When the world locked down for COVID-19 in March 2020, there were few places to go, few things to do away from home, and lots of time to stay home and do very little. During the lockdown, Ted and I often said we’d go crazy if we didn’t have a backyard so we could get out of the house, and if we couldn’t exercise outdoors. A lot of other people in our area felt the same way–in the 40+ years we’ve lived here, we’ve never before seen so many people walking and biking in our neighborhood.

With documentation always on my mind (too much educational research in my background), I decided to track Ted’s and my exercise during the lockdown. The plan was to do it for three months because a three-month chart fit on a sheet of graph paper. Who knew we’d be living with COVID for over a year?? As the COVID restrictions continued, we thought it might be interesting to track our exercise for a year. We talked about what counted as exercise and decided on the following: walking, biking, Pilates, and anything indoors or outdoors that required at least an hour of effort and boosted our heart and respiratory rates. That category was cleverly titled “Other.” Because of COVID restrictions, our Pilates class didn’t meet from March until September but, during that time, we did hour-long Pilates routines in our basement.

Ted and I have always exercised regularly, but tracking our time provided affirmation of how regularly we exercise. It also showed us that when we take a day or two off from exercising, we don’t have to feel guilty about it. For example, one week in August when it was hot and we just didn’t feel like exercising, we marked off a week on our chart as “vacation.” So there! Even with that exercise-free week, we averaged 8.4 hours per week of exercise in August. Not surprisingly, we exercised the most in June (warm, but not too humid yet–average of 13.87 hours/week) and the least in December (cold weather and all those Christmas preparations–average of 5.6 hours/week).

The CDC recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week (2.5 hours/week) or 25 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 days per week (1.25 hours/week). We exceeded those guidelines, and we are pretty proud of that. Even in our lowest month (December–5.6 hours/week) we exercised more than the CDC suggests. Here are the stats for our exercise in the past year.

In the coming year, we plan to alternate more walking with our biking. Why? Because when the weather became too cold to bike, we marched up the steep hill on the street beside our house and realized (puff, puff) that, although our legs were really strong, biking wasn’t giving us a sufficient cardio workout. Other than that, the plan is to keep on keepin’ on. Move it or lose it, right?

I saw this picture of Dr. Anthony Fauci (Tony to those who know him) and noticed that he has an appropriately clever face mask, covered with test tubes, beakers, Bunsen burners, etc.

In 1959, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiated a plan to rid the world of smallpox. This was the beginning of a global eradication plan for the disease. As a result of aggressive vaccination efforts around the world, the last naturally-acquired case of smallpox was recorded in 1975. The last death from smallpox (acquired in a research setting) was recorded in 1978. In 1979, the WHO adopted this symbol to celebrate the eradication of smallpox.

Polio reached the worldwide epidemic level in the early 1900s. It was most active during the summer months and usually struck young children. Parents were more frightened of polio than of anything else threatening their children. I remember hearing the numbers of polio cases regularly announced on the radio, accompanied by swimming pool closings and cancellations of large gatherings. Polio infections peaked in the United States in 1957 with 57,000 people infected, 21,000 people paralyzed, and 3,000 people dying of the disease–mostly young children.

In 1955, the first polio vaccine became available in the United States. In the 1950s, the U.S. government played a limited role in public health, so it was the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (later re-named the March of Dimes) that implemented a mass vaccination program to provide free polio vaccine for U.S. school children. As a result of polio vaccinations, the U.S. has been free of polio since 1979, and it has been eliminated from the Western Hemisphere since 1994. At this time, it is found only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where 176 cases were reported in 2019.

Our medical challenge today is COVID-19. Vaccines have been developed rapidly through worldwide scientific co-operation made possible through private and public funding. There is a long way to go before we reach herd immunity to this pandemic, but vaccines are becoming increasingly available to the citizens of the world.

I have a scar on my upper left arm where I was vaccinated for smallpox to help eradicate that worldwide disease. I was one of those school children who received the polio vaccine in 1955 to help eradicate that worldwide disease.

Today, I had my first dose of COVID-19 vaccine as my contribution to help eradicate this worldwide disease. Ted has an upcoming appointment for his vaccination.

Reassurance for the squeamish: gory details have been omitted.

The tools: One of Ted’s and my wedding gifts was a beautifully engraved knife and a honing steel.

The task: For the 51+ years I’ve had it, I’ve used the honing steel to keep my knives sharp and I taught Ted and the kids how to hone our kitchen knives. Here’s Ted, demonstrating what I was doing with the knife I was honing. (Are you getting a hint of where this is going?)

