Friday, November 4, 2011

Love and Light

Unexpectedly, and oh so unfairly, Lisa has died.

This is her friend Kim posting on her behalf.

She was doing great physically and spiritually, and yet she went to bed on Wednesday night and did not wake up again.  We don't know exactly why or how.

Word has spread throughout her vast community and many people are making donations to her Team In Training effort to raise money for leukemia research.  She had been training for a half marathon in January.  That information can be found here, and you can donate in lieu of flowers if you wish.

Lisa is now love and light.  She is all around us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Taking my Training to the Pool



I’m 11 weeks into my journey with Team in Training and I’m taking to the water for good reasons.  I have commented several times over the last few weeks about how much pain I’m in.  It didn’t always seem like running aggravated it, but any time on my foot definitely did.  So, I listened to my body and took my running to wetter pastures.  It is helping even if I miss running.

Still, I’ve questioned is this pain the inevitable result of running on a largely de-innervated foot or will it get better?  As a Type A personality, I can withstand anything when I have an endpoint or a goal, so again what is the recovery potential?  No one knows for sure, but I’m seeking several opinions…

My foot and ankle surgeon remains less than optimistic, and recommended some new palliation treatments that were sadly not helpful.  So then we assessed the rate of nerve regeneration and lo and behold a simple Tinel’s sign says that my nerve has continued to grow right on target and has reached the metarsal heads (AKA the ball of the foot, AKA the site of my excruciating shooting pain.  This all makes logical sense, the raw nerve endings are exactly at the point of maximal impact during running.  Light Bulb goes off in my head, no wonder it hurts SO MUCH.

So, to decrease the impact on my foot, but continue building my endurance for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon I have turned to aqua-jogging which could be a mind numbingly boring exercise except for the amazing support of my Team in Training Teammates.  Last weekend a few of us aqua-jogged for just short of two hours, this weekend will be longer. I’ll be in the pool during the week too.  We’ll see how long I have to stick to the pool, but it may be a few weeks.  However, as long as there is an endpoint I can do it.  I know I can.

I remain as committed as ever to complete my first half marathon just short of the one year anniversary of my surgery.  I continue to feel incredibly fortunate to be on this journey with some of the most amazing and inspirational people I’ve ever met.  I appreciate everyone’s support more than you know.

GO TEAM!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pain

Its been 9 months since they cut cancer out of my ankle.  9 months since my 14 hour surgery.  9 months.... I can't believe it.  Sometimes I stop and am awed by this fact, by how much time has gone by, by how little time has gone by.  Yet still its been 9 months.  Physically, I'm healing.  I'm proud of having been able to complete 2/3 of a triathlon.  I'm amazed that I am training to run a half marathon less than a year after my surgery.  These facts make me smile, but I hurt.

For 9 months I have been in pain all day every day, and I'm tired.  My surgeon yesterday said this is the harder part of my recooperation.  Geez, I figured out months ago.  I can power through the physical part, sheer will and determination is getting me back into shape, but this pain is something else.  There are mornings that I realize I'm awake when the pain kicks in, nights it wakes me up, evenings that I sit on the couch and won't move because I don't want to take a step.  Yet...

My foot hurting means that I have a foot.  The shooting pain in my foot and ankle means that the nerve graft took, and the nerve is regrowing.  The aching pain in my arch may mean that some of my foot intrinsic muscles are coming back.  My foot hurting means there is a chance that it'll recover completely, a chance that this will all become just a memory.

Still I can run again on this foot.  I can ride my bike.  I can do most of what I want to do.  I can make this be OK.  I just have to keep reminding myself.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blessed

Today I ran the furthest I’ve ever run.  I ran 9 miles less than 9 months after my radical ankle resection and nerve graft.  My ankle is still healing, my nerve is still regrowing, I still have no muscles in the sole of my foot, yet I run.  Every step I take hurts, yet I run. Then I pause and remember how blessed I am to be running.

I am blessed to be on the road to recovery. I am blessed to have dear friends who have picked me up when I’ve fallen over the last 9 months.  I am blessed to have parents who dropped everything to spend a month with me in New York while I had my surgery.  I am blessed to have remembered that I love my profession.  I am blessed to have a friend who’d help me finish a triathlon less than 8 months after my surgery.  I am blessed to still have this leg.  I am so blessed!

Today, while I was running, I mostly felt blessed to have joined Team in Training, to have met these incredible people who are helping me run further than I ever thought I could. Who are helping me to achieve this goal I have set for myself to run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon a few weeks shy of one year after my surgery.   Along the way, I have pledged to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Along the way I’ve met a group of amazing people, for that I am blessed.

Every Sunday before our runs, someone shares their story of what Team in Training or LLS has done for them, a few weeks ago one of our coaches described joining Team after his mom was diagnosed with an untreatable form of chronic leukemia.  He described Team as “saving his life.”  I get this, I feel the same way, or maybe just similarly,  I get it nonetheless. 

I am blessed.  I ran further today than I ever have.  I was supported every step, every painful step, by my teammates.  I feel strengthened by these people who all have amazing stories.  I run because I want fewer lives affected by cancer.  I run because I need to.

I am so grateful to so many for your generous support. Yes, I am blessed!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Its D- Day...

..As in D for Doctor!

I last assumed responsibility for the care and lives of critically ill babies on January 10, 2011, nearly 9 months ago.  Since that time, I have had a 14 hour surgery, spent weeks in the hospital, months in a wheelchair, months at rehab, and spent 8 months on pain meds due to the constant, constant pain in my foot.  I have also completed 2/3 of the Malibu Tri and completed my first 10K run, committed to Team in Training to train for a half marathon.

Some may not understand how i could return to athletic endeavors before work, to those I ask "would you want your baby's doctor on pain meds?"  The answer is easy, no way!  I committed early on this process this time to not rush my return to work, to not renege on my Promise.  I have tried to stay true to these promises.

So, today, I'll put my green scrubs back on and assume care at our smaller hospital to ease me back in.  I'd be lying if I tried to deny that I am deeply nervous about this.  What if I'm rusty?  What if I'm in too much pain?  What if my foot doesn't hold up?  I could make myself crazy with the "What If's."  The truth is I think I'm ready, my partners have given me the support I need in case I need an extra hand.  It is time.  Even if I feel a little like I am graduating from medical school all over again, except for the fact that I actually know what I'm doing. Still....

Wish me luck, please!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Malibu Triathlon- This is Why I'm Doing This

The Nautica Malibu Triathlon is in a week.  The Fundraising efforts are closing in on raising a million dollars to support Childrens Hospital Los Angeles's Pediatric Cancer Program.  Those who read me here or on Twitter or on facebook know why I'm doing this even if I can't do the whole thing quite yet.  I'm so thankful to my friend Jason who will compete in the run for me.

Yesterday, I completed my last real training with slightly over a mile ovean swim practicing entry and exit through the surf, tehn simulated start and race distance swim.  Then I rode the course between cloud bursts.  I fel tgreat.  I love that I am back able to do these things 8 months post my surgery, I am awed by the support of my friends and family.  However, when I need more inspiration I will just reread this email..


