Family Chat

The holiday season has set upon us, and little time has been had to sit and blog.  However, family visits bring interesting perspectives and discoveries.  Let me start by saying that I have continued my Acupuncture and have now had 6 visits.  Each week the sessions get more intense.  Different kinds of electrical impulses have been used on me, one which was almost unbearable.  I don’t like to think of myself as a sissy, so I had never even been tempted to call out in pain when left alone in the dark for half an hour, until last week.  The pattern of the electrical impulses became so painful that I was just about to cry out, when he finally came in and turned it off.  I asked him if the pain was necessary for me to improve, and he said yes.  So…pain it is.

We had a disagreement about some Chinese herbs he sold me.  It is my pattern to go home and research anything before I take it.  The name of the herbs was not on the bottle, so I emailed him and asked him what was in them.  The following appointment, he gave me a long list of herbs, but I still didn’t feel comfortable.   My daughter-in-law teaches plant science, so I gave her the list and she said that there was nothing wrong with any of the herbs, but they also wouldn’t help much.  She said they were more akin to a placebo, and that if I thought they were going to help, they might.  I decided to take them, which I am now doing, but I have not experienced any changes.  When I mentioned it to him, he said that the herbs are not quick, like Western medicine, but rather work gradually.  So, I’m continuing to take them because I’m curious.

My children and I stayed up until 1:30 am on the Friday after Thanksgiving, talking about Artie.  They were not happy that I am waiting so long to get surgery.  They said that they couldn’t believe that I was unable to have something done for health reasons, even though I have only been at my new job for 4 months.  My son was worried that I am planning to have the surgery next August, when everyone would be going back to school (they are all educators) and I would have no one at home to help me.   He said that he and his wife would be travelling until the end of July, but if I could move it up a bit, they would come as soon as they got home and would help me.  When I said that I wouldn’t have enough sick time to cover the surgery until August, he said not to worry, because he and my daughter-in-law could cover the cost of those weeks.  I was flabbergasted.  It obviously means a lot to them to have me get this surgery.  My daughter-in-law’s best friend is a nurse, working with older people, and she handles hip replacements all the time.  She told me that it isn’t just a case of being able to travel outside, but also a case of getting to the bathroom or the kitchen with nobody there to help.  That was sobering.  I’ve never been that helpless.

My son told me that he can tell that I’m getting worse.  We walked a lot on our European trip, and he said I walked much better then.  I feel like the Acupuncture is helping in a minimal way.  If nothing else, it makes me feel like I’m doing something.  The cane is also really helping.  I walk with much less of a pronounced limp.  The Acupuncturist feels that my body is off balance and that one hip may be lower than the other.  The cane helps me to equalize that.  My pain has not diminished much, but I feel that I am walking better.  It’s so hard to know what to do, or who to listen to.

But, I have a plan.  I am trying to get a consultation with the orthopedist, to find out exactly how much recovery time it will take after the surgery.  The hips are supposedly easier than the knees. We have read my employee’s manual and it looks like I may be able to have the surgery by May, when the kids, and my husband may be available to help. It takes a village to get a woman back on her hips.

Acupuncture

I recently went to my yearly checkup with the Nurse Practitioner that I have seen for 25 years.  She promised that this time we would sit down and talk about pain.  However, when she finished with all of my usual procedures, she merely said that I should continue to take Symbacort, and Aleve.  She advised me to call the same Orthopedist I had spoken to a year ago and ask him about recovery time for hip replacement.  I have indicated to her that I can’t get hip replacements because I have just started a new job and she estimated recovery time of 4-6 weeks.  New employers don’t take kindly to new employees that suddenly take off 4-6 weeks. She said that, if I called him, he could probably figure out a way that I could get it done in less than that.  He was the same man who refused to do hip injections on me a year ago, disappointing me terribly.  I had no wish to speak with him and disappoint myself again.

