Pizza Day Recap on a Friday

Gooooood Morning! And Happy Friday!

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Last night was date night at Hideaway Pizza, because Remicade infusion days are for pizza. I had the Sicilian, and it was good. Zack’s beer tasted awful, and that’s because it was an IPA that he didn’t order (oops-I’m not a fan of IPAs), but they quickly exchanged it for the cheap pilsner that he originally ordered and all was right in the world.

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This was our first time here, and we really liked it! We will return next Pizza Day 🙂

Next up was dessert:

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We went to a bakery called “Crimson and Whipped Cream” that doubled as a coffee shop. Had their chamomile/herb-mixed tea that smelled almost like root beer but didn’t taste sweet, and it was refreshing! Helped the snickerdoodle cookie and chocolate cupcake with peanut butter icing go down-yikes. SO good!

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They had a fun area of board games, but since our table wasn’t big enough we opted for good conversation instead :). Then the wind picked up and we had gusts up to 28mph all night long and even into this morning. Crazy! When we went to leave I opened the door to the truck and the wind BLEW it from my grip just as I was using it to support my weight as I hopped in, and I fell to the ground. I layed in the street laughing. Somehow I didn’t manage to spill the leftovers or get ran over by a car, so still a win!

Breakfast:
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But not today’s. This was yesterdays, but I wish it was today’s too. Today’s was Trader Joe’s Multigrain O’s before I head out for a meeting.

Hope your Friday is everything a Friday should be 🙂

-Stacey

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A Life-Changing Diagnosis & 5 Ways to Cope

The question I get asked most often by friends and strangers alike is, “How did you know something was wrong?”

Please don’t use my experience in lieu of a doctor’s professional opinion. If you think something is wrong…go get checked out! 

Okay. Here’s my story:

Once upon a time in early Fall at a coffee shop on campus at The University of Texas at Austin in 2012, I began having excruciating stomach cramps. When I say the word excruciating, I mean excruciating. Unbearable. The BEST way I can describe the pain for the sake of being relatable…have you ever had a violent stomach virus? Multiply the frequency of your symptoms to several times a day and night, for weeks. Then you get me.

I excused myself a couple times over the duration of my brief meet-up with a friend at the coffee shop. “Guess I should switch the chai lattes to soy,” I thought to myself.

But the pain and the symptoms weren’t alleviated by omitting dairy. Within weeks even ice chips resulted in pain, followed by 10-15 wind sprints to the bathroom.
X rated version: I knew something was wrong when I noticed that my stools consisted almost entirely of blood, and nothing seemed to offer even a hint of relief (not even drinking imodium from a straw…not recommended, by the way). 

About a week and a half later, I made an appointment with University Health Services; they accommodated me quickly when I described my symptoms. They prescribed me high-powered antibiotics, which didn’t phase my symptoms. “Come back in 8 days for a follow-up.” I noticed that I had already lost twelve pounds when I weighed in with the nurse before my appointment.

I found a local gastroenterologist, without a referral from a professional. Something had to be resolved fast.

At the time I would wake up two hours before class began (after a night of restlessness because of constant stomach cramps and running to the bathroom), to ensure that I would arrive to class in time, allotting plenty of time for bathroom stops in the buildings on my way to class until I was finally able to make it to my class. I received permission from my professors to record their lectures during this time, because I would have to sneak out of class three or four times to be sick. This went on for a few weeks.

During my first appointment with the gastroenterologist, he scheduled a colonoscopy for the next day, and so began my life of poking, prodding, stool samples, blood samples, and biopsies. The prep juice wasn’t bad because I was pretty clear from shitting thirty times a day…still not entirely sure what the big fuss over colonoscopies is all about.

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THE DIAGNOSIS
After my colonoscopy the doctor read my diagnosis, “You have moderate to severe ulcerative colitis. There’s no cure, but there are treatment options. You’ll be monitoring this disease for the rest of your life.”

Honestly, I was pretty certain that I was dying of cancer. When I was diagnosed, almost three weeks beyond my very first noticeable symptom at the coffee shop, I had lost twenty-five pounds. I looked like a bag of bones.  I was weirdly relieved to have “ulcerative colitis” as a diagnosis. Having answers makes all the difference.

