Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Debbie Downer... you may leave anytime!"

Well, I guess you could say I have definitly been avoiding a blog post as of late. Actually, I really haven't had the energy to write one since these days it's about all I can do to make it through my work day, do my personal requirements and get off my foot as soon as I can. I try to do my best to go about my normal day with a positive attitude, pretending I'm not in severe pain, and trying to walk in the most natural way I can. After a long run with this foot, I'm pretty tired of explaining what's "wrong" with my foot to every person I come on contact with so I try to be as normal as possible. I know people are being nice, but if I don't really know who you are, I don't really want the added reminder of my problem. That being said; I am overly thankful to those of you that I do know that have said a prayer, a kind word, or had me in your thoughts over this whole ordeal. I can't thank those of you enough... sometimes, aside from my faith, those little things are all that keep me looking forward. I really do still believe that someday I will make it through all this and come out even stronger in the long run. I do believe there is hope for my future and that God wouldn't send me through this struggle unless He had some big plan ahead of me. I'm just riding out the storm right now.

So sorry for the Debbie Downer blog post here. I'll keep it short, but wanted to give everyone an update to answer some of the questions. Since the last post, I've had a steady downfall with my foot. I had a EMG/ NCT about a week ago to narrow things down more with the source of the foot/ heel pain. It came out positive for Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. This was no surprise to me, and even though I was happy to be getting some more information pinned down, I wasn't too happy to have another known problem with my foot. TTS is kinda similar to the pathology of the well known carpel tunnel of the wrist, except it's a bit more tricky and more painful given that it is in a weight bearing joint. After that, I was back in the cast to give it some rest until we found out why I was having the decreased room in the tunnel itself. As much as I hated to go back in the boot, I was almost relieved to do so, as every step was a challenge.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

(Location of Tarsal Tunnel>>>>)

So after that we decided to get a MRI to get more information. Given my busy work schedule last week, I had a few days delay to be able to get it done and I have not got the results of it thus far.

So I anxiously await to results to be able to know a little more about my outcome. Given that I'm in so much pain, and that the results can hopefully give me some direct answers, it's pretty much all I think about and it seems to be consuming me right now, but I'm trying really hard to just trust the Lord's hand at this and not get too overwhelmed by it all. Hopefully, I can find out more information on Monday or Tuesday when Dr P is back in his office. Until then, I remain in the cast and have been using the crutches when I am at home and out shopping to take the ease off the tunnel. I even rode the stupid cart at Walmart the other day... which was waay to slow for my taste!

I've also been on some heavy duty prednisone to see if we can't calm down the inflammation (if that's what it is) and as much as I hate being on steroids for the crazy side effects, I am willing to try almost anything at this point in the game.

So I've also been off the bike for the last 7 days to see if this will help too. Actually, as much as I hate to admit it; I'm not able to tolerate the pain that riding causes at this point.
As most of you know, there have been very few things in my life that have kept me from riding and I usually feel I can work through almost any injury to make it out to ride and train, but this has proven to be either too much for this injury or just too much more for my body to take at this point. So I'm left with no other option to sit it out for a while until I have more information and can get the word from the doctor on what to do next. Whatever it is, I just want it to be over really soon and have some sort of plan to work with. Not having any control or idea of what the future of this foot is going to do is very frustrating! In the meantime, I'm doing everything I know how to help myself get better, be smart, and get back on my two feet again....
and not be to much of a Debbie Downer.

One of these days I promise to post a positive, positive future blog!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mixed Nuts

I feel like a bag of mixed nuts these days.
Some nuts you really like, some are just okay, and some you just can't stand.
That seems to be how my recovery is going as of the last couple weeks. Some things have been really good, some okay, and some really bad.
In some regards I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I expected to be at this 7 week mark. Despite only being out of the cast for a short time, the favorable weather conditions have allowed me to get in 5 rides outside thus far. After countless, mind numbing easy spins on the trainer, I kinda surprised myself by pulling out decent power outputs including a nice 3 hour group ride today. If anyone would have told me I could even think of riding outside for 3 hours 7 weeks post-op, I would have said "no way." It was like finding a cashew in an "all nut" mix. Otherwise, I have made great strides with my "hot toe" issues as I eluded to the last post. I feel I have won that battle... as far as I can tell. That was huge! Those are some good nuts!

Everything structurally in my foot and ankle that was repaired is intact and healing great. Now its just a matter of getting my strength back to all the little ligaments, muscles, and overall leg. Now that I have had the leg out of the cast in the open, it's been a little weird getting accustomed to numbness on the outer part of my ankle and foot. Since this nerve was removed, it will forever be totally numb and the hardest part seems to be avoiding cutting my leg up when I shave since I can't feel how hard I am pushing. Haha!

The okay things; the expected parts; like plain old nuts, are what I consider the grunt work of post surgery. Physical therapy, stretching, icing, and the steady climb to build the endurance base back up. This all seems to get lost in the shuffle between point A (surgery day) and point B (race fitness or complete recovery). It's not exciting, glorious, gory, or spectacular. Just a slow grind that has to be done to get well. It's just okay. Filler nuts, I'm used to that.

