54 + 12

Tuesday saw my 54th birthday. It’s incredibly reassuring that finally I appear to be comfortable in my skin, regardless of the fact that it’s now showing a few more lines.

My faithful running partner, Murphy the Jack Russell, had his 12th birthday yesterday. He shows no signs of slowing down, even though he is now technically older than I am. I hope that at a comparative age I’m still going as strong.

However, if yesterday’s run is anything to go by, that’s not likely! I’ve not run for a few days, struggling with what I thought was a weakness in my left quadricept femoris muscle (front thigh), a lasting gift from my pre-surgery issues. I’d hoped that the daily yoga I’ve been doing would help free it off a bit, but yesterday proved otherwise.

Since surgery I’ve been having physiotherapy, weekly at the start and now monthly, for a year and a half. The damage done by the motion of the vertebrae as they squashed nerves has been fairly significant and I’ve got an overall combination of no feeling at all, excessive sensitivity, and reactions to touch in places that aren’t being touched! It’s not a terrible thing, just a bit weird at times. Touch my lower back and I feel the touch on my backside and part way down my leg, a fact that my husband finds very amusing.

Although my physio has been focusing mostly on rebuilding my core, which to be fair was shot after I had my son by Caesarean Section and then again five years later when I had the same operation following an Ectopic Pregnancy, one of the exercises she has given me is to help the nerves supplying the quad muscle.

Being a bit of a Google Doctor, I’m really interested in learning more about the physiology of what is going on. My ‘A’ Level Biology based curiosity is wanting to understand the what and the how, rather than just accepting the situation. It helps me to get to grips with why a certain exercise is effective.

From what I can understand, unless there was far more extensive damage to the nerves, what I am experiencing is probably not just nerve damage to the femoral nerve which serves the quads, but also damage to the nerves around my core and hips. Some muscles just aren’t getting the message and so my body is asking others that it can talk to to help out and prop me up. And the nerves that are responding to the call to duty are the femoral nerves and, when my poor quads can take no more, the ones serving my glutes take up the charge.

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 Quadriceps femoris, with different muscles in different colors.
rectus femoris – blue
vastus lateralis – yellow
vastus intermedius – green
vastus medialis – red

(Taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadriceps_femoris_muscle)

Yesterday I woke up wanting to run, even though it was raining. Murphy wanted to run too, judging by his extremely excited reaction when he saw me putting my running gear on! I had decided to abandon my 10k training plan. I’ve got to 4 miles. They are a slow 4 miles in comparison to what they would have been a few years back, but they are 4 miles. I recover from them quite quickly, normally, so I know I have the potential to do more. Yesterday, with this nagging leg pain in the back of my mind, I decided to go easy, do two miles and leave it at that. It was a trail 2 miles, so more demanding than if I’d gone out on the road.

I set my interval timer to one minute, meaning that I intended to run for one and walk for one. I was taking no chances, other than going out and coming back – but I didn’t have a lot of choice about that. And the rain, but it was just drizzle most of the time. In fact it was nice to run in; not too warm, not too wet and midge and clegg free.

The first half a mile was great, but mostly downhill. I kept up a steady pace, even without  the benefit of beat paced music in my ear. (The last couple of times I’ve been out have been without my phone or earbuds. I haven’t missed them to be honest.) As I approached the end of the mile I could feel the strain on that quad and knew that a couple of miles was definitely all that I was going to do.

But my OCD wouldn’t let me stop at one mile and turn round, it compelled me forward to a break in the route before it would let me go. I ran an extra wee bit to the end of the trail and stopped to give Murphy his half way treat and me a bit of a stretch. With nothing to lean against, I stood like a flamingo with one leg pulled up behind me and wobbling to keep my balance!

The mile home was sore. It’s mostly uphill, no matter which way I go. Not only, by then, was my left quad hurting, but my glutes were giving up the ghost too. I inevitably slowed down and, in the end, was mostly limping back. I made it though and did a reasonable 2.3 miles. Murphy probably did an extra half a mile, with all the running on and back that he does. Oh to be 12, even in doggy years!

