I’ll admit, this one is a little embarrassing. I had a hernia for something like 8 years. This was an inguinal hernia, which means that it’s in the groin area. It just looked like a little lump right above my groin. It didn’t hurt, and it started out small, so I just kind of let it go.
Over time though, it got bigger, and once in a while it would hurt a bit. My doctor noticed it one year and told me that it could actually be dangerous. She explained that a hernia is when there is a hole or opening in the abdominal muscles, and a bit of the intestine starts to poke through. As it goes untreated longer over time, the hole gets bigger and more of the intestine starts to stick out. The intestine could get trapped in there and burst, which is pretty uncommon, but if it were to happen it would be life threatening.
My doctor explained that the surgery would be done with a laser, and would only be minimally invasive. They would place a small sheet of mesh over the hole so that the intestine couldn’t get through anymore. Over time, my body would heal by growing muscle through and around the mesh. The recovery time would only be about two weeks.
I’ve talked (well, written) before about how much I dislike having surgery, but in this case it seemed pretty necessary. There doesn’t seem to be any other way to get rid of a hernia, and they don’t exactly go away on their own. So finally I agreed to go ahead and have the surgical procedure done.
I remember trying to sit up after the surgery. Big mistake. My abdominal muscles would be sore for a while, because the doctors had to tease the muscle fibers apart! I would have to baby my belly muscles, and find creative ways to move myself around.
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I’m a baby when it comes to pain, but I’m even worse when it comes to pain medicine. I took my medicine as prescribed, but I really didn’t like how it made me feel. However, when the pain subsided enough that I could switch to the over the counter brands, I noticed something. Even though I hated the feeling of pain meds, it was really hard to come off of them! I was a sweaty, emotional mess for a couple of days! No wonder so many people develop a problem with addiction these days. Especially people who struggle with chronic pain. This experience really helped me to develop more compassion.
After a couple weeks, I was pretty much back to normal. I had to continue to be careful not to lift anything too heavy for a while longer. Overall though, I was able to resume activity and work pretty quickly. While having surgery is not my favorite thing, in this case, it was definitely worth it!
We love our parents. They’re still together, and that’s super rare these days. Of course, we remember them being as spry and energetic as they were when we were younger. Unfortunately though, that’s just not the case anymore. We asked our parents if it was okay with them for us to share a little bit about the struggles they’ve been facing lately. They agreed on two conditions. One, that we don’t use their real names or pictures – so we’ll just refer to them as Mom and Dad. Second, they asked us to omit certain details that they were worried might identify them. No problem. So if I get a little vague, just know that it’s to protect my parents’ wishes.
Our mom used to smoke cigarettes for a long time. She’s quit now, but she did some serious damage to her lungs. She’s been having trouble breathing for a while now. It’s pretty scary for me to think about. I mean, imagine not being able to breathe fully, and feeling short of breath all the time. If you’re reading this, please don’t ever smoke cigarettes. It’s not worth this fate.
Mom has been doing really well lately with taking better care of her health. She is watching what she eats, and trying to take walks more often. She’s also getting serious about getting her breathing back on track. She is seeing her pulmonologist (lung doctor) regularly now. They’re considering a surgical procedure that will help her gain back more of her lung capacity. I’m hopeful that my mom will be around for many more years.
My dad is a different story. He has knee and hip problems. He has already had one hip and one knee replacement. Then he had to deal with an issue in their crawlspace, which ended up being a fiasco. (Shout out to the Nashville crawlspace company which he finally ended up hiring. They really helped him out a lot!) Now his other knee and his other hip are bothering him. His doctors have to strategize with him to help figure out which procedure he will need to have done first.
To make matters worse, my dad has pretty bad hearing loss. I don’t know whether he went to too many concerts or something in his younger years, but it’s gotten a lot worse as he has grown older.
On top of that, my dad has had a lot of issues with back pain. Thankfully he’s doing a lot better now. They had to use radio frequency waves to kill some of the nerves in his back that were causing pain. This has limited his mobility to some extent, which wasn’t very high to begin with. However it was well worth it to make sure that he’s no longer in such terrible chronic pain.
My dad is a pretty good sport about all of this. He always chuckles and says, “it sucks getting old!” I hope that I have fewer health problems later as I age – it inspires me to take much better care of myself now. I love my parents and I hope to have both of them around for a long time yet!
In my last article, I mentioned that I had been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, and I was trying to avoid needing to have surgery on my foot. I tried many different approaches in an effort to heal myself.
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The first thing I had to do was stop running. I was so bummed out about this, because I really wanted to consider myself a runner. However, my health needed to be the top priority. This also meant that I had to find other ways to stay active! I switched to boxing-style workout classes to make sure I was still getting enough cardio in. I also took up yoga, because that helped me increase flexibility in my entire body – including my pesky foot, and the entire leg in question. Through yoga I learned just how connected everything is within the body. The foot was the area where I was having pain, but the problem may have originated in my hip or hamstring.
I next went to see my chiropractor. He happens to make custom orthotics right in his office. He took a mold of my feet and created small shoe inserts for me, made out of hard plastic. He told me the hard plastic is necessary and much better than any “squishy” shoe inserts you can buy in the store, because the plastic does not lose its shape while you walk on it. It definitely took me a while to get used to wearing them in my shoes, but after my feet had adjusted to the intrusion, I actually found that the orthotics helped immensely. They’re slim enough that I can wear them inside dress shoes, running shoes, and even certain sandals! If you suffer from foot pain, this is a treatment that I’d highly recommend.
