Bitter with the Sweet

“Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, ‘This isn’t supposed to be happening this way,’ and trying harder to make it happen some other way.” ― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

I had all kinds of hopes when I moved here. I imagined hiking long mountain trails to pristine lakes and riding my bike on oh, wait, same thing. Even though I had to go thumbs down on two nice houses — one with stairs and another with a claw-footed bathtub I couldn’t climb into — I didn’t connect THOSE problems with the unlikelihood of my hiking long mountain trails to pristine lakes, etc.

It wasn’t long before those hopes shriveled. They grew again when I had my left hip replaced in 2018, but, they’ve retreated in the meantime. I was thinking yesterday how absurd it will be when I have two metal knees and two metal hips. I do not know if I will change my name to C3PO or not, but it’s something to think about.

Meanwhile I fight daily to keep moving. I was wondering yesterday as I rode the Sainted Bike To Nowhere where it gets me. Then my little brain said, “Where might you be WITHOUT it, Sweet Cheeks?” That was a good point. Where would I be? I’ve been fighting to sustain a life-long activity level. Humans can learn to like almost anything (as I’ve learned) and I actually LIKE riding the Sainted Bike to Nowhere. I wish I also had an elliptical, but I don’t have the money or the space.

I have no idea what the future holds, whether I’ll put my legs under some more knives and robots or what. I walk pretty well for now, and that’s the main point, for me anyway.

Last night I dreamed about the Big Empty, the surrounding fields flooded in the spring (irrigation) and the cranes and geese settling in for a while. I was standing on a road looking at it thinking how beautiful it was and how strange. It was — in the dream — as if I’d never seen it before. It was reminiscent of the first time I saw it. Then I thought, “If I could walk better, I probably would not have had any interest in this landscape or this place. Very likely, I would have missed it.”

The featured photo is the first photo on my phone. I took it the day I saw the Big Empty (Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge) for the first time, August 2, 2014.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/rdp-thursday-shrivel/

Fear is Information

A few days ago a friend stopped by between here and there. When she got out of her car, I saw she was bent over by at least 30 degrees and walking stiff-legged. I hadn’t seen her in a few months and I was a little stunned. As it happened, she’s also the friend that argued with me about my hip surgery insisting that I hadn’t had my mobility restored but “augmented.” That made me furious and I don’t get angry all that easily. I was ready to set her straight on that when she arrived, but when I saw her I thought, “We have a bigger problem now.”

She’s a very controlling person with strong opinions. I don’t like confrontation (she does), but I have confronted her before back when I was negotiating for my house and she was my agent. I also, frankly, think she’s kind of an idiot. Many of her opinions about things have been refuted for once and for all by solid scientific research, but I just let it roll away into the twilight zone of illusion. I’m not a person who has to be right, even when I am.

So, instead of telling her not to argue with me about stuff I know (like my own hip surgery and repair) I talked to her about her mobility. She was very defensive and attempted denial. “It doesn’t matter what you think,” I said. “Just get X-rays so you know what you’re dealing with. If it’s something, you need to know.”

“So I know what my options are?”

“We don’t always have options,” I said. A person with bone-on-bone osteoarthritis has the option to have surgery or ride around in a wheelchair. I know she’s not a person who “believes” in objective reality, but it’s there, nonetheless.

Even then she’s (allegedly) going to get the X-rays and show them to her sister, a chiropractor, rather than let the doctor read them. I just figure “Whatever.” Then I tried to explain what long-term pain and challenged mobility do materially to our brain, the organ, not our mind the ephemeral entity.

Either that got her attention or she decided that agreeing with me would get me to shut up.

But, if you’re curious, what pain and being crippled do to our brain is this:

People with unrelenting pain are often depressed, anxious and have difficulty making simple decisions. Researchers have identified a clue that may explain how suffering long-term pain could trigger these other pain-related symptoms. Researchers found that in people with chronic pain, a front region of the cortex associated with emotion fails to deactivate when it should. It’s stuck on full throttle, wearing out neurons and altering their connections.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080205171755.htm


What’s more, a person in this situation — because it evolves slowly — has a tendency to accept the unacceptable — like my friend walking like that, and excusing it by saying, “I just drove 3 hours.”

No.

I said straight out, “That doesn’t wash in real life. These are not symptoms of driving. They’re symptoms of a physical problem.”

I think that whether she does anything or not (it’s her life, her body) she knows I care about her. There’s not much more I can do.

