Surgeries for Old People in Young Bodies

If you like feet, then you’re really going to like this post. If not, sorry but just skip right through to the end.

God, I’m too young to have this much damage going on in my body. I have talked a lot on this blog about my chronic back pain and the never-ending search for relief, including pain management, MRIs (I just went through old paperwork and since 2011 I’ve had 6 MRIs on my back ALONE…that can’t be good, right?), yoga, PT, chiropractors, heat, ice, acupuncture pressure pads…it sucks. It’s stuff that as a former athlete you know is going to come your way, but no matter what, you’re really never prepared for how much mental energy it takes to deal with on a daily basis.

When I was younger, from ballet to basketball, I sprained my ankle nearly 14 times. Around my mid 20s, it had gotten to the point that I was wearing a brace daily because of the weakness and constant pain. No orthopedist could tell what was wrong because on the MRIs, I had no scar tissue. Well, it turns out I had continuously stretched out the ligament but hadn’t torn it in years. It wouldn’t even swell anymore when I would sprain it.

All the years spent overcompensating on my left leg had left my right leg with underdeveloped muscles and general weakness throughout. I still struggle with this today, which is no doubt why my back pain persists so much. For close to 15 years, my gait, how I stand, sit, everything was affected by my ankle sprains and over-strengthening of just my left leg.

I finally met with a podiatrist who correctly diagnosed my issues and boom, we had a plan. I had reconstructive right ankle surgery in January of 2011 and that was a GNARLY surgery to heal from. I was in crutches for 3 weeks and a walking boot for 3 more weeks, and it still took WELL over a year for me to move around almost normally.

That surgery was life changing, and all thanks goes to Dr. Camasta at Village Podiatry. The surgery took my pain away, allowed me to really pursue exercise full throttle without having to hold back.

No don’t get too far ahead of me. I still can’t put my right foot flat without some discomfort in Warrior 1, over 7 years later because it seems the ligament was put back together and overtightened. But that surgery was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

As the years go on, other things start to fall apart, much quicker than expected. I’ve had bunions since my pointe shoe days destroyed the normal shape of my feet. They never really hurt and never bothered me except aesthetically. But in the last 4 years, the pain came on and got worse as the days went by. My left in particular became more and more deformed and was constantly in throbbing pain. I decided this past year was the final year with that hideous, malformed, and painful bunion.

I’m 34 by the way, not 60.

Here’s the before picture (I warn you, it’s bad):

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Calcium deposits and all. The blood underneath my big toenail was from when I dropped a full paint can during our renovation period last year. It was super fun and not painful in the least.

That bunion was so painful. My big toe was starting to go behind the other toes which is definitely not a good sign. It wore holes in shoes, the nerve was being compressed between the bone and skin, and it was just fugly. Once again, a podiatrist entered and changed my life last August.

I was terrified for this surgery, honestly. All I’ve ever heard is how painful the surgery and recovery is, and oh god, I have such a low pain threshold…I just knew I was in for hell. I also don’t do well under general anesthesia as I get VERY nauseated. Did it happen again where I was vomiting in recovery because they didn’t give me enough anti-nausea medication? You betcha!

Lo and behold, my doctor, Dr. Gary Katz was a godsend. I only took 2 pain pills the day after surgery and never again after that. Not a single shock of pain, nothing, nada. He was a wizard.

Every week I had to go back to change out the wrapping, which was worth it because that meant I could have a walking boot immediately after the 1st week and for nearly 7 weeks after (thanks Hurricane Irma). I didn’t need crutches this time, I could drive since it wasn’t my driving foot, and the walking boot meant that I could exercise and move around freely-ish.

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the day of surgery, Aug 3, 2017

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my surgeon had jokes for me to discover

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after the initial splint was removed

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hello bruising, 2 weeks later

It was night and day. The pain was finally gone, and every week got better and better.

I returned to have the pin removed in December and that was it. No mas follow ups, nothing. I’m free.

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These days, it aches a bit when I stretch it, but that’s to be expected. I recovered about 10x faster than after my ankle surgery and no doubt, it’s what really caused my back to go nuts. I’m now down to 1x/week for PT and working daily (sometimes hourly) on strengthening the hell out of my right leg. It’s a work in progress. Slowly but surely, I’m eradicating pain where I can and doing what I can to alleviate it where there’s no sure path.