Another strategy that helped me a lot, is that I bought some supportive compression socks and foot sleeves. I had to be careful though. Some products which are made specifically for plantar fasciitis tend to focus on the center of the foot. While it is very important to have proper arch support, I also needed something to support the heel, as this was where I was experiencing pain. I found some ankle-compression sleeves online that supported both my heel and my arch, and I wear those every day now.
Finally, I learned how to massage my foot. There are a lot of great techniques and tools you can use. It’s nice to get a foot massage as a special treat, but that quickly gets expensive, and there’s a lot you can do at home. I have a spiky ball that looks like a dog toy, and that feels great after I’ve rolled that under my foot a few times. Rolling the foot on a frozen water bottle can take the inflammation down and provide lots of relief. A regular old lacrosse ball is a great massage tool, too. Of course, you can use your hands, interlace your fingers of the opposite hand between the toes, and press your thumbs into the pressure points at the bottom of your foot. Be careful not to press so hard as to create a lot of pain in the area that is already painful, but don’t avoid those spots altogether. You’ll feel much better afterwards, I promise!
As of today, my plantar fasciitis has not completely gone away, but it’s feeling much better. I’m virtually pain-free because of all the wonderful tools at my disposal. I am relieved to have been able to treat the problem so effectively from the comfort of my own home, and if this is a condition you suffer from, I wish you the same success!
For a minute there, I thought I was going to be a runner. Xavi and I were both super excited. We both went out and got fitted for good running shoes. We were super careful to start out running on grass instead of pavement (which means a 15 minute drive to our favorite local park). We were careful to stretch after our daily run. At first, my lungs protested after a few meters. But eventually I was able to work my way up to a mile at a time, and then two miles. I was thinking of gearing up to run a 5K, something I haven’t done since I was in my 20’s. I was starting to feel proud of myself, and really beginning to love my new routine.
Then my heel started to hurt. It started out subtly, and it was no problem to push through at first. But then, the problem got worse. I tried to be more diligent about my stretching. But soon I had to cut back to running once every other day, and even then, the pain became so severe that it was hard to walk the day after even a light jog. I knew I had to do something.
Eventually, I decided to go talk to my doctor. She told me that I have plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the connective tissue (called fascia) that lives at the bottom of the foot. In my case, it was causing a pulling sensation in my heel which had become very painful. I had a few options. I could try to treat the problem myself, as I had been doing. There were some more at-home remedies I could try. I could opt for a cortisone injection right in my foot, which might be a permanent solution, but if not, it could still alleviate the pain for up to 6 weeks. There was also a surgical option. This is apparently quite common, has minimal recovery time, and typically is a permanent fix for the issue. However I hate having surgery and I wanted to avoid this route if at all possible.
I decided to try the injection. As promised, it made the pain go away completely. I was ecstatic – I must be cured, I believed! Unfortunately, that proved not to be the case. After about 5 weeks, the pain started to return. At first it was subtle, like it had been in the beginning. However, around the 7 week mark, I could no longer run at all.
I felt so defeated. Still determined not to go the surgical route except as an absolute last resort, I started to do my own research, and began experimenting with various options for how to treat my plantar fasciitis on my own.
In my next article I will share openly about my trial and error process, what has worked, what hasn’t, and the result of all my research and diligent attention to my aching foot. This is a very common problem for many people, and I hope that something I share will help someone else to find some measure of relief.
(This portion of my story is generously brought to you by the fine folks at https://www.hsvcrawlspace.com/. If you live anywhere near Huntsville Alabama and have a crawlspace in your home, they are the people to call if you ever need repairs done!)
This story isn’t about me; it was my sister Maria. The incident happened when she was pregnant. I guess that kidney stones are fairly common for pregnant people. Maria told me it was OK to share her experience here, because she thinks that maybe her story could help or encourage someone else.
From the way my sister describes the experience, she woke up in the night with horrible pain in what felt like her back and her side. She tried to go to the bathroom, but it didn’t help. Then she tried to go back to sleep, but she couldn’t sleep through the pain. She tried to take an ibuprofen, but it made her throw up. Her husband woke up in all the commotion. Crying, Maria finally decided she needed to go to the hospital.
All the doctors’ offices and urgent care centers were closed in the middle of the night. Therefore Maria’s husband drove her to the emergency room. They had to pull over along the way because the pain was so bad it kept making Maria throw up. They waited for what seemed like an eternity to be seen. Finally, though, Maria was admitted to the hospital.
An ultrasound showed that she had a kidney stone. The doctor gave her an IV with whatever pain medicine they’re allowed to give you when you’re pregnant. They offered to let my sister drink a lot of water and see if the stone would pass, but of course she didn’t want to do that. The other option was outpatient surgery.
The surgical procedure involved going into the kidney through her bladder to break up the stone. That sounds horrible to me. I can’t even imagine it. I was worried after the surgery, because my sister didn’t seem to want to wake up. Later, though, she told me she was just really tired! They had to leave a stent in for a few days after the procedure so that her urethra wouldn’t swell shut. That sounds horrifying as well. Maria said it was really uncomfortable all the time, until she went back in for the doctor to remove it.
However she was ultimately relieved that the doctors were able to remove the stone, and after a few days she was completely back to normal. As scary as it seemed at the time, it turned out that a kidney stone was not that big of a deal after all. I’m really glad my sister was fine.
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