Sunday, November 02, 2014
This afternoon I'm lying on my couch watching basketball, with a box of tissues close by. The women's NCAA basketball season usually starts in mid-November and Division III games are never televised. And then came Lauren Hill.
Lauren Hill is a sophomore at Mt. St. Joseph's University in Cincinnati. During her senior year in high school, right after she committed to Mt. St Joe's, she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and a type of cancer that is 100% fatal. Her doctors gave her 2 or 3 years to live and she went on with her plans. She didn't get to play basketball, but she's been part of the team. A few months ago an MRI showed that the tumor had grown. Her doctors don't expect her to live past this December. She asked her coach for the chance to play in at least one game. Their season opener was scheduled for mid-November and it was supposed to be an away game at Hiram. When asked, the Hiram athletic department agreed to move the game, both the date and location. The schools applied for an exemption to NCAA rules, and it was granted. The game is a fundraiser. They sold 10,000 tickets in 45 minutes.
A few years ago the US Women's Basketball Association created what they call the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award. Its awarded during the women's final 4. This year they made an exception, because if they were going to give this award to Lauren they needed to do it now.
Today Mt. St. Joe's and Hiram are playing on Xavier's court. The Xavier athletic department offered their court because they knew a lot of people would want to be there and neither Mt. St. Joe's or Hiram had a large enough arena. The USWBA presented the award, with help from Pat Summitt, who decided to surprise Lauren and her family by being there.
Lauren was in the starting lineup and they set up a play for her. Lauren's balance and coordination are affected by what's happening in her brain. The drugs have made her face puffy. The right side of her body is numb most of the time. Still, she got out there on the court, caught the pass, made her way up the court, and scored. They stopped the game, her teammates and coaches hugged her, and her coach handed her the ball. She came in again for the last minute, and scored again. After the game ended the Great Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Women's Sports Association presented her with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award.
Lauren keeps telling everyone that she's not scared, but she's worried about the people she'll leave behind and how they'll handle things when she's gone. She's threatened to come back and haunt them. She has inspired everyone. When the reporters started to talk to her about her last game she stopped them and asked them to call it her first collegiate game. She has gone public with her struggle because she wants everyone fighting this cancer, even as it takes her life.
Lets all remember how much easier we have it than Lauren Hill, and try to approach our own lives with as much courage as she has shown. If you can, please contribute to this fight.
Lets also remember to tell those who inspire us, NOW, and not wait until they're gone. People will remember Lauren Hill's example and they'll talk about her long after she's gone, but today they're taking the time to tell her that she's making a difference, and that is special, too.
Monday, July 21, 2014
I realized that its been months since I talked about how things are going.
In February I was diagnosed with mild to moderate arthritis in my left knee and moderate to severe arthritis in my right knee. There are also holes in the cartilage, especially in my right knee, and the cartilage is inflamed. I saw orthopedic surgeon, who agreed with my regular doctor that I will someday need a knee replacement but that it probably won't be for years. He says 10, but I have my doubts that I'll make it a decade. I wouldn't mind being able to wait a few years though. My life is tough enough right now. He gave me a cortisone shot. I stopped using the immobilizing brace, though getting around still wasn't easy.
Over the past few months, I've gotten back to walking and slowly increased my distance. I don't have a lot of pain, but my knee isn't reliable. It is usually swollen to some degree and sometimes its very swollen. I just don't know how its going to feel each time I put my foot down. Sometimes its fine. Sometimes it hurts a little. Sometimes I hit one of the holes in the cartilage and it hurts a lot.
A little history on my knees... I injured the right one at least once in high school and at least once in college. By 1990, I was having trouble straightening it and it was making some scary noises, so I think that's when I tore the ACL. No, I never had any medical attention for any of this. I've never been a hard-core athlete but I grew up doing physical labor and I've been heavy most of my life. I think that the combination of the two and my family tendency towards arthritis (every member of my immediate family and several non-immediate family members have it) have combined. Over the past couple of years, as I gained a lot of weight, the pain in my knees has gotten progressively worse until last December the inflammation of the cartilage and the arthritis got so bad that my right knee couldn't bear any weight. I was off my feet completely for almost 2 months (waiting for health insurance to go into effect), which contributed to how hard it was to get moving again.
At this point I'm walking 3-4 days per week, generally anywhere from 8-14 miles per week. I do okay when I go out and walk, even with the beastly summer heat and humidity, but when I walk to the grocery store +/or laundromat with my cart I'll be leaning on the cart at least a little by the time I get home and when we walk nearly 4 miles doing the trail loop here I'll be moving noticeably more slowly by the latter part of our loop. I still can't stand for long, though at least I can stay on my feet long enough to do the dishes. (I was using a stool to do that for a while) I don't have a full range of motion, so no lunges or squats and when I need to dig around in a bottom cabinet I sit on a low stool. I cancelled my gym membership. I really didn't want to do that, but even now I doubt that I would get there often enough to make it worthwhile. Its about a mile away and by the time I walked there and worked out I'd be too tired and in pain on the way home. I'm finally starting to get a handle on how I need to eat with a decreased activity level and I'm losing some weight. I have to say that this is the first time I've felt pretty comfortable eating intuitively. I pretty much eat when I'm hungry and my weight loss is slow and not quite steady, but I am down almost 10 lb. Of course, it helps a lot that I am pretty much in control of my schedule.
