Waiting and Wondering

It’s just been a little over twenty-four hours since I finished the MRI. Getting results back so soon isn’t really expected, but there’s no problem with hoping, right?

Since I have time to meander in distant retrospection, I came across a letter my sister Barbara wrote to me May 7, 1980. I had just gotten my knee done and that I could finally get my shit together. Thirty-seven years later, her letter is still appropriate, though she did admit that she was only half serious.

The hardest part about keeping a journal that includes letters and cards that go back thirty or more years is that it is a lot easier to hold onto a piece a paper than it is to hold onto friends.

My first collegiate experience, Ithaca College, was a whirl wind of an experience. In my year and a half in upstate New York, I met more friends than in all of my previous eighteen years.

I had my teammates. My Weston soccer teammates, my Waltham Angels/Wings friends, some of whom I’m back in touch with.

But Ithaca was different. Maybe it was the four hundred miles away from my dad’s expectations that helped create an atmosphere where I could let more of my personality out. I had friends from all walk of life.

I just read a hysterical letter written by Emily Lyon. She hated Ithaca and not only was anxious to move out, but wished she had never gone to Ithaca College, though she did share my same sentiment of finding some of the best friends.

It’s too bad her name is so common. I tried to find her on facebook. It’s also been thirty-seven years, and who knows if she is even going by Lyon. It’s hard to say when and who was the first to stop writing. Back in “those” days, letter-writing was one of my major compulsions. I wrote a lot of letters. I have them all and then some. Every so often, people will send me back my letters so I can keep them. Maybe my sister Barbara would like her card back.

Getting back to getting my shit together. I wonder how many times I have blogged this line: I moved/ran away to Eugene from the Boston area to get my shit together. I’m still in Eugene. I suppose the definition of having my act together has changed over the years, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel when I get to that destination. How will I know?

Yes, it took me a long time to get my first degree. Two weeks prior to turning thirty, I turned in my last incomplete paper to earn my BA in English from the University of Oregon. I didn’t do the walk. My diploma lived in the cardboard mailer that the UO used to send to me for about ten years while I worked at a dead-end job at The Register-Guard.

By then it didn’t matter that I wasn’t bringing in the dough as I was making enough to keep me in bowling tournaments and could have as many bowling balls as I wanted. My compulsion to bowl did distract me from my compulsion to write letters, but I did write a lot of postcards from my exciting travels up and down the I-5 corridor. May even had written one from Drain, Oregon, while at a very little tournament or practicing. I always kept bowling balls in the Subaru just in case I came across lanes I hadn’t bowled in before.

When I become compulsive about something, I become a fanatic. Obviously, the more I bowled, the better I got. But the better I got only created this insane idea of bowling even more. Left shoulder. Right Shoulder. Scoping of the right knee. Replacing the ACL in same knee. All of these things were done simply to extend my time bowling.

But there was a moment when I had gotten my act together. It helped that The RG newspapers were liquidating personnel. I had applied to graduate school before given the pink slip and was accepted a few weeks later.

I did continue to bowl while in graduate school, but I was so consumed in being a good student that bowling just had to take a back seat. And then I got a teaching job at the Willamette Leadership Academy and kept my act together for a little over five years. Oh, that school had become my next compulsion. Eighty and then some hours a week. I taught everything under the sun. My first year to only teach English, the only thing I was licensed to teach, would have come my sixth year, but I went my separate ways by then.

I have seen glimpses of having my act together, but I’ve never lived a very balanced life. Something always seems to get the short end of the stick. For the last dozen years, the house has been neglected. I’ve lost track of how many years I’ll tell myself that this is the year I am going to get my act together and get the basement under control.

Damn Murphy’s Law. Now that I have time on my hands since I can’t work, I can’t be on my leg long enough to make a dent. I’ve been trying to motivate myself to write more. Who said that there’s no trying, there’s just doing. I’m writing now, aren’t I? Doesn’t this count for something?

I sure would like to hear from you on whether you think you have your act together and how it feels.

 

Technology

Today I spent a half an hour half immersed in a Magnetic Resonating Instrument. I’m guessing. MRI. I have been around the block a few times with this noisy, but amazing bit of technology. It’s my favorite test by far. No injections or icky stuff to drink. It’s loud, but at least I had Pandora’s Fleetwood Mac station to keep me busy.

Too bad the MRI wasn’t around, at least not where I was, in the early 1980s, when I had my first knee surgery. Newton Wellesley Hospital, a pretty good hospital in the area didn’t really have much to diagnose knee problems. Scoping was used for diagnosing, but even then the doctor wouldn’t know what was wrong until he actually opened up my knee. Back then they called it reconstruction.

