Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Let's do shots! (cortisone shots)

My day started off with a field trip up to UMass Memorial in Worcester, MA for a cortisone injection in my hip socket.  The hope is that this will provide me with some relief while I wait for surgery, and although I was looking forward to the temporary relief, I knew there was a good chance there would be some initial pain.  This is the same hospital where my surgery will take place, so it was a nice little dry run to scope out the hospital.  I’m glad I got this chance too, because I realized that the hospital isn’t very convenient for people that have trouble walking.  Part of the problem was parking in the parking garage, which had a series of stairways, elevators, and odd annexes to navigate through to get into the hospital.  For the surgery I’m splurging for the valet service, which will give me straighter access to the building.
                I walked into the Radiology waiting room at precisely 8:45 (the time of my appointment) and was immediately escorted into the back room.  The room resembled an ER, with a long row of mini-rooms separated by individual curtains.  There were probably 10 of these mini-rooms on each side; each occupied by someone waiting for a procedure or recovering from one.  As I waited in my little curtain area, I had to listen to the lady in the next room over who I’m guessing had spent a good 50 or 60 years cozying up with the Marlboro Man.  Her voice was deep and jagged, and she coughed and wheezed incessantly.  I had to listen as she responded to the list of potential allergies, pointing out that she didn’t know if she had a shellfish allergy.  It was a strange conversation, and I couldn’t help but wonder how a lady this “mature” could go through life (especially in Massachusetts) without knowing if she had a shellfish allergy.  After the nurse left, I heard Mrs. Crab repeatedly swear under her wheezy breath, and then apparently cough/sneeze/gag up something putrid.  She then swore some more when she realized there were no tissues in her little mini-room. 
                The nurse left Mrs. Crab and came into my room to take vitals.  She seemed so relieved that I didn’t have any allergies, issues, or smoke breath.  She took my vitals and expressed outright joy, saying “wow, you don’t get better than that!”  Well, you do get better than that in my opinion, but I’m guessing she spends a lot more time with people like Mrs. Crab than with runners.  But for the record, blood pressure was 120/65, pulse was 60, oxygenation was 100%.  She left me a johnny to change into, and instructed me to change out of my clothes, leaving just my bra, underwear, and socks on.  I did as told, but as usual I struggled with the Johnny.  One-size-fits-all johnnies don’t generally work out too well for me since I’m shorter than the average person, and judging by Mrs. Crab next door, probably a bit narrower than most too.  I tied it as tight as possible but it wouldn’t stay in place.  I started panicking about how I would navigate past all the other patients into the treatment room without giving everyone a show.
                A few minutes later another nurse showed up to ask some additional questions, and when she noticed it was a hip injection, she told me I would need to remove my underwear as well.  I balked at the thought of this.  I explained that the Johnny didn’t fit me very well, and I refused to walk out in public with my bare ass hanging out.  She got a good chuckle out of my honesty, and gave me a second Johnny to wear like a coat.  All wrapped up like a sushi roll, I ambled over to the treatment room with my dignity intact.
                In the treatment room I met the doctor, who was a very good looking man (what is it with movie star looking doctors at this hospital?) and we went over the procedure.  He said I would expect to be in a lot less pain than the last injection I had back in May, which was done in conjunction with an arthrogram.  There were three people assisting him and I was a little surprised at the amount of activity in the room.  He said it was possible that I might have some luck with this injection, but he looked at my films and there’s no getting around it:  I need surgery.  He didn’t have to tell me twice, but it was kind of comforting getting another opinion.  We talked about how I got this injury, and he gave me some interesting information.  In looking at my films, he said that I may have injured it from that one specific accident, but that my hip had it coming and this accident probably just sped up this tear.  I was a little surprised to hear that, but it did make sense since I was told I have those bony hooks (FAI) that create tears.  That leads me to question the condition of my other hip, so I’m going to try to remember to ask the surgeon when I see him, if I can talk to him without drooling.
                The doctor was right.  The injection was still painful, but not nearly the extent of the arthrogram I had in May.  Still, it was no walk in the park, and my post-treatment vitals showed my blood pressure spiked up to 131/84, and pulse was in the 50's. I was able to walk relatively normally after the procedure, although I opted for the elevators to get back to my car afterwards.  My mother drove me home from the hospital, since I couldn’t drive because of the numbness, and I was ok until I tried getting out of the car.  I must have stiffened up a lot in the car, and experienced a lot of pain walking into my house.  For the rest of the day I spent a lot of time sitting in the recliner and trying not to move too much. 

