Chapter 12: The final

Unicycling in my secret practice place 9-26-2012

This is the last chapter in this blog because I don’t feel like shit anymore and I was able to stay fit, and then some, through the recovery period after my foot surgery. My new blog is going to be about learning to ride a unicycle. Look out for “Stick On A Wheel: Learning to ride a unicycle”.

Before I move on, though, here’s a final note about my foot, staying fit while feeling like shit, nutrition and osteoarthritis, and the kittens.

My foot is now more functional and less painful than before the surgery. It’s not perfect, but it gets better every week. I wore regular shoes for the first time in a year two days ago! Range of motion is good. Unless something goes terribly wrong I can say having the cheilectomy was a good decision for me, at least for now. We’ll see how it goes in the future. There is still a little swelling, which means there is still healing taking place. Rock climbing is still a bit painful but as long as I take it slow and easy it’s okay. My climbing skills have declined, but I still go on trips so I can hang out with my awesome climbing friends. Walking is getting better and I’m slowly finding shoes and boots I can wear for hiking and walking on flat surfaces without too much pain. Unfortunately, they are expensive. Ka-ching! Using the foot blade actually hurts more than not using it now, which I take as a good sign. The joint wants to bend when I walk! I doubt I’ll ever be 100% pain free, but since the joint is now more functional and less painful than before the surgery, with a little room for continued improvement, I consider it a success. I am aware of my foot less and less, which is a really good sign!!

Something I didn’t talk about much in this blog was nutrition. I stopped consuming sugar and gluten about 6 weeks ago. Sugar is a well-known inflammatory and I don’t find it too hard to keep it to a minimum, so I’m staying off it. Gluten depends on the person. Some are sensitive to it and some are not. I recently started eating it again. Bingo!! I got indigestion/nausea and needed Omeprazole again, and I woke up with that “I ache all over, everything hurts feeling”. No more gluten for me! I have more energy when I’m off it too. That’s a really happy discovery! There is still lots of great food out there…meat/fish/poultry, nuts, cheese, vegetables, fruit, rice, gluten-free beer (I’ve found some really good ones!), good wine, and so on.

The kittens were all cleared of ringworm and all were adopted by good people. A couple of my own cats got ringworm, but it was a mild case. After some major freaking out, uber house cleaning, antifungal baths (for the cats), and topical treatment, the cats and the house seem to be clear of it. My other two cats didn’t get it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t show up again after hiding somewhere in a dark corner or in the carpet. Those little kittens sure made me happy before the ringworm showed up though and I’m so happy they found good homes.

Deciding to work with a personal trainer has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s expensive, but you get what you pay for in this case. He totally rocks. I workout once or twice between our weekly sessions, which is essential of course. He has gradually increased the intensity of the workouts. I’m so sore after an hour with him it takes me 2-3 days to recover! But after those workouts I hurt in all the right ways. I have sore muscles, that’s it. My joints don’t hurt. He is knowledgeable about injuries, tendonitis, arthritis, etc. and works around it all. I’m learning a lot and I’m getting stronger and stronger, which is just wonderful! I love it!

I think my flying trapeze days are over mainly because of osteoarthritis in my hands (my shoulders are better thanks to my personal trainer and not flying for a few months), but that’s okay because the best thing that has come out of all this is learning to ride a unicycle. IloveitIloveitIloveit!! It’s low impact (when I’m not falling), a really good workout, it gives me goals to look forward to, a sense of accomplishment and gosh darn it, it’s fun! The only caveat is that I have to pace myself. I pushed it a bit too hard this week and pulled a glute or something near my glutes. But I’m remembering the lesson from flying trapeze. If it hurts (in the wrong way) then stop immediately and WAIT until it gets better before continuing.

So look out for my next blog “Stick On A Wheel: Learning to ride a unicycle”.

And stay fit, no matter what. There is always a way to do it if you really care about your body. You’ve only got one. There are no returns. Rock on!!

Chapter 11: “Good Luck….”

