Joe Wicks: ‘Other personal trainers think I got lucky’ | Life and style

I was a hyperactive child. I wasn’t very academic and I had a very short attention span. I was a bit of a class clown and was always messing around. My school reports used to say: “Joe has great potential if only he stopped chatting in class.” The only thing I was good at was sport and before I became a personal trainer, I wanted to become a PE teacher.

You can have an awesome physique by doing just 25 minutes exercise a day. That’s all I do. I was always a very skinny kid. From the age of 16, I tried to build my frame. I used to do a lot of weights. I’d probably spend about an hour and a half in the gym every day, but as I’ve got older I’ve cut that down.

The occasional drink is my only vice. I probably get drunk twice a month, if I go out with friends. I used to like going out and partying, but now it’s more often a nice dinner, cocktails and home by midnight.

I wasn’t born ambitious, but I am ambitious now. My mum is a social worker and my dad’s a roofer. My brother Nicky and I were the first two in my family to go to university. When I started to grow my audience and connect on social media and achieve certain things, like the book deal, then I became way more ambitious. The minute you have a little bit of success, you think: “I can do more and I can reach more people.” So as I’ve achieved more, I’ve become way more focused.

I may appear famous on Instagram, but I’m not someone who is going to red carpet events and has loads of celebrity mates. I haven’t let that affect me. I just do my thing. I lead a really private life away from that and I’ve managed to keep a balance. What matters is friends and family and community – actual relationships.

You have to become antisocial to become a social media star. In the early days, I was addicted to social media. I had to be on it and be engaged. When I was with my family and friends I was just constantly on my phone, replying to everything. But now it’s much more able to sustain itself although I do still probably post 10 times a day on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. It’s a hamster wheel.

I’m really not a sex symbol. People might leave cheeky comments on Instagram like, “I’d love to marry you,” but it’s not like I’m going out to clubs and meeting loads of women. It’s not real. It’s just a social-media thing. I’m in a happy relationship, so I don’t need that or crave that attention.

The most negativity I get is from other personal trainers as they think I got lucky. I love a success story, but some people get jealous. I don’t ever engage in negative stuff. I just ignore it and keep spreading my message.

The Joe Wicks Café opens as part of the Lifestyle Lab at Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City from 3 May,

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Wetzel’s Pretzels is giving away free pretzels on April 26

National Pretzel Day is April 26, and to celebrate, Wetzel’s Pretzels will be giving away free pretzels. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. The pretzel shops you know and love from malls and various outlet shopping centers will be giving away piping-hot made-from-scratch original Wetzel’s soft pretzels.

Wetzel’s will host its fourth annual “National Wetzel Day,” during which the chain will give away free pretzels at all of its over 300 locations. According to the brand, last year Wetzel’s gave away more than 40,000 free buttery soft and delicious pretzels nationwide. While you may not be able to snag a free cinnamon or a sour cream and onion pretzel, but nothing is better than a tasty original Wetzel’s anyway.

“Our pretzels are made from simple ingredients, like flour, yeast and a pinch of salt, and we think getting a free pretzel on National Pretzel Day should be equally as simple,” said Wetzel’s president, Jennifer Schuler, in a press release.

“Our team is committed to keeping the day fun and free, offering free pretzels to all our customers, no strings attached, which is why we’ve made this day our own ‘National Wetzel Day.’ If you want to celebrate National Pretzel Day, there’s no better way to do it than with Wetzel’s Pretzels.”


Can’t get enough buttery, salty, pretzel-y goodness? Check out America’s best soft pretzels.

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Zero-calorie sweeteners might not be better than sugar: study

Making the switch from regular to diet soda might seem like a healthful choice — but according to a new study to be presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting, zero-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame and Ace-K might actually be worse. Or they might be better. Or they might be just as bad.

The bottom line? Right now, researchers just don’t know.

What they did manage to figure out was that artificial sweeteners like the kind found in Splenda and diet soda could have a surprisingly large effect on your metabolism and the lining of your blood vessels. Together, the observed effects of artificial sweeteners on test subjects — all of which were rats and cell cultures, not humans — resulted in a concerning number of risk factors for diabetes and metabolic disorders.

The rats and cell cultures involved in the study were placed in groups and fed multiple types of diets. Some were given large amounts of sugar (glucose, fructose, etc.) while others were given comparable amounts of artificial sweeteners (aspartame and Ace-K). After three weeks, the researchers observed differences in the concentrations of biochemicals, fats, and amino acids in blood samples.

