Travel, Food, and Slices of Life

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Body Pride

I am not an active person although many people who know me ask if I ever stop and rest. What I mean is that I have never sustained any exercise program more than a month and I am “chunky” or as my daughter calls it,  “fluffy”. The Yiddish words zaftig fits.

So it is with extreme pleasure I can announce that I am healing well from my latest surgery and can see – and feel – the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.  And it is MY flabby, fluffy undisciplined body that is reaching the benchmarks easier and faster than average.

As I sat on the bleachers at the pool where my husband and my friend were participating in what we call “geezer aquatic aerobics” I ached to be in the water with them. I have 2 more weeks to go until I reach the magical 6-week post op mark where the doctor assures me that the surgical incision will be healed enough to block infection from the outside. And since there are kids in the pool right before the low-impact exercise class, we can assume there are elements in the water that could introduce a problem. I will be patient.  Image may contain: one or more people, swimming and pool

This journey through pain and repair has been over two years now. I’d like to run through the story so perhaps others can feel they too can feel better.

est 1978First of all, when I was 19 I went skiing and had a spectacular fall. I laid in the snow off to the side of the run for a while and my memory is that the ski patrol came by and asked if I was okay. My answer was “I don’t know” and they left. Unlikely, but that’s the way I remember it.  I managed to get down the mountain and went back to school and never saw anyone at the health center because hey, I was 19 and healing is pretty magical at that age.

The next time the knee was assaulted was when I was 50 and contracted bacterial meningitis  working at Vanderbilt Medical Center. To be fair, no one else who handled the piece of equipment got sick. The doctors believed that as I was in the 6th year (of what turned out to be 10) of my husband’s fight with brain cancer, my adrenal system had been under assault for some time.  Fight or flight….and since I was choosing to stick with him and fight that cancer, I was bombarded with bad news all too often. That’s when the slow weight gain happened and that’s when my immune system weakened.  Image result for long term effects of stress on the body

So,  there I was all of a sudden, feeling like I had a horrible case of the flu and thankfully friends who came to take care of my youngest son made me go to the hospital.  I was that woman you hear moaning when you walk down the halls of a nursing home….too unable to articulate anything except “I feel miserable”. And then I remember nothing until I woke up and the doc was drawing about a liter of fluid from my knee.

Anyway, I survived, obviously. A year later my knee started hurting and I immediately invaded the doctor’s clinic (one benefit of working in a hospital) and he assured me that the meningitis was not back, but that I had arthritis in that knee.

I controlled the aggravation with glucosamine in various combinations and topped up with Advil if I needed more help. I started acupuncture when I moved to Oregon and sometimes had relief for 10 days without any Advil.

Until June 28, 2016 when I twisted my knee and could barely walk. We were heading to the farmers’ market and poor Graham had to set up everything without much help from me. I went to my doctor a day or so later and she did got me a referral to one of the local orthopedic docs here in town. It took 6 weeks to get an appointment and he took a look at me walking and decided, without the benefit of any x-ray or other imaging that I “just have arthritis and will never need surgery.”  When I asked him why it hurt so much differently and more than before I twisted it he was too busy to answer.

It will be no surprise to you that I refused to go back to him when I asked my primary doctor for a second opinion about 3 months later.  His partner had the benefit of an x-ray at that time and a ct-scan but he said just about the same thing the first doc had said…..I would never need surgery.

And so, while I waited for this knee to magically heal itself, I asked my doctor for PT and continued with the acupuncture. The physical therapy helped some but I was always in pain and always unable to do things I had been able to do before.  A marvelous friend stepped in to help Graham close down our farmers’ market booth each week.

And a year passed. And then my opposite hip started hurting. I had been “walking wonky” for a year because of the knee and the physical therapist opined that my pelvis had tilted because of the knee being out of alignment and the pressure of the femur into the pelvis was different from the way it normally should be.

So, that sounded like the purview of a chiropractor.  The acupuncturist and my primary care physician recommended the same guy so off I went.  There was some relief but when I asked  how long I could expect the treatments to effectively readjust the pelvis I was told “it had taken a while to get to that point and it will take a while to fix.”

