Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sometimes I get messages

JD is out and about this weekend doing nerd things.  Not that I'm not a nerd.  I am.  But we are differently nerdy.  That's not my point.  My point is that I'm solo this weekend, for a few more hours anyway.  I desperately needed some alone time.  As an introvert, just being around people is tiring for me, even if they're people I love dearly.  And so I look forward to my occasional days on my own.

Ironically as soon as JD clears the doorstep I miss him.  Despite the four cats and two dogs, the house is too quiet.  I suddenly have oodles of free time and nothing to do.  It seems like when I have time to sit and think, I never think about positive things.  I dwell.  When I *don't* have time to think, I manage to eke out a few thoughts, a blog post, an email, and I'm creative.  I come up with solutions.  I make jokes.  I'm just generally more proficient.

Why is it that I have to be a little annoyed to be proficient?

So I'm sitting here in my quiet household.  I had planned to go see Pluto, then stop by DeLee's and pick her up on my way to RoadRunner Sports, to try to find replacement trail runners because my current model had been discontinued.  And then we were going to stop in at the Perfect Pour to see if they had any gluten free beers I hadn't tried, and maybe pick up some hard ciders.  And DeLee was going to feed me some of the super hot chili she had just made.  An excellent plan for a Sunday.  And the weather is great, which always makes me happy.

I remembered that the oil light had come on in Eddy (again.)  The first time the light came on (a couple of weeks ago), it went right back out. I checked the oil and it wasn't low, so I discussed it with JD but put the issue on the back burner.  It came on again yesterday when I started the car.  Fortunately I wasn't far from home, so I drove it the two miles back.  But I intend to drive it no farther than the mechanic's shop before I find out what's wrong with it.  Oil pressure sensor?  Oil filter?  Something more evil?

The backup vehicle is Rabies, JD's truck.  I grabbed the horse cookies from Eddy and trudged through Shirley's yard to Rabies.  And cranked the ignition, and got that disappointing "Rurr,rurr,.. thud" of a nearly dead battery.  Something isn't right with the truck.  JD put a deep cycle battery in it last year so it can be recharged if it runs low, but it's running low far too often.  I don't think that the truck is charging the battery at all.  Sigh.

I trudged back through Shirley's yard and dropped the horse cookies and my mug of coffee onto the roof of the Miata, and went inside to find the keys for it.  No keys were visible.  I texted JD.  "Where are the keys to the Miata?" ...  "In my pocket."  Well, crap.  The search for the spare key revealed nothing, other than that a Chrysler key and a house key were in the bottom of the umbrella bucket.  Also, there were 10 hiking poles in the umbrella bucket.  I may have a pole problem.

The only remaining car, other than the one JD is driving, doesn't have brakes at the moment.

I figured I'd tell DeLee she'd have to drive, but right about then she texted me that she wasn't feeling well.

You know what?  I may not take the first clue, but if you hit me upside the head with enough clue bats, I will eventually figure out what's going on.  The universe is saying something to me.  It's saying "STAY HOME" and it's saying it pretty loudly.  Once I recognized this, I gave in.  Fine, universe.  I'll stay home today.  Today shall be a day of rest.  A zero day, in hiker parlance.  I don't know why, exactly, the universe needs me to be at home today, but at home I will be.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

In which I get shot in the butt

On Thursday DeLee came by my house in the morning and drove me over to the Spine and Pain center.  I'm not kidding about the name.

They're direct about the reason you're there.
The doctor, with the help of a heavily shielded nurse, used an xray machine to guide his needle deep into my right buttock, where he deposited about a grapefruit sized bolus of steroids.  Or possibly a tablespoon sized bolus.  It felt huge though.  I mean, right then it didn't because first he gave me a local anesthetic.  But when that wore off.. sitting was not so much of an option.  I stood a lot on Thursday.

As an aside, since the shot needed to go into my sacroiliac, my butt had to be bared.  But I didn't have to strip.  Shirt pulled up, pants pulled down.  It felt pretty illegitimate.  And then my doctor was cute.  Hi!  This is my butt.  Good gravy.  Could it get any more awkward?

