Friday, 27 June 2014

A bump in the road: shouldering on, even though I am not very well armed.

Kits Beach

Dunno about you, but I've noticed that sometimes the universe throws you a great big curve ball, and suddenly everything changes. I don't hear the Gods laughing right now, but I can feel the hand of fate moving deftly these days.  This week I had my first physiotherapy appointment with Alex Fell and another consult with Dr Stein. Alex said that what with my connective tissue issues I do have a much better range of motion than he would have expected so soon after surgery.  Which is good and not so good at the same time.  Since I saw him last, Dr Stein has had a chance to review my files thoroughly, and what he came up with was pretty much all bad. He sat me down and had "the talk" with me.  He said that the damage to my scapula is the worst possible case scenario.  The inch all along the top is intact, and everything underneath is completely shattered into a million tiny pieces. He also said that when I crashed, the force of the impact pushed my ribs into the sternum so hard that the cartilage was pushed out and that the rib cracked where it used to connect. Well, you can see it for yourself.

See the bump? No wonder it hurts to breathe.
Dr Stein said that this is going to be a full six month recovery, and that I absolutely  must not place my shoulder under load until then.  He said "I'm sorry, but I can't give you the green light to race until next spring." I didn't cry at the time, but I did shed a tear later on, and it wasn't only because it still hurts so much that it makes me throw up sometimes. But thank goodness Bill was kind enough to lend me his trainer.  I don't know what I would do if I couldn't sweat.

And thank goodness for Bea bike, too...

I can't haul ass on it, cause the ability to stop is important, and any kind of crash is unthinkable, but at least I can still get around.

 I don't have to buy a car, and I don't need to hop on a bus, either.

Blessed be.  So even though that crash was a serious game changer, and even though it is limiting my options now, it will be alright in the end.  This time away from my road bike is giving me a chance to work on my core strength.

I can spend time with the boys...

and I can enjoy the company of friends on the beach.

All in all, life's not too bad, despite this unexpected bump in the road.  And hey!  The rest of the world seems to be finally catching on to cycling as a way of life.  It's a painfully slow process, but you can see the evidence everywhere...

It fills me with hope to see more and more people on bicycles at time ticks inexorably on. I miss being healthy, whole and unfractured. I still feel the aching need for speed every single day, but at least I'm still here, and I can still ride a little as the rest of the city slowly awakens to the best way of life...

You know what I'm talking about.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Hmmm...let's see. Which doctor is best for me?

My brain keeps protesting "But I am not left handed!" Using my left arm just doesn't seem right, but these days using my right has very painful consequences.  Dems da breaks. 

Still, you know that's not going to stop me.

Sure I miss wearing proper makeup sometimes. Never mind I've been too lazy of late to wear it much anyway.

Sure I miss laying whichever way I like, and I miss typing with two hands. I miss having a good sweat, and more than anything I miss riding my Ti Baby road bike as hard and fast as I can, but hey. Even though I can't chop, I can use a paring knife.  And as much as I hate typing singlehandedly, at least I can still text normally. It's okay. Bones heal.

And at least these legs still go. 

I make quite a spectacle lately, what with the sling and all of that roadrash. (This pussy-cat has definitely changed her spots.)  People keep stopping me, saying "What happened?!" I answer as best I can, though I'm not entirely sure what happened myself, except that we were really moving fast and I caught a wheel.  Bill very kindly noted how when the body is pushed to its limits, sometimes the brain gets a little less oxygen than might be optimal. And you know this particular brain needs all of the help it can get. It was well into the ride, and I was working hard, for sure. It was beautiful.  The. Best. Ride. Ever.  If the worst had happened and I'd died, I would have shuffled off this mortal coil a very happy woman indeed. But who knows? Perhaps if I hadn't pushed my limits, I might be riding intact today...

... instead of hobbling along at a snail's pace cause I feel every single bump in the road.

The doctors in hospital said it would be the end of August before I fully recover to race again, but I wrote a rider into that little deal. It's definitely going to be a long haul, this heal, but at least I can hop on Bea bike to get around the neighborhood if I have to. Y'know, the whole 'bike as a wheelchair for addled roadies' thing. It was a bit dodgy at first, but then one gorgeous soul moved my shifter from the right to the left hand side, and now I can cruise along just fine. As long as I keep it to a snail's pace so there aren't any bumps, that is. Cause it still really hurts to breathe.  I expect I cracked a rib or my sternum or something, but there's no point in having another x-ray to find out, cause it wouldn't change anything. (BTW - to detox undue radiation: 1c sea salt, 1 cup soda in a bath soak 20 min, 3x per week.  Needless to say, I make a habit of it.) This is a brutally painful injury, that's for sure, but I'm very lucky to have some pretty amazing doctors on my side. That means I can rest easy knowing I am getting the best possible care.

