Archive for March, 2012

If there’s any reason in the world I can find to quote Tom Waits, I will. So I have.

Hold On, one of the softer Tom songs and I’ve always loved it. His voice in this one doesn’t sound as much “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car,” as one music critic famously described.

It’s one of those songs I keep replaying a lot; something is resonating.

When I boil everything down that I’ve been feeling these past days, weeks, now stretching into months, as I limp, ice, sit around, and get endless physio, what I come out with is this – hold on. Hold on to what, exactly?

Here’s the best I can do:

Hold on to the belief that this leg injury will heal – one day.

Hold on to the reality of a long walk on the Camino de Santiago in September. Or, as one of my walking pals said, don’t get stuck on the notion of 20-25k a day.

This is one of the bar/cafes on the Camino. At least I know how to order coffee and beer.

If it comes to it, you could walk a kilometre or two, then take the bus to the next town and drink cervezas or cafe con leche until friends hike in.

You will do as much or as little pilgrimage as you can.

Hold on to sanity. I have had a few too many days recently where I felt, if not starkers, exactly, a sense of not exactly being one with the universe or self. Peace of mind – no. Sixes and sevens – yes.

Or just hold on. Period. It means whatever it means. It just feels like a good mantra for me right now.

Here’s the thing. I have spent many hours (and dollars) getting treatment for this leg ‘thing’ and not doing much of anything else, or so it seems. The doctor has now ordered an MRI – just to see if more precise answers can be found as to what’s going on and why it’s so persistent.

When he started talking about the possibility of chunks of cartilage having come loose and which may be floating around in the back of my knee, I understood – deeply – why I never considered entering the medical profession.

I guess I paled because he asked me then whether I thought I’d need a mild sedative to help me stay calm inside a big metal tube for a half hour or so? Well, now I do, geez!

I would just like to know. Uncertainty is my constant theme. Is this a really big (or possibly permanent) problem? What really happened and why on earth after treatment and LOTS of rest is it still here, perhaps not quite as acutely, but definitely not gone? Or (please resist calling this denial) are we all making much ado about not too much?

This past week one of the physio guys said the muscles in my right leg have definitely atrophied, more than my left, so now I’m going to have to deal with the resulting imbalance – or something like that. I kind of tuned out when he said ‘atrophy‘. That means ‘wasting away’!

All I know is, I was feeling great, strong, and getting stronger, especially doing weightlifting. I think that program on its own was doing wonders. As far as I can tell, the troubles (what am I, Ireland?) began when I decided to run on the treadmill. I suppose if I have any regrets, it’s about that, and pushing ahead even when it started to feel pretty lousy.

And now, I feel much weaker, beached, bogged down, and full of questions about the future – yes about Camino but beyond that. I don’t think I’m sensationalizing if I worry just a tad about whether this is a longer-term deal now that it’s gone on and on?

Or am I? Maybe that wonderful turning the corner moment is just ahead. Thankfully, hope does seem to spring eternal. And speaking of eternal, as in verities, what’s the point of worry anyway??? I get it. I just can’t always live this truth.

The contrasts are so sharp. Today, I went, for the first time in ages, for a walk with the dog. Not a ‘walk walk’, just a slow, halting, ten-minute amble – though it was, as always, beautiful here, through budding trees, a soft gray river, and other happy dogs all around.

Coming back up the very slight hill at the end was the only really difficult part, so on the one hand, I was happy, grateful to be out, feeling like ‘me’ again, secretly hoping this was a sure sign I was on the mend, for real.

On the other, I thought, you only walked a few hundred yards – yards! And then this weird sense of confusion tinged with anxiety bubbled up – I mean, this thing going on is really not very visible, I’m not even sure how it happened, I’m not in traction, for heaven’s sake. How do a few messed-up tendons cause this dramatic full-stop in all the things I consider part of a normal – and good – life?

I told a friend I hadn’t been writing much here as the leg problem persisted. She wondered why, and I said that I’d written a few times when I thought I’d had some insight or new perspective on what was going on – and most particularly, my frame of mind about it all.

But that of late, I’d felt stuck, a bit mired, you know, just how interesting can it be to anyone if I wrote and said: Tuesday. Leg still bothersome. Staying home. Eating disgusting fake cake icing straight out of the can.

I didn't bring this into the house. Just sayin'.

(yes, it’s true, I did that – does it help if I say I didn’t feel good about it?).