Today is a good day when I think of how far I’ve come.

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Now go and enjoy lunch!

♥, VB

 

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No, I Didn’t Forget I Had a Blog

It is laughable how terrible I’ve been at updating this thing.

I’ve been stepping away from using FB more and more ever since I rejoined last year after close to a 9 month hiatus. It just sucks. I’ve had to hide so many people now: the majority of my extreme right-wing friends — the ones who keep posting about how gun control is the same as “giving our rights away” (complete effing nonsense); the ones who keep posting about Rodan & Fields/Plexus/stupid ass diets that don’t work; the ones who keep posting pictures of their half-naked bodies in an attempt to get compliments but who claim modesty and humility (EITHER STOP DOING THIS OR JUST CALL IT WHAT IT IS); the ones who go on just to start fights with anyone who doesn’t 100% agree with their political views.

This is just exhausting and no longer fun to look at. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss the days when it was just all weddings and babies and football posts.

So instead, I’ve been living my life on Instagram and/or offline as fully as I can. We’ve been having so much fun as a couple lately, ever since NYE (WHICH WAS 3 MONTHS AGO) and I don’t see this train stopping anytime soon. Life has been busy, as per usual, what with my full time job, 2 classes that I teach Monday and Wednesday evenings, supervising 3 part-time student employees, completing my Wellness Coaching certification, and getting ready to hire a full-time employee whom I will be supervising starting this summer. Whew.

We’ve been busy on the weekends living it up in FL, which has included the purchase of a new sectional couch (“HELL YES!” says my back), some pool days during an unusually hot February, a Beer and Bacon Fest, an extremely awesome day of surprises for Timmy’s 35th birthday which included a wine making class and an escape room (which we won with only 38 seconds left on the clock!), Phantom of the Opera tickets (where I def cried), a quick trip to Miami that resulted in no pool days but 1 long spa day for me while Timmy worked a conference, and lots of trips to Disney World.

I’ve hit Disney 3 times since January (which as you know is my favorite place on earth, and no, I won’t apologize for it). It actually comes in handy when your family comes to town for spring break and you’ve got the skinny on how to plan out your days and paths at any given Disney park (you’re welcome familia). Which is exactly what happened last week, my first spring break I’ve taken off in 5 years.

God that was fun. I couldn’t wait to see Disney through my nieces’ eyes, the magic of it all. What I didn’t expect was their willingness to wait in 2+ hour lines which we didn’t do because eff that. But all in all, we hit every ride (almost) and the whole family had the best time ever. It was also maybe the fastest week in the history of ever.

The one thing I’ve been struggling with since last October is my chronic, never ending, mind-erasing back pain. Around the time I got rid of my walking boot after my bunionectomy last August, my back decided to go haywire and destroy my emotional stability. I couldn’t do anything without severe pain that would take my breath away for nearly 5 months.

I decided after my last facet injections in January didn’t work that I would try anything, and I meant ANYTHING. There have been a few days at the beginning of this year where I just couldn’t take it anymore. Timmy would have to help me get up from a sitting or lying down position or pick something off the floor or help me put socks/pants on. I was immobile many, many days and hysterically sad about it the other days. I broke down, cried nonstop, and fell into a hole of despair and hopelessness that my pain would get any better, that I could have a normal life, that I would ever be pain-free.

In short, I was completely miserable.

I got an epidural in February which reduced my pain from super crazy intense to a dull 24-hour bother. I started going to cryotherapy, which at the time I thought helped, but I haven’t gone in about a month and I feel no difference (= it was probably mentally helpful). It is as cold as you think, if not colder, and every time my legs would turn a bright lobster-shade of red, and it hurt the skin on my thighs like whoa. If that’s the beginning stages of hypothermia, then I have a new respect for people who go hiking in crazy cold places.

I started seeing a chiropractor (which I still believe that the adjustments are nonsense) but the TENS treatment, massage, ultrasound and physical therapy 3x/week have been making a difference. I’ve only worked out once since my injection because I’m terrified to do so. The last few times I worked out in January, my lower back muscles seized up and I was immobile the rest of the day. So I’m doing things at a slower pace, trying to remind myself to slow down and be patient (which is my opposite nature, so you can see how this would be difficult for me to do).