Very unflattering photo of me working this afternoon from the recliner. Notice I haven't given up the running socks!

Tonight I seem a little more comfortable and I’m walking a little better.  I’m hoping that by tomorrow the injection pain will be over and I’ll be experiencing the benefits of the cortisone!  I have a fun camping trip planned for this weekend and I’ll be a real drag if I’m hobbling around on crutches!

One final thought…
Today is September 28.  That means my surgery is ONE MONTH away!
One of my goals on my 5 week plan was to exploit this injury for personal gain.  I’m proud to say this is coming along nicely!
Andrew is painting the family room for me!
Mom made me dinner and cleaned up after!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Asics Sabbatical

A lot has happened since the last time I posted, so I’ll try to catch up best I can with some of the key high lowlights. 
My last run: The last time I laced up my brandy spanking new Asics was on September 10.  Kerri and I did another long run, on my quest to prepare for a half marathon this weekend.  We did 9 miles and I felt very good.  My hip restricted me of course, but I felt strong and it was a real confidence builder.  I knew that if I could squeeze in just one more of those before this weekend I would be in good shape for the half.  Unfortunately, three days after that long run I had to cancel my running plans because of some unusual hip soreness.  That extended into Wednesday, and then Thursday, and so-on.  The pain has gotten progressively worse over the last couple of weeks and now just walking is a struggle.  My running, hiking, and biking days are behind me, and I’ve officially hung up the Asics until 4 months after surgery.
Energy reassignment: For the first time in years, running isn’t what I think about most.  At first, the realization that my running ended 6 weeks earlier than expected was tough to digest.  I think this is a big reason why I didn’t update my blog for so long.  I struggled in finding a way to redirect my energy and remained a little bitter about my early retirement.  Finally, I made a plan to remodel the family room.  Totally unrelated to running, sure, but still a major project that I could focus on.  The plan is to have the family room finished by the time I go in for surgery, so I’ll have a comfortable room to be spending a lot of time in.  So needless to say, I’m deep in the process of painting, carpeting, installing a giant flat screen, and scouring the internet for good deals on furniture.  As I start progressing through my rehab, I’m thinking about getting a cycle trainer in there to pedal indoors on my mountain bike.
My 5 week plan:
I have just over 5 weeks left until surgery, but in desperation I called the surgeon yesterday.  When I first saw him I was in pain but I was still getting through daily life ok.  My hip has gotten to the point where it impacts pretty much every aspect of every activity… even sleeping!  They scheduled an emergency cortisone injection for me tomorrow morning to try to make it a little more bearable while I wait for surgery.  I’m hopeful that this will provide some relief, but I also distinctly remember the amount of pain I experienced the day I had my first injection back in May.  At least now I have experience, so I will be cautioning the doctor to fill me up with loads of lidocaine.
Other happenings in the 5 week plan:
·         Finish the family room renovation, which includes picking out a kick-ass recliner
·         Wrap up some work stuff
·         Go on one last camping trip with the horses (this weekend, yay!)
·         Take full advantage of the injury and exploit sympathies for personal gain
I promise not to be as absent on this blog, but don’t be surprised if you start seeing more “remodeling” updates and pain killer comparisons and less running articles.  I will be sure to blog about my experiences post-surgery and physical therapy, and the long eventual road back into my running shoes. 

See you in February, Asics!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Girl Seeks Euphoria

