Jul
2016

summer of healing redux

Happy belated 4th of July!

Since my last blog post, things have improved with my ankles, although I wouldn’t say I’m operating at 100%. In fact, thanks to my Vivosmart band I know that I’ve upped my daily steps from 4k to 6k. If I ever hit more than that, it’s from steps earned in the pool. And that’s OK. One day I’ll get to 10k! The last round of physical therapy had me doing leg presses and a lot more balance moves. And I FINALLY gained some calf muscle back!

Another thing that’s helped–besides warmer temps–is the Tiger Tail.

[I don’t have any pics of me with it, but maybe I’ll edit this post to include one].

Ragnar Cape Cod #RagnarRelays #TigerTailUSA

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In fact, I’m kind of annoyed that my physical therapists never told me about it. I kept saying [remember I’m nearly 3 years into this pain] how difficult it was to use my big foam roller to work my legs, but no one ever suggested it. I can tell already that it’s saving me, both in terms of recovery time after more active days and in money that I’d typically spend on massage or acupuncture appointments. Score!

So overall, I’m in a much more positive place with my recovery. I’m standing more in Zumba, but still have a chair nearby in case I need to take a break from the weight-bearing. But that’s rare. I’m even adding new songs that I would’ve been too scared and weak to do before. Here’s one:

[OK I don’t do that jumping jack move, but it feels AMAZING to be salsa-ing again]!

I’m also teaching mat pilates every Monday, which has been a fun addition to my schedule. Aquacize and Aqua Zumba are still happening too, so I’m keeping busy.

And in 10 days we leave for Australia! Here’s a pic from the last day of our 2014 trip, taken in the Cairns mall:

14953955789_b0fa746d36_z

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was slightly worried about the long travel day and not having access to my chiropractor and acupuncturist, but I’m making plans and packing my compression socks and epsom salts. And the Tiger Tail!

Another post to come this weekend about my academic pursuits. Here’s a quick preview:

  • sabbatical application
  • course proposals
  • research agenda [FANDOM FOCUS!]
  • program director woes
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Apr
2016

tomayto tomahto tendonitis tendonosis

And the beat goes on… with the feet not improving much

Since a rheumatologist ruled out arthritis and fibromyalgia in February, my podiatrist [4th one I’ve seen] thinks my flat feet are the root cause [a mechanical issue] despite my wearing custom orthotics and living a life of limited activity. According to last year’s MRI, there’s not much in terms of inflammation, no tears, and no thickening of the tendons, which would change things from tendonitis to tendonosis. But given what’s described below, I really think this is term I should be using:

Symptoms can vary from an ache or pain and stiffness to the local area of the tendon, or a burning that surrounds the whole joint around the affected tendon. With this condition, the pain is usually worse during and after activity, and the tendon and joint area can become stiffer the following day as swelling impinges on the movement of the tendon. Many patients report stressful situations in their life in correlation with the beginnings of pain, which may contribute to the symptoms.

Swelling in a region of micro damage or partial tear may be detected visually or by touch.

Yet I managed to get another order of physical therapy, and the therapist says that no matter tendonitis or tendonosis the treatment plan would be the same, so this time I’m focusing on calf raises and hip strength. I’ll be honest, though: I don’t see myself ever returning to all the activities I used to do, not even walking. If the tendons haven’t healed by this point…and since all the docs I see are puzzled by how long it’s taking…. Ugh. I just want a pain-free life.

I know I’m repeating myself, but while I’ve been in a good mental place about a “new normal” in 2016, my recent trip to Seattle for a conference [which will get its own post because it was awesome] made me see how limited I really am when it comes to travel. I’m not sure why, other than a beat up pair of Keen boots that perhaps didn’t offer enough support, but I had a major flare up on my travel day and that made me anxious during the entire 6-day trip. Even with my husband traveling with me and knowing I could take an Uber wherever I wanted, the burning ankles drove me crazy since I hadn’t had that sensation in a few months. It’s also feeling like shin splints, and when it hurts more in my strong foot, leftie, I really start to freak out.

