Oh Monday!

Today I am tired and slightly cranky since getting home from work two hours ago. When my husband asked how my work day was and I said it felt long, he asked if it had been good long or bad long.

“Is a long work day ever good?” I asked.

He seemed to think that it could be, while I am not convinced, although I am probably not in the appropriate frame of mind to be agreeable in this moment.

Let me clarify. My work day was not bad. It is simply that my little shift felt very long, and my body hurts and aches and I am tired. Having worked until dinner, I am also a little miffed that the bare minimum was done in getting “dinner” made. Chicken was cooked and nothing else. I had eaten some leftovers for lunch and wasn’t exactly thrilled about having more of them for dinner to round out the chicken. I also wasn’t wanting to do anything to address the deficiency, because I was hurting and tired and needing to get off my feet. So tortilla chips and salsa rounded out my meal, more or less…and a glass of wine.

Today was work day number two out of five in a row. This is the first time I will work five consecutive days since last November. In fact, I’ve only had three consecutive work days once in the month I have been back to work from my medical leave. I think I can manage these five days in a row, because they are all short shifts. I am just hoping that my body will handle it all as well I hope it can. Yesterday was a decent shift for my body, but I’m feeling like more of a toll was taken today. Since I am not used to working several days in a row, I am not certain if today feels harder because of that or just the nature of today’s shift. Some tasks definitely have the potential to cause my back to hurt more by the end of a shift, like doing several loads of dishes or carrying in the patio furniture, but both of those tasks are ones that I try to avoid or limit as much as possible. Maybe everything is just catching up and compounding…the busy week last week, the extensive sitting as I volunteered at the powerlifting competition, and now work and another busy week.

Three more work days left in the week! I can do it. I can make it. I think I can. I know I can. I am holding out for Friday, when I have my appointment for a caudal epidural steroid injection at the pain clinic. I’ve been told that it won’t do anything for the permanent numbness in my foot, but maybe, just maybe it will help with the constant pains in my legs.

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Powerlifter Not Competing

What do broken powerlifters do when a competition comes to town? They volunteer their time to help out!

Since 2014 when I first got involved with powerlifting, I do not think that the British Columbia Powerlifting Association has held a competition here in Kelowna where I live. Earlier this year when a local competition was announced, I was excited and dismayed at the same time. Happy to see a local BCPA meet but disappointed that I would not be healthy enough to enter the competition myself. My disappointment didn’t last too long though, because not competing allowed me the opportunity to take part in another way. I have taken part in 9 powerlifting competitions as a competitor, but today I was a volunteer for the first time and I’m glad to have had that chance to give back.

It wasn’t wise for me to volunteer with spotting or loading the weight due to the back injury, so I helped out at the score table which involved a lot of sitting. Although I took the opportunity to stand throughout the day, there was still far too much sitting for my herniated disc. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed helping out today, I am also very glad to be back home, reclining and able to do some stretching and foam rolling.

I have been to many sporting events over the span of my years, but seldom, if ever, have I witnessed and experienced the caliber of sportsmanship and excitement that seems to be the norm in powerlifting. It is incredibly exciting to hear the crowd cheer on every lifter, from the first-timer to the experienced, regardless of whether the weight lifted is 100 pounds or 600. And all ages of lifters! The sub-juniors, 14 to 18 years old all the way to the masters, of which today included a woman in her 50’s. First time lifters and those who have competed many times before. New Provincial records. New personal bests.

I am simply excited about powerlifting! Hopefully I will be able to step back onto the platform at some point next year, but the lemonade in the here and now is being free to help out this year instead. And if you ever get the chance to watch a powerlifting competition, do it!

Just Another Appointment

I had my first appointment at the pain clinic this morning, and I think it went well. It was an interesting experience, awkward at times, but potentially helpful. Or so I am hopeful, although the doctor did caution that the decided upon course of action may help or may not. The good news though is that there is a course of action being pursued with alternate courses mentioned in the event that this one is unsuccessful. Next week I will be getting a caudal injection. I am both looking forward to it and not.

Over the nine months since I herniated my disc, I think it is safe to say I’ve spent more time at appointments (doctor, chiro, physio, imaging, neurosurgeon, and now pain clinic) than I have at work. I have been twisted and bent, prodded and poked. I have had IMS, traction, flexion distraction, cupping, x-rays, an MRI, a CT scan, and now…an ultrasound of my butt.  I’m rather looking forward to the day I can stop planning life around appointments and treatments that may or may not help.