I’m still fighting the brain changes every day. I was essentially handicapped and in pain for a decade. Sometimes I’m amazed by what I’m able to do now that I couldn’t do for a long, long time, like figure out a solution so my back storm door doesn’t keep breaking, like cutting back an unwelcome elm tree, like basically figuring out anything.

Today I filled the tires on my real bike which I haven’t ridden in more than 2 years. I was determined to ride it. The whole scenario reminded me of taking out my new Cross Country skis the first, second, third, fourth, fifth times. I felt a nagging apprehension, fear, that threatened to hold me back from doing something I wanted to do. As with Cross Country skiing, I didn’t know if I could ride, but I have no rational reason not to.

My fears are about getting on and stopping at a stop sign. I have to figure out a way to get on when I’m afraid? unable? to lift my leg over the bike. For now I lay the bike on the ground, straddle it and pull it up, but that isn’t what I want to do. So, as I wheeled it out of my yard onto the driveway and laid it down to get on, I felt real terror. What if I fell? Could I get up? Would I be hurt? Then my X-country ski voice said, “Don’t fall. Just ride. Just try. See what it’s like. See what you remember. Stop while you’re still having fun. Get on. Who cares how?”

It was a fresh and lovely morning. I rode a couple of miles where I wouldn’t have to deal with stopping. I thought of how nice it would be ride where I walked Bear in winter. I appreciated how much faster and more exhilarating is than walking. I tested out the gears since it had been so long since I’ve shifted bike gears. I think the seat’s too low, but? I don’t know. I decided to take it to Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa and get it fitted to me. It’s a small bike for a small person — maybe too small? I don’t know. Then I turned into the alley and felt the clutch of fear at the rough curb, the rutted dirt and without thinking I was in a solid mountain biking position on my bike. I felt a little spring of joy in my heart.

I might get this. “Keep trying, every day,” said my Cross Country ski voice. “It’s almost as good as snow, remember? Remember how you rode on all those dirt trails in California imagining you were skiing? It will get you through the summer. Don’t give up.”

I came in the house and cried. Fighting fear is very emotional. You hold it back until you can release it. It’s a very good feeling.

“No Restrictions!!”

I’m in Colorado Springs. It’s my 3 month or something visit to my orthorpedic surgeon, Dr. Szuszczewiz. Maybe six month. Time has lost meaning.

Beautiful drive over La Veta Pass, uneventful drive the rest of the way, arrived at my friend’s house a little early, drove to the doc. On the way I heard my anthem, “Running Up that Hill” by Kate Bush.

He took three X-rays, one in a position I thought I wasn’t supposed to take. I waited for him in a cold little room wearing a pair of PT shorts (PT — Physical Therapy). He arrived, came in, said, “Go run up that mountain. Go ski. Where are you going to ski?”

“Where there’s snow.”

Colorado girl.

I’m so happy. In my initial exam he said, “You might be able to run, I think so, but no skiing.” Today, “No restrictions. Maybe I’ll see you on the slopes.”

I don’t have words, I’m beyond happy.

Quotidian Update 43.19.6d

Next week I go see my orthopedic surgeon I think for the last time (I hope?). I guess it’s for my 3 month check but it will have almost 5 months. I may call and ask if I really have to go.  It’s a 3 hour drive and I have to board the dogs… $$$

My novel — The Schneebelis Go to America — is in the hands of my editor. I miss it. As much as I disliked it for so long, it made my summer really pretty good. I’m only worried that my defective brain led to defective writing. But who knows? It could go the other way. I will be very happy to have it back. I’ve built a little spreadsheet of possible agents and their requirements.

I got a small bottle of pepper spray to take on walks to the slough. I have not been there since the uncomfortable encounter with Grizzly Man — except with my friends when they came for the Potato Festival. I got the hot pink bottle so that it would be very visible to anyone approaching me. It’s crazy that I lived in a high crime city in a high crime neighborhood, hiked alone (with dogs) for years, walked around the hood with and without my dogs, and never before felt afraid. But the creepy guy has made me a lot less interested in hiking at the slough and along the river. I’m not sure the dogs miss it at all. Bear likes meandering strolls that focus on all the smells in the neighborhood and Dusty, at 13 yrs 7 mos isn’t the athlete he once was. That’s very old for such a big dog — and he’s doing great for his age. Anyway, soon the golf course will be closed to golfers and open to us. 🙂

Props to everyone who’s still posting daily prompts. I’ve returned to following along with one of them. I still miss that one cryptic word that used to show up every morning, sometimes inspiring a story to write, sometimes summoning Lamont and Dude (where are those guys?) during the blissful moments when I have a full, hot cup of coffee. Maybe I’m just out of shape.