Admittedly I was losing patience. And expressed it. So the chiropractor tried some other kind of adjustment and it HURT!  When I went back I saw his associate and that first treatment gave me 3 days of relief. I was looking forward to the next treatment but negated the positive effect by walking six blocks to meet my eldest son for lunch.  Six blocks……and I was in deep pain again. The next treatment the chiropractor tried some other aggressive treatment and that was it. I asked for a referral to a new orthopedic doctor not in this town and went “to get information”.

The new doc ordered a few more x-rays and then showed me on the computer the actual reason for the pain. And he said, very clearly, “you have arthritis which has worn away all the tissue that protects the joint and you are now “bone-on-bone”. There is no getting around the fact that you need surgery.”

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This is the x-ray AFTER the surgery and may look funny because I have porcelain and plastic as part of the appliance because of a concern about a metal allergy. 

I continued with physical therapy and went into the knee reconstruction with muscles prepared as much as possible. I was able to drive in 2.5 weeks (it was my right knee so my driving leg)  which was important because I am the driver in the house. Graham is legally blind and no longer drives. Our friends were fantastic…taking him to the grocery store and me to PT but the relief of being able to get there myself was golden.  I had been told it would take me 6 weeks to be able to drive but I worked my exercise routine at home often.

I wondered how I was going to deal with right knee pain as well as left hip pain during the recuperation. The doctor told me that the hip might be okay after the surgery and it was quiet for about a month, but then starting speaking …and yelling….again.  I was very thankful for that quiet time which permitted me to sit up and get out of bed more easily.

Image may contain: Beth Rankin, standing, sky, tree and outdoor

Taking a walk around the block 3 weeks after the knee surgery. Yes, I was in pain.

And so, the hip was replaced 4 weeks ago.  Bone on bone there also, no getting around it any more.

People who have had both surgeries told me the hip would be easier healing and it has been. Pain levels were not as high and more easily handled with the Tylenol. The issues I had related to feeling like a beached whale having trouble turning over in bed and the bowel issues caused by the anesthesia and the narcotics I took the first couple of weeks.  That issue improved after a few weeks and moving in bed has gotten easier as well.

A few days ago I realized I had not taken any Advil that day. And now I am walking without a cane with an almost normal gait.

The financial side effect of all this is that I had to take money out of my retirement funds to pay my share of the bills. Medical insurance has gotten more and more expensive in the past two years with co-pays and out of pocket requirements higher.  Once I finish paying my share of the bills I will have paid out $7300 and that does not even count my monthly insurance premiums.

The upside to all that is that any additional medical help I need is now without cost. I still need to pay my monthly premium but my prescriptions will be free and the cataract surgeries will be scheduled before the end of the calendar year to take advantage of this benefit.

1983 aSo, I started with a headline called “Body Pride”. There was a time, in 1983 where I experienced a wonderful glowing sense of pride in my body: I had just given birth to my eldest and was sustaining him by breastfeeding him. This was a perfectly clear example that my body worked well.

The faster than usual healing I have had from the knee and hip surgeries is also a mark of my body responding to the work I was doing, both actively through PT and more passively through acupuncture. I was making sure my nutrition was good and my body was getting the extra fuel it required because of the stress on it.

So, for all out there who have similar aches and pains, my best advice is to seek out those things you can do to supplement what you may be doing at home for self-care.  And get yourself to a doctor who will treat you fairly and communicate well. Do not give up and do not set restrictions on where you are willing to go. Yes, it is not fun to drive an hour plus to the orthopedic doc in Portland instead of 10 minutes to the guys here in my town. But it is worth every single red light and I have discovered some beautiful back roads that take me through gorgeous countryside.

I have so much I want to do….I am too young to feel as old as the last two years of pain made me feel.  Now, if only the new joints had amazing other attributes! Image result for bionic woman



A Small Bump in the Road

Sometimes the journeys that we take—the places we go—are not very far. And if we pay attention, even if they are doozies, we learn a lot.

On Friday I noticed my right eye was “leaking.” I wondered if I had an eye infection and made a note to call for an eye appointment on Monday.

On Saturday the water, which we have filtered to remove the chlorine and other chemicals, tasted horrible.  Everyone else said it was okay.

On Sunday it felt like I could not open my mouth right. Yet when I pushed it, it seemed to be open widely and normally. Weird. I noticed there was a little minor annoyance, not pain exactly, but you know the level when you feel something you usually don’t feel, in my jaw on the right side. I figured I better make a dentist appointment.