I share an office with 3 other women and they attacked me after my checkup.  They said that I have been slowly sinking before their eyes.  The positive, excited woman who took the job 3 months ago was fading.  They said it was time for action.  One of them has a college professor who has my same issue with Artie.  The professor had acupuncture treatments and was later able to climb to the top of the Great Wall of China and hike for miles.   H-I-K-E was the magic word!! She would not leave me alone until I called my insurance company to see if acupuncture was covered (it is), got a referral for a doctor, and made an appointment.  2 hours later I had scheduled an appointment, and was now considering the fact that I was going to have pins stuck into my body two days later. YIPES!!

In a way, I was excited.  This was a new adventure into a world I had never experienced.  In college, one of my specialty areas of research was the history of China, Japan and So. East Asia.  One night in class we were shown a film of people going through surgery with only acupuncture for anesthetic.  They even removed the top of a man’s head to take out a tumor. My squeamish stomach was a bit sick, but I toughed it out.  Now, here I was trusting those same pins to help the pain in my hips. Adventure…trepidation…hope…fear.  I had the gamut of emotions.

When I got to the office, we started by filling out papers.  We isolated the areas of the right hip, the left hip and the right shoulder as areas of focus.  Then I lay down to begin our first session.  The first action was to place a pin at the widow’s peak in my forehead.  That would serve as the anesthetic, he told me.  It was a shock to have a pin in my forehead, when the effected area was a hip.  But, I remembered that acupuncture is successful because the doctors know which muscles are effected by which other parts of the body.

He then went on to place pins down the outside of my right leg, starting at the hip.  My knee had been hurting, so he put many pins in the knee area.  There were pins in my left and right ankle.  At this point he attached something to the pins (I think – it was hard to see).  He told me that it was going to feel like something was moving, but it wasn’t really moving.  He turned off the lights and put a dim lamp on, right above me.  He told me to take a nap, and he left me for half an hour.

The pins didn’t hurt as much as I had imaged they would.  Most of them were fairly shallow, however he did go back to them and push them further in, which is the main time that I felt pain.  But, my philosophy was that nothing about those pins could hurt as badly as my hip.  Several times he asked me if I could take the pain, and I assured him I could.  After all, I had been a distance backpacker and rock climber for most of my life, both sports which provided a lot of pain.

It did feel like there was something moving on my body, from pin to pin.  It turned out to be electrical impulses.  I asked him how they did this in ancient China, and he said they used their fingers to massage around the pins.  I think I’m glad that we can do this electrically instead, because the finger massaging around the pins sounds painful.  I found that, the more the impulses wore on, the more relaxed I became.  I started out with my hands resting on my stomach, and they eventually dropped off my body and hung limply off the table.

When he came back at the end of the half an hour, he removed the pins and used lotion on the areas that were effected.  Then he had me get up and he asked me to walk down his hallway, lifting my knees high.  I told him I didn’t think I could do it, but he told me to try.  He asked for ten high steps, and I was only able to give him seven…but I was amazed that I could give him one.  He showed me how to do sort of a dance step for exercise, swaying back and forth from foot to foot.  I usually use my exercycle every morning, but he said that I should not do that now.  I made my next appointment and moved (fairly quickly) out to call my husband from my car.  “I can walk!!”  I told him and he responded ecstatically. It must be hard to be the husband of a wife that has trouble walking and gripes about it all the time.

Now, let me tell you what NOT to do after an acupuncture appointment.  Don’t spend time walking around the King Tut exhibit, and then go to a football game at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.  Don’t get lost looking for your seats and climb a formidable flight of stairs.  Don’t find out that there are no elevators in the Coliseum and have to climb DOWN the same flight of stairs.  For the rest of the weekend my son and daughter-in-law walked me everywhere, because I was back to hobbling again.