There were two of us undergoing knee surgery that morning. We were told that if we woke up with a light bandage on our leg, it was just meniscus and we’d be golden. I wasn’t golden; I was plastered in a cast that ran from the tips of my toes to the top of my thigh. Immobilization. By the time my right leg was paroled from prison, my leg was pathetic with atrophy. But my knee had been a mess. In fact, when I got a chance to talk to the other surgery victim, a soon to be former football player, I was surprised that he was hanging up his cleats; he simply said he didn’t want to be like me.

20170523_kneeI learned quickly that even though my knee had been put back together again and I earned a nice fancy scar, that my knee was toast.  The doctor really was an artist with his scar; I’ve seen some nasty knee scars.

While working with some very good athletic trainers at Northeastern, my knee was used to show the athletic trainer trainees what a large draw was. Put one hand on the inside of my knee, and the other on the outside and push, and that knee joint would open up as if it were saying ahhh. Anterior Cruciate Ligament tears meant the end of the road for most athletes.

No matter how much work I did in getting back into shape, I couldn’t run as much and was hardly ever without pain.

Shortly after moving to Eugene, I qualified to play wheelchair basketball; the team, The Shooting Stars, didn’t live up to our name. I think in the three years we were together, we might have won one game. But I had fun.

And then I had a long love affair with bowling. My knee was okay at first, but the toll of bowling a hundred games a week started to plague my entire body. I became a frequent visitor at Slocum Orthopedic.

The doctor let me watch him scope out my knee; it looked like he  were sucking up cob webs out of my knee. He filed down some bone and took out some fragments. It wasn’t that bad of a rehab either, not in comparison to the first “procedure.”

I had fallen in love with the scope. What an incredible tool. Fixed my frozen left shoulder. Fixed my arthritic right shoulder.

In the second knee scoping procedure, Doctor Walton gave me a new ACL. My older tendons were no longer viable, and so I was given the gift of a doner. I really wanted to watch the surgery, but the doc admitted that he was tweaking his style a bit and probably didn’t want me in on his trade secret, though the real reason is it is probably a lot easier to operate when the patient isn’t asking too many questions.

Last April 21st, when my dog Abby tripped me going down the stairs, I was getting ready for a bowling tournament. I had worked so hard. As I fell, my knee and my ankle went in directions that no joints ought to go. All I could do was yell a zillion F bombs. I couldn’t believe it.  Out of the blue.

Xrays at the emergency room established that nothing was broken, but I’ve never really trusted xrays for diagnosing structural damage. I couldn’t convince the attending physician to ask for an MRI.

Every so often, I think that perhaps I’m off my rocker and that nothing serious is wrong and maybe it’s just a sprain. I don’t have much motion and the shooting pain is telling me that it’s probably my ACL again. In the five minutes that I spent with Chris Walton, he was guessing that it was my ACL. Emergency room X-rays and Slocum X-rays couldn’t confirm the diagnosis.

After this morning’s MRI, which will paint a better picture, I’ll know where I stand and what I need to do to get back onto the lanes. Perhaps I’ll start to keep a rehab blog. I do know I have a lot of work ahead of me; that is when I’m given the green light.

Gardening

I lived off of River Road in a small one bedroom apartment when I began my love affair with gardening. I had just been diagnosed with Wilm’s Kidney Cancer stage III. Between the radical nephrectomy, the removal of a kidney, the chemotherapy and the radiation, I had a lot of recovering to do. During the worst of times, merely picking one weed gave me a sense of accomplishment.

We’ve been in the dome for fourteen years now. I don’t remember when I put in the first garden. Sylvia first had to deer-proof a large area. Blackberries had to be cut back. The first garden had a large tree in the middle. Maybe after a few years of rototilling around it, the tree gave up and fell over, giving me an  even bigger space. The stump of the tree, pictured below, keeps trying to grow, sending shoots.

IMG_7046Once the sun starts making an appearance, I get antsy and just have to get out in the dirt. March gave me some days where I planted potatoes, and they are just going crazy.

IMG_7050 (2)Between March and April, in between Spring showers I worked with the onions, working around the ones from last year, and adding some new ones. I hadn’t grown peas in that area, so I thought I’d give them a try in a new spot. Some parts of the garden area are fickle with clay soil. Every year, I was constantly amending the soil. I think it was last year that I didn’t have Sylvia rototill the ground with her tractor; this way I didn’t have to wait for the things to dry out, though the only problem with this method is I have quite a few large clay balls as a result of my digging.

