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February 16th, 2010
04:23 PM ET

Fit Nation Challenge: If I can do it, you can, too!

By Angie Brouhard
CNN Fit Nation Challenge Participant

When my husband heard about the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge, the first thing he said to me was “You have a great story! I think you should share it!” I do have a good story, and I think a lot of women across our country can relate to my life.

CNN Fit Nation Challenge participant Angie Brouhard.

CNN Fit Nation Challenge participant Angie Brouhard.

I have always taken care of myself and my family. We eat healthy meals, enjoy being active, avoid foods that are high in fat or cholesterol. So we were stunned by my April 2009 diagnosis of breast cancer, detected by a routine mammogram. My husband and I began gathering information, meeting with doctors, asking opinions, researching treatments. Our strong faith, our family and our friends helped us get through that difficult time.

At 40 years old, I was in pretty good shape, jogging a few times a week and biking with our kids. When the breast cancer diagnosis came, my activity level dropped. Throughout my surgeries and treatments, I walked through our neighborhood once or twice a week, but my energy level was low and my motivation even lower. I gained over 15 pounds from my diagnosis in April to my last surgery in December. Just one week after my reconstructive surgery, my husband saw Dr. Gupta’s segment on CNN that would change my life.

The hardest part of the Triathlon Challenge for me has been jumping into the fitness routine – especially the swim. My idea of swimming is floating in the lake wearing a life jacket or splashing around in the pool, playing sharks and minnows with the kids and jumping off the diving board. Not swimming lap after lap. The morning of my first swim workout, I watched the ladies on the masters swim team at our local YMCA. They looked so graceful, beautiful, and strong as they sliced through the water, lap after lap. I lowered myself into the water and splashed toward the other end, gasping for breath and praying that I could make it to the wall. Yesterday, I finished my 10th pool workout, and although I am still uneasy being seen in public in my swimsuit in February, I am happy to report that I can swim 700 yards – stopping to catch my breath after every 50. I have found that I love to swim!

The first day of my bike workout was a similar experience. Walking into a cycling class for the first time is intimidating. Everyone else followed the instructor’s directions without missing a beat – stand, lunge, push up, squat, stand again. I could hardly even stand and pedal. After 5 minutes, I was ready to climb off. Again, I am happy to report that the last class I took, I could complete 90 percent of the instructor’s directions. Much improvement in just a few classes!

My husband and oldest son are runners. When I watch my son run, I see him practically fly. His feet barely touch the ground. My first “run” of my training consisted of a 2-mile jog/walk through our neighborhood. Now, four weeks later, I can jog 4 miles without stopping.

I admit it is tough to juggle the everyday demands of life – keeping up with the laundry, cooking, cleaning, working, taking care of the kids, driving the carpool, shopping – without working out six days a week. Crazy! But I want to take control of my physical well being. I want to be an example to my kids that I am taking care of myself and that I will rise to any challenge – whether it be breast cancer or a triathlon.

I remember lying on the couch last summer recovering from a chemotherapy treatment and wondering if I would ever feel like myself again. With the motivation of the triathlon and the help of my faith, family and friends, I know I will not just feel like myself again, but I will feel better than ever! So when I cross that finish line on July 18, I will have completely conquered breast cancer. I will be strong and healthy and physically fit! And I will collapse in my husband’s arms and wish him Happy Anniversary!

I hope to inspire others across the country to get out there and do it! Join your local health club and swim a few mornings a week. Take a ride on your bike or get out and start walking. It might put you outside of your comfort zone, but you can do it! If I can do it, you can, too!


February 16th, 2010
10:13 AM ET

When is your chubby baby too chubby?

By Caitlin Hagan
CNN Medical Associate Producer

A new study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics has concluded that "the critical period for preventing childhood obesity...is during the first two years of a child's life and for many by three months of age." It's the first study to identify a so-called "tipping point" in a child's development of obesity. This new finding comes as first lady Michelle Obama is targeting childhood obesity in a new national initiative Let's Move.

"We've been struggling with the older kids, ages 6 to 8, who are already way overweight," says Dr. John W. Harrington of Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia. "And at that age, it's too difficult to change eating habits."

