Tired? Energy Low? Get Your Iron Levels Checked!

Earlier today I visited my doctor for a regular check-up and had my recent blood test results reviewed…I am happy to report most of my levels were normal, including my Iron and Total Iron. However, my Ferritin levels are low. In fact…very low. According to the test results, the recommended levels are between 10 and 154 ng/mL. My doctor upped that to between 50 and 150. My numbers? 6L. And while my doctor wasn’t very concerned (she said the Ferritin really only comes into effect if you need to go into your blood storage…), running experts say otherwise.

With that in mind, I figured I’d share some information about Ferritin levels and recommend that we all get our blood tested and checked at least once a year (especially if you are feeling tired and run-down)! And with that in mind…I anticipate my running only improving and my times only getting faster (once I start my iron pills)! I will be starting with an over the counter supplement (sulfate) first thing tomorrow morning!

Courtesy to RunnersConnect.net.

Outside of training deficiencies, low iron levels in runners is one of the most common reasons for poor results during workouts and races. Recent research indicates that almost 56% percent of joggers and competitive runners suffer from an iron deficiency that severely hampers performance. By closely monitoring iron intake and supplementing if needed, you can quickly boost performance and prevent lulls in your training.

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency in Runners

Determining if you have an iron deficiency can be somewhat difficult if you’re a runner. The main symptom of low iron levels is fatigue and a slight shortness of breath. You can appreciate the dilemma here if you’re a runner – you’re always tired after a workout and shortness of breath defines our preferred mode of transportation.

If you are worried that you might be iron deficient, you should schedule an appointment with your physician for a blood test. It’s a simple test that most doctors would be willing to provide if you tell them you’re running a lot of miles and feeling more fatigued than usual. Even if you are not iron deficient, you can establish a good baseline for your iron levels, which could help you identify an iron problem down the road.

The major results of interest to runners are: hemoglobin (Hg), hematocrit (Hct), iron (Fe), total iron binding capacity (TIBC), and ferritin. In anemia, your hemoglobin and hematocrit, which are a measure of your red blood cell count, are low. In iron deficiency, your iron is low, your total iron binding capacity is high (meaning there is lots of extra room to bind more iron), and your ferritin (a measure of your iron stores) is low.  In my experience coaching elite runners, a ferritin level less than 30 ng/ml in women and less than 40 ng/ml in men is often enough to reduce performance and impact your running.

Why is Iron Important for Runners

Red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin (an iron-containing protein), transport oxygen to your working muscles when you run. If you have low iron levels, you will generate fewer red blood cells and your hemoglobin levels will decline. Therefore, less oxygen will be transported to your muscles, and running performance will suffer. Studies on how low iron levels can cause injuries (especially in runners).

How Runners Lose Iron

Runners lose more iron than non-runners for a multitude of reasons.

Through your feet – First, a process called foot strike hemolysis occurs in runners, especially those who run high mileage. Foot strike hemolysis is a process where red blood cells are damaged when the foot hits the ground, thus reducing your hemoglobin levels.

Through sweat – Iron is lost through sweating. While the amount of iron loss isn’t staggering, for a runner working out in hot and humid conditions, the losses can easily add up.

Through the intestines – Loss of iron through the GI tract (primarily the stomach or large intestine) is a problem for some athletes. Iron loss through the GI tract is fairly minor, but there may be a cumulative effect over months of running that leads to iron deficiency.

Female runners – Finally, female runners have an especially difficult time maintaining proper iron levels since they also lose iron during menstruation.

How to Supplement

As you can see, the cards are stacked against you as a runner when it comes to maintaining your iron levels. Therefore, it is important that you consciously monitor your iron intake through your diet and with supplements, if you already have low levels.

Iron rich foods

Good food sources of iron include: lean meat, oysters, egg yolk, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, dried fruit, and whole grain or enriched cereals and bread. If you are worried about your iron levels, avoid drinking coffee, milk, or tea with iron-rich meals, as calcium inhibits iron absorption. In addition, you should drink vitamin C with your iron rich foods since vitamin C aids in absorption.

Supplementation

I suggest most runners be on an iron supplement unless their iron levels have tested high in the past.