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Taken two days before my scope at 102 pounds

(During this time I got recruited by Abercrombie model scouts on campus for a live audition. They were quickly educated…thanks to the prednisone and my lack of sleep.)

All that I had heard about “ulcerative colitis” was a brief overview in a pharmacology course, and I knew that Crohn’s was its cousin, both under the umbrella of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)…not exactly enough for me to understand what the heck the doc was talking about. He explained that my immune system was hyperactive, recognizing even food as a foreign substance that needed to be expelled immediately.
Not cool, immune system. Not cool.
My body was rebelling against my colon. Why? Could be genetics, or the environment (e.g. toxins, antibiotics altering gut bacteria), or an interaction between the two.

“What can I eat?”

“Eat whatever you want. Since you’re a bit underweight, drink as much dark beer as you want. Eat burgers.”

^ Never made sense to me. UC is an autoimmune digestive disease in my gut, where most of the immune system is located, and I’m being told to eat whatever I want? Too good to be true. I knew immediately that dairy and beef physically hurt to eat, so I eliminated those. Next to go was processed meats and fast food, because no way are those beneficial. To my surprise there were still plenty of good options to eat, despite being in college and on a budget. Good food didn’t have to be expensive. I began researching which foods to eat to help with inflammation, since UC is an inflammatory disease, and I tried to eat more of those helpful foods: leafy greens, grilled fish, lean meats, and blueberries became my go-tos. And so began my interest in nutrition. I watched it help me, change me, and I dreamed of how it could help the people I love. Present day Stacey is in school again pursuing a dietetics degree.

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THE MEDS
After my scope, the doc handed me a paper folder full of info pamphlets and immediately prescribed me an IV biologic & immunosuppressant: Remicade. MANY people ask, “Why did you decide to be on such a high octane medication?” At the time I didn’t feel a like I had much of a choice. Looking back, I still would’ve agreed to such aggressive treatment, because I felt (and looked) like I was actually dying. It’s different for everyone, but for me it was serious at the time. I mean. I LOST OVER 25 POUNDS IN THREE WEEKS, PEOPLE.

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I remember my first infusion, walking into a dimly lit infusion suite with recliners bordering the walls, each with a patient hooked up to an IV pole. Some were asleep, others read books, flipped through their phones, and a few watched HGTV buzzing in the background on the televisions. Not all the patients had Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, some had rheumatoid arthritis, MS, and a host of other autoimmune conditions. This was the first time I realized that my life would not be the normal I remembered. I needed medication from an IV so I could live life like I remembered living. Weird.

Overnight, I felt like I had gone from being a normal, healthy, social college student to a smaller, weaker shell of myself: spending more time alienated by my symptoms; a more vulnerable person, more medicated, with less autonomy over my own health. I bought a pill pack from the pharmacy store that looked like the one my grandmother carried in her oversized old-lady purse, so I could keep up with my new lifestyle.

In addition, I was prescribed pain and sleeping aids (which I never took), along with a hefty dose of Prednisone, a corticosteroid. Jesus and steroids saved my life, and I honestly believe that. Prednisone was the only oral medication that seemed to ever work.
But I hated it.

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On the left: steroid-free! Right: “Moon Face” side effect in full swing after a flare, taken seven months apart

Steroids were great in college, because I felt very energetic (almost jittery) while taking Prednisone, so even on little sleep I was able to get a lot accomplished. However, the mood swings made me feel like a crazy pants to say the very least, so I avoid Prednisone at all costs today. I also like to sleep…and I have the hardest time sleeping when I’m on the ‘roids (disclaimer: not the same anabolic steroids that give you muscles…womp womp)

LIFE AFTER DIAGNOSIS
Slowly but surely, my energy levels began to creep back up to normal. I got my life back.  Sure, I had to make some adjustments here and there (still learning), but heyyy I’m alive!

I graduated with a pretty decent GPA, even with a hospital stay, despite my family’s pleading for me to take a medical leave of absence from college. I never asked for a project deadline extension. I honestly look back on this time in life and think, “How?” But I was in survivor mode. Don’t say “I could never.” You could. And you would.