A Thousand Mile Walk

“A man on a thousand mile walk has to forget his goal and say to himself every morning, ‘Today I’m going to cover twenty-five miles and then rest up and sleep.”            ~Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

When I realized that I had herniated my disc last November, I had to come to terms with the disruption to my goals that came with the injury. I had planned on competing at Nationals in February, but there was no way that I was in any shape to compete. In fact, I couldn’t even hold onto any sort of timetable for resuming training like a powerlifter. That was a bitter pill to swallow at first, and watching my Nationals dream crumble into dust was just as painful as the injury. I allowed myself to feel the disappointment and frustration. I cried a few tears, and then I accepted the truth of my situation. I took that acceptance a step further by acknowledging the wisdom of allowing my healing and recovery to be open-ended. Many months ago already, I had accepted that I would not be competing at all this year, regardless of what was going on in my body. I was at peace with the decision, knowing it was the best one.

As I am still connected with the powerlifting communities, I have noticed the competitions on the calendar, the opening of registrations, and the results. There has been a touch of sadness in knowing that each one competition would pass me by, and yet, that sadness was fleeting. Mostly. It wasn’t as easy to shrug off the disappointment of not being able to enter a competition in my hometown; however, not competing means that I can actually volunteer my time and help out, and I’m excited to do just that this weekend. Still, I got over that disappointment quickly, because how can I even think about entering a competition this year when my left foot is still numb, there is still more than enough pain in my legs 24/7, I’m still not permitted to deadlift, and a barbell hasn’t touched my back in 9 months!

Then another competition was announced just the other day, and with that announcement a thin shawl of sadness has settled on my shoulders. This competition is practically local and has a special place in my heart, because this organization is where my competitive powerlifting journey began. It is where I first set National records, where I broke a World record, and where I was competing when I herniated my disc! This organization has only held one competition a year here locally in the years that I have been competing, and this will be the first time I won’t be on the platform.

For a split second when I saw the announcement, I contemplated my current state with my potential state by late October. Could I possibly enter and go through the motions without any thought of breaking records or personal bests? The thought left my mind as quickly as it entered. A little more than two months is not enough time for me to be ready for the platform, even without any expectations of doing well, and I truly would rather stick to my plan of not competing this year in order to heal. I accept it. I know that this is for the best, but it still makes me feel somewhat sad and I didn’t expect that at all. While I had no reason to think that this particular competition wouldn’t take place again this year, I also had no foreknowledge of if or when it might be, and so, I think, I hadn’t really considered the impact of the loss of this competition. It’s easier to let go of competitions which require the extra expense of hotels and travel, so a reluctance to let go of a local competition makes perfect sense. And yet, I was able to let go of the local one this weekend. Being able to volunteer helped make that easier, but it still wasn’t nearly as disappointing as this October competition is turning out to be for me.

There isn’t really anything to stop me from being involved with this competition in other ways, but not being on the platform will be disappointing. It’s still the right decision though. I’m still healing, and there’s always next year!

9 Months

Three-quarters of a year has now passed since I herniated my L5-S1 disc. It takes nine months to grow a baby, but healing a herniated disc can take even longer. Progress often feels slower than slow, and yet I have seen significant improvements since the injury. As I’ve come to learn with this type of injury, there are very few, if any, magical and instant improvements. I haven’t just woken up one morning to discover that the numbness in my left foot is gone or that I have no tingling or pain in my legs. How I wish for that type of progress! Instead, I view everything on a sliding scale ranging from 0-10, with 0 being absolutely no pain, no other symptoms and 10 being the worst of the worst.

The first month of the injury was quite easily 11, 12, and higher; the pain was that bad. For a few weeks before I returned to work a month ago, I would have rated my average daily pain level between 4 and 6. Since being back at work, even with graduated hours, my average daily pain level has been hovering around 6 or 7. But even with the slight increase in pain over the past month, I can still see and feel progress.

A couple of days ago, my chiropractor put me through some of the physical tests that he has had me do many times before, and I performed them better than I have since this ordeal began. I was pleased by that, but my chiropractor was quite excited. The physical symptoms might seem stuck, but the tests would indicate that nothing is impinging my nerves. That is exciting!

Post-treatment seemed to result in an increase in symptoms in my right leg, especially the nerve pain in my hamstrings area; however, the left leg has been feeling generally decent. Not pain or symptom free yet but milder. Right now, I’d rate the left leg at 4 and the left leg edging towards 7, and I still see progress as I haven’t rated anything as low as a 4 since June.