  • When you go to buy an iron supplement, make sure it’s in the form of ferrous sulfate. Usually, you can find iron at a health store like vitamin world or a GNC. You can take iron in a pill or liquid form, whichever works best for you. Pills are often easier to find, but liquid absorbs better.
  • Like when you’re eating, avoid calcium an hour before and an hour after taking your iron. Likewise, take with vitamin B (a pill or orange juice) and a B-complex supplement to aid absorption.
  • I suggest taking your supplement before bed. Iron supplements can sometimes cause minor stomach issues and gas. If you take them at night, it probably won’t bother you. If your stomach does bother you, taking ferrous gluconate rather than ferrous sulfate can be easier on your stomach. Iron supplements can also cause constipation, so you could consider a stool softener if needed.
  • If you’re just looking to maintain your iron levels, supplement with 30mg of elemental iron. If you are iron deficient, supplement with 60mg of elemental iron.

By paying attention to your iron levels, getting tested if you think you may be low, and increasing your iron intake through diet or supplements, you can avoid lulls in your training and boost performance.

Read more here and here.

Low ferritin levels have also been shown to substantially increase the risk of injury.

During the cross-country season, there were 71 injuries severe enough to cause lost training time. Those runners who were injured had average ferritin levels which were about 40-per cent lower than those found in non-injured runners. In addition, the 34 runners with the lowest ferritin concentrations had twice as many injuries as the 34 runners with highest ferritin.

The researchers concluded that low ferritin is related to an increased risk of injury in female cross-country runners. Since iron is a key component of haemoglobin, the compound which carries oxygen to muscles and other tissues, it’s possible that athletes with low ferritin had decreased oxygen delivery to tissues and therefore became fatigued more easily during workouts and races, compared to individuals with normal ferritin. Their exhausted muscles would then be less able to stabilize and support the knees and ankles – two key sites of injury in the study. Low ferritin might also decrease the rate at which muscles and connective tissues are repaired, allowing minor injuries to blow up into major problems –Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 25(5), Supplement, p. S25, 1993

Perfectionism: The Double-edged Sword

Every once in a while I come upon really insightful and interesting case studies and white papers that touch on a nerve, get me thinking, compel me to share the piece with others…And here is another one straight from the University of South Florida’s “The Counseling Center for Human Development.” (Circa 2000.) Enjoy – and let me know if you recognize someone while reading this. Potentially yourself? Your spouse? Your child? I know I sure did…not mentioning any names!

Ask yourself while reading this piece – if you do relate…what can you personally do to grow? Put a little less pressure and stress on yourself? Enjoy life a little more? And probably even succeed at a faster and greater (and more enjoyable rate)…

Perfectionism: The Double-edged Sword

Do you push yourself to be the “best?” The best student, greek, athlete or friend. Do you get upset with yourself when you’re anything less? While we all strive toward excellence, some individuals have a great difficulty accepting a personal role of less than “number one.” These people are considered perfectionists.

Many college (and high school) students are perfectionists. To these students, obtaining a “B” is considered a failure. (Not being the best on their team…not being the best in their class…all failures.) They are unwilling to accept an “average” performance or role, because to them, “average” equals “second-rate.”

Perfectionism is not the healthy pursuit of excellence, as most people tend to believe, but rather it is the compulsive striving toward unrealistic goals, declares psychiatrist David Burns. “Setting high personal standards and goals, and working hard to attain them is appropriate,” he says. “However, perfectionists set excessively high goals and strive compulsively to achieve them, punishing themselves for mistakes and lowering self-esteem because they can’t reach these impossibly high goals.”

Perfectionists believe compulsive striving is necessary for success. Aiming to be the “best” all the time virtually guarantees feelings of failure, however. In fact, studies suggest that perfectionists are often less productive and successful, and experience more stress and anxiety than their co-workers/students/teammates. For perfectionists, who measure worth entirely in terms of productivity and accomplishments, this vicious cycle is self-perpetuating and self-defeating…

So what’s the answer? First of all, be aware of the difference between setting high personal standards and perfectionism. Setting high standards involves the pursuit of success and realistic goals, while perfectionism involves setting impossibly high goals (all the time) and is motivated by the fear of failure.