I got into the working world, took some time to get a Crohn’s diagnosis, had a doc switch diagnosis back to “ulcerative colitis”, changed shifts, changed jobs, conquered anxiety, and got to know myself really well. Wasn’t glamorous, and wasn’t what I anticipated, but it’s okay! I’m okay.

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LEARNING TO COPE
1. Haters Gonna Hate
People will criticize you whether or not it’s warranted. I have been criticized for being a “pill popper”; for “taking the easy way out” with the infusion (that one is beyond me); for being “too stressed”; for not taking a medical leave of absence from college; for drinking beer; for the way I eat. People don’t mean to be as nasty as they can be sometimes; they simply don’t know your situation. I control as much as I can with diet, but I’m also human and sometimes I slip up or make conscious decisions to indulge. The meds help where nutrition cannot for me. My dream is to be 100% in remission with diet, but I’m not there yet. I can’t advise YOU if you were recently diagnosed on which course of action you should take. This disease is different for everyone. What works for one person may NOT work for another. It’s all about figuring out what works for YOU until there’s a cure. But shake off the negativity. You’re living with this- YOU are the badass.

2. Keep your people close
There will be people in your life who are with you during your diagnosis, and I don’t just mean the people who happen to be around. Who is WITH you? Who is there keeping you strong? These are the people you want around forever. For me that’s my sister, my college roommates, and my Zack. Story time 2.0:

One night in my apartment that I shared with friends, I was THE most physically ill I had been in my life, sick from both ends for hours and hours (pretty, huh?). I called Zack and begged him to come over. He spent the entire night on the phone with pharmacists, arguing with my doctor about medications, all while I slept on the bathroom floor in between being sick. Finally, around 4am, after much harassing Zack managed to get me some anti-nausea meds. My gawsh, the guy is a saint.

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 He fought with me. He went to bat for me. He never judged. He didn’t do good things for reward. He was just there, beside me, gutting it out with me. And so were my roommates. The BEST people I know.

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After Roommate Haley’s UT Graduation, the Spring after the diagnosis. We rewarded our girl bossery by finishing a sprint triathlon

I promised myself that if I ever had the energy again to move, then I would. Sounds overly emo, I know. But y’all. I really struggled with weakness for so long. So my roommate and I did this thing ^. Not pictured: Roommate Becca, still one of my greatest friends, probably drinking a mimosa at the finish while snapping this photo. 
KEEP YA PEOPLE CLOSE.

3. It gets better
There will be times when you think, “TF HAPPENED? I was doing so good! Where’d these symptoms come from?” This will pass. It will get better. You will prevail. You’ll come out stronger with every flare. You’ll live to tell about it, and you’ll develop a pretty damn good sense of humor from it, too.

4. Find your silver lining
There may be days when you shit yourself in your car while in traffic. It’s okay to cry about it, but then try to find some humor in that.  When you’re in a flare and EVERYTHING makes you sick, think about all the amazing Netflix you’ll be able to watch. “I won’t be able to do this when I’m better.”  Think about all the food you CAN eat. If none of those options work, recognize how this has changed your life. I wasn’t interested at all in nutrition before this disease, and now it is my life. I sho wasn’t going to run before UC, and now it’s my hobby.

5. You’re still you
You’re still you, but you’re more relatable. You’ve seen struggling, and SO.MANY.PEOPLE. are struggling. You’ve seen sickness, and SO.MANY.PEOPLE. are sick. You’ve seen recovery, and people NEED to find their strength to recover. Help them find it. See this as a weird superpower. This disease doesn’t define you, but if you let it, it will make you a better, bigger, badder, stronger, gassier(?) version of you. You’re still you, only better.

Please let me know how any unexpected life situations have changed YOUR life!  I’m with you. Solidarity!

Keep moving forward 🙂

-Stacey

OH! And have a great Monday! There is such a thing, I promise.


A Chocolate Strawberry-Banana Nutty Smoothie

GOOOOD MORNING!

Okay. Ready for a smoothie? I got ‘chu.

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Chocolate Strawberry-Banana Nutty Smoothie

-1 C almond/coconut milk mix

-1 scoop Vega chocolate sport protein

-3/4 banana

-Handfull of strawberries

-2 tbsp peanut buttah

-1 C ice

BLEND!

Top with remaining banana (sliced), two chopped strawberries, a pinch of chia seeds, a pinch of sliced almonds, and a leeetle pinch of shredded coconut.

