Tuesday, 13 September 2016

HG, running and me by Claire

Running a marathon takes a lot of training.  But it also needs strength, determination and a strong self belief.    So what happens to a runner who is so ill in her pregnancies that she loses all that strength and self belief?

Between 2002 and 2008 I ran 8 marathons.  I loved the distance, and really believed that any physical challenge was just mind over matter.  Mental toughness was something I excelled at, and totally took for granted.

I fully intended to continue running during pregnancy. In my first pregnancy at the first sign of what I naively termed ‘morning sickness’ I went for a run – I’d read that exercise helps ease sickness.  I found myself plodding around a so-called easy route, throwing up in bushes.  I gave up after about 3 of these runs, feeling like a huge failure. 

My pregnancy was a miserable experience.  I was nauseous 24/7, and the nausea kept me awake for about 22 of those hours, every day for months.  I was sick or retching dozens of times every day – and although in this pregnancy I was never hospitalised,  eating was hugely difficult, work was a living nightmare and running was a distant dream.  I missed it so much.

My second pregnancy was even tougher, I was hospitalised 3 times and tried 7 different anti-emetic drugs before I was able to function at all.  I missed 8 months of my daughter’s life while I lay bedbound, dehydrated and lonely.  Those nausea and vomit ridden months of my second pregnancy passed very slowly.  I missed my normal life and once again running was a distant memory.

I was suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) a severe and potentially life threatening form of pregnancy sickness which affects around 1-2% of women.

After both pregnancies I desperately tried to get back into running – but after months of complete inactivity my once strong muscles had wasted and my confidence was ruined.  I was scared of the body that had made me so ill. I was also left with horrible memories and a deep emetophobia and terror of getting ill again which made pushing myself whilst running virtually impossible.

I had tried to run a marathon in 2011 when my first daughter was 15 months old – I struggled to train properly and then succumbed to a sickness bug the night before the race. Angry that sickness was stopping me again I tried to run anyway but had to stop at 19 miles, shattered and mentally broken. Lying in a St John’s Ambulance tent was a deep low for me, and this ‘failure’ destroyed any remaining confidence I had. For a very very long time I doubted that I would ever attempt another marathon.

I realised when my youngest daughter was about 18 months old that I had to learn to enjoy my running again.  I couldn’t get over HG and all the phobias and hang ups it had left me with without learning to push my body.  I had to rebuild the strength I once had.  She is 3 ½ now and I have got myself to the point where I can run races and enjoy them.  I’m still an awful lot slower than I want to be, than I used to be, but I am improving, and enjoying the process.  It’s a really big step for me.  

An even bigger step has been entering another marathon.  I haven't chosen an easy option! The Snowdonia Marathon is a stunning 26.2 mile course which follows a loop on the roads around Wales’s highest peak.   With over 1000 feet of climbing it’s one of the toughest road marathons there is but I’ve trained there as much as I can and I am happy to be starting the next chapter of my marathon running in such a beautiful place.

I am running for Pregnancy Sickness Support  (PSS) because the work they do is inspirational.  The charity is run on a shoestring, but with more passion than you could imagine.  I rang the helpline when I was at my lowest ebb, and received evidence-based information about medication options which I was able to use to advocate for myself when hospitalised.  I joined the online support group where I met – for the first time – people who actually understood how hard an HG pregnancy is, that it is not something you can ‘think positive’ through, that you are not being a wimp over a bit of sickness, that you have fought so very hard to have your children and that it is an insult to say you are not grateful for them.  I am so grateful for my children, but it has taken me years to come to terms with how hard it was to bring them into the world.  PSS has helped me feel normal throughout that time.

I have volunteered for PSS for 3 years now, providing 1-2-1 peer support to sufferers, moderating on their forum, presenting to Health Professionals, and I even presented at the charity's most recent conference this year.  The charity only employs one person, everyone else involved is a volunteer, and they get no central funding, it is all donations.  So every penny you give makes a huge difference to women at an incredibly scary and lonely time.   

If you would like to sponsor me and support this fantastic charity, my fundraising page is here. Thank you.

Monday, 6 June 2016

#tougHGirls do the Tough Mudder by Beci Goodrick

On Saturday 21st May I did one of the craziest, most exhausting and most exhilarating things I've ever done: Tough Mudder Midlands. 11.1m of mud, hills, water, ice, walls and electric shocks. £1111 made for PSS! Not bad for a day's work (and 6 months of training).
On the morning of the event my teammate and fellow PSS volunteer Emma Watford and I met up, donned our #tougHGirls temporary tattoos and headed for the start line. I thought I was nervous before but it turns out I didn't know the meaning of nerves until this!
Some of the obstacles were incredibly mentally challenging. The walls especially I found difficult, not made easier by the fall on my face - I have some excellent bruises! 
Still, the thought of raising so much money kept us going! And as Emma rightly pointed out, if we can survive HG, we can survive anything!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Tough Mudder Midlands is a matter of hours away and I’m packing up my HG hero, Steve and HG survivor, 14 month old Sienna and we’re heading for Belvoir Castle to tackle what they say is ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’, to raise money for the amazing charity Pregnancy Sickness Support.