Second, learn to focus on your successes rather than perceived failures. Perfectionists typically view success as an “avoidance of failure” and as a result rarely gain satisfaction from their achievements.

And finally, your worth as a person is not determined solely by your accomplishments. Feelings of self-worth are also affected by such factors as interpersonal relationships, physical health and appearance, spiritual beliefs and emotional well-being. Perfectionists often focus on only one area of their life to the exclusion of others.

10 Steps to Overcome Perfectionism

Raindrop Massage: An Essential Experience

I thought I had written about Raindrop Massages before…but apparently not. Well, after seeing the availability of a Living Social deal at the Chiropractic & Sports Rehab Institute in Boynton Beach for this amazing massage, I thought I’d write about it here. 

Raindrop Massage, a healing and cleansing massage that combines aromatherapy, reflexology, and other techniques, results in an experience that reaches all levels of the body, mind and emotion. First discovered during research by Dr. Gary Young, a Naturopathic physician back in the 1980’s, Raindrop Massage or Therapy focuses on the application of a number of specific essential oils to various parts of the body through a combination of techniques.

Following the application of the essential oils to the individual’s spine, the therapist applies a massage technique called vita flex which enhances the benefits of the essential oils. Afterwards, a hot compress is applied to the body which provides further assistance to releasing the benefits of the essential oils. The legs and feet are then also massaged using the vita flex technique. A Raindrop Massage lasts approximately 50 minutes; however, the oils will continue to benefit the body for up to a week after the procedure.

Raindrop Massage is considered a detoxification for the body—in addition to an opportunity to bring balance, harmony, relaxation and overall wellness. According to Laura Ann Buchbinder, a certified aroma therapist, who is now offering Raindrop Massages a few days a week at the Chiropractic & Sports Rehabilitation Institute, the experience is personalized and tailored to each patient. “While working on an individual and speaking to them I am able to choose the appropriate oils for their condition,” said Buchbinder. “Stressed, inflamed skin, soreness in the muscles? There’s an essential oil for everything!”

Some of the most common essential oils used during treatment include:

  • Lavender: Soothing, anti-inflammatory, great for skin, most versatile of essential oils
  • Birch: Ideal for bone repair, muscles after exercise and soothing tension
  • Tangerine: Calming, helps with occasional irritability
  • Peppermint: Cooling and refreshing, great for concentration

Learn more at www.drdavidrudnick.com.

And check out the Living Special deal here.

 

 

Maccabiah Games History: Why We Must Push Forward!

Held in Israel every four years, the Maccabiah Games is named for Jewish warrior Judah Maccabe who fought against the ancient Greeks. Many notable athletes have competed in the Maccabiah, including swimmer Mark Spitz, gymnast Mitch Gaylord, golfer Corey Pavin, basketball players Ernie Grunfeld and Danny Shayes and tennis player Dick Savitt. The following is a brief history of the games:

Maccabiah I (1932) — The first Maccabiah Games was nicknamed the “White Horse Olympics” because Tel Aviv mayor Dizengoff led a parade honoring the games through the city streets while riding a white horse. The opening ceremony witnessed the release of 120 carrier pigeons, 10 pigeons for each of the 12 tribes of Israel, whose mission was to send to the world news of the opening of the first Maccabiah games. Approximately 390 athletes from 14 countries participated in the competition.

Maccabiah II (1935) — These games were was held despite official opposition by the British Mandatory government. A German delegation of 134 Jews flouted Nazi Germany’s order not to attend the games and the delegation refused to fly the German flag during the opening ceremonies. The games became known as the “Aliyah Olympics” because many of the athletes from the various countries chose to remain and settle in Israel. With few exceptions, the Bulgarian delegation stayed in Israel, sending home their sports equipment and musical instruments. A total of 28 countries were represented by 1,350 athletes.

Maccabiah III (1950) — Originally scheduled for 1938, the event was postponed because of the international political situation and British fears of an upsurge in illegal immigration. The first games to be held after the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel was attended by 800 athletes representing 19 countries.

Maccabiah IV (1953) — This Maccabiah initiated the tradition of bringing from Modi’in, Judah Maccabee’s birthplace, the torch used to light the flame at the opening ceremony. A total of 890 athletes from 12 countries participated.