I should be released from physical therapy this week, so wish me luck as I try to regain a new sense of normalcy and control over my life. I now have a standing desk at work, and that’s been a game changer. Help me stay patient and calm as I try to integrate exercise back into my life.

That’s all for now. There are still some HUGE changes in my life on the horizon, so stay tuned for all the insanity that will start to happen around here in the next few weeks!

♥, VB

North Georgia

Over the holiday break, I decided to do a little special something for Timmy. This past year, he has traveled on average for work almost 2.5 weeks of every month. That’s a lot of airports, rental cars, losing things in rental cars, contacting rental car company and getting stuff back, ubers, luggage, hotel stays, hotel food, and stuff. Needless to say, by November, he was over it. I was over it. Floyd was very over it.

Traveling that much, I just can’t imagine. Going back and forth to Miami and Atlanta over and over and over again can really wear a person down, and in 2018, not only has travel started back up in high gear again, but he has now been given Alabama and Mississippi (the most shameful states in the Union I must say) to boot. My schedule will also be insane this spring semester, so quality time will be prioritized over most everything.

I wanted to do something special to show him how much I appreciate what he does to provide for us, and really give us a comfortable life through sacrificing time with me and Floyd so I secretly started planning a getaway.

When we lived in Atlanta, there was a bed and breakfast only about 2 hours away in Hiawassee that was beyond adorable. It was also the area that Timmy’s family owned a lake house that contained many happy times and the most sad memory ever for them.

We loved going there. I had never really been in my life and it’s just so beautiful in the North GA mountains. I also loved being able to give Timmy new memories of a town that had given him and his family so much despair and sadness as that was where his father had his accident before passing away nearly 14 years ago. It was healing for him in a way that I wish could be possible for everyone. Since we moved to FL, we haven’t been back up there, and we’ve missed it.

The holidays, year after year in FL, just SUDDENLY happen because we have no seasons, so out of nowhere it’s HalloweenThanksgivingChristmasYearOver. I wanted to experience cold again, and winter, and heavy clothes, and all that crap. Each year we’ve gone home for Xmas, it’s been barely cold enough to wear gloves, which is a real let down over the holidays.

My gift to him was a 3-day, 2-night stay at the Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa. We had been to dinner there once but never stayed, and I always wondered what it would be like to stay in a resort in the mountains. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

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On our way up, we stopped in Helen, GA for a quick bite and a beer. If you’ve never heard of Helen, it might be the most random town in the world. It’s quite literally in the middle of nowhere GA (which is never a good place to be in my opinion), completely German-ized. German architecture, German food, German music, all of it German. It’s kind of crazy yet awesome.

We arrived at the resort on the Wednesday before New Year’s to a nearly empty lodge. It was full of old people (hey, we’re Floridians now so it felt totally normal) and MY GOD WAS IT COLD. I left my heavy coats at my parents’ house since I have zero need for them in FL, and thank the Lord above I did that because my knee length down coat was a savior. Along with the hat and leggings I bought in Helen, I finally felt like winter had arrived for the first time in years.

[BTW, a high of 31 degrees is cold for anyone, so none of this “You think you were cold??? Let me tell you…” nonsense that I know some of you are thinking.]

I had reserved a cabin, which was like having a private hotel room in a cabin. We had a fire place, rocking chairs, and a really pretty view. As soon as we arrived, we got drinks from the bar (a hot chocolate with Bailey’s for me, thank you very much) and watched the sunset behind the mountains. It was just magical.

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the hot chocolate was the star of the show

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IMG_0969.jpgI didn’t do the greatest job planning because we tried to make spa reservations and they were completely booked up which was a bummer. No way in hell was horseback riding going to happen in that cold, so we opted for a 2-mile hike along one of the resort’s trails where Timmy proceeded to take a work call because hey, you can’t totally unplug sometimes in his profession.

If you ever get a chance, go there. It was definitely worth it and for us to experience winter during the holidays (finally), well it’s just another memory to treasure.

