So, I left work for an early lunch yesterday to go visit my primary care provider. I had an appointment with one of his residents for paperwork for an update of my intermittent FMLA leave. She gave me a once over and went to bring my paperwork to my doctor, at which point he came in and gave me a little fist bump and a sad, concerned look.
“What happened?” he asked.
Concerned that I had fallen again, but also impressed that I had spiraled down 7 concrete steps with no other injuries other than a sprained pinky and some horrible bruises, he referred me to physical therapy for fall prevention. I’ll probably be the youngest person in there.
I start hand rehab on Monday at The Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation, the same occupational therapy practice that handled my mallet finger last year.
I made an appointment for a consultation with the physical therapist on March 20.
But yesterday my tailbone area started hurting again and today my knee hurt and my right quad was burning. The leg felt stiff and off and it felt reminiscent of the early days of pain I had in February. And I was worried that whatever caused my recent fall– because I still don’t have any clues as to the specifics of why it happened– might be starting again.
So I left work early to go to see my beloved Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. She said I wasn’t crooked, I wasn’t that tight or spastic, and that it sounded like my issues could just be nerve and muscle tissue still recovering from the fall. She actually said I felt better than usual, that even my feet were facing the right direction.
That was a relief. But I wanted to have her insight to get the neurologist, my primary care physician and the physical therapist coordinated. Because every clue we have is a step in the right direction.
And I have to wonder… Does my body feel painful, awkward and hard to control because it’s moving more correctly and healing and I’m not used to that?
I am so sick of disability-related posts. My goal today is to start the March newsletter for Parisian Phoenix, which I will be distributing via Substack. Yesterday felt like a beautiful spring day and today, today there is two inches of snow on the ground.
I’m tired. And sore. And stiff. I called out from work today, although I’m fairly certain I have no paid time off for it. The Teenager and I have major bills do this week, and they scare me, but I have (and she has) placed every spare penny we have into paying them. And they will be paid.
So, before I back up, and explain exactly what happened since I closed my computer yesterday afternoon, let me say that my plan has been to take better care of myself. To stop pushing myself to keep up with the people who don’t have the same issues that I have. To ask for help. To be honest– not only with others, but with myself.
I have planned to organize regular long weekends every three-to-four months to give my body time to recuperate from the stresses of being on my feet folding clothes all day, and to give myself time to finish larger projects for Parisian Phoenix Publishing. That hasn’t happened, in part because I’ve spent so much time sorting myself out with medical appointments, and also because November through February incorporates a lot of paid holiday time.
I closed my computer yesterday afternoon and The Teenager asked if I wanted to take the dog for a walk.
Now, let’s think about the conditions yesterday:
It was a beautiful pre-Spring day and the sun made everything alive.
I woke by alarm at 6 a.m. to meet Southern Candy at the diner, where I ate salty food and drank three cups of coffee so my blood pressure was creeping up.
I went to the orthopedist, but was unable to get an appointment with the hand rehab people.
I was going to the chiropractor in about an hour, for the appointment last week that I had to reschedule because of my fall.
I have not gone to the gym in a week because of the fall.
My legs are covered in painful bruises.
I was a little hungry.
I had taken Baclofen* in the morning, but not since.
Interesting side note: CVS ordered my baclofen refill last week, as they did not have it in stock, and I haven’t heard from them since.
I felt good. Nothing hurt. I hadn’t noticed any balance issues. So, although I felt a little wiped out, a short walk sounded good.
The Teenager suited up the dog and put her cat in the cat-backpack and we headed up the street. We made it halfway up the block, cat screaming in fear, when the dog noticed other dogs and got nervous. And I had what The Teenager called “a three-point fall.” I immediately assumed it was a basketball reference but she explained. I stumbled, froze in the air for a second, and then fall. I believe the fall at work was a three-point fall as well. That frozen time she witnessed was me actually making a decision what to do next. That is the second where I have to decide whether to fight the fall and try to regain my balance or use that second to frame the fall and try to control the impact.
In this case, I opted to throw the fall to the left to protect my already injured right hand.
The sidewalk and the meat of my palm met as I aimed for the grass, now a barely visible scrape. The Teenager declared we would turn around. I told her I could turn around and she could keep going, but she promptly declared this was a less-than-ideal experience for everybody.
Now, at this point, I have a new short-term disability claim open with Matrix, waiting to hear when and how often the hand rehab people want to see me. With past experience, I’m fairly certain it will be once a week. But, before committing to returning to work, I would prefer to talk to them and was hoping they would call back and see me today, and then, if necessary, I could email or hand-carry paperwork to my PCP to decide whether we would pursue the new STD claim for my hand or amend my intermittent leave parameters that cover my cerebral palsy.
My claims examiner is confused, and since I have not received all the information I need to make a decision, my answers are rather wishy-washy.
Also, the weather is calling for snow. And I have this nightmare of me leaving my house in a snowstorm when I already have mobility and hand issues.
I head to my beloved chiropractor, ready for her insight and her physical therapy knowledge. Meanwhile, my neurologist/physiatrist who I had had a brief texting conversation earlier in the day, texted and asked if anything else could be happening in my body to cause these issues. I’m typing the list of answers: lack of chiropractic care, lack of gym, lack of Baclofen, bruises on my legs, high blood pressure. I am scheduled to see her in early April.
And meanwhile– we still don’t have an answer for why my quads were burning a couple weeks ago and why my “normal” issues in my hip joints seem to be moving into my sacrum.