Today the route was released. A 12 mile mud run punctuated with obstacles named according to their 25 different shades of sadism. It kicks off with Skid Marks and Sewer Rat, and after scaling and abseiling fences and climbing over hay bales, crawling through a dark tunnel of muddy water, and wading across a swamp, I’ll look *a lot less* sexy than any characters E L James could dream up. This is definitely not Fifty Shades of Grey; there’s no safe word, no ‘out’. After those five obstacles there’s another 20 to conquer… And my team mate, fellow PSS volunteer Beci (see previous post) has my permission to push me over any precipice on the course that might stop me in my tracks. I’ve trained too hard not to feel well ready for all of the challenges the course throws at me. Although I’m guessing that the 10 tonnes of ice they load Arctic Enema with won’t be the biggest turn on… or maybe Electroshock Therapy.

Aside from having trained hard, my mindset is this: I love being fit enough to take on a Tough Mudder. It’s just 14 months since I limped away from pregnancy-long hyperemesis gravidarum and the early delivery of my tiny baby. I spent long, lonely months trapped at home by extreme pregnancy sickness, fantasising about being able to feel the buzz of getting my heart rate up rather than how I was going to keep a cocktail of anti-sickness drugs down; to leap into water rather than struggle to wash my hair or brush my teeth in it because its smell(?!) made me gag. And to make Steve proud of me after all those months of picking up the pieces of me.

This event comes a week after international HG awareness day and the Pregnancy Sickness Support charity’s annual conference. The experiences that flooded my social media feeds and that were shared first hand by former HG sufferers are still ringing in my ears – there’s so much heart breaking loss surrounding HG pregnancies; from the loss of the long hoped-for glow of pregnancy, loss of dignity at incessant puking and peeing and being unable to care for yourself, to the tragic losses from ‘therapeutic’ termination, prematurity and stillbirth. The PSS charity is working very hard to support women and families enduring this and to improve the support and treatment they receive in the UK. Every penny that people sponsor me is supporting the charity to alleviate some of this hardship.

If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you. 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Beci's Tough Mudder - Training well underway

In October my friend Kim and I decided to sign up for the Midlands Tough Mudder race. This seemed like a fun plan at the time. A little over a month away now, I'm starting to wonder what I've let myself in for! Our little team has since been joined by another PSS volunteer Emma Watford.

For those unfamiliar with Tough Mudder it's basically a mud obstacle run. Our event is roughly 12 miles around Belvoir Castle, Grantham and includes obstacles happily entitled Electroshock Therapy, Arctic Enema, Birth Canal and Crybaby (I'm led to believe this involves tear gas!) Have a look at the photos of previous events, it should give an idea of which are which!

Training has been going pretty well, though I think I underestimated how much time it would take up! Interspersed with running is cardio sessions (Zumba, circuits) and strength training (strength yoga, lots and lots of squats, weights). I can now at least run the 12 miles! Honestly the hardest thing is the mental barriers we are all trying to break. I found myself running around muddy puddles but now force myself through them! 

Still, every bit of training will make it easier on the day! And hopefully we will make a good sum for Pregnancy Sickness Support, which is the point when all is said and done! If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you!

Wish us luck (I fear we will need it)!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Anita's Big Swim

Hyperemesis Gravidarum – two words I didn’t know until August 2010 when our daughter was expecting her first child. However the severity of this condition soon became all too apparent when she was hospitalised several times during her pregnancy. 
It robs women of the absolute joy of expecting their first baby and makes them dread (if considering at all) any future pregnancies.
Swimming is my newly rediscovered passion since retiring two years ago. I started slowly ending the summer with a 1 mile distance at the Great Scottish Swim last August. I enjoyed it thoroughly and challenged myself to do more Great Swims in 2015. I signed up for 3 swims before our daughter announced she was expecting again. Fingers crossed she would be fine…. No such luck sadly. 
Living 400 miles away there was little other than moral support I could give her, so I decided to make the swims sponsored events. Not only to raise money for PSS but also to raise more awareness amongst my friends and acquaintances about this life threatening condition/illness. My target was set at £500 which I have to this date surpassed with the help of the PSS Awareness day Coffee afternoon where I also raffled off one of my quilts.
Training has been going on all year either in the pool or in Loch Lomond. Yes even during the winter I dipped in, just as well as with the dreadful summer we have had up here, the temperature has not risen much above 13.5C all summer. 
My last and biggest challenge is next Saturday when I have entered the 5km swim at the Scottish Great Swim in Loch Lomond. I have swum around Incailloch Island this week which is around 4km so I feel very confident that I will reach the end before the 2 hour deadline is up and I have to endure the indignity of being fished out ahead of the finishing line. 
I will be cheered on by my 4 ½ year old granddaughter and her now 2 month old sister and their mother. All healthy, wonderful and gorgeous HG survivors.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Beci's Big Brew 2015

Having been a Volunteer Supporter for Pregnancy Sickness Support for a couple of years I decided that this year I would do my bit of fundraising for them and hold a Big Brew on 16th May. I created an event on Facebook, promised my friends as much cake as they could eat in 3 hours and started begging anyone I knew who owned a business for raffle prizes!