Two Weeks Later…

Two weeks post-op and my second bad night. I guess that’s pretty good. The worst part of my day is taking off my compression stockings without violating my precautions.

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The wound is tender and wants the staples out. The obligatory walks are not much fun, and invariably (so far) the night after I walk, I have painful muscle spasms. I would like to get off Percocet because it upsets my stomach, but muscle spasms at night make that difficult, and I cannot take NSAIDS. Yesterday was awful probably because I forgot to take any pain meds so by night, I was hurting.

Four more weeks until I see the surgeon again and get the “all clear” to return to my normal life and physical positions. I’ve given up the idea that I’m going to bring home the dogs any time soon, but I would if I could find someone who wants a job walking them.

I know from life in general, and my previous hip surgery in particular, that there are ups and downs with this and that patience is, itself, a doctor. It’s amazing to think that just two weeks ago RIGHT NOW (!) I was joking with the OR nurse about maybe drawing a target on my hip. Not long afterward, some guy was rooting around in my left hip joint, cutting off bad bone and replacing it with metal and plastic. It’s bizarre and freaky, but it really happened.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/awkward/

As If…

SO… Lois and I took three walks yesterday and went to the grocery store, a distance that ended up totaling a whole mile. Otherwise, I’d put the day up against “Most boring days in my life in which I was 1) an adult and 2) it was not Christmas Eve. We took a photo for the blog of one of these events, but ultimately, I wasn’t in that photo. Instead there was a chubby old lady leaning on a cane. This pitiful creature has giant bazooms inside her Life is Good t-shirt, enormous thighs and one severely bowed leg. I don’t know who she was, where she came from or if that was supposed to be a joke, but it wasn’t funny.

 

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Who TF is this?

 

Damn the only thing on my mind is my hip surgery. I’m so sorry. Well, maybe this is useful…

Advice Section: The BEST thing I did maybe in my WHOLE life was train seriously for the sport of total hip replacement. If you find yourself approaching that event, get on the bike-to-nowhere, ride as “far” as you can. Find a pretty place to walk and walk as far as you can as often as you can. Don’t get daunted because the bike isn’t fun and you can’t walk far. Do exercises to strengthen your core because that’s actually what holds you upright. Complain occasionally because you’ll need some moral support from friends and blogging buddies 😉 AND you’re going to be a little scared. The big fear? Well, there’s the death thing, but even bigger is

“What if I go through all this and NOTHING gets better?”

It’s a possibility, I guess. Pretty unlikely, though. The fifth day after my surgery I walked a mile and have essentially no pain, that’s pretty amazing.

Drugs… Pain management is serious, but, at the same time, the pain drugs have some nasty effects like constipation and mood changes. I wonder, also, if the medical professionals realize that anyone with this problem has already been living with substantial pain, and post-op pain might be nothing in comparison. BUT pain can keep some people from exercising and that’s a problem. Anyway, I pretty much stopped the prescription pain meds the second day I was home. I have so much less pain than I had before I had surgery.

I hope this is the last post for a while on this subject but who knows.

Happy Mothers Day to all among you who are someone’s mom! 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/core/

The Next Step in the Adventure

Home from the hospital with many contraptions, but the best “contraption” is my friend Lois who has the icky jobs of taking off and putting on my ted hose and helping me get up in the night. She’s an awesome, friend and I am very lucky.

I discovered in the hospital that — at this point — when I’m not on oxgen, I get nauseous, so I  came home with two oxygen tanks and a prescription for oxygen.

But —

Oddly enough, I enjoyed the hospital. The nurses were kind, competent and — after a while — fun to be around. I was happy to be in the hospital and being cared for. Realizing this, the nurses were happy to joke around with me. We ended up having a good time, agreeing that laughter really helps with attitude adjustment and healing.

And…a word on Millennials. All of my nurses were Millennials, beautiful, personable, 30ish women living in the moment of raising kids, pursusing a difficult career on the surgical floor of large hospital. They asked about the book I’m reading, Another Good Dog by Cara Achterberg. We talk about our dogs and our jobs (mine in the past obviously). One of them had been a non-traditional college student and she was eager to tell me all about her experiences.

My “family” was there, too. It’s a family with no blood ties to me. I guess we’re held by love ties.

 

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Francis the Blue Dragon and Little Bear

 

I’ve already experienced the benefit I gave myself of all those months of riding the Sainted Air-Dyne and the two months of physical therapy. Yesterday when I was gotten up and taken for a walk around the hallways I could feel the muscles in my thigh supporting, holding onto, the wounded area. My legs are closer to the same length and I stand up straight.