XXXX:

The event is coming up fast, wish I had trained more in June and July.  But the event is on my mind in a different and perhaps more meaningful way as I write this note.  Just yesterday morning as I was driving into work one of our cancer docs called me to say that our personal family friend’s child who he has been treating at CHLA lost their her battle with cancer.  Although the news was devastating, it energized me even more to want to work even harder for making the 25thAnniversary of the Nautica Malibu Triathlon that much more meaningful.

In just days as we gather on the shore at Zuma Beach in Malibu to test our skills against Mother Nature and our own athletic abilities, I will be thinking about doing my race in honor of our family’s young child.  I know she will be looking down upon all the participating athletes and giving them the inspiration to achieve their utmost.

I hate cancer, but I love the feeling of knowing that thousands of athletes and supporters of the triathlon will come together and make a huge difference in our battle to end cancer.

Thank you XXXX…


Remember thsi is why we are completing a triathlon to support Peds Cancer Research at CHLA.


Thank you to all who have already donated. If you still want to donate you may do so by following this link.  Thank you

Thursday, September 8, 2011

lap by lap, pedal by pedal, mile by mile, mm by mm

Lap by lap, pedal by pedal, mile by mile I slowly begin to feel more like myself.  Slowly that confidence that used to exude from my being but then got replaced by fear, doubt, anxiety has begun to return to me.  I am far from being the shape that I was in last year, but as evidenced by the miles I rode my bike and the miles that I ran this past weekend I am even further from the wheelchair bound version of myself of this past winter.

My vanity wants to wear my cute shoes again. My pride wants to be able to be back at work full time taking care of critically ill babies, but not yet.  I still must wait.  However, with each lap I swam this morning (and there were 80 of them) I could feel my strength coming back. Each mile I run reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to. I remind myself that great strides and accomplishments are not met by sitting on the sideline by staying with that which is safe.  You must risk to achieve. So, I risk. I choose not to sit on the sideline.

Still my real recovery is not measured by the miles I cover in my athletic pursuits. My real road to actual recovery to finding out what will be my new normal is measured in millimeters.  As millimete by millimeter the nerve regrows in my foot, the sensation has slowly begun to return to the bottom of my foot.  Will I ever recover any strength in my foot, no one knows, but there is reason to hope.  So while the rest of my body powers through miles, the nerves continue their millimeter a day progress. And I wait and to build the new version of me whatever it will be.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pause

Talking to my physical therapist the other day, we realized that I will be doing my 2/3 of the Malibu Triathlon a few days short of 8 months after my surgery.  8 months, wow!  My PT says most people would be barely getting around 8 months after the type of surgery I had. However, I never strive to be most people.  Still 8 months...

Thinking back to where I was 8 months ago, a lump rises in my throat, my chest tightens and I remember the fear the anxiety that filled me in that time.  I didn't know what they were going to have to do to remove the recurrence of that silly cancer in my ankle.  I knew there would be no radiation this time, no other treatment, just cut it all out.

Fast forward, a month or two, I'm sititng on my parents porch still in a wheelchair, deciding that signing up for a portion of the Malibu Triathlon to raise money for cancer research is a good idea.  I recruit my friend to run for me and Team Lisa is born.  Crazy, maybe, a little, probably, yes, more than a little crazy.  However, I needed a goal.  My psyche, my health, my sanity needed a goal.  Thus, I started to swim as soon as they said I could, I started to ride my bike as soon as possible.  I found freedom, peace when I could be on my bike or in the pool.  Therefore, less than 8 months after my surgery I will swim and ride in the Malibu Triathlon and my friend Jason will run.  He has supported me through out this whole adventure,  kept me positive, kept me within my limits.  I am honored to have such a friend and blessed to be able to be on this road.  I may not be able to feel the bottom of my foot, I may have no muscles left in my foot, I may not be able to stand for more than a few moments at a time, but swim and ride, I can do that!

Still 8 months?  Wow, there is a lot about the last 8 months that I'd like to forget, there's a lot I don't remember, but this, as I said in my post about joining Team In Training, feels right to me.  It has given me strength and purpose.  I'm still shocked when others tell me they find my journey inspiring, because to me it was just about staying sane over these last 8 months. About not letting cancer take anything else from me.   I would be honored if you would help me support for Pediatric Cancer Research or any words of encouragement as race day approaches.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.

To donate to the Nautica Malibu Triathlon follow this link.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ode to my Bike!

Yesterday evening I ran downstairs, as quick as I could, to get napkins from the garage and suddenly I noticed something missing.  Something was out of place.  My bike!!!   Where the "ef" was my bike?  I screamed just as my best friend and her family arrived for dinner another friend upstairs ran down.  My bike! My bike, it is gone!  Comprehension dawned slowly, somehow, someone had stolen my bike from my garage!  I couldn't fathom it! How? Why? When?

I'm not a very materialistic person.  I mean sure, I like nice shoes (even though I can't wear them anymore). I like my home, love some things in my home, but if you would've asked me about my most dear material possession, I might have said my bike.  We have history.  We've traveled miles and miles together. We've fallen in and out of love together.   It taught me how to ride better...  Gone!!

Today, the police report, the insurance claim, the fear, the anxt- I mean I am doing 2/3 the Malibu Tri in 2 weeks.  I need my bike!  All of this made me feel superficial.  My bike was a possession, I can replace it.  Yes, an expensive possession along with all the assorted gear that was stolen too. However, my bike was more than a possession...

I bought it in the run up to my first triathlon.  I hadn't been on a bike in 10 years when I signed up for that race.  I didn't own a bike, but hey, I thought it should be fun.  After months of riding on a loaned bike, I decided I needed one of my own. Enter my bike!

I knew next to nothing about road bikes when I bought it, but it fit my price range and was comfortable and available, so it become mine.   That race lead to more tri's, which lead to more half centuries, which lead to centuries.  My bike and I became friends.  It wasn't a material possession, but it was freedom! It was also peace.

I run for the endorphin rush, I ride for clarity of mind. As I've gotten back to cycling post my surgery I've realized that my bike brings me peace and calmness. I love my bike, that which it represents not the material, bike, I guess.

My insurance will pay for a new one (minus the deductible).  I'll have two weeks to become friends with it before the Malibu Tri.  I can do that I hope.

Still ByeBye my bike! I miss you!! I can't believe that someone took you from me!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First few steps towards a Half Marathon

My alarm goes off at 550 am. I groan, Sadie snorts and buries her head in the pillow. I hit snooze and briefly debate staying in my bed. However, when the alarm goes off the second time, I open my eyes and begin my stretching routine that will let me get out of bed. Sadie retreats under the comforter declaring it too early with a loud huff. My puppy may be smarter than me, but it is time to get up to head to my Team-in-Training practice.

More stretching, eating and wiping of cobwebs off my brain, and I'm ready to head off to SantaMonic for a planned 4 mile run. It's a great group of people with a great energy all joining together to run either a full or marathon and raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I'm not sure if I find the fund raising task more daunting or the running, but I'm committed to do both.