As if whining about my hip wasn’t annoying enough, I’ve also spent the summer complaining about the heat.  This is after I spent the whole winter complaining about the twelve foot high snow banks.  Honestly, am I just impossible to please?  Todd would say yes.  He would attribute my complaints to that giant bag of excuses I carry around with me.  But no really, I hate running in the heat.  I am a self-proclaimed heat wuss.  I melt.  Running in the heat is a chore, and a matter of survival.  It’s a constant battle of trying to stay hydrated, trying not to pass out, trying not to let my heart rate skyrocket, trying not to develop heat stroke.  There’s more sweat in the eyes, more chafing, more sunburn, more deodorant.  I’m quite confident that if I lived anywhere south of Massachusetts, I wouldn’t be a runner.  My body was just not designed to be a sun soaker. 
                This past Labor Day weekend, I had every intention of doing a long run.  I need to get in a couple more long runs before I sign up for a half marathon in October, so I was hoping for 9 miles on either Saturday or Sunday.  Instead of waking up early to run before it heated up, I ended up taking my horse for long rides.  By the time I finished riding, it was just too hot to get in that long run.  Yup, I am no doubt a total heat wuss.  This morning, my 5am wake up call was startling.  It was pitch dark, chilly, and pouring.  It was the kind of morning where the blankets practically forbid me from sliding out of bed, and the snooze button was hit repeatedly.   When I finally managed to get out of bed, I breathed in the chilly air coming in through the window.  The crisp air was a welcome change to the thick humidity we’ve been enduring for most of the summer.  The thought of running in the cooler conditions was exciting, and I immediately packed my running bag and headed off to work.
                It rained heavily for much of the morning, so I wasn’t sure if I’d have any company on today’s run.  Todd and Jaimee are no fair weather runners though, and the three of us headed out together in the light rain.  Kerri wimped out (her words) and the Ken Doll…well…apparently his muscles melt when it rains. 
                The run was fantastic.  That’s all I can say.  The end.  Okay, I should probably elaborate.  The weather was perfect for running.  It was high 50’s and light-to-steady rain.  It is my favorite running weather.  Apparently all three of us felt the same because we all managed a brisk pace for the entire 4 mile run.  My body was thrilled and responsive.  When I wanted to speed up a bit it was like, okay, let’s go!  I charged up hills, maintained good breathing, good heart rate, and dare I say had a bit of a spring in my step!  When we got back to the building, Todd and Jaimee did another lap around the whole building and I did my own extra lap around one of the parking lots.  It was the first time in months that I felt like I could run forever.  I had no desire to stop running, unlike so many other runs this summer where I literally counted the minutes until I would be done.  Today reminded me why I love autumn running so much: Being able to take all of the fitness gained from the summer and capitalizing on the cooler weather.  It also reminded me of another perk of running.  The runner’s high!  I generally feel pretty good after running, but today was euphoric.  The run was great, my body felt great, and that feeling carried over to the rest of the day.  I nailed the rest of my day at work, and didn’t even mind the rainy, slow commute home.  I stopped for a bottle of wine at the liquor store and chatted up the clerk for a few minutes.  At home, I was unusually energetic after a long day and whipped through some chores.   I was downright cheery!
                When people ask why runners run, there are a lot of reasons and some of them are deeply personal.  But most runners will acknowledge the endorphin-induced runner’s high.  This summer I’ve focused so much on my injury and I’ve shuffled through so many painful, hot miles that I haven’t been able to really enjoy the sport.  Today reminded me how much I love running, and reminded me that there are still a lot of cool days ahead before I go in for my surgery.  Until then I will be just another girl, running her feet off, happily seeking euphoria.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Ken Doll

I would have blogged sooner, but the power has been out at Chateau Jilly and my nights writing stories were replaced with nights shuffling around the house with a flashlight. Today is the first full day with electricity since hurricane Irene visited us last Sunday, so I have some catching up to do.

The thing about being without power is that it makes you feel…well, powerless! Simple things like flushing the toilet, packing lunch, making dinner, all become major hurdles of daily life. I needed something normal, something familiar, to keep me grounded and remind me that I’m okay. So at 5am on Monday, aided by a flashlight in the pitch dark, I packed my gym bag and headed to work. All stories at work revolved around the storm, and those without electricity vastly outnumbered those with. By noon I was looking forward to breaking free and going for a jog around town. I wondered how the residents up there had fared in the storm. Todd was the only other runner at lunch on Monday, so the two of us headed out together. I forewarned him that I wouldn’t be very speedy, because I’m really trying to nurse my hip, and he said he wasn’t worried about it. We ran together for the first half mile, and then he took off. We had already mapped out our route so I wasn’t worried about getting left behind. At this point, I’m used to it. What did catch me off guard though, was when I rounded a corner and spotted Todd on the side of the road, shirt off, doing push-ups! I caught up to him and shouted something ridiculous, at which point I think his chin hit pavement, and then he jumped up and started running again. We jogged together for a few seconds, and I asked why he couldn’t just enjoy a nice leisurely run. He rattled off a few testosterone-injected responses and sprinted off again. We repeated this leapfrog routine for the entire 3 mile run, and more than once I mentioned how embarrassing he is to run with. I can’t even imagine what people driving by must have thought, or the homeowners seeing some sweaty shirtless bald guy doing push-ups under their maple tree. By the end of the three miles, I was feeling pretty good (except for my hip) and Todd said he felt like he was going to puke. So did I, psychologically.

