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(Getting To The) Moment of Truth November 11, 2013

Photo credit: Steve Richey/Unsplash

Photo credit: Steve Richey/Unsplash

This weekend was such a mixed bag.  Yesterday I had that great walk in the park. Last night some good longtime friends came over and brought us a beautiful dinner. It felt so good to hang out and laugh, to eat good food and visit with friends we’ve known for decades.

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This morning I woke up feeling pretty optimistic and confident. I decided, it’s probably time I start really cutting back on the prescription painkillers I’ve been taking. Narcotics. Way less than I was at the start, but still way more than I want to be taking. I tried taking some over the counter Tylenol in hopes that I could maintain my level of comfort. We planned to go out for another little walk in the park, but it felt really different than yesterday. By the time we had driven up from our house to the parking lot (about 1/4 mile), the familiar stabbing near my shoulder blade had started up.

I took a deep breath. This is not going to get the best of me, I said. We walked maybe a total of ten minutes and at that point all I could think of was coming home and getting horizontal.

Discouraging. I gulped down my pill and lay on my back. Again.

Tomorrow the surgeon comes back. I was still hoping to get to Minneapolis on Thursday. But I think some kind of reality hit me today. When I realized that even though I am so much better than I was a month ago, I am still so far from normal.

Here is the hard truth. I still can’t:

  • work (any of my three jobs: physical therapy, writing or leading Weight Watchers meetings)
  • get through a day (0r night) without prescription pain meds
  • exercise in any meaningful way (including: Nia dance class, work out with my trainer, run, swim or ride a bicycle, lift weights or do any of the workout videos in my house)
  • carry a purse or a backpack
  • drive my car, or independently get myself anyplace outside my house
  • pick up anything heavier than a coffee cup
  • prepare meals for my family that involve more than a microwave
  • go shopping or run any errands
  • do anything that involves being upright for longer than an hour maximum

People, these are a LOT of big things on the “can’t” list. Yes, I am super happy for the progress I have made. But this has been going on too damn long. Too long. An entire season has passed by while I have been down.

The surgeon comes back tomorrow. I expect we will probably have a conversation sometime in the late afternoon or evening.

I’m ready to be done with this.

 

1.14 MILES! and Other Good Things November 9, 2013

Filed under: body image,emotions,exercise,good things,pain — Susan @ 4:42 pm
Fall has arrived in my front yard!

Fall has arrived in my front yard!

Yesterday I felt a real corner-turning. Mr. McBody asked me (as he always does) if I wanted him to bring me a cup of coffee. Just last week I was having to drink coffee out of a straw because it really hurt to drink it sitting up.

bendy straw + water bottle

bendy straw + water bottle

But yesterday, I felt like, I want to get my own coffee! So I went downstairs and did just that. And it was a little twingey but it didn’t take everything out of me like it had in the past. He went to work and I came back and surveyed my little bedside kingdom. WHAT A FREAKING MESS.

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For the past 7 weeks, I have only strayed from this spot to go to another bed, or to the living room sofa. People have visited or mailed me nice stuff, and I looked at it let it drop from my hand and then it just… sort of… accumulated. Lots of books. And cards and stuff. My bedside table was a mountain of medicines, bendy straws, and goodness knows what else. I spent most of the morning sorting it out and getting down to a clean(er) surface.

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That felt so much better. (I didn’t get to ALL the stuff on the floor, but that’s another task for this weekend ;-)) But it was such a great thing to feel like I could do– SOMETHING. Like I could do anything. I spent the afternoon getting caught up on my physical therapy charting from MONTHS ago that I had just… abandoned. By nighttime I got an email from the QA person at my office saying that things were finally looking “pretty clean.” HIGH FIVE. I just have not had the mental acuity to really focus on this stuff, either from pain or drugged state or both. It felt really good to get that done.