Cancer has changed my life, changed my life permanently.  I'd rather not have had to face it. I'd rather not be in pain all day, every day, whatever I do.  I'd rather not have known it, but I still know that all of the changes aren't bad they are just there.  Before I started down this road, I'd let myself get out of shape. I'd put my own health on the back burner in lieu of my medical training, work, other things that seemed more interesting. Since my first series of surgeries health and fitness have been staples in my life.  I've complete several traithlons, and am now training for another.

However, its not just about the races, the athleticism, I want to give back to the cancer community that has supported me. I want fewer people to know this pain and fear. I want cancer in all its forms to become treatable, for fewer poeple to die.  Raising money for Pediatric Cancer Research as a part of the Malibu Tri, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society as a part of training for the WaltDisney World half marathon, somehow this makes sense to me.  It feels right.  I chose to give back rather than kick, scream and cry.  (Though, I've done that to).

I'd be incredibly honored if you'd help me support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Team in Training by clicking here.




Before each Sunday morning run we have a moment where someone shares what Team-In-Training has done for them, invariably I cry. But I feel so blessed to have been able to have met these people and to run again on my foot I can't feel. Cancer sucks, but my life is blessed.  So while you all are snuggled up in your beds on Sunday mornings and my dog is hiding under my comforter know that I will be running and doing my little part to give back to the cancer community.

Thank you

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to work, but I miss being a Doctor

I've been back to work part time since August 1.  The nagging pain in my foot, my inability to stand, or move quickly on a moments notice, and the difficulty focusing caused by my pain meds have conspired to keep me from returning to clinical work, but I'm at least back doing something doctorish.

This past week, I've attended several teaching conferences, yesterday during an interesting conversation of complication cardiopulmonary physiology, I remembered that I love being a Neonatologist. That my chosen field remains fascinating and intellectually stimulating to me (even though it is not always easy). That I enjoy teaching young physicians.  That my job is far from just a job, it is a career that is a huge part of who I am, and I miss it.  I have been blessed to be with families through some of their darkest hours and hopefully watch their babies improve.

I'm probably still months from being able to return to clinical work.  The size of our new unit overwhelms me.  We are going to have get creative to get me back there, but I will get back.  Just as I am starting to run, I will find a way to get back to taking care of critically ill babies.  However, I will not return until I know I keep my Promise.

Accepting Limitations is so hard!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I believe in hope

Two weeks ago, my surgeon in LA told me "I've never seen the intrinsic muscles in the foot come back after being atrophied for so long.  You may need to prepare yourself that this is your new normal."  What?  I can't stand, I am severely limited in the shoes I can wear, I hurt all the time (I mean all the time, ALL day, every day). How can this be as good as it will get.  I cried, I called my dear friends and family for support. I grieved this loss.  I tried to process it.

After a few hours/ days, I came to the conclusion that if this is as good as it will get for me, that's OK.  I have my foot, I can swim, I can ride, I'm starting to run, I can live my life. Yes, the pain sucks.  I hate the pain, but I'm still glad my foot is my own.  Sensation or no.  Someone wanted to cut my leg off, but my tenacity said no there must be another way.  So, I had to found that other way, and I'll find a way to make this work too.

Still I held onto hope. No one was saying it was impossible, just that they hadn't seen it.  Maybe my doctors in NewYork would have a different theory, different info.  I prayed silently in the night for that to be so.  My dear friends propped me up supported me, said those prayers with me.  I knew I'd make it OK, I just wanted to be told, I wasnt' in this pain for no reason.

Fast forward a few weeks and I'm in New York in my ortho oncs office, she says yes its possible I'll get the muscles back, never as robust, never as strong, but back yes.  She says the pain should improve over the next 6 months to 1 year, the muscles may take up to 2 years, but she believes.  I believe too, I choose to believe in hope.  I choose optimisim.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Malibu Triathlon Again

Last year I signed up to complete the Malbu triathlon as a way of giving back to the cancer community, a way to raise money for our most innocent cancer patients, children.  I felt I was at the pinnacle of health, at least for me.  Sure my foot went numb sometimes, and I had other odd symptoms, but I was 4 years out from my cancer diagnosis and certain that it was behind me...



However, a month before last years race, I received the cruel news that no, it wasn't behind me.  My tumor had likely returned.  I told very few people, I was too scared to admit that my nightmare might be recurring.  I trained hard. The race day dawned and I loved every second of it even though the hideous numbness kept telling me there probably was something wrong.

The rest of the story is now well known to those of you who follow my blatherings here or on twitter or facebook, I lived in denial for awhile, then finally got it biopsied only to learn that, yes, my cancer had returned. Yes, I was once again facing possble amputation.  Yes, this was a nightmare! I cried, I screamed, but ultimately did what I do best, face it.

Surgery was more extensive than anyone hoped and I woke up begging to be told why it had lasted 6-8 hours longer than it should have.  Slowly the reality of what was done to remove the cancer from my foot and give me the best chance at a functional recovery dawned on me.  I vowed to fight.  Two weeks in the hospital, weeks never out of a chair (wheeled or otherwise), and the deadline for the Malibu tri approached.  I had planned to do the olympic distance this year, but now I was in a wheelchair unsure of whether I'd walk again from my own cancer journey.

Still somewhere in my self absorbed brain I knew it was better to face this as a functional adult than a child and that I'd find a way to swim, bike and run again.  I didn't know how, I just knew I would.  The deadline to sign up was days away.  Initially, I said "no way, I can't. I don't know even when or how I'll walk again."  I was fairly certain I could swim by then, bike maybe, but to run? that sounded preposterous.  I asked a few friends what they thought.  "Could I walk the run?" consensus, my ego wouldn't allow it.

Should I sign up to do the race?- My friend Jason replied
"After much thought I would say not this year.
I admire your desire to move forward and not let anything hold you back. I think more than anyone else I know, you COULD do this. Your enthusiasm and sacrifice far exceed most.
I always proceed on the side of caution with these things though. You should take the rest of this year and let your body heal, rejuvenate and get back to where you want to be. There are plenty of tri's to do and I'm sure you're going to kick ass in all of them but for this year just regroup. 
This is not to say you CAN'T do this .. you totally could. 
I would rather see you fully recover over the next 6 - 10 months and then start training hard for the next season."

His thoughts stuck with me, should I focus on recovery? Or give myself a goal? I knew that he was right, if I set the goal I'd make it, but would that hurt my ultimate goal of health?

My solution, sign up for the race as a team.  I asked him if he'd run for me. The next day he told me how inspired he was by my determination.  I don't know about that, I was just a girl in a wheelchair with an irrepressable spirit.  I asked my friend who'd turned me into the cyclist I was prior to surgery if he'd ride, and thus Team Lisa was born, a mixed relay triathlon team.  It hurt to not do the whole thing, but over time I knew it was right.  Then a month or so ago, I realized I wanted to swim and ride the race and Jason would run.  It felt right.  My training has been fun and inspired this year.  Everything I do, and have done, for the past 8 months hurts, but training for this race has felt easier, smarter than last year.  I've been safe, stayed in my limits and enjoyed it.