Tuesday Todd opted for yoga at lunch so just Kerri and I ran together. We did the same run as I had done with Todd the day before, only Kerri split off and did an extra mile and a half on the way back. I’m trying to just stick with 3-4 miles at lunch now, because of my hip, so usually this means either I take a short cut back, or my running partner thinks up crazy interval training to compensate for the short distance. Wednesday I didn’t run because I needed to give my hip a break. I’ve come to the realization that I absolutely cannot run three days in a row. If I do, I can’t walk on that fourth day. Instead, Todd found a new guy to run with. I had never seen this guy before so I don’t know if he’s new to the company or if he just started running, but somehow Todd found out he runs and recruited him into our club. We all know how I feel about opening the running circle at lunch, so I was immediately skeptical of this new guy. Todd had run with him once last week and said he was “okay, not bad, he kept up for a while but he’s still working on his pace. Not bad for his first time out. Big guy, definitely more of a weight lifter”. As I figured, Todd had recruited another runner that would be slowing us down. I was actually okay about it though, because it would be nice to have someone slower than me for once. Coincidentally on Wednesday I went out for an errand on my lunch break and happened to spot Todd and the new guy running down the street. He sure didn’t look that slow or winded to me, and Todd told me after they had done 4.3 miles. I started to think this new newbie might be less of a dud than some of the others.

Thursday, still without power, I once again packed my running clothes and insisted on a 3 mile run to make me feel normal. Even better, the original four were all planning to run. (Todd, Jaimee, Kerri, and I). It was like a reunion and I was looking forward to really feeling back in the old routine. It had been exactly a month since Jaimee had injured herself and except for a couple of failed test-runs, she hadn’t been out with us at lunch. She’s been going to PT and the doctor did some electric shock therapy on her knee Wednesday night, and she was eager to see if it worked. This is the same doctor that the week before told her to go home, eat a banana and drink a glass of wine, and he guaranteed she’d be able to run 30 minutes the next day. (She couldn’t). We now refer to her physical therapist as the witch doctor. At the last minute Kerri got stuck in a meeting and couldn’t make it, and instead Todd drafted the new guy.

This was our first time meeting the new guy, and as part of the sacred lunch runners’ code, newbies are under no circumstances allowed to know about the Thought Per Mile blog. At first glance he seemed like a good guy. Good looking, great personality, appropriately dressed, saying all the right things and using all the right running lingo. On the surface he seemed to fit right in, but I figured he was just trying to make a good first impression. I made myself promise that I would give this guy the benefit of the doubt, and not be too critical. We headed out to the parking lot and the new guy immediately started up in a trot. He definitely didn’t need a warm up. He was telling us about running with Todd on Wednesday and how much of a challenge Todd is to run with. Yeah, yeah. I know. Don’t worry, he’ll do push-ups and wait for you. Then he mentioned, “yeah we were averaging a 6 minute pace on that trail, I was sweating all afternoon”. Gulp. I wish I could say what else he said, but that was the last I saw of Todd, Jaimee, or the Ken Doll for the entire run. Within 15 seconds of starting, they were out of earshot, and within a half mile, I never saw them again until the turnaround point.

Jaimee’s knee held up pretty well and she kept up with the guys for much of the run, so maybe her witch doctor finally found the right brew. When I got back to the parking lot, the three of them were cooling off in the shade and I got a round of pity-applause. Since the run was so short we still had plenty of time to kill, so the four of us walked around the building once to cool off. This was my first chance to really see the dynamic of the group unfold. Todd and the Ken Doll exchanged stories of their athletic prowess, who’s conquered the biggest obstacles, scaled the tallest walls, or climbed the highest ropes. The air was ripe with testosterone and you could practically hear them thumping their chests. It seems that Todd has found another Todd.

Back in the locker room Jaimee and I concurred that our lunch runs would never be the same. Todd found a competitor. Someone he would never let get ahead of him and who would constantly be challenging him to run faster and create even more absurd drills every half mile. Gone are the days of the nine minute miles, and the casual jogs sprinkled with scandalous conversations. Todd, our playful puppy and mascot of the lunch runners, has his very own Ken Doll.