eat, move, think, feel

Back In the World (Sort of.) November 23, 2013

#throwbackthursday: sometimes I have to hold onto stuff.

#throwbackthursday: sometimes I have to hold onto stuff.

Little by little. I’m venturing out. I’m doing small things, both in and out of the house.

Everything feels huge. HUGE. The first time I drove the car last week, I felt like a sixteen year old with a new permit, gripping the wheel with white knuckles, waiting long minutes before pulling into traffic. Testing out my neck, my reflexes, my attention, my ability to focus on more than one thing at a time. (the radio, other cars, my husband’s voice) I drove about 5 miles to drop my mother off at her volunteering gig.

I am humbled and amused that my 90 year old mother has about 100x more stamina and energy than I do. She can spend a day stuffing envelopes, come home and walk the dog, then go out to a Golden State Warriors basketball game, cheering and stomping until 10:00pm. All of which would probably kill me at this point.

People are happy to see me out in the world. They tell me I’m looking great! The teeny tiny bandaid at the the back of my neck doesn’t really represent anything. I say, the incision is small but deep. But it’s not just the incision that cut through the tough white fascia in my spine, the muscles and the drilling into my vertebrae. It’s the six weeks of unfathomable pain, of lying in bed trying to find a position, or walking around in ballet position, of counting the minutes before I surrendered and had to just get horizontal again (15 minutes on a really good day, 2 minutes on an average day).

Meanwhile I was forever experimenting with the pharmacy that was multiplying in my bathroom, trying to test the drugs to see which would bring relief without vomiting or psychosis or some other unpleasant side effect. Meanwhile my muscles, so long the pride of my body, have thinned down into thread. I have to be careful with what I lift. Even some plates are still too heavy. I’m better with saucers, single utensils, the little mugs and glasses, not the big ones. Pots and pans are out of the question. I won’t be hauling the turkey next week.

This week I stopped in at the Weight Watchers center to check in with Julie, the fabulous leader who has been filling for me since September. I told her I didn’t think I’d be back this week. Just sitting in a chair listening to her speak tired me out. I couldn’t imagine summoning the energy to stand up in  front of the meeting room. Not yet.

Last night I went back to the Writers Grotto because my beloved office mate was having a pre-nuptial party and I wanted to celebrate with her and the writers I’ve missed for so many months. I wanted to see my little space that I’d missed.

My succulent plants were long dead.

is this a metaphor for something?

is this a metaphor for something?

After a couple of hours of merriment (during which time I mostly slouched in the corner of a sofa, kind of dazed) I felt like I was melting. Unable to speak or hold up my head. I got home around 7:30 and went directly to bed.

Parties are fun, but they take a lot of energy!

Parties are fun, but they take a lot of energy!

This is how it is now. Better, so much better, but so far from where I was. I’ve taken a few walks this week, no more than a mile at a time. I slow-walk, always with a friend, whose arm I can grab if I start to wobble, half a mile to the “It’s Nice To Be Nice” bench. Then I rest. Then walk a half mile back to the car and again, directly to bed. It wipes me.

Alexandra accompanies me on the one-mile marathon

Alexandra accompanies me on the one-mile marathon

Still, I’m managing to get some things done. I’m checking things off my to-do list. Phone calls and getting stuff done that I never had time to do before. Small things.

I’m reading. And writing. Thinking about new directions for the new year.

I’ve started reading Roxana Robinson’s stunning novel, Sparta, and reading about the Marine returning home from Iraq, and how returning from his experience is so surreal and terrifying, how his loved ones want to welcome him back just as he was before.  I know that two months of a herniated disc is not really comparable to four years of war, but it’s been like a little war in my body. It was a shocking kind of attack like I’d never experienced before. Where everything I believed and knew about myself was called into question.

I’m putting my life back together but it’s so much slower and in smaller increments than I ever could have imagined.




Post. Op. November 17, 2013

Pre-Op with my buddy.

Pre-Op with my buddy.

So, it finally happened: I had a cervical laminotomy, microdiskectomy and foraminectomy on Wednesday afternoon. I had been hoping hoping to avoid surgery, but after eight weeks of really relentless pain, I was glad to try something that promised the hope of relief. I won’t lie, I was nervous. And emotional. But ready.

We got to the hospital a few hours ahead of the 3:30pm surgery time. I put on my stylin’ hospital gown (very nice design, with a big pocket in the front!) and settled in to wait. I was visited by the neurosurgeon, the anesthesiologist and the OR nurse. Finally they wheeled me into the operating room. The last thing I remember was going through the swinging doors that said OPERATING ROOM on them, and then… nothing.