So, in 5 weeks time, I will complete 2/3 of the Malibu Triathlon with my friend Jason running to support me in every way as he has done over the last 4 years of our friendship.  We do this because cancer won't get me down, but more importantly it shouldn't get any children down.  We'll race for me, for health and fitness, but also to raise money for my hospital, Children's Hospital Los Angles's pediatric cancer center.  

I am beyond proud to do this and beyond proud to have a friend who will help.

Will you also help us?

To donate in my name click here

To donate in Jason's name click here

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Next stop Alaska

Sitting in an airport lounge awaiting my flight to Vancouver, I think back to that night 4 months ago when my dear friend asked me if I wanted to go to Alaska with her for her birthday.  I was at my parents house at the time, high on narcotics, in a wheelchair, all around miserable.  June seemed a million years and a lifetime away.  A vacation in Alaska with dear friends a reason to get out bed the next morning.  Yes, I said immediately.  I'd love to.  I've always wanted to go to Alaska, the only place I've ever wanted to go on a cruise.  It sounded perfect

Now months later, I can't believe that it is reality.  In a few hours I'll be in Canada, tomorrow we board that ship to cruise up to Anchorage.  I have no idea how it is that it is June already, but I can't wait.  I may post pictures of glaciers calving into the ocean, of the wildlife we see, or I may not.  Just know that I am so happy to be Alaska bound with dear friends.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An S&M relationship for good!

I’m in a Sadistic/ Masochistic relationship, and I like it.  Now don’t get any crazy ideas, but really I let this guy strap electrodes to my leg, put me in a 40 pound flack jacket and then do exercises, and that is just the beginning.  Yep, I’m talking about my physical therapist.  Still I go back twice a week because he knows what he’s doing and I’m getting better.

Physical therapy is a funny thing. Recovering from a surgery, especially one as extensive as mine, PT is essential.  However, physical therapy can do so much more.   I have friends in PT now for dog bites, bad backs, sore knees etc.  Sometimes we take how we move and how we exercise for granted. We focus on the big muscle groups or how far or hard we ride/ run/swim as we train.  Rarely, does anyone take a break and think about the muscles in your foot, hand, spine etc that makes all that possible.  Yet, in part that is the job of a PT.  Here’s a few snippets of my journey…

I have a deinnervated foot, half an ankle, a quad that had a section of it removed, and then significant muscular atrophy from months of sitting around doing nothing.  The first thing that my PT started working on was regaining my flexibility.  Then we progressed to work on my foot and ankle. You can’t stand if you have no strength in your ankle.  Think about it. First exercise assigned:  Pick up marbles with your toes!  Yep, I spent 15 minutes trying to make my little toes that can’t feel and can barely control to pick up marbles and drop them in a pitcher.  Good fun, 3 months later, I rock this exercise!


Then we progressed on to other fun ankle strengthening things like, put your foot on a BAPS (solid surface on a ball) and rotate it around.  It sounds silly, but week by week my ankle got less wobbly as I slowly learned to walk again.  There were all kinds of crazy core exercises to strengthen my back and get my abs back.  My BoSu ball and I became best friends. 

Soon, I started to be able to upright and the sadist focused on strengthening my ankle and balancing.  Thus, I became friends with a lovely pair of shoes I coined “Birkenstocks on balls.” First I just tried to walk on them, then I had to do various odd walks on them with resistance bands ties around my leg.  Thus, the S&M relationship began, because really that is crazy. 



Then the crazy lunges and core exercises really began.  Slowly, my body started to look like what it used to, but still my quad didn’t seem to activate normally through the surgical scar. So, the sadist attached electrodes to my leg and sent electrical stimuli through my quad at as strong of a frequency as I could handle all the while doing leg lifts.  I felt like a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, yet I didn’t reveal any secrets.



Week after week the exercises intensified as did what I was allowed to do outside of the PT gym.  Yes, you can swim. Yes, you can spin. Yes, you can ride a bike. Yes, you can get on the elliptical. Aqua-jogging? yes.  The yeses began to grow, my strength, confidence and optimism slowly started to return.

Still the sadist always pushed me with a smile on his face, if I started to get good at an exercise he made it harder, up the resistance, up the weight, do it standing on a foam pad.  He pushed, I laughed and set out to meet the new harder version.  Thus the masochist in me is fueled.

He started having me do lunges wearing a 40 pound weight vest.  Then other exercises in the flack jacket.  He wanted to load my Achilles so that I could prepare to run.  I now spend an hour at PT wearing this 40 pound vest.  Craziness I swear, yet I do it.  Sometimes, we jest about the combo exercises.  One day as a lark he said- stand on one leg on a foam pad, wearing a laser target, vibrate a body blade and throw a ball against the trampoline.  My prize for this stupidity, no BAPS board that day which is the true Guantanamo Bay exercise. 



I go, I go twice a week.  I spend 3 +/- hours there and I do whatever he says.  My reward, today he had me run on a treadmill.  5 months after my surgery and I’m starting to run again.  I’m well on the road back.  It feels great.  I’m good with this S&M thing we have going on!
I'm also incredibly thankful to my  PT Jonathan for travelling this long journey with me!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Are Physicians really Bad Patients??

Are doctors really worse patients than non-MD trained people?  I have given this question a lot of thought and have yet to reach a conclusion.  However, I’m going to start sharing some of my thoughts… 

I thought about this the other day as I headed to my dental cleaning, a dental cleaning I was 4 months late for mind you.  Also, this was my 3rd medical appointment of the day, plus an hour with my personal trainer.  Yep, it was a day of Lisa.  Funny thing is most days these days are “days of Lisa.”  MY medical appointments fill the functional hours of most days, and I hate it, and maybe that is my point.

Why do doctors have a rep as being bad patients?  Often, that rep stems from being non-compliant with their treating physician’s orders, their medications or their follow-up.  OK, maybe just being non-compliant in general.  I have tried really hard to be a good patient, but it is hard (oh so hard), and this is my full time job right now. 

So, as I drive from appointment to appointment, I question why is it hard for doctors to be compliant? At first I thought maybe it was the years and years of training where your schedule is not your own.  I personally spent 6 years in post medical school training, and I can’t even tell you how many appointments were missed because of unexpected emergencies, how many teeth cleanings were cancelled.  I won’t mention how long I went without certain standard screenings.  We were taught in medical school, and in our training, to put our duty, our patients, above our own health.  Even as our mentors would espouse that in order to be good physicians we have to take care of ourselves they would make it difficult for us to be released from duty to take care of our own needs.

Henceforth, for years we are taught to put off our needs. Whether they be simple needs like eating, using the facilities, or making our own appointments there was always a patient that had to be seen.  It is a part of the profession, but does it subliminally train physicians to put off their own care in order to focus on their patients?