I went to my 7-week post-op appointment today. The surgeon said my foot looks good. The range of motion is much better than it was pre-op. I told him that walking is still painful if I walk very far or too fast, especially without the foot blade. He said the pain is from bone rubbing on bone when I walk, and that over the next 3 months, if I keep manipulating the joint it will develop some scar tissue that, although not as good as cartilage, will help cushion the joint and reduce pain.

As far as activity on my feet, low impact is fine, high impact is not (probably forever). The surgeon thought unicycling was a great idea as long as I pay attention to pain. If it hurts too much, stop! This is the point at which I have to be careful and NOT fuck it up (Thanks Ru Paul!). Doing too much will damage the joint more and not allow the scar tissue to develop properly. The swelling means it is still healing, so I have to give it a chance to do so. I asked for a script for physiotherapy. I think it is worth a try.

Me and some of my awesome climbing friends!

I didn’t ask the surgeon about rock climbing, but I’m being very careful with that, too. I went climbing last weekend with friends. I followed (top rope, but I followed the route and unclipped the draws as I climbed to the anchors) a 5.10, which was hard. It wasn’t pretty at the crux, but I pushed through without hurting myself. After the climb, my foot was aching a bit so I stopped for the day and just had a good time with great friends, outside, feeling good (despite having the plague, but that’s slowly getting better).

And I was featured in Pattie Baker’s blog! I’m so excited!! She included a short video of me unicycling, “Holding On Less and Less”! http://www.foodshedplanet.com/2012/09/and-so-you-never-know-danielle-didi.html

I have also continued the fitness exercises, which isn’t easy what with the plague and traveling for work and all, but I have been fitting it in nonetheless. I have also cut sugar and gluten from my diet. Not 100%, but close to it. Not eating sugar is definitely a good thing. I don’t know about the gluten, but I’m looking into more and more dietary solutions to reduce pain and inflammation.

So onward and upward and I WON’T fuck it up!!

Chapter 10: Rock Climbing 5 1/2 weeks post surgery

Rock Climbing 5 1/2 Weeks Post Surgery

I’m quite pleased with myself today! I went rock climbing with my awesome climbing friends. I took it slow and only top roped some very easy climbs (5.6 and 5.7). I climbed them very easily and my foot only felt the slightest ache. I was also able to hike with stiff hiking boots and the foot blade. As long as I walked slowly all was well. I did the right amount of climbing and hiking because it sparked some confidence and I can’t wait to climb next weekend!! Woot!!

What most people can’t understand is that walking around my house (or anywhere) in slippers or regular shoes hurts more than climbing and hiking in good boots with the foot blade and certainly more than unicycling. This is because walking in soft soled shoes allows the big toe joint to bend. Whatever, few people understand the rest of me, so why would they understand my big toe?

There is the matter of a sore eyeball and blurred vision in my left eye because I have a retinal vein occlusion http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004583/. I had to have an injection of bevacizumab in my eyeball on Thursday. I don’t have any of the risk factors for this condition (no high blood pressure, no diabetes), but I have it and I just have to deal with it. Apparently I’m lucky I’ve only needed treatment once a year so far. I’m glad that this time the injection didn’t make my entire sclera (white part of eyeball) turn red like last year. I’m terrified it will happen in my other eye but all I can do is make sure I’m as healthy as possible.

I’m very happy I kept working with a personal trainer, worked out at home and the gym, practiced yoga, and of course started learning to ride a unicycle over the last several weeks. The only thing holding me back climbing today was confidence, fear, and making sure I didn’t overdo it. I felt strong and in shape. So that means so far I’ve reached my goal of staying fit while feeling like shit. Awesome!

Chapter 9: I Can’t Stop

So here I am 4 1/2 weeks post-surgery. The healing has slowed down a bit, but it still seems to be going well. I can walk outside, go shopping, etc. with little pain as long as I have the foot blade in my shoe and I don’t walk too fast. The advantage compared to pre-surgery is I can wear normal shoes as long as they can accommodate a foot blade, and the range of motion in my big toe joint is fairly good. I can walk without the foot blade, but it’s still too painful to walk very far or very fast without it. Walking is actually not much better than it was pre-surgery but it’s still too soon to say how successful the surgery has been in that regard.

