from Family, Fitness, Food, who was visiting La Quinta with her family. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds, since they were getting in some serious pool time and I had to work all three days that they were here. We managed to finally meet at Starbucks, and now I know that I like Carrie as much as I like her blog! Being good bloggers, we did get a picture, but it turned out pretty bad, plus it includes Carrie’s daughter (who is a beautiful young dancer), so I won’t post it here.

After a tough week, Alan and I are both feeling pretty positive about the whole thing. Alan swam on Friday, went for a run with the cross country team on Saturday, and rode his bike on Sunday, so that part of his life is looking great. We just want you to remember, always get a second opinion.

How was your weekend? Any events, races, or great training you’d like to share?

2 Vegan Recipes + Nasoya Vegan Nayonaise + a Giveaway!

I was recently given an opportunity to try Nasoya vegan Nayonaise and review it on my blog.  Nayonaise is a vegan alternative to mayonnaise. It is made from expeller pressed oil and is a good source of Vitamin B-12 and Omega-3 ALA.

I was never much of a mayonnaise user. I thought of it as pretty unhealthy, loaded with fat and calories, so it wasn’t something that I really missed when I started following a plant based diet. I do enjoy creamy salad dressings, though, and I like to make potato salad occasionally, so finding a good vegan mayonnaise makes both of those things a possibility.

In my package, I received a jar of the regular Nayonaise, and the new Nayo Whipped. Unfortunately, the new whipped version did not survive the shipping experience.


If you can’t see what is in the above picture, that is because the jar was so thoroughly smashed that all that was left was a glassy, creamy puddle. The original version survived nicely, though. And another jar of the Nayo Whipped is on its way!

Nasoya - Vegan

How did it taste? Well, it tasted like mayonnaise! It was creamy, yet light, and had a nice flavor. Nasoya recently perfected the recipe to make it even smoother, creamier and more delicious. Not only is Nayonaise vegan, it is gluten free and has only 40 calories per serving (regular mayonnaise has 90).

Nasoya has a great resource of recipes by other bloggers, but I decided to create my own. As I mentioned, Alan and I have had a friend staying with us for a few days, and even though he isn’t vegan, I’ve been having fun impressing him with how delicious vegan food can be. To that end, one day I made a seitan Shawarma Bowl, and on another I made spicy “chick’n” wings with Ranch Dressing.

Seitan Shawarma Bowl

I love Shawarma.  Before I was vegan, chicken shawarma was one of my favorite meals. Seitan makes a great vegan alternative though. I decided to use the Nayonaise in the sauce/marinade, and it was delicious combined with the hummus, tahini sauce, and spices.

Nasoya - nayonaise

4.3 from 3 reviews
Seitan Shawarma Bowl. Vegan
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Serves: 3
  • ½ cup hummus
  • ¼ cup tahini sauce
  • ¼ cup Nasoya Vegan Nayonaise
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime
  • 1 package or 8 ounces seitan, cut into thin strips
  • ½ cup mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 medium yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 cups quinoa, prepared according to package directions
  • 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • Pita Breads (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. In a small bowl, combine the hummus, tahini sauce, Nayonaise, spices, and lime.
  3. In a small casserole dish, combine the seitan, mushrooms and onions.
  4. Toss half of the Nayonaise mixture with the seitan. Reserve the rest.
  5. Allow your seitan mixture to marinate for at least 15 minutes, then cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Combine the tomatoes and cucumber in a small bowl.
  7. Roast the zucchini and squash in a separate pan during the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Cut each slice into several pieces when cooked.
  8. To assemble the bowls: Spoon about a third of the quinoa into 3 bowls. Divide the seitan mixture and spoon on top of the quinoa. Add the vegetables. Spoon a dollop of the reserved marinade on top. Service with the cucumber and tomato mixture, additional hummus and pitas if desired.

Nasoya - Nayonaise

Creamy Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup Nayonaise
1/2 cup vegan creamer (I used soy creamer)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped finely
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon celery salt

Combine all the ingredients until smooth. Add a little extra creamer if the dressing is too thick.

Nasoya - Nayonaise

For the “Chick’n” wings, you can use a prepared version (Gardein makes a good one), or I used Gardein Crispy Tenders, dipped them in a mixture of melted Earth Balance and Sriracha and baked them at for about 25 minutes, turning once.

Nayonaise Giveaway

The nice people at Nasoya would like to give you the opportunity to win your own Nayonaise! One winner (US only please) will receive a jar each of Original Nayonaise and Nayo Whipped! Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My opinion of Nayonaise is that is a tasty, healthier, vegan alternative to regular mayonnaise. It worked perfectly in both dishes I prepared and I look forward to using it in other recipes. If you would like more information about Nasoya and all of their vegan products, please check out their website.