Maccabiah V (1957) — Some Eastern European countries did not send delegations to protest the Sinai Campaign. Competitors included American weightlifter and Olympic gold medalist Isaac Berger and Australian national tennis champion Eva Dulding. Hungarian four-time Olympic gold medalist Agnes Kleti performed in two exhibitions. The policy of playing the Maccabiah every four years was established.

Maccabiah VI (1961) — The International Olympics Committee endowed the Maccabi World Union with Olympic standing and declared the Maccabiah a “Regional Sports Event.” American Dick Savitt won two gold medals. Exhibitions were performed by two American Olympic medalists, Rafer Johnson (decathlon) and John Thomas (high jump). The event had 1,000 competitors from 27 nations.

Maccabiah VII (1965) — Several well-known athletes won medals, including swimmer Mark Spitz (winner of seven gold medals in the Munich Olympics), swimmer Marilyn Ramenofsky (then USA record-holder and silver medalist in the Rome Olympics in the 400-meter freestyle) and international tennis player Tom Okker (Holland).

Maccabiah VIII (1969) — Wimbledon winner Julie Heldman participated in the eighth Maccabiah.

Maccabiah IX (1973) — This event was dedicated to the 11 Israeli Olympians murdered by terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics. (Russell Perlman participated.)

Maccabiah X (1977) — “The Jubilee Maccabiah” marked 25 years of Maccabiah competition. More than 2,700 competitors from 33 countries participated.

Maccabiah XI (1981) — The games honored the memory of Maccabiah World Union President and International Maccabiah Games Committee President Pierre Gildesgame who died in a car accident. Thirty countries sent 3,450 to play in the games. Dan Shayes, the future Denver Nugget, played for the American basketball squad.

Maccabiah XII (1985) — Olympic legend Mark Spitz opened the games lighting a torch along with three children of Israeli Olympians murdered at the Munich Olympics. Four thousand sportsman from 40 countries attended the games. The junior Maccabiah was established.

Maccabiah XIII (1889) — The opening torch was carried by former world swimming champion Hanoch Budin, an IDF disabled veteran. The event brought together 4,500 athletes from 45 countries.

Maccabiah XIV (1993)— A total 5,500 athletes from 57 nations competed.

Maccabiah XV (1997) — Former Montreal Canadien coach Jacques Demers led a Canadian hockey squad consisting of numerous NHL players. The event was marred when a pedestrian bridge collapsed and four Australian athletes were killed and more than 60 other people were injured. (Melissa Perlman participated as a junior member of the track team.)

Maccabiah XVI (2001) — On the verge of cancellation because of ongoing violence, the 16th Maccabiah attracted more than 3,000 athletes from 41 Countries to participate in 44 sports. Women’s basketball returned to the Games and women’s soccer was added. U.S. Olympic swimming gold medalist and former world record holder, Lenny Krayzelburg earned a gold and set a new Maccabiah record in the 100 meter backstroke.

Maccabiah XVII (2005) — Some 7,000 athletes from 55 countries participated in the 2005 Maccabiah Games.

Maccabiah XVIII (2009) — Approximately 9,000 athletes from 54 countries participated.

Next up: Maccabiah XVIV (2013) – Melissa Perlman to participate again. Interested in supporting and keeping the tradition going? Click here.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month & Losing My Mom

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to share the story of my mom and how she lost her battle with breast cancer four years ago, and how I miss her more than ever.

Remember Me With Smiles And Laughter…

My mom, Susan Perlman, was diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2006. We knew she was going in for tests. She had found a bump a week or so earlier. But it was more than a bump at this point. It had disfigured her breast. I stayed home from work that day as if I knew the results were going to be bad. My mom called me. She told me it was not good. She had Stage 4 breast cancer and it wasn’t going away. She tried to hold back the tears. She didn’t want me to hear her crying. But could hear her, and she could hear me. My sister’s husband Rich picked me up because my mom didn’t want me driving. She wanted me to get to my parents’ house in Wellington, but knew I wouldn’t make it if I was driving. I sobbed in the car the whole way, looking out the window, not talking, and unable to control myself. It was the worst moment of my life.