I am uncertain if the shot is working the way it should.  My L5-S1 joint isn't so painful, but it had already become less painful after the brusque physical therapist showed me how to work on my tilted pelvis.  And now the sacroiliac joint feels like I got kicked in the butt.  Like I should be black and blue.  Just on my inside parts, though.  Apparently it takes some time for all that stuff to absorb and do whatever it's going to do.

My instructions were to rest on Thursday and apply ice every hour, which I did.  Friday I went to work like normal.  Saturday I went out to the park like I always do.  My instructions were not to increase activity, so I didn't.  I even did less mileage than the previous weekend.

Today I sent a note to a friend who has been down the steroid shot route before and knew what to expect.  "I feel like somebody pegged me in the butt with a softball," I wrote.  "Is that normal?"  She replied that I might need to be less active on it, and to try heat.  I wrote back "I was less active!  I mean, I only went 8 miles instead of 11.."

My friend says, "Uh, I think I see why you might be experiencing some pain still.."

I obviously don't have the first clue how to exercise in moderation.

Wednesday I go back to PT lady so she can evaluate my efforts.  She reminds me very much of some riding instructors I've met.  Very blunt, outspoken, and REALLY GOOD.  Unfortunately I couldn't completely keep up with her rapid fire blasting of anatomical descriptions and consequences of various problems, but I *did* get her to give me paperwork specifying precisely how the curative exercises are supposed to work.  I was very impressed with her insight and knowledge.  I love it when I meet people who are very good at what they do, especially when it's something that would be very difficult for me.  I can't look at a person and tell you much about how their body works.  She can look at me and visualize how my bones are connecting, and make the mental correction to how they should be connecting.  Just amazing.  I just nodded and tried to pay attention to what I needed to do to make it better.

I expect that both PT lady and my chiropractor will lecture me about not taking it easy enough while we're changing how my inner parts relate to each other.  Medical professionals get like that.  Like it's so easy being me?  You do not want to know what happens when I'm forced to not hike for a while.  *shudder*

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I apologize in advance for how long this is

I walked through the grocery store yesterday and realized that I couldn't eat the vast majority of the foods in it.  There are whole aisles that I never go down anymore.  It was a weird feeling looking at all those shelves and realizing that the contents were irrelevant to me.  They're just pointless aisles, like the miscellaneous useless crap aisle in the middle of the store.  I make brief forays into aisle land for nuts and dried fruit, but mostly I'm hanging out in produce and the tiny organic section with its even tinier gluten free shelf.  Which is near to the shelf of the one acceptable non-milk milk I've found. 

I could shop at a much smaller store.

Of course, JD does most of the shopping, so I'm not including the places he goes, like the meat place and the frozen veggie place.  And even those have to be carefully inspected for wheat, largely because of soy sauce.

At least my food selection process is simpler, if not easier.

This weekend I hit new personal bests at my local playground (i.e. the closest national park).  I achieved my fastest time for a circuit, and my longest distance hiked there.  Both on the same day.  And although I was tired-ish, and wouldn't have minded a nap, I took a shower and then JD and I headed downtown to meet friends for alcohol and hilarity.  And meat, because I was freaking HUNGRY after all that, even though I ate snacks while I was hiking.  I pretty much destroyed a bunless burger and a side of fries.  And a whole bunch of hard cider, because regular beer is verboten and gluten free beer wasn't on tap.  I could not have performed this sequence of actions in the past.

I wonder if my current reasonably healthy state (not counting my back, or my inability to digest gluten) is to be laid at the feet of my diet.  I still get sick sometimes (like anybody else), but generally I feel better in under 24 hours.  Which is way better than the 2 weeks that a cold or flu usually takes.  And I have more energy than I can remember having pretty much ever.  And also both my speed and endurance have improved measurably.  Perhaps it's just my time (WOO 42!) or maybe it's something else.  Because you know it's not like I've been slacking all these years.  I've been out there chugging away, working out and hiking and doing yoga and just generally trying my hardest.  And still being generally slow and not very strong.  If a simple (yet annoying) dietary change is responsible, well.. Okay honestly I'll be irritated, because I could have done this fifteen years ago and been much more awesome in the interim.

