Thursday, April 30, 2015

An Arthritis "Flare up"...what the heck is that?

These past few months have been such an education in arthritis. I had no appreciation for those that cope well with arthritis and how severely it can affect a person. I also learned I've had arthritis in my little finger for years and just didn't know that's what it was! So, in case you don't already know, people with arthritis can have no pain, a little pain, chronic pain or what they call "flare ups." A flare up is when you're having low to no pain for a while, a few days, or weeks, and then BAM! You feel like crap. It might be caused by stress, diet, lack of sleep, pushing yourself too hard or just the freakin' weather, but it happens. For me, my knee will feel like it's filled with broken glass. I can see why people with more active jobs than mine, have 1 in 5 odds of stopping work completely within 5 years after an OA diagnosis. It truly is a struggle to get out of bed and go to work when your knee hurts that badly. At the moment, running, even a short distance, feels like I'm half pulling my "bad" leg with me. It doesn't cause me stabbing pain per se, that feeling usually shows up at the end of a day or if I sit too long, its like the muscles just don't want to fire and my leg gets tired faster than the other. My "good" leg is sore because mechanically it does more of the work to compensate for the other leg now. My right calf muscle is notoriously sore after every run now, something I haven't experienced since I started running regularly 7+ years ago. So I'm starting to strengthen my right calf muscle more now (Lots of calf raises! lol)and really focusing on rolling out with my foot so I don't land with my weight on the inside of my knee. It's a process, and I'm working through it one run at a time. So what do you do? I see two choices, a fork in the road of life, so to speak. I can forget running, take up easier exercise and try to find happiness in that...OR I can continue to struggle and see what kind of gains I can make. I can see now that my running won't last forever, that pain might very well eventually cause me to reduce what I run or stop me altogether, but today is not that day and I am not a quitter. I will continue the struggle, cope however I can and move forward. Standing still is not an option.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A (sort of) long run

Distance is both finite and relative. A mile is, indeed, a mile, but the feeling of accomplishment a person gets from running that mile will be different for those who have run a mile a thousand times and those who have run one once. And, as I'm finding, that feeling of accomplishment gets a bit muddy when you've run a mile a thousand times, but haven't done it in a long time. Last week 3.5 km felt awesome, and I was on a total runner's high. Then I ran commuted on Friday a solid 6km, although not strictly running, I covered more distance than I had in 4 months. Then I did it again yesterday with Peanut as a "long run." It certainly felt long, it took a little over an hour for goodness sake and it was mostly on sidewalk! Later yesterday my brother offered his congrats for my 3.5km which I had bragged about on FB, and I told him that I had actually ran a total of 15km for the week. He was so excited for me, but all I could feel about it was, meh. I mean really, 15km?! I could do that in a single run four months ago without batting an eye. Now, to do it over the course of a week is now admirable. Look, I know I'm making good, solid progress. I am happy about it. I just can't shake that part of me that's disgusted with myself for putting myself in this position to begin with. Yeah, after 4 months I'm still beating myself up. I'm trying hard to reign in my desire to push it, to just go, to jump back on that schedule I was on before all this happened. But the pain tells me to back off. Even now, at the 5km mark I get twinges of shooting pain through my kneecap which is followed by that feeling someone is being dragged by holding onto the right side of the left knee. So, I go another kilometer or so and wrap it up for the day. I just hope I can continue to push the bar further so I can eventually do 10km before feeling pain. This week's goal is to match or better that 15km. I will make sure, that unless I'm suddenly pain-free, I'll put a cap on 20km for the week.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Learning to Run, all over again

Oh my. It's been a couple of months since I posted. My apologies. I've been living the alter-ego life known as the Injured Former Runner for a little whole now. I guess I should pick up where I left off and give you the cliff notes summary of February through now (April). So, when I last posted I was anxiously waiting on an appointment with my surgeon. We met, we reviewed the MRI-I was actually correct about the soft tissue stuff (hey, maybe I'm not to shabby with that MRI imaging stuff after all haha). The results/diagnosis after four different diagnosis and two months of frustration? A bad bone bruise, signs of previous internal bleeding, a cracked patella (aka kneecap-so bad the two halves were being held together by the smallest piece of bone) and I destroyed 50% of the cartilage in my knee (effectively giving myself instant arthritis in the knee, according to my surgeon). A doosie for sure. The crack on the patella was healing well so I didn't need a cast. My surgeon told me to try ditching the crutches, ditch the cane when I could and keep doing physiotherapy. We scheduled a follow up for 6 weeks later. So, off I went to physio. I was a good patient for weeks but made very little improvement. At least twice I questioned my therapist about the area she was treating, but she would just scrunch her face and say no, I was wrong, the area affected was the opposite side. So, I figured, since she's the professional in this I should trust what she says. I was still in a lot of pain and both my physiotherapist and my surgeon said I should be functioning better, but I just wasn't. I would run for a minute then need to stop and walk. That routine could go as long as 25 minutes before my knee would ache so bad I HAD to stop. Then I'd spend three days after in insane pain. It was very discouraging. I made an appointment to see my GP, Dr. Kate, for the day before my follow up appointment for my surgeon. I tried to figure out why I wasn't improving, what I was doing wrong, or maybe I was just a "baby" about pain. I met with my doctor who, heard my story of woe but put her support in my surgeon. I saw my surgeon the next day. I told him I was still in a lot of pain and was making some, but not great, progress in physio. He went over the results again and then (on a whim) I asked what area the cartilage damage was in. The are he pointed to, then showed me in an example knee joint, was the opposite to the area my physiotherapist had been treating. I was being told to use the muscles around the damaged area, not the "good" side, which probably explained the lack of progress. So, in the end my surgeon gave me a prescription for a knee brace and recommended HA therapy (an injection) for my knee that acts like a crack filler. I was upset about the physio. Here I thought the one medical person in the team who knew what she was doing, didn't. For 6 weeks I wasted my time. I swore not to go back, ever. I bought the brace, a lovely, light Breg Shortrunner brace, fitted at the Arthritis Injury and Care Center. Then I waited two more weeks for the injection. I had heard it had good results but you wouldn't know if you are one of the lucky people until 5 weeks after the injection. I'm currently on week 2. So, where am I with my running? Well, I've gradually gone from running for one minute intervals to running a 3.5km a few days ago! I was so excited I posted it on FB for goodness sake. My knee hurts still, I take meds for it, still. I get cramps in my quad muscles from the shots of pain in my knee, causing the muscles to fire and get sore over the course of the day (by the end of the day at least one muscle is burning from my knee to my hip or pelvic area). After a kilometer of running my leg swells so badly I've stopped wearing regular running shoes and switched to VFFs so my ankle can flex (yes, it's that's bad). My surgeon has had three discussions with me now about how slow this recovery will be, and how I may not ever get back all the functionality I had before. But I'm going to try. I'm learning to run with a brace and constant pain on the right side of my left knee. I find if I keep my stride length short and roll my foot outwards, I can run longer. My aerobic capacity has taken a hit, but since I can't run for very long I'm slowly building that up too. I still can't walk upstairs on a regular basis without it causing my knee exquisite pain, a major challenge when you live in a split level! I've totally mastered the art of the one legged step up, and thank goodness my workplace has an elevator ;-) It's been and will be a battle. There's no just "bouncing back" from this. This is about re-training my knee and leg to work together while compensating for this injury. But I'm committed to recovering as best I can. I've joined an arthritis support group for trauma-based arthritis (yes, it's a thing), and have had wonderful advice and support from the members there. I truly helps to talk with others in the same boat and hear some positive perspectives. I can do more than I could a month ago. That's progress.