Remember three months ago when I talked about my goal for 2010? Well, it’s been really good for me in terms of not letting me feel sorry for myself. I am amazed, seriously. There are days when every step feels like a jackhammer in my lower spine, but I make myself run through it because I need to get in 19.2 miles over the course of the week. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of asking “Why me?” when you suffer from chronic pain, but it’s such a pointless question because there is no answer (at least none that will make it easier to swallow).

Having something else to focus on has been a big help. As the miles tally up, I feel this overwhelming sense of accomplishment. What seemed like such a huge goal on New Years day still seems challenging but within my abilities now. Thomas Edison said, “If we did all the things we were capable of doing, We would literally astound ourselves.” I am pleasantly surprised that I’ve made it past the first quarter without throwing the towel in, and moreover that I haven’t let the mileage pass me by. I’m doing this, and I am so proud of myself! 695 miles to go!

It also shows me that all my excuses had no basis in actuality. I DO have time. I CAN work with my body to get the long runs in. I DO enjoy more from running than just being done. Golly! Where was this person 10 years ago? I graduated from high school in 2000, and I remember feeling grateful as I shook the principal’s hand because I would never have to run a mile in phy-ed class EVER again (not that I could ever run the full mile). SURPRISE!

So, my longest distance to date has been just shy of 12. Nick and Jeff are trying to talk me into a half marathon this year, but I don’t want to commit. If I could pick the day of the run depending on how I feel, I think I would be up for the challenge, but I am scared that I will wake up on race day and know that I’ll be done after five miles. Sometimes the body just isn’t willing…and I am coming to the realization that most runners probably don’t have good pain days and bad pain days and that’s how they can be so confident signing up for a race on a specific day.

I do three runs every year, two for me and one for Nick. My two benefit Cancer, and his benefits UW Athletics (we all have our causes). I am okay with the two 5K runs that I sign up for because 3.1 miles doesn’t take any training (trust me: I’ve run them just fine after being inactive for months). The 8K run of Nick’s is next Saturday, and I have butterflies.

Nick has been super understanding, knowing that my back has been acting up for the last month (thus the steroid injection last week [which has not helped]). He has given me an out, should I prefer to walk instead. The thing is, I know I’ll feel bad about myself if I enter the walk. I felt bad two years ago when I walked because I was only two weeks out of major surgery, and I had more of an excuse then! I don’t know what my mental block is this year: I run distances of five to seven miles regularly every single week without a problem. I guess it’s some sort of performance anxiety—or, more likely, I remember that moment last summer when my back went out during a run, and I never ever want to feel that level of pain ever again.

So, wish me luck, because I know that I will sign up for the run. That’s just what I do: I set impossible goals for myself and then develop an ulcer stressing over them.

Actually, strike that sentence about luck. WISH FOR RAIN!

On Cleaning the Closet.

Cleaning my closet has always been an event.

Saturdays were always cleaning day in my mother’s household. How that woman didn’t have the physique of a fitness model I’ll never know, but she was the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. Every Saturday was a DEEP clean. The floors? You could eat off of ’em. She physically moved every piece of heavy, heavy furniture to make sure that she vacuumed the carpet beneath. The old wooden kitchen cupboards always shone with her elbow grease. Throughout the day on Saturday, she would always find another project to add to her tasks such as scrub the rarely used good china in the top cupboard or organizing the coat closet by season.

It should come as no surprise then that my closet is organized by clothing type (makes no sense to put a dress right next to a cardigan) and then color (rainbow order, of course). With the level of detail I put into order, nobody wants to touch my closet. When I was a child, and I got behind in my laundry-putting-away, the task of all that sorting seemed way too daunting, and it seemed like an acceptable solution to instead let it pile up in baskets. Left long enough, my mother would set aside a good part of her coveted Saturday to help me (light a fire under me) to get back atop the situation. I was always left with a feeling of relief once the closet was fully organized again. The memory had me putting away clothes right away for months, for fear of that awful feeling of messiness.

Let’s just say that people’s behavior patterns don’t vary that much as they age. I take daily medication that makes me tired, so I would probably feel overwhelmed even if I worked only two hours a day. Instead I work full time and am a full time student. When I am prioritizing my tasks to complete with what free time I have after my obligations, I’ll be honest with you that spending time with Nick and Sophie comes before the almighty closet. Unfortunately, as in childhood, after I have missed a couple weeks of attending to the complex organizational system that they say only I can decipher, I am flustered and unable to think of laundry without becoming catatonic. The clean laundry piles up. I start looking through baskets to find the day’s outfit.

Today, Nick asked if he could help me with the closet. Déjà vu or what? I accepted his help, but dragged my feet up to the small bedroom where my closet it located. So many clothes, so few hangers. After a few hours in the generous walk-in closet, it is shiny and new again. The bad news is that my skirt accumulation has been a little out of control (I got a new job!—but first I had to dress the part for those silly interviews), and I no longer have the skirt hanger supply to support the numbers. The good news is that I do not need any running pants. Turns out that I have upwards of 20 pairs and should cancel my plans to shop for more. Who knew?