My folks raised me to respect hard work, and to do my best.  And I don't ALWAYS do my best because I'm not a saint, but I try very hard almost all of the time.  My job, my health, my fitness, my relationships, my dealings with anybody and everybody.  I try.  And I don't give up easily.  Which has made the last 20 years of being a steadfast but deadly slow hiker just a wee bit frustrating.  I'm trying, man!  That has been my refrain.  It's hard to tell without other hikers around, but I think that I might finally be approaching the hiking speed of a normal person.  Not a normal hiker, mind you, just a normal guy off the street.

I went to a followup appointment with my new GP today.  He reviewed my various lab results and said that if you just went by my test results, he would have to wonder why I'm wasting his time in the office.  I'm perfectly healthy, blood-chemistry-wise.  Blood chemistry like a boss!  He suggested I make sure I get my heartrate to 70% of my maximum for 30 minutes several times a week to maximize my results from exercise.  But then I went and looked up what that heartrate is, and I'm pretty sure I already do that.  At least, I do when I'm on the bike at the gym.  But JD is going to lend me his heart monitor thingie so I can check.

The doc also suggested that I am perhaps obsessive about my exercise and health, and he is of course correct.  Trying to do my best all the time includes working REALLY HARD at exercise and paying close attention to my health.  Apparently keeping copies of my own records and checking to make sure that my cholesterol isn't trending upward over a several year period counts as not quite normal.  But then again, I kept the natural gas and electricity records tabulated for the first ten years I was in my house so I could see if my energy saving changes were working.  So at least I'm not just a hypochondriac.  I am an equal opportunity obsessor.

I assume you stopped reading several paragraphs ago, because the minutia of how my mind works aren't that interesting.  If not, congratulations!  You get an A in blog reading.

Before I forget, I saw a physical therapist to be evaluated for leg length today, and my new nickname will not be Stumpy.  My legs are fine.  Apparently the break when I was six healed perfectly, lengthwise.  However, my pelvis was not fine.  The right side is tilted, likely as the result of a really nasty fall off Pluto several years ago.  Nothing was broken in the fall, but I crushed my sacroiliac a little bit and it hurt like hell at the time.  It was breathtakingly painful.  The only thing in my life that even came close was when I was kicked in the back of the head by a horse and crushed a nerve that was close to the surface at the base of my skull.  Both injuries produced the sort of paralyzing, all encompassing electric pain that goes far beyond tears and directly to inhibiting important bodily functions such as thinking, breathing, and moving.

When that healed, it apparently healed tilted forward, where it has remained ever since.  My chiropractor adjusts it often, but it goes back to its wrong position.  However this PT, bless her, has showed me two things.  1) A way to put it back myself, and 2) exercises to help it stay in the correct position.  I look forward to a less painful back / SI joint.  And to a more balanced riding position.  Pluto had been complaining that I wasn't balanced, but I didn't know why or what to do about it.  Now I know.

Also I know that it's ALL HIS FAULT. But I'm not holding a grudge.  Really.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In which Pluto is secretly good

I know I already blogged once today, but some things need to be said.  Also after this you probably won't hear from me for a month, because blogging is so exhausting.  Twice in one day.  Geez.

This afternoon I toddled out to the barn to see His Highness.  He was in fine form.  He did his typical "wait at the gate, then lose interest as soon as I approach" maneuver.  Mystery eating one of his cookies changed his mind.  Then he walked up and let me halter him, and I let him know that I wouldn't be taking any guff today.  He was amenable to this idea.

First I spent forever cleaning his behind.  Every time it gets warm, his innards loosen up.  And this whole dang winter has been nothing but a series of warmups.  Argh!  Neither of us enjoyed the freezing cold water from the pump, but I did eventually manage to make him semi-clean.  He could use a real bath with warm water.  Amazingly, he pretty much stood still for it.

Actually he stood for everything.  He was SO GOOD.  He was like a regular horse.  I wished that Aviva and Margaret were there today, rather than last weekend when he was being a dillhole.  He was so easy today.  Sigh.

