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

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

Motivation

No, I haven’t felt particularly motivated to update this blog in a long time. Part of it was I had too much to say and the energy required to write it all down was too much. The other part was that life has been more difficult than I’d like to admit this past year and while everyone around us has been like, “Oh great, life milestones, amazing, be happy, you’re going places,” for us it’s felt stifling, stressful, and oh so not amazing a great majority of the time.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining or ungrateful, but the reality of my emotions is far from that. But stress is stress, and in one year, we planned a wedding, got married, bought a house, renovated the house, moved, and tried to find our normal again. Which is so hard when for nearly 2 years straight, you haven’t had a real normal. Timmy moved from Lake Mary to my tiny apartment last January, we were on top of each other all the time, he traveled a lot, and between the wedding planning stress, the house hunting stress, the house buying stress, the renovation stress, the money stress, and then the moving into said house stress, I had literally used up all my coping methods.

I was a ticking time-bomb that went off in January.

The reality of our life is now more normal, more settled, more calm for sure. But that reserve of emotional mess that I had been carrying around and stockpiling just became too much and I broke in a very real way. I was ready to run away and leave this all behind. Which is not at all a very adult way to handle everything, but I was struggling big time. And my partner was struggling in his own way too, and we just weren’t clicking.

I absolutely sank around election time. Trump and the racial hate and misogyny and general hopelessness became the weight that sank me even further, as though the stress of everything else in our lives wasn’t enough. I cried for nearly two weeks straight. I have been off of Facebook since November, about a few days after the election because I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I miss it a little, but after the withdrawals wore off, I’m good without it.

I took on an additional class, Human Sexuality, to teach this semester, so my life is really busy and full, but emotionally, it’s been challenging to catch the happy ride back up the downward slope. My back pain has been worse than ever, and after a failed radiofrequency ablation (where they burn the nerves in a particular area), I’ve been depressed about my back and wondering if life can ever feel normal when all I think about is my pain.

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Maybe it’s the January/February/March blues that get us all. Maybe it’s a combination of our stress, Trump for me, and the winter meh that got us. But we’ve been in a dark place, and we keep wavering in and out of it. Lately, more out of it than in it, which is definitely progress.

It certainly helps that all the boxes and wedding gifts have been unpacked. Our house is beautiful and we still have a few more projects to go, like painting a few spots, rescreening our porches, redoing the floors in our garage, but those weren’t necessities to getting settled. We’ll be getting started on those soon enough.

We love our neighborhood and the quiet nature that surrounds us. We are starting to fish on our fishing pier with the addition of new fishing equipment, courtesy of Timmy. My parents came to visit a few weekends ago (which was so needed) and they brought my bike. So the other night Timmy and I biked close to St. Pete Beach (and stumbled through a ridiculous argument, again), then to a local restaurant for drinks and games.

It was awesome and it felt like us.

The sun is out more, and it’s warmer, so me likey. I can’t wait to start spending afternoons after work paddleboarding around the waterways, and really soaking up the mood-improving Vitamin D. And we’ll get there soon.

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But Timmy misses Jake and his dad and James, and I’m missing my friends and family a lot. Timmy and I working on our connection harder than we have before, but we need our support system around us to help ground us. So friends and family, come visit us! We have space, and it’s close to everything. It’s honestly like being on vacation all the time, living in our new house.

It’s just now starting to sync for us. Just now. If we haven’t been reaching out to you as much, be patient because the ground is just now starting to solidify underneath us again. That’s just life, I guess, and I know we’ll get back. It’s always ups and downs, and we just have to have faith and put the work in.

Winter sucks. Trump sucks. Hate sucks. But we will rock again.

♥, VB

 

One Day at a Time

Ok, so it’s obvious that I have kinda given up on blogging. Life since getting married suddenly picked up speed and lately it has felt like I’m on a runaway train and it’s taking me everything I have to stop for milliseconds to look up and glance fleetingly at my surroundings.

It’s all going by so fast.

And we’ve decided to take on even more major life choices since our wedding, which has only lended itself to making me feel like I’m participating in my own life through fogged up goggles and ear muffs. It’s the weirdest feeling, to be making super adult decisions yet inside feeling like, huh? what? where? who? what are we doing?

Is this what happens for everyone after getting married? Because if this was some big secret that married couples have been keeping a secret from everyone, I’d like to send a big F you to y’all for leaving me so unprepared for and unaware of the next steps.

This blog was the first to get the ax for a while there. I have so much that I want to share (and at the same time, don’t want to share) but I just didn’t have the time or energy to put it all out here like usual business. So now, I’m going to try to retrace my steps and keep you in the loop of our lives here in St. Pete.

It’s been a doozy of a few months to say the least.