Disclosure: I was provided with two jars of Nayonaise plus two jars as a prize. All opinions are my own.

ME from A-Z! Old School Blogging

I thought it would be fun to play along with a little old school blogging quiz that has been going around lately. But first, I want to send along some extra love to a few beloved ones whose (cold wet) noses are a little out of joint lately.

Old School Blogging - Me from A-Z

It’s always hard when a new brother or sister joins the family, and the fact that this one is an attention grabber (and continues to bite their butts) makes it even harder. Speaking of bites, we have had none on Coco. Still amazing to me that someone isn’t looking for her.


Are you ready? Here is ME, from A-Z!

Attached or Single? Attached! Alan and I met in 1996 and have basically been together since our first date.

Best Friend? See above. It always sounds kind of corny, but my husband truly is my best friend.

Cake or Pie? Is Cheesecake a cake or a pie? Or both? It has to have graham cracker crust. And of course, made without cream cheese. And if you don’t think that is possible, check out this recipe. Or this version with a raw crust.

Day of Choice? Does anybody say Monday? Or any weekday? I’m not going to be different, I was just wondering.

Essential Item? Picking my iPhone sounds so, I don’t know, privileged? But my life is on that phone. Photos of my family, my music, my calendar, and more

Favorite Color? Purple

Gummy Bears or Worms? Neither. I don’t do gummy.

Home Town? I’m from the O.C. Los Alamitos to be exact, though we moved before my junior year of high school. But Los Al was where I grew up, had my best friends, my first boyfriend, so I always consider it my hometown.

Favorite Indulgence? It sounds really boring to say French fries, but yes, French fries. Since becoming a vegetarian, I rarely eat fries (not that I had them all that much before, but…), because you never know what else they may be cooking in those fryers. So it is the special occasion that I get to indulge my French fry habit.

January or July? Well, since was about 110 this past weekend, what do you think? Summers aren’t fun in the desert, so I’d pick January, when it is usually mild and beautiful.

Kids? Two sons, three grandsons, and one granddaughter. I have a couple stepsons too. My boys are in their 30s, doing well, and fortunately live in Southern California. My twin grandsons are eight now and live in Huntington Beach, and you all pretty much know about Samuel, my eight month old grandson. My granddaughter lives in Omaha, so I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like.

Life is not Complete Without? Can a person pick just one? My husband, my children, my grandchildren, my health, my running, my dogs, my career, my writing. They are not equally important, but if I didn’t have any one of those things, there would be a piece missing from my life.

Marriage Date? October 23, 1999. We had an interesting wedding.

Old School Blogging - Me From A-Z

Number of Brothers or Sisters? Two sisters. I am the oldest. My middle sister Sue passed away from cancer almost 10 years ago. My sister Lisa moved to Texas with her husband a few years ago.

Oranges or Apples? Oh, I don’t know. It’s apples and oranges to me. Can I choose bananas?


Quotes? “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Nietzsche. Also, “Not all who wander are lost.” Tolkien. No particular reason for the last one, just like the sound of it.

Reasons to Smile? Many, but the first one that came to mind was Samuel.

Old School Blogging - Me from A-Z

Season of Choice? Our seasons are out of whack here. What most people call fall, when the leaves drop and the weather cools, doesn’t happen in the desert until November. From then through January we enjoy cooler temperatures and that special end of summer feeling, so I would call my favorite season the Desert Autumn.

Tag 5 People? I think that everybody else has done this so there is no one left to tag.

Unknown Fact About Me? Most people don’t realize that I’m very shy. In school, if I had to speak in front of the class, I would spend the night before in the bathroom vomiting. I forced myself over the years, through speech and acting classes, sales jobs (vacuum cleaners!), and the career path I chose, to put that little shy girl to bed for the most part, but she still peeks out from time to time. I prefer email over telephone calls, tend to put off things that will force me to interact with other people.

Vegetable? Can I choose Avocado? I think it’s actually a fruit, but it is still my favorite vegetable.

Worst Habit? I procrastinate. I tend to put things off then get myself in a time crunch to finish a project. I plan to work on that…soon.

Xray or Ultrasound? One of my co-workers had a 3-D Ultrasound done of her fetus at about 5 months along. It was kind of scary because he looked so real, but it was pretty cool, too.

Old School Blogging - Me from A-Z

This is just a random Google search photo NOT my coworker’s baby.

Your Favorite Food? That’s kind of like picking my favorite child! I love pizza, chocolate chip cookies, pasta with garlic, seitan in burritos or shawarma…um, this list could go on for a while…tempeh burgers, French fries, of course, oh, and this rice salad!

Zodiac Sign? Scorpio

Now it’s your turn! Pick a question or two and share your answers!