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As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing daily yoga. The commitment actually helps me to remember to do my physio exercises which, on their own, are a bit grey-looking. A lot of what I need to do in those exercises is covered in the yoga, so I get a second bite of the cherry. I’m enjoying using an app called Daily Yoga, which is so good that I’m actually going to subscribe to it – opening up access to more exercises and more individualised content. I’ve found that even by doing the 10 Day Beginners Tour I’m already becoming more flexible. Having part of your spine welded together takes away a degree of flexibility and some things I still, even after a year, find very difficult to do. I’m having to relearn how to do some things (refer back to nerve damage), such as coming from a seated pose to a standing one, and invariably have to use a table or chair as a prop. The Daily Yoga is helping with that. Plus I should mention the ‘skip’ function? Very useful when you are told to tuck your legs to your chest and roll along the length of your spine, only to look like a fly in its death throes. Skip that, thanks!com_img.jpg

Today is the day after and, yes, I do have some residual aching but it’s okay. My leg hasn’t fallen off in the night and I will survive. A few gentle runs and plenty of yoga and physio and I will get there. Maybe it will take a little longer than I thought. The Jedburgh 10k has been put on the back burner. I just won’t be ready in time and I won’t push myself. I’ll relax and gently build up the miles, perhaps even mostly on the treadmill, and just thank my lucky stars that I can walk and run a bit!

 

Attending Gym

I maintain three blogs; this one (obviously), an arty one for my business and a motoring one for the club of which I’m secretary. It takes a lot of time of which, generally speaking, I don’t have much! I’m working my way through them this morning.

However,  here I am! And I bring with me tidings of reasonable cheeriness.

Since I last posted I have been attending Gym. I tried to approach it in a similar way as I used to my running, but I seem to have less inclination towards Gym as I did running through woods in the early evening light. The urge to Gym isn’t as strong. It’s more of a necessity than a dedication. With maybe a bit of determination thrown in.

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Yes, that’s me, smiling as I cycle away. Believe that and you’ll believe anything.

On average I go to the gym three times a week. I walk, I bike and I swim. In that order too. I don’t know why, it just became ‘Routine’.

I started walking 1km on the treadmill at a slowish speed and now I can walk 1.25km at a less slow speed. Well, let me be honest here. I can walk 0.5 km, then I painfully limp the remainder. I’m just building up the amount of pain I can endure.

Cycling has never been an issue. I could stationary cycle 10km even when I was at my most injured; these days I’m following a walk with a cycle and sticking to 5km so that I don’t break myself. I’d hate for that to happen. Again.

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Then, with wanton abandon, I haul my sorry ass to the pool. I love swimming, really love it, but I really hate getting changed. I’m longing for the day when I can step into a changing room like Mr Benn and, as if by magic,  emerge ready for the pool and then ready for home, without need for a soggy towel or a squirt of talcum powder.

Multimillionaire Duncan Bannatyne can rest easy; I’ve signed up for a year of Gym. The way I’m going, I can’t see me running through the woods any time soon!

 

Small Gains

Yesterday I walked to the pub. I was so excited about it, I put it on Facebook and my friends congratulated me on my huge achievement. I had walked to the pub! It was a considered walk and, at times, strange as I adopted a cycling type step to help me through the soreness towards the end. I got there though and going back was altogether easier, thanks to the few shandies I had!

The pub is barely a quarter of a mile away.

Since my lumbar nerve root injection two weeks ago I’ve not noticed any real difference. I was told it could take up to two weeks to take effect. Last week I walked the dog from my shop in Dumfries to the parcel office and back, which was a huge achievement, but I suffered afterwards and had clearly overdone it. Until yesterday I hadn’t really tried again.

This morning, as a I rolled over, my back gave an almighty crack. It’s done this before and in the back of my mind that crack is the undoing of the natural bone fusion which will mean I don’t have to have surgery. I hate it. And I’m partly too frightened to find out and partly too mortified to go to a very busy neurosurgeon and tell him that “My back cracked.” If I mentioned it to my husband I know he would dismiss it as nothing and I’d feel foolish, which is why I’m telling all of you instead – like admitting guilt to a secret diary.