After all the clothes were put away, Nick started going through all my old purses and organized them on the top shelf. Even though I was thinking mean things because he was all up in my closet business and I was tired and sore, he saved me the expense of a new purse. I was looking for a new one in a certain style a little while ago, and lo and behold I must have been in the kick for that style purse like four years ago too.

Will I ever perfect my closet etiquette? Probably not. I think I probably freaked out when my rattle supply backed up on me in infancy, too. It’s just me—if I don’t have time to make it perfect, I ignore it until the imperfection of ignoring it bugs someone else enough to say, “Let me help.” I guess the moral of the story is to be grateful for the people in your life who are willing to save you from yourself.

Frustrating Turn-of-Events

So I was back to the outpatient procedure center today for another injection. They went back to my SI joints this time. This was my first time getting the injection in the afternoon, and I felt less than confident at work without any nail polish, makeup, deodorant, or perfumes of any kind. Also, since I receive anesthetic medication, there are eating and drinking restrictions. My poor veins were in no shape to take an IV this afternoon.

The poor nurse tried each hand, insisting on injecting them with lidocaine first even though I told her that I didn’t need it. My theory is that the lidocaine scares the veins away! Whenever they use lidocaine the vein disappears. With the second bruise forming under a fresh gauze pad, she told me that they have a rule to bring in a fresh pair of eyes after two failed attempts.

So the next nurse came in, and she knew me from past visits to the outpatient hospital center (always nice to be recognized I suppose). She decided to go after the veins on the underside of my wrist. I told her my theory of the lidocaine, even though she said that that was the most painful spot to put in an IV. (I don’t find IVs “painful” at all…uncomfortable perhaps, but not painful.) I don’t think that I have ever had an IV there before, or I would have remembered how awkward it felt to be unable to use my wrist without feeling like I had a long piece of sharp metal in there.

So, that IV was a success, though it was a small vein and they were worried about it collapsing on them, and I didn’t really want them to go to my feet for the next try. Luckily, the little guy held up. The injection aren’t a long procedure at all, fortunately. Meanwhile, Nick commented aloud that I would be a lousy drug addict with my veins. Guess I can cross that endeavor off my bucket list.

So, they wheel me back to the recovery room and I notice red dots on my arm that almost appear to follow the vein that the IV is in. I point it out to the nurse who brings several nurses back to look. Since it didn’t travel ALL the way up the vein, they didn’t think it was a reaction to the drugs, but none the less removed it immediately. Then they notice that the area of skin underneath the tape is strawberry-red too. As they begin pulling off the tape from my IV battle wounds, it’s official. I’ve developed an adhesive allergy and it’s in my file. Paper tape from here on out.

So, while all this is going on, I bring up shyly that I am registered to run tomorrow.

This is the run that I have participated in just about every year since Mom died (it was my first charity run ever, in fact). Even last year, a few weeks out of major surgery, I walked it. When I started working at American Family Insurance, I was pleased to find out that because they are such a huge sponsor of the event, my registration is free. They even deliver the race packets (I can register Nick under the AmFam team, I just had to pay the registration fee to ACS…I never mind writing a check to ACS).

I participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure every year as well, but because Mom didn’t have Breast Cancer specifically, I suppose it doesn’t touch me quite the way that the race covering all of the big “C” does. Being that I doubt they’ll ever have an event for “Rare and Uncurable Cancer”, this one is as close as I can get.

I was not prepared for the nurse to come back with a big fat “No”. I thought she would say something like “Go by how you feel,” or “Just stop if you feel discomfort.” But, alas, this was not so. She said I could walk if I wanted, but even then she didn’t want me walking a whole 5K.

I’ve had two different types of injections now, and I guess I forgot that this is the one that I can ruin if I overdo it. The other ones were either diagnostic and confirmatory injections in which they directed me to do all the activities that aggravate my pain. With a longer lasting medicine, they want to make sure it takes hold in the areas it was injected. I feel horrible that I won’t be participating this year…especially with the tee-shirt and race big just glaring at me on the table, all ready to go.

Well, at least I have two bruised hands and contact dermatitis to show for my troubles. Is that a positive? Sure.


Fuh-reaking Out.

So, in about a Month, I will see Simon and Garfunkel perform live. In person. Like, I’ll be in the same room. They officially broke up like 40 years ago, you know? This is a big deal for me.

I can’t think of an artist today whose music touches me quite the way that Simon and Garfunkel’s does.

“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sound of silence

I get chills even typing out those lyrics. The hairs on my arms stand on end when the song cycles on my iPod. The words, the melodies, the harmonies…I can’t believe that I have a chance to hear them in person. I’ll probably cry.

A lot. And good Lord if they play “The Boxer”, the vocal riff will haunt me for days. Lie la lie **clash** la la la la lie la lie…oh, and “Dangling Conversation”? Hello!—I’m beside myself with excitement. Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.

When we bought the tickets, I was stunned. I was waiting for my confirmation email to arrive, and I was afraid to get excited until I had that little piece of digital proof that it was a go. I experienced the same sense of awe when I saw Elton John last year. My favorite era of music is the late 1960s to the early 1970s, and I’ve come to accept that I will probably never see the artists that touch my soul. I feel so completely lucky to get this chance (and I really hope they don’t get in a tiff and break up again before May).

I just can’t believe that this is happening. Somebody pinch me!