“We observed that in moderation, your body has the machinery to handle sugar; it is when the system is overloaded over a long period of time that this machinery breaks down,” lead researcher Dr. Brian R. Hoffmann of the Medical College of Wisconsin said in a public release. “We also observed that replacing these sugars with non-caloric artificial sweeteners leads to negative changes in fat and energy metabolism.”

The team noted that while the study provides further insight on whether we should be utilizing these sugar replacements in our diets, the results do not definitively determine which option is better for your health.

“It is not as simple as ‘stop using artificial sweeteners’ being the key to solving overall health outcomes,” Hoffmann insisted. “If you chronically consume these foreign substances (as with sugar) the risk of negative health outcomes increases.”

So if you love snacking on something sweet, what’s your safest option?

“Although more study is warranted, this is not the first time the negative effects of artificial sweeteners have been seen in studies,” warns Jackie Arnett Elnahar, RD, Esq. “I recommend natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup.”

These are both easy to swap as a healthy way to sweeten your coffee or as a nutritious baking substitute.

“Raw honey and maple syrup both offer antioxidants, immune system benefits, minerals and phytonutrients,” Elnahar told us.

If you’re looking for more motivation to tone down your artificial sweetener intake, you might be interested to read these 18 other disturbing effects of drinking diet soda.

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6 New England towns to visit in May

With the arrival of May, New England towns are full of activities that embrace spring. Finally. 

Head to Newport for your only chance to see the triennial Volvo Ocean Race in North America. Here’s the premise of this insanely long race: Seven teams of racing sailors (including a USA/Denmark boat with three Americans) left Spain on Oct. 22, 2017 and are expected to reach the finish line in the Netherlands in late June 2018. In between, they will have crossed four oceans, spanned more than 45,000 nautical miles, and stopped in 12 cities. One of those cities is Newport, which they’ll arrive in on May 10. From May 8-20, Newport will transform Fort Adams State Park into an admissions-free Race Village full of sailing-themed activities, live music, food and beer, and a chance to meet the sailors and get up close to the racing boats. Visitors can take free sailing classes on Narragansett Bay, participate in hands-on activities in an ocean exploration zone, and step into a globe-shaped theater where a 3D movie will show what it’s like on board a racing boat.

After a weekend visit to Connecticut in 1938, the late First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about “an avenue of pink and white dogwood on Greenfield Hill such as I have never seen anywhere else in this country.” Attend Fairfield’s 83rd annual Dogwood Festival from May 11-13 and check out a craft show, a plant and garden boutique, and even a two-mile fun run. During a Friday luncheon, Kandi Carle, known as the “Victorian Lady,” will discuss fashion, life, and etiquette during the Victorian era.

Celebrate the “incredible edible dandelion” at the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm’s Dandelion Festival on May 19 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Festivalgoers will be able to sample dandelion wine and cordials, taste recipes that include the flower, and try out dandelion cosmetics. If guests are still hungry, they can roast hot dogs and s’mores at an open fire pit (no dandelions included).

Kites at a previous Bug Light Kite Festival in Maine.

Kites at a previous Bug Light Kite Festival in Maine.

Send your kite up into the sky with other colorful kites and a 143-year-old Maine lighthouse as the backdrop. The 9th Annual Bug Light Kite Festival will take place on May 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at South Portland’s Bug Light Park. The Portland Breakwater Light (also called Bug Light) was built in 1875 and is open to the public only a handful of times a year, according to the Rotary Club of South Portland/Cape Elizabeth, whose volunteers conduct tours and will do so all day during the festival. Outside the lighthouse, members of the Noreasters Kite Club and KONE (Kites Over New England) will provide kite-flying workshops, a kite repair area, kite races, and demonstrations of show kites. If you don’t have a kite, you can buy one at the South Portland Historical Society’s museum gift shop, located near the entrance to Bug Light Park. Also near the museum, look for the Maine Marimba Ensemble, which will perform between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and a barbecue area where you can fuel up after some serious flying adventures.

Browse the wares of more than 110 juried New England crafters and artisans on May 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. “It’s a great way to not only get out and meet your neighbors and meet new people, but you get to see crafters who have been working all winter on their inventory,” said event coordinator Diane Perry. If all that shopping makes you hungry, you can order Indian, Thai, seafood, fried dough, wood-fired pizza, barbecue, ice cream, and more from the food vendors and food trucks set up on School Street. Children’s activities will include a dunking booth, a bounce house, face painting, and a playground area. Local musicians and dancers will also perform throughout the day.

