Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reflection: 2011

Wow, here I am, 7 years have passed since the day I began this blog. I don’t know if I ever thought this blog would be alive after all of this time. There have been points in time when it has laid low, when it has licked its wounds; there have been points when it has been flying high, with the world by it’s tail.

That’s life in a nutshell, isn’t it.

2011 has been  a year like none I have had since I began posting here.  I went into 2011 wondering if I had ovarian cancer.  A complete, radical hysterectomy in January showed that I didn’t thank goodness. I slammed into menopause. I began 7 weeks of recovery, began to run again, half marathons, marathons, 50Ks and then the dreaded herniated discs arrived and yet another recovery.

The hysterectomy recovery turned out to be uneventful. Seven weeks of laying low, walking, flat on my back most of the time. I later learned that the time on my back with my chin pointed toward my chest as I was watching TV or iPhoning probably herniated two of my discs.  My gynecologic surgeon and neurosurgeon both came to this conclusion. As I look back it now makes sense.

I’ve received many questions via email, FB, etc. relating to the herniated discs and the recovery process. It was horrible. I’ll go into detail here to answer many of the questions.

When I came back to work in March, after 7 weeks of medical leave, I noticed that I felt pain in my left elbow when answering the phone. I hadn’t yet started to run or lift at this point.  I rearranged my work desk so that I would be answering my telephone with my right arm.  A few days later I commented that my left index finger felt numb and my hand tingly. I couldn’t figure this out.

I began to run and noticed that when I did I had a ‘falling asleep’ feeling from my elbow down to my fingers .. this continued for weeks.  I didn’t know why and didn’t make any medical appointments. I think I was ‘all doctored out’. 

I remember running the Minneapolis Marathon in May, so happy that I was again running, so thrilled that the hysterectomy hadn’t taken me down and hadn’t shown cancer. I also remember having to pass my water bottle hand to hand because the left one kept falling asleep. I kept trying to shake it out, it wouldn’t shake out.

In July I ran the Afton 50K and felt the same symptoms of the herniated discs but didn’t know what it was. I was beginning to worry I had MS or something.  I took the race slow, but finished the crazy Afton Alps course, I was happy to have made it but the pain in my arm worried me.

Finally by the end of July I couldn’t run anymore, it hurt too badly. The bouncing motion made my rhomboid area scream in pain. I thought maybe I strained my rhomboid. The pain at this point was horrific.

The first Dr. I saw was a General Practitioner. It was he who thought I could have herniated discs. I was stunned. I was scheduled for physical therapy in two weeks. He gave me some exercises to complete daily, a prescription for muscle relaxants and suggested an MRI.

The MRI confirmed herniated discs and the doctor I saw this time spoke of surgery. I was resistant to this option. I decided to get an appointment at Mayo with a neurosurgeon. Why wouldn’t one go to the best of the best, you know?  I had my hysterectomy at Mayo and had as good of an experience as one could under the circumstances.

In the meantime I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I heard Topaz stuck under my bed. Now I realize I was dreaming. He can’t even fit under my bed. I have a Select Comfort and there isn’t room for him under there. 

I popped out of bed (OUCH!) began to pull on Topaz as he was sleeping on the floor next to my bed. As I pulled him I felt intense pain. I couldn’t move.

Eventually I made my way to the kitchen and just stood there. I couldn’t cry, I would scare Troy, I couldn’t scream, what good would that do? I stood there wondering if I should get on the floor in fetal position. It didn’t help. I hurt so badly and  I didn’t know what to do. I was going to go out of my mind. I had all of the Oxycodone left from my hysterectomy. I hadn’t taken any. I wondered if I should now?

I had Steve take me to the ER at Princeton.  The Dr. there told me I had probably suffered a muscle strain. Ah, no, I had an MRI and have herniated discs. Oh, well, I don’t think so, I think you have a muscle strain. I see you have on a race shirt, you run, well, take some Percocet, some of the Oxycodone some Aleve and you can run. Are you for real?  I don’t need to run, I need to be able to get through this hour without pain.  We left. I wasn’t feeling much better but the Percocet he gave me as I walked through the door was taking the edge off.

I decided to try a chiropractor. Bad idea. I saw one in Big Lake and he was a joke. I could barely walk into his office. He told me I had sprained my neck and asked me to take my shirt off, then to flex my biceps as he stood there watching me. Are you kidding me?  I left and didn’t go back. I should probably report him to the Better Business Bureau or something.  What the fuck?