Timmy and I have now celebrated nearly 4 months of marriage. We’ve seen each other in person about half that time. His job takes him on the road to Atlanta, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Miami, and anywhere else in GA and FL just over half of the month. Our only real time is the weekends, which used to consist of us frolicking at the beach with beer and football throwing followed by seafood and sleep. Those weekends have since been replaced by hour after hour of demolition at our new house in south St. Pete.

Work has been really crazy for me, which is unusual, because in the almost 4 years I’ve worked at USFSP, I haven’t once felt like my plate was too full. But now, I’m teaching my class, working full time, advising my student group, and at the same time preparing to co-chair a strategic planning committee for our entire division, grade papers, see students for consultations, and preparing to teach a 2nd class in the spring.

Needless to say, we’re exhausted about 120% of the time.

And it’s been a struggle for us to maintain a sense of connection when nearly every night, we wait so long to Skype each other that we’re too tired to really talk and catch up. The majority of our marriage has been: “Hey love, what are you doing?” “Driving and then I have to…oops, I have a call from [insert name here]/I have a meeting to go to. Gotta go!” “OK love you.” “Love you.”

But honestly, I married this person because of the lifelong challenges he and our decisions together would have me face, in order to make me a better person. And all the decisions we’ve made up until this point have absolutely had the “is this is the right decision for us” question right at the heart of them. So while for now, our life seems like chaos, all day, every day, and we’re like passing ships in the night, afternoon, and morning, we’re going in the right direction.

It all started with our wedding weekend, which now, looking back, seemed awfully dramatic and hectic. While every moment I could control was filled with hope and laughter and honest joy at the thought of marrying Timmy, the other moments were also filled with other people behaving badly. I have since gained enough time away from that weekend to realize that I can selectively filter out those moments and remember only the love.

There was so much love. It makes me happy to remember it that way. And it was so much fun because there will never be another time we can have those people in the same room at the same time ever again. Not to mention our photos and videos are the BOMB.

Where are the photos, you may be asking right now. I know, I know, I’ve only shared about 4-5 photos out of the almost 1000 we got back. I have gotten MANY requests to share those photos. There are a number of reasons why I made the executive decision (and yes, it was just me and not Timmy and I) to not share them, but the main reason is this: I don’t want to. Ok hear me out…

Don’t get me wrong, that weekend was crazy fun. But it was also a weekend that happened to spin a little out of my control and left me feeling like the most private moment of my life happened in the most public way possible. At least, what I had wanted to be private turned out to be shared with nearly 280 people, lots of whom know me not at all.

So the jokes I cracked in my vows, only a small percentage understood them. The super personal declarations of love and our ability to rise beyond our history was only really understood by even fewer who knew about that time in our lives. And the rest of our audience didn’t have a real sense of our lives because they hadn’t lived it with us. Not by anyone’s fault, but simply because that’s how life is.

So for that reason, I choose to keep the photos private. They’ve been shared with the people that matter, the people that spent hours and time and money on us and our weekend, but that’ll probably be about it. I may choose to share a photo here and there, but don’t expect much.

And that’s that.

We haven’t been able to sort fully through the wedding videos, because while time kept moving for us, it didn’t for one of Timmy’s groomsmen. James unexpectedly passed away in his sleep about 2 months after our wedding. And it has only added to the feeling of our lives being one step ahead of us and we’re just running after the train, trying to get back on it.

Timmy has been struggling. I’ve been struggling. Adjusting to the death of a friend is difficult (to put it lightly), but something has shifted since being in our 30s and this death has taken on a new significance and sadness. It’s just different losing someone in your 30s than your 20s or younger. Sure it affects you back then, but you’re just a baby. You have no real concept of life, of how wonderful it can be, or how much life can surprise you if you let it.

You get it in your 30s. You’ve seen enough of life to understand that you can rise above the hardships and get lost in the wonder. When you lose someone now, it’s sadness on a level you didn’t know you could go. When Jake passed, we at least had time for closure. We knew his death was coming for a long time, so when he did die, it wasn’t this huge sense of shock. There was almost a sense of relief at him being released from the pain of cancer.

James just passed. Period. End of sentence. No opportunity for goodbye. None. Timmy didn’t handle it well. And I wasn’t handling this new space of marriage well. And it was all I could do to just let him be in the middle of grief and give him space to move through it. He’s doing slightly better, but there are still moments of tears, moments of true sadness as he misses his friend.

So thank you to everyone who reached out to the both of us, expressing your condolences and sadness. Although we couldn’t get to everyone, it meant the WORLD to us and especially to Timmy to know that you also thought James was ridiculous in the best way possible. Know that your love to Timmy was felt and appreciated.

And did I mention that we bought a house? Yea, how much can we pile on??? Our lives at this moment remind me 100% of this scene from My Cousin Vinny.

Except our lives right now are about 1/3 as funny.

Anywho, that’s about it for right now. Next time, I WILL RECAP OUR REHEARSAL DINNER. I’m screaming that to myself to keep me accountable.

Till next time!

♥, VB