Feast on the shellfish to the sound of a 17-piece jazz band when this festival takes over Wareham’s Main Street on May 27 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “Wareham is a real haven for very high-quality oysters that are exported throughout New England and beyond,” said Linda Burke, a volunteer for the festival. “It’s a great opportunity for people to try them and compare them to other oysters across the region.” Guests will also have the chance to taste oysters from places like Cape Cod and Rhode Island, she said. Not a fan of oysters? There will be plenty of other food options, such as lobster rolls, clam cakes, and pad Thai, Burke said. Beer and wine will also be served.


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McCain gets visits from friends, family after surgery



12:26 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A frail Sen. John McCain has been receiving a stream of visitors and good wishes at his Arizona ranch as he confronts the aftermath of brain cancer treatment and surgery.

Former Vice President Joe Biden sat with McCain for 90 minutes last Sunday, according to people close to both men. Biden followed McCain’s closest friends, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and retired Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who visited McCain at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix two weeks ago. McCain’s daughter, Meghan, tweeted Friday that she was heading to her father’s side.

“Going home to Arizona to be with my family,” she tweeted. “Thank you all again for your prayers, patience, understanding and compassion during this time. It means the world to me and my entire family.”

McCain, 81, had hoped to return to the Senate, where he’s served since 1987. He has been unable to do so after cancer treatment and surgery for an intestinal infection last month. Despite that, he’s finished work on a new book being released May 22, “The Restless Wave.” And he continued to advocate for a return to the days when partisans could disagree without demonizing each other.

“I’d like to see us recover our sense that we’re more alike than different,” McCain said in audio excerpts from his book reported by National Public Radio.

McCain has amplified his call for more civil politics since his diagnosis in July with glioblastoma. It is the same rare and aggressive brain cancer that felled his friend, Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, at age 77 in 2009, and Biden’s son Beau at 46 in 2015.

McCain hasn’t been seen in public since December, just before he was hospitalized for a viral infection at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Maryland. He then returned home to Arizona to recover, do physical therapy and continue cancer treatment at the Mayo Clinic. On December 17, his office issued a news release saying he was looking forward to returning to Washington in January.

McCain did not return.

He has primarily been staying at his family retreat south of Sedona, Arizona, a sprawling and secluded ranch house along tree-lined Oak Creek where he loves to have family gatherings and barbecue for friends. His daughter, Meghan, was married there in November to Ben Domenech, publisher of the online political and cultural magazine The Federalist. The senator has been known to lead nature tours featuring his extensive knowledge of dozens of species of birds on the property.

McCain’s family and staff have kept news of his condition and treatment private, with his office routinely saying it has no new information to share. In mid-April, it was announced that he had been hospitalized for intestinal surgery needed to stem an infection related to diverticulitis, a condition where the colon develops small bulges that can sometimes become infected.

At week’s end, McCain was recuperating, eating well and enjoying the ranch at full bloom, according to a person close to him.

The visits by Graham and Lieberman were confirmed to The Associated Press by people knowledgeable about the meetings, but who spoke on condition of anonymity to respect the family’s privacy.

His wife, Cindy McCain, tweeted April 23 that he had been released from the hospital, but no official word came from his Senate office.

“@SenJohnMcCain and I are home in our beloved Hidden Valley enjoying a glorious Arizona sunset,” the tweet said.


Fram and Kellman reported from Washington. Christie reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.


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Why did Bonnie Raitt cancel tour dates because of her health?

Health first.

Pop country star Bonnie Raitt announced that she won’t be joining James Taylor & His All Star Band for the first portion of a previously announced tour. They were to play the BB&T Center in Sunrise on May 11.

It seems Raitt, 68, is dealing with some medical issues and requires immediate surgery, according to a release, which adds that her unknown ailment was detected during her annual physical.

“The prognosis is good and a full recovery is expected.”

Raitt apologized for letting people down.

“I’m deeply sorry to have to disappoint my fans, James and colleagues with these cancellations. I was so looking forward to our tour, but I’m very grateful that the doctors feel this can be taken care of with surgery,” she said. “I’m feeling strong and am in great hands with my wonderful team.”

Some fans responded on Twitter.

“I saw Bonnie raitt trending and it almost gave me a heart attack,” wrote @gothicblackchic.

Chimed in @DeepRiverTM1996: “Please God. Don’t let anything happen to @bonnieraitt.”