IMG_7052For my birthday, Sylvia bought me four raised beds. I had always wanted raised beds. I managed to get three of them into the garden and planted before Abby the Labby Number Nine tripped me down the stairs.

IMG_7110 (2)I’ve never been much of a planner, especially when it comes to gardening. I just put things here and there, rotating crops to stay ahead of the pests, especially the western spotted and western striped cucumber beetles, my nemesis. Maybe the raised beds will help. I had a couple of Brussels Sprout plants winter over and the honey bees are especially thankful for the yellow flowers.

If you have ever gardened, you know that the tasks are endless. Now that I’ve been hobbled for more than a month, gardening is all that more challenging. I’m always telling myself that if I can just get things planted, I can sit back and watch things unfold and spread out. Having raised beds will make weeding easier, but as long as I keep throwing things in the ground, I’ll have plenty of weeding to do.

IMG_7070Most of the time, I’m not supposed to be limping around the garden. I compromised when I weeded the raspberries by sitting on the ground or lying on my side. It took me forever, but I got it done.

Now the strawberries are another story. I may need someone to come and pick them for me when all of these flowers start producing.

Once again, gardening has become my salvation. I earn my gardening time by staying off of my leg, and I feel so much better about going through another trying time of healing.

IMG_7065

The Universe Provides

I believe in my heart and soul that everything in this life happens for a reason. Good and Bad. Though often I find that I fight against the tide. Perhaps I was a  salmon in a previous life and still have that instinct to swim against the currents.

Four weeks ago I messed up my knee and my ankle. My knee has already been fixed three times. I’m supposed to be taking it easy, staying off of it. I know the drill. But there are things that need to be done. I’m sure many of you can relate.

I’ve been given a gift of time. Time to write and read and just be. When I “allow” myself to write, I have a lot of fun, and many times I learn something about myself during the process. In the four weeks I’m to be laying low, I’ve not blogged hardly at all. I worked on a story twice and not for very long.

It doesn’t help that the sun is finally out, and the urge to garden is stronger than the urge to sit inside and write. And the urge is stronger than those voices that say don’t do it or you shouldn’t do it.

I started writing this about an hour or so ago. Yesterday while in the  garden, I saw one of my starts, a little lemon cucumber plant, looking pathetic. The image came into my head as I was writing, and I had to do something about it.

I can’t shovel, but I can swing a pick axe. Pick axe makes a great crutch I have found. One thing led to another and  by the time I knew I needed to be off of my feet, I had planted two squash, a pumpkin, and six Cosmos.

It felt good at the time. Perfect temperature for gardening. Psychologically I felt uplifted. Doing something productive. Doing something with my hands.

But I am back on the couch with ice on my ankle and my knee. Unfortunately, I failed to plug my lap top in while outside, so I have a choice of saving this and continuing or publishing something short. My track record for coming back to something I’ve partially written isn’t very good…

So, the question at hand is how to do I make myself write more. How do you do it? (This question also implies that I’ll get more feedback from others, which also leads to the question of why do I bother to blog if people don’t reply.)

 

The Road To Recovery

More than two weeks ago, my dog Abby tripped me on the stairs. Emergency room doc ordered Xrays on my ankle and knee. Even though I have had three knee surgeries, and Xrays are a waste of time to diagnose ligament damage, I couldn’t get them to do an MRI. See your doctor if you continue to have problems. The doctor said that since nothing was broken, let pain be your advisor and that I probably couldn’t cause more harm.

meanwhile, I had an appointment to see a pain specialist about my back. Made it perhaps a month or two ago. I was looking forward to seeing Doctor Phillips again as he has treated my back before, but it has been awhile. Things change. My insurance had changed.

After losing my school insurance through Eugene 4j, I picked up Oregon Health plan. What a nightmare that has been. I had been using Oregon Medical Group, but they don’t take OHP patients. When I finally found a doctor who did take OHP, Doctor Hacker said I couldn’t get Fentanyl patches on OHP. What am I supposed to do? Get better insurance. So I got married. Romantic, right?

A few months ago, I ended up at an urgent care place. They did not take OHP, but gladly took my primary insurance. Ended up in the Emergency room at McKenzie Willamette. Kidney stones. Could easily have been a life or death situation since I have only one kidney.

As I said, I was looking forward to seeing Dr. Phillips today as he was going to take over my pain meds, and I had hoped he could shed some light on why my lower leg, knee, and ankle were giving me so much trouble. I was turned away from Neuro Spine Institute. I am sorry the receptionist said, even putting her hand on my shoulder, but we can’t take Trillium. Even though we take your primary insurance, because of the OHP insurance, we cannot offer you services. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry, scream, or both. Damn. Can they really discriminate against someone in pain, especially when there aren’t that many pain specialists in Eugene?

