Thursday, June 30, 2011

On Deck for the Cure

The day my sister died, May 30, I was on a cruise to Canada on the MS Maasdam. That night, we got a flyer at our cabin talking about "On Deck for the Cure," a 5K walk around the deck to support the Susan G. Komen organization in its fight against incurable breast cancer. The fee was $15, and we got a tee-shirt and a pink wrist band. Naturally, I signed up.

The day of the walk - 12 laps around the deck - about 50 or 60 of us showed up, including several breast cancer survivors. Because of my heel, I'd not walked in weeks, but pounded away trying to keep warm in the blustery winds. It meant a lot to me to do this walk just days after Ann's death. It did make my heel worse, though.

With less than a half lap to go, a friend of mine suddenly popped out with his camer and snapped these two shots.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tiny Plantar Progress?

I am almost afraid to think it, much less say it, but I think there has been some progress regarding my left foot. Not that it is healed, but the pain is not quite as much when walking my very limited walking. For example, yesterday I was in a car for nine hours returning from my sister's memorial service, and anytime I would stop to get out, it was not bad. Normally, the plantar fasciitis is quite painful for those first few dozen steps after sitting for a while, but not yesterday, and not today. No, I don't feel like taking a long walk or anything like that, but nor am I walking with bad limp for those first few steps. And the last couple of times I used my foot log, grinding my heel into it, the pain was much less.

I mentioned that to the doctor today when I went in for another round, my seventh, of ART. He was pleased by that as he drove a small railroad spike into my heel - just what it feels like, I imagine. He said that the plantar fascia still needs to lengthen but my Achilles tendon and my calf are definitely not as tight as they were. Afterwards, my heel has hurt all day, but not quite as much as it usually does after the ART session.

He added a couple of little tricks to my repetoire Friday - spelling the alphabet with my heel and picking up marbles with my left toes. The latter takes a long time, as the "marbles" are fairly flat indoor flower pot stones, and my toes don't have tremendous flexibility or strength. But here is the interesting thing - each time I do the marble pick-up, I can do it, even though it may take a number of attempts for each stone. But I can't do it at all with my right foot, which is my good foot. So all of the intensive therapy on the left foot seems to be helping with its flexibility and strength.

The other day, I visualized walking pain free - I know that I will do this sometime, and the results for the last few days make me feel like I am heading towards that milestone. Doing this walk in September in my sister's memory is so important to me, and I am going to need to find a way to make this happen.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three Months to Go

Three months from today, plans are to walk the final 20 miles of my three day, 60-mile walk for Susan G. Komen in the fight against breast cancer. If the walk were today, I would not be able to do it - my foot is still too sore from this persistent plantar fasciitis that I've now had for two months. I've had two weeks - six treatments - of the active release therepy, each quite painful. I wear the night splint every night - it is the most uncomfortable thing! I do the foot and Achilles stretches 4-6 times a day. I roll my foot on my foot log twice a day, and on a frozen water bottle a time or two. The net result so far is that I think - and it might be wishful thinking - that my foot does not hurt quite as much with each step.

I am still not walking for effect. I do average about 10,000 steps a day of what I would call incidental walking. I have shortened my stride and slowed down more, because it causes less pain on the heel strike. Every now and then, someone will even pass me on the street, which is annoying, the male competitor in me must say!

Yesterday, the doctor added me spelling the alphabet with my foot, using exaggerated motions to flex my foot towards and away from my shin. He also added me picking up marbles - indoor flower landscaping stones actually - with my toes to improve foot strength. I can't curl my toes well, so it is difficult. But I did it slowly and I could see sticking with it and getting better at it.

I cannot imagine not doing this walk after raising all this money and telling my sister months ago that I would be doing it. She is gone now. I can't tell her I changed my mind because of some pain. So I need to get this healed as soon as I can and start walking again. The Komen 3-Day coaches are switching my training schedule from the 24 week calendar to 16 week calendar, which given that I have 13 weeks left, is a better fit for someone coming off an injury.

Oh, I have four friends doing an ironman triathlon this Sunday in Idaho - how cool is that?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Art Meets the Art of A.R.T.

"Have you checked out Active Release Therapy (ART)?" my runner friend Michelle asked me. "It was suggested to me after a hamstring tear, when it just wasn't healing. It hurts like the devil, but I swear by it." So I checked it out here, and amazingly enough, one of the local practitioners of it was a doctor whom another runner friend, Susan, was recommending that very day. So I made an appointment for last Monday.