As I examine my own life, I have realized that I have often rushed my recovery from injuries.  Four days after breakng my foot still non-weight-bearing on crutches, I was on service in the hospital responsible for 30-40 patients and new interns  trying to crutch around ahospital larger than 2-3 average city blocks. My attendings would laugh at me seated at the central nursing station with my foot up so I could be available, most days my colleagues would take the code beeper since I couldn’t get anywhere very fast. Yet, I was there bright and early every morning even though I had to pack to move across the country to start my fellowship through it all.  I never considered calling in sick, how would that have worked that then? Nothing bad happened, but I shudder to think of the possibilities if I couldn't have responded to an emergency on time.

After my first go-around with cancer surgery I returned to work a few weeks after being cleared to walk again post radiation. I was far from being ACTUALLY able to handle the rigors of my job and returned to work in a non-clinical status, but returned all the same.  I fell asleep on the floor playing with Sadie that first day back.  The first time I took call my foot was still so stiff upon waking that when I was called to a code in the middle of the night, I had to hop down the hall to respond.  I could hop pretty fast, but…

So, this time, I vowed to myself that I would take the time needed to heal myself before returning to work.  I have refused to feel guilty about that.  Every morning when it takes me 5 minutes of stretching to get out of bed, I know that I am far from being willing to be responsible for a baby’s life when I can’t respond quickly enough.  I am making great progress, but I am far from being ready to do my job, to accept responsibility for a child’s life.  I’m giving myself this time, and I can only hope that when I return to my profession I’ll be ready for it, because I do love my little charges!

I am learning to accept my limitations and take care of myself.  I know that when I return to caring for babies this will make me a better physician.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Believe in Hope

My worst fear heading into my surgery was that they would have to sacrifice the posterior tibial nerve. That nerve provides sensation to the bottom of the foot and to the muscles in the foot. Without that nerve, you can't feel the bottom of my foot or really grip your toes. That fear was realized when they discovered that my tumor had infiltrated the nerve. My surgeons almost stopped the surgery to talk to me when they discovered this, but after meeting with my parents and best friend they proceeded to do what needed to be done.

When I was in medical school, we were taught that once a nerve was removed it didn't grow back or grew back so slowly and in a disorganized fashion, and thus once such a large chunk of nerve was removed it was gone forever. However, in the intervening decade plus medicine has advanced such that we know it is possible for a nerve to regenerate, but it needs a roadmap. Thus my surgeons did a nerve graft to provide the posterior tibial nerve a route to travel. I was told to watch for a slowly progressing Tinel's Sign. Tinel's Sign is a shooting pain along a nerve that is irritated, which a growing nerve would be.

I have been afraid to believe that this is working and this current state of a numb, non-functional foot developing hammer toes, wouldn't be my life forever. I have tried to convince myself that I can learn to get used to this, that it is OK that my toes will never grip a shoe again. I mean who needs to wear slides, who needs flip flops. Sadly, I haven't been doing too well at convincing myself. I still pray every day that there is another option. But I have been afraid to hope, afraid to believe it, almost afraid to even pray.

Today, as I walked up my stairs, I was getting shooting pains into my foot, so I stopped and carefully tapped up the route of the nerve, consistently I could reproduce the sign. I looked at my roommate and asked for a tape measure. We measured how far from the edge of the scar the growth was, converted it to millimeters and came up with 112. I could consistently reproduce the Tinel's sign 112 mm from the edge of my scar, a nerve grows at the rate of 1 mm per day. So, I pulled up the callendar and counted the days since surgery, 112 days. I had the surgery 112 days ago. The reality slowly sunk in. I couldn't believe it. I could believe in hope again. The emotion overtook me, I started to sob.

I've been so afraid to believe, to hope, that the nerve would regenerate; that I'd convinced myself it wasn't. However, there were the numbers staring me in the face. It's right on target!  I can believe in hope again!!!  I like hope!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Roses

Last night, I walked up the stairs to my house and looked at my rosebushes.  They needed desparately to be deadheaded, but still there were some beautiful roses.  I decided to pick a few to bring their fresh smell into my house and to bring me some of the joy that I always feel in my garden.

Of course, I couldn't help but to do a little trimming of the dead blooms, but still I managed to pick myself a  small bouquet of roses to bring in.  These included the best smelling roses ever.  A simple action, but it makes me smile.


I was once told to find something that makes you smile and make it a part of your daily life.  Or to stop and smell the roses.  My roses make me smile, so I brought a few into my house!

Hope you all have soemthing to smile about every day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spin me Right Round Baby Right Round

Two months and a few days ago my OT in the hospital shocked me by saying I could take a shower.  It had been almost two weeks since my surgery and I'd barely been out of bed since my surgery.  I had had nothing but sponge baths for two weeks and thus the water, the emotions of something so simple, so amazing. I sat in that shower and I cried.  I mean, I, me, actually sobbed.  (if you know me you know that is rare)

Fast forward 10 weeks, my shower chair is in my garage, my crutches stand in the corner of my room like soldiers, my house is slowly returning to order, these markers that I am getting back to myself each give me pause to think about, yet I want more.  Always, I want more.  Every time I pull into my garage I see my bike sitting there waiting for me, taunting me. I can't quite describe how much I want to go for a ride or a run.  It is funny how much a part of my life that has become in the last few years...

Two weeks ago, my PT said I could ride an exercise bike, I looked at him in dismay, really? 15 minutes in I was exhausted, my cardio, my stamina were all lost. However, persistance is my middle named, so I pushed.  In a little over a week, I could do 45 minutes on the bike with hills. Yesterday I sheepishly asked my PT when he thought I could start to spin again.  He said, why not now?  Give your days a few days of rest and by the end of the week you're good to go.  What?  Really?

It felt like getting something back that I had lost, a skilll, a hobby I used to take for granted.  It felt a little like getting to shower for that first time, something so fundamental. It felt like a return to me.  I declared it on twitter and on facebook with glee in my heart, then I sat in my car and cried.  It has been a long few months, but I have come so far.  Sometimes I need to remember that. Sometimes I just need to cry

Friday, April 8, 2011

Shoes

Yesterday, I went shoe shopping….  I've written about shoes before.  Who knew shoes could be so important? Alas, I am a well shorn woman.


Two months after my surgery which removed all sensation to the bottom of my foot and left me with thigh fat where my skinny ankle used to live, I’m walking.  I’m riding a stationery bike. I’m exercising 1-2 hours/day. I’m doing lunges wearing Birkenstocks with balls (more on that later).  I’m on or ahead of schedule, but I miss my shoes. 

No outfit is complete without the proper foot adornment.  My shoes were a reflection of me.  I love shoes.  Yet lately, I’ve been wearing only a limited number of orthotically correct shoes.  Cute, sexy, they are not…  Except maybe what my friend Jen calls my sassy boots.  Still these are functional foot adornments.

They are a far cry from the last 3 pairs of shoes I bought.  Le Sigh, the life of the well shorn professional is not to be mine for awhile.



So, shoe shopping yesterday...
The goal find shoes that I’m not embaressed to have on my feet and are comfortable for my poor abused Lefty.  This is not an easy task I tell you.  Enter my dismay that Ugg now makes sandals.  They are comfortable and they are not ugly.  Actually they are kind of cute and there are some that I might be able to get to adorn my foot for an upcoming wedding. 



