Lauren Palumbo is Boston Strong!

Regular readers of The Next Phase blog know that I support Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a non-profit food rescue organization. Lovin’ Spoonfuls facilitates the rescue and distribution of healthy, fresh food that would otherwise be discarded. They deliver this food directly to the community organizations and resources where it can have the greatest impact.

Lovin Spoonfuls Truck, “We pick up wholesome, fresh food that would otherwise be thrown away from grocery stores, produce wholesalers, farms and farmers markets, and distribute it to community non-profits that feed Greater Boston’s hungry.”That means they do two things that I really support: feeding hungry people and keeping good food from going to waste. In 2013, my readers and I helped Lovin’ Spoonfuls to win a new truck, which they refrigerated and added to their fleet so they could  increase their distribution area.

This post is written by Lauren Palumbo, the Chief Operating Officer for Lovin Spoonfuls and it was first published on John Hancock’s newsletter, I’m re-publishing Lauren’s story here so my readers can appreciate her courage and support her in running this year’s Boston Marathon for Lovin’ Spoonfuls. The race is only five weeks away.

Guest Author: Lauren Palumbo

I am so excited to be running my first marathon in more than two years. My marathon history began in 2012, when my sister and husband somehow convinced me to run Boston. Though I was intimidated by the distance, I was excited to raise funds for a non-profit and tackle the physical challenge of a marathon in the process. That year was incredibly hot, and like many others, I had a miserable experience getting to the finish line.

That propelled my husband and me to improve our marathon time by running three more marathons in the 18 months that followed. As I was training for our 4th marathon, Chicago in October 2013, I started having difficulty finishing training runs. At the race itself, I didn’t feel well by the halfway point, and struggled to finish.

Boston Strong Run On for the Boston MarathonAs 2014 progressed, each time I stepped out for a run, I found myself feeling lightheaded and weak. My running slowed, and often I was forced to cut runs short. I tried to train for a half marathon in May, but switched to the 5-miler on the same course, knowing I was incapable of finishing 13.1. By June, after running for more than 15 years, I stopped running altogether.

Diagnosing the Problem

Meanwhile, my overall energy waned, my appetite decreased, and I lost 15 pounds. A trip to the doctor’s office to discuss these new challenges sent me to the emergency room, where my dangerously low blood pressure and apparent dehydration caused the ER doctors to admit me to Beth Israel.

I was, and am, fortunate to live in a city with some of the best medical care and a diagnosis came fairly quickly. The next day, after many blood tests, and talking with doctors from what felt like every department, I met with the endocrinologist.  I remember being asked, “Have you ever heard of Addison’s disease?”  I hadn’t, and what followed was a blur as the doctor launched into my diagnosis, an explanation of the disease, and the steroid replacement therapy I would need to be on for the rest of my life.  A few more tests were administered to confirm the diagnosis, and I was released from the hospital with medications and follow up tests and appointments scheduled.

All I wanted was to go home. It was four days before my 32nd birthday, and I did NOT want to think about life with a chronic disease. The following morning, I woke up and looked at the bottle of hydrocortisone on my nightstand, and it reminded me that I would need to take this medication every day for the rest of my life. That’s when it hit me. I spent the morning reading all about Addison’s, confident I would discover an alternate treatment plan that didn’t require constant medication and management. But the doctor turned out to be right; hormone replacement therapy was the only option.

About Addison’s Disease

Primary Adrenal Insufficiency, or Addison’s Disease, is a rare autoimmune disorder which affects your adrenal cortex. The adrenal cortex makes two important steroid hormones, cortisol and aldosterone.

  • Cortisol mobilizes nutrients, modifies the body’s response to inflammation, stimulates the liver to raise the blood sugar, and also helps to control the amount of water in the body.
  • Aldosterone regulates salt and water levels which affect blood volume and blood pressure.

Addison’s is thought to affect one in 25,000 – 100,000 people. Left undiagnosed, Addison’s is fatal. I was fortunate to receive a speedy diagnosis, as that is not often the case.

Once on treatment, I started to feel “normal” again. My energy and stamina came back, my blood pressure normalized, which alleviated the constant light-headedness, and my appetite returned … all of the symptoms dissipated.

Back on the Road

So, I started running again. I started small—two miles at a time, and worked my way back over the months that followed, returning to run my fifth BAA half-marathon that October. It was my first race after diagnosis, and I ran a PR on the course. I ran the same race again this past October and bested my previous time again. And now, I’m ready for the next challenge. I’m so excited for the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon again, to prove that I get to control this disease, and not the other way around. I’m also honored to be able to do it all for an organization that I have spent the past few years working to grow.

Lovin Spoonfuls: “We pick up wholesome, fresh food that would otherwise be thrown away from grocery stores, produce wholesalers, farms and farmers markets, and distribute it to community non-profits that feed Greater Boston’s hungry.”I am grateful to have the support system of my husband, family, friends, and coworkers throughout my training, and I know they’ll be there to cheer me on come race day. And in a way, that mirrors what we’re doing at Lovin’ Spoonfuls.

Each week, we deliver more than 35,000 pounds of fresh, healthy food to incredible organizations throughout the Greater Boston area. We are fortunate to support the work of these shelters, food pantries, soup kitchens, after-school programs, and senior centers, while simultaneously keeping food out of the waste stream—preventing harmful emissions and saving our community money. We’re thrilled to be cheering on and supporting the 80+ agencies we serve, and I’m thrilled to be running this race in support of our work.

Running Boston Strong

When I run, I plan extra medication according to my mileage and time, to manage the physical stress on the body of long-distance running. I plan my nutrition and hydration as well, to ensure I am not adding any undue stress to the equation. There will be difficulties on the way—working my way through distances I haven’t run in years, getting the medication levels right, doctor visits, and blood work.  But I remind myself often how fortunate I am that although I have a chronic, rare disease, it is one where I can still run, and do all of the things I enjoy in life, so long as I manage my medication and stay prepared for potential challenges.

Lauren is running in support of Lovin’ Spoonfuls, and organization which delivers fresh food to organizations throughout the Boston Area. Join me in pushing Lauren toward her goal:

You can follow Lauren on Twitter @lpalumbo and her organization @LovinFoodRescue