When I returned for my next appointment, the Acupuncturist asked me how I was feeling.  When I told him, he said, “No more football stadiums.  No, no, no.”  In my willful urge to follow my family to their fun activities, I had set myself back.  That evening I was unable to do any high knee steps.  He had to undo everything I had done to myself.  We made another appointment for that week, as well.  This time he used a different electrical impulse machine.  This one had several different types of impulses that it used, and it felt like it was moving all over my legs.  This machine also seemed to be much stronger than the other one.  I moved my leg ever so slightly and was wracked with pain. I also had to endure  another lecture about my activities during the following weekend.  We had another football game planned, but it was cancelled due to the horrible air quality in the Bay area due to the fires.  He was glad to hear that.  He said that I am being treated for hip pain, and I have to remember my treatment and not be so active.  That’s very difficult since I have a very active family.  But I confined my activities to a dinner party in a restaurant, and spent most of my time sitting down.  Consequently, when I got up this morning I had an easy time walking.  I bought a cane last week – remember how I said it would be a beautiful, young cane made of natural wood?  Well that’s exactly what this one is.  I have named her Calamity Cane, and she and I are inseparable.  The Acupuncturist told me that I have to stop undoing the treatment he is offering me, and I quess he is right.  I probably set myself back a week, by going to King Tut and the football game.   I will try to be a better patient, and see where acupuncture takes me.

 

Uneven Ground

When you are spending time with Artie, you notice uneven ground more.  I didn’t even notice this before.  The first place it became apparent was in Europe this summer.  My family had already been there for a week when I joined them in Prague.  I couldn’t get the 3 1/2 weeks that they were spending on the trip.  I barely put 2 1/2 weeks together.  But, there I was finally in Prague.  The first thing we decided to do was walk to a beer garden on a hill over the Vltava river.  When we started to walk, I immediately noticed that the street was cobblestone.  The twisting and turning of my feet on those stones was excruciating.  I walked several blocks and then started to cry.

When we first started talking about going to Europe the Christmas before, I had asked my son if he thought I could make it.  He assured me that we would all sit down and decide on what we would do each day, and if I thought it was too much, I could stay near our hotel, or sit and drink wine and nibble cheese and somebody, or several somebodies would stay with me.  Here I was, on the first day of the trip, and I couldn’t make it to the top of the hill.  They finally called a cab and a couple of us rode up the hill, while the others walked.

It was wonderful on top of the hill…the first of our amazing public spaces in Europe (something you don’t see much of in the U.S.).  There were tables near the edge of the hill, overlooking the river.  People go up there in the evening to talk to their neighbors, enjoy a glass of beer or wine, and watch the sunset over the city.  There is no technology, no media, and it costs no money.  The only music is an occasional street performer.  There are so many wonderful domed churches and government buildings, and they glow in the setting sun.  So tranquil, and joyful!  We thought that this was unique to Prague, but we began to see it over and over again in European countries.  The parks have beautiful monuments and statues, celebrating the brave, or the talented sons and daughters of the country.   There are snackbars with sausages and popcorn, and there is a lovely outdoor restaurant with much fancier fare.  People of many backgrounds and means wander throughout.  When we were in the nicer restaurant area, people with babies and dogs were summoned by customers into the restaurant area for people to coo over.  No one seemed to notice what kind of clothes each were wearing, or how much was being spent on dinner.  Uneven ground.

The cobblestones were not the only challenging things underfoot.  There are many steps in Europe, and steep alleyways.  In Paris, the Metro train is underground and one must navigate steps downward, only to go back upward and then down again to get to a train. The Catacombs under the street of Paris are a popular site to see, but 200 steps descend into the Catacombs, and then crawl 100 steps back up to the city.  This is not a place for Artie, with tourists eagerly ascending behind a slow climber in pain. Likewise, the Metro stops are few and far between, and distances to the Louvre, the Arch de Triumph, Monmarte, and Notre Dame must be covered on foot.  The path through the Coliseum and the Forum in Rome is steep in places, and is also accomplished by scaling steps and dodging through tunnels.  Uneven ground.

And so there we are, seeing the wonders we have heard about all of our lives.  Some of us in wheelchairs, some of us with canes, some of us holding onto the arm of loved ones.  You will see us sitting on benches or standing for a moment in the shade.  Some of us barely leave our rooms because the uneven ground is too challenging and painful.  One is struck by the overwhelming numbers of older people on tours, trying to act and look youthful.  But Artie is often with these groups, making the walk along the Seine a short one, or cutting the shopping trips to the local outdoor markets to one or two shops at best.  The dreams of a lifetime are taken when the money and time are there, but the youth is not.  Artie is the villain in this story, and one has to try hard to overcome the uneven ground of cobblestones, wealth, steps, age and infirmities.