The most exciting thing these days is that I have been practicing on my unicycle and I can actually do 4-5 pedal rotations hands free!! Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fK0agW5918&list=UU9–gPcNJAbliBLcyj_z3HA&index=1&feature=plcp  It’s a lot of work, but so much fun! The first few times I practiced it hurt my foot a bit despite wearing solid shoes, but now as long as I have the foot blade in my shoe I don’t even notice it. It’s weird to be able to practice on a unicycle but not be able to walk very far, but there it is. I can’t wait to be able to “free mount” (mount the unicycle hands free) and to ride around totally hands free and to be able to stop and dismount instead of just falling off. I’m quite proud of myself for taking a negative (not being able to fly on trapeze) and turning it into a positive (unicycling). And I’m pleased with my progress so far.

And lest you think I’m overdoing it with the protective gear, I fell on my knees a few days ago and I felt nothing. I probably would have broken my knee caps without the pads.

This weekend I’m going rock climbing with friends. We’re going to try some easy trad climbs and see how it toes. If it hurts my shoulders or foot too much I’ll just stop and enjoy the day with friends out at the crag. I’m excited to be going with a fun group and being outside all day.

I am learning a lot more about how my body works from my personal trainer. I am already noticing some subtle changes. The other day I was tired and as I started to walk up the stairs I expected to feel a bit stiff or sore but instead my legs and gluts felt strong. Also, when I picked up a heavy bottle of laundry soap yesterday the muscles in my shoulder blade were engaged and I didn’t feel the expected strain on the top of my shoulder. That’s exactly what I’m aiming for.

And I’m learning to stop and rest when I need to. It makes a difference. Imagine that! I am not good at stopping, especially when I get excited about something like unicycling, flying trapeze, climbing, etc. And over-training in the gym is a given if I think it will make me a better flyer, climber, or rider. But I have to learn to train smarter and be aware of which aches and pains mean I have to stop and which ones are just par for the course. I don’t think I’m ever pain free, which is probably why I have learned to ignore it. That approach has been okay up until now but I’m more active than I have been for a while so if I don’t want to continue hurting myself I have no choice but to pace myself. And although “I can’t stop” sums me up pretty well, I actually can stop when I need to. Now I have to learn how to do that more consistently and how to stop, literally, on my unicycle.

So all in all things seem to be going pretty well. My emotions went waaayyy down last week, but I picked myself up and did some exercise, practiced on my unicycle, and voila! I was back to Honey Badger mode! (If you don’t know about the Honey Badger, check out this video by Randall: http://randallshoneybadger.com/). In fact, I think the sequel to this blog will be called “How to stay fit and not give a shit.”

Chapter 8: Five Weeks Post-Surgery

No major theme today, just an update on how it’s going. Things are going pretty well with my foot. My pain level is approximately at par with what it was pre-surgery. I can walk without the carbon foot blade most of the time now. It still looks a bit icky, but this picture was taken right after I practiced on my unicycle, so there was a lot of blood flow going to my feet. I think my shoes were rubbing a bit on the tops of my feet. I guess now I’ll have to go through the long and frustrating process of finding the right shoes all over again. So far my Tevas are the most comfortable. I’m really happy I can wear them because I haven’t been able to in about a year.

Things continue to go well with my personal trainer. I can already feel some strength building in my legs and shoulders. However, I was feeling very depressed on Friday because I had planned to go to a flying trapeze class, but I had to cancel…again. I tried hanging from my practice trapeze in my backyard. As my trainer had predicted, I’m not ready for overhead movements with my arms and certainly not ready to hang from them. I felt sharp pain in both shoulders due to tendonitis. Thank goodness the x-rays showed healthy shoulder joints, so I know it’s soft tissue and not bone spurs or arthritis that is causing the pain. So who knows, maybe next year I’ll be able to fly a bit, but I have a sad feeling that my flying days are over. I love it so much, but I have to try forgeting about it for now and see how it goes in the spring. Good bye for now flying trapeze. I’ll miss you. If we can’t meet again, at least you gave me freedom and exhilaration for a year.