Comedian Paula Poundstone tweeted: “Oh, no, I love you Bonnie Raitt. Take deep breaths, and drink lots of water.”

Raitt added that she expects to return to the second leg of the U.S. tour in June followed by a European tour the following month.

“Thank you all for your concern and understanding that the best gift you could give me is respecting my wish for privacy and giving me space to heal. Can’t wait to see you all back on the road again soon!”

Taylor, 70, also expressed his disappointment.

“This summer was to be Bonnie’s and my second summer touring together. We wanted to do it again because it was such good fun the first time, we didn’t want it to end,” said the “You’ve Got a Friend” singer. “Of course, there is no question as to the priority of your health, Bonnie. You will be constantly in our hearts and minds until we see you in June.”

The first leg of the tour, which is scheduled to kick off at the Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, on May 8, will now be an “Evening with James Taylor & His All-Star Band,” featuring two sets with a brief intermission.

Ticketholders can get a refund at point of purchase. More info at

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Weekend Recipe: Spaghetti Bolognese With Zucchini Noodles

This is a quick and easy dish I designed for the contestants on Biggest Loser Australia. It only takes 15 minutes to make, so it’s the perfect meal to prepare during a busy week.

My secret to the perfect Bolognese is to start by choosing quality ingredients. I use pasture-fed beef because I love the greater depth of flavor it gives to the overall dish. This Bolognese is also great using turkey mince for those who prefer a lighter meat. I use fresh, ripe Roma tomatoes when they are in season or alternatively, you can also use good quality organic tinned Roma tomatoes. Roma tomatoes are naturally sweeter than regular ones and they have more flesh and less juice, so they’re my favorite for tomato-based sauces.

I make vegetable spaghetti with zucchini and use that as a substitute for traditional heavy pastas. Zucchini makes the most perfect and healthy low-carb pasta and what I love about this vegetable is that it takes just one minute to cook and will absorb the flavor of any aromatics you add to the pan. You can also use other vegetables in making spaghetti such as carrots, leeks, pumpkin, sweet potatoes or a combination of all of them.

The best way to cook vegetable spaghetti is to briefly sauté them in a pan over medium heat with a little olive oil until softened, otherwise they become too watery if plunging into water. You can also add a spoonful of pesto and a generous handful of baby spinach, like I do, which enlivens the flavor and color. Finish off your Bolognese with freshly chopped parsley and a generous grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino.



  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) celery, finely diced
  • 300 g (10 1/2 oz) grass-fed beef mince
  • 800g (28 1/4 oz) ripe roma tomatoes, chopped or 2 x 400g (14 oz) tins roma tomatoes
  • 1-tablespoon tomato paste
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Grated Parmesan or pecorino to serve
  • Fresh chopped parsley to serve


  • 800g (28 1/4 oz) zucchini
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pesto (See recipe below)


  • 60g (2 oz) basil leaves, chopped
  • 60 g (2 oz) parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons roasted walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch sea salt and cracked pepper to taste


  1. Saute onion and garlic until softened in a good quality cast iron or stainless steel pan for 1 minute
  2. Add beef mince and cook through for 2 minutes until browned
  3. Add celery then tomatoes and mix through
  4. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally then add the tomato paste
  5. Cook until the sauce is lovely and rich. You may need to add a splash of water (or red wine) if the sauce needs it
  6. Season to taste with a little flaked sea salt and pepper then remove from the heat and add a few spoons of parsley
  7. While the bolognese is cooking prepare your pesto and zucchini noodles

Combine pesto ingredients into a food processor or blender for 1 minute until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Alternatively, chop dry ingredients by hand using a large chef’s knife or Mezzaluna chopper then combine in a bowl with the olive oil, lemon and garlic.


  1. Run the zucchini along a mandolin to form nice long spaghetti strips, or alternatively use a julienne slicer
  2. Toss zucchini in a pan over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes with a little pesto and baby spinach
  3. Divide zucchini spaghetti onto serving bowls and top with Bolognese sauce, extra chopped parsley and grated Parmesan or pecorino
  4. Serve immediately and enjoy

Serves 4

NOTES + INSPIRATION: Layer bolognese sauce between roasted eggplant or fresh made spelt spelt flour crepes, then top with ricotta and parmesan before baking for 40 minutes for the most spectacular lasagne.

Vegetarians can use grated organic tempeh, extra veggies and a handful of walnuts in place of beef mince.