I woke up and there was a nurse who kept saying, Take another deep breath. Another one. Apparently I had to hang out in recovery for a couple of hours because the breathing thing wasn’t happening to their satisfaction. I had about a minute of “I think I’m going to be sick” but they shot me up with anti-nausea stuff right away and nipped that in the bud, so for the first time I didn’t have terrible vomiting after anesthesia. I was very grateful for this.

Finally they brought me up to my room where Mr. McBody had been waiting for me. I was so happy to see him. And by the time I was awake enough to notice, I realized that the arm/shoulder blade pain that has been torturing me for two months was gone. GONE. AWAY.

I did a lot of sleeping. I managed to get up, with a lot of help from the nurse and Mr. McB, to the bathroom.  The next day (Thursday), the physical therapist came by and stated we were going for a walk around the hall. This sounded very ambitious to me, but lo and behold, holding on to the IV wheel, I did it.

the physical therapist took me on my first walk

the physical therapist took me on my first walk

There was a big board in my room with all of my pertinent information. One thing they do is ask every several hours, What is your goal? (I thought this was kind of amusing). I said my goal was to go home.

Goal: would like to go home.

Goal: would like to go home.

I got home around noon on Thursday. I think I slept most of that day. Friday and Saturday I felt pretty sore in the incision area, which they said was to be expected. Even though my incision was pretty small, it was deep and a lot of stuff had gone on in there. As Mr. McBody is fond of saying, “they really raunched around in there.” He was able to get ahold of my surgery report which I found very interesting.

I had noted that there were these two spots above my ears (on my skull) that were very, very sore and tender. Then I realized that this was because my head was clamped to the table!

The head was secured with the Mayfield head fixation device

Which I suppose was a good and necessary thing. I was taken by how many times the words “careful” and “carefully” were used in the report. Like a dozen. Somehow this made me feel good. I mean, he wouldn’t say “casually” or “messily” but I liked that he made a point of being “careful.”

It became clear that there was a large disk herniation causing marked compression of the ventral nerve root at its exit from the spinal canal… the larger pieces of the herniated disk were mobilized…this resulted in immediate decompression.

Reading this, and talking with the surgeon the next day, made me feel so relieved and also like… so there was a REALLY BIG REASON I have had so much pain. He said that the nerve had basically been strangled and stretched and he was surprised I had been able to go 8 weeks in this condition. I was also so relieved that it was so straightforward – there was a very specific, physical cause for my pain and he fixed it.

So since I’ve been home, I’ve had different pain. The place where the incision happened has been pretty sore, but it mostly bothers me when I’m changing position. (lying down to sitting up is the worst) Once I’m in the new position, it kind of calms down and then I’m good unless I move too much. It’s a completely different sort of pain, and I am noticing that it is improving every day.

Yesterday, Lily came by and took me for a walk up on the trail. We went a whole mile and although it was exhausting, it didn’t make my pain worse. So YAY!

1 mile walk!

1 mile walk!

I feel like I am finally on the road to getting better. I’m still not able to drive (too much head turning) and I don’t have a lot of energy, but that terrible, awful stabbing pain has left the building.

I didn’t get to Minneapolis this week. Which was sad and disappointing. But tonight I am actually going to show up for something on my calendar. I’ll be reading from this new book tonight and I’m going to be out in the world, even for just a few hours.

Yay. Whew. Yay.


(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.


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.



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.


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.


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. ;-)


Ambulatory! November 4, 2013

Filed under: exercise,health,walking — Susan @ 8:26 pm


News flash: I just walked down the street and back! Super weak and shaky, hanging on my sweetie’s arm, but I did it and it wasn’t so bad. This is improvement!


Improv Workouts from Beach to Forest April 13, 2013

Filed under: exercise,hiking,injury,running,walking,writing — Susan @ 4:03 pm

I’ve been traveling for the past couple of weeks. Working out has been severely curtailed, although I’ve tried to keep up with the minimum of “twenty minutes of something- anything!” as much as possible. I feel my body sort of weakening.

I got on a plane just a few days after finishing the Oakland half. My hip was already feeling pretty wonky. But then sitting on a plane for 6+ hours, then sitting in a car for another day, then a bunch of writing – and more sitting – it’s been orthopedically tough. I have only really had one run since I left California on March 28th- a shivery cold run in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Brrrrr. But pretty.

Brrrrr. But pretty.

Since then, a few hikes and many beach walks. The first beach walks on soft sand were kind of excruciatingly painful for that hip.


I tried to get an appointment with the local physical therapist but that didn’t work out. I ended up going to a sports store, one of the few little shops open during the winter season. Near the front door, a wire basket with a sign “Used Softballs $1.” That was pretty much one of the best one-dollar investments I ever made. I brought that baby home and rolled the heck out of my hip. OWIIIIEEEE. But good owie. Necessary owie. The ball rolling has made a huge difference. After the softball sessions, the beach walks ended up being a lot less painful.

Insert under hip, and ROLL. Ow! Yay!