A Friday Workout. Plus I’m a Featured Fit Friend!

I am excited to tell you that today I am featured over at Best Body Fitness as part of Tina’s Fit Friends series. I hope you will check it out!

You can also check out this workout. A few weeks ago I told you that I was working on exercise instruction videos that I could use when I created a workout. I finally got a start on it this week. I created this workout using several of the videos that I filmed. So, you will find the workout below and below that are the videos. You probably don’t need a video for each exercise, but they are available if you do.

Friday Workout


Plank to Side Plank

Lunge w/Twist

Mountain Climbers

Squat Jump

Push Up

Okay, no video here, but I figured you’d know.

I am a little bit annoyed that in spite of changing the thumbnail shot for a few of the videos, they still show the most unflattering picture possible.

Friday Workout

For those who have asked, we still have “Coco.” In spite of signs posted in the neighborhood we haven’t heard from her owner. I made some more posters so we can cover a wider area, plus the local groomers and vets. Meanwhile, you know Alan and me, we continue to bond with the dog. Last night she slept on the bed and she now runs to greet both of us when we walk in the front door. Better find those people soon!

So, I’m happy that the weekend is just about here! I have a friend visiting that is moving back from Oregon. What are you up to?

Whoops! We Did It Again! A Dog Rescuer Story

When I write a Dog Rescuer story, it is usually about my husband, who seems to have a way of finding, saving, rescuing, whatever you want to call it, lost or abandoned dogs, cats, and even calves.

This time, though, it is my story.

Dog Rescuer

Penny and I headed off for our run about 6:00, a little later than I should get out. It was already pretty warm, at least 85. Lately, I’ve only been taking her for about two miles (she’s my grand old lady at 12 years old), and I usually turn left from our house so that we can run on the trails.

Today though, I turned right. We love to pass the boxer who lives on the corner. He always flirts with Penny as we run by, putting a little extra spring in her step. When we run this particular route, the first mile is downhill, which is always nice for warmup (though it means finishing uphill!). We didn’t make it a mile today.

At about a third of a mile into our run, I noticed a little dog in the street. And I mean right in the middle of the inside lane of the street. We stopped, of course, and I tried calling gently to the dog. The last thing I want to do is to scare into running away from me, getting farther and farther from home. She didn’t run, but she didn’t come to me either. She just looked at me nervously like she was getting ready to make a dash for it.

I decided to let Penny do the work. Penny love little dogs. She’s an Alpha, so with big dogs she tends to try to show who’s the boss, but with little dogs she is sweet and gentle.

As Penny slowly approached the little dog just stood still. When Penny had sniffed her a couple times, I moved a little closer inch by inch, until I was able to reach down and pet her. Fortunately, it was early, so there were no cars to worry about, but I still wanted to get her out of the street. I finally picked up the dog and we moved to the sidewalk.

Dog Rescuer

The first thing I did was Facetime Alan just to show him he is not the only dog rescuer to show him the dog. I was only a third of a mile from home so I could have walked back, but I didn’t turn down the ride. When we got home, we dug up an old halter (of course she didn’t have a collar or tags), then one by one brought our dogs outside to meet her. It went remarkably well. She has a little fire in her and let them know if they got too annoying. They were, of course, curious, wondering why mommy and daddy were bringing home yet another sibling.

Alan left to go for a swim, and I decided to take Penny and our little rescue, who we’re calling Coco because it’s nice to have a name, for a walk down to where we found her. I asked the few people who were about if they recognized the dog, but it was still only 7:00 and there wasn’t much going on. After a trip up and down the street, we went back to the house so I could get ready for work.

Dog Rescuer

By then, Coco seemed to have bonded with me and stuck pretty close while I showered and dressed. The other dogs relaxed, except Buddy, who seemed to think we’d brought him a new girlfriend. Let’s just say, he was neutered when we rescued him last year, but he hasn’t let it slow him down.

Dog Rescuer

Thanks Mom for bringing me Coco!

Buddy aside, Coco seemed pretty comfortable just sticking close to me until I left for work. I did take a quick trip down to the closest vet to see if she was chipped, but no such luck. When I finally left for work, Alan got busy making posters, which he hung around the neighborhood close to where I found her.

Dog Rescuer

In the meantime, she is safe at home with us. We thinks she’s a Yorkshire Terrier/Poodle mix. A Yorkie Poo, or as Alan says, a Yorkie Doodle. She is even smaller than Lily, weighing in at about 7.4 pounds. I thinks she’s pretty young. Alan has already had hopeful potential parents on his Facebook page, so we know that no matter what, Coco will end up with a good home.

And that’s all that counts.