Alas Shoes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Outsourcing for Good or for Bad??

I'm a do-it-yourself kinda girl.  It's in my genes, my parents and my brother all do the same thing.  I can't help it, or maybe I can. Who kows I'm working on it.

 Case in point:  I fired my garden a few years ago, because I knew I could do a better job. Before I moved back home a few weeks ago, my garden was full of weeds, sad and neglected.  Between being away, not being able to walk, life etc. there just had been no time for gardening.  I love to putter in my garden but pulling weeds isn't fun.   A friend has taken to sending me a  gardener to deal with my yard.  A precious gift. Outsourcing a gardener is a good call, now i just need to find a new one to do my yard on a regular basis. See, I'm learning.

Further, case in point:  I like to sew, I have recovered most of the furniture in my house so that it matches my color scheme and my style.  It is a laborious project, but one I enjoy.  I've recovered couches, made chair cushions, recovered more chairs than I can remember.  I bought fabric a year in a half ago for curtains for my dining room, that fabric is still folded up in my closet.  Sigh, one more project for me to do in my new found spare time.  I'll get it done I swear and no I won't outsource this one.  (yes, I fully realize I could buy curtains in a fraction of teh time and energy required to make them, but that is not the point, sillies.) Outsourcing curtain, good idea, but not going to happen.

Lately, I have had to outsource something else, walking my beloved dog and constant companion Sadie.  I love my nightly walks with Sadie. Really all she wants from me is some attention and a couple of walks a day.  That is what being a dog is all about.  However, I can't really walk right now, so someone else has to take Sadie.  Therefore, I hired the dog walker that my friend who kept Sadie while i was in New York uses.  He knows her, she likes him, it seemed like a great idea.  However, when I am home and he comes to get her, she doesn't want to go.  Hello, my dog doesn't want to go OUT?  He says if I'm home as soon as the business end of the walk is done she just wants to get back home to me.  Talk about a bonded puppy.  It makes me sad to be outsourcing the one thing she wants from me a day, but what am I to do.  I've taken her for a couple of walks with my crutches and the poor dog is afraid of the crutches, but desparate to go out.  talk about doggy PTSD. So, I persist, I'm not outsourcing my dog, I'm taking care of her right?

I could go on, but you get the idea I like to do these things, but there are only so many hours in the day and one of me.  So, some things get pushed off.  It is the way of things. I'm getting stuff done that needs to be done.  Some things must be outsourced, some things can wait.  Maybe next year, I'll even hire an accountant to do my taxes, maybe?  Outourcing is good.  Learning to ask for help is a big step forward.

Such is the ying and yang of life.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Two Months


Two months ago, I was wheeled into an operating room after kissing my mom and best friend good-bye.   I had signed a consent for what felt like everything short of amputation, and a separate consent for all types of reconstructive options.  The truth is I didn’t know what they were going to do, my surgeons didn’t exactly know what they would do until they saw how big the tumor  was. We had agreed that if possible without significant long term risk, they would spare my posterior tibial nerve, but it looked like the tumor was surrounding it.  Therefore, I knew there was a real risk. 

Thirteen hours later I woke up and looked at my parents and said “what happened to me?”  They wouldn’t tell me.  I cried.  I knew the surgery had been bigger than planned, and I knew I was in horrible pain, but I didn’t know what they had done to me.  All night long the nurse wouldn’t give me details.  I slept no more than a few minutes at a time due to the pain, and them dopplering my ankle to make sure there was still blood supply to the graft.  As morning dawned, I asked everyone what happened to me.  Finally, my surgeon explained to me that the tumor was bigger than expected, that she had to remove all the soft tissue in my ankle including the nerve, veins and the artery. However, they had done a nerve graft in hopes that the nerve might grow back.  In hopes that someday I’d feel my foot again. 

Processing that news was hard.  My drug addled mind couldn’t compute it.  I got through each of the next days with the help of my family and my friends near and far. Now two months later, I’m still having trouble processing that I can’t feel my foot and that that may be my new norm.

 Still I make strides everyday.  I’ve been swimming again for a week.  I work out as I can preparing the rest of my body to help Lefty out.   I’ve taken several steps without my crutches, but I hate the feeling.  Today, I walked my dog around the block alone for the first time in 2 months.  We both loved it.  These strides forward should be written on a calendar.

In 2 short months I’ve learned a lot about living with a numb foot even while I test for nerve growth once a week.  When I look back on the last two months I know that what I will remember is not the pain, not the hard times, but the support and love of my friends and family.  Looking back is always colored by how you choose to look at the past.  Recently I’ve had a reminder of how precious life is, and the fact that I have a numb foot suddenly seems like just one more thing to get through.  Time does give us perspective.  Time does heal wounds.  Time will even make me think its OK to walk on a numb foot.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lap by Lap, yard by yard, I feel more like myself!

Last year at this time I started training in earnest for the Malibu triathlon, and I had to force myself to swim.  By that time I was riding and running regularly, so I was pretty confident there.  However, it had been a couple of months since I'd gotten in the pool.  So, I declared it time to swim.  First time in the water I easily swam 2000 yeards, so I was fairly sure the distance wouldn't be a problem, but open water swimming is totally different.  So, I prepped to train for the ocean.  I started in a protected bay and slowly moved to the Pacific.  Open water was hard, but I pushed through it.

Whatever the venue swimming has always provided me a place of comfort, of escape.  I used to joke that it was the only time in my overly connected world where I was truly unreachable.  I joked about this, but it is profoundly true.  I run with my phone on my waist, ditto on my bike.  When I swim the phone is safely locked away from that corroding water. I am unreachable.  Sometimes I relish in that.  

I happily proclaimed on twitter and facebook the other day after I was finally allowed back in the pool, "lap by lap, yard by yard, I start to feel more like my old self." I thought about why I felt this way.  Was it the return to some form of real-ish cardio for the first time in 2 months, maybe.  Or just the return to the order of exercising, training for something, maybe.  Or was it the simple stillness that swimming in a pool is, possibly.  Whatever it is, being back in the pool feels fantastic. I can only imagine how great it will feel to get back on my bike, or to run (if I'm ever allowed to do that again).

Still there is something about swimming, especially in a pool.  To me, it is rote muscle memory.  Lap after lap, stroke after stroke, same thing over and over again, your arms propel you from one end of the pool to the next.  You can hear nothing but your breath and the occassional splash.  You focus on your breathing and your forward progress, you see only the black line beneath you.  To me, it is made for meditation, or for a clairty of thought which is a form of meditation itself.  According to yoga philosophy during mediation you are both observer and observed. Iyengar says, "Meditation does not make the dull. Rather, in meditation the mind is still razor sharp, silent but vibrant with energy." Further, according to yoga philosophy, when in mediation time should have no meaning.  I'm not sure I can reach that level of clairity while counting my laps and swimming away, but I know that I see things more clearly when swimming and that time has no meaning.  I lose myself in the water.