She said you never know when someone else might relate to what you’re going through. And that it might matter to hear what you’re feeling, even if you feel kind of clueless right now.

On that note, I will once again affirm that I have the most wonderful friends and family in the world who have kept on loving me even when I’m crying into my icing.



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Haven’t been writing, haven’t been gymming.

After yet another brief return, even to highly modified workouts, my leg continues to sing out of tune. A few hobbling steps ahead, a few painful limps back. Let’s hope there’s at least an inch of progress in there somewhere.

So what now? Latest physio recommendation: Stay off it, except for what you simply must do in a day (drive to work, *minimal* walking even there), for 3 weeks. At least. Nearly one week down but who’s counting?

Ice, ice, ice, regular ibuprofen dosing, (I’m told this is called ‘trail candy’ on El Camino, where leg and foot pain is a fact of life, so I will consider this pill-popping another form of preparation), and rest. No poking it with a stick, as my physio guy poetically puts it.

I have hardly known what to feel about all this, partly because there’s still no indisputable diagnosis of what ‘this’ is, anyway.

Significant soft tissue damage around the knee. Hamstring strain. Shortened ligaments. Poor pelvic/spinal alignment. A history of doing pounding-style exercising causing multiple minor injuries, now creating a perfect storm of trauma throughout my leg. Weak abs. Good grief, did I fall off a cliff without realizing it or what?

Oh, and Uggs. Both Stefan and Mark, (osteo guy), recently discovered I wear Uggs – not as a fashion statement (how some believe these hideous looking boots could be that staggers the mind) but because it’s like wearing warm, cozy blankets on your feet. I drive to work in them, do quick dog walks, errands. Mine are particularly disreputable, with rips, holes, salt stains and mud streaks. Comfort.

Stefan: “Uggs? You have *got* to be kidding me! These are not shoes. They have NO support. At times like this, I want to pound on you with a foam bat!”

Mark: “Uggs? Stupidest shoe in whole world, kangaroo road-kill pieces of crap that are going to have a generation of young girls coming to physio for the rest of their lives.”

Holy opinionated. So I’ve put aside my well-worn ugly Uggs for now, just in case.

So the problem doesn’t feel ‘clear’ to me, like an actual broken bone would be. But yeah, ok, all is not well, I’m getting that message, and much as I’d like more certainty about what it is, and, therefore, how to fix it, that doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

The way this challenge has presented itself has reacquainted me with the famous 5 stages of grief. I’m not equating a break from the gym with losing a loved one. But let me tell you, my reaction has followed a startlingly similar path.

Denial: This is nothing. It’s a minor strain. It will go away if I just work out the kinks in the gym. This parrot is resting. No, he’s dead. No, no, he’s just stunned, needs a bit of a kick to get him going. Polly, wake up!!!

Anger: I’m not mad *at* anyone. Just pissed – maybe at the universe? Some of the time, anyway. Which has been about as effective as trying to rouse poor dead parrot.

Bargaining: I think I lived out this stage primarily at physio. How about if I promise to sit down the entire workout, encase my leg in an iceberg for the rest of the night, and go twice a week only? Answer: That’s not rest. Rest means rest.

Depression: Poor, pitiful me. I am down for good. They cull lamed animals from the herd, don’t they? Pass the cookies.

Acceptance: I guess I’m experimenting with this phase now. And it’s tough to do. For instance, I’ve argued with my accepting self, challenging that maybe it’s worse to stay idle so long, people often persist with far worse injuries and they’re fine and so on. My muscles will atrophy permanently. (See, I’m only part way there).

I am now trying to learn something through this experience. What else is there to do? And I most definitely have time.

At first what I learned was rather disconcerting. I have some weird brand of ‘performance anxiety’. I need and want to be strong, to be ‘perceived’ as strong, I depend on that drive, I am glad for independence. If I’m not that, who am I?

What if I can’t finish what I’ve started? What if I don’t get as fit, strong, thin, whatever as I’d planned?

The fact I am having difficulty walking at all struck me the hardest – I’ve always walked, it’s my thing, and it’s what I hope to do for many hours and days on the Camino. Not going to the gym is bad enough, but not walking? NO! Oh, but yes.

So what I’m now learning is I simply must stand by, let it be, and relinquish control, a false sense anyway. I need to learn true patience. I had no idea how difficult this was for me, though finally, I feel like I’m finding that still place within – and letting go.  I am also getting familiar with humility and recognizing this quality as a different kind of strength.

