Friday, December 23, 2016

It's the little things

X-rays of Terri's TAR
A soaking hot bath. To get up in the middle of the night and walk (not roll) to the bathroom. To sleep on my side.

Total ankle replacement (TAR) is keeping me from the little things right now. But soon, I hope, like 842 other people who are on a closed ankle replacement Facebook group, to walk with no pain. Of course, that will come after my second ankle replacement on my right foot.

On Dec. 9 at Rush Orthopedic Hospital in downtown Chicago, I put my trust in a young surgeon and his team to totally replace my ankle. I stayed over night one night and was drugged to the hilt. I do not tolerate pain killers well and spent the next couple of days in vomitus.

In hospital, a physical therapy team made me practice on my crutches and one of them had to carry a vomit bucket behind me the whole time. It felt like they made me walk to Indiana and back, but in truth, it was to the third exit sign, which was far enough. Believe me.

Blisters from surgical tape
I went home with a nerve blocking pump taped to my left thigh. And that was the worst of my problems after I quit taking the pain pills on Sunday. Turns out (which I knew and conveyed) that I am extremely allergic to surgical tape. The pump malfunctioned on Sunday, and luckily a home health care nurse was there to pull it out. By that evening, blisters were forming on my thigh. In two days, after emailing the photos to my doctor, he told me go to an urgent care center to the blisters looked at. Infections following joint replacement surgery are frowned upon.

My question is, how much am I paying for a pump that malfunctioned and then sent me to an urgent care center. That's a question for the insurance company, I guess.

Off comes the dressing

Candy-cane cast

Within a week of my surgery, I was back at the hospital getting a cast. I asked for candy cane because I had seen it on my above mentioned Facebook group. Sadly, I'm not going out much to show it off.

In case you wonder, I'm writing this for me. So I can know what will happen the next time I get this done. Think of this as a diary. And you are just reading it, you little sneak.

My husband is taking good care of me. When the housecleaner came on Wednesday, we had to get out of the house. We drove to get my handicap sticker, which he went in and picked up, and then to a movie. (La La Land; very whimsical.)

I was sitting with my leg up in the back seat as instructed, but you know, that made me car sick. Probably because I was looking at my phone. I rode in the passenger seat on the way back, which I think suited both of us better.

Here's what I know:

  • I suck at crutches.
    Bonus photo
  • I'm pretty damn good on a knee roller, though long distances can be difficult.
  • I feel I might be losing my upper body strength, and certainly my left thigh and calf look like a noodle.
  • I feel like I can eat anything I want and not gain weight, but that is so untrue because I have seen myself in the mirror. 
  • I can get by with a shower about every three days. (But this is not my preference.)
  • I am not good at keeping up with my home health exercises. Never have been; never will be.
  • I haven't gone to the gym since Dec. 2. How can I really?
  • I'm a good patient (according to Bob).
  • I'm dreaming almost nightly that I'm walking with my cast on and hope my doctor doesn't find out.
  • I'm not as young as I used to be when I've had ankle operations. Just as I can no longer whip a 40-pound bag of dog food over my shoulder, I find it tough to lug a one-hundred-and-muffled-sound woman around on crutches, off the couch, off the toilet seat.
  • A toilet seat with hand holders is an absolute must. (But be sure to use both rails, lest you topple over, which I've done twice.)
  • A good man/woman/relative/friend/service animal is necessary to survive.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

What I've learned about liquid diets

Here's a little background. Several women in my office decided we would go on a liquid diet to support one woman we know who was undergoing gastric bypass surgery.

Her doctor required her to go on a liquid diet for two weeks before the surgery, so about six of us decided to join her. (All of us in varying degrees could stand to lose some weight, so the effort was not completely altruistic.)

She (we) could have Premier Protein shakes, chicken broth, jello and sugar-free popsicles.

Day one: no problem. The shakes were tasty; the chicken broth, not so much. I didn't bother with the jello or popsicles. I thought, "This is a breeze."

Day two: harder. I was losing my focus. My brain was fuzzy. People were asking me if I was okay. I think the problem was forgoing sugar. I'm one of those southerners who (as a friend likes to say) "just needs a little somethin' sweet to get the taste (of breakfast, lunch, supper) out of my mouth." That little sugar habit was deadly. (See previous post.)

Day three: fail. I decided vegetables were needed or my brain was going to atrophy. So I added green vegetables to my diet. But nothing else. For a week, I did without meat and alcohol and sugar. Fish eventually entered my diet, however. Mostly canned.

Friday the following week when I attended a dinner ball: epic fail. "Are you a vegetarian?" the server asked.  "Why no," I answered believing I would get a fish option. No further questions came my way, and a while later, a juicy fillet was plopped down in front of me. It was delicious. But it was the first real meat I had eaten.

Before this, my friends and I who were on the diet were bragging about how meat was unimportant. We could live without it. Sheesh.

I should have. The next day, my belly suffered a great deal. Oh, and did I mention free wine was flowing at this particular ball?

At that point, I completely fell off my liquid diet, but I did try to go back to salads, vegetables and fish only.

Then came Vacation One: a holiday with my sisters and mother. Food and copious snacks and some alcohol entered the picture.

