Thanks so much to everyone for all of the comments about my article that was featured in The Irish Times on Tuesday. The response was amazing :) I've wanted to write a post about how the gym has been going and I finally have a break from assignments to do it!
In August, I started personal training with Marcus Bertels at the Ben Dunne gym in Northwood and I can't believe how much my strength and stamina is after building up since then. If someone had said to me last year that I'd be doing 100-kilo leg presses, I would have laughed in their face.
Over the past three months, I've lost nearly half a stone. I wasn't overweight but I wanted to lose fat, gain muscle and tone up, which is what I've done. I don't count calories but I try to keep my carb intake low and my protein intake high. I think giving up fizzy drinks has been one of the main factors in my weight loss. I used to drink something fizzy nearly every day and now it's a treat when I do.
When I think about it, my whole diet has completely changed and I have so much more energy because of it. My skin has improved and it's definitely down to what I put into my body. Two of my friends that I hadn't seen in a couple of months saw me the other day and commented about my skin and weight loss and it really encourages you to keep going when people compliment you about the change.
I could talk about the benefits of going to the gym forever but getting out there and joining a gym is one of the best things you can do for yourself; physically and mentally. I can guarantee that once you find a workout routine or class that you enjoy it will become something that you can't live without!
I wrote a post about a colonoscopy that I had last month. I'll be back soon to update you all about the results of it as the biopsy results are back next week!
Have a great Halloween!
Thursday, 27 October 2016
Saturday, 17 September 2016
If you read my blog then you'll know that I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease just over four years ago. In August, I was in the hospital for a routine check-up and met a new doctor on the team. We were chatting about my case for a while and all seemed ok. Two weeks later, I received a letter in the post informing me that I had an appointment to have a colonoscopy done two days later! I had an appointment the day that it was scheduled so I had to reschedule it. I received another letter a few days later from the doctor that I met telling me that the team had discussed my case and wanted me to have a couple of tests done quite urgently.
For anyone that doesn't know what a colonoscopy is, it's a test where they place a camera up your you know what so that they can see your rectum and entire colon. It can also reach the last part of the small intestine called the ileum. I've dodged having a colonoscopy done for years but this doctor wasn't letting me away with it! Everyone always thinks it's so strange when they find out that I've never had one done before but the reason I didn't have one done was because there was too much inflammation in my intestines when I was sick and they didn't want to chance that any perforation would occur during the procedure.
My appointment date came and it was scheduled for last Tuesday which was the day before I started in Dublin City University (DCU). I was quite anxious about it because I didn't know how I would be after the test and I didn't want to miss my first day of a new college. I'm sorry for what I'm about to say to anyone who is going to have a colonoscopy done but I'm going to be completely honest. KLEAN PREP IS THE MOST VILE THING THAT I HAVE EVER HAD TO GO THROUGH. Your preparation starts a week before you have to go for the colonoscopy. You have to avoid certain foods which was grand and then at 3pm the day before the test you have to start drinking Klean Prep.
You have four sachets that you dilute with a litre of water each and you're supposed to drink 250ml every ten minutes so that your bowel is clear for the procedure the next day. The only way to describe the taste is like swallowing vanilla scented salt water. You can dilute it with mi wadi but I ended up having to drink straight mi wadi before I could take a taste and then I washed it down with more straight mi wadi. I started at 3 15pm and I was still up at 3am finishing it and by finishing it I mean that I got through two and a half sachets in 12 hours!!
I was annoyed at myself for struggling so much with it but it literally reduced me to tears after half a glass at the thought that I was going to have to struggle through four litres of this crap. Once the Klean Prep starts working, I advise you to stay very close to a bathroom! I gave up at 3am after the two and a half sachets because things were clear (if you get me) and I was really tired too. I wasn't scared about having the colonoscopy, I was more anxious that they would find anything!
I was in chatting with some women in the dressing room when a nurse came looking for me. I went out and was brought into a room to have the cannula put into my arm and sat up on a bed. It was only after around five minutes of chatting to the nurse that I realised I was in the procedure room! A few minutes later, the doctor put some sedation in the cannula and I felt a bit relaxed but I was still completely aware of what was going on. The colonoscopy began and I watched everything that was being done on a screen and asked about 1,0000 questions (the poor doctor)! There were a few moments of cramping and discomfort but they didn't really bother me as they passed after a few seconds.
My biopsies won't be back for a few weeks but there were no signs of any inflammation anywhere which I was delighted about! That was my experience of having a colonoscopy. In short, Klean Prep is evil and the colonoscopy is absolutely nothing to be worried about!