I walked into my parents’ house. My mom was sitting waiting for us to arrive. I didn’t want to cry in front of her or show her that I couldn’t control myself. I wanted to be strong. But how could I be strong when deep inside me, I needed her more than anything in my life. My mom was my everything.

I remember calling a friend from college that same day I found out. I called her because she had lost her father in college. It had destroyed her – left her heartbroken and damaged. I met her after her dad had died, after she went through a period of depression, after she suffered the majority of the pain. But there was still a lot left over. I wanted to call her because I knew she would know how I felt. I would listen to what she told me…not push her away and assume she knew nothing about what I was going through – like I did with others. I just worried about what I had coming to me. I loved my mom more than anything and I knew if there was pain out there to be felt – I was going to feel it. My friend listened. She didn’t tell me it would get easier – because she knew it wouldn’t. But I felt like I wasn’t so alone when I spoke to her…like she understood.

After the diagnosis

No one knows how someone should feel or act when they are diagnosed with cancer; and no one knows how someone should feel or act when the person closest to them is diagnosed with cancer. When my mom was first diagnosed – it was a balancing act. I had just started a new relationship that I knew wasn’t going anywhere – but it became a distraction. I remember the weekend after my mom diagnosed – the guy I was dating took me to the Keys for the day. We swam with the dolphins, ate dinner and came back to South Florida – or reality. I would do that a lot. Get away and not think about my mom or how she was dying. The other half of the time – I would cry alone. I would go to my parents’ house and hide out in my old room where I could cry alone in my bed, surrounded by belongings, pictures and things that once meant so much. One time, I recall my dad coming upstairs to check on me. He found me crying and said he knew it all too well. We would often sit up there together and cry. I’m not sure if my mom ever knew what we were doing.

At work – people would ask me how I was. And I would explain. I remember Brian Levine, my boss, telling me that I can’t wait around for the next 2, 4, 6, 10 years for my mom to die or not to. That I can’t go to her house every weekend and ignore my own life and needs. I knew that he meant well and that he didn’t want me to put off life to be with my mom, but I yelled back at him telling him that I wasn’t waiting…that I needed to be with her every weekend for my own sanity and that I wanted to spend time with her and have no regrets.

I remember explaining to Gerri Pinvidic, who sat in the cubicle adjacent to my own, how I wanted to be with my mom and going out was not important in comparison. Gerri, who was a mom herself and two daughters around the same age as me, disagreed. She told me I should start going out; spend Friday night with friends, and then drive to my parents’ house on Saturday morning and spend the weekend there. I started doing that. Saturday and Sunday afternoons I spent with my mom, going to the mall, having lunch, and just being near each other. I sometimes wonder had I not lived so close to my parents at this time what I would have done…left work, moved home, etc. Honestly, if I had to do it again – I would have moved back in with my mom permanently and spent every second with her…there never seemed to be enough time.

One afternoon at work – there was a dedication service going on in the parking lot near one of the buildings at Office Depot’s corporate campus. I stood in my boss Brian’s office looking out at the trees and the gathering people. They were making a dedication to Jim, a Vice President in the Finance Division at Office Depot who died in a motorcycle accident. His wife and daughter stood outside holding hands crying. I cried uncontrollably in Brian’s office. No one was there to hear me or see me. I closed the door to be alone. I was crying because I knew this day was coming for me. That soon my dad, sister, brother and I would stand there just like them – staring straight ahead without my mom. This is the day I began to accept my fate.

Pain

The next two years were kind of a blur. Every week there was something new. The doctors kept telling us about the latest drugs that they wanted to test. At one point, the doctors couldn’t do anything right – even misdiagnosing my mom’s specific type of cancer (pre-menopausal or not) and prescribing her the wrong medication. We were full of anger, blame, resentment and sadness. And simultaneously there were chemo and radiation sessions for weeks on end. My mom was sick.  Her appetite was fading.  She was losing weight, felt tired and was on ridiculously high doses of pain medicine.  The only thing for her to look forward to, in her mind, was the Bracha or “breast cancer gene” test during and after which she prayed the results would confirm she didn’t carry the gene. When she found out the good news she called with a relieved sound in her voice: “I received the best news.  All I care about is that I do not carry the cancer gene and my girls won’t get it.” (Or at least our odds were lessened.)