I really liked Dr. Green. He is an athlete, and seemed very knowledgeable about my injury and others like it. He told me that it might take a while, but we could get this fixed. Then he started right in on my left heel. So what is A.R.T.? In layman's terms, it is like a very deep, very intensive, very concentrated, very painful muscle movement and massage technique. The goal is to attack the scar tissue that is binding things up and break it down. And attack it he did! I felt like he was driving a railroad spike into my heel with a sledge hammer. "This is going to hurt some," he said after a few minutes of amazing pain, as he dug his thumbs into my heel deep enough to reach, oh, about mid-calf level. I shrieked like a tween-aged girl at a Justin Bieber concert. OK, I didn't really shriek, but I wanted to! At one point, I did let a mild obscenity fly from my lips.

Afterwards, he showed me the stretch he wants me to do two sets of five times a day, telling me that my Plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles on both feet and legs are very tight. He also wants me to roll my foot, toes to heel, on a frozen ice water bottle or on the foot log that I had just bought. Then he had an assistant do ultrasound on my heel and electric shock stimulation on my left calf, which promotes breakdown of scar tissue and healing.

I came back on Wednesday - my treatment plan calls for three days of tortu - er, treatment - three times a week for several weeks, then twice a week for several more. I said to Dr. Green how I had told friends that I had been to see Dr. Marquis de Sade. He has a sense of humor, because he did laugh. The painful treatment was more of the same, as was Friday. Each time, my heel hurt like hell all the rest of the day and the part of the next day. But I have faith that this will work, in time. He didn't want me to do some of the stuff for now that the other doctor had me doing, and no hard-core walking. An exercise bike and elliptical - if it doesn't hurt - are good for now, so I've done those three times this week.

As a bonus, I found out that my health insurance provider allows a 30 minute deep tissue massage every third treatment - with no extra co-pay - for this type of injury, so I got that on Friday, which was great!

So that is how I was introduced to the art of A.R.T. I have high hopes that after nearly two months of having this injury essentially cripple me, it will be the start of turning things around and getting walking again. I am not even going to run a single step until after my 3 Day Komen walk!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

100 Days and Counting

I should be panicking, but I'm not - at least not a lot. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure is 100 days from today, and I still can't walk even a short distance without considerable pain in my left heel. It is discouraging and frustrating. I have raised nearly $6,000 for the walk. My sister Ann - my main honoree and inspiration for doing this walk - is deceased now. It is not like I want to say "Well, sorry everyone, but my foot hurts - a lot - and so I decided not to go through with my committment."

I am doing some small things. I am taking 7,000 to 12,000 steps a day according to my pedometer. I am just not walking any distance at a time, but at least I am getting some time on my feet. I am continuing to take the stairs at work, because the pressure when I climb stairs is on my forefoot, not my heel. I've put in some time on an exercise bike, and plan more of that. I had a doctor tell me that I am overstriding, based on shoe wear, and so I am trying to shorten my stride and get used to that so that when I can walk for effect, I will be ahead of the game in shortening my stride. And I am doing a lot of stretching, and using some other techniques in the last week, such as a foot log, which is painful but is supposed to help.

And this week, I got introduced to ART! Who is ART? Well, it is what, not who. More about that later. Suffice to say that I have faith that somehow in the next few weeks, I can start some short walks of a mile or two at least, and go from there. In just 100 days, I have to somehow be able to walk 60 miles in three days. That would be impossible right now. But I have to find a way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Komen 3-Day Progress

I thought I'd write a short post about how things are going to date with my Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. The event is just over three months away. I'll break my report into three areas.

1. My Inspiration - I decided to do the 3-Day walk for breast cancer research for one main reason: my sister Ann. She was my inspiration for doing this. She had been beyond courageous in her battle with breast cancer for over four years, and I wanted her to know that I was doing something to honor her. I knew she would not be alive to see me do this, but she was alive to know I will be doing it. With her death on Memorial Day, I have a sadness that will be hard to chase away. She will be in my heart every step of the way. I hope that somehow during the course of the three days, she will send me a sign that she knows I followed through.