So, why are we paying a grand a month for my insurance?

I have been waiting seventeen days to get a diagnosis. I see my Orthopedic surgeon, Chris Walton, at Slocum Orthopedics, Thursday. Now I am paranoid about the OHP insurance. Am I supposed to just not show it to them?

Have to scratch the itch

The temp reached seventy before noon. 

I did visit my little greenhouse on the deck to water seedlings.

Posting most of my weight on my left leg allowed tinkering and a break from being on my butt.

I have never done injured well. And the doctor did say I could not do any harm. I just needed to let pain be my guiding hand. Don’t be like what some people do and stop doing things. The ER doc said that to me. Gotta keep moving if you can.

Injuries and me have been synonymous. Pushing the envelope, pushing my body. I wanted to throw a baseball, a football, whatever hard. My shoulder would sublux. Fancy weird word for almost dislocating. Automatic reflex put the joint ball back in socket. A few windmills and I could throw again and even farther. It didn’t hurt in the beginning.

By high school, I had adapted to side arm as almost any over hand throw or over shoulder move would cause subluxation. I tried avoiding the sling as much as possible. 

I could throw regularly now since my orthopedic surgeon performed his magic scoping and fixed me, but I prefer the sidearm delivery. 

Hockey, lacrosse, and physical education courses compounded my problems. Preexisting conditions. The second I came off the ice, ice would be shoved down my shorts free my four to five minute break from the action. My ortho guy said I had arthritis on top of my curvature of the spine. I slept on the floor with my knees up on a chair, though soon I have up on sleep altogether. Different story. It was college. I was busy. I didn’t have time.

Sometimes I would get injured and not even know it. I was in the trainers room supporting a friend as she thought she broke her thumb. Lacrosse balls hurt like a son of a bitch. Back then, goalies didn’t wear gloves. Not women’s lacrosse. Someone caught sight of my thumb. Mine was broken. My friend was okay. 

I kept playing. Played with broken fingers in high school as a soccer goalie. Tape is the solution to everything.

When I bulldozed my way into an offensive lacrosse attacker on a one-on-one, my ortho doc slapped a cast on me just tip slow me down. He told me that I would probably need surgery. I did not slow down. I threw at lacrosse practice. I even took up bowling. Amazing what a cast can do for slowing down an approach and keep a pivot leg straight.

I am not as bad as I used to be. I have iced this injury more than any other. I am doing everything I am supposed to do. 

I had to go to the garden today. I slowly ambled up the freshly cut path between house and garden, thanks to Sylvia Sandoz. Barefooted. Crutching gave me freedom of using support in between tests of what I can and can’t do. Most twinges come on the inside of my knee with some on top of the knee.

My lower leg talks a lot. Almost seems like parts of my body talk to each other. An instance of pain in my ankle creates a response by my knee. Morse code. Sometimes my body curses me.


But I had to go to the garden. My sanity depended upon it. Now I know that some of you question if there is any sanity left. You might be right. 

My pilgrimage of crutch, step, crutch, step was slow and steady. Slow enough for spiders and beetles to scurry in front of me. Rain has been good to the grass. Great for big dogs to lurk. 
I picked up a weeding tool just in case. Meanwhile, the mind chatter was like a busy bee hive. You shouldn’t be doing this. But I have my crutches. I am even using them. Mostly. No point in lying to myself, but I try. Rationalization veils, thinly veils the truth. I need the exercise. This is good for me. It did feel good. The sun. The cool grass under many barefeet. Listening to the birds. You’ll pay the price later. My friend Jeff said I paid the price in spades the other day. 

I better start to keep my grievances to myself.

The problem is I don’t know what is wrong. I don’t know what I did to myself two Fridays ago after Abby the Labby Number Nine tripped me going down stairs.

ER doc said nothing was broken. There’s a slight chance Xrays wouldn’t detect slight fractures. I have broken digits and my nose, but big bones aren’t on my list. I want to keep it that way.


Once I got into the garden I let go of the crutches and weeding tool. Just get my body down onto the ground. It didn’t matter that I had no plan on how to get back up again. One thing at a time. 


My mission was simple: weed the garden. At least a few of them. Weeding has always been therapeutic. A good day during chemo days meant  I could pull a weed. Productivity, however small, does wonders for the disheartened heart. 

The raspberries needed some breathing room and might even thank me profusely to eliminating the choking weeds. And I would feel better.


I promised myself that I wouldn’t do too much, and I didn’t. I figure if I do more to help the healing than testing the limits, I am on the positive side of things.