As always, I gratefully receive all the love, help, support and advice I’m getting from my daughter, family, and friends.

The only way through it is through it.

I am also supremely fortunate that healing is fairly assured – if I can be patient. Of course I understand many others don’t have it nearly so good.

And the Camino is speaking, too.

A Camino angel I’ve quoted before (and whom I’ve still not actually met) had this to say, recognizing I was likely worried I might never get to Spain.

“They say the Camino only rejects those who are not ready for it and you are so ready.”

Thank you, everyone.

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Gymnus interruptus has gone on. And on.

I did go back mid-February for weigh-in day and an ultra-lite workout. Too much, according to physio doc when he treated my leg the next day.

He called for more rest, more ice, more patience. I acknowledged I was feeling quite impatient. He said ‘no kidding, I’d never have known.’ He’s one big laugh riot.

To be clear, I think he’s wonderful – he’s actually a Brit-trained osteopath, a form of therapeutic medicine that’s been a big deal across the pond forever and is building reputation here.

I love the ‘knee bone is connected to the thigh bone is connected to the heart, mind, and everything else’ osteopathic philosophy. Here’s another key theme grabbed from the usual font of all knowledge: wikipedia.

“Osteopathy emphasizes the interrelationship between structure and function of the body and recognizes the body’s ability to heal itself; it is the role of the osteopathic practitioner to facilitate that process.”

So that’s what we’re doing – he does various osteo/physio-ish things to the outside (which help the inside) and I continue to work on healing from within. And try not to undo his good works by doing too much, too fast.

I like it. It’s working. Instead of feeling like a patient with no voice, I feel like an active participant – I need to pay close attention to what’s going on, lose my naturally resistant posture, and get that I can’t simply ‘make it so.’ I can help matters by letting go and getting real – I can’t just press through as if this hadn’t happened. But it’s not a catastrophe either. As a good friend often says, ‘what is, is.’

Before this penny dropped, I had one quite bad day where doubt, angst, impatience, confusion and some other self-eroding thoughts erupted in a spew of  powerless venting, to which two close friends listened – with Job-exceeding patience – and later offered up even more loving wisdom on the situation via e-mail – I took it all in, so thankful, and share this concluding bit:

“Your camino, I think, has already started. You are just one more traveler who has been thwarted by her body and must learn patience and acceptance before moving forward again. Maybe you are being asked to turn your focus inward, and do that work for awhile.”

Yes. This resonated. I still wasn’t quite sure what to do, so I stopped trying to ‘do’.

I let it be.

And I got straight to work on the inside path. Part of that work has been to become more open to treatment, advice, and to do the homework (as I do for Stefan). Part of it was to believe – for real – that healing is natural, the body ‘wants’ to heal and be strong and healthy. This is not an adversarial contest, not a battle of wills between me and some ‘enemy within’ that wants me to suffer.

My leg is still me, if that makes sense. We’re in this together. I needed to ‘carry me’ for a little while – slowly, carefully, with gentleness not impatience. I find this slight yet profound shift in perspective quite empowering.

After more rest days, I have also now returned to the gym, though am continuing treatment. The doc is good with this now, so long as I’m still being conscious (that ever-present word in this journey) about what I’m asking of my leg and paying attention to what it says back to me.

Stefan has reworked the program, which he’s always done anyway, constantly tailoring to not simply what I can do easily but to areas I need to strengthen without risk of injury. He’s completely supportive and philosophical about all this – it’s only a detour, not a dead end.

We’re working on upper body and some core (if I’ve heard ‘suck in those abs’ once, I’ve heard it a hundred times in the last couple of days).

The lineup included:

  • 60-lb seated rows
  • 30-lb tricep presses
  • 30-lb bicep curls with bar

And here was a new one: 30-lb skullcrusher. Take a look:

This guy is definitely lifting more than 30 lbs and has no Stefan spotter (which I did) but note the proximity of weight to head – I did not want to become the ‘what not to do’ poster for this exercise so I kept lifting. I had done enough metaphorical skullcrushing in the past while. Let’s not go literal.

These workouts are not the uber sweat-fests of prior weeks. But they are not nothing, pardon the double negative. By the second one, I was starting to feel ‘it’ again – the crazy focused joy of moving heavy metal around, the belief I was strong (yes, I’ve lost ground, but I felt something Iron Kate-like welling up again), and – well, just fun.

So, interesting times. Not a curse at all.



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