Harrington and his team set out to determine the point at which a child's weight gain becomes unhealthy and leads to overweight.

"We backtracked and said, 'When did this weight first happen?'" says Harrington. "Since the age of 3 or 4 months, these children were overweight as babies...they had normal growth but their weights were averaging well above their heights."

By identifying when the weight gain first develops, Harrington believes pediatricians will be able to intervene early to change poor eating habits in babies and toddlers on track to becoming overweight.

But the study doesn't change the old adage that a chubby baby is still a healthy baby, especially since babies need extra fat for brain, eye, and nerve development. But Harrington argues that babies need less fat in their diets than was once thought.

"Parents feel the need to feed the child; feed them, feed them, feed them" says Harrington. "But they're not watching what the child is doing."

The key for parents is to pay attention to simple cues to ensure that they're not overfeeding their baby. For example, when a baby stops suckling while being breastfed or pulls his face away from his bottle, he may be too full to want more formula even if he's had only half of his usual serving.

Another cue is to watch how frequently your baby drools while feeding. Drooling from the side of his mouth could signal he's eaten enough.

"Your baby can control their eating habits" says Harrington. "And if you allow them to do that, they can control what they take in."

Harrington suggests a feeding schedule of 2 to 3 ounces per feeding during the first few weeks of your baby's life. That should increase to 5 to 6 ounces per feeding by your baby's 6-month mark. But he also cautions that all parents should consult with their peditrician about any concerns they have about feeding practices or their baby's weight.

Do you worry about your baby's weight? How often are you feeding your child?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


February 16th, 2010
09:05 AM ET

H1N1 vaccine — I had an allergic reaction

By Ashley WennersHerron
CNN Medical Intern

I am an allergy sufferer — from seasonal sniffles to mushrooms and penicillin. Although I’ve been careful and lucky enough to have to use an adrenaline auto-injector only once, I’m wary of trying new things, whether it’s food or a new vaccine, out of fear of discovering yet another allergy. Despite my hesitation, I felt the protection granted by receiving the H1N1 vaccine outweighed the risk of a possible allergic reaction.

Early this month, I made an appointment with my school’s health center to receive the nasal spray vaccine. When I went in, I bravely tilted my head back, pinched one nostril and then the other for my two shots of vaccine nasal spray. The nurse told me not to blow my nose for 10 minutes and I was free to go.

Nearly 20 minutes later, I felt a familiar tingle in my mouth, similar to the one I get if I eat shellfish. Twenty minutes after that, with my tongue was twice as large as normal, I sounded like Daffy Duck. I had a fever of 102 degrees and a migraine. Yep, I added another allergy to my list — the H1N1 vaccine.

I called a local hospital to see whether I should go to the emergency room. They recommended that I take a Benadryl and come in if I developed respiratory problems. I took the antihistamine tablet and promptly slept away my symptoms. Three hours later, I was a bit groggy, but asymptomatic.

According to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, 6,528 individuals have reported an adverse reaction after receiving the H1N1 vaccine through injection. There have been 1,962 reactions reported for the live nasal spray vaccine. Both coincidental reactions and those caused directly by the vaccine are reported to the VAERS.

The CDC says that the nasal spray may cause a runny nose, but only in certain individuals is there a stronger reaction. If there is a severe reaction, such as trouble breathing, then the person should be brought to a doctor immediately. I was lucky to have only mild symptoms that did not require medical attention.

Despite my discomfort, I’m glad I received my vaccination. I live in a college dorm, surrounded by the 18- to 24-year-old age group most likely to be affected by this strain of influenza. I use public transportation, I shop in crowded grocery stores and I am constantly interacting with other people. The vaccine not only protects me, but it also aids in preventing transmission of the disease.

For me, a young and healthy individual, the flu would probably be mild, but I would still host the virus. This means I could pass it along to my classmates, my co-workers and to strangers on the subway. Someone with a compromised immune system, or someone with a chronic health problem could have much more severe consequences, such as developing pneumonia or respiratory problems.

I’m doing what I can to prevent people from getting sick; are you?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


Filed under: Allergies • H1N1 Flu • H1N1 Flu Vaccine

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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