My Birthday Gift To You

Today is my birthday, and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know what’s coming, but please keep reading. Recently I’ve had several unwelcome reminders of how precious life is, how unpredictable life is, and how everything can change in an instant. There’s a lot we can’t protect ourselves or our loved ones from, but one thing we can do is take care of ourselves. Even when we are busy. Even when we are tired. Even when we’d rather ignore the issue and hope it goes away. 

Take Care of Yourself (3)

Five-year old me wants you to take care of yourself!

My biggest lesson on the importance of taking care of myself started on my birthday in 2008. I refer to that birthday as the birthday I skipped, since I was travelling to Australia and “lost” that day with the 15 hours flight and 16 hour time change.

I was fortunate to have a business class ticket, which got me a first class seat from D.C. to L.A. and a roomy business class seat from L.A. to Melbourne. Since I was travelling for work, I spent most of the first flight working, which means I sat still for most of the 6 hour flight. Since my flight from L.A. boarded at midnight local time, I went right to sleep, curling my legs up to be more comfortable. 

I remember noticing a pain in my calf, and thinking it must have been bumped by a suitcase during my trek through LAX.

I remember googling “DVT” soon after I checked into my hotel and deciding that since I wasn’t an overweight business man and had plenty of room in my business class seat, I couldn’t have a condition that’s also referred to as “coach class syndrome.” 

I remember sticking to my plan of staying active to stay awake to adjust to the time difference, and spending the afternoon walking through the Queen Victoria Gardens and visiting an art gallery.  

I remember my leg feeling “tight” every morning, and getting better as I moved around.

I remember joking with my client–as I limped down the stairs–that I either had a sore muscle or a blood clot, and was going with the first option.

I remember my leg getting worse as my trip wore on.

I remember that I had to take Advil to sleep at night and trying to prop my calf on a pillow to alleviate the pain.

I remember getting home the day before Thanksgiving and continuing to ignore the pain.

I remember going Black Friday shopping with my friend, keeping up an annual tradition.

I remember calling a varicose vein clinic the following Tuesday, thinking (hoping?) that might be my problem.

I remember starting to cry when the receptionist said they could see me in two weeks.

I remember her telling me that I should see a doctor if I was in acute pain.

I remember attending a client lunch meeting and leaving work early to take my daughter to a doctor’s appointment.

I remember dropping her off at home, giving her $20 to order pizza for dinner, and driving myself to the ER.

Stop The Clot (DVT Awareness)

(click the image for a full-size, printable version)

I remember telling the triage nurse about my calf pain and mentioning my recent trip to Australia.

I remember the nurses and doctors noting that my calf was not swollen, red or warm, but ordering a doppler exam to rule out a DVT.

I remember relaxing and reading my book while I waiting for my exam.

I remember the shock on the doctor’s face when it revealed DVTs.

 Stop The Clot Blood Clot (DVT Risk Factors)

(click the image for a full-size, printable version)

Whenever I look back on this experience, I am horrified at how much pain I ignored for so long. I think part of it was that I felt isolated–alone in a country half way around the world. I think part of it was that I was on a business trip and didn’t want to let my guard down in front of an important client. But those reasons don’t explain why I waited another week after getting home before getting my calf checked out. For that, I blame wanting to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, have fun with my friend, take care of my daughter–and maybe some wishful thinking that if I ignored the pain it would go away.  

My birthday gift to you is permission to take care of yourself, to put your health before routine demands of family, friends, and work. 

My birthday gift to you is permission to seek medical attention if something doesn’t feel quite right. No matter what those motivation quotes say, ignoring pain isn’t badass, it borders on dumbass

My birthday gift to you is a reminder is that you are precious, important, and deserving of just as much care and concern that you show to others. 

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17 Responses to My Birthday Gift To You

  1. Carla says:

    happy happy happy birthday.
    see? only you would do unto others on YOUR DAY.

    Carla recently posted…We cant make time…My Profile

  2. Karen says:

    Happy birthday Coco! And thank you for this great information. I had no idea DVT was so prevalent, or what the risk factors and symptoms are. As someone who travels quite a bit, this is really good to know!
    Karen recently posted…Five Reasons to Add Periscope to Your Social Media PresenceMy Profile

  3. Pahla B says:

    Happy Birthday to you! What a scary story! I’m very happy it had a happy ending for you, as blood clots don’t always. Thank you for the reminder – I tend to ignore pain and other warning signs for too long, also. I hope you have a wonderful day today!

  4. Conny H says:

    Happy Birthday to you! I am glad that your story had a happy ending and thank you for the reminder that we should listen to what our bodies tell us rather than ignoring them. I tend to ignore pain, too, and have been lucky so far. I hope that you are having a wonderful day!

  5. Super scary story so glad your okay! So many times we prioritize other things above ourselves and don’t even realize it. I think it’s great you shared this story right before the holidays, I hope it will help people to prioritize themselves a little bit more!

    Happy Birthday!

  6. HoHo Runs says:

    Happy Birthday Coco! I am glad you did go to ER and seek help. Some people would still have not gone! What a great reminder to give ourselves the attention we deserve. I hope you enjoy your day!
    HoHo Runs recently posted…Same Old Song (WW # 15)My Profile

  7. Happy Happy Birthday to you! And I’m so glad that you share this message. It’s so important. And yes, life is too short and unpredictable. I hope you have an amazing day!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Inner LightMy Profile

  8. I don’t think I knew this story! Happy Birthday my friend I hope you have wonderful day and I wish you lots of health an happiness in the upcoming year.
    Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…10 Healthy Vegetarian Thanksgiving SidesMy Profile

  9. Karen says:

    Happy Birthday!!
    I am glad that story has a happy ending. Thankfully, you did get diagnosed. I work with a lady that had a heart attack, she ignored her symptoms for a week and then realized something was really wrong, thankfully it wasn’t too late. Great advice. Pain is not normal.
    Karen recently posted…Race Day!My Profile

  10. Marcia says:

    It was chilling to recall the details leading up to the dx with you, knowing full well I’d probably have done the same. Great lessons here. Happy Birthday!
    Marcia recently posted…Running “Chores” I Actually EnjoyMy Profile

  11. Chaitali says:

    Happy birthday and than you for the reminder! This is so important. I hate those stupid motivational quotes too 🙁
    Chaitali recently posted…Weekly reviewMy Profile

  12. Happy birthday! I hope it was a fun one! What a great story to share- you are so right, badass borders on dumbass and we are not designed to be in pain! Great message!
    Mary Beth Jackson recently posted…Gators, Packers and Paris, oh My!My Profile

  13. Happy birthday and great reminder!! So glad that everything turned out ok, and great lesson!
    Rachel @ recently posted…Apricot Salsa Chicken {Slow Cooker Recipe}My Profile

  14. First of all, Happy Belated birthday!! Wow, what a crazy experience! So glad you decided to get that checked out. Who knows what would have happened if not. Bottom line, always listen to your gut feeling!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…The cookbook every runner should have: Meals on the Run book reviewMy Profile

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