A couple of months later, my parents vacationed in Hawaii. Before leaving, a few tests were given to my mom – but no answers provided. My parents decided they wanted to enjoy their trip – and not know the results, which they assumed were bad. Upon their return, we were shocked and elated to learn the news was good and that the cancer was gone. My mom was in remission. She called me screaming and laughing on the phone. She said the radiologist gave her the report and told her not to read it. She didn’t listen. How could she? She started reading the document as she walked out of the hospital. She read the report: “No sign of the cancer…” She cried and she called my dad to tell him. Then, all of us. She thought that this was it – that things were going to get better for her, for all of us.

Unfortunately, the results were wrong or temporary. And only months later – the cancer was back. It had not just returned; it had come back with a vengeance. The cancer was in her back, ribs and neck – and in bones located critically close to important organs. The doctors kept repeating: “The cancer can’t kill you if it is in your bones. We are in trouble when it spreads to other organs.”

Disney Wedding Together

In May of 2008, the whole family went to Orlando, FL for my cousin Brandon’s wedding. We all stayed together in a little condo just outside Disney. It was something that I could only dream up – my parents were downstairs, Lindsay, Rich, the boys, Michael and me upstairs. On the wedding night, we took picture after picture of our family, together in the chapel, the ballroom and then dancing. We somehow knew that these were going to be lasting pictures. The pictures of my mom were beautiful. Even though because of the medicine she was thin from not eating, she was still beautiful in every way. Her brown eyes were dark and they were mesmerizing. During the entire night my mom took pictures of me, my dad, Michael, Lindsay, etc. dancing. She was loving it. It was her role – the one she had when I was growing up…taking pictures of us kids, in front of old fancy cars, on the beach, in trees, and on the track/fields. She was a fantastic photographer. I don’t have a million pictures of my mom and me today; However, I know almost every picture of me, or my siblings that was ever taken – had my mom’s hands on it, as she was the one clicking the camera.

Sicker

One week later – my mom and dad returned to Orlando for a friend’s daughter’s wedding. On the way back my mom’s eye started to act up – it was no longer closing properly. Next, the whole side of her face was frozen – no longer moving. When I saw her that weekend, I was shocked – not expecting the change. It was later that week that my mom checked in the hospital. She wasn’t feeling well and because of her face, they thought it was time. My dad called me and I immediately drove to see her. Michael, me, Lindsay, Rich and my dad sat around the bed where my mom was laying. We knew it was bad. My mom didn’t look strong. I didn’t understand how it had happened so fast – she was okay just weeks earlier and now things had changed so quickly. My dad told us the cancer was aggressive and it had moved to my mom’s skull. It was causing pressure to on her brain and her face was paralyzed as a result. The doctor thought that by giving my mom radiation she would improve and she did. But it was clear that the improvement would be temporary.

Israel

The first thing my mom said to me was that I needed to go to Israel. I had been scheduled to go to Israel in August as part of a free “birthright” trip for 18 to 26 year olds. I was thinking how I couldn’t go and that I didn’t want to go. I would never forgive myself if my mom got sicker and I wasn’t around. But my mom begged me to go. The doctor confirmed that it was a good idea for me to go. My mom said she wanted to see my pictures after I returned. I ultimately agreed and know now it was the right decision – because the emails from my mom I have over the two weeks that are my most treasured possessions.

I returned from Israel in mid-July and my mom was waiting for me at the airport. It reminded me of college – how every summer and winter break when I would come home – mom would be waiting for me. I always complained to my mom that she wasn’t as showy as the other moms…How she didn’t send me care packages in the mail with candy, stuffed animals and cards…Instead I received boxes filled with vitamins of all types that would help me feel better, run better, get stronger. My mom would do anything to make my life easier, to make it better. She didn’t do it because it was cutesy or fun. She did it all for a reason. We walked from the airport to where my dad was waiting for us. We went home and in the car I told my mom and dad about my adventures in Israel.

Kyle’s first birthday party. Yellow, glasses.