So when Nicole the Chiropractor gets her hands on me she declares that my hips and my sacrum are all locked up and my lower body is stiff. She gets everything moving and pushes everything around. And I stand up feeling like a jelly fish, so loose it takes me a while to remember how to walk.
I haven’t heard from the hand rehab people. The neurologist has probably finished her day. My right side is starting to ache a bit. I drive The Teenager to the post office and we stand in line behind a Karen who criticizes every customer in front of her for not using the post office correctly, gets to the counter, and very promptly gives my favorite postal clerk a hard time when she discovers that Priority Mail box she has packed her materials in is a Priority Mail box and will cost $17.10 to mail. Even before she hears this news, she badgers the postal clerk about how much it will be, and he’s confused because it’s a medium flat rate box so it’s $17.10. And she then snapped that she had to text the person receiving the package because that person will have to pay her back. The postal clerk suggests maybe she buy a different box from the postal supplies station in the lobby and then he could mail it for $10. But she grumpily agrees to pay the flat box rate.
We return from the post office– having mailed cookies to a friend of The Teenager who has joined the service– and I head into the house and realize I left my glasses in the car as my prescription sunglasses are on my face. I head back out to the garage and walk down the narrow cement steps to the car bay. Half way down, my ankle gives out, twists underneath me, and I somehow manage to lower myself to the ground without falling down the stairs.
I pick myself up. Everything feels solid. I text the neurologist. I return to the house. The Teenager expresses concern as I took too long to walk to the garage and back. I explain what happened.
She orders me out of the kitchen and she says she is going to make dinner and I am going to sit. I use the time to email my supervisors and call out for today, because I think it would be best if my body had some rest. I email my claim examiner and tell her to cancel my hand-related claim, because this whole incident is definitely something we have to deal with as a cerebral palsy issue. And I tell her if I need to contact my primary care doctor and have my intermittent leave parameters amended I will.
I ate a pile of peppermint kisses, a moon pie, and a rice krispie treat after dinner and washed it down with Diet Coke. Despite that, my weight is down more than two pounds this morning and my blood pressure is fine. My lower back and right side of my lower body hurts, but I’m hoping my morning dose of Baclofen will reduce the stress on my joints. My arm still hurts from my Tdap booster.
I had a mammogram scheduled for this morning with my “regular” radiology tech. I went into work late, which meant I could sleep in and isn’t that the best way to start a Monday morning? At five a.m. I woke and starting cuddling my foster cat, Tripod Louise, debating whether or not I should get up. I normally rise for work at 4 a.m. so I have time to do Parisian Phoenix stuff or creative writing before clocking into my shift at 6:30 a.m.
But as I lay there at 5 a.m. today, I realized that I had set up the delay feature on my amazing coffee pot, and yes I still adore my Ninja K-cup, travel mug, and standard carafe brewer. I had coffee waiting in the kitchen. If I waited much longer it might not be fresh. If I fell back to sleep, it might not even be hot.
I fed the fat cats their weight management food and went downstairs where I promoted my latest idea, the photo scavenger hunt book. Check Parisian Phoenix’s submission page for more info.
I arrived at the hospital for my mammogram at 8:05 a.m. I went into the lobby and grabbed my registration number. Luckily it was two away from the last number I heard called. I started rooting through my purse for the doctor’s order and found it crumpled and stained with coffee.
A Dose of Anxiety
While I don’t normally suffer from panic or anxiety, when my stress levels increase I am prone to physical sensations of anxiety. And I had forgotten how stressful I find doing any outpatient procedure at the hospital. Grab a number, sit in the main lobby, go to the registration office, go across the hall to radiology, check in at radiology, get called to mammography, traverse the hall, get changed, go into the mammography suite, chat with the tech, get smooshed.
It’s a lot of steps in rapid succession. I could feel my hard pounding and had to keep inhaling deeply through my nose to keep my chest from closing up.
Was I nervous? No. Afraid? No. Shy? No.
It was pressure. I felt rushed and out of control.
Building Up Another Woman
Once in the mammography suite, I learned my favorite tech would be retiring in eight days and staying on per diem because if she works one day a month she will maintain her medical insurance.
I told her I was happy for her, but also disappointed, because she did my first mammogram and she always made me feel comfortable. I told her I’m sure she helped a lot of women and that I hoped she enjoyed every minute of her retirement.
She called me sweet.
And she remembered me by my tattoo. Which is on my breast.
When I left the hospital, I got the sweetest text that our foster kitten Jennifer Grey (who moved to the Teenager’s room last night for better socialization) is adjusting well.
Forgive me, but I’m finding myself too exhausted to continue,
so from this line down, I am writing about Monday on Tuesday
4:30 a.m. Tuesday, drinking exceedingly strong coffee as prepped on the delay setting by the Teenager.
Measuring Challenge at Work
My anxiety from my hospital visit followed me to work. I clocked it 9:07, which made it hard to do the math of where my numbers should be for the day, but I settled on a total of 85 fixes. And I hit 85 fixes. I was at a table on the right, not my regular table on the left, which meant a subtle shift of balance and more pressure on my right hip. The warehouse outbound supervisor herself brought me 22 refixes, or the work already in a box, which were pivotal in keeping my numbers where I wanted them.