Insert under hip, and ROLL. Ow! Yay!

This week I’ve made a complete change of scene – back to California. I had one day at home and I was so glad to get back onto my “home” trail a few blocks from my house. Ahhhh.


Then on Thursday, I relocated to a friend’s remote cabin/barn/cathedral in the woods. Kind of amazing. We are miles from anywhere. The forest here is stunningly peaceful, beautiful. Yesterday I took a hike and explored around. Today I took another one. I was feeling like, this is nice, but it’s just not ENOUGH. I found a little clearing and did a bunch of 100-set invisible jumpropes on the soft pine needle floor. It was really cushy and comfortable. I worked up a tiny little sweat. I hike along a deserted logging road. Did I mention there is nobody around here for miles and miles? I took off my shirt. Because of that. The sun felt so nice.

Little trees growing in the road

Little trees growing in the road

I am not normally someone who walks around in a sports bra. Yeah, you can do that if you are young and buff and such, but not if you are an over-50 somewhat mushy, haven’t-done-weights-in-too-long kinda gal. I poked at my upper arms as I walked. This did not make me happy. I picked up some thick branches that were almost logs. Maybe 5-10 lbs or so. I lifted and pressed as I walked. That felt good. I put it down and did some more invisible jumpropes. I did some hill repeats, carrying the log thing. I was having fun jumping and hauling logs around in the woods in my sports bra. Hahaha.

I got back to the cabin (after getting just semi-lost and bushwacking my way back) and felt better about my level of activity today. It was fun, improvising it up out there in the forest.

I’m looking forward to getting back home next week. To doing some night swimming at the pool with my buddy Lily. To getting back to seeing my trainer now and and again.  To having some fun at a Nia class.To working my way back up to another half marathon in June.

Traveling is good. It brings you out of yourself and the dailiness of it all, to seeing things in a new way. I’m grateful for my forest workout today, for feeling free under the trees and the sun.


Re-Sparked December 29, 2012


It’s been a long time since I blogged. Whew. I was in the midst of the Health Blog A Day Challenge when I seriously fell off the bloggy wagon. It was a combination of suddenly getting a HUGE influx of work combined with having a few days of feeling stuck with the blog prompts. At some point I just threw in the towel and haven’t had a chance to look back since then.

The holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) really threw me, schedule wise. In the past, I’ve either been working super part time OR at a nonprofit OR in the academic world. All of which equalled a big break around the holiday times. I was able to shop, organize, cook and clean, wrap and mail. But I used to spend entire days dedicated to those activities. This year, for the first time ever, my schedule got super ramped up right around Thanksgiving. I was suddenly working many more hours, many more miles from home. I would come home exhausted, fall into bed and do paperwork in my pajamas, pass out and do it again. I knew, however, that this crazy schedule was limited. I just had to keep it up until Christmas Eve.

We spent most of Christmas day in our pajamas. We had no dinner guests so we got up late, opened stockings, made our traditional brunch (Mexican baked eggs and Juniorette’s to-die-for cinnamon rolls), opened presents, took a nap, slowly prepared for dinner (which included a no-work honeybaked ham), ate dinner, then went to see the Hobbit (yay).

IMG_9773 IMG_9754

The next day we flew to Sundance to meet up with cousins and to take part in some epic, gorgeous snow. It was the first time in weeks (months) that I wasn’t scheduled up like crazy.

I spent two days snowshoeing (which I LOVE) in the most amazing, powdery, fluffy, gorgeous snow ever. Also heck of a workout.



It was a good reminder for me. To do what I love. To move in a way that makes me happy. Always good to return to this.

Yesterday afternoon I had the biggest treat. I got to meet up with my dear dear friend Shannon, who was one of my very first blogging friends. Back in the day when I was still anonymous, she was always there encouraging me, supporting me and telling me I could do it, whatever It was. So many times she would Tweet or comment, “I just love you Foodie!” and I’d feel so cared about.

Soon I will be meeting up with one of my other oldest and dearest blogging friends – Carla, aka MizFitonline. When I started blogging four years ago, she was one of the only “superstars” who reached out with genuine interest and kindness, for which I will be eternally grateful. I am so excited to welcome her to my part of the world as a neighbor. Sorry Austin – your HUGE loss is my ecstatic gain.

(by the way, world – you can get your own fabulous piece of MizFit by checking out her BRAND SIZZLING NEW E-book “How to Build Muscle and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind” here – I can’t wait to read it! Maybe on the plane home!)

Today I pondered whether to go out for one more glorious snowshoe hike, or to stay snuggled under the down comforter to do what I haven’t in so long – reading, writing, contemplating the icicles.


The latter won out and I am so glad. I’ve needed down time for so long, to return to my bloggy roots, to take some time to just lie around and contemplate all that is good.



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