Lindsay planned a first birthday party for her second child, Kyle, close to his birthday in mid-August after I had returned from Israel. Mom showed up wearing sunglasses to cover up her left eye that wasn’t closing properly, which she was embarrassed about. Her skin and eyes had turned yellow – her liver was failing we were told. I spent the birthday sitting near my mom. We sat on the couch together; I crouched near her seat at the table. Dad said that Mom’s last goal was to make it to Kyle’s first birthday party. We had also booked a cruise for the following month (early September) of which I fully assumed mom would make it to. Mom told dad that she wanted us to go on the cruise regardless – and to not cancel it because of her. Dad agreed. A friend of Lindsay’s took the last picture of my mom and me at Kyle’s birthday. 

The last few weeks….

The most important thing I did before my mom’s death was move in with my parents for about two weeks. I was there at the end, and while it was emotional, hard and devastating at times, I will never forget those moments and being there for my mom. While she had trouble showing her love, because she was consumed with pain and sadness, she knew I was there for her, and I know that made her feel good. Those last two weeks were the hardest of my life. Day by day – things seemed to get worse. It went from my mom being tired and laying in bed all day; to sleeping for the majority of the time and only getting up for short spurts; to laying there and not speaking at all except to cry in pain; to no longer being able to get out of bed – even with assistance; to finally being unable to respond.

August 30, 2008

My mom died Saturday, August 30. It was 10pm at night. I had just gone to sleep a few minutes earlier when my dad came into the room that I was staying in and said “Melissa – she’s gone. Mom just passed.” I ran into the room and cried, sitting next to her bed. My dad then called Lindsay and Rich. Lindsay raced over immediately. Rich stayed with the kids. Michael asked not to be told if mom passed until the next morning. My dad called the funeral director – and they came to take mom away. Lindsay and I cried together. My grandma (mom’s mom), who had also been staying at my parents’ house for the prior few weeks, came in and cried with us. Grandpa stayed in his room. Reality had finally set in.

Saying Goodbye

Days earlier when the Rabbi had visited the house, he mentioned how four people speaking could get lengthy. My dad, Lindsay, Michael and I all wanted to say something – our own words, our own memories of our mom. The four of us saying something special in our own unique way turned out to be the most beautiful way to remember her. We expressed the love we had for mom and the love she had for us. I asked the Rabbi to read the following passage from an email my mom had sent me while I was in Israel…Some of her most emotional words came through in writing on that trip.

I just love you so much, you have grown to be a wonderful loving mature daughter. G-d has already indeed blessed me more than I could ever imagine. I am so indebted to him for all he has given me. I really mean that. You 3 kids are everything to me, you are all my most amazing accomplishments. No matter what else I have done, my children are the true successes and major achievements of my life, always remember that.

The words were haunting…and summed up my mom’s life and the love she gave us all everyday. She would absolutely do anything for us and give anything for us. That was her priority – and we felt it everyday.

My dad, Lindsay, Michael and I were then given the chance to speak. Following were my words…

My mom for many of you was a friend, a consult and a resource. But to me, this woman that we celebrate today was much more. My mom was and is everything to me. She is the first person I call when I get a raise or a promotion at work; the first person I describe those first date butterflies to; the first person I call when my car blows out a tire and I’m stuck on the side of I 95; the first person I cry to, laugh with and celebrate life with. My mom has been more than a mother to me. She has been my best friend, my confidant and my person that I can tell anything and say anything to.

When I think about what life will be like tomorrow, or next week – waking up, going to work, going to Pei Wei for lunch, running in a 5k race, attending one of our big Sunday family brunches, going to my parents’ house for the weekend – and not having my mom there waiting for me, smiling at me, hugging me and all-around just being with me – is unimaginable.

For those of you that know our family, you know that we are close…beyond close. There is no one that I’d rather spend my birthday with, New Years Eve with, a Caribbean cruise with – than my family – my parents. The ongoing joke in our family for the past few years has been that my mom and dad can’t get away from us…that the problem isn’t the parents following their kids – it’s us following them. That’s how amazing and special my parents are – and always will be to me.