So my bad nut?
Well, I have been avoiding a post the last week since I didn't really have anything nice to say about it. But it always seems at least one bad nut gets stuck in the bag, especially for me. Sometimes it gets found and tossed out before you eat it, but other times it finds its way to your mouth and lingers with bitterness for a while. I was kinda holding my breath hoping the "issue" would go away, but it has done quite the opposite. For lack of a better explanation; my foot is really messed up. Nothing new there, and I won't get into too many details here since this really is getting a bit complicated. I now have new pain on the inside of my foot and ankle that is most likely what the Dr thinks is tarsal tunnel syndrome(TTS) possibly, or possibly reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), which is a complicated pain syndrome. What seemed to be a minor concern last week has quickly turned into a major worry this week. After having some steroid injections last week to pinpoint and calm down the area, the compression on the nerves in the tunnel have now left the bottom of my heel completely numb with some electric bolts mixed in along with severe arch pain. This pain and shock wave now seem to be working their way up my calf muscle.
It's a bad nut.

This is a really tense time for me, I'm a little overwhelmed by this new problem. Not only does my immediate outcome worry me with this, I also am dealing with large amounts of pain on a daily basis again; which is exhausting to say the least. This comes as a bit of a major blow just when I thought I could get back on my feet again, and I'm really just plain tired of discussing my foot and ankle issue. I want so badly to be a normal person without an injury, and I'm going to get there some day.

The thing is; I have to keep my faith that this will all turn out okay. I feel like I'm in the book of Exodus right now. I'm walking through the desert, it's really, really hard, I don't know what awaits me in the end, but I know that I must trust God to make everything all right. The important thing is that at least I'm walking.... even if it is with a limp.

I'm not sure what will happen in the next couple weeks or what my near future holds, but I'm going to keep on walking... walking while keeping the faith.

I may have some bad nuts in my mix, but I also have some choice ones too, I just have to find them and throw out the bad ones!

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Isaiah 41:10 New International Version

Saturday, February 5, 2011

And There's Reason to Believe...

(The winter view from inside the house. Lots of white stuff, lots of bird watching.)

A long December, and there's reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last....
That's one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite albums list by The Counting Crows. I connect with the entire song, but it seems that I have put a couple of the lines on repeat over the past several years.

I didn't really have a long December, but I had a long January. The first couple weeks after surgery seemed to drag on forever, and after that, I felt like my cast days would never end.

(Mark say's scars are cool. So I must be really cool, right Mark? HaHa)

Now that I'm at the 6 week mark, I'm happy to say that they did. I'm back to riding on the trainer and now that I'm clipped back in, I'm slowly working on creeping up my average watts. Slowly.

(I'm always amazed at the self healing power God has given our bodies. Pic of the ankle a few days after surgery above. And looking like a completely different ankle at 6 weeks below)

Otherwise, I have a couple other things going on with the foot. Last year, I silently struggled with a horrible case of "hot toe." I won't drag into this, but let me just say that it is the single most painful ordeal I have ever had. I know that a painful toe sound wimpy, but everything on a bike goes through your foot. Basically, my years of sports and riding with improper footwear along with everything else going on with my foot, has left me with micro nerve damage around that area. I was hoping the time in the cast would help, but as soon as I clipped back in, the pain was back. Long story short, I've not been given much hope medically for this, A couple weeks ago, I was beginning to resolve that my cycling career would come to an end. I couldn't see any way to put in the time in the saddle required to ride at an elite level and handle the pain... and I've handled plenty of pain, but this was too much. So I spent one last effort in focusing on my shoe insoles. I spent the next few days cutting up insoles, putting in wedges, and trying anything to get the pressure off my joint and nerves. Nothing.

I wasn't ready to give up though. I've never had a problem with realizing that other people know more about certain things than me and allocating their knowledge to help me. I knew David Coar at Summit City Bicycles is one of the best bike fitters in the US and that if Dave couldn't help me, he would also have no pride about finding someone who may be able to. So I spent an afternoon with Dave and Barry McManus at Summit picking apart my feet. We spent 3 hours on the issue. Three weeks later, my hot foot is almost gone! We made some changes that weren't so "cool, " but at least my feet aren't hot.

What's the point to this story, other then you all are so happy I won't be retiring from cycling? Well, it's the good old saying: don't ever give up. I've seen many personal struggles over the past 3 years with injuries, I've had some moments where I wanted to just give up the struggle to get better and make it back to elite racing fitness. Mostly, I've not let those negative thoughts enter my mind, letting an injury decide my fate was not an option. It didn't even cross my mind, that I won't get better, but this time it did, and I worked my way past it and that's really empowering. I spent over a year dealing with a chronic injury, on top of my other acute injuries, and after persistence I feel it is going to be beat.
The other take home message is this: don't ever give up in others. Dave, Dr Porter, and Barry, never gave up on me. They spent a lot of time trying to help me. They didn't have to, and as each of us live out our daily life's, we could all give a little more thought into helping each other- it makes a world of difference to some people- gives them reason to believe. Now, I believe I can ride for the rest of my life.
What will your caring thought do for someone?

~We need to give each other reasons to believe that the world isn't "full of oyster's with no pearls."

Otherwise, surgery related, I am still having a major issue that is causing me a great amount of pain. I won't get into it now but I go see Doc on Wednesday for my 6 week follow-up and I should get some more information on what is going on then, if I don't cut my foot off by then. Haha.
Seriously, I'm sure I'll work through it in time; it's just a tough blow right now and tough to be in pain, but I'm beginning to not know what it's like to not have pain.
Should make those cross races in the future seem like a piece of cake!

~ In loving memory of my furry sister Pertties that died 2/2/11. You were definitely a pearl!