He walked on the lead perfectly.  He longed without comment.  He was just basically nice and easy to be around.  And OF COURSE HE DOES THIS WHEN WE'RE ALONE!  Because why would he want to be good when there were other people around to see it?

It was 50 and no wind today, btw.  Last weekend it was cold and crazy windy.  But still.  You make me crazy, horse.

He produced a little cough and a little snot while I was out there, so I have an email in to my vet.  He doesn't seem massively ill, and my inclination is to let his immune system handle this.  Especially as he's not skinny anymore.  (Yay blanketing!)  Waiting to hear what the vet says.

Follow up appointment with the neurosurgeon is this week.  No idea what will happen at that appointment, but what I'm hoping is he'll say I can get back on the horse.  I would have today if I had the doctor's okay.  And if Pluto weren't snotty.  But you know what I mean. 

I'm okay with him continuing to be a secretly good horse if it means I get to benefit.

PS the arrogant, self-centered part of me wants to think that he was deliberately bad for visitors because he's mine, all mine, and nobody else should ever ride him.  I am beating that part down with two by fours.

I heart my FitBit

JD got me a FitBit One for Christmas.  It's basically a fancy pedometer plus altimeter.  It keeps track of your steps, your mileage, and your elevation climbed.  If you wear it on your wrist at night it'll keep track of how often you moved at night.  The FitBit folks have done a really good job with this gadget.  I clip mine to my bra and leave it on all day, and it's unnoticeable to me except when I'm doing exercises on my belly.

I'm kind of in love with my FitBit.  Mostly because I've started losing weight again since I got it.  I have long suspected my problem was not eating enough, but nutritionists and the internet and pretty much everybody told me that A) Eat Less and Exercise More is The Way! and B) my body would just reach into my fat reserves on high burn days.  I.e. not eating more when you're burning more is just fine.

However, my experience with diets over the last several years has been that I lose weight precipitously for two weeks, and then it stops.  For months.  Until I finally give up.  I lose weight a lot faster than predicted in those first two weeks.  I.e. I'm probably burning more than expected.  Apparently two weeks is how long it takes my body to go into  starvation mode and crash my metabolism.

The FitBit solves this problem for me.  FitBit has a website that uses the information from my FitBit (uploaded automatically anytime I'm near my keyboard, which has a Bluetooth gadget on it that talks to my FitBit - it's a USB gadget provided in the FitBit kit. )  And so I check the website and it says "hey, you walked 13 miles today, you should eat 2500 calories rather than 1500!"   And then I go have more to eat and in the morning I've lost weight.  It's like magic.

The thing is that I'm not exercising more, here.  I'm eating more.  That's the only thing I've changed.  I eat more when the FitBit says to.  And I've lost four pounds in the last two weeks.  Which, give the previous month of calorie restriction without weight loss, feels like a miracle.

Of course, most folks probably have the opposite problem.  Not enough calorie burning.  And the FitBit will help them too, by pointing it out.  And by saying "You sat and watched tv today, you should eat 1200 calories rather than 1500."  But my way is probably more fun.

The FitBit has some other fun features which make me enjoy it, but which don't help my weight loss directly.  Like, occasionally it flashes something on its little screen.  Like "Smooches".  Or "Go Amy!"  Which is fun.  And the "dashboard", the section of the website that keeps my stats, compares the number of flights of stairs I've climbed to other objects in the world.  Like tall giraffes.  Or the Eiffel tower.  It's always amusing to see what I've "climbed" that day.  Yesterday it was the world's tallest bridge.

If you are having frustration with exercise vs diet vs weight loss, I'd recommend giving this gadget a try.  It's working for me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

In which I mention the things I had forgotten to tell you.

I just realized I never reported back on my new doc and ensuing activities.  New doc is kind of intense.  I didn't get through my laundry list, in large part because he lectured me for several years on all the bad things I had done to myself by taking so much Advil.  He launched into that lecture BECAUSE I asked what I could take that would be less bad for me, which I feel is an unfair reason to get lectured.  Obviously I realized it was unwise.