My appointment at Mayo finally arrived. I saw a wonderful neurosurgeon who told me that only 10% of his patients who have herniated discs are candidates for surgery. He showed me how to take care of my spine, how to get through my day, what exercises to complete. He told me I would run again. He told me my pain would lessen. It could be 3 months, it could be 6 months, it could be a year.  He told me to keep my appointments with the physical therapist and that he would contact me each week. He did. He was awesome.

The physical therapy went well. Traction was my new best friend and the healing began.  It was slow. Here I am, 9 months since this all began, and finally feeling good.

That was a long report on the whole herniated disc saga, I hope it answered some of the questions. It has had a big impact on 2011 and what I want to do in 2012.

Now, when I run, I remember the pain. I remember how I didn’t know if I would be able to run again. I remember how I told myself I was OK with that. I just wanted the pain to be gone. If I was able to run again, that would be icing on the cake.

I am enjoying the icing on the cake!

I am running and I have missed it so very much. I am humbled and I am so very grateful for every step I am now taking out in the woods.

This week Topaz and I ran our longest run since I ran Afton 50K.  We ran 20 miles!  I had no pain, no numbness. I was laughing, crying, yahooing the whole time. It was fabulous. It is fabulous.

As I turn 47 years old tomorrow I am thankful that I am looking at 2012 as a healthy person. I am not going into the New Year as I did last year: a hysterectomy scheduled and hoping to hear I am cancer free.  I am thankful for so many things. I am thankful for  my family, for my health. 

I won't be running my birthday years in miles as I normally do each birthday, but hey, at least I can run..right?  I will reach my highest mileage this week in a long time. It will be 47 miles. Tomorrow we are celebrating my birthday at Pittsburgh Blue. I'm looking forward to it.

I have many plans to reach my goals for 2012. I’ll keep most of my goals private except for my running plans. That is where this blog began.

For so many years my daily calendar has been Tyler and Troy. I gave up the plush corporate office to stay at home for years and then began to work at the public school so that I could have the same hours as my boys. The daily calendar is letting me lose. With Tyler out of the nest and doing so well at college, with Troy not far behind, I find that I am craving more structure for myself. I find that I am having difficulty filling my day. My routine for so long has been my children, my purpose has been their care, their nurturing. I’ve done well. They have wings with which to fly. They soar.

For 2012 I’m ready to go big running wise.   I have had plenty of time to think about what I want to accomplish while running in 2012.  I have a final goal and am creating the detailed plans to get to the outcome I desire. I am pulling out my calendar and putting together my plan.  Once I have it set in stone, I’ll let you in.

Training began a few weeks ago. I love training, and oh, how I have missed it!  The only difference between running and training is a written plan. I have written the plan, I am putting in the miles. With training comes discipline, scheduling, a sense of achievement, where I find joy.  I find that while I am training everything else falls into place.

Cheers to 2012!


Helen said...

Happy Happy 2012 Julie! Thanks for sharing all of the details. You dealt with a lot of shit this year. But you are stronger and wiser for it. I hope everyone who goes to see that quack chiro never returns. It is too bad those ones can give the whole profession a bad rep. Can't wait to see your running plans unfold for the year ahead. Training IS fun isn't it? :) I'm sure Topaz is beyond happy to have his partner back in action too. Here's to a year of highs!

Happy Birthday too!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Julie! I love your blog and see you as a true inspiration. I herniated a disc in my neck several years ago and still feel the weakness on my left side. My neurologist was great and got me to the best point I could probably is very painful going through the healing but it will heal. Good luck in 2012!

Olga said...

Happy birthday, girl. That was some year. You had made it through. I am looking forward reading about your next year, and running with you too!

Julie B said...

Yes, Helen, training IS fun!! Yeah, that chiro ... I was so stunned I just stood there with my mouth wide open.

Julie, I'm glad you are feeling better, too. I know what you mean, my left side is considerably weaker than my right. I notice it most while doing pushups, bench presses.

Dear Olga! We shall run together, through the woods of South Dakota! Looking forward to it...knowing you for 7 years online, it seems as though we have already met!

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Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog, and I am glad I did. Wow. I can't believe everything you've been through this past year. You're an inspiration! Cheers to you!