 

 

How Long, Old Legs?

I have a lot of trouble getting up, after I’ve been sitting for awhile.  My job has me working in the field, and it takes me an hour to get to my first stop.  When I get out of the car, I have to hang onto the door handles and slowly inch my way to the back door to get my briefcases.  Then I hobble for several feet, until my legs get used to walking again.  I asked my boss to do an AIDS walk with me today, and she told me that she didn’t think I could make it.   It was only 2K.  I have been walking a little over a mile in the mornings.  It takes a few minutes to get stabilized, but then I’m OK and I actually walk fairly normally.

But lately I’ve been wondering…how long, old legs?  How long will it be before I need a wheelchair?   I’m not TOTALLY worried about that, because I can still work.  If I get a lightweight wheelchair, I can get up and fold it up and put it in the backseat, and walk to the driver’s side.  It won’t stop me.  But, I can already tell that people’s perceptions of me are declining.  I can’t do the AIDS walk.  Then, tonight I went to a fundraiser at the church and I was trying to help with cleanup.  They were arranging the chairs back into the sanctuary.  I was trying to lift the chairs from the top of the stack and they were very heavy.  Consequently I tipped them and the hymnals stored under each chair fell out.  Finally, a couple of women younger than myself told me, “We’ve got this.”  I felt discarded.  I know that I was just making more work for others, but when does it become more useful to push somebody to the side?  Churches are full of older people, and not all of us are physically capable.  But aren’t we morally obligated to help them feel useful?

At work this week, my boss told me that I was one of the best at covering my caseload.  She said it is remarkable, since I just started this job 3 months ago.  Lots of people that have been there longer, aren’t as good at covering all of their clients.  I felt proud.  It is necessary for me to work.  While my husband has a very good job, plus writes books and has many additional moneymaking opportunities, we made a family decision to pay for the best colleges that our children could get accepted into.  My son’s choice was in California, but my daughter went back East.  Then, I decided to get my doctorate and  even though I continued to work, I entered the realm of costing money, instead of making money.  So, I figure that I will need to work until I’m 100, in order to pay everybody’s student loans.  That used to be an easy decision.  I was fit and healthy and had enough energy to burn.  But, when Artie came to live with us, I started to wonder, “How long, old legs?”

I’ve been thinking about buying a beautiful, classy walking stick.  You know, one of those gnarled wooden ones, buffed to a shine, like you might use on the trail.  I want a young walking stick…one that befits a woman of my presence.  A woman that laughs, and creates, and is inquisitive.  A woman that helps to support her family, plus works to help those less fortunate.   No stodgy cane will do.  Maybe, with a walking stick like that, someone will walk the AIDS walk with me next year.  Image is everything…and right now, I think my image is lacking.  I need to reach down inside, and get myself back.   Artie is trying to block me…but I’m stronger than him…I think.

When I get up from a sitting position, at work or at home, the pain is excruciating until after I have taken the first 4-5 steps.  The women in my office are always alarmed.  They haven’t gotten used to the predictable pain and halting progress I make across the office.  By the time I go down the hall to the copy room, and back to our office I am walking almost normally.  I wish there was something I could do to stop the pain for the brief time period.  I don’t like alarming people.

At church today we were phone banking for the election.  Whenever I had to get up to go into the other room for more lists of phone numbers, or other forms, the same thing would happen.  It was extremely painful for the first few steps, and then it evened out and allowed me to walk normally.  One of the ladies at church asked me if I use a walker at home.  I told her no.  She said that she doesn’t like to use one in public, but she always uses one at home.  Another fact to park behind my ear for a future time.

And now, dear readers, I have a question I want to ask you.  I have so much pain at night and I wake up frequently because I have rolled over.  Have any of you ever used CBD oil?  I have heard wonderful things about it, and how it helps you to sleep.  However, I am a drug & alcohol counselor and would lose my job if I ever tested positive.  How safe is it?  Even though I grew up in the 60s, I never smoked or ingested marijuana.  I wanted to be a teacher and would have never taught if I had been arrested for marijuana possession (back when it was criminalized).  So, I have NEVER used an illegal substance.  I know that CBD oil supposedly does not use THC, but can one be sure?