He also yelled at me for not having been in to see my ob/gyn recently enough.  When I called the ob/gyn afterward for an appointment, they couldn't get me in for NINE WEEKS.  There is a problem with this system.  I started surfing the web looking for other doctors, especially as my ob/gyn had also shut down their local office so I'd have to drive a good long way for my appointment.  The closest I found was actually around the corner from me, which was great!  And they had fantastic customer reviews.  But when I investigated further, I found that they had moved out of actual gynecology and into liposuction and vaginal cosmetic surgery.  If I want my thighs smoothed and my coochie tightened, they're the ones to go to.  For my annual pap smear, however, I have to look farther afield.  I still haven't found another alternative to the folks who moved and can't see me for months.

I brought up the whole "I feel sick if I eat gluten, but I tested negative for everything so the gastroenterologist told me NOT to avoid it" thing, and new doc agreed that the gastroenterologist was an idiot and told me to stay off gluten.  Which I was already doing.  I don't so much miss the crusty bread and the noodles, but it does make it a lot harder to go out to eat.  Or to buy foods without research.  I bought JD some bacon salt for Christmas, and not only does it not have bacon in it, but wheat is one of the first ingredients.  WTF, man?

Fortunately we have a variety of organic groceries in the area where it's reasonably easy to buy gluten free goods, and we have several nice restaurants with gluten free options.  But it's still kind of annoying.

New doc gave me a referral for a local neurosurgeon because of my increasing back pain.  The old guys seemed fine but were a long drive, and wanted to refer me to other folks who were also a long drive and also not in my insurance plan.  So new neurosurgeon.  Although of course not so much neurosurgery is done there.  They really try to avoid cutting into people, because it's hazardous.  Both for the patient and for the doctor, when you consider lawsuits and etc.  They focus more on pain management.  If your pain can't be managed through braces and medications and physical therapy and who knows what else, THEN they consider surgery.  Which explains why they're changing the name of the office from having neurosurgery in it to having pain in it.

New neurosurgeon told me that he *does* think I can ride.  And I don't need a joint replacement.  He thinks the sacroiliac damage I took coming off of Pluto a few years ago is causing the pain in my lower back - although I feel it right in my spine, when he pokes and prods he finds pain only on the right side, not surrounding the whole joint.  And I don't have shooting pains or those awful electric nerve pains.  He also thinks that I have a short leg.  (Or a long one, if you prefer.)  Which explains why I can hike in the woods all day but two hours in a store kills me.  The uneven surfaces in the woods result in a different stride every time, so I'm not repeatedly torquing my pelvis the same way.  I'm having a scan to check my leg lengths, and also a visit to a physical therapist to do the same thing.  Fixing that problem might be as simple as putting a shim in one shoe.  To which I say "Hurrah!" but also "Why didn't we figure this out years ago?"

So we might have an easy fix for that, and I *might* be getting an injection into my sacroiliac to fix or at least bandaid my worst pain.  And he put me on Celebrex rather than Advil, which should be better for my insides.  So far it's been more effective at making me comfortable.

Neurosurgeon says I won't be able to ride completely without pain, but I don't expect that.  I just don't want to have to worry about crippling myself by riding.  Some pain is acceptable. 

I think that about covers it.  Now my GP and my dentist are in the same office park close to work and home, which is nice.  Neurosurgeon is in Bowie, which is close-ish.  All three are youngish black men which I find somewhat soothing.  Having grown up in PG County, as a white minority, I am not super comfortable with old male white doctors.  Technically my dentist isn't young anymore, but he was young when I started seeing him.  You just can't be intimidated by a kid in jeans and a tshirt.  (He dresses nicer now.)

2012 year in review

It was a pretty momentous years in a lot of ways.  Perhaps I should say it was traumatic.  I stopped riding due to my back.  We got a Schnork.  I got massively ill and discovered I couldn't tolerate gluten anymore.  Dad went into the hospital and did great, and then went back into the hospital (not so much with the great.  But he ended up being okay.)  At the very end I got the news that yes, maybe I could ride again.  

Through it all, I was hiking, being comforted by cats and Beauty and the Schnork (or I was comforting the Schnork, which is sort of comforting), hanging out with Pluto though I wasn't riding, going on dates with JD, watching Alex get married, spending time with DeLee, and being thankful for my neighbors, friends, and family.