I tried to get a handle on that when I returned home, but chicken and a little pork (and even once some pasta, horrors) found their way into my diet.

Enter Thanksgiving. A trip with friends sealed my food fate. My willpower needs Jesus.

So today is the day after, and I'm going to try again. Though I have a lunch scheduled in about two hours. I will eat salad. I will eat salad. I will eat salad.

I've learned that I think differently when I'm not eating like a glutton. I'm kind of uppity.

I've learned that the allure of food is mighty and that it takes strength (or doctor's orders) to give it up or to eat healthily.

I've learned (during my pre-surgery check up) that my cholesterol is a little high, but that didn't stop me from buying some cheese while on vacation.

I've learned sugar makes my joints hurt, and that it's to my great benefit to give it up. Even if that means "getting the taste out of my mouth" with Russell Stover sugar-free candy. Even if that makes me poot.

I've learned I have the will to continue. Today for breakfast I'm had a Premier shake. And tomorrow I will too. Dammit.

P.S. On the ankle front, I've had two CT scans because the first one didn't take. They are looking, I believe, on how to make sure of proper alignment with the knee. I know absolutely nothing else, so will call the doctor tomorrow since surgery is Dec. 9. I have found some comfort in an ankle-replacement Facebook page. For better or worse, that's where I'm getting the bulk of my information. Oh, and I bought a knee-scooter off Craig's List (for about what I could have purchased it new, I found out today.) But it's in good shape. I picked it up in Lake Geneva where I was vacationing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Crappy ankles = belly fat

The direct result of crappy ankles, in my opinion, is a bulging belly. I cannot get control of my belly except by artificial means. Like girdles. Or sweat pants. Or loose blouses.

Not walking, eating exactly the same amount, drinking wine on the weekends and the dreaded menopause equal weight gain. It's more than irritating.

I remember, was it in my 20s; maybe my 30s, when I could lie in the bathtub and my stomach wouldn't reach over the water line. Today, even if I fill the bathtub up to precipice heights, I can see a mound with a belly button on top.

I know people my age and older who eat only salads. Or nothing basically. And it's true, some of them are stick thin, but do they have any fun in life? I can't imagine how. When I look at a menu, I go straight for the fried food. Fried shrimp. Fried oysters. Now, I don't always choose those. But put a hamburger and fries (or tater tots!) beside a salad and decadence is going to win every time.

I've read Mark Bittman's books. I've even underlined in them. And cooked from them! But Mark Bittman is not my husband. My husband likes to eat as much as I do.

Now, in my defense, I exercise. I go to a gym. I used to do the elliptical machine for 30 minutes. But those days are over for now. I ride the recumbent bike for 45 to 60 minutes. And I do weights.

So I am not sitting around watching The Blacklist and eating hamburgers. Instead, I download it to my iPad and watch it while riding the bicycle at the gym.

Am I making excuses? Should I have more discipline? You decide. But keep it to yourself. I already have enough guilt and shame. (Also I love cheap penny candy [now 25 cents] and I need a haircut.)

Photo by Stu Spivak | CC BY-SA

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Colon cancer to ankle replacement: the saga of an aging cowgirl

I have a new story to tell, and it's not about colon cancer. When you continue to age because you've survived colon cancer (and I'm very glad I did!), other ailments creep in. In this blog, I've mentioned my crappy ankles before.

When I was, oh 14 or 15, I played basketball for junior high. That was back in the day when you played half court. Lucky for me, too, because I couldn't shoot or dribble. But I could rebound the heck out of a ball. The coach said, "The minute you get the ball, pass it to someone else fast." Which I did, so I guess I could add "passing" to my basketball talents.

Problem with being a good rebounder AND wearing Chuck Taylor high tops is that ankle support was minimal. So I sprained my ankle about once a month.

Turns out spraining your ankle when you're a kid becomes ankle arthritis when you're an aging adult. 

And it's quite painful. There are times when I'm walking that I cry. But not all the time. If I take enough Voltaren, I can hobble along at a decent pace. Those of you with arthritis anywhere understand, I'm sure.

I've had both ankles operated on twice. One for a ligament tightening (because loose ligaments caused me to turn my ankle when I was just walking down the street) and one to clean out the arthritis.

So now it's time to do the big one. The special Facebook group I'm on calls it: TAR. That means total ankle replacement.

It's not common like knee replacement and hip replacement. It's new. And I'm scared. Like in knee replacement, in ankle replacement surgeons basically cut off your bones and insert a metal joint. But unlike knee replacement, the ankle bones that hold the metal joint are more slim. Not thick like the femur and the upper tibia.

And the foot is a complicated body part. For a glimpse of what the surgery is like, look at this video. I might warn you not to eat first.

When my new doc looked at my ankles, he used a phrase befitting of a gal with a blog named Cowgirl Attitude. "That horse is out of the barn," he said. Meaning, I guess, no more repair work on those ankles, honey, it's time for TAR.

So my surgery is scheduled Dec. 9. I'll keep you up on the details in case a surgery of this sort is in your future.

Photo credit: Rachel Patterson | CC BY-NC-ND