No More PRs: 6 Ways to Hold Off the Inevitable (no matter your age)

I have spent some time on reflecting on my recent race, my training, and my running goals. As you know, I came very close to achieving my goal of running a sub-two hour half marathon for the first time since I turned 50. Missed it by 11 seconds!

I told you that it didn’t bother me, to be so close, and that’s the truth. It doesn’t mean I won’t try again in my next race, but I am happy with my effort and my race time.

No More PRs


It did start me thinking though, that there will be no more PRs for me. I will never again train or race with the intention of finishing in my best time ever. While I will train hard and possibly achieve that 2:00 goal, it is more than 25 minutes slower than my best half marathon time (which was a long time ago, in 2001).

Think about that for a moment. Think about your training, your goals. For many of you, the goal is to PR, to achieve your personal record, to improve your best time at your race distance. Now, think about that time when it will no longer be possible to get just a little bit better. Yes, they do call me Debbie Downer.

I started running in 1992 and ran my first race in 1994. I have read that there is a timeline, a bell curve, during which time you can expect to improve, no matter how old you are when you start running. The combination of better training, overall better fitness, a learning curve from the races in which you participate, will generally lead to an improvement period of seven years (#12). After that time, the aging process will begin to take its toll, along with the possibility of a running injury to slow you down.

So let’s look at my own timeline, shall we? I finished my first race, a 10k, in 51:51, not bad for the first time I’d ever run over six miles. I also finished 4th in my division, which fired me up for my next 10k, about a month later, where I took four minutes off my time and finished 3rd in my age. My first medal! I ran my PR at the 10k distance in 1998, six years after I started running.

1998 was also the year I ran my 5k PR (at the same event actually, I ran both back to back. Yes, I was kind of bad ass in my day. I even won the race overall.). My PR in the 5k is (was?) 19:52. I had several years after that race that I continued to run in the low 20s, but never could break 20 again. Over the last 15 years, no matter how hard I train, I have watched my times creep up, as have my expectations, so that when I was able to run 25:07 at my most recent 5k I was thrilled. That’s two minutes a mile difference!

My marathon PR was in 1999, seven years after I started running, but only three years after my first marathon During those three years, though, I took nearly an hour off of my race time. I spent the next three years trying to break that record, but that combination of great training, good course (St. George Marathon), and, probably most importantly, control of my exercise induced asthma, never happened again.

For me, the marathon curve was abruptly shortened when I injured my knee in 2002. Overnight (well, after a four week period of no running at all), my average training pace went from the 7:30-8:30 per mile range to much closer to 10:00. Correspondingly, my race times plummeted, I trained a lot less, and I lost a lot of the fitness base that I had taken for granted. By the time I started taking my training seriously again, the age-related decline was in effect.

Hold Off the Inevitable

So what’s an aging runner to do? Here are a few ideas which, while they won’t completely hold back the age-related decline, will at least slow it down.

  1. First of all, relax. This is what age group awards are for. You compete against people your own age, so that all things being equal, it is still as easy (or as tough) to score in your division as it ever was.
  2. Keep training. Runners with a solid cardiovascular base, who follow a training program that includes both endurance and speed training lose their competitive edge at a much slower rate.
  3. Strength train. If you’re not cross training with weights, start now. Strength training will hold off muscle loss associated with aging, balance out those running muscles to help prevent injuries, improve your posture and your balance, and keep your core strong.
  4. Train smarter, not harder. This doesn’t mean that you won’t work hard to keep your fitness level. It means make every workout count. No more running junk miles just to keep your mileage up. Focus on three core types of training: endurance, V02 max, and lactate threshold, to improve your speed and stamina. On other days you can..
  5. Cross Train. In addition to your strength training sessions, try cycling, swimming, yoga, Pilates, or some other type of exercise. Choose one that consists of less pounding that running, and works your muscles in different ways.
  6. Respond to small injuries quickly so that they don’t become serious injuries. You’ve been running a while now. You know that if you feel a twinge in your Achilles, a pain in your knee or your foot, you will be best served to take a day or two off, spend some time with an ice pack, and simply rest. Much younger runners than you have discovered that the consequence of ignoring these small issues can lead to larger, more serious injuries, that will take you out of action for a longer time.

Remember, this age-related decline can start as early as seven years after you start running, so before you scoff and think this is for “old folks,” take a moment to calculate how long you’ve been running. Generally speaking these are post high school/college competitions years, so if you ran cross country in high school you don’t have to count that. But, if you started running at age 20, you can start seeing age related declines by 27!

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If you continue to improve your training method through the years, you can still improve your race times for a longer period. If you ran or raced for several years without a training plan, your bell curve will actually start at a different point.

But eventually, time will take its toll. Slow it down as long as possible by following the above tips.

If you’re a runner, where are you on the 7-year curve? Do you have plans to beat it?