However, despite my enormous crack (I thank you!) I actually feel fine this morning. No soreness in my hip or legs, just a nagging pain in my back which I feel more and more these days. I lay on my left side for the first time in a year and a half this morning. I can’t remember looking at the bedroom from that angle! Today, as it’s gloriously warm and sunny and my day off, I shall attempt to mow the grass out the back (which neither of us has yet attempted this year and which is in danger of being declared a Nature Reserve!)

I’ve approached a couple of gyms in the town about membership. I’ve never joined a gym for anything other than casual membership, so to commit to a year’s worth of use is a big step. The two I looked at were like chalk and cheese, one tiny and crowded – the other huge and roomy. Despite a slightly larger cost and being slightly further away, I’m going for membership of the bigger gym. My initial idea was that if I went to the nearer and smaller leisure based gym, I could leave the dog in the shop on hot days and walk there. The further away large chain gym will mean me having to drive out and then drive back to collect the dog. It’s not too far and he’s used to being at the shop.

I got on the scales yesterday for the first time in ages and got a very pleasant surprise. I’ve not been dieting, or even watching what I eat, and lately have been bringing a lot of takeaways home, but I’ve actually lost weight! I’m still a full stone heavier than I was when I was running, but less than I was post-Christmas. I think I’ve actually been too busy to eat!

Tonight I shall buy myself a swimming costume. The two I have are yonks old and should be consigned to the bin. I shall also get out my running leggings and see what still fits! Mr Khan, the neurosurgeon, was very specific in what I’m allowed to do and said I’m to try treadmill walking (initially on the flat), stationary cycling (I’m allowed to use the Spin Bikes too!) and swimming using a variety of strokes. When I start to improve I can join a pilates group and use a hilly programme on the treadmill. I know I’ll feel as if I’m starting again at the gym, but I shall make a point of wearing every half marathon T-shirt I’ve won, just to quietly let people know where I’ve been.

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A Date with a Doctor

It’s been ages, I know…I’m sorry. I’ve not been idle, but I haven’t had very much to share. Since I last posted about meeting the neurosurgeon I’ve been back up to Edinburgh to have my nerve block injection.

It went well, I think. I was a total jelly going in, anticipating the worst of course, but the doctor (who just so happened to look like Tony Hancock – I’m not sure if that reassured me or not, but it made me look at needles in a different way!) was just excellent. Calm and happy to calm me down, explaining every step as if he did this every day, which of course he does.

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The whole procedure took about half an hour or so, with me lying on my stomach whilst initially I had a CT scan. Once the offending nerve was located (pictured here being squashed by the vertebrae moving into the nerve space) the doctor marked it with semi-permanent pen (thanks for that, now I look like a massive game of noughts and crosses!) and inserted anæsthetic. That was the most painful part. After that I couldn’t tell you what he did, had he not explained it all beforehand! I felt nothing.

A needle was inserted into the nerve root and a mix of cortisone and anæsthetic was pumped into the nerve. This will take up to two weeks to take effect and may last for up to a year.

Or it might not work at all.

After I waited for twenty minutes until the doctor came to check on how I was and then I was allowed to leave.

Now I have to wait. If the injection takes effect I could start walking on the treadmill and cycling on the stationery bike. I tried on Monday and managed 0.5 km in 10 mins walking (my limit!!) and cycled 5k in 13 mins (not my limit, but enough after the walk). As you can see my walking is especially affected. If it works I can start to build up fitness and core strength again. I can start to lose some weight.

 

 

 

 

 

Forget Snow White, I’m a Dwarf

SleepyToday I am Sleepy and I probably will be all day, with perhaps a touch of Grumpy.

Why? Because I’m currently trying to process the gluten to which my body has long since told me I’m intolerant. During my last visit to the doctor I mentioned that in addition to all my other maladies I am wheat intolerant and that my uncle has Coeliac Disease. Apparently the menopause can bring on CD, so my doctor was quite insistent that I get tested as soon as possible. Did I also mention that I was menopausal? Oh it just gets better and better!