I can remember high school and my mom waking me up before I left for school to cook me breakfast and make me lunch. My mom and dad watched every high school track and cross country race I was in. My dad yelled and videotaped me running; while my mom took hundreds of pictures of me and my teammates – running, posing, candids, everything…in fact she and the photo manager at what was then Eckerd’s in Boca Raton became close friends. Every week the photo lab knew to expect my mom and her three plus rolls of film that needed to be developed. My mom did more than that. She would drive to the Sun Sentinel and Boca News offices to ask for the original screens of newspaper articles I was in so she could frame them and hang them on my bedroom walls. And they are still hanging in my parents’ house today.

And then in college – when I was far away in Rhode Island – and my mom in FL – she would come and visit me for full weekends and we’d spend every moment together – shopping, eating out, going to Borders for coffee, and walking around the streets of Providence. One of my mom’s favorite stories was when we walked into Ocean’s – a bagel shop and café on Brown’s campus – and the guy at the counter took a double take at us and was speechless, saying we looked like twins.

The stories that I could tell you are endless…my mom was one-of-a-kind and everyone that had the opportunity to meet her knew that. One of the most amazing qualities of my mom was her want and willingness to do anything to help her children – to fix a problem, to help us, to make things better and to give us the tools and support to succeed. My mom has jumped in the car to drive half way across Florida to pick me up when I called and told her I needed her; when my tire blew out, she parked her SUV behind my car on the shoulder of I 95 to protect me from passing vehicles until the cops arrived; she has stood up for me countless times – specifically once in fourth grade when a teacher punished me and made me clean the cafeteria floors; she has slept by my side in my old West Palm Beach apartment after it was flooded by the hurricanes; my mom has taken me on a week long vacation to the west coast of Florida for some one-on-one time – just me and her – in the sun…why? Because I needed it. And my mom knew it.

As my dad describes her – she is a lion – and she protected Lindsay, Michael and I as if we were her cubs. We have always been number one to her. We were her priority and she has always made us feel it.

I can’t tell you how many wonderful afternoons my mom and I have spent together – at Sweet Tomatoes, Pei Wei, Starbucks, Petsmart, Banana Republic, the mall, or Barnes and Noble talking, laughing and just being with one another. The two of us have been inseparable – spending hours in the mall, trying on clothing in Banana, and modeling it for each other. The salespeople always giggled with us when we came into the store and I know it’s because they saw how special and rare our relationship was… How lucky we were and are to have each other.

You see – I know I am lucky. I consider myself to be the luckiest person in the world – for the life that I have lived so far and for the 26 years of love, of time, of care, of support, of trust, of teaching, of guidance – from my mom. She is absolutely the most amazing person in the world that I know.

When we were little – my mom would watch Little House on the Prairie with us…in fact I was named after Melissa Gilbert – the actress who played Sarah Ingles. And I can remember one of our favorite episodes…when one of the characters “Julia Sanderson” died…she asked the Reverend to read something at her funeral –something that affected us both…she said:

“Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I’ll remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.”

And that is what I keep telling myself now…that I have a choice. To spend the rest of my life sad for what I am missing out on – for the life experiences, dreams and moments going forward that mom won’t be here for physically…or thanking god and smiling for the time that I’ve had, for the life I’ve had and for my mom. Because I truly believe that my relationship with my mom and the amount of love that we have shared will hold me forever…

Mommy, I love you. And I thank you for being the person you are, the mother you have been, and for the person you have helped me become. My only hope is that I continue to make you proud…and that you watch down on me forever. I love you.

Love Always, Melissa

Days later, I remember my colleague Yalmaz Siddiqui writing me and telling me it was the most beautiful funeral he had ever been to…that our words, our memories were so well preserved and expressed.

I had to agree.

19th World Maccabiah Games, Team USA

It’s a countdown to the Israel! Support me as I train for the Half Marathon race at the 19th World Maccabiah Games in Israel in 2013. As I get my training started and progress through the Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer…I will be sharing updates right here for you! Look out for the heading “19th World Maccabiah Games” to stay in the know with my training and ultimately results!

Interested in supporting me? I will be sure to make mention of you (and/or your company) right here to make sure you get the public thank you deserve!

On that note, I’d like to start off with special thanks to the following individuals who have already supported me and my journey back to Israel for Team USA:

  • Russ Perlman
  • Valentina Moretti
  • Jeannie Stave