2. Fundraising - This is one area that is going very well. My goal was $100 a mile, for a total of $6,000 and I am 90% there. People are so generous. I plan on seeing if I can go beyond $6,000, although I will not increase my goal.

3. Training - Two thumbs down! The plantar fasciitis is killing me! It is such a persistent injury. I have three months to go and the longest distance I have walked in the last month is 5K, and that hurt a lot. I started with a new doctor yesterday and hope that he can help. I need to somehow get this done. I know I still have time because if my foot were not hurting, I could easily walk 10 miles or so with my leg strength. But at some point, I will run out of time if I can't get healed. So, I must find a way to get past this and start walking again. In the meantime, I am going to try some stationary bike and perhaps some elliptical workouts. People are telling me that it took them 4-8 months to recover from plantar fasciitis. No can do!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hell for the Heel

I've strugged about writing lately. I am usually a pretty sunny and upbeat guy. Losing my sister Ann to metastasized breast cancer has hit me hard, even though I could see it coming. I know that although I will always carry love for her and the memories of her, so too will I always miss her. I found a note from her that she wrote four years after I had cancer where she said that my getting ill taught her the importance of family, and how my death would have been unacceptable. Then, just two months after that note, she had cancer, and now, she is gone. "It feels unacceptable, too, that she is dead," was what I thought as I read the note with tears rolling down. She was a wonderful and accomplished person.

Then there is my left heel. The plantar fasciitis has gone on for about six weeks now, and is so frustrating. I should be walking miles and miles, but any walking - even a short one - hurts like hell. Yes, I could walk a few miles, with a lot of pain, but I am probably causing additional damage. For the last four weeks, I have really tried to do all of the right things. Stretches. Heel drops. Night splint at night. Not walking (well, most of the time). I've had two massages, a rarity for me. None of it has not seemed to help. I did slack off just a bit on the ship (I was on a cruise to Canada from May 28 to June 4, the week Ann died), but even there I generally did most of the things I was supposed to do most days. I also walked a lot more than I had been, although no where near what I would have walked as a healthy person. I did a fast walk 5K for breast cancer on the ship - more about that in a later post. That made my heel hurt more.

I am trying three new things this week. I got a runners massage stick (T-Roller) and a foot log. Both of these were recommended by a running coach I saw on the web for plantar fasciitis. I started trying both of those two days ago. And tomorrow, I have an appointment with a doctor to discuss Active Release Therapy. I only have about 100 days to get in shape for this walk. Walking 60 miles in this pain is unimaginable, but so is not walking it. People have donated nearly $5,000 so far to my efforts, and then there is the matter of doing this to honor the memory of my sister. So I have to find a way to heal the hell of my heel!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Requiem in Pacem, Ann

On Monday, May 30, I got the news while on vacation that my beloved sister Ann had died that afternoon, after courageously battling breast cancer for 51 months. I knew that she didn't have a lot of time left - just five days before, the oncologist suspended treatment and told her she had a few weeks left. But I never thought that she would die just a week after I last saw her, and when I said goodbye to her that morning, I never suspected that it was the last time I would ever see her.

I wrote this the next afternoon, scribbling it out on paper on the cruise ship and deciding not to edit it, since it reflected my emotions at the time without any assistance from rhyme searching software. I know I will miss Ann the rest of my life.

"For Ann"

Today, Ann, is the first day since the day I was born
That you're not here upon this earth, and I feel so forlorn
Perhaps some time there'll come a day when of grief I am shorn
But if so, that is not today, as from your death I mourn.

Remember times when we were kids, and we would laugh and play?
Not once did it occur to me that you'd be gone someday.
Though sunny where I got the news, inside 'twas dark and grey
You're at eternal rest now, but from us you've gone away.

For months now, I have struggled to not break down and weep
I'd watch your face with sadness as exhausted you would sleep
Your grit and spunk inspired me as you climbed a hill so steep
And every step along the way, your courage did you keep.

That evil cancer hit you hard in this, your final, year
I came as often as I could, though you lived nowhere near
I feared that someday in the spring, I'd lose my sister dear
'Twas on the thirtieth of May the sad news did I hear.

Now death has come and taken you so very far from me
But as long as I can draw a breath, then in my heart you'll be
Oh, God and Blessed Mary, I beseech you, hear my plea:
Grant my beloved sister joy and peace eternally!

Art Ritter
May 31, 2011