I heard rumblings among my colleagues that no one is hitting “full performance,” so I’m not the only one. We were joking at lunch that in a few months they may reduce their workforce by 50% if they dismiss everyone not meeting the new numbers. I don’t think they’ll do that. The company has always been more than fair in the past. At lunch, Southern Candy gave me homemade fudge. I ate too much of the deliciousness and spent the next couple hours a little queasy.
The murmurings report that employees that are shared to other departments must still hit 90% of the new numbers and that their performance in those other departments will count toward their monthly miss-the-mark allowance.
The goal for my department is 16.25 per hour, but does not include time off for our ten-minute paid breaks. So I use my own numbers. Hour one should be 17, hour two also 17, then ten minute break, and 15 to finish the third hour to reach the official numbers. It’s two more hours until my lunch, and I try to maintain 17 per hour to “make up” for our final ten-minute break of the day.
So I missed two hours and 37 minutes of work yesterday. If I divide one hour (60 minutes) by 16.25, I get 3.7 minutes per box. (For argument’s sake, let me point out that doing the same using 17 unites is 3.5 minutes. So we are talking about the impact of seconds, but it adds up.) I missed 157 minutes of work, so using their numbers I should have lowered my goal by 42.5 fixes but I couldn’t do that math in my head. We are six days into the new system and I’ve already missed my two days a month. I thought I made it with 85 fixes, but my official target might have been 87.5. That means I did 97%. We’ll see what they say today.
I know I talk a lot about the numbers at work, but honestly it’s part of what I love about the job. 1. Numbers don’t lie. You can discuss why the numbers are what they are and develop strategies to meet them. I find calculating the numerical benchmarks to be soothing and an objective way to see how my day is going. And, while my employer would hate to hear this, it’s a good reminder that sometimes you can’t work harder only smarter and not everyone had the capacity to hit 100% of arbitrary numbers every day.
The calculations and my podcast keep my mind busy and allow me to brainstorm what I need to do for my publishing business. If I have to work full-time, I would rather work the blue-collar warehouse job than a white-collar office job that destroys my intellectual capacity and short-circuits my brain with stress. 2. I preserve my creative energy for myself. Listening to publishing-related podcasts, various sources of news, other creators and even some bizarre non-fiction stories keeps my mental focus on my goals and allows me to give my full effort to my employer while still working toward my personal goals.
3. I love the clothes. I have followed Stitch Fix since they launched, when The Teenager was a preschooler and I still had a subscription to vogue. I love seeing, touching and preparing the clothes for their clients. I love seeing the fixes, their color combinations, their textures and I love imagining the person who would wear them. I also like to make judgments of whether or not we could be friends based on their box. Because if you’re on fix #72 and I think all the clothes are hideous, that’s your style and we can’t blame the stylist or the algorithm. And since I write fiction in the fashion world, I love seeing the new trends and which items become perennial offerings.
I also took two muscle relaxers, after not taking them during the weekend. I’ve been curious if some of the strange feelings I have in my legs are from when the muscle relaxers wear off or from missing a couple chiropractor appointments due to other doctors’ visits. The jury is out– but the bottom line is with the muscle relaxers, working out and chiropractic care my body moves easier.
A much awaited visit to Back in Line Chiropractic
After work, I filled my water bottle and headed to my friends at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. Not only is former physical therapist and chiropractor Nicole Jensen super smart and personable, but the staff contributes some extra care as well. When my schedule got out of control, office staff person B (as I don’t know if she would want me calling her out in a public forum) made sure I got not only one but two appointments so I could survive the holiday season with my mobility in tact.
I apologized to Nicole for letting three weeks go by without an appointment, and reassured her that I did not fall out of love with her. I summarized how life had gotten away from me, and by the time my trainer Andrew noticed that my legs were turning inward in an unusual fashion and I noticed I felt like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, I luckily had called B and had my appointment on the books.
The noises my body made were brutal, but it’s a weird feeling when you stand up and your feet and legs feel loose, move freer and have a more easygoing gait. It’s disorienting. But it’s a good reminder than sometimes I need more help than I realize.
Nicole then shipped me off to Andrew at Apex Training.
The brutal workout at Apex
I love Andrew. I really do. I respect the way he has learned my quirks and can read my form. He has learned ways to troubleshoot what my podiatrist calls my “challenging gait” due to my cerebral palsy. But last night was a killer core and shoulders work out. It was awesome, and murderous. I am gaining so much upper body strength and am very impressed with my lower body function gains.
We missed some workouts recently because Andrew caught a cold and then took some family time for the holidays, but I told him it wasn’t fair that he was punishing me with heavy weights when we lifted and high reps in the more cardio-based exercises. After all, he had canceled not me.
Needless to say, when I got home I ate the lovely dinner The Teenager (lamb, broccoli and hand-cut, homemade parmesan fries) prepared and collapsed in bed. To wake at 3:56 a.m. before my 4 a.m. alarm.
I asked for a table on the left today, because my body was so stiff, my hip sore and my toe felt like someone forced a knife through it and used it to anchor me to the warehouse floor. It happened about every hour, when the clock struck 20-something for some reason and lasted about four minutes as the pain slipped up the inside of my calf and hit my knee.
By 9 a.m., I had had enough. Interestingly, whereas yesterday I did 85%, today I believe I did 95%, and at 9 a.m. I was still about 97%. The left table had alleviated most of the stress on my hip.
I called the neurological physiatrist, and they could see me in April. The person who answered the phone would leave a message for the doctor, and her nurse would give me a call. Now, for the record, I missed that call which was around 4:45 p.m. because I was in an appointment with my chiropractor. But it looks like they may see me next week.