♥, VB

Hi There

Long time, no talk to. I just wanted to stop by and say hi and say I’m sorry for being MIA here. It’s not you, it’s me. It was 2017, it was politics, it was anxiety, it was exhaustion, it was everything. I had and still have a lot to say about the things that transpired last year, but whenever I sat down at my blog to write, I found myself tired. Unmotivated to share. Unwilling to talk.

Believe me, I had those conversations in person, but not often and not with everyone, because honestly, I just didn’t have the stamina. There was so much about last year that bothered and hurt me and kept me so angry and scared. Personally, it was a wonderful year; I taught my two classes, had a lot of fun with family and friends, and really cemented my bond with my husband after a shaky first year of marriage.

But the world, man, the world just grinded me in its teeth and I felt all the negative emotions.

I donated, I read, I got off of social media for about 8 months (except for Instagram). I did the small things I could to keep my sanity, but every time I even briefly looked at CNN or Washington Post or NY Times or BBC, I just felt my resolve crumble and I would have to build myself up all over again. So I just stayed focused on my small world and turned inwards.

I know the cycle of life pretty well by now: personally and professionally, those waves usually don’t coincide because when one is up, the other is down. Not so this past year! My relationship with Timmy made amazing strides forward and now I can finally see what people mean when they say marriage is fun. It is now and it’s definitely something I treasure more than anything. Professionally, I made even more strides towards my overall career goals, and as soon as I felt myself start to lag or bore with my routine, fate intervened and has provided me with even more amazing pathways.

I won’t share it all right now because it hasn’t all transpired and I don’t want to jinx myself, but let’s just say, if things go the way I would like (and have planned for), god, 2018 may be my best year ever, which is hard to say after my 30th year.

So I guess what I wanted to say is I’m sorry I cut you out. It really wasn’t you, it was me. And in 2018, I’m going to use this blog how it was intended: to fill you in on our lives in FL, and the quirky, ridiculous, fun, infuriating, amazing things that happen to Timmy, Floyd, and I on a constant basis. Stay tuned my friends, and let’s make 2018 a fantastic year (which let’s face it, after 2017, can we say there’s no where else but up?)

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♥, VB

Kitchen Before and After

Our old kitchen was the worst. It made me super sad when we walked in and saw it. It was old, ugly, and worst of all, inefficiently laid out. The tile, ugh, the tile was hideous! It had only one side of cabinets that could be used along the left side (with the ugliest appliances and handles/pulls), and then on the right side, well, it made no sense.

the old kitchen from the listing photos

the view of the left side

the old kitchen (right side view) from the listing photos

the view on the right side

the back right side of the kitchen

the back right corner

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another view of the left side

You can see on the right side the accordion doors which led to…wire shelving and a stackable washer/dryer! It was awful. No room for storage, yet this monstrosity of a closet took up nearly half of the right side of the kitchen.

And the back corner…omg, the back corner made no sense. The only thing we thought it was used for was a breakfast nook. However, if you sat on one side, if you stood, you’d knock yourself out on the cabinets above. If you sat on the other side, you were basically in the oven. And that light fixture was just a beaut.

I could not wait to tear this motha out.

The first thing I wanted gone was the stupid closet. The original idea was to get rid of the entire right side to make room for nearly wall-to-fridge cabinets. But when we tore out the back wall of the closet, looky what we found.

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This random wall in the kitchen had all our electrical wiring, so we couldn’t get rid of it. Yay!

Yeah, read that caption again. ALL THE ELECTRICAL WIRING. WHO DOES THIS??!?!?! This was the very first thing we demo-ed in the house, and boom, immediate huge problem. And you can see in the very back, the amazing wallpaper we uncovered when we took down the upper cabinets. Soooooo pretty…

This kitchen was just awful. But we obviously couldn’t replace everything in it because we’re not millionares. So the first decision was to keep the existing cabinets on the left side. They are in decent shape, and with some new paint and hardware, they would look amazing. We also had to keep the closet for the most part. We had to pay our contractors to put that wall back up, but we did get to demo the wall between the washer/dryer and fridge.

The open space above the closet also had to stay. This townhouse design is so odd. But we did get to get rid of most of the upper part to give us more room for larger cabinetry.

Word of advice: if you’re going to demo, make sure you have all the right tools.