I have settled into walking every other day.  I have found a nice route that is a little over a mile, and at first it was very challenging. The route starts out fairly easy, but when I round the corner on my walking route, and head toward home, it gets more and more difficult.  Again, I thought that perhaps I would need to call home and be picked up, but I kept going.  It got to the point that pain seemed like an invisible curtain that stretched across the road.  When I got to the curtain, I had to sweep it aside and bust through.  There were about 4-5 curtains on the way home, and I swept through each of them to finally make it up my driveway.  Have you swept through curtains like that?  After the first day, the curtains have not been there anymore.

This morning I discovered something.  My husband was away for work this weekend.  Our dogs woke me up at 5:30 am, to let them out into the backyard.  But once out, they left me alone and I actually slept until 1:15 pm.  I was flabbergasted!  But, what flabbergasted me even more was that I didn’t have my usual pain when I got up to walk.  Now, many people my age would say, “See?  We told you that you should retire.  No one with arthritis should be trying to go to work every morning.”  But, there are many older people who do not feel finished with their productive years.  After teaching high school/community college for over 30 years, and then spending 3 years teaching and counseling at the women’s prison, I have just started working with parolees and I am excited to be helping them to find community services to help them with their recovery and their transition into their new lives.  I walk into my office every morning, do my preparation for the day on the computer, and then I drive out to two different sites where I interview my clients.  When I get to each site, I need to roll my materials into the office, and then I sit for the rest of the day, while each successive client goes out to find the next client for my next meeting.  I would probably walk more if I stayed home.

I have no work to do at home.  All of it is done during the day on site.  I occasionally research resources that I can offer particular clients while I’m at home, but that’s because I want to be able to offer hope and encouragement to my clients the next day.  In the past I have often taught community college classes in the evenings, but I am trying to get an idea of how exhausted I get during the day.  I may try to teach at least 1 class in the Spring.  I miss teaching.  Right now my work consists of 1 on 1 counseling with each client.  Artie tries to keep me from doing what I love by making me so exhausted some days that I can’t even lift my foot to get into the car.  But if more sleep, daily walking, and self-care will help me to manage everything, I’d love to give myself the opportunity to teach one or two days per week.

So, here I am.  My husband is still gone and will not return until late Sunday night.  The dog duties and plant watering fall on me when he is gone.  That is a bit exhausting, but mostly I have been relaxing all weekend.  I am phone banking about the election this Sunday, but that is a labor of love, and we sit down while we do it.  Monday morning I will walk my mile+ route and the week will start all over again.  Artie has slowed me down, but he has not stopped me.

 

 

 

 

 

This week I walked everyday, plus cycled and did leg exercises.  I started out walking just 1 block, and back.  I am now up to 3 blocks and back.  I have set myself a goal of walking the Turkey Trot with my family on Thanksgiving Day.  It’s only a 5K.  Three of our family members will run it.  Two of the others have consented to walk it with me.

My son has walked the San Francisco Half Marathon with me a couple of times.  In 2012 I was doing the race alone and tripped over a strut on the Gold Gate Bridge.  I flew through the air, landing on my face…forcing my glasses into my forehead between my eyes, and pushing my teeth up into my lip.  I was a bloody mess and they had to take me off the bridge on a stretcher.  Thank goodness a nurse was behind me and saw me fall.  She stopped the blood until the paramedics could maneuver through the runners to get to me.  My family had no idea where I was.  They are all faster than me, so I always trail behind them, but when it got to be my usual time, they got worried.  They asked for me at the medical tent, but no one knew where I was.  My daughter walked a couple of miles back into the race to look for me.  Only when my husband took a shuttle back to our hotel room did he receive the message that I was in the hospital.   They patched me up pretty well, but I had somehow also torn my rotator cuff and required surgery.