Friday, 12 August 2016
About a month ago, I went to have a look around a gym and I decided to join and start getting into fitness. I'd been thinking about joining for a long time as I wanted to get fit and change my lifestyle but I thought that I wouldn't like it. It can be intimidating going to the gym for the first time and not having a clue how anything works and worrying that everyone's watching you, just waiting for you to start using a leg machine with your arms!! I felt that it would be best for me to start personal training so that I had someone with me showing me the ropes, pushing me and giving me the best workout for what I want to do with my body.
Last week, I had my first session with my personal trainer and I left the gym on a high that I hadn't felt in a long time! He made me enjoy every exercise that I was doing and I had fun in the gym! Yes, I was looking around for the first session thinking people were looking at me going "oh my god she can barely do push-ups" but you have to start somewhere! I had my fourth session today and my strength is after building up so much! I never thought that I'd have pushed 80 kilos the first time that I'd ever done a leg press! My confidence is growing each time that I go to the gym and I feel so good after every session. I've completely changed my diet and don't put anything into my body that I know isn't beneficial. The change that I can already see and feel is amazing! I look forward to having a treat or a cheat meal now rather than having something like a chocolate bar or fizzy drink every day. I now snack on things like fruit and veg which is something that I never thought I'd say (as I have such a sweet tooth!).
I suffer from anxiety too and the gym has been the best therapy that I've ever had! If anyone suffers from anxiety and you aren't already going to the gym, I highly recommend that you start. It has been the best thing that I've done for my body and mind! I was meant to take a before photo before I started training but I forgot to so I'm going to take one before my next session and document how things are going every week. Today, I was working a lot on my upper back and arms and I can see my back muscles starting to become more defined. It's crazy how fast the changes happen once you devote yourself.
If you're out there and you're contemplating starting the gym, push yourself and join, join with a friend if you don't want to go alone. It's the best thing that I've ever done!
You can follow my journey by joining me on Snapchat and Instagram. My username on both accounts is chatterboxclara.
You can follow my journey by joining me on Snapchat and Instagram. My username on both accounts is chatterboxclara.
Wednesday, 18 May 2016
Hi everyone, I’ve decided to share a personal blog post as World IBD Day is today, May 19th 2016 and I wanted to share awareness about living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I had an extreme fear of doctors, which made me hide the fact that I was extremely sick in 2011. I tried to get out of a moving car once when I was told that I was being brought to the doctor! It got to the stage where I couldn’t avoid it any longer because I was in excruciating pain. My weight was dropping rapidly and I was hiding food because I wasn’t able to eat. I didn’t want to worry anyone around me but it was obvious to others that something was wrong. My symptoms started when I was 12, I noticed that I would pass a lot of blood when going to the toilet. It would happen on and off and I’d just pass it off even though I knew that it wasn’t right.
September 9th 2011 was the day that my Crohn’s disease began to flare. I was in Manchester at the time and I remember feeling like my stomach was going to burst open. I was suffering with extreme cramps, fever and diarrhea. In the coming months my weight began to drop rapidly because I couldn’t eat without getting cramps and diarrhea. I’m a happy, bubbly person and people thought that I was suffering from depression and an eating disorder. I realise now that I was slowly dying and I was letting it happen but that’s how bad my fear of doctors was.
In December 2011 people were saying that I looked like a skeleton. I could see the shock on people’s faces when they would look at me and see a different person to the Clara that they all knew. I developed a perianal abscess and I was forced to go to the doctor because I couldn’t pass anything from my bowel without looking like someone you see having a baby in a film. It was dramatic to say the least! I went to A&E on the 23rd of December 2011 and I was admitted immediately and prepped for emergency surgery. The surgeons drained 100ml of poison from the abscess and I was told that I would have died on Christmas Day if I had left it any longer. The poison would have entered into my blood stream and killed me. I got out of hospital on Christmas Day and instead of things getting better, they got worse. I had dressings changed every day in the open wound from surgery for 3 months. The dressings were one of the most painful things I’ve ever gone through. I was still trying to fool doctors when I would go to clinic appointments in the hospital wearing a full face of makeup and a big smile on my face. My mam would plead with me to let them see the girl that she saw every day.
|Me in 2016 on the left and April 2012 on the right|
In March 2012, my weight had dropped from 56 to 47 kilos. I’m 5ft 7 so I was tremendously underweight. I developed a limp and when I felt a large lump in my stomach I knew it was time to seek help. I was rushed to Beaumont hospital and hooked up to an ECG machine because of how high my heart rate was and sent for numerous scans which showed a mass the size of a melon in my psoas muscle. It was blocking all of my organs. The surgeon told me that they had three options for me and there was no guarantee that any of them would be successful. I asked him if I would live and he said, “I don’t know". It was then that I realised I was at deaths door and I received my last rites. I had a drain fitted internally for two weeks and it drained out the poison from the abscess in my abdomen. The CRP levels (which is the marker of inflammation) in my blood were over 600, normal is between 2-10. I also had Strep G and E-Coli in my blood. After three weeks I was discharged but after a few days, I knew that the mass was back. I remember packing a suitcase at home because I knew that I was going to be in hospital for a very long time and part of me didn’t know if I would ever come back home again.