I don’t think anyone can really understand how chronic pain feels unless they have it. We’ve all had an injury or two happen, but this is something that I’ve been dealing with since September 2013.

Think about that.

Nearly 3 years.

Every day I have to put shoes on before I can take one step. Every day I count how many steps I’m taking to make sure I don’t over do it. Every day I need to plan out when I can stretch or eat so I can take my meds and supplements. And I’m not exaggerating when I say every week this year I’ve had some sort of doctor, PT, acupuncture, or chiropractor appointment.

All of that takes time and is mentally exhausting. Even though I know I should “rock what I got,” I can’t help but notice people moving in ways I can’t. Yes, I can typically get through my day with only minor aches and pains [although that’s because I hardly do anything weight-bearing if I don’t have to]. Yes, I have a renewed focus on my academic research agenda and I happily continue to teach Zumba Toning from a chair, but I can’t help but ask, Why won’t my feet heal? Other people with flat feet go about their lives. Why are mine so different?

I don’t know what this is, but I want one! Better yet, turn me into Gazelle from Kingsman: Secret Service!

Blogging about this, of course, helps, and I recently read about the chronic illness support network Suffering the Silence in “The Social Media Cure”:

Social networks “offer opportunities for people without pain to better understand the experience of having pain,” but they also offer chronically ill people the chance to convene with others who understand what they’re going through. They offer relief, if not from the symptoms of pain, then from the burden of explanation. (emphasis mine)

That final line says it all, and might be why my trip to Seattle was so problematic. I had some time to see friends I hadn’t seen in about a year and I know they noticed my lack of progress. Worst of all, some remarked, “You’re still dealing with this?”

With that, I need to end this post. I’m not angry at anyone, and if I weren’t experiencing chronic pain I probably wouldn’t comprehend it either, but I just wanted to give everyone an update.

Given my “day job” as an internet researcher, I know I’ll spend some time looking at the #spoonies, #invisibledisability and #sufferingthesilence hashtags.

P.S. If anyone with SAGE database access can get me full text of The thing about pain: The remaking of illness narratives in chronic pain expressions on social media,” I’d be forever grateful!

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Jan
2016

hang in there

To keep it short and simple, yes, I’m still dealing with foot pain.

If I had written this post before the Winter Break, it would have been much more negative and anxiety-ridden. My thoughts were consumed with how I would get through the holidays, both physically since there was travel, and mentally, since I knew I’d have to explain my limited mobility to friends who might have read this blog but didn’t realize how slow I have to walk.

Things were going well in October, but then I had another flare up, even though nothing in my routine changed. But I saw my doctor, kept up with the acupuncture, replaced ibuprofen with Chinese herb supplement, turmeric, and b-12, and I’m holding steady.

I’m also “hanging in there” and waiting for an appointment with a rheumatologist. When things get really bad, I feel burning in both ankles, so we need to see if there’s an arthritic issue or something causing joint pain that hasn’t been detected on the x-rays and MRIs. While I’d love some sort of diagnosis and directive for how to proceed, here’s hoping he doesn’t detect anything and it’s just a very long recovery period for my tendinitis. My podiatrist seems to think that can’t be the case since structurally there’s very little wrong with my foot and I have good range of motion, but I truly don’t know what to think anymore. Given that it’s a new year, I’m focusing only on living as pain-free a life as I can. If that means walking slowly and sitting more than standing, so be it.

Speaking of sitting, I’m still teaching Zumba Toning at the gym while seated in a chair and everyone loves it. They say it’s been very easy to follow, and I have another student [who also has gone through Zumba training] up on stage with me showing off the footwork. We’ll be doing a variation of this ab routine tomorrow so stop by!

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Oct
2015

My #NerdConStories Story

#nerdconstories

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I’m trying to remember how I first heard about NerdCon, and I think it was via a visit to Rainbow Rowell’s website in late April. I had just read Fangirl and wanted to see what else she had coming out and if she would be on a book tour doing signings. (I was also only a few weeks into my time in that godawful boot cast, so reading and coloring were major stress relievers. Still are, but that’s for a separate post.)