Teresa Cutter, founder of The Healthy Chef, is an author, nutritionist and classically trained chef. You can find more of Cutter’s tips and recipes on her website, app, eBooks and Instagram.

My main goal at The Healthy Chef is to get people cooking and eating healthier. Eat natural foods, focus on fresh fruits and vegetables and just keep it simple.” — Teresa Cutter

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Was BuzzFeed Right to Publish Accusations Against Donald Trump? – Room for Debate

Thanks to BuzzFeed the Untouchable Story Is Open to Discussion


BuzzFeed did the right thing when it chose to publish the dossier of unverified allegations about Donald Trump’s supposed entanglements with Russia. Some experts on media ethics were quick to argue otherwise this morning.

This kind of second-guessing generally proceeds from the underlying premise that journalistic ethics is some set of straightforward rules about right and wrong, which, when dutifully followed, will reliably produce good journalism. This is a deeply useless approach. Any decision to publish any piece of reporting involves balancing competing principles and coming to a conclusion that fits the subject matter, the broader context and the publication’s own mission and appetite for risk.

Whether the ultimate scandal turns out to be about Trump’s alleged conduct, his relations with Russia, his feud with the intelligence services or some combination, follow-up reporting will help the public sort through the dossier’s claims.

This case, in particular, is a good reminder of the fact that the flip side of deciding to publish something is deciding not to publish something. But journalists are rarely called to account for their errors of omission. Multiple news organizations reportedly had their hands on the Russia dossier for weeks, and before yesterday, even as the circle of public officials who deemed it a serious concern kept widening, none of those media outlets could figure out how to share it.

Now the untouchable story has become a matter of open discussion, whether the ultimate scandal turns out to be about Trump’s alleged conduct, his relations with Russia, his feud with the intelligence services or some combination of all of those. Follow-up reporting is helping the public sort through the dossier’s claims. BuzzFeed’s decision was the key to all of this.

Judgments about what and how and why to publish vary from publication to publication, and that variation is healthy and productive. What CNN and BuzzFeed executed last night was a classic high-low interaction: CNN reported that the dossier existed and that it was of great public importance; BuzzFeed produced the dossier. CNN’s vagueness was redeemed by BuzzFeed’s specificity, and BuzzFeed’s risk-taking was justified by CNN’s testimony about the ultimate news value.

Sometimes the transaction simply goes from low to high: A less respectable outlet publishes a story, and the subject of the story responds, and the subject’s response becomes a fact in the world that is safe for judicious publications to discuss in the open. Thus this morning’s Times was liberated to discuss “sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump,” or, more precisely, reports of memos describing those sex videos.

However the process unfolds, we know more today than we did yesterday, and tomorrow we will know more still. BuzzFeed’s rhetoric about “publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds” was maybe a little pious, but those of us at the former Gawker Media learned a painful lesson last year about what can happen when journalists talk about their mission less than piously.

Journalism is a rude business and we live in rude times. Blind appeals to principle won’t make things any nicer, but they could make things worse.

BuzzFeed Let Trump Cast a Shadow of Doubt on All Reporting


By publishing an unverified report alleging the Russians have compromising information on President-elect Donald J. Trump, BuzzFeed made it less likely that truth will be journalists’ only goal and less likely that when the truth surfaces, the public will believe it.

In his news conference on Wednesday morning, Trump conflated the work of BuzzFeed and CNN, although they were very different forms of reporting. He started by complimenting all the newsrooms that did not post the document, criticizing those who did without initially naming them, and suggesting that the reason for keeping it out of public view is because it is “fake news.”

Had BuzzFeed taken a different approach, the story today would be that intelligence officials were seriously concerned about the report.

To the untrained eye, it looked like he was making friends with the media by patting them on the back for doing the right thing by ignoring that ludicrous rumor that the Russians have a sex tape.

Here’s what really happened: BuzzFeed posted the dossier, noting that it was unverified and even highly problematic, about two hours after CNN began informing its viewers that the report existed, who had seen it and what the possible implications were to Trump’s ability to run the country.

Those are two distinct acts, with BuzzFeed merely showing its cards to the public, and CNN trying to build context and meaning through reporting and analysis.

But by lumping the two newsrooms together, Trump was able to cast the shadow of doubt on all the reporting that journalists are doing on the dossier. Now, anyone who might have been genuinely curious about the truth has reason to stop listening. If you hate Trump, you automatically assume it’s true. And if you love him, you assume this is one more example of unfair reporting.