The next day, I was admitted and brought straight to the ward where I was prepared for surgery. There was no more time to waste. I was put on a feed called TPN and marked up for two stoma bags on the morning of major surgery. I remember being brought down to theatre not knowing what my body would be like when I woke up. After seven hours, I was brought back up to the ICU unit. It’s all a blur because I was on a morphine pump but I remember wires and tubes were coming out of my body everywhere and that the surgeon told me that I had no stoma bag. I struggled for weeks after the major surgery, which included a bowel resection. I had some blood transfusions because of cell levels in my blood and because of what I had lost during surgery. It would take me 15 minutes to sit up and I was unable to eat, wash or walk. My mam was brilliant but my dad passed away when I was 15 so it was hard that he wasn’t around as a support for my mam, brother and me.
After suffering a major reaction to medication, I thought it was the end. I knew that I was going to have to fight to survive. I was vomiting non-stop and couldn’t hold anything in my bowel. In the photo I’ve included I had half of a biscuit in my hand and went straight back up to the ward and vomited uncontrollably. My hair had started to fall out and my weight continued to drop. I was 6 and a half stone and wasn’t able to walk properly. I was always significantly worse at night when there wasn’t enough staff to look after the amount of people that needed help so I used to pray that I’d make it through the night until my mam would come back the next day. Slowly, I started eating some toast and seeing how my stomach would react and just when I thought that things were improving I got bad news about my white blood cells. A surgeon came around and mentioned leukemia and having to open me back up. The next day my white cells had increased slightly. After that setback, I started to improve daily and they felt that they could send me home after being in for a month.
It didn’t last as I was back in after a few days. My temperature spiked and it was back up to 39.5. I was admitted and put into isolation as I had contracted the hospital bug Clostridium Difficile. I felt more myself this time and knew that with the right medicine I could fight because I was building my strength back up. My temperature continued to spike and the surgeons mentioned opening me up again because they couldn’t understand what was wrong. I started eating little bits even if it made me feel sick and slowly but surely I began to build up my strength. I was able to wear makeup for the first time in months and I felt more confident in myself. Day by day I improved and after three weeks I knew that I was getting better. I had an appetite, which was something that I hadn’t had in a year.
After having an MRI scan on May 25th, 2012, my surgeon told me that I’d won the battle and could go home. I was diagnosed just before my 19th birthday in June 2012 with Crohn's Disease. Since then, I’ve had four surgeries because they found that I had a fistula but I had my final surgery in May 2014 and I haven’t been admitted to hospital since. Soon after I was released, I developed alopecia areata, which is a type of hair loss but my hair eventually grew back where the bald patches were. I have to take autoimmune suppressants every day and have days where I struggle with the symptoms of IBD such as nausea, diarrhea, cramps and loss of appetite. I suffer from anxiety and fatigue too. Living with Crohn’s can be extremely challenging but I feel blessed to be alive. I also no longer have my fear of going to the doctor!! IBD awareness is so important today because there are so many people suffering from IBD symptoms and they have no idea where to seek help. For more information on Inflammatory Bowel Disease please visit http://www.iscc.ie
Saturday, 26 March 2016
I booked a table online because I had read about it being hard to get a table at times so I wanted to make sure that there was no possibility of being turned away! I had heard nothing but brilliant things about the steak in Featherblade so I had to go and experience it for myself. As I walked in the door the first thing that struck me was the casual ambiance. I had expected it to look completely different!
We were seated at a small table near the door and presented with a sheet of paper which was the menu. The waitress came back after a short time and we ordered our meal. We each had the featherblade steak with bearnaise sauce and shared three sides which were chips, mac and cheese and broccoli.
The food came to the table after about 15 minutes. We both asked for the steaks to be cooked medium-well and we both felt that the steak was a bit overcooked. I will definitely ask for it to be cooked medium the next time that I go back. The steak was tasty but I saw another diner eating the hanger steak (the other option available on the menu) and it looked full of flavour! I wasn't the biggest fan of the bearnaise sauce with the steak but it was nice with the chips. I'm a huge mac and cheese lover and it was one of the better that I have had, although, not the best.
After the main course, the waitress came back and asked if we would like to order dessert and we decided that we would share one between the two of us. We waited for about 25 minutes and then thought that the waitress must have forgotten about it. Nobody came down near our table for another 10 minutes or so. The waitress seemed to have gone off of her shift so when I got the attention of a staff member we just asked for the bill.
I will go back to Featherblade to try the hanger steak, I enjoyed the featherblade steak. The value is fantastic, I haven't had any other steak like it for €13. I just felt that the service could have been better and made the experience slightly less enjoyable.