Today I wanted to get out of the house. I was getting tired of just going up and down my little street, so Mr. McBody drove me up to the park near our house (it’s a STEEP HILL getting there, so walking there did not quite seem do-able yet). I was so happy to be on my familiar home trail.

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trail sweet West Ridge trail

We decided we’d go 15 miles or to the “first bench” or which ever came first. Turned out it was all at the same time. By the time we got to the bench, it was just a little over half a mile. It was a very nice place to lay down and rest. Thanks to Chuck Conlin. (see plaque)

This bench always makes my day.

This bench always makes my day.

When we got back to the parking lot, my Runkeeper said we’d gone 1.14 miles. This was so much better than I’d thought. My neck and arm were achey (I’d say about 3-4 on the Pain Scale) and I was tired, but it felt worth it.

Now I’m lying down again. But I feel really good about that walk. It’s real progress!

Last night my PT buddy came over and did some reflex and muscle testing. They’re definitely still problematic on the right side, but how much is the question. We will talk with the doctor again on Monday. My current thinking is to push it out another two weeks and hope for even more improvement.

She had her reflex hammer in her car!

She had her reflex hammer in her car!

And now… a nap. ;-)

 

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back November 6, 2013

Photo credit: The Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: The Commons/Flickr

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I went for that walk on Monday. Yeah! I thought. I’m finally getting out there! So yesterday I had a lovely visit with my friend Mara. She brought me delicious fish tacos and I made the big step to actually enjoy a meal at the kitchen table. I didn’t rush through it. We just kinda hung out, and ate and talked, and it was so NORMAL!

 Mmmm, fish tacos!

Mmmm, fish tacos!

Then I felt like I had to lie down. So I lay down on the couch and we visited some more, and then a guy came to show us some hardwood floor samples (a little renovation coming up) and I got up to inspect those. Then she was going to leave and I asked if she wanted to walk down the street with me. I was, again, feeling all superconfident and maybe a little bit show-offish (LOOK I CAN WALK DOWN THE STREET!) so we went to the end of the block.  I stopped to admire my mom’s persimmon tree in the front yard. And then it kinda hit me. You know that feeling you have when you’ve gone just a bit too far?

FIRST EVER persimmons on my mom's tree!

FIRST EVER persimmons on my mom’s tree!

I went right to bed after she left, and applied major ice package to my back. But I realized, as the hours went on, that I had really overdone it. DAMN. I mean come on. Shower, dress, eat lunch, one-block walk. Too much? Apparently so. It plagued me the rest of the evening and I was back to my regular painkiller dose. Bleah.

Today I’m taking it easier. Sigh. I’m so very tired of taking it easy.  Luckily, I have plenty of work to keep me occupied.

Yesterday morning I was feeling so optimistic, like, maybe I could avoid the surgery altogether. I know. I’ve been through this before. Yes. No. I don’t know.

The surgeon returns from vacation on Monday and then we will do the big reevaluation. But I’m saying, where I’m at now (physically) is not where I want to be.

I’ve been thinking a lot about tracking. Tracking (ie writing everything down) is a very big deal in Weight Watchers land. It gives so much INFORMATION and history and a way to really understand our situation. I admit I have not been tracking my food input very much. Basically, I’ve been eating whatever I can deal with, which is often not very much.

But I’ve been keeping a medicine and pain tracker. And it has been encouraging to see that I am much, much better than I was a month ago. It’s hard to remember this when I get impatient and bored and chomping at the bit. I’m definitely much better off. Just not where I ultimately want to be.

writing it all down keeps it real

writing it all down keeps it real

 

 

ThinkingThinkingThinking November 4, 2013

Filed under: body image,injury,surgery — Susan @ 4:46 pm
the view

the view

Lying around like this gives a lot of opportunity for thought. I’ve been reading, thinking, meditating, contemplating. Sometimes whining and complaining.  A few things I’ve been thinking about lately have been:

  • What’s worth it?  In Weight Watchers, we often consider our choices in terms of deciding whether something is “worth it” or not. Is that donut or piece of chocolate worth it? Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. There aren’t hard and fast rules for these things. And I’m finding that the same question comes up for me regarding being up and active during the day.  Is it worth it to take a shower? To spend those precious upright minutes in that way? Knowing I’ll have to pay for it later? I didn’t shower Friday or Saturday. I was resting relatively comfortably and I just did not want to break it by getting up and “blowing it.” But by Saturday evening, I was soooooo depressed by feeling grungy and unshowered. So by Sunday morning, it was MORE than “worth it” to get up, take a shower, put on clothes and dry my hair. I ended up lying on my ice pack, medicated up again, but it was worth it to me. I needed that shower.
  • I think I’m getting better, because I am much more aware of being bored/restless. For much of the past several weeks, it was more of a matter of survival/getting through the next several hours. Now I’m a lot more aware of being bored and antsy. I want to get OUT of here. I want to DO stuff.
  • How good is good enough? I think I am definitely improving, but I am also definitely nowhere near better. I think this means that surgery is coming. Maybe next week.  I hate not knowing. But I also know that this “plateau” is not where I want to be.
  • I MISS THAT LIFE OUT THERE. This weekend, seeing so many of my friends/heroes doing the New York City Marathon, other half marathons, etc., I was just longing to be out there with them in any capacity. I am really hoping I can at least complete a 5k (walking! anything!) before this year is up. That is my new goal.
 

Answers, Waiting, and the New Normal October 14, 2013

So I finally got some answers to this vexing pain last week. I went to see a spine specialist (orthopedist) who looked at my MRI and pointed out quite clearly that I have a ruptured cervical disc. The disc material is pressing quite intensely on my 7th cervical nerve, causing this crazy pain AND some weakness in my arm. It was upsetting to see this but also unmistakeable, and also a relief to see in black and white how much absolute sense it makes (all that PT training came flooding back). He has recommended an epidural injection tomorrow to try and bring down the inflammation and swelling. He said it will most likely result in dramatic pain relief (OH BOY! I can’t wait!) and then it will remain to be seen if there is continued weakness from any nerve damage. Then I will have to have a surgical consult, and I don’t like the sound of that, but I am just taking one day at a time, which is about all I can do.

This picture scares me. But if it's gonna take away the pain....

This picture scares me. But if it’s gonna take away the pain….

It was a pretty rough weekend. Mr. McBody was away at a conference all weekend, and I had a lot of time and space to wallow around in a hazy painful cloud. It got a little surreal at times.  I learned by Sunday that it is a good thing to try and keep a schedule. To try and be as functional as possible. I had some company come visit on Sunday and it made a HUGE difference to shower, get dressed and see friends for just a little while. I have learned that I have about a two-minute window from lying down to sitting or standing up, and after that time passes, it just hurts like the devil. However, assuming the “ballerina” position does take some pressure off. When I was at the doctor, he said that this is a classic diagnostic tool and he sees it all the time.

I was really upset when I went to the doctor on Friday, and they told me I had missed my 9:30 appointment. What! It turns out, in my narcotic haze, I had heard “October 11th” and I just kept focusing on the “11” part of it, and showed up at 11:00. But the doctor saw me in the waiting room, looking desperate with my arm over my head, and he squeezed me in. I think he pretty much diagnosed me from across the room, even before seeing the MRI.

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It’s amazing how life can just shift from one version of reality to another. In the span of a few weeks, I have gone from being one of the world’s busiest people, to someone who needs to gather every bit of endurance and energy just to take a shower or get through a five-minute meal at the table.

It’s been a real opportunity for reflection. To really consider my priorities, my identity and what is important. It means a lot to me to be able to continue to write and read. I’ve been snarfing down books. I spent all day Friday reading Alice Munro. So excited about her Nobel Prize. I’ve also been able to spend some real time working on my own writing and editing, when I’m not knocked out by painkillers. I have been able to enjoy some pretty alert hours every day.