As for the incision, it hurts, but not much and my hip joint no longer hurts at all. They sent me home with pain meds, but I don’t feel enough pain (IMO) to need to take the full dosage. Just at night, I think. I have also the distinct “pleasure” of giving myself a shot in the stomach once a day. The physical therapist wil show up this afternoon. Things are moving right along — even me, kind of. I made my own coffee this morning. 🙂

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/laughter/

Multi-Quotididan Updates 41.9.4b

I’m in Colorado Springs right now, drinking coffe and a smoothie and getting ready to head back to the San Luis Valley. It’s been an eventful short trip.

The purpose was to see my orthopedic surgeon for a follow-up exam after the cortisone shot and six weeks of physical therapy, ostensibly to see how all that worked but really to schedule surgery. And now I’m scheduled for hip replacement on May 7.

The way it’s supposed to play out is I go to the hospital, they plop me down in a special operating “theater” (?) designed for this procedure, they do the job, they take me to recovery then to a room, then they get me up and walk me around and I go home. I would be able to go “home” the same day but my home isn’t here so I’ve asked to spend the night. I’ll go home “home” the next day and my friend, Lois, will bring me and stay with me for several days.

The way it is supposed to work is that at 6 weeks I’ll be pretty “normal” which will be a completely new thing for me and I hope I can adjust (ha ha). That is the beginning of summer.

While I’ve been up here I also finished all the edits I’m capable of on The Schneebelis Go to America (working title). I sense that something pretty large is missing from that story, but I’m in denial. It’s almost like the proverbial and cliched “elephant in the room.” About that elephant, I think people can actually SEE it but they’re not looking. I could be wrong — and that’s something I’m not sure of — so I got in touch with the wonderful editor of two of my earlier novels and we’ve worked out a deal for her to give it a “structural edit” which means she will look directly at the elephant (if it’s there) and give me feedback.

So… more than a few glimmerings that by summer I’ll be walking a lot better and my little story will be better.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/glimmer/

Physical Therapy and the Big Picture

Yesterday I went to my first pre-surgery physical therapy appointment. I didn’t want to go. Like a lot of this stuff I’m going through, I’ve “been there; done that.” But not really.

Last time I had physical therapy (2005) it was to address a condition I didn’t have. I went twice a week for three months and my hip (the right hip) just got more and more painful. Why? Because my “doctor” at the time had not diagnosed the problem correctly.

This time is NOT last time.

Every time I drive to the slough with the dogs I pass the gym which is known as “Monte Vista Athletic Club.” It looks like a barn which is not notable as the most popular building style where I live is big buildings with steel siding; lots of buildings look like barns including barns. It’s beautiful inside; it’s a gorgeous gym. I’m not a gym person, but I’ve been in several and this one is great. I told the person at the counter I was there for physical therapy and he guided me back to the corner of the “barn”. I was checked in and met my therapist — I like him! — a guy named Ron Muhlenhauser (good Swiss name). He sat me down.

The first thing he said when he looked at my chart was, “You don’t look that old.”

I thought, “Huh? Flattery? But why?” I think I look old, but maybe not. It’s a comparative thing, anyway. I explained I’d had hip surgery already on the other hip eleven years ago.

“You’re kidding,” he said.

“No. I…” I didn’t finish. We talked about accidents I might have had that could have caused the hip problem, and I rattled off a litany of sports related injuries.

“So sports, then,” he wrote on his paper. Then he asked me questions about the pain in my hip and how long I’d had it. I don’t think I was too good at the answers, but finally he said, “What are your goals?”

I said, “Hip surgery and the ability to walk better.” I still didn’t know what I was doing there other than fulfilling Medicare requirements. I didn’t think there was any reason beyond that, but I was very, very wrong.

“Here are your doctor’s goals,” and he read them to me. Of course, they were better, clearer and more articulate than mine. They are improving my posture, gait and the the development of good muscles and tendons in my hip. This means, basically, lengthening them so they will work with a new hip joint and so I can stand up straight. “You want to be good from the getgo after your surgery. Your left leg might be a little longer afterward, too. It’s likely.” It’s 1/2 inch shorter at the moment.

I was taught some exercises, and Ron gave me great explanations all the way along. I paid attention, practiced, and, all the while, thought about what I was being told. It began to sink in.

Then he said, “You’ve got the best doctor. Dr. S is the one who can handle the really tough cases. He’s the best there is.”

“Dr. Hunter (surgeon in Salida) recommended him.”