Saturday, 12 March 2016
I went to my first Zomato meet up recently in Arthur Maynes in Donnybrook and what a delightful experience it was! We were welcomed with the choice of a tasting of cocktails or craft beers. I chose to have the flight of mini cocktails which were robust and stylish. The barman David talked us through each cocktail with great knowledge and his passion for his profession shone through.
We were then moved into a small, private dining area for our meal and presented with an amuse-bouche. I thought that the flavours were a little overpowering and found them to be my least favourite part of the dining experience. I then chose to have the pan fried prawns which were served with a parsley and garlic puree sauce and herbs salad. I thought that they were succulent and I loved the combination of flavours in this course.
For my main course, I had the Midaza Stout Toulouse style sausages - a speciality at Arthur Maynes which the chef recommended. They were served on top of a bed of creamy mash potato and button mushrooms. This was my favourite course and I can't wait to devour the sausages again!
For dessert, I had the deconstructed chocolate and oreo cheesecake. It was a creamy delight and any chocolate lovers dream! The bread and butter pudding was a huge hit at the table with one of the other diners saying it was the best that they had ever had! Throughout the meal, we were served by a lovely guy called Peter who was outstandingly good at his job! Overall, it was a wonderful night and it was great to meet other members of the Zomato community! I'm looking forward to returning to Arthur Maynes.
Wednesday, 24 February 2016
I was the lucky winner of a Zomato competition which included a Valentine's two-course dinner for two with prosecco in Geisha, Malahide. The table was booked for Saturday the 13th of February and I brought my lovely Mammy along with me. We were welcomed at the door and brought upstairs into a section of tables just off of the main dining area to a reserved table by the window which had a gorgeous view of the marina.
The Valentine's menu was a set menu so for starter we had a combination platter between both of us which included wontons, spring rolls, king prawn tempura's and salmon rolls. Neither of us like salmon rolls so we asked for them to be left out and the waitress asked if we would like to substitute for something else so we got more king prawn tempura's instead. It was presented with two dips, one was a sweet chilli sauce and the other was hoi sin. I thought that the prawn tempura's were cooked to perfection and everything else was delectable.
For the main course, I had the Mat Ziu Beef which is fillet beef grilled and sliced with mixed vegetables, honey and pepper sauce. My Mam had the Thai Basil Fillet Beef which is fillet steak grilled and sliced with mixed vegetables, garlic, onion, chilli and basil. You could choose to have fragrant basmati rice, wok-fried rice or chunky chips so I had the wok-fried rice and my Mam had the basmati rice. I loved the Mat Ziu Beef, it was full of flavour and I loved the sweetness that the honey gave the beef. I also tried the Thai Basil Fillet Beef which I thought was zesty. I was definitely happy with the choice that I made for the main course.
We decided to have dessert and the waitress recommended that we tried the sharing platter which included a mini macaroon, banoffi, black cherry tart and a baileys mini. I loved the baileys mini and the banoffi which were creamy and sweet but wasn't too keen on the others. We both wished that we had ordered a dessert each and not had the sharing platter because we only liked some of it and the portions were so small but there's always next time! The meal was delicious and I look forward to going back to Geisha. Thanks Zomato!
Monday, 15 February 2016
Last Friday, my friend and I met up for a lunch date and decided to go to Fallon and Byrne on Exchequer street, Dublin 2. I had never been before so was looking forward to trying it out as I had gone past the food market many times and never had the time to go in. When you walk into the food market you go up the stairs to get to the restaurant. We were welcomed and seated at a table where we were greeted by a lovely waiter who looked after us for our visit. Before I get into the review about the food, I just have to highlight what a pleasant experience we had, the waiter did everything to ensure that we were satisfied at all times.
As it was a lunch, I was deciding between having a soup and a salad or just a salad. In the end, I chose to have a small caesar salad which had crisp pancetta, shaved parmesan, garlic croutons and chive and I decided to add chicken. My friend chose the pan-seared Dingle hake, braised salsify, burnt scallions, king oyster mushrooms and verjus. While you're waiting for your food, you're offered a choice of complimentary bread. The two types of bread available were tomato and fennel or sourdough. I'm not a fan of sourdough bread so I chose to have the tomato and fennel which I cannot wait to purchase in their food market. My friend had a slice of both and he favoured the tomato and fennel.
When the caesar salad came to the table, I was pleasantly surprised at the portion size. I've tried many caesar salads around Dublin and this has been one of the best! The blend of flavours was a delight to the palate. I especially enjoyed the pancetta, it was extremely appetising. I'm not a fish lover but my friend assured me that the hake was cooked to perfection
As the meal came to an end we both felt as though it had been a sublime dining experience. I look forward to going back to Fallon and Byrne to dive into the menu and explore the various options that are available. I also look forward to spending time in the food market and purchasing their superb tomato and fennel bread.