I also called my podiatrist, whose office manager scheduled me for 2:15 p.m. Friday and asked if she had a cancellation if I could come tomorrow. I said yes.
Around this time, a form went around via email asking who might be interested in a day off tomorrow. So I filled out the form.
I rushed home to take off my shoes and socks, and the toe looked fine. Well, red and a little swollen but not as bad as it felt. When I poked my toe and bent them all, my sore toe throbbed for several minutes afterward. So I elevated it.
I could feel the stiffness in my body and the phone kept registering asymmetry. I was very much looking forward to my visit with Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. Even lying on the table, it felt like my right hip was higher than the other. And when she put her hand against it, she verified that it was. And she pushed on it, like her palm was kneading bread. But in one motion, not back and forth. Okay, maybe the analogy is no good.
We both agreed that the toe thing needed to be sorted out, and that skipping tonight’s workout with Andrew might be best. Nicole manipulated my toe gently, and asked what hurt, and since nothing really bothered me at the angles she was working, she started adjusting my toes. They made some funky noises.
I also feel two inches taller and as relaxed as I can get when she gets done with me…
The predominant theory of what is happening: (according to Andrew, myself and Nicole) I had some intense turning inward of my left leg this week, which may be in part because of a 5-day-a-week work schedule when I’m used to a 4-day schedule in two different jobs versus just one now. Add this to the fact that my table is on the right, forcing me to constantly rely on my right side to move shipments, stand on tip toe to grab boxes and twist to get clothes. When my left leg twists, my right side compensates. And all of this might have caused me to stand forward on my toes more. The added pressure and their curvature made them rub and irritated them and maybe some nerve pain is resulting. And maybe a blister. Or not. Who knows?
But a year ago, I would have horrible pain and difficulty moving. Around the beginning of the year, I started falling. That makes me want to investigate and not take the chance that this toe could start the downward spiral all over again.
Unlike that magic splinter I got. But that’s an old story. Read it here.
Let’s hope the podiatrist has some ideas for prevention and relief.
Today was my first Monday day shift at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I worked second shift, then 10-hour shifts and now I have moved to Monday to Friday 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. After almost a year of 10-hours, 8-hours feels so short. And it feels like we’re always on break. And transitioning from a 15-minute break to a ten minute is disorienting to say the least.
After work yesterday, I went to the chiropractor, the amazing and dedicated Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. I feel like she’s learned my body to the extent that it’s personal to her, the challenge of keeping my misconstructed extremities functioning. I think she has this zone she gets into, where she’s plotting a strategy and it’s her against me, well, the physical form of me.
I felt my body start to compensate for my hip falling out of place yesterday. It didn’t hurt. It didn’t even feel wrong, but I noticed elements of my posture changing. A little more protest from the right side, leaning that way more heavily, occasional back pain.
I don’t have the best understanding of mechanics or physics, so my brain is slowly clicking when it comes to considering my femoral anteversion, which means the head of my femurs sit in my hip sockets kinda facing the wrong way making my legs kinda face backwards I guess, makes my bones put pressure on the socket at the wrong angle pushing it out of place? Maybe?
And me, either being a trooper or an idiot, did a 8-hour work shift on a Monday, where I performed at 95%, went to the chiropractor and then visited Andrew, my also amazing and dedicated coach at Apex Training. I think I scowled at him more than usual. The work out was brutal and ended with… what did he call them… offset dumbbell rows? Imagine kneeling on the bench and doing a dumbbell row with a 20 or 25 lb weight while holding the other leg up in the air.
Meanwhile, I reached out to David from The Cerebral Palsy and Fitness Podcast and asked if my discovery and fitness journey would be something of interest for his show, and he said yes. I also updated Andrew Gurza of Disability After Dark Podcast about my upcoming “Sex in the Text” panel at the Easton Book Festival. We had recorded an episode in June, but my parakeet (may he rest in peace, that might be what reminded me of the interview) made so much noise, we hope to rerecord an interview in November.
That’s fine with me, as so much has happened since June: my service dog application, new physical struggles and this “Sex in the Text” program for Easton Book Festival among them. I’m lagging behind on my preparations, which means I’ve been scanning my Fashion and Fiends novels for sex and jotting notes about themes, goals and techniques.
But then, my new computer Midnight came with a free trial of Apple TV, which made it ridiculously easy to subscribe to a free trial of Motor Trend‘s streaming channel. Why on God’s green Earth would I as someone with no understanding of physics or mechanics need Motor Trend? Three words: Top Gear America. It’s the only way to see Top Gear America featuring Dax Shepard and cars.
I don’t think it’s readily apparent from this blog, but I adore cars. If I had any sort of skill with tinkering, I would be more hands-on, but I am useless. But, I can still drive and appreciate cars. And I certainly admire and appreciate Dax Shepard from more than one angle. I just want to watch every available episode (there are two seasons available) and forget about the rest of the universe.
Which right now is tempting… because the episode on the Lamborghini, Bentley and Porsche SUVs had me laughing out loud. I started the hot rod episode but pried myself away for what ended up being a very trouble night of sleep. Bad dreams and body pain, to the point where I was up for an hour from midnight to 1 a.m., debating whether to pull the laptop into bed. I, instead, smeared my back and hips with CBD arthritis cream and drifted away into another uneasy three hours of sleep.