My mum suggested the raffle as an extra way to raise money. I ended up with some lovely prizes including a month’s worth of Zumba vouchers, handmade fudge voucher (thank you Sam Sorrell), free entry into a local National Trust property, an Avon giftset and a massage gift voucher (thank you Lois Slocombe). A friend of mine who runs a greetings card business also came along and offered to donate 10% of money taken to PSS.

The day before my Big Brew, HG Awareness Day, my mother in law kindly offered to take my ‘helpful’ 3 year old off my hands for the day. How I would have been ready with her around I simply don’t know! The whole day was spent baking and cleaning, interspersed with spamming social media with HG awareness posts and a mad dash round all my local supermarkets to find one ingredient I needed for one of my cakes (how hard can poppy seeds be to find, turns out very!). I baked a hazelnut, pear and dark chocolate cake, a coconut cake and a citrus poppy seed cake. I’m not much of a baker so was exceptionally proud of myself but must admit I cheated and bought scones! A friend of mine who also suffered with HG made some delicious rainbow cupcakes decorated in PSS colours for which I’ll be eternally grateful!

Happily on the day of my event the sun was shining and we were all able to go out in the garden and enjoy it! I was so touched by how many of my family and friends turned out to support a cause so close to my heart. Even those that couldn’t make it generously donated or bought raffle tickets. I was also so pleased to hear how many conversations were going on about HG, so as well as raising money it has helped inform people too.

I had always said that I would be happy to raise around £100 so when I added up the money and found we made £197.70 I was over the moon! I really enjoyed hosting a Big Brew and will definitely be doing it again next year!

Monday, 22 December 2014

2014 – What a Year!

Our dedicated volunteers have worked so hard this year to raise funds for our work, increased awareness of hyperemesis and above all supported woman at their most desperate and difficult times... And many of them will continue to dedicate their time and energy to ensure sufferers do not feel even more alone on Christmas day. It's a day which many women report increases the feelings of isolation and being misunderstood as they are surrounded by loved ones who don't understand and smells of food which make the whole thing worse. Our volunteers have been there and they understand.

It's been an incredible year of media attention and award nominations bringing Hyperemesis Gravidarum into the spotlight and raising awareness about it's severity. Our volunteer network has supported nearly 300 women. The helpline and email support has helped hundreds more and the forum is providing support to well over 1,000 women!

On top of support we have worked hard to raise the profile of services such as IV at Home and IV Day Clinics and encouraged more and more hospital trusts to improve their services and guidelines. We've collaborated on research and developed partnerships with other key organisations. 2015 will see more and more of this progress with Greentop Guidelines coming out, our Healthcare Professional Conference in May and further growth of the Support Network.

To finish off 2014 and to honour the work of our volunteers, here is some of the feedback we've received from the women they have supported this year...

[My Volunteer] was amazing. We texted all the way through my pregnancy. She was an amazing support. My pregnancy was truly hellish; and she was the only one who I could speak to that really understood.”

Invaluable text support in my darkest hours during my pregnancy. Information about her personal experience which helped me significantly and just someone on the other end of the phone that knew what I was going through.”

[My volunteer] maybe didn't know at the time how much a text once per day simply asking "how are you feeling today" helped me so much. I'm not sure if I could describe it enough in words how much [My Volunteer] was supporting me, and how much it meant to me. It was like she was my walking stick when I needed to get up and walk/ shower, and my pillow when I needed to rest. We had all of our contact over text, and when I started to feel better around week 20 - I asked if we could have a call as I wanted to thank her from the bottom of my heart. She still texts me every so often to check in and ask me how I'm doing, and its as if she is just as excited as me for my little ones arrival next year. I'm so grateful for PSS and [My Volunteer's] support.”

When we spoke it was as if she was there by my side, fighting for my cause. I felt very weak and unsure what was happening at the time and felt such a sense of relief that she, and PSS were there to support me. Fantastic charity, and people who work for PSS.”

She's been amazing! She's helped me at my lowest with HG & as I had 2 previous losses, she's been there as an emotional support when I've been petrified I'd lose again!”

She [my volunteer] is amazing and really helped me over come many fears with her encouragement. She has been an angel.”

I didn't feel alone in my experience and suffering anymore and realised the sickness wasn't due to doing something wrong or not being strong enough”

THANK YOU! We have a beautiful healthy baby girl.”

This is a lifesaver of a charity.”

To all our dedicated volunteers, all the women suffering at the moment and all our supporters around the globe, have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year...

...And lets all work together to make 2015 even more spectacular!