This morning when I woke up and looked in the mirror it was pretty startling. No, I didn’t have luscious long blonde hair. What showed up was a face that looked like it had had a stroke.

Not a bad one, but the right side of my mouth was drooping a bit. And when I smiled, that side did not go up. (Too bad Halloween isn’t today…..I could work this I think.)  bells-palsy-symptoms

As I took my morning meds I dribbled the water in the best Novocaine-induced fashion, but in reality my mouth was not numb. But obviously the muscles were not working right.

Graham looked at me and pronounced his diagnosis based on someone he knew years ago. Bell’s Palsy.

Yikes! So I went to the Internet and read what it was, running through the symptoms:

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy include:

  • Sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of your face that causes it to droop. This is the main symptom. It may make it hard for you to close your eye on that side of your face. Check!
  • Drooling. Check!
  • Eye problems, such as excessive tearing or a dry eye. Check!
  • Loss of ability to taste. Check!
  • Pain in or behind your ear. Well, now that you mention it, check!
  • Numbness in the affected side of your face. Not numb..phew!
  • Increased sensitivity to sound. Nope, thank goodness.

The cause is some virus, not entirely identified yet.

So, armed with this info, I called my doctor’s office and they had me come in during their lunch hour. The doc ordered some steroids to help reduce the inflammation quickly and some anti-viral to knock down the bug. She heartedly endorsed the discussion I had had earlier with my accupuncturist and herbalist to put me on an herbal concoction as well.

So, the important questions were next-how long was this going to take to get me better and since it was caused by a virus would it haunt me during my life?

Her answer was important and this is why I am sharing my aches and pains with you, not to just get sympathy and hugs. The important message is because I acted on it so quickly not only should it get controlled quickly (2-4 weeks) but it most likely will never bother me again.

People who develop Bell’s Palsy and do not get attention for it very quickly may have it for life.

So, pay attention to your body. When something happens significantly different from your normal aging aches and pains, GET MEDICAL HELP!!!

Oh, one last word…..I am thankful I am not a professional musician. My embouchure would be affected big time!

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Drugs and Medicine

Eons ago, when my 31-year-old was in 4th grade I spent some time with the class. I was helping them plan and build (very 4th grade level and low cost with cardboard and paper and markers) an amusement park. It gave them some skills to think about the services that are needed to make a fun place like that work as well as some spatial awareness and map skills.

dare-logoAnyway, one day I got there a few minutes early and one of the town’s police officers was presenting the DARE lecture why drugs were bad. (This was during the “Just Say No” era.) After I heard his talk I went out to the hallway with him and told him there was one thing he had not mentioned.

“What’s that?” he challenged.

I was ready for him. “You forgot to tell them that whatever problem they have that the high or the mellowness helps them forget does not take the problem away. It just adds to it.”

He told me he could not change the script, but I made sure my own kids got that message.

No question about it, drugs are around us.  Parents who swear their kids will never mess with drugs may be right, but most likely they are wearing blinders.  Think back to your own teenage years and your 20s: what your friends were doing became more and more “normal” and it would be a very strong willed young person with an amazing personality that can keep away from things that might not be wise choices.?????

I heard today that someone I got to know had been arrested for drug issues and his business is closed. While that is pretty awful, it is minor compared to the fact that he CHOSE to do that to himself, denying there was a downside.  What could his life could have been without those drugs? The potential of what people can do is amazing, but the reality of their perception on drugs is not true and not honestcrime-and-drugs

On the other hand, I know a lot of people who take medicine, myself included. Without my migraine meds at times in my past I would have had a lot of dysfunctional days. Without my blood pressure meds my body would be a ticking time bomb waiting for a stroke. Medicine, when issued by a medical practitioner (western or eastern) can make a huge difference in how you feel and function.

But I have also known a number of people who, after a time on a prescribed med, felt “better” and took themselves off that medication without talking to their doctor. Their perception of reality, like the drug addict, was also not true. People around them can see the difference but usually can’t explain their concern in a way that the person involved cares to hear.

So, I am NOT saying all prescribed medicine is good. But if you have a problem with it, talk to your doctor. Get it changed to diminish or eliminate uncomfortable side effects. And then stay the course to function better and healthier, even if it means a lifetime. The people around you love you.