All this begs the question, is my missing of my exercise routine, missing the exercise or the clarity of mind?  Missing the place of protected isolation that allows for me to see my life clearly?  Maybe I should meditate on that?  In the meantime, i'll keep swimming!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Promised Land



Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
Explode and tear this town apart
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart
Find somebody itching for something to start
            Bruce Springsteen, “The Promised Land”

When I originally returned home from New York, I wanted to go to my house.  I needed to pick up some items, but mostly I just wanted to be in my house.  I stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked up. Could I make it?  How could I be so weak?  This recovery road is long, but bullheaded I was I determined I had to try.  I made it up the stairs exhausted, and then I needed help to get back down.  Clearly, I wasn’t ready to move home.

Fast forward a month later and through the benefits of physical therapy and exercise the stairs while still daunting are able to be scaled without too much thought.  The time to move home has arrived.  While being fortunate enough to have been given the time and place to heal, I am ready to move back to my house.

So say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day
All down the line
Just say goodbye it's Independence Day
            Bruce Springsteen, “Independence Day”

Thank you so much to my parents for providing me a place of respite and care to allow me to heal and get back to this place.  I can only hope that my progress will continue at the same pace.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Driving

I remember turning 16. I don't remember if I had a party, though i assume I did. I don't remember what I wore or where we went. I don't remember any of the adolescent drama that I'm sure seemed tres important at the time, but I do remember...

Rushing home from school to get in our family's old Chrysler LeBaron station wagon to go get my drivers license. I remember waiting in anxiously in the car to Take my behind the wheel test afraid of parallel parking between cones. I remember making sure I knew how to do a 3 point turn. I remember these things across the expanse of time. A car meant freedom or a little of it. It meant, going to the movies with friends, the mall, swim team practice, etc. It meant my mom no longer had to shuttle me everywhere.

This past Tuesday I awoke with that sense of anxiety, anticipation, joy at what the day held. I was off my pain meds and thus could drive again. We'd agreed we'd pick up my car after PT. My mom worried and fretted probably not unlike when I was 16. Still I drove us to PT, just to check. All good we proceeded to pick ip my car. That little bit of freedom, independence returned to me. I was so happy, I couldn't stop smiling. My car, the ability to drive, I will never take it for granted again.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Afternoons with Mom and Dad

I've been on this recovery journey for almost a month and a half now.  I got released from the hospital just over a month ago.  I have had long hours to fill while I am able to do very little.  I've had visits from friends, gone on outings for tea, burger/ beer /and sports, dinner, etc.  However, I still spend most of my time with my parents who are graciously caring for me.  Along this journey, I've spent a couple of afternoons with mom and dad getting otu of the house and into nature in whatever way possible.  These days have both come at good times and boosted my spirits.

An afternoon in Central Park with my Dad:
Shortly before we left NYC, the mercury finally topped freezing and so my dad loaded me in my wheelchair and we headed off to Central Park.



Thus, prepared for the cold, with Lefty wrapped in cashmere and me covered in a blanket.  We headed out to take in what the last few snow storms had done.


We even bought the roasted nuts from the street vendor.  Dad and I both relished time outside.  I insisted on helping to roll me up the hills.  He managed to not roll me over his toes on that day!


An afternoon with Mom at The Huntington Gardens:
Back in SoCal, we arrived at my parents house just as the camelias were in full bloom.  I asked if we could spend an afternoon at the Huntington Gardens to explore their camelia gardens.  The Huntington is just a few short blocks from their house.  Yet somehow we didn't make it for this outing til yesterday.  Mom and I headed out.  I swallowed my pride and agreed that the only way I could explore properly would be in my wheelchair.


The camelias didn't  disappoint.

The Clivia were amazing.
The Chinese Garden beckoned me, but the hills were daunting, so we'll save that for another trip when I have two legs for locomotion.


Mom enjoyed it too.


These days are special memories in a world of pain and frustration. Thank you will never be enough, Mom and Dad.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Two shoes!

When you stop and listen, you hear amazing things. When you stop and smell the roses, you might just be greeted by a treat. When your glass is half full, you realize how far you've come. No situation is all good or all bad, nor is life. I choose to embrace my life, or at least fight like hell to get it back.

I may exercise much, much, less than I did 6 weeks ago, but what could you expect. At least I'm working out. My stamina, my endurance are slowly returning, I mark these things by how many blocks I can go on my crutches before gasping for air. My strength (upper body that is) slowly returns as I gauge my weight work outs. But more than any of that....

I haven't been in my wheelchair in 4 days!!! Yes, 4 days! I get around on crutches. Yes, for the next few weeks there may be events that will require the chair, but the bathroom door is back on, and the chair is out of my bedroom. Another piece of medical equipment has left too. I exalt in those changes, but even more...

I've put on two shoes for a few hours every day for the last three days. It's part of a desensitization plan. The foot feels less foreign through a shoe, or something. All I know is that the sight of my fat ankle in a shoe overwhelmed me. It is a milestone at 5 weeks post surgery. I'm amazed by it, even if simultaneously a little disturbed by my fat ankle. But I digress, two shoes!



Two shoes, one yardstick! I get better, stronger, closer to my goal everyday! Onward and upward they say!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Prisoner of my Own Foot:



I looked in the mirror this morning as I did my hair and the reflection is the same.  Maybe a little gaunter, definitely paler, but still the same bright blue eyes reflect back at me.  Straighten my hair, a touch of makeup and I look like me, the old me.  Everyone comments that I look so healthy.  I feel stronger every day, my brain becomes clearer as I wean off of the drugs. But I am not the same.  I get around via wheelchair and for a precious small time each day, crutches. Every action, every movement has to be planned ahead, I feel like I am a Prisoner of My Own Foot.

This morning I awoke to bright sunshine and the crystal clear mountains, and every fiber of my very being longed to jump on my bike and go for a long ride, or strap on my running shoes and run; but I can’t. Not yet at least!  This foot holds me prisoner still. That thought caused me to throw the covers over my head and burrow into my bed.  Still self-pity isn’t my style, so I settled to sit on the porch in the sun and enjoy my coffee.

Last week, I didn’t leave the house for 4 days, for 4 days! (The only exception being my daily 20-30 minutes wheels around the block with Sadie)  This is me, homebound, no! I reject that with my very soul.  I am learning patience, I am doing a puzzle, reading a book, filling my time, but still…. My foot controls my day!

I watch my ankle heal and with each day it looks less like an alien and more connected to reality, to a foot that I mostly can’t feel, yet one that controls my every move every day.  I want to hate it.  I want to scream at it, or scream at the universe, but I can’t.  Every night after I give myself my nightly shot and take my meds, I lay in the darkness and mutter a silent prayer that the nerve graft will work, that I will feel my foot again. Then I pray that if that doesn’t happen, if a half dead foot is to be my life, I will learn to run on it. I will learn to ride my bike again. It is a prayer so desperate, that I will only whisper it in the night.