The tragedy: After 51+ years, I have never even scratched myself honing a knife, but last night I sliced myself across the wrist.

I have a history of fainting at the sight of blood and at the thought of surgical needles piercing my skin, but I’ve always managed to remain conscious until the medical personnel took over. This was no exception. I saw the injury and slammed a wad of paper towel over it. When I quickly needed a second wad of paper towel, I directed Ted to tie a handkerchief around my forearm and to tie a pencil into it to form a tourniquet. (I learned that in first aid class in grade school and I finally had a chance to use my knowledge.) I kept my arm elevated while Ted drove me to the ER. So much for our plan to sit in our hot tub when we finished doing the dishes.

I was seen quickly and the wound was described as “suture worthy” and probably not a candidate for medical glue because of wrist movement. The first nurse I saw said the bleeding had nearly stopped, so Ted and I did a good job. She put a pressure bandage over my wrist and I kept my arm elevated while waiting for my turn with the doctor.

Because of strict COVID policies, the lobby was restricted to patients only, so Ted had to wait in the car until I was in a private ER room. While I was waiting my turn, I heard myself referred to as “the laceration.” Three different caregivers asked me at three different times if the injury was intentional. I assume a slashed wrist indicates possible suicidal thoughts. One nurse specifically asked if I’ve been thinking of suicide. No, I was mostly thinking about not fainting and wondering how on earth I managed to do this after 51+ years of honing knives almost daily. I said it wasn’t intentional; I cut myself while honing a knife. None of them knew what “honing” was. This gave me three opportunities to be a teacher again.

Nearly three hours later (obviously, my injury was not life-threatening), I was ushered into a room and Ted joined me. That nurse told me the cut was a little more than two inches long and definitely needed sutures. After another half-hour, the doctor arrived, examined the wound, cleaned it, and told me the bleeding had stopped and the tissue was already beginning to bond. She said nothing major was injured (artery, nerves, tendons) and that if I was willing to wear a splint and keep my wrist immobile for several days, it looked like the wound would heal satisfactorily if she closed it with steri-strips. I need to wear the splint 3-4 days, and the steri-strips will gradually peel off and be gone in a week or so.

Well, there goes my hot tub time for the next week! The splint is going to be inconvenient, but it’s a minor thing compared to how bad my injury could have been. It looks like I need another 51 years of practice with my honing steel.

On February 2, Jeff’s blog informed his readers that some of the things “everyone” knows are true might not include full disclosure. Jeff’s example was that eating carrots will improve your eyesight, a line of propaganda with a tiny grain of truth, but actually created to encourage the British population to consume more of England’s plentiful carrot crop.

There are countless other unsupported health-related truths that “everyone” knows, including: breakfast is the most important meal of the day; drink eight glasses of water a day; get eight hours of sleep per night; two thousand calories a day is normal; don’t swim for an hour after eating; you’ll lose more weight by exercising in the morning; and (today’s topic) everyone should walk 10,000 steps per day.

The 10,000-step goal is commonly used as the default for fitness trackers and smartphone apps; however, there is no scientific basis for making 10,000 steps a daily fitness goal. A Harvard professor looked into the origins of the 10,000-step standard. In a May 2019 article, she reported that this measure of fitness appears to have started as a marketing strategy for a Japanese pedometer company in the 1960s. She explained that the company’s product was named the “10,000 step meter” because the Japanese character for 10,000 looks like a person walking.

Scientific studies have shown that for sedentary people, even a modest increase in daily activity can bring significant health benefits. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy people get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (five 30-minute sessions) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week (five 15-minute sessions).

The conclusion: as long as we’re active, we can just keep on keepin’ on. No guilt needed for fewer than 10,000 daily steps.

Today I had my six-month follow-up visit with my surgeon, and he told me exactly what I wanted to hear: Since no cancer cells have shown up on my three-month or six-month scans, he is confident that (1) he removed all of the cancer cells during my surgery last November; and (2) there are no stray cancer cells anywhere else in my body.

He agrees with my neurologist that scheduling nine-month and one-year scans is a good idea, but he said he is officially diagnosing me as cancer-free. Oh, happy day!

I had an appointment with my oncologist this morning to get the results of last week’s CT scan. He told me there has been no change in the two small “suspicious” areas since my October 2018 scan six months ago. What a relief! I have a number of benign cysts scattered around my body, and I’m beginning to believe these two areas are simply previously undetected benign cysts. I have two more CT scans in my future–August and November– before the one-year anniversary of my surgery, but I think that six months without change allows me to say, with some degree of confidence, that I had cancer.