Some happier news is I’m progressing slowly with learning to ride my unicycle and my body seems to be tolerating it pretty well. I stop a little earlier than I’d like, but I don’t want to hurt myself and then not be able to practice at all. Hanging onto a chain link fence was okay, but it hurt my finger joints. I have found a secret place to practice where I can ride between two countertops. It’s perfect. It doesn’t hurt my hands, I feel braver, and today I was able to complete 1 ½ to 2 (pedal) revolutions hands-free, which is a lot harder than it seems. I can feel my body gradually figuring it out. It’s pretty cool. Once I can ride it totally hands-free it’s going to be super fun!

I miss the kittens. They are doing well, though. They have all been neutered and treated for ringworm. Houdini has already been adopted. Theo’s RW symptoms are almost cleared up. Pearl and Houdini never showed any evidence of it. Theo and Pearl will surely be adopted as soon as they are ready and are on the rescue web site. Cleaning the RW out of the house was a hassle, but it was still worth it. They are such loving little creatures and they gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling while I recovered from the surgery. And above all, I know they are going to live much better lives than they would have if they had not been rescued. They are also going to make some people very happy. I played a part in that.

I still plan to go rock climbing with friends soon; first just hanging out at the crag and then trying some easy trad climbs. I don’t know how that’s going to go because some of my finger joints hurt and its going to be a while before I can put much weight on my big toe joint. I’ll just take it as it comes.

So personal trainer, yoga, and unicycling are what I’ll focus on for the next several months. And I guess you can say that so far I have maintained my objective by continuing to keep fit despite having felt like shit. And who knows? Maybe I’ll try stilts. I taught myself how to walk on stilts as a kid. Maybe I can do it again. There are lots of fun things to do out there.

Chapter 7: So Much to do, So Little Cartilage

Foot looking good about 4 weeks after surgery

I won’t be running a marathon anytime soon. In fact, running at all isn’t an option right now. I am able to walk around the house without the carbon fiber foot blade in my shoe. I wear it in my shoe if I’m going out and I always make sure I won’t be walking too far when I’m out. It still hurts like hell if I use the joint too much. However, I can feel progress every day. I even forget about my foot a few times a day, which is a really good sign. For the most part I have to concentrate on my gate to make sure I don’t walk on the outside of my foot. Once your pace is off your whole musculoskeletal system compensates, which results in problems in other joints. I know my toe joint will never be 100% normal, but at least things are going in the right direction.

I have had 3 sessions with my personal trainer. I’m learning a lot of low impact exercises for all body parts. We are working on my shoulders now that the tendonitis is about 90% gone, and of course core, gluts, legs, hips, and grip. He is starting me very slow and easy, which is good, because if it were up to me I’d go way too fast.

I got my unicycle a couple of days ago! I’m so excited! I chose a purple one, which makes me really happy because purple is my favorite color. I’m looking for a relatively private place that has a flat surface with a chain link fence (e.g. tennis court) so I can practice. Everyone looks like a total spaz in the beginning. Plus, I wear a helmet and wrist, elbow, and knee guards. I feel like a total dork being all decked out and unable to even complete one revolution without hanging on with both hands and wobbling all over. This is going to be a very big challenge!

I’m going to a flying trapeze class on Friday. I’m a bit nervous, mostly because of my grip. I’m worried the OA in my fingers and thumbs will weaken my grip. Also, my sports doctor said flying trapeze could accelerate the OA in my hands. If that’s the case, I won’t be able to fly anymore. But perhaps I’m getting a bit apocalyptic. We’ll see how it goes, and I’ll proceed with my plan to include more cross-training in my exercise routine.

I plan to go rock climbing with some friends soon. I will go to a crag (climbing wall) with an easy approach (hike to the crag) and just hang out and be a belay bitch (hold the safety lines for everyone). I know I won’t be able to advance much with sport climbing because the more difficult climbs have tiny hand holds (e.g “monos,” or one finger holds) and tiny foot holds that put a lot of pressure on the big toe joint. So I plan to try “trad” (traditional) climbing because the climbs can be easier with bigger hand and foot holds. You place your own safety gear in trad climbing, so you basically don’t plan on falling. In sport climbing there are bolts already secured in the rock so you can attempt more difficult climbs and “climb until you fall”. I can also “top rope” easier trad and sport climbs (top roping is when someone else places the rope at the top of the climb and you attach the rope to your harness).  Again, we’ll see how it goes. For now, I’ll enjoy the company of my climbing friends at the crags and start learning about trad gear.