Since that race, my son has walked the San Francisco Half Marathon with me.  He says that he never wants this to happen to me again.  Much like a parent with a child, he cautions me when there are cracks in the street or uneven pavement.  I can no longer do a race like that, since Artie came into my life, but I have asked my son if he will walk the Turkey Trot with me, and he has agreed.  My son DOES NOT like racing, but he is kind enough to walk with me so that I can experience it.  I am a blessed mother.

We have season tickets to CAL Berkeley football games.  My family has tailgated at all of the home games for years.  Our tailgating parking lot is at the bottom of the hill, and the stadium is up the hill. That same son walks with me up that hill, offering me his arm as we walk.  When we called the university, we were assured that electric vans were available all over the campus to help the handicapped.  However, we have rarely been able to snag one.  Just last night I tried to snag two on the way back to the tailgate, and they would not let me ride on the very back seats, because they “aren’t supposed to” put anyone back there.  It can be a little scary on the very back seat of one of these vans, but I have ridden in them at the prison for years.

So, just in case you have the same scenario during football season, let me share how I survive it.  My son starts out walking me up the hill.  He is very slow and watchful of my progress.  When we get to the Business Dept., there is a maze of stairs leading up to the street that the stadium is on.  I used to go up a steep hill on the other side of that building, but going up through the buildings works better for me.  If there is a bannister to hang onto, I can usually maneuver my way slowly up the stairs.  I find that people will go around me, and will let me take my time.  There are occasional benches if I need to stop for awhile.  Then, when I run out of stairs, or am between stairs, my son offers his arm again and we make it together.  When I reach the stadium, there is an elevator that takes wealthier fans to the club level.  Most of the elevators don’t go all the way up the stadium, so I have to use the one to the club level.  At first, staff members in the Club didn’t want to let this “riff raff” woman take the elevator.  However, after explaining my situation to them, and the fact that getting off on the 5th floor takes me within 1 row of my seat, they told me that it was fine.  I had to push a point though, and was told that they “aren’t supposed to make exceptions” but they could see that I had a legitimate issue.  People will be reasonable if you tell them what the problem is.  My elevator driver last night told me that Artie hangs out with him too, and he fully understands why I need the elevator.

The most important thing to remember is this…don’t let Artie isolate you and keep you from doing races and/or attending football games (or whatever else you like to do).  Insist on your rights.  These are ADA issues and they MUST help you.  So far I’m lucky and I haven’t been kept from walking 100%, but there will come a time when I WON’T be able to do it.  I need to know where to pick up a van, and who to see in order to be able to take that elevator up into the stadium.  No excuses!

 

Lets Try Something Different…

I read an article today that gave me real hope. It’s called 12 Benefits of Walking and it’s in the Arthritis Foundation Newsletter. Here’s a link:

https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/workouts/walking/wow-of-walking.php

I have been trying not to make reading recommendations, but this really excited me and I wanted to share. I’ve been trying to make this blog more experiential. I’m going to try walking tomorrow morning and I’ll tell you how it goes.

This has been a dream of mine for the past year.  Cool, crispy air and spooky darkness.  It’s almost Halloween and I have a relative that was accused of witchcraft and who was thrown in the river to drown (in the 1600s).  She didn’t drown, so I’m going to use some of her power tomorrow morning (metaphorically).  I won’t go far this first time – maybe a block and back.  I just want to see if I still have the ability.  I would be so excited if I could walk the Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving Day with my family.  I stopped walking because my Dr. told me that it was jarring to the joints.  This article says the opposite.

The same magazine has an article about hiking.  H-I-K-I-N-G  is the love of my life.  To feel the mountain breeze in my hair, and the dew of morning on my skin in the High Sierra would be like heaven.  What I would give to see alpenglow again. My husband and I were married outdoors in Yosemite Valley, and our first act as husband and wife was to hike to the Ahwahnee Hotel for our reception. Everyone was honking and yelling congratulations.  Next May will be our 35th anniversary and I would like to hike that trail again. I’m afraid to hope for too much.  Each day is so difficult right now.  There is so much pain.