Ted and I went out to lunch to celebrate after my oncology appointment, and then we met with our travel agent to finalize some details of our upcoming July and December overseas trips. The travel agent has a calendar on her desk that perfectly described my day.

 

This is how I felt for three weeks.  I had abdominal pain that kept getting worse.  After 11 days that included several calls to the doctor and one office visit, Ted took me to the ER, where the diagnosis was a partial blockage of the small bowel due to some inflammation,.  The treatment:  rest the bowel to reduce the inflammation, which meant two days with nothing by mouth, one-and-a-half days of clear liquids, one-and-a-half days of full liquids, then a day of soft food and a discharge after six days in the hospital.

I had the misfortune of meeting two people who need to practice their IV skills.  Both had to ask someone else to put the IV in my arm, and the second person in each case did just fine with no pain or bruising.

At least if you’re only going to get clear liquids, the nutritionist makes the tray attractive–two flavors of broth, two colors of Jell-o, and two colors of juice.

When Ted brought me home, the first thing I saw was a dozen long-stemmed roses to welcome me back.  I think he missed me.

 

After leaving the hospital, I had only five days to recover before Ted and I planned to fly to Seattle for Julian’s high school graduation.  I was feeling very weak and tired from 15 days of 24-hour pain and a week of minimal food, so I checked with the airline about a refund for the tickets.  I learned that a refund was possible up to the time of departure with an email and an attached letter from my doctor.  I called my doctor and Ted picked up the letter, just in case we needed it.  Tuesday evening, I decided I’d be able to make it, so we texted Thom to be at the airport.

Wednesday–our flight day–was very long.  We had workmen at the house at 8:00 a.m. and were busy all day.  Our 7:30 p.m. flight was delayed an hour-and-a-half, and by the time we got to bed in Seattle, it was 3:00 a.m. St. Louis time–a 19-hour day.  Thom and Katie had to work Thursday, so Ted and I slept late and took it easy all day.

The weekend with Thom’s family was wonderful.  We celebrated Ted’s and my 49th anniversary with dinner out on Thursday evening; we celebrated Julian’s high school graduation on Saturday; and we celebrated Father’s Day with four fathers (Ted, Thom, Katie’s dad, and Katie’s brother) on Sunday.  Monday was another long travel day.  Thom took us to the airport at 7:30 a.m. and we got home at 9:00 p.m. Seattle time–a 13.5-hour day of travel, including another hour-and-a-half flight delay.

I’m still a little run down after being in pain from May 23-June 6, then following that a few days later with a six-day trip that included three celebrations and two long travel days, but I’m resting up this week to be ready for fun with our other kids and their families when they arrive next weekend.  I’m so glad I was able to attend Julian’s graduation, and I’m looking forward to next weekend.  I’m even happier that the last month is behind me, and I’m looking forward to a “normal” rest of the summer.

I’ve had pain in the ribs on the right side of my back since May.  I’ve tried muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory medications, as well as physical therapy, with no improvement.  A CT scan showed that three of my ribs are inflamed and are possibly rubbing against the lower part of my shoulder blade, thus preventing healing.

The orthopedist who ordered the CT scan suggested that I see some “new generation” specialists who focus on micro muscular exercises for treatment.  I’ve been working with the specialists for two weeks.  They predict that, after three weeks of treatment, I will notice a lessening of the pain, although it might take longer to completely eradicate it.

Ryan and John (they are doctors who go by their first names) focus on core strength, but they back up–way back!  In the room where they teach me the exercises, they have posters of babies on the wall.  I asked John about them and he said yes, they base much of their practice on the ways in which babies develop core strength.  According to the poster, these are called neuromuscular stabilization exercises in developmental positions.  That makes it sound more medical.

It’s pretty interesting to look at the baby’s poses and the adult’s poses.  It will be even more interesting if this alleviates the pain I’ve been feeling.  I guess I’m going back to my roots.  Or am I going back to my youth?

baby-1

baby-2

Today I saw the foot surgeon for my last post-operative visit.  The stress fracture is completely healed, the remaining swelling is very slight, and I am good to go with no restrictions and no hammer toes.  The doctor told me to go home and put on a pair of “regular” shoes, so I did–for the first time since March 3rd.