And of course I’ll keep working with my personal trainer and doing yoga, massage, and if I can find any thermal baths in this area I’ll check them out. The problem is the only thing close to thermal baths around here involves being naked. I don’t want to be naked in hot water with strangers. Ick. Call me uptight but I just don’t want to do that.

Chapter 6: It Could Be Worse

“It could be worse.” You mean I could have cancer and just as I start feeling like myself after a year I could break my foot? I could have a needle stuck in my eyeball because I have a blood clot in my retina? I could have lymphocytic colitis and other seemingly random auto-immune related issues? I could have osteoarthritis? The kittens could break out in ringworm, which means parting with them abruptly,* having the whole house professionally disinfected, bathing my four adult cats with antifungal shampoo, discarding, washing, or dry cleaning every item in the house that can’t be wiped down with bleach? I could be really tired and the contract for the rented carpet steamer (for cleaning the ringworm) could go flying away in the wind and I couldn’t run after it? Oh wait. All that did happen.

Yeah, it can always be worse. But that’s the fucking problem!! I could be in a car crash and be paralyzed. I could get attacked or raped. I could swallow a radioactive piece of popcorn. Don’t give me ideas!!

But alas, for some strange reason (Zoloft?) I remain positive. I’m fed up and pissed off right now, but despite my whining I’m not feeling particularly sorry for myself. I’m just in a very bad mood. I lightened up a bit this afternoon when a young man helped me catch that contract that was blowing in the wind. He was intellectually challenged and couldn’t speak much. He ran after the piece of paper and retrieved it for me. And then he helped me put the carpet steamer in the car. Okay, so he was working at the place where I rented it but I wanted to hug him and tell him I loved him! But that might have creeped him out just a little.

I think what people really mean when they say “it could be worse” is something like “count your blessings”. A better sentiment in my humble opinion is “Hey, there are a lot of good things in your life. You’re doing great. You’re dealing with the bad things and enjoying the good things.” Like Stuart Smalley said “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggonit people like you!”

But back to staying fit when I feel like shit. I haven’t had any time for fitness today. However, my post-op appointment went very well. The incision is healing well, I am cleared to drive and walk short distances, and my pain level when I’m sitting is maximum 1 or 2 out of 10. I have some simple PT exercises to do and I see the surgeon in 6 weeks. The surgical report said the dorsal (top) 30-40% of the joint has complete loss of cartilage. The surgeon removed all dorsal and some phalangeal (between the toes) bone spurs. He also “released” some soft tissue (he basically removed some bound up fibers and stretched out the tissue). Pre-op dorsoflexion (upward toe movement) was 10 degrees and post-op it was 80 degrees. I believe I’m on the mend!

So of course it could be worse. In fact it will be! Osteoarthritis is here to stay. The surgery I just had (cheilectomy) is probably going to buy me some time, but the cartilage will most likely continue to degenerate and eventually I’ll probably have to have the joint fused. Osteoarthritis has started to affect my hands and knees and my other foot.

But seriously, it could SO be worse. I mean, I could still be wearing Mom Jeans! But then again it could be better. There is no denying that. However, so far I am able to focus on what’s good in my life, the good people in my life, and the fact that I will always be able to dig deep and thrive despite some limitations, pain, and temporary whining. Jesus I’m getting serious! Cut me off!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to working with my personal trainer tomorrow and I’m going to get my unicycle on Monday. I signed up for a flying trapeze class next week and I have plans for rock climbing with friends soon. Hell yeah, it could be worse!!!!!

*they went back to the no kill rescue center for treatment

Addendum to “It Could Be Worse”

Yesterday, my neighbor’s house was struck by lightning and most of it burned down.  Their house is three doors down from mine. Whoa…

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