Monday, May 23, 2011

The Secret Passageway

When I was a kid growing up near Philadelphia, my brothers and sisters and I used to love to go to the city’s museums. One of these was an excellent science museum, the Franklin Institute. The exhibit we liked the most there when we were little was a model human heart that was big enough to walk through. We would enter the right atrium, pretending to be an oxygen-starved red corpuscle returning from the body’s hinterlands by way of the vena cava. We would travel through to the right ventricle, and squeeze through the pulmonary artery to the lungs. Picking up a load of oxygen from an alveoli, we’d return to the left atrium through the pulmonary vein, travel through the mitral valve to the left ventricle, and move into the arched aorta to exit the heart. Sometimes we would run through the heart as quickly as we could several times in a row until our father lost his last remnant of what masqueraded as patience and would yell at us to cease and desist.

One day when I was about eight, I entered the heart, my sister Ann and her friend Annabelle just behind me. I moved quickly through all its narrow and kind of spooky passages, determined that my sister would not pass me. When I made that final turn out of the aorta, they were standing at the heart’s exit. “How did you get here ahead of me?” I asked in total bewilderment. “We took the secret passageway,” my sister told me. I pleaded and begged to be shown where it was, but my sister insisted that I would have to find it myself. Do you know that every time I went into that heart for years, I searched for the secret passageway? I’d poke around in every little nook and cranny, examining them from every angle, fruitlessly searching for anything that might be the start of this wondrous shortcut through the heart. Of course, I never did find it, and realized years later how my older and smarter sister had duped me!
How I wish I could go up to Ann’s home now, and walk in to see her standing in her kitchen, no longer hooked up to oxygen, cooking something for her guests. Or maybe she would be sitting in her living room, sewing one of the beautiful fabric landscapes that she learned how to do in the last decade. I would give her a huge hug and ask in astonishment “How did you get here? How did you get past breast cancer?”
“Oh, I took the secret passageway,” she would reply. “It is one that cancer doesn’t know about and can’t find.”

But I know that cannot be, for just as in the big model heart, there are no secret passageways to get us past danger or trouble or illness. It is my fervent hope that someday soon – certainly by the time my nieces are my sister’s age or by the time my granddaughter is a grown woman, there will be effective and safe cures for the terrible disease of breast cancer that will in effect accommodate escape by way of a secret passageway.
Note: Exactly one week after I penned these words, on the train back home after visiting my sister for what would turn out to be the last time, she died from metastasized breast cancer.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My New Training "Regimen"

With the Komen 3-Day exactly four months from tomorrow, I should be doing lots and lots of walking right now - up to about eight miles at a time. But with the plantar fasciitis, that is not happening. Instead, my training is focused on the following:

1. Runner's stretch - up to three or four times a day to stretch my calves. My left calf has been especially tight, and that is the side that the injury is on.

2. Straight leg stretch with a towel - wrapping a towel around one foot and pulling back on it while sitting with my leg straight out on the floor. I don't like this stretch and find it kind of painful behind my knees, a sure sign that I am too tight.

3. Heel drop - standing on a step with my forefeet, I drop my heels slowly down as far as possible to get the stretch and put stress on the muscles while they lengthen, then pull up with my feet to make them level, 15 reps for three sets, twice a day. This is a good strengthening and stretching exercise.

4. Ball roll - roll a ball under my foot, especially the arch.

5. Toe scrunch - use my toes to scrunch up a towel on the floor. Except in my case, it is more like use my toes to fruitlessly move against a towel. If there were a toe scrunching championship competition, I would finish dead last. I have had at least 3 or 4 other people show me how to scrunch my towel effortlessly, and I just can't do it - I don't have the requisite flexibility in my toes. So I will keep at it.

When I get more time, I can add in eliptical and pool work, and even stationary bike, but life seems too hectic for that right now. But I know if I can't walk soon, I must add that all in.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Doctor, Doctor

"Doctor, Doctor,
Mr. M.D.
Now can you tell me, tell me, tell me,
What's ailin' me?"

Except, in this case it was a "Ms. M.D.", and she was able to confirm that what is ailing me is plantar fasciitis. She gave me a series of stretches and exercises to do, and told me that if I do them religiously for three weeks, it should start to improve. They are not all fun, but clearly I need to make a change. The Komen 3-Day walk is just four months away, and right now, six miles would be a challenge, let alone 60. I've also been wearing a night splint, which is not the most comfortable thing in the world, but does appear to help.

Interestingly, the doctor I saw is from my old stomping ground and we went to high schools in the same athletic league, although she was clearly in school several decades after my high school days were a fading memory. She also was medical crew for a Susan G. Komen 3-Day event in Philly a few years ago, and said it was an amazing experience.