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This thing is PACKED with healthy fats and protein. Eat with a spoon and it’ll feel like a whole meal instead of a snack. This was today’s breakfast. Not pictured: coffee.

On the running calendar for today: 4 miles tempo…and it is gawgeous outside.

Hope your day is a good one!

-Stacey

Eph 2:8-9 

2 Cor 12:9

1 Peter 5:10


5 Tricks to Make Half-Marathon Training a Whole Lot Better

Before my first half marathon, a 5K in college was my max distance race.

And I was slow.

There were participants right behind beside me drinking beer on the course.
Slow.

So if you’re thinking, “I really want to do a half-marathon, but I have only ever ran one mile, and it was the one required for junior high P.E. class.”
Friend, this post is for YOU.

Congrats on registering (or considering registering) for a half-marathon! I love half-marathon weekends, and nothing makes me more excited and motivated than clicking that “register” button.
YOU. WILL. NOT. REGRET. IT.

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Here’s a few tips from my ever-growing bag of tricks that I learned after running my first half-marathon (pictured above at the finish)

1. Shoes. I’ve said this before, but get cha some good running shoes! Go to a running store and let the experts fit you for the shoe that best suits your stride- you won’t regret it. You WILL regret thinking that your shoes fit when actually they don’t and your toenails begin to turn unpleasant colors. Dark blue toenails aren’t cute; They’re scary and your friends will be concerned for your toes of many colors.

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2. Hydration. Note: hydration is NOT all water consumption. Hydration is actually having the proper amount of electrolyte balance to keep your body going. On short runs, I always take water with me. I honestly can’t train myself out of it (maybe I haven’t tried hard enough?). On long runs, I take a mix of blue gatorade with water in a sexy little fuel belt. Figuring out which hydration method works for you is key. Try different methods like coconut water, powerade, gu, energy gels. It’s also important to hydrate the day before, especially on long runs.

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3. Developing a training plan and stick with it. B-E Consistent. For me, this means laying my running clothes across the room next to my alarm clock so I have no excuse to say no.

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4. Cross-train. This is the best way to prevent injury. Add weights, and work on those abs and glutes. A lot of running injuries are caused from weak or tight glutes and abs. Planks are your new best friend. (other ideas for cross-training: CrossFit, yoga, barre, kickboxing, cycling, pilates…basically any movement that’s not running)

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5. Keep going. If you think “when will this enddddd” then keep going. Once you’re out of your funk later and reflecting on your run, you’ll be bummed that you didn’t pick up your feet and keep it up. Your mind will quit LONG before your body will. Don’t let your mind fool you. YOU are the boss. Keep moving.

And on a similar note…

I know I say it all the time, but keep moving forward. Just because you reached your goal (distance, speed, finish line, or whatever) doesn’t mean that you’ve reached the end of your goals. Don’t get complacent! The world needs your energy. <- That sounded incredibly hippy and peace and love, but you get me. Keep on keepin’ on!

HAVE FUN! Just go running. It’s actually supposed to be hard. Love the process.

-Stacey

P.S. ASK QUESTIONS! Runners are generally happy people, and I’m sure someone would be happy to help out if you have any questions. OR if you don’t have a crazy runner friend, ask me!


Wedding Recap: Georgetown, TX

This post obviously has nothing to do with running or food. But it’s a pretty cool part of life that I’d like to remember, and I thought, “HEY! Maybe someone else is planning a wedding and would like to creep on mine???”

So… in honor of receiving the wedding photos (from our amazing photographer), here’s one of the most fun days of my life:

7:00 am: Wake up Call

We stayed the night at the cozy cabins located onsite at the venue. I was SO NERVOUS/excited, and I’m not sure if I actually went to sleep. We woke up to a frigid seventeen degrees, a record low this year for Austin, Texas. I still had high hopes completely naive wishes of having the ceremony outdoors.
We headed over to Flair Austin for our 8:00 AM hair appointments, champagne and Round Rock Donuts in hand. Disclaimer: No one felt like drinking champagne, so we just towed it around with us.