So much to do before the book festival, but the cars… and the Dax… call to me.
Yesterday might summarize recent trends in my life. I know I posted a blog post before I left for my last 10-hour shift at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. Monday I start a more traditional Monday through Friday shift. I’ll get home earlier, but I lose a day off. And I’m used to having Thursday and Friday off which is nice for running errands, making appointments with doctors and professionals, and for connecting with people regarding my business, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.
I still had my Friday nights and Saturdays, even if I had to head to bed earlier than most people want to on Saturday night.Many well-meaning friends and everyday people have made comments like “well that will be nice,” “no more long days” and “you’ll have your weekends back.”
But I’ll no longer have that feeling of “getting work over with” and I’m no longer part of a unique cohort. We worked alone in the building on Sundays, and that was peaceful, and for two hours every afternoon, we more or less finished the work the traditional day shift left behind.
So, I arrived at work yesterday morning, basking in the bliss of using my new Ninja DualBrew correctly. (I still have to buy coffee filters, but I love the ease of use, the temperature of the coffee, the different settings for the strength of coffee, AND how I can select just the right amount of coffee for me. The reservoir is cool for me, because it removes one more decision or step to screw up. I have been known to double fill the coffee pot when I forgot I already did it.)
On Sunday, I normally perform between 100 and 105 percent of daily metrics. I may have once hit 108. This Sunday, I hit 97. This annoyed me. It was the first sign that something was off. On Monday, I kept struggling. I didn’t really notice anything physically wrong but I did note that my toes on my right foot were really burning by the end of the day. Andrew, my wonderful coach at Apex Training, had asked if we could move Monday night’s session to Tuesday. I said sure.
I busted my butt for the rest of the day and hit at least 99 percent, but I may have hit 100. That’s when I noticed some residual issues in my body. Just that nagging sense that something was not right. I attributed it to working hard and not having my regular Friday appointment with Nicole Jensen at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. She had a class on Friday, so she had moved clients.
Tuesday I could feel my right hip turned wrong. It was a weird feeling, like my leg was facing the wrong way. In reality, it might not work that way but that’s how it felt. And my right hip was very tender to the touch. I still didn’t have any pain, but movement was getting harder. So I tried to stretch my hips during the day, but by the end of the day, I had only hit 90 percent and it had been hard. I asked Andrew if we could move the Tuesday session to Wednesday, worried that this was more of a structural issue than a muscular one and working out could push me from discomfort and mobility issues to actual pain.
And a year ago, I was in pain every day and I don’t want to go back to that. Ever. I was flipping through my journal and last year at this time I was starting every journal entry with a number from the pain scale. That broke my heart to see.
I took a muscle relaxer, stretched some more and went to bed after a nice meal. Wednesday morning I didn’t move any better, but I was no longer stiff. But by the time I got to work, my gut said this hip was really struggling to do its job. And I was about to stand on it for ten hours.
At 6 a.m., I called Nicole’s office and left a message. At 9:15, they called me back and scheduled me for 5:15 p.m. I knew that if I waited until my regular Friday appointment and forced that hip to work out, it would lead to pain and harder-to-fix problems.
I emailed my boss as I couldn’t find him and it turned out that he had called out sick. I arranged to leave at 4:30. By my calculations, I hit 87 percent. My right side just didn’t have the mobility it should. The drive to the chiropractor took about 20-25 minutes, and when I got out of the car, it felt like my right leg had fused and stretching it into a step felt ridiculously hard. But still no pain.
This is when cerebral palsy plays tricks on the brain. As I’m (what feels like) dragging my leg into the chiropractor, I started wondering, “maybe I just need to stretch,” “maybe there’s nothing really wrong and I’m just lazy and my muscles stiffened.” But then I remembered the burning toes. Something was pushing my posture forward and my body was fighting it. But I still had my doubts.
Now, no one has ever gaslighted me in the medical community, except maybe my first primary care physician who referred me to the wrong specialist in the days when I had an HMO. I now always have plans where I chose my physicians myself.
When Nicole entered the room, I explained what’s going on and she quickly confirms that yes, my hip was crooked. Like really crooked. She even made a hand gesture. And that my body had done other weird things to compensate. It all moved beautifully when she manhandled it. She pondered what caused this when we had just considered potentially spacing out my weekly appointments to every other week. Did I overdo it at work? Was it missing the adjustment Friday? Was it skipping my workout?
When I got up from the table, my feet did, as Nicole put it, sexy normal feet posture. My balance has improved dramatically in the last few months, and my strength has returned, and my stamina is definitely increasing.
I stepped out of the chiropractor and took some long, beautiful, easy strides.
It. Felt. Good.
No, it felt GREAT.
So, I don’t know how Nicole would feel about this, but I went to the gym. And let me tell you– Andrew delivered a brutal work out. We did split leg squats in sets of 20 reps each leg with weights. He said I was moving better than I ever had before and I said, yes, because Nicole had straightened my body and stretched out my lower extremities. Like, literally, just did. We did military presses with 25 lb dumbbells. We did core. We did upper body exercises like IYTs. And shoulder taps and mountain climbers and rope slams.
And then, before a shower or dinner, and it’s 7:30 p.m. now, I had to deal with the hellions in my room. I had to swap out and refill three litter boxes for the six cats in my room. I had to vaccuum. I didn’t clean the bird cages, but I did feed and water everyone. And I’m still wondering how the heck those four kittens have trashed my closet without opening the door.