Had BuzzFeed taken a different approach, the story today would be that senior intelligence officials were concerned enough about the report to brief the outgoing and incoming president. The follow-up stories would address how America’s senior most leaders were responding.

Instead, BuzzFeed said it wanted to give its readers the opportunity to decide for themselves. So now we’re all engaged in a charade of Spy Kids, trying to determine if the information is likely true or false. Yet average citizens don’t have the tools to sort through these claims.

But the most damaging result of BuzzFeed’s unfortunate decision is Trump’s newfound weapon to dismiss all journalists who criticize him as unfair and unethical. In painting the entire news media as a caricature of BuzzFeed, he undermines the efficacy of solid reporting and legitimate criticism. The president-elect is doing his best to diminish the role of journalism in our democracy. He doesn’t need any help.

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Cervical procedure to prevent cancer is causing complications

S. Nicole Lane shared her story with

Five months ago, I received a phone call from my OB-GYN informing me I had abnormal cells on my cervix and that a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) would be necessary to remove the cells and prevent cervical cancer.

I had gone in for a regular Pap, like I do every year, and was told that I needed a biopsy. When my results came back, my doctor told me they would need to use a low-voltage electrical current —  a LEEP — to remove the abnormal cells from my cervix.


The term “abnormal cells” originally shook me. I assumed these cells would eventually turn into cervical cancer, so I agreed to what I thought was a harmless and necessary procedure.

After the procedure was performed I began experiencing complicated symptoms — an infection, weakness, and pelvic pain — all of which challenged my recovery time.

I also became depressed. I felt an overwhelming numbness — not in my body, but in my mood and livelihood. Some days I struggled to even get out of bed.

Concerned, I Googled my symptoms and discovered several forums and personal blog postswhere women detailed a variety of complications. On the other hand, more detailed medical information was hard to find.

I continued digging and was shocked to learn that many “abnormal cells” may never lead to cancer. Instead, these so-called “abnormal” cells are similar to moles on your body and having them removed isn’t always necessary.

Cervical cancer is relatively rare, compared to other cancers. Approximately 0.6 percent of people will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in their lifetime.

I began reaching out to other women who were experiencing similar symptoms to my own following a LEEP and I discovered many others who had been affected in different ways.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Harrowing crisis sparks woman to action

AMBRIDGE, Pa. (AP) – Fingertips of her index and middle fingers rhythmically compress his tiny chest.

“Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.”

Her baby, just several days shy of 9 months, isn’t breathing. He’s in cardiac arrest.

“Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.”

Color drains from plump, rosy cheeks. Lips turn blue. Tiny body goes limp.

“Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.”

Bridget Rohm is scared. Tears spill from her eyes. Though frantic, she focuses.

Now’s not the time to panic. Every second counts.

“Mama Bear” instinct kicks in.

She presses hard, fast on her baby’s chest.

The Ambridge mom’s thankful she took an infant CPR class.

“Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.”


The repetitive drum loop of “Stayin’ Alive” – the Bee Gees’ classic song from “Saturday Night Fever” – pulses at 103 beats per minute, close to the 100 chest compressions per minute recommended by the American Heart Association when performing CPR.

“Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.”

It plays over and over and over in her head.


‘Something was seriously wrong’

Clutter everywhere in the small apartment. Cheerful trappings of a newborn. Cuddly teddy bears. Plush elephants. Stuffed dogs. Storybooks. Colorful mobile spinning above a baby swing.

And something else. Jarring, actually.

An IV pole. Two fluid bags and a stethoscope hang from it. Snakelike, plastic tubing, too. One delivers constant oxygen. Another meds, nutrition and fluids pumped to a gastrostomy tube, also called a G-tube, directly into little Rycker Rohm-Deceder’s stomach. A monitor assesses oxygen saturation and heart rate.

This isn’t what Rohm, 26, imagined for her son, her first child.

She knew she was having a boy. Named him Rycker – a strong name, one she chose having watched a documentary series on TV’s A&E; network – before he was born.

Rycker would grow up to be strong, independent, successful.

“I mapped out his life for him,” Rohm said, while he was still in her womb. “I was all prepared to have a typical baby.”

A sonogram at 22 weeks confirmed her plan for “a healthy, baby boy,” she said.

Two weeks later, however, a fetal anatomy scan, a more detailed ultrasound to measure growth and development – face, brain, skull, spine, heart, limbs – revealed anomalies.