My literary hero.

 

I started reading Dave Eggers’ The Circle, yesterday, and I’m almost done. It’s pretty mesmerizing, especially under the circumstances. Right now I feel like I would go mad without social media to keep me connected to the world. But there’s a balance. There’s nothing like human contact, face to face. There’s also nothing like snail mail. I got this awesome get-well gift from one of my writer friends which made me laugh out loud.

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Font joke! hahahaha

It is amazing to me how quickly a body can degenerate. Today I stepped on the scale just for curiosity and I am down more than five pounds. I am sure this is 100% muscle wasting. It takes all my strength to pick up a wet towel. I get shaky standing up even for a few minutes. I feel like I am just dissolving. But I also know that  once this pain is managed, it also does not take too long to regain what has been lost. I’m not totally distraught over it, it’s just kind of remarkable.

I’m eating well, under the circumstances, even though I’ve had about zero appetite (I’m burning about zero calories, too). Before this all began, I had hired a Task Rabbit as kind of a “sneaky caregiver” for my mom. She often is lonely and bored in the afternoons, while we’re all (normally) rushing around working. I thought it might be a good idea to have someone help out with cooking a couple of times a week, with her involvement, so she has some company, AND so that we have some decent food to eat rather than some takeout on the fly. As it turns out, this person has been an absolute godsend. Whereas she was first helping out because I was too busy, now she’s helping because I”m just incapable. THAT part has been like a dream come true. I scroll through Foodgawker and send her links to things that look good, and voila- a few hours later there it is on the kitchen table. AND, my mom really likes her. It’s a win-win.

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Thai Chicken Zucchini Meatballs – MMMMM.

The last few days have just felt like interminable WAITING. Waiting for an answer – and now waiting for a treatment. I really, really hope that this injection will do the trick so that I can get back to my life. But it will be “going back” in a different way. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my priorities. I don’t want to just be rushing around madly from one thing to another, just because I can. I want to slowly re-integrate the things that really matter.

I’m also zoning out a fair amount. I watched the entire first episode of Scandal, which I’m finding addictive, ludicrous and entertaining. Probably just the medicine. And I’m getting to be all long distance doting-grandma to Juniorette’s new baby. Everyone, meet Junie. Isn’t she adorable?

Junie the Hedgehog

Junie the Hedgehog

So, tomorrow morning I’ll be going to the Surgery Center and facing the needle. I’m ready. SO ready to turn some kind of corner.

 

Exposed, Again October 8, 2013

exposed-2

When I realized that this week was the 4th year anniversary of the Exposed Movement, originally started by Mish at Eating Journey, my initial reaction was to scoff and whimper, “No way.” I remember feeling pretty great about exposing myself when I joined the movement in 2010. I had been working on my health and fitness for about a year, and I was feeling confident.

This year, I could not be in a more different place. This week I have been debilitated by crazy, relentless pain, and the simple acts of showering or trying to eat a 10-minute meal sitting up have been excruciating.

But as I began to read – and be inspired and moved by- other “anniversary” exposed posts – Carla and Karen and Emily, Jules, Kate and Roni – I felt like, the biggest part of Exposing oneself is in the showing up. As is. And of celebrating what there is to celebrate.

This week, I’m celebrating the fact that I can still find a comfortable position in which to write (on my back, laptop propped on knees). When my writing is taken away, it’s all over. But I’m also contemplating where I’ve been SINCE that first Exposed post back in 2010.

2010

Since then, I’ve:

  • completed two triathlons
  • managed to stay within 5 lbs of my goal weight, and remained on staff at Weight Watchers
  • kept on my committed path of trying to be as healthy and fit as I am able
  • been able to discontinue my diabetes medication completely (although temporarily back on due to all the anti-inflammatories I’m on)

These are all big victories to me. The greatest victory I see is that I have not given up, not taken a U-turn or stopped caring or acting in behalf of my health. I might not be the unstoppable, badass triathlete I was in 2011, but that’s okay.  Here’s a picture I took this afternoon.