The first man my pain demanded I see was Dr Fred Meinzer, chiropractor to the BC Ballet. He's divine.  

His treatments are always gentle and magical and unbelievably healing and freeing. I always always walk away from Fred feeling blissful in the momentary suspension of tension and pain.  He's the very best, the Fred's Fred  and the day after I returned home from hospital, I reflexively called for an appointment. Fred is better than morphine, and equally addictive.  (Some dependencies are better than others, don't you think? I am a creature of habit who relies upon her healthy addictions.) It was way too early for me to get out and about, though, so I reluctantly cancelled the appointment, and waited a few days, hurting all over. When I did get there, he was so incredibly good, everything I dreamed of.  He always is. Though he didn't do any traditional chiropractic manipulations, he carefully re-aligned my poor banged up body with his little tapping machine, providing relief from the relentless pain.  I love Fred. People with my condition have to be particularly careful of neck manipulations, and he always treats me right.  I trust him with my life.

I've been seeing Dr Hal Brown at Integrative Healing Arts for years now. He's a powerful healer with an incredible education.  He should be called Drs Brown. He has a gift for diagnosis unlike any other health professional I have ever known, and you know I've met way more doctors than has your average Fred. Hal is a naturopathic doctor, a chiropractic doctor, and a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine.  He has a whole wall full of degrees and certificates and and he uses prolotherapy to stitch together my sad, weak, painful joints,with remarkable results.  I trust him implicitly, too.  He taught me that healing includes movement, a continuation of the regular athletic routine, to the greatest extent possible, because a healthy lifestyle fuels the body's ability to heal itself.  He's brilliant, Hal.

Dr Brown was concerned that I needed more comprehensive care, and so a couple of years ago, I went on the hunt for a good MD.  You wouldn't believe who I found. Of all of the many doctors I've met over the last dozen years or so, only a couple even knew what prolotherapy was.  So imagine my surprise to discover Dr Jeff Stein, a traditional doctor of western medicine who not only knows about it, but who actually offers it as a part of his practice! 

Dr Stein is a gem. He is a man ahead of his time, standing head and shoulders above his peers. He was the Olympic Freestyle Team physician, and he wisely has a number of great professionals on staff in his offices. You'll find a naturopath, a physiotherapist and orthopaedic surgeons, among others, all under one roof at the Stein Medical Clinic. Everything an athlete might need. I can't tell you what a relief it was that I'd have all of the follow-up care I could hope for at my GP's office.  I was not looking forward to the trips down to Richmond to have the staples removed from my surgery incision and have my rehabilitation monitored. This is ideal.I know that I will have the best care possible from a team of professionals who know me well.  I'm a lucky girl.

I love my life, even when it hurts.

One kind soul who loves me well recently asked "Has anyone ever laid a curse on you?" My breath caught for a split second and my heart skipped a beat before I realised that yes, yes indeed someone has. Fer real. Yer prolly laughing. That's ok. It's exactly what I did at the time, too. It happened years ago.  The person who cursed me is a scientist, a physicist with contempt for my Judeo-Christian perspective. He called himself a Thelemite, and one day he informed me dispassionately that he had placed a dark curse, a curse of chaos and entropy, upon my head. I figured if there was anything in it, love would protect me, that if I forgave him, and lived a life true to my highest purpose, that nothing like that could touch me. I shrugged it off, and forgot about it. But since then, I've had a lot of 'dances with death'.  

My kind friend, who has never displayed even a hint of a belief in God, the occult or the paranormal, suggested I do whatever I can to have the curse lifted.  So I also saw a witch doctor this week, someone to ensure that my path is a little safer in future.  That's right. A witch doctor, a light-workeer who claimed to shift my physical frequency so any curses on my head will no longer be able to find me. She's lovely, a gorgeous red-headed woman whose warm and friendly personality certainly soothed my soul if nothing else as she performed her quiet and understated ritual.

 days without my bike are always a little dark
Despite my trials and tribulations, I've long held the conviction that luck is what you make of it. Misfortune always conceals a gift, a prize of equal portent. My genes, which have created so much pain in their expression, have in so doing also made me the fit and healthy athlete I am today, and that's important to me. My body showed  me how strong muscles support weak joints, and how movement sustains happiness and well-being. 