Fast forward to the big weekend, which far surpassed any expectations. Actually, I don’t know if I had any expectations other than hearing smart people talk about cool stuff. And getting my Rainbow Rowell books signed:

Thank you @rainbowrowellbooks! #nerdconstories #fangirl #meta

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❤️ @rainbowrowellbooks #fangirl #nerdconstories #40

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She’s awesome and I got to tell her how Fangirl inspired me to propose a course on fandom/fan creations/participatory media. But this isn’t a post about that. Believe me, I’ll update you with those specifics once they are written down in complete sentences. Right now I just have a stack of books, a folder with sample syllabi, and a padlet of ideas.

Like I said, I didn’t really go in to NerdCon with specific expectations, but each and every minute in that MSP Convention Center was beyond wonderful:

  • Podcasters, vloggers, artists, and writers, all of whom are fans of the other podcasters, vloggers, artists, and writers there, spoke about why stories matter, the roles of the creators, the different things communities of fans can do, and the need for safe spaces to discuss this kind of stuff.
  • Hilarious things happened: juvenilia, games, mock debates, musical performances.
  • Celebrated authors like John Green, Pat Rothfuss, Rainbow Rowell, Dessa Darling, and Téa Obreht shared their feelings about writing and the other stuff that comes along once your writing takes off. It’s usually good stuff, but there’s tons of bad advice and frustration too. At one point I felt they needed this panel more than we did!

But I NEEDED this weekend too, and that’s what was most unexpected.

It wasn’t the usual academic mumbo-jumbo with which I surround myself. As a tenured professor of English, I obviously love the academic side of things, but this year has been A BEAST. Personally (cue the chronic pain) and professionally (thanks for nothing, Gov. Walker), it’s all I can do to get through the day. Last week, I sketched out my schedule for the week and even wrote down what hour I knew I’d be home so I could turn my brain off and pause the performance that is Dr. Daisy.

I thoroughly enjoy teaching and I’ve got a great group of students this Fall, but sadly I don’t get to spend a lot of time focused on them. I’m in depressing meetings about budget cuts, writing reports to defend the stuff we need, or trying to navigate the wreckage of mistakenly sent emails since a ton of staff have either switched jobs or took the early retirement deal.

I NEEDED this weekend to remind me that smart people who like to read and write and live-tweet exist. I know I have people in my life and on my campus who also like to do those things, but I needed to be literally surrounded by 3,000 strangers who like those things to remember how great that feels. And that all our stories matter.

However, one of those 3,000 people wasn’t a stranger. She was my Digital Humanities student, Sara. I didn’t see her until the very end of yesterday’s events, but I kept up with her tweets all weekend. This one links to her blog post, “What it Feels Like to Be in Your Element,” and the paragraph below totally inspired me to write this post today:

I go to college and I often get wrapped up in the stress (so much stress) that comes with it, like money and classes and decisions about the FUTURE. But being here at Nerdcon, I’m in such a good mental environment. I’m with my people, and it’s the best mini vacation I could have asked for. I’m seeing my heroes discuss topics that resonate so deeply with me, and I feel so light and great. I’m writing this post to remember that feeling and hopefully find a way to reach it again when I’m stressed in the future.

On Sundays like this I can easily slip into a routine of laundry, house cleaning, and Netflix, which invariably leaves this blog neglected. Today, though, my eyes have not left this laptop screen and it’s been all good. I’ve gained some new followers on Twitter, found some great resources for my PCA roundtable on “Shame, Gender, and Cultural Capital: The Problems of Reading and Writing Fan Fiction” like “Why must we hate the things teen girls love?” and “Mental Health Awareness Week 2015: How to Use Your Fangirl Powers to Practice Self-Care,” and have started a Storify to recap my favorite moments from NerdCon. When I’m done with that, I’ll post it here, but right now I’m going to log off and read a book.

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