I wanted to blog all this last night after I ate my omelet of cheddar, peppers, homemade farm-procured, roasted tomatoes. But I was exhausted.
Yesterday Nancy (my blind friend, poetry editor and my sassy mentor/ partner in crime) and I were in her bank. The other local branch of this big name bank had had some sort of building emergency. That office was temporarily closed, so the customers were lining up with us. The bank was understaffed (the man in charge had a lovely amiable personality and told us all if we wanted a job he needed two tellers immediately. I turned to Nan and asked if she wanted to apply. She laughed).
We were fourth in line, with a small brown man with an accent in front of us. He overheard me tell Nan something indirectly about my weight (the fact that I had worn jewelry made me jingle and I had on heels so I was unusually tall). And I said something about finally having the mindset to make an effort even if I hadn’t lost any of my stress-induced pandemic weight.
The man in front of us softly said, “you look great” (and when we left I got cat-called so it had to be true, I suppose). A few minutes later the man mentioned that seeing Nancy reminded him of the story of Jesus healing the blind man.
Now, before I continue this story, picture us in the chaos of an old-fashioned bank building, the arched ceilings and the old mega vault. Picture the long line, socially-distanced. Picture awkwardly-gaited me and the little old lady with the white cane on my arm.
I have heard the stories of disabled people dealing with religious folks who want to pray for them or with them. And this man muttered something about blindness being a blessing. And Nan mentioned something about disability teaching lessons to those around us and reminding us to have patience.
“It’s a blessing,” the man said.
Easy for him to say. It reminded me of something I heard on a podcast interview with a martial artist who has cerebral palsy. “I can do anything anyone else can do,” he said.
I mean, it’s the crap we always hear. And we can do anything anyone else can. But we also can’t. There’a footnote to that statement no one ever told me: you can’t expect to do it the same way they do it. You won’t look like them or necessarily achieve the same things in the same order. The able-bodied will never understand how different simple tasks that come easily for others can feel impossible to us. I spent my whole life trying to do what everyone else did, they way I saw them do it. But I didn’t understand that the physics of my body is very different from anyone else’s.
My legs and arms are often covered with brushes and scratches from bumping into things. I stumble and fall. But, I haven’t had a serious fall since August 3. That’s exciting. My average since the mallet finger has been every two weeks. I’ve now made it almost three. Today, I have my follow-up with my doctor, and I had called his office when I started the application process for a mobility dog through Susquehanna Service Dogs.
I’ve blogged about this most recently here. I connected some of my earlier posts about the process and decision here.
I asked his staff if he could fill out the medical form, because if he didn’t think he was the right person I could call my neurology physiatrist. She was/is amazing but I only met her once, two months ago. I have been with my primary care physician for 14 years.
His staff checked with him and they assured me that he not only fill out the form but that he would do it at my already scheduled appointment today. I normally see my doctor twice a year, in winter for my physical and in summer to review bloodwork and health issues that may pop up during the year.
When I ruptured my tendon in April, I visited him because my entire system was thrown off balance with the injury and although the specialist had allowed me to return to work (rightfully so), my hip was in pain and I was falling all the time. He signed me out of work for a short recovery leave of about three weeks, so I could work with Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training, my occupational therapists at The Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehab, and my talented chiropractor and physical therapy guruNicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center.
I have documented this journey and have started writing my cerebral palsy memoir, Gravity is a Harsh Mistress with clever title by my estranged but still strange husband. Blog posts with connections to cerebral palsy are listed here.
My primary care doctor followed up with me after my specialist visit and allowed me to return to work at the end of May, even though my finger was still in a cast. We made this decision because the effort I gave Andrew had paid off and my hip was no longer bothering me. In addition, I had my first meeting with my physiatrist a few days later and I wanted to see how I felt after a week back-to-work to relay that information to her.
Anyway, point is, I haven’t seen my primary care doctor since May. He hasn’t seen my healed finger. He hasn’t heard about some of my rather dramatically majestic recent falls.
My weight today was 155, which is more than five pounds less than what it was at the gynecologist’s office last week.
I arrived early. I was in my exam room before my appointment time. My friend Gayle was bringing me her laptop so I could work on the cat book edits. I told her to put it in my car as I didn’t have time to run to her house and didn’t know how long my appointment would be. She ended up at the wrong medical practice. There are two similar St. Luke’s affiliated family practices in neighboring buildings.
I was texting her and making notes waiting for the doctor. I noticed my phone buzz again. My mom had sent a photo via text. That’s odd, I thought to myself. Mom hasn’t said much to me since the Teenager and I surprised her companion on Father’s Day. She didn’t even text me when she went to Florida to visit family. So, what was this?
I opened it.
I shouldn’t have. It was my father’s tombstone. My mother, despite having divorced more than 30 years ago, visits my father’s grave regularly. She’s grieving him, as many people are, and she is also grieving two of her brothers who died in the weeks before my father.
I couldn’t hold back tears. I have not visited my father’s grave since the funeral, and even then I did not get out of the car. I don’t see the point. The funeral had alienated me, and I didn’t feel like I “belonged,” and that’s not due to my family. But my father wasn’t there anymore. It was a corpse. And I had no need to see it formally placed in dirt. He was gone. And no ceremony will change that. Even now, I’m crying again.
Several times I regain my composure and several times I lose it, until eventually the doctor knocks on the door. So, I had to explain.
I mean, I suppose I didn’t have to, but it seemed only fair.