I worked a close shift last night, roughly 4.5 hours. Although I didn’t make sure I was taking my required 5 minute sit-down every hour, I did ask my barista to bring in the patio furniture and I kept my picking up of dish racks to a minimum. Of course, the numbness in my left foot only increased as my shift wore on, but standing at least tends to keep the tingling and nerve pains in the legs simmering in the background. My back is what usually gets most annoyed with being at work with all the standing and bending, but it wasn’t much of an issue until right near the end of the night. By the time I got home though, I felt as if I had been hit by a truck. My back was aching, sore, and throbbing. As soon as I put myself into a reclining position, the nerve pain and tingling in my legs exploded. Despite how I felt when I got home, I truthfully told my husband that this shift had probably been the best one yet in terms of how my body felt while working. That’s progress.

Between the body pains and a brain that wouldn’t shut off (which tends to happen after a close shift), I didn’t sleep much or well. I am closing again tonight, and I think it should be similar to last night’s shift. Including the inability to sleep once I get home. 😉

 

Not Straining

“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” ~Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The days of summer are half over in their typical hurried manner, and yet, life around me feels slow and methodical. Normally, I think, I would be chafing and in a hurry to reach some destination I had focused on in my mind, but not this summer. Not this year. The herniated disc erased my goals and plans, threw away clocks and calendars, leaving behind uncertainty about so many things.

Of course, I haven’t thrown away calendars or clocks or all semblance of routine, because those things are all part of what make me who I am. For nine months, clocks and calendars have mostly been used to get me from appointment to appointment, while the rest of my life was less scheduled but still routine. I have been back to work for a month now, however, I am still not back to full-time hours. This is a good thing from my perspective, although I had hoped I would be closer to normal by now. I am thankful that I work with supportive people who are okay with me taking the time I need. As someone who doesn’t like to let others down, I do sometimes feel as if I should be working more hours by now and simply doing more. However, and this is a big however, the past nine months have also made it quite clear to me that I need to be my own advocate, and I need to respect what is going on in my body. Jumping into full-time work might be tolerable for a day or two, but it wouldn’t likely be sustainable. So, for now, I’m plodding along, working little bits here and there and constantly reminding myself that this is perfectly acceptable.

Last August when my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary, we managed to spend a few days at Harrison Hot Springs. We had a wonderful time and anticipated going back again this summer. Then I herniated my disc. As my leave of absence grew longer, any thought of a summer holiday kind of fell by the wayside, because we simply didn’t know what was going to happen or when. Returning to work at the beginning of July meant a graduated return with continued communication between short-term disability and the leave of absence team. Between appointments, working as much as I am able, and taking a few days off at the beginning of September to move my daughter to college, taking a vacation just doesn’t feel right. Not to me. Besides, we have to replace our roof!

I am not complaining about the loss of plans or goals or vacation. My bones may often feel as if they’re straining under the weight of missing lives, but this year is a long season of accepting, growing, and healing. I don’t need to duck the lemons thrown my way, because I can catch them and find a use for them.

One Year!

It is Monday morning, and I am not going to the gym. While I certainly have the flexibility to train when I want to, I generally keep to a regular pattern. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. The decision to switch it up this week was thoughtfully made due to my work schedule. For the first time since returning to work, I am working three days in a row, last night along with midday shifts today and tomorrow. Although I had time to train this morning or after work, I am extending grace to my body. In this moment, my body is thankful for it.

My training program for the week included a little celebratory message, because I have now been working with my coach for a year. My coaching is done online which is something that I had never done before, but it has been a better experience than I ever could have imagined. Before my injury, I was pushed outside of my comfort zone and that was a powerful thing. The focus of training has changed significantly since the injury, and yet I still feel supported, encouraged, and protected. Of course, I hadn’t planned on getting hurt and watching my powerlifting plans and goals derail. A great part of the past year has been spent recovering and dealing with this injury instead of gaining new strength and lifting heavier things, but I know I have an excellent coach to help me get to the other side of this.

Since it is the one year anniversary of working with my online coach, it is also the one year anniversary of going to a commercial gym! There have been many times over the past year, when I have mentally groaned and rolled my eyes or wondered what the heck. There are likely always going to be people at gyms doing weird stuff, using horrible technique, using too much or too little weight, excessively grunting or strutting, watching the mirrors, and chatting more than moving. I notice these things, because I tend to notice and people watch; however, at the gym, I also tend to focus more on doing my own thing. So I notice. My internal sarcasm meter rises a bit and I move on. For all the flaws of a commercial gym, the past year hasn’t been too bad. Some of the staff have made an effort to know my name and I theirs, and sometimes we chat. Most of the equipment is not new, but I generally am able to use what I need when I need it and it works. It is close to home and meets my needs.

So happy anniversary to me, my coach, my gym! It’s been an interesting year. May the next one be even more interesting!