Tuesday, September 11, 2007

When life throws a curve ball....

You know the saying you heard from your mother OVER and OVER and OVER?

Life isn't fair. It's true. It's not fair. It's not always nice, it's not always easy. I guess that is what makes us who we are. How we choose to deal with things, how we choose to live our lives...

Just when I was beginning to feel normal (as normal as an IRONMAN can be) again. IT band issues resolved. Confidence back.... It's time for yet another speedbump.

I've posted a little bit about what has been going on with me. Then, I haven't been able to find the words to describe what is really going on.... I think I'm finally getting there.

It started out as left shoulder pain, turned left neck & shoulder pain, turned left and right shoulder and neck pain. Ok, time to do something about this.

The pain started a few weeks before Ironman. The left shoulder pain that is. I figured it was an overuse injury. But 2 months of swimming with NO improvements and the pain getting worse, and expanding.

My good friend Sara is a nurse practitioner. She convinced me to give the chiropractor in her office a shot at helping me. He works mostly with athletes (a must in my book), so I went to see him for the first time a few weeks ago. I got immediate relief from the pressure in my neck, but the arm pain was still there. And getting worse. I began having trouble sleeping because everything hurt so much. I wake up in a tremendous amount of pain.

Based on some advice (thanks Di!) Sara had me go get an x-ray last Friday. It explained a lot. The report said: "C4-5 "congenital partial fusion" and slight subluxation of C5-6 (where one vertebra is pushed forward more than the other)."

What has been explained to me is that basically I have NO disc between a couple of the vertebrae, and there is fusion between a couple of the others. It's congenital. I was born this way. AKA - I'm screwed.

Now, you think this would come as a shock to me, but it is not. You see, ever since I was teenager I've been dealing with these weird issues.... I played competitive volleyball my whole life. I was on several club teams, including one very select team that traveled all around the pacific northwest and southern California playing in tournaments. We were the ones to beat.

I started getting sever back pain when I was 16. It would get to the point where I would fall to the floor when I was serving a ball. The pain was shooting down my right side to my toes. I was in and out of Dr's offices, physical therapy and orthopedic specialists.

My MRI showed the same as my mothers. A form of spina bifida occulta. In my families case, a portion in the spine where there is a gap. I struggled with this pain for years. I ate Advil like it was candy, and in turn can no longer stomach due to ulcer problems. There were days when I would swallow 1600mg 4 times per day. Some days the pain was less, some days it was more. I had trouble sitting in classes for a long period of time...

Slowly, as I figured out how to control the pain with heat and stretching and not sitting, nor standing for long periods of time, and also after giving up Volleyball I got active again. I was in college and started running and cross training and sure enough the pain went away, or was a lot more mild. I would still have flare ups, and to this day still do, but it's nothing like before....

Then there was the whole knee pain, IT band stuff. Which, my PT is convinced came about because of my back issues and leg length discrepancies..... See, it's all tied together. But, once again I fought for 3 years in pain. I never gave up. I had doubts I would ever run again..... I no longer have any of those doubts or fears.

My mom and my sister live in this kind of pain I described daily. My sister is still seeking a "cure." and my mom, well I think my mom has given up. She's unhealthy and she's not active and her response to my latest neck issue was -

"You just have to learn to live with the pain and manage it."

My response - "I refuse to. I have an active life and I will continue it."

So, I'm trying to keep the best attitude I can, and thankfully my knee surgery was successful so it makes it a little easier to see the light a the end of the tunnel. The chiropractor is helping, but he's only helping relief the tension in my neck. My arm pain is so bad sometimes I can't even lift a pan from the stove or scrub a dish. It is the worse in the morning, then other times it just kinda starts while I'm moving a certain way. I just have no space or disc in a couple of places so it's putting all this pressure on a nerve.

It has been suggested that I see a pain specialist about getting epidural injections into my neck. Sara is going to talk with the specialist in her office about me and get his opinion. I'm leaning towards trying the epidural injections to get the inflamed nerve calmed down. It's not a "cure" - there really is no cure.

I feel like if I can get it calmed down and get my upper body moving and loose again in the water I will be ok. I've had a lot of neck things in the past, I always just thought it was bad sleeping, posture, heels, tight muscles. I can deal with the neck - just need tissue work and heat, etc. It's this arm thing I can't deal with. I don't know if my theory on getting the inflammation of the nerve down, then swimming is right, but at this point it's really my only option besides surgery, which to me, isn't an option....

It's all just so frustrating. It's not fair. It's not right. But then again, I've come to realize that maybe that is why I love all of this crazy endurance stuff I do. It's not easy for anyone, and I feel like it's particularly not easy for me (not to take away from anyone else). I have a lot going against me and to me, when I reach a finish line, it makes me feel like I've accomplished so much more because I have to try so damn hard.

The easy thing would be to give up, and give in. And, that is never going to happen. I can sit here and feel sorry for myself, which I have to admit I do sometimes, but of course it gets me nowhere.

Tell me no, or tell me that I can't do it, and I will prove you wrong.


Paul said...

Good luck working through it! It sounds like you've got the right attitude. :)

Sherah said...

If I know you, this will not beat you! You have learned so much about training smart and working hard. You can overcome this challenge!!! Oh, and don't forget how much red wine helps to calm the "nerves!"

Spokane Al said...

Oh my, I am so sorry to hear about your issues. You seem to have some real experts working your issues so hopefully they can rectify the root causes so you can get on with doing what you love.

Actually I don't think life threw you a curve ball, I think you were hit by a pitch.

I will be sending good thoughts your way.

Erin said...

So sorry to hear about all this. I, too, am a long-time sufferer of back pain, and there's really nothing worse (well, apparently, other than radiating-down-the-arm pain). But you have a fantastic attitude, and my best wishes for a way around all of this!

Benson said...

Yeowee! That all sounds kinda crappy. Sorry to hear that. That kind of pain would make me crazy. Oh yeah, that's right, you are crazy...you're a Triathlete.
You've got guts and the right mindset. I'm sure you'll work through it.

Andra Sue said...

Oh my. This all just sucks! I'm sorry to hear that your shoulder/neck/arm problem has turned out to be more serious than you'd hoped. BUT--I have faith that you'll get it figured out. Mostly, because it always sounds from your posts like if you have to sit still for more than 2 minutes you'll go insane. And I mean that in the best possible way. :)

momo said...

i cannot imagine, in a million years, you "giving up or giving in". nope - not the girl i know. keep doing what you know you need to and i have faith your body will respond - it has to! i need you back in the pool to race me, i'm too lazy right now!

Di aka "Mrs Bigun" said...

So. There you have it. Now you know what's going on so you can move on!! ;) lol, easier said than done, but you will and you'll do great. Funny how we have these "issues" with our bods(unbeknownst) our entire life and then one day, out of the blue our bods start SCREAMING "ENOUGH!!" WTH? But, knowledge is power. I have always believed, there are no REAL problems, just different solutions.