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This arm-over-the-head position is the only one that is not excruciating when I’m upright these days.

I’m still here.

What would it mean – what would it look like and feel like – to expose yourself?

 

The Week In Which I Cried A River, then Found Hope July 26, 2013

hip

These are my actual hips.

So it’s been a rough couple of months out here. I’ve basically been having nonstop right hip pain ever since the Oakland half marathon, and it’s been bumming me out big time. The hardest part has been not knowing for sure what was wrong – was it a muscle pull? Bursitis? For a month or so I thought it might be due to some pretty big fibroids I have. But although they are clinically classified as “huge,” they have not grown or changed in size since 2009. So my gynecologist was not ready to do anything drastic until I got a complete workup from an orthopedist.

I finally went and had that evaluation on Wednesday. First he did a physical exam. He said he was pretty sure that I did have hip arthritis, and also based on my symptoms, pretty sure I am going to need a total hip replacement.

Thud.

(that was my heart falling out of my body onto the floor)

I had been sort of bracing myself for this possibility. I tried to recover myself quickly and then I asked, “But what about running?” I think I had this picture in my head, like, as soon as I can just get FIXED, then I can carry on with all my usual stuff, that has, been by the way, on hold for a long time. He said, you know, people are going to do what they’re going to do, but we really do not recommend it. Especially for a young person, we want that new joint to last a long time, and the more you use it, the faster it will wear out.

And then I started crying. And pretty much didn’t stop for about eight hours, until I passed out from sobbing. I had to go to my Weight Watchers meeting. I drove past the site of See Jane Run and totally LOST MY SHIT.

I thought, that was my last race. Of my entire life. I thought, I was going to do that half marathon. And now I never will. I was choke-sobbing all the way to the parking lot of my WW center. I tried to pull myself together. A few of my observant members noticed that I looked like hell. They asked me if I was having a bad day. I really could not even talk about it for fear I would start hysterically wailing right there. I went and hid in a storage closet until the meeting was supposed to start, and miraculously I got through it more or less. It was frankly a relief to talk about SALADS for half an hour.

I got back in my car. The waterworks resumed. I had this image of coming into the house and seeing my beloved medal rack with all my race bling hanging there. I was wailing as if the world was over. Part of my world WAS over. I went home and crawled into bed. I felt like I was seventeen years old and the love of my life was breaking up with me. The love that I had never thought I’d have. Who ignored me my whole life and then finally turned their attention to me and said I was worthy.

Mr. McBody came in and held me as I carried on. I told him that he was not allowed to utter the words “swim” or “bike” until I deemed it acceptable. It was like when we lost our first child. People kept saying I would go on to have other wonderful children. Which turned out to be TRUE, but at that moment it was the last thing on earth I was able to hear. So, I might go on to have a wonderful biking or swimming life, but at that moment I needed to mourn the running.

Sometime during all this melee, I received a text from my dear friend Carla. She texted, Have you seen hiprunner.com? They have an e-Book….

my new community

my new community

I took a look at the site on Thursday, when my head was throbbing and my eyelids looked like giant waterbeds. I made some sort of wild noise of disbelief and joy as I read about other runners who had undergone hip replacements and who were… RUNNING! WHAT!?!?!?!?!? I immediately posted a comment of OMG OMG OMG are you kidding me?! I received a very warm welcome and an invitation to join the Hip Runners Club. Did I want to participate? HELL YES.

So. I have dried my tears. I am dusting myself off and looking toward the next whatever-it-is. I don’t know when this will actually happen because I need to find myself a new orthopedist (the one I saw this week is retiring) and I am going to find one who believes that some form of running post-op will be okay.

And I’m gonna order myself this T-shirt. Game on.

Bring it on.

Bring it on.

 

 
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