So, what do you say?  Shall we try it?  See where it takes us?  I will, if you will.  Send comments and tell me how it goes.  I’ll do the same.   Good luck!

 

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The REAL Journey Begins

I was a bit excited the first time I went to physical therapy.  This was going to be the person that would tell me how to “fix” my problem.  I still hadn’t accepted what was happening to me…in fact, a year later I still haven’t.  This doctor seemed to really know her stuff.  She told me I needed to drink bone broth, and she told me how to make my own.  That sounded nifty, but a busy woman with a full time job, and several other church obligations such as running a women’s conference 2 months later, probably wasn’t going to make her own bone broth (I buy it at the store instead).  She also told me about Tumeric, which I have used daily since.  I am at a stage where I will do ANYTHING you tell me will work.

She led me through some simple stretching exercises and measured my range of motion.  I really liked her and looked forward to working with her.  Unfortunately, that first time I worked with her was also my last.  I was handed off to a guy who was quite pleasant, but I preferred working with a woman.  Our bodies are different.  Plus, I could tell by the pictures on the wall, that she was an athlete and I wanted someone who could understand my mourning for myself, as well as my physical pain.  Every time she walked through the therapy room, my eyes followed her with a sense of longing.  How could she ditch me when my whole life had been disrupted?

My GP suggested that I stop walking, since it is more jarring to my joints.  Stop walking??? Was she crazy???  I had ALWAYS walked.  My mother was a tremendously fast walker, and so was my brother.  When I was little I had to move my legs twice as fast as they did, just to keep up.  We went camping every summer, and my brother and I would go on the ranger hikes and memorize all of the information so that we could take our Dad on the hikes later and explain everything to him.  Then, when I entered middle school, my Mom suggested that we backpack up Mt. Whitney.  We went on 4th of July weekend and there was so much snow that we couldn’t make it to the top in our tennis shoes.  We went down, but vowed that we WOULD make it someday.  That was the beginning of a lifetime of backpacking and long distance hiking.  I hiked the John Muir Trail (225 miles) when I was 17 and again when I was 21.  Almost every summer after that I hiked at least 100 miles in the Sierra. And now my doctor wanted me to stop walking.

Her suggestion was that I get a spin cycle and start cycling every morning.  Cycling is less jarring, and yet it warms up the legs and gets the heart pumping.  I have cycled almost daily for the past year.  I also still do my leg stretching exercises (left over from my physical therapy sessions).  You may know them.  They are called clam shells and I do 20 on each leg every morning.  If I don’t cycle and do the leg stretches daily, I don’t walk well.  My physical therapist (the guy, not the female athlete) told me to get used to it.  Even on Christmas morning, you do the cycling and the stretches BEFORE everybody else gets up.  This is a part of my life now.

I asked my doctor about seeing a therapist and she said that I should definitely look into it if I thought I needed it.  She also said that she could prescribe anti-depressants.  I just couldn’t understand how this could happen to me.  I eat healthy.  We make most of our food from scratch – no preservatives.  I exercised everyday for years.  How could this happen to ME??  I read everything I could get my hands on, trying to understand.  I guess that some of this is hereditary.  My mom had arthritis in her hands, but that was more likely rheumatoid arthritis.  Some of this is trauma to the joints.  I am known as the faller in my family.  I fell 30 feet on a rock climb once and was unconscious for a week, blasting two holes in my lungs, but not breaking a bone.  I have also fallen twice during races.  One time I broke my pinky finger and my wrist.  Another dynamic racing fall on the Golden Gate Bridge tore my rotator cuff and I had to have surgery.  But I was not aware of anything that I had specifically done to my hips.

I heard about some injections that a person could have in their hips, and I decided that I wanted those.  I was sent to a specialist who refused to do the injections, and instead wanted to replace my hips.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around having artificial hips, so I refused.  My GP then sent me to another doctor who did the injections, but when I got there he told me that he doesn’t do injections in the hips.  I had built up the fact in my head that these injections were going to be answer.  When I left the second doctor’s office I laid my head on the steering wheel and cried my eyes out.  Why was this so hard?  Couldn’t  ANYBODY help me?