That meant we spent the first ten minutes of my appointment talking about boundaries, grief, and therapy. I’ve been with my psychologist even longer than I’ve been a patient of my doctor and the two of them know each other and speak so sweetly and kindly about each other.
We moved on then I think first to my recovered mallet finger. We reviewed my bloodwork. I told him I had to go get more iron, as my previous bottle had run out and I was using a different iron that didn’t seem to be working as I told Nan yesterday that I “almost bought a pair of potato chips.” Now, when you’ve had a history of iron issues and anemia, word confusion is a symptom. And I have been using wrong words in speech for at least a week. So either the iron is dipping or I should be screened for early onset dementia.
I used this opportunities to ask if there were any other adjustments he wanted to make to my vitamin regimen. He suggested sticking with the 2000 ius of Vitamin D3 (which I take with calcium).
Next, we tackled the form for the service dog. Much to my relief, he thought the dog would be extremely helpful for me. And he also commended me for the work I do to take care of myself. In the evaluation for the service dog process, I was telling stories from the gym and mentioned how my ankle finally popped for my chiropractor Wednesday night, and how after my last fall I asked the Teenager to evaluate my walk, then she told Andrew this info at the gym, and he monitored my movement, until the next day I went to the chiropractor and she had to maneuver my hip back where it belonged.
She said I needed to do more single leg muscle stability work, which I then told Andrew, and I relayed to the doctor the horrible exercises Andrew made me do. And my doctor chuckled.
He once told me that he doesn’t worry about me because he knows if he tells me to do something I will do it. And I think Andrew and Chiropractor Nicole see the same commitment in me. My doctor today said this is why I am in better shape than many of his patients, despite my issues.
He handed me the completed form, which is the type of thing the office signs decry “requires 7-10 days” and payment of form fees. I am so grateful for my team, their respect and their guidance.
Meanwhile, while I am setting up my annual physical for February 2023, I see a text from Gayle. Remember Gayle? Apparently, she forgot my current car was a Volkswagen and was wandering in the parking lot looking for a silver Nissan. (My last car was a red Altima.) I didn’t have my Stitch Fix parking permit on my mirror. The car was clean because The Teenager has her own vehicle now. And there were four silver cars– none of the Nissans– in the parking lot.
She meandered around so long that a staff member came out and asked if she was sick or needed help. When I left the building, Gayle was next to my car. I had been with the doctor for an hour.
“You’re still here?” I said.
“I’ve been out here 45 minutes,” she said. “So when you replied to my text I figured I might as well stay and say ‘hi.’ What’s five more?”
Sometimes, these entries feel repetitive. I hope they don’t feel like that to you, the reader. But, in many ways, life is certainly repetitive.
Whether it be the old house always needs attention, the dog is always sick, a struggle with weight, mental or physical illness, a bad boss or money problems, each of us seems to have that troubling thing with which we grapple.
If you don’t have that thing, I would love to read your memoir (or maybe not— I might throw it across the room).
So if you keep stopping by or my blog posts keep popping up somewhere in your life, I know I’ve been talking about cerebral palsy a lot. It’s that thing for me, especially right now, as I topple through the second half of my forties.
I have spend most of my life— until the last decade really— denying that that thing made my life difficult. I laughed off accidents, tried to hide my legs, carefully picked my shoes and didn’t talk about it.
But also, and very important in the chronology, until that point, it hadn’t really been an issue. I occasionally feel down, scraped some knees and hands and laughed about it.
But then I started breaking bones, having issues with my spine and hip, and when I fall now, it’s more serious that wash up some scraped flesh and laugh it off.
So, if you don’t already realize, these blog posts are meant to be informative for those seeking situations involving demiplegic spastic cerebral palsy, but also chronicle my acceptance and journey into how to live my life with my disability instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.
We’re learning to co-exist, cerebral palsy and I, in a way that allows me to stay active, be whole, and keep myself safe.
On Monday, I had an uncharacteristic fall at work that seemed to come randomly out of nowhere. I wrote about it here. It scared me because it didn’t feel like my other falls.
I left work at 11 a.m. and came home to rest and write and emotionally decompress. I was scheduled to go to the gym at 6 p.m.
I texted Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training. He moved my session to earlier in the day and The Teenager and F. Bean Barker accompanied me to the gym to study my walking and confer with Andrew about the possibility of a work out.
We scarcely made it two blocks and The Teen says, “Holy Shit, Mom. You’re right knee is hitting your left leg. You can’t feel that?”
She proceeds to mimic my gait. After half a block, she looks back at me and says, “No wonder your body hurts so much all the time, my hip is killing me already.”
It might seem mocking for her to imitate me on a city street, but for me it’s helpful since I can’t see myself move. That’s why I also like her accompanying me to various assessments as she has no problem telling doctors, “She’s having a good day today. When she’s tired that leg is much fuckier.”
She and Andrew studied me and they stared in bewilderment. They agreed that my left hip was definitely out-of-whack. The Teen left and Andrew got me stretching and doing a thorough workout that safely challenged the muscles that seemed to be malfunctioning.
As happened on Monday when I was achy, the workout made me feel better (which is why I didn’t want to cancel). I have never been good at not overdoing it, so the concept of “being gentle with myself” as my therapist says and “taking it easy” (both emotionally and physically) as my dad would remind me if he were still here, does not come easily to me. It’s especially hard because spasticity means my muscles don’t relax, so motion and exercise really can relieve my symptoms. But if my issues are joint and/or fatigue related exercise can make it worse. And I don’t often know which course of action will help.