“See?” said Ron. “We’re going to try to teach your joint and your back to straighten up, to lengthen those muscles and teach those tendons to quit protecting your joint.” Ron showed me an exercise to lengthen thigh muscles and said, “You know runners. When they run, the back leg kicks way far back, so far it seems like it’s flying behind the runner, right?”

I visualized that and saw running in a completely new way.  We kept working and Ron explained how the tissues in our bodies replace themselves so that every three months we have all new tissue. I then understood that the purpose behind the cortisone shot is so that these exercises will not hurt me, because, otherwise, I couldn’t possibly do them.

I understood then why the surgery will be three months from now at the soonest. With that realization, suddenly, I got it. I really wanted to cry. My surgeon and the physical therapist are working together to help me emerge from this crysalis of pain and disability into a, yes, older Martha who can still be who the eternal Martha (inside herself) knows herself to be.

The shoes? Well, they’re trail running shoes. I got them on eBay last week. I’ve been wearing Salomon trail running shoes since the early 2000s. They were developed for people who race in the mountains. They were amazing, but they lasted me only about 3 months. Toward the end of the 2000s, Salomon sold the shoe to Adidas, and Adidas changed the way they are made as well as making various models. They are more durable, but less responsive (IMO) Still, they’re the best I know. I didn’t want to fork out the $$$ for brand new ones because I don’t know how this is going to pan out, and they’re expensive. When these arrived, I just hoped they’d have some time left. It turns out they are almost new. I think the previous owner might have worn them twice. I wore them yesterday to PT. They’re going with me the whole way. 🙂

 

Big(ish) Day

There are so many people now out walking at “our” slough that it’s kind of no fun, especially if Dusty is along. He has to bark at other dogs (which he’d love to play with) and people, especially if he hasn’t met them and he’s on leash. He’s 12. This is not behavior that’s going to change.

A couple of days ago the slough was crowded. We kept going off trail (which I don’t like to do — “off trail” is for animals who have their own trails) so Dusty wouldn’t see people and dogs. I did find a really beautiful game trail with myriad tracks and felt guilty for adding ours. 😦 People can destroy a trail almost as fast as cattle or sheep. Ultimately our trail WOULD intersect with people so I called out to the couple who were just beginning their walk, and were between me and the car, “Do you like dogs?”

“Sure!”

I unleashed Dusty who’s super friendly off leash. I said, “He’ll bark, and he’ll charge you, but he’s friendly.” Thank goodness he looks more lab than dobie. He ran barking over to the people who were calm around him and patted him. Then they met Bear. And me. I ended up saying, “Thank you.”

“What for?”

“Oh, being nice to Dusty. It’s hard having to hide him all the time.” The people looked at me like, “Why would you do that?” But I’ve seen Dusty scare people.

Today we got there and we were alone. We hit the little trail (a 1 mile loop) and I hauled ass. I walked that thing in 15 minutes. For the past couple of years, it’s been taking me 34 minutes to walk a mile. The cortisone shot continues to perform its magic. As we were leaving, I saw a young woman with two dogs, both of which we “know.” A golden retriever and an elderly bassett whom we’ve “dog sat” when his male human took off and left him in the shade of the cottonwoods one summer afternoon. We ducked off the main trail and went to the car, Dusty barking madly in recognition but which sounded like blood lust.

As we reached the car, the other people were arriving. The people we met the other day pulled in and, seeing me, waved.

I doubt I will ever completely get used to life here. Honestly, in my California life, that would probably never have happened. The people would probably not have been happy to meet Dusty or to see me a second time.

But the big(ish) news is that the ONLY thing holding me back has been my hip. I am now convinced that it hasn’t been right for a long time, it’s just that last fall it started demanding attention through pain. I’ve walked awkwardly for a while. My walk today showed me that all the work and “training” I’ve done has actually made a pretty strong and fit little old lady, and I HAVE made progress. A 15 minute walking mile is decent, and I’m very happy with it. Sure, it’s not 6 mph (the average speed of my former self) but I’m not running even the slightest bit. For me, walking was always a form of transportation, but 2 miles an hour? That’s just grueling. If you add pain to it, it’s Sisyphean, truly. I did it (and would continue doing it) but it was really as if I were pushing a giant rock (my body) up a mountain through the force of my will and imperfect abilities.

I will begin physical therapy next week and sometime later, in April, I’ll set the date for surgery. I was dreading it, fearful of it, but now I understand all that dread was related to the experiences I had last time AND the demoralization of a couple years of diminishing abilities and increasing pain. We humans are complex little things and can be as inscrutable to ourselves as we are to others.