I meditate on these thoughts as I fall asleep, and as each new day dawns, I fill my time and work on preparing the rest of my body to help in this battle.  My strength physical and mental will free me from my jailer in time.  Whatever the outcome is to be I will only give this jailer, This Thief, a limited time, and then I will free myself.

I will not be a Prisoner to My Foot for long, forever! To this promise I will be true!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Back in SoCal and Thanks to Great Friends Near and Far


So, my time in New York City has drawn to a close.  I don’t think any of us were sad to leave that frozen island this trip.  New York City was not really made for wheelchairs, especially in the cold.  Plus, I felt too awful most of the time to be up for much anyway. Although the last week was actually filled with visits from college friends and a dinner with one of my cousins to add fun and laughter to our time and make us feel connected to the world.

Still we all wanted to come home, though I dredded the flight.  The flight was less horrible than I feared and once we were off the plane we were greeted by the beautiful mountains around Burbank, sun and warmth.  I quickly shed my jacket, my sweater, my scarves and soaked up the sun.  Loaded in the car we journied to Casa de los Padres, where I will be in residence until I can handle the stairs at my home.

Within moments of arrival as CdlP, we were greeted by the most beautiful of sites; one friend returning Sadie to me while other friends arrived with dinner.  They were all shocked when we suggested a bottle of champagne to celebrate our safe return and the beauty of friendship.  We then feasted on the amazing meal they provided, a gift so great all you can say is thank you. Then you can only hope that when a friend needs that kind of gift you’ll remember to pay it forward.

By the next day, I needed to see my house.  (OK, I needed a few items from there too, but I really want to be home, so we went by my house).  I’m allotted 4- 30 min periods upright, so I saved one to tackle my stairs. I stood at the bottom and contemplated the flight and a half of stairs.  Daunted, I began the task slowly and step by step, I made it to my first floor.

I enjoyed visiting with my new roommate while my mom gathered my things and I ached to be back in my home, but not yet as evidenced by my mild difficulty getting back down the stairs.  So, I will continue to enjoy the hospitality here at CdlP, and work on my strength and healing under my parents careful eyes.

This regimen of working on my strength has gained a new component, daily wheels around the block in opposite directions with Sadie.  I’m here to tell you that this activity is no joke, wheeling a wheelchair up hill by yourself .  Anyway, I put Sadie on her leash, attach the leash to the wheelchair and off we go.  When we really get going at times, Sadie helps. She gives me an indignant look when she realizes her duty as a sled dog, but I’m training her.

Thus life will continue here at CdlP, I slowly get stronger, sleep long hours and watch my ankle heal.  Please come visit, Pasadena isn’t Siberia!  Today it is absolutely beautiful!

Friday, February 11, 2011

When you can't hold yourself up!

Yesterday, I stood up for the first time in 3 weeks.  Stood upright, just like us Homo Sapiens are supposed to. Enough of this upside down, backwards crab crawling from bed to chair, to wheelchair.  Enough, of this sideways slide from chair to chair.  Those manuevers may have been had a benefit in ensuring that my triceps didn't dissolve the way my gastroch have, but I am humankind and we are meant to travel the world upright.  That is how we evolved to be superior to monkeys, also how our homes, streets, sidewalks and vehicles are designed but alas I get ahead of myself....

My plastic surgeon has been very strict about keeping my foot elevated at all times.  As I have no more veins, lymphatics or functional nerves on the inside of my ankle to deal with the pressure of gravity.  Thus, I have been relegated to the seated or reclined position since my surgery.  Yesterday, in his office, he tested my foot in the dependent position. I sat upright like a normal person with my foot dangling for 15 minutes, and my back rejoiced at not having my hip tilted at some odd angle to keep my foot up.  As long as the foot didn't turn purple, I'd pass the test. If I passed, I'd get to begin brief periods of having my foot dependdent.

I passed the test!  My prize, crutches! Oh crutches, I have had a love hate relationship with you in the past, shall we begin the dance again? At this moment, you feel like freedom, but I know shortly you will be a jailer again.  Thus the ying and yang of healing! Still today, you are freedom and thus crutches in hand, I stood up.  I got a little dizzy and realized I hadn't been completely upright in 3 weeks.  Woa, folks this is going to take awhile.  Still, there is progress.  I may still primarily depend on my wheelchair to get around, but this am during my allotted upright time I was able to brush my teeth and wash my face over a sink!  Progress, my friends progress!

The world may be built for us to travel it upright, but I have learned that people are very nice to you in a wheelchair, even on the Manhattan's Upper East Side

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Sacrament I Never Wanted

On Sunday, I received a sacrament. It wasn’t planned, arranged,or organized. It just happened.  I remember my First Communion.  I had to buy a dress, there was a party. A big deal was made! In CCD, we spent a year or two preparing for our Confirmation. I had to pas a test with our monsignor to prove readiness, my dad sitting next to me. I remember being nervous. I had to pick a sponsor, there were practices.  These milestones, in my life as a young Catholic, they were big deals, signs of maturing in the church.

Through the preparation of those milestones as a child, I’d learned about Annointing of the Sick (Last Rites, as it used to be colloquial called).  The image in my brain was of a death bed with your family gathered around you before you peacefully died.  "Call the priest, there is nothing left to do."  Isn’t that the idea?   So, even though I’ve been living my life as a cancer patient for four years (however, much I may want to deny this fact), I’ve never considered seeking out this sacrament.

So, I innocently went to church Sunday and lo and behold, it was a special mass for the sick and they were offering the Annointing during the mass.  My dad pointed it out to me. I considered the situation, sitting in my wheelchair in the aisle.  According to Doctrine:
The anointing of the sick conveys several graces and imparts gifts of strengthening in the Holy Spirit against anxiety, discouragement, and temptation, and conveys peace and fortitude (CCC 1520). These graces flow from the atoning death of Jesus Christ, for "this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases’" (Matt. 8:17).

Well, I can use all of that.  I mean who can’t when dealing with something serious.  Right? However, this sacrament used to be called “Last Rites,” and I’m far from needing that!  I may be knocked down a little, I may not be running for awhile, but I’m far, far from needing “Last Rites.”  So, again back to doctrine:
Does a person have to be dying to receive this sacrament? No. The Catechism says, "The anointing of the sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived" (CCC 1514).

“In danger of death,” not sure I can accept that.  That sounds a little like being sick.  I’m not sick, I don’t feel sick.  I don’t act sick.  Yet, I cannot deny that I have an illness.  I do not, nor have I ever felt in danger of dying from my tumor.  My fear, my reality has always been a loss of function, the looming potentional of a loss of limb.  That may not be “danger of death,” but it is big and horrible to me.  Therefore, if receiving the sacrament can give or help me to find any “peace and fortitude” against that reality or even my current wheelchair ridden one.  If I can have help avoiding “anxiety, discouragement, and temptation,” as I face my current struggle.  Can my faith help me with these things?  

So, I received the sacrament.  The priest anointed my forehead and my hands, he prayed over me.  My parents and a dear friend witnessed.  It felt real even if it was without pomp and circumstance.  I may never have wanted this sacrament, but I’m glad my dad decided we go to that church on that Sunday.