I cannot imagine now not doing this walk, and need to get my foot healed. Whoops, time to stretch!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Short Walks, Some Pain

After six days of inactivity, wearing a night splint, ice, and stretching, my foot was feeling okay when I walked around a bit. So yesterday at lunch, it being a gorgeous day, I decided to walk down by the river to Browns Island. When I got there, my foot still felt alright, so I walked along the trail and pipeline past the great blue heron colony. The herons were out in force, so I resolved to come back today with a camera, which I did. Eventually, I will post some photos on my other blog, Oh, to be Hiking!

Each day’s walk was about 1.5 to 1.75 miles. Unfortunately, I now have more pain in my left heel, even though I took a nice slow and steady pace. The pain I was not feeling when walking a bit is now in evidence once I sit down for a little while and take those first steps. That is discouraging, but it is also reality. I know that even really short walks may be overdoing it right now.

I made a doctor appointment for two weeks from now, and am trying other doctors to see if I can get one closer. Next week would be ideal. So far, I am not having any luck. I would like a specialist to evaluate the injury and recommend exactly what types of exercises and/or stretching I should do, and how long I need to stay inactive. I did do a lot of water aerobics Monday night with no pain, and am thinking I need to do more of that. Maybe it is even a good time to learn to swim better.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Note From Mother Nature

Dear Art,

How are you? Actually, as your Mother Nature, I already know that. I was just being polite. I am fine. Thanks for thinking of me on Mothers Day.

Now, what I want to know is: are you a moron? I created pain for a reason. When something hurts that is not supposed to, it is my warning to you to stop doing whatever is causing you the pain. What part of that don’t you understand?

So, you had this bad pain in your foot. Did you stop walking for a while? No! First, you did a six mile hike at the beach. I increased your pain to make sure you understood. But being stubborn, you still didn’t listen. You then took a seven mile walk in Washington, DC. By the end of that walk, I think you were beginning to understand, but it should not have taken you that long to figure that out. I gave you common sense for a reason. Use it!

I know you are worried whether you will be in shape for your 60 mile Komen walk if you don’t do a lot of walking now. But you still have 138 days until the walk, which is plenty of time, given your leg strength – unless you do something stupid to wreck your foot in the meantime. So, cool it! Get some rest. Use your brain to figure out when it is okay to start taking long walks again.

I know that I seem cruel, but I am just indifferent. After all, how can I pick sides? A lion in Africa either starves to death, or a zebra dies a terrible death so that the lion can feed. I can’t interfere in all of that. But nature has given your body the capacity to heal itself if given time and proper conditions. I just stay out of it. If you make bad decisions, there is nothing I can or will do to make the outcome easier, even as your Mother Nature.

So, hopefully you will learn from this. But if you don’t, I will send you another little lesson that perhaps you won’t ignore.

Mother Nature

PS: I was just being polite with that “love” stuff. I really am an indifferent mother. Sorry.

PSS: I was just being polite when I said “sorry,” because I am indifferent. Indifferent means never having to say you’re sorry.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Locking the Barn Door After the Horse Escapes

I wish running shoes had a little gauge that told you when to toss them. I always wait too long, trying to delay spending $100 or more. In this case, I ended up waiting too long. I clearly have plantar fasciitis, and it is not a lot of fun. Plus, I ended up spending the $135 anyway.

I noticed last week that my left heel was hurting more and more, and realizing that my shoes are at least a year old, with who knows how many 100’s of miles on them, I thought that might be the cause. So I replaced them, and their orthotic inserts, and it seemed to help. But it was probably too late, or I should have rested more. I took it really easy Friday, and then, feeling pretty good Saturday, I walked about 3 miles at the beach. That still felt okay Sunday, so I walked about 6 miles (in hiking boots) on Sunday. Maybe that was not a good idea, because my left foot has hurt quite a bit since then.

I know I thought “it’s only six miles.” It seems so short. But when you have the start of an injury, six miles can be a long way that makes things worse.

It seems like classic plantar fasciitis – pain near the heel, and much worse when I first get up after sitting, and especially after sleeping. I took it easy yesterday, am taking it easy today, and wore a night splint that a runner friend lent me. I am also icing, and taking “vitamin I” (Ibuprofen). All of that has helped to some extent, but the foot still has definite pain when I stand and take those first few steps.

My guess is that I will have continue doing all these things for a week or so, and see if the pain lessens. I hate being inactive. I am a pretty patient guy about a lot of things, but not about that. But I may have no choice. In trying to save some money (which I ended up spending anyway) I have caused an injury. The new shoes are great, and a reminder of how worn out the old ones were even though they still looked pretty good. But the new shoes are like closing the barn door after the horse escaped, and there are no shoulda – woulda – coulda that will undo that. Just hopefully lots of rest, ice, and the night splint. I have 60 miles to walk in a few months, but right now, I keep trying to tell myself that the best way to get there is resting and not walking a lot.