I proposed this theory to Andrew: Since cerebral palsy means the brain and the nervous system can’t always communicate, I feel like sometimes those messages goes haywire. That’s when a good, supervised workout (where Andrew can guide my motions and direct me as to what body parts are doing unnatural things) helps my brain re-learn those communication skills. The muscles start to do what they should do because I am thinking consciously about how to do it, which helps the muscles get into the groove, and from there muscle memory takes over, and through doing, the brain resets.
Just my theory.
I woke up Thursday morning with minimal discomfort from my fall (and a new lump and bruise where I walked into a weight bench at the gym, which made Andrew feel terrible). I was looking forward to my appointment with Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center on College Hill in Easton, Pa.
Her daughter had joined her in the office. That made it interesting to have a different kind of conversation about my condition. I was a good example of two things: every patient is different and some patients have self-awareness about their body. And according to Nicole, I am one of the most self-aware in the practice. I was also an unusual example of someone who often “does better” in heels because of the fact that my heel parts (tendons? ligaments?) are so tight. I’m a toe-walker. My heels natural fall at an angle so a slight “kitten” heel replicates the shape of my feet.
I told Nicole about the latest “random” fall and this worried her, because she’s noticed (and I have tracked on a calendar) that my falls have gone from every six weeks to every two weeks. I mentioned that I applied for a mobility service dog through Susquehanna Service Dogs. She loved this. She agrees that I am the perfect candidate for this and that a dog could be a game changer.
I explained that I had mailed the application last week (Friday to be exact) and that The Teenager and Little Dog’s Mom had said they would write my letters of support (which means they support the placement of the dog with me and will take responsibility for making sure I take proper care of the dog once it is in my home). The Teenager planted the idea of a service dog in my head and it took some time, research and more falls to help me accept the idea that I have a disability and that a dog would be able not only to help, but would probably improve (and protect) my quality of life. The Teenager works for a local pet care company.
Little Dog’s Mom has known me for 20 years, trusts me to care for Her Ladyship Sobaka, and is a very responsible dog owner who takes often thrice-daily walks and has a magnificent fenced back yard. A potential service dog would have my small yard for potty breaks and the opportunity to run and play across the street at Little Dog’s house.
My doctor’s office assured me that if I bring the medical assessment form with me to my August 19 check-in, that my primary care physician would not only fill out the form but he would also do it while I was there. I asked my estranged husband of twenty years (and The Teen’s father), the president of the cat rescue where I foster (who left the social work business after decades to open Apricity Pet Care), and my therapist (who has known me for a decade and whose wife is a physical therapist) to fill out the personal reference forms. They all agreed. But back to the chiropractor…
Nicole also said to stand on one foot throughout the day to stabilize my leg muscles. Physical therapy is a fascinating science, the simplest movements can impose the greatest change. My blind friend Nancy discovered that a good portion of her shoulder pain and finger numbness stemmed from not stretching her neck up. As a blind person, she never has a need to turn her head toward the sky or ceiling or someone speaking from the stairs or seeking something on the top shelf by looking for it.
When her very clever physical therapist suggested stretching her neck regularly, her symptoms decreased significantly.
There it is. A lot of words. A lot of thoughts. I’m hoping this post will give you food for thought, reassure you that I am not totally a disaster waiting to happen and/or offer you information on my journey and hope for you if you need it.
This is another post mostly about my journey into learning more about my body and cerebral palsy.
First off, before I jump into my update, let me give a huge shout out to “the teenager” who solved an issue in my kitchen that had been a thorn in my dad’s side for more than a decade.
I once had him over for a dinner party in the early days of owning this house and during said dinner party, I set a candle on fire in the kitchen. It burned a hole in the countertop. My dad thought he’d buy a replacement as a Christmas present as the counter is probably three feet long.
Problem was it’s an unusual chunk in the corner and needed to be custom cut.
Somehow the teenager got the idea of applying special contact paper designed for counters.
It looks pretty damn cool— my dad would be very proud.
I’ll have to dig up a before photo.
In other news, my boxes of Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money arrived. (Purchase on Amazon here.) I have an official unboxing planned and a blog entry for Parisian Phoenix but my body is having a minor revolt so the debut will be postponed until tomorrow. AND my credit card reader came.
I do love what Gayle did with the cover.
And now on to my experiment… The background… On Sunday, I performed at 99% preparing packages in Freestyle— pretty impressive considering we had computer problems and a work shortage. And we worked all 10 hours. Yesterday I worked eight hours in my home department and did 131 fixes, which I believe was 101%.
I knew I had a chiropractor appointment at 5 p.m. Monday so I asked Dan, my physical trainer at Apex Training if he would be around for a workout. I knew it might be light, after a workday in the warehouse, but wondered if my body would move differently after visiting Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center.
Nicole made sure everything was stretched and aligned and off I went.
And Dan led me in what would be a light leg workout for most— a lot of squats and floor exercises. He was impressed and honestly I didn’t have to concentrate as much as I usually do.
I woke up this morning in no real pain, and through most of my days doing women’s returns processing, my aches and pains were muscular and not skeletal.
But then, I took a small walk around the neighborhood and things started feeling off. My phone later revealed that my walk was indeed asymmetrical.
So I took a shower and plan to go to bed early as my body is stiff and achy. We’ll see how I feel in the morning.