Who knows what benefits this trauma might be hiding? Injuries are a part of sport, though I've definitely had my share of serious trauma. I learned a lot about being aware of everything happening around me in a peloton. In trying to live with this difficult situation, I've also learned something about the nature of fear. Opiates don't take pain away.  They make it not matter so much.  That's what makes meditation such a powerful weapon against pain, too.  Meditation makes it possible to experience pain without the emotional response to it.  It negates the effect of fear.  I've learned a few things this time round.  Who knows what else this healing journey might bring?

One thing I do know for sure: I'll be back on my bikes, riding hard and exploring this beautiful town again as soon as can possibly be. I hope to see you out there on two wheels, too. 

Sunday, 8 June 2014


Ha.  Sod's law in action. I did it again! The Gods are laughing out loud and all of a sudden I'm a forced southpaw. Again. The season of sunshine and barbecues has finally arrived.  This is the time of year when cycling is at its pinnacle, and where do I stand in the grand scheme of things?

Which space do I occupy on the Monopoly board of life?

fer fucksake
That's right. It's another one of those "Go directly to jail.  Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200" moments. Last weekend started out so normally, too.  What happened? I held a yard sale, (as you do), and when I did I met a fellow who modified his wheelchair to look like this:

Pretty cool, don'tcha think?  Except I highly doubt he'll ever have need of a helmet the way I so often do. Want to see the latest in my line of crushed and destroyed lids?

Not bad work for a Sunday morning, wouldn't you say? 

There's no doubt that I was riding harder and faster than the last time I crashed,

yet this time round I came though sans concussion, blessed be.

That's MIPS in action for you. I was definitely riding faster.  I was having a great ride with the vets, my best yet, and then I made the same dumbass newbie mistake as the last time I crashed.  Those guys are fast.  I fer sure fer sure crashed harder this time round. Half the helmet is caved in, reallly.  The crash completely changed the helmet's shape- far more than the last accident did, and yet my brain came out miles ahead, thanks to that sweet little design.  Take it from a real crash test dummy: it's well worth the investment, a MIPS helmet.

A regular helmet does little to protect you from the actual threat to your brain during a crash, but this baby definitely does the trick.

Too bad it couldn't save the rest of me.  It was ugly.

Yup. Uuuuuuuuuuugly.
The roadrash isn't exactly pretty, either.  It keeps sticking to the sheets when I fall asleep!

But that doesn't happen very often.

These legs sure miss moving. And I really miss my happy place. 

look: teeny tiny opiate pupils
It doesnt' look like much, does it?  The paramedics figured I had broken my collarbone, and perhaps dislocated my shoulder, so they took me to the local community hospital instead of to VGH, the trauma centre for the lower mainland.  Because they did, I spent three days with my arm hanging uselessly off my body awaiting surgery.  Here in  Canada, most collarbone fractures are sent home in a sling, without surgery, but when you shatter your scapula, too, (the way I did) there is nothing left attaching the arm to your shoulder, so they have to fix at least one point of connection.  I am here to tell you that it is a very painful thing when your arm is detached from the rest of your skeleton. They kept telling me that it is the most painful injury you can suffer, and I believe it. I smashed my shoulder and hip hard in the year 2000, resulting in multiple fractures in the same right shoulder and arm, and three fractures in my hip, and that wasn't as painful as this.

breathing hurts
Three days on, the orthopaedic surgeon sliced along the clavicle, (yup, they sliced the whole bone lengthwise) wrapped it in surgical steel, and bolted it back together again, blessed be.  For days after that it hurt even more than it did before, though I hadn't thought it possible. The worst of the swelling is over, though, so I can honestly say I am on the mend. But that's not what needs to be said now.

I need to apologise to my family and friends.  I can see how upsetting it is for you when I'm hurt. I just want to say that I am well and truly sorry to have given you such great cause to worry yet again.  And thank you. Your kind messages, gifts, companionship and support have all combined to make this very difficult week a little more bearable.  I am very grateful, and deeply touched. xo