12:00 pm: Make-up

As soon as the hair fun had ended, we raced over to the venue for makeup, courtesy of Veronica Smiley, ESPN, celebrity, and freelance makeup artist (AKA miracle-worker). I felt like Samantha Ponder.
Shoutout to my face for having zits after weeks of being clean and clear.

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Zack’s dad was kind enough to deliver sandwiches for everyone, so all stayed happy and full. I snacked on EPIC brand turkey jerky, wine (may or may not have been from a straw), and lots of water. I finally had to make a game time decision of where to have the ceremony due to the ridiculous cold. My bridesmaids were amazing, “It’s YOUR day. Where do YOU want to have the ceremony?” What did I do do deserve these people? We all thankfully decided on our Plan B: indoors. No way I could make people sit in 22 degrees while we said our vows!

2:30 pm: Dress

This deserves a shout-out to the photographer, Rebecca Taylor Photography. Everything was SUCH a blur and I wasn’t thinking straight most of the day, but it was her idea to pull me into the courtyard to get my mom and sisters get me into the dress. Such a sweet moment. Thank you, Becca!!!

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Earrings, a gift from Zack’s mom:

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And Zack was getting ready with his guys at the cabins at the same time:

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He look good.

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And those tuxes were fiyah.

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Zack said this was their “album cover”
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3:00 pm: “First Look”

A special moment, just for my #1 since day 1, my sweet dad:
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Love my dad ❤

3:30 pm: Bridal Party Pics

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Oh. My dress wasn’t ready in time for bridal portraits, but Becca miraculously made time to squeeze in a few while my gals finished getting ready. THANK YOU ❤

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Girl had her work cut out for her, because I am hella awkward.

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4:00 pm: Note Exchange
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4:45 pm: LET’S GET MARRIED!

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My late granddad’s wedding band was a gift to Zack from my Memaw. Zack had my ring custom made and hand-picked the diamond, and we designed my sapphire band together.

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I feel like I should maybe write a post about how we saved SO much money on our wedding, but I literally downloaded these invitations from Etsy for $12, and they were perfect.

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And I made all the signs myself #BrideOnABudget
*flips hair*

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Okay. Wedding time.

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Our ushers were the best.

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YAY!

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5:30 pm: Fajitas & Party Time

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[Really good] Speeches

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When the MOH spills a drink all over the groom… :p

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Father-Daughter Fun ❤
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Really surprised that our cake was amazing…our baker forgot it was our wedding day, and had to make an emergency delivery after I sent a panicked text. But it turned out GREAT!
Lemon cake with real raspberry filling. mmm.

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Devin, 3x garter toss reigning champ

Dancing with the bouquet toss winner, Lorraine Ralaine
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Invite Germans to your wedding. Let them lead the party.
View More: http://rebeccataylorphotography.pass.us/collins-wedding
View More: http://rebeccataylorphotography.pass.us/collins-wedding

View More: http://rebeccataylorphotography.pass.us/collins-wedding
View More: http://rebeccataylorphotography.pass.us/collins-wedding
View More: http://rebeccataylorphotography.pass.us/collins-wedding

The most fun night!
View More: http://rebeccataylorphotography.pass.us/collins-wedding

Thank you to EVERYONE who came to make us feel celebrated! You all are the reason why we had so much fun, and we hope you did too!

If I could offer any advice to anyone planning a wedding, just remember that at the end of the day, you’re going to walk away married to the person you love, and that’s the ultimate goal! It doesn’t matter if your baker forgets to bring the cake, or your wedding spontaneously gets moved inside because of record breaking weather (ha)…but all those memories certainly make the day all the more fun, I promise.

🙂

Stacey

Shoutout to:
-Rebecca Taylor Photography, a true God-send
-Flair Austin (hair)
-Stefanie Cutler (hair)
-Veronica Smiley Makeup
-Norma, Anthony, and Angel Springs Event Center
-Mario, our amazing caterer, who even took the time to pack us to-go meals and had them ready in our car that picked us up form the reception. HOMEMADE EVERYTHING.
-Rocks With Sass (bridesmaid jewels)
-My hard-working dad
-Jesus. None of this would’ve happened without Jesus. 
-Lindsay (MOH & BFF) for dealing with me, and Sydney, Becca, Shelby, Christy, Hailey, Susanne, and Haley for being the greatest friends