Sadly being tested for CD entails me eating as much gluten-containing food as I can for two weeks and then having a blood test. I started on Monday and, at first, didn’t notice much of a change. I was surprised, because a lot of the time I feel ill almost straightaway after eating wheat products. It’s now day five and I could sleep for Scotland. Lethargic isn’t the word; I feel totally drained and I’m struggling to get going in the mornings, even to go to my beloved gallery.

I also have a permanent stomach ache, which is just making me feel rotten. It’s not bad enough that my back is sore no matter what I’m doing but, for the next two weeks, I know I’m going to feel…well…shit. There is no better word for it!

I’m trying to make the best of it, enjoying foods I’ve forgotten I used to be able to eat. Normal and cheaper foods; cakes, biscuits, pastry – real bread! My breakfast today consisted of Tiger Loaf, lightly toasted. There is a gluten free Tiger Loaf made by Udi, but it starts to fall apart after the first couple of days. This was real bread. But, as much as I’m loving retasting these foods, I’m hating this. Roll on next Sunday!

I finally have a date to meet with the neurosurgeon up at Edinburgh to discuss my spinal surgery. It’s not until the end of March, but that means that my surgery should take place before the middle of April. It’s giving me something to focus on as my stomach churns over and over. I’m not second guessing what he will suggest, but I have been researching options just so that I can be informed when he speaks to me. I expect they hate people like me with Google on tap, but I need to understand in order to process the whole experience without going mad!

Excuse me now, I need to stand under the shower for half an hour in order to wake up!

 

 

 

Festive Fat Felling

It sounds far more adventurous than calling it weight watching, doesn’t it? I’m Festive Fat Felling!

Since last writing I’ve really stuck to my calorie reduced living. I’m not dieting as such; all I do is note down the calories in what I eat, try to stay around 1200 calories a day and drink plenty of water. Sometimes I’m just over and most times I’m just under. I’m still eating platefuls of delicious food and drinking my beloved gin and, most importantly, I don’t feel as if I’m dieting. For instance, tonight I’m having an Indian takeaway meal and I have plenty of calories left in the bank for a gin or two!

And I’m losing weight! So far I’ve lost 8lbs or half a stone in 13 days. I should know how much that is in kilos, but I really don’t care. I’m an imperial/metric crossover kid, still old enough to remember doing imperial maths at school and still young enough to remember being shown a 50p coin and gasping at its alien form. Some things I do in imperial measure and others in metric. It’s probably annoying but, again, I don’t care.

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I’m back at work and I have to admit that the three weeks I took off at Christmas have given me a false sense of wellbeing. When I do next to nothing I feel great. I’ve been back at work a week and I’m knackered. Not just sore, but very weary. I’m getting worn out by the constant pain and there is nothing I can do about it. I take the pills I’m prescribed and have a couple of (allowed, medically and dietary) G&Ts a night and then I try and get a night’s sleep. Those of you who have endured long term chronic pain will understand that there is no position of comfort for any length of time, whether it’s standing, sitting or lying. I’ve taken to sleeping with a pillow under my knees to try and take the pressure off my back. I can’t sleep on my left side because I still have bursitis and sleeping on my front hurts my back. So I try to move between lying on my back and lying on my right side as gently as I can. It hurts whatever I do so I rarely have a really good night’s sleep and that adds to my tiredness. Something else for me to moan about!

I’m really pleased, though, with my weight loss. I’ve said that I’ll try to lose a further 30lbs, with my goal being me being even lighter than I was when all this started. I might not achieve that and, to be honest, if I could just get back to my pre-injury weight, I’d be happy. Another stone would do that, so it’s not much to ask of myself and it would probably help with  my recovery post-surgery.

I’ve no news on that front. My doctor suggested a four month wait from referral, which takes me to April time. Whether that’s to meet the neurosurgeon and discuss options or not, I don’t know. I’ve scheduled a regular doctors appointment to keep on top of pain management and developments, which is helping me feel a little more in control.

Again, if anyone wants to befriend me on MyFitnessPal, I’m Paintergirl21. I’ve amassed a few very supportive contacts already from all over the world. We support each other’s achievements and give advice when its asked for.

And, as runners, we all know about motivation…

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