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This is after we ripped everything out, including the backsplash that literally dissolved the sheetrock behind it (which in this picture, was repaired). There were gaping holes everywhere, and when we tried to remove the countertop, we found we couldn’t remove it from around the outlets without a saw (and when I tried, I got myself a little shock that reminded me why getting electrocuted is frowned upon).

Another word of advice: if you’re going to paint cabinetry yourself, do it while you live in the house. Or just hire someone.

Using Rustoleum DIY paint kits for the upper and lower cabinets, I thought this would be an easy enough project. Take the doors down, clean them, remove the gloss coating, paint, and finish. Easy, right?

It wasn’t.

IT TOOK FOREVER AND MY SANITY.

You have to wait at least 3 hours between coats. The upper cabinets required 6 coats (and even then they looked like shit). We didn’t live in the house at the time, so I had to go during lunch breaks and after work to apply coats. The lower cabinets only needed the recommended 2 coats so that worked out great. But those uppers killed me.

I tried to be green and got an environmentally-friendly paint stripper to remove the gloss off the old cabinets. It didn’t work. Just use the super corrosive stuff and it’ll be fine (but your lungs won’t be).

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I finally had to ask my designer for another paint brand because I just couldn’t use the kit paint for yet a 7th coat on the uppers. She recommended Valspar and dammit, it was the winner from the start. Only one coat and it was beautifully hiding all the stuff the 6 coats of the other paint couldn’t do. And don’t forget, you have to do not only the front of the doors, but the backs. And in between the doors. And around the cabinets. And the toe kicks. Which required more time.

All in all, painting these cabinets took almost 2 weeks. Never. Again.

Obviously, we had the contractors do a new backsplash, countertops, and flooring. After living in my old apartment for 3 years, I had come to hate granite countertops. It stained like whoa, and once it got a wet spot, forget it, it’s never coming out. I have no time or patience for high maintenance stuff, so when we found quartz, I was done. Yes, it’s more expensive, but not having to reseal it every year, the durability, and how pretty it is…MORE than worth it.

The right side of the kitchen is the biggest transformation. After patching up the hole we made, we decided to use the space next to the fridge for actual, useable cabinetry.

 

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redoing the wall we tore down and new flooring

Home Depot actually still had the same stock cabinets that matched our cabinets from 1994 so we were able to fill out that previously oddly used back right corner with more storage and a space for a wine fridge we received as a wedding gift.

More storage, more countertop, pantry space, and a completely hidden new, stackable washer and dryer? The right side of the kitchen, which used to be horrible, was now a dream.

 

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new cabinets in the back corner

We did have to get the new cabinets custom made (and I of course had to paint them again in order to save money) but the result below is just too gorgeous.

We unfortunately couldn’t move any of the electrical stuff into the garage (like the washer and dryer, water heater, and AC unit) because of flood zone requirements, so that does take up space I’d like to see freed up on the main living floor. But all in all, for our first home and first renovations, we are in love with our space.

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custom cabinets installed with new fridge

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All of the appliances we got from a Sears scratch and dent outlet for a killer price. I have always wanted a gas range, and have only been able to use one in my first townhouse with my roomie Lyndsay in grad school. We were ready to price out how much it was going to be to convert the old electric stove to gas when lo and behold, behind the old oven, A GAS HOOKUP!

Culinary dreams do come true y’all.

The only real design decision we made here for the kitchen was the two-toned cabinets in white and gray and the countertop. Everything else stemmed from that. Our designer picked out the backsplash tiles and cabinet pulls. There are literally millions of choices out there, and by this point, my brain couldn’t handle any more decisions. She picked, we liked, end of story.

So here it is, the final kitchen reveal. A space that can fit people to mingle, space for EVERYTHING, and yet, clean, modern, and up to date.

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walls painted, towels hung, liveable kitchen

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insert behind the sink

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this backsplash and countertop!

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back right corner

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custom cabinets

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pantry custom cabinet! SO MUCH SPACE

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Totally hidden washer and dryer

Just for recollection sake, before and afters.

So that’s the kitchen, a space that has seen us sweat, bleed, receive a light shock therapy, cry, and love. It’s a space that’s so us and it makes me happy to cook there every time I walk in. That’s exactly what kitchens should be like, right?

Next up, the rest of the house, and no more renovations to come.

♥, VB