Sitting poolside in matching footwear

Sitting poolside in matching, non-athletic footwear

Sunday evening, for no apparent reason, my right foot swelled to an incredible size.  On Monday, I started feeling pain in my foot when I walked, but it wasn’t post-surgical pain in my toes; it was in the main part of my foot.  I tried ice and massage, and then ibuprofen for pain, but nothing helped.  The swelling is so severe that there is no visible arch under my foot and, when I stand, my toes don’t touch the floor–they just stick straight out.  The top is well above the top of my other foot, and it’s so wide, I can’t even get my toes into a shoe!

This morning, it was still swollen and I was limping because of the pain, so I called the surgeon and made an immediate appointment.  The diagnosis:  I have a stress fracture on at least one of the metatarsels.  As a result, I’m back to wearing a surgical shoe for a week, followed by another week of athletic shoes only, and I’ll be taking an anti-inflammatory medication for two weeks.  Because we caught it early, the doctor assured me it will heal quickly and I’ll be wearing regular shoes when we leave for Europe.

I didn’t know what a stress fracture is, so I asked questions.  In the doctor’s words, a bone in my foot is “trying to break.”  Stress fractures can be triggered by medical conditions (like surgery) that weaken the supporting muscles and decrease the muscular support of the bone, resulting in extra stress on the bone.  If I didn’t have such super-strong bones, and if I hadn’t been doing physical therapy for my foot muscles for the past five weeks, I’ll bet the damage would be much worse.

One downside of this is that I bought a really cute pair of new shoes to wear with a new summer dress when we go to church with Jeff’s family on Sunday, but I’ll be wearing a black surgical shoe instead.  Bummer!

Note:  When people see the surgical shoe and ask how I injured my foot, I tell them I was sliding into home.

I had a check-up with the foot surgeon for my toes today and had some bad news.  My toes are still swollen and don’t bend well, so I asked the doctor what he did in the surgery to correct them and if they will ever bend again.  The answer is “yes” and “no.”

Yes, my toes will bend at the first joint below the toenail and at the third joint where the toes meet the metatarsals; however, the correction required shaving a little bit of bone off each side of the second joint.  Then the pins were inserted so that the two bones could fuse during the healing process.  As a result, the second joint will never bend again.

All my life, I’ve been able to curl my toes around small objects to pick them up off the floor.  Then I bend my knee to lift my foot and I grab the object with my hand.  It’s quicker and easier than bending over.  It looks like I’ll never do this again.  Darn!  It was a handy little trick!  On the other hand, I’ll be able to wear shoes without getting blisters on my toes, so it’s probably a good trade-off.

The pins were removed from my toes this morning and, for the first time in four weeks, I put on a pair of socks and a pair of shoes.  My right foot is still a little swollen, and the shoe is snug, but it’s not a boot, so I’m pretty happy.  The most surprising part?  Both the doctor and the nurse asked if I wanted to keep the pins!  Apparently a lot of people do.  What do you think they do with them?

I am under doctor’s orders to put on a shoe every day as soon as I wake up and to keep it on until I go to bed.  This will keep the swelling down.  I may start walking today, going up to a mile, then I may increase the distance by a half mile each week for the next three weeks, when I go back for a re-check.  Other than that, showers are OK, but no soaking my foot in water; and I’m allowed to do only upper body exercise for the next three weeks, since my toes are still healing.

I may disregard the doctor’s orders at the risk of injury and needing to repeat the surgery for repairs.  If I’m a good girl (aren’t I always?) and do what I’m supposed to do (don’t I always?), he promised my foot will fit into regular shoes before we leave for Europe in late June.  Yea!

These are the pins that were in my toes with the nurse's finger for scale.

These are the pins that were in my toes, with the nurse’s finger for scale.  (Note:  I didn’t keep them.)

 

Look, look! Matching shoes and no boot on my foot!

Look, look! Matching footwear and no boot on my foot!

I was doing very well following my foot surgery.  For the first three days, it was elevation and ice–20 minutes on/20 minutes off with the ice.  Ted was awesome about getting up and down to fetch ice while I sat in the elevated foot position.  The doctor said I’d need pain-killers for three days, and he was right.  I guess he has some prior knowledge about this situation.  I’m not supposed to remove my bandages until I have the stitches removed, so I haven’t seen my toes, but I know there are stitches on the top of each one and an actual metal pin with a protective rubber tip sticking out of the end of each corrected toe.

After feeling pretty good Sunday, I woke up around 4:00 am Monday with pain in one toe that wouldn’t let me sleep and didn’t respond to medication.  I called the doctor and was told I might have bumped it in my sleep–no biggie.  Today, it was still hurting, so I called the doctor again and was told to come to the office.  I said it felt like the metal pin was pressing into my toe, but the other two toes didn’t feel like that.  An x-ray showed that one pin had made a one-quarter turn in its place and was jammed down a quarter inch so that it was pressing into the next bone beyond the joint!  No wonder it felt like a metal pin in my foot!  