Lying on an ultrasound table, Rohm thought the scan was taking longer than it should. The technician commented that Rycker’s limbs were short, but Rohm thought nothing of it. She and fiancé Jeff Deceder aren’t statuesque.

Were there heart ailments in her family?

Rohm’s parents both died of heart attacks; she had a heart murmur.

“Why is she asking me this?” Rohm wondered.

A doctor wanted a closer look at Rycker’s heart. A fetal echocardiogram was scheduled a few weeks later.

Rohm asked for results.

“We’ll talk about it in the office,” the physician said.

“I knew at that point something was seriously wrong,” Rohm said.

In that room, walls closed in.

The diagnosis: Rycker had two holes between left and right heart chambers; valves controlling blood flow also weren’t developed. The fancy name, Rohm said, is atrioventricular septal defect. Each year, about 2,000 babies – 1 in 2,120 – are born with AVSD, estimates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rycker would need open-heart surgery, possibly immediately after birth.

But that wasn’t all.

He also has pulmonary hypertension – high blood pressure in arteries in his lungs and right side of the heart.

And it appeared Rycker had aortic coarctation, a narrowing of the large blood vessel branching off the heart, which would cause it to pump harder to force blood through the body.

The final blow: Meet with a genetic counselor.

Heart defects like Rycker’s often are common in babies with trisomy 21, abnormal cell division involving chromosome 21 more commonly known as Down syndrome.

Forty percent of all children with Down syndrome have congenital heart disease; of those, 40 percent have AVSD, according to

A sample of Rohm’s amniotic fluid – fluid surrounding the fetus in the uterus – confirmed what the genetic counselor suspected.

“I remember her calling,” Rohm said. “‘I’m sorry. Your son has trisomy 21.’”

Immediately, Rohm asked if she had done something to cause it, but was told “it was completely random.”

Emotions overwhelmed her – “probably some a mother shouldn’t have. I grieved the child that I was planning for; the one that I had imagined; the one that would grow up to be independent,” she said.

Now, she feels “silly” for thinking such.

Having immersed herself in the Down syndrome community, she’s seen so many children “grow up to be independent, get married, have jobs, graduate from high school, graduate from college, have their own businesses so I’m not as worried anymore.”


A difficult labor

July 19, Rohm was scheduled for induced labor at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh. Blood flow from umbilical cord to placenta was abnormal.

Labor was difficult – 12 hours.

Rohm planned to deliver naturally; it was not to be.

Contractions, now a minute apart, caused Rycker’s heart rate to decelerate with each one. Doctors were concerned for both mother and baby.

At 6:20 a.m., “everything got crazy,” Rohm said. “Tons of doctors came rushing in.”

Deceder remembered personnel “dragging her bed away, dressing me in a hospital gown, running us down the hall.”

Rohm received an epidural and within 4 minutes, Rycker was delivered via cesarean section.

“They brought him by her for 2 seconds,” Deceder said, before whisking him away to the neonatal intensive care unit. His heart rate kept dropping.

Within two hours, the 4-pound-9-ounce baby was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC where he spent the next 16 days.

“I saw him right before they transported him – about 5 to 10 minutes. He was hooked up to all kinds of machines. I could barely see him. I did touch his hand,” Rohm said.

The good news: The aortic narrowing wasn’t as bad as initially thought, Rohm said. But Rycker would still need to have open-heart surgery to repair those holes.

The plan was to let him grow a few months.

“The bigger he got the better the surgery would go,” Deceder said.

Surgery happened Jan. 9. About a month later, another surgery to insert a G-tube with Nissen (anti-reflux procedure).

“He was having trouble taking a bottle,” Rohm said, because of a swollen airway and thus not getting enough to eat. And he was also at risk for aspirating.

Parents hope within a few years, the G-tube can be reversed.


‘In God’s hands’

Rycker awakened from a nap around 3 p.m. April 9. He fussed.

Rohm tried giving him a bottle, but he cried – cried uncontrollably.

“That’s unlike him,” Rohm said. “He’s a very happy baby. He never gets like that. I knew something’s wrong.”

She picked him up. Tried to console him.

“He turned blue. His whole body. His face, his lips, his legs, his feet – everything. I remember him looking up at me with the blackest eyes. The only way I can think to describe it is like the devil was in him. His eyes were big and black and he looked scared.”

Rycker wasn’t breathing. His body went limp in his mother’s arms.

She nudged his chest. No response.

“I went into Mama Bear action,” Rohm said. “I put him on the floor and started doing compressions. I felt like I did them forever.”