When I saw my doctor last week we agreed that I can't expect to get back to what used to be normal, but that where I am is okay. I really want to walk another race, but I know that my knee wouldn't hold up to doing a half marathon or the training for it. After the knee replacement in a few years, I'm certainly going to try and I'm holding on to that possibility... because while now is a huge improvement its still kind of depressing.
And then there's finances. I'm really glad that I have insurance, as I'd be in much worse shape without it. Still, things are still rough and they're not really getting better. I'm not making enough to support myself and now I've got prescription costs and health insurance premiums to pay. I have had no luck with finding temp work. I tried to find work pet sitting, and that isn't happening either. There's always someone hiring for retail around here (grocery and drug stores), but since I can't stand for long periods and can't bend my knees easily, I think my retail days are behind me. I'm still trying to find ways to make money online. Y'know, legit ways to make money online... as opposed to most of what's out there. Its not easy, but I haven't given up.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Good news from the orthopedic surgeon. He thinks that I can go about another ten years before I'll need a knee replacement. He gave me a cortisone shot today and anti-inflamatories and said that I should see some difference very soon though it may take a week or two to get the full effect. Once we get the inflammation down, back to walking. Those of you who know me know how badly I want... NEED to get back to walking. He says to come back if in 2 weeks I haven't gotten major relief and that if the cortisone works he'll do the shots every few months if I need them.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I saw the doctor on January 22. She ordered x-rays and blood tests (R.A., Lupus, Lyme Disease...) and she wrote three prescriptions and sent me for a knee brace that immobilizes my right knee. Prescription #1 - Painkiller. My blood pressure was a little high and my normal blood pressure is lower than most, so one of the first things she did was tell me that I couldn't keep taking Aleve. Its okay short term, but it contains sodium so its not a good long-term solution for pain. Prescription #2 - cortico-steroid to get the swelling down. This worked for a while, but as soon as I had one day when I wasn't on the couch for most of the day, the swelling came back. Presciption #3 - Wellbutrin. Yup, I've been needing antidepressants for a long time. She went with Wellbutrin because it is less likely than some of the others to lead to weight gain.
The results - the x-rays show that I've got mild to moderate arthritis in my left knee and moderate to severe in my right knee. The other problem is the cartilage in the right knee. As she put it, its supposed to look like provolone cheese and mine looks like swiss. The only things that the blood tests show is that my thyroid is a little off - not enough to be sure there's a problem, so we'll retest in a few months, and my vitamin D level is low. I didn't think that I had any of those other things and she didn't either, but its best to test and make sure, and now we know.
Next - I'm taking vitamin D3 every day and prescription D2 once a week. Again, retest in a few months. I will need a knee replacement AT SOME POINT. The question is when. I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon on Friday (weather permitting) and we'll see what they think. I'm hoping for injections for now, but we'll just have to see what this doctor says.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I've been struggling for more than a month now with knee problems. I've had problems with my knees for years, but nothing like what I'm experiencing now. I've had many days when its been very difficult to get around my apartment. With rest things would get better, but as soon as I started to get back to my normal habits I'd be hobbled again. After a couple of these cycles, I've finally admitted that whatever is going on is serious and must be treated.
Add into that that I'm with the plethora who had health insurance starting January 1 and this started in December. First I was waiting for Jan. 1 to get here, and then for my insurance information to arrive. Jan. 1 came and went, and still no insurance information. Again, I finally had to give up on the idea that I wouldn't have to do anything. Yesterday I started making phone calls. It took hours, until early this morning, to get the information I need to be able to use my insurance. Then I had to pick a doctor. A few more phone calls, and I've found one and have an appointment.
I am very lucky to have a local friend who has offered to help, since I can't get around these days. Since I need to arrange an appointment around her work schedule, I won't get to the doctor for another couple of weeks. Still, its progress. I wish that I could convince myself that I'm going to go to the doctor and everything is going to be great. I'm not even convinced that I won't need a specialist and maybe even surgery, but I'm still glad that I've done something, finally.
My next issue is curbing my emotional eating and changing my goals to account for my lack of activity. I have definitely gained over the past month and I was already headed away from my goals instead of toward them. If I can't exercise, I need put that time to good use managing my eating and trying to reach other goals.
All of this, of course, makes meeting my other goals just that much harder. How the heck to I get additional work when I'm in pain if I walk around my apartment too much? Yep, that's the question. What a mess!
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