The doctor pulled the pin back out to where it should be and it feels fine.  I don’t remember bumping my foot (I’ve been really careful, because it’s still very tender), but he said it doesn’t take much and that I’ll likely do it several more times before the pins are removed in a month.  The good news:  if it happens when my toes are more healed, it probably won’t hurt.  Now I have to worry about another bump, but if it’s such a common occurrence, it won’t be a surprise to the doctor if I need another adjustment.  It might be time to come up with a better idea than easily-jammed pins in the toes.

Today was my first day out of the house since the surgery.  It was weird to get one sock out of the drawer and to take one shoe from the closet instead of two.  Maybe after doing this for a month, it will seem normal.

Spring green tape from the doctor to replace hospital beige

Today’s footwear

Spring green tape from the doctor to replace hospital beige

Spring green tape from the doctor to replace hospital beige

This morning, Ted and I got up at the ungodly hour of 4:45 am (who knew there was life at that time of day?!) to check in at the hospital for surgery to correct three hammer toes on my right foot.

The problem started at least four years ago, but didn’t really begin to bother me until this past year.  As my second toe got worse, the knuckle kept getting higher and higher, making it increasingly difficult to choose from my nearly 100 pair of shoes to find one that wasn’t painful for walking.  The top of any shoe–even athletic shoes–rubbed on the knuckle, creating a blister.  Even socks were starting to feel too tight on my toe.

I finally made an appointment with a podiatrist last week and he said I actually have three toes that need correcting.  When he pointed out the difference between my right and left toes, it was pretty obvious, even to a non-medical person like me.  He said he could schedule the surgery today or next month, so I opted for today to get ‘er done.  Why wait?

Now I’ve got four weeks in a boot, followed by three weeks in athletic shoes, and then I’ll be fine.  To celebrate, I bought a new pair of athletic shoes last week.

Small, lightweight boot for driving (not until next week)

Uncomfortably, clumsy boot for walking

Uncomfortable, clumsy boot for walking (4 weeks)

My wrist is healing and I’m down to a smaller bandage.  I guess pretty soon I’ll have to offer to help do the dishes again.

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I’ve been feeling crummy for six days now, and there’s no sign I’m getting better.  In fact, my eyes are red, swollen, and draining today, so I decided it’s time to call in the big guns and make a doctor’s appointment.  It’s not flu; my lungs are clear; it’s probably viral; and it’s not what the doctor is seeing in most of his patients these days.  So there!  It’s not “that thing going around.”  I feel too awful to say that makes me feel special.

The prescription:  A cough syrup with codeine in it to stop my nearly constant coughing and Sudafed to clear the congestion he thinks might be backing up from my sinuses into my eyes.

The prognosis:  It might take five more days before I even start to feel better.  As Jeff would write, sigh.

We’ve had three up/down weather cycles in the last ten days (25-35 degree temperature differences in the daytime highs), and that almost always gives me laryngitis.  This time was no exception.  The laryngitis wasn’t bad–one crummy day and then a come-back–but it was followed by something evil that took me downhill for three days.  This is the fourth day and I think I bottomed out yesterday, because I feel a little better today.  I assume that in 7-10 days, I’ll be fine.  Sooner would be good.

Question:  When you get sick in the winter, why does everyone blame it on “that thing that’s going around”?  Does “that thing” ever “go around” in other seasons?

This morning, I had a giant cell tumor removed from my wrist.  It’s a noncancerous growth of larger-than-normal cells.  It looked like I had inserted a marble under my skin, and I could tell that it was growing over the past few months.  It was getting big enough to become irritated when I repeatedly bumped my wrist on flat surfaces, so it was time to get rid of it.

Before the surgery, the prep nurse asked if I had any questions.  I asked how long I have to wait to put pressure on my wrist and to return to Pilates.  (Answer:  Two weeks for pressure;  OK for Pilates as long as I don’t do any moves that put stress on my wrist.)

This was an outpatient procedure, so the “rooms” were divided by curtains like an emergency room.  That meant I could hear other patients’ conversations.  When asked if he had any questions before his procedure, the man on the other side of my curtain said, “Just one.  When can I drink alcohol?”  (Answer:  Not while you’re taking pain medication.)  Obviously, his priorities are different from mine.

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