Within two or three minutes, she estimated, Rycker wailed.

“It was the best sound. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear a baby wailing.”

Rohm called 911; called Deceder.

Rycker’s legs were still blue and he wasn’t fully alert, she said.

Police arrived first; then an ambulance crew.

His heart rate was low; lower half of his body limp.

Rycker, transported to Children’s Hospital, was admitted for four days.

Doctors attributed the episode to “pulmonary hypertension crisis,” Rohm said.

Heart and lungs work together to deliver oxygenated blood to the heart; return oxygen-depleted blood to the lungs. Pulmonary blood pressure is the pressure exerted to pump blood from the heart through lung arteries. High pulmonary pressure causes the heart to work harder.

Vessels leading to Rycker’s lungs aren’t fully developed, Deceder said, causing pressure to build up in the right side of the heart.

“They just seized up and closed up because the pressure was too high, which stopped his lungs, which stopped his heart,” he said.

Rycker’s pulmonary pressure is about the highest pediatric cardiologists at Children’s have seen, Deceder said.

The condition is being treated with medication, but if it doesn’t improve, Rycker may need a heart-lung transplant, something the couple doesn’t want to consider.

“The survival rate is too low,” Rohm said. “We just keep praying and put it in God’s hands.”


‘So much joy’

Rohm picks up her little bundle dressed in a red T-shirt. She wears one, too, part of the couple’s “I Wear Red for Rycker” awareness campaign.

“You are my sunshine, you are my sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray,” she coos.

And he is.

It wasn’t random, Rohm said, that her son was born with Down syndrome.

“God chose me to be Rycker’s mommy and chose me to help educate others to be a voice, not just for Rycker, but all those with Down syndrome and heart defects.”

Deceder agreed.

“He was meant to be ours.”

While acknowledging that caring for a child like Rycker is “the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” Deceder and Rohm know they aren’t alone. They’re surrounded by a supportive and loving community that stretches around the globe.

Two months after Rycker’s birth, Rohm started blogging: “Rycker: The Ups and Downs.”

“At first, it was a way, I guess, to update my family, really tell our story, his diagnosis story and everything. I had no idea it would have grown to be as big as it is.”

Deceder pulls a stack of get-well and e-cards – he estimates at 1,000 – from “Greece, Germany, Singapore, Philippines, South Africa, Brazil, all over,” Rohm said, including the United States. And gifts, too. A crocheted, red blanket, stuffed toys, a “God Bless Rycker’s Heart” plaque.

“Total strangers,” she said.

The couple calls them “Rycker’s Heart Heroes” and to honor them, created a non-profit foundation to give back.

Rycker’s Heart Heroes Foundation gives support to and raises awareness for families affected by congenital heart disease by providing care packages to families during a hospital stay, Rohm said.

Part of the foundation also includes the Rycker Roo Project that supplies mamaRoos to pediatric cardiac intensive care units at Children’s Hospital, and soon to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, which reached out to the couple.

Postoperatively, Rycker was in a lot of pain and discomfort.

“We tried everything,” Rohm said. “Holding him, patting him, rocking him. Nothing worked.”

Nothing, except a mamaRoo, an infant seat with gentle up-and-down and side-to-side motions designed by 4moms, a consumer technology company headquartered in Pittsburgh.

“In 10 minutes, he fell right to sleep,” Rohm said.

Monetary donations will help buy new mamaRoos for hospitals, but the couple also seeks gently used mamaRoos from families whose children have outgrown them to give to other families with children affected by CHD.

Rohm said a seat costs around $250.

“A lot of families, after a hospital stay, can’t afford that,” she said.

So far, 10 new and used seats have been donated through the foundation, Rohm said.

When 4moms heard about the project, the company wanted to help, Rohm said. And so, every mamaRoo purchased for the Rycker Roo Project through the company’s website will receive a 30 percent discount.

Monetary donations can be made at

The couple plans a benefit spaghetti dinner from noon to 6 p.m. June 10 in the social hall of Good Samaritan Parish on Glenwood Avenue in Ambridge.

And Rohm advocates that all parents learn CPR.

Rycker is a blessing, Rohm said, who has “taught me so much.”

She called him “just perfect.”

“Look at him,” Deceder said, smiling at his son.

“So much joy. This is him all the time. We were blessed. He laughs all the time. He smiles with his infectious smile all the time. Those two hang out all the time. Just happy.”





Information from: Altoona Mirror, //

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