7 Week Recovery Report

Whew. Today was rough. We all have those days where things just don’t go our way. For us it started with a late wake up, and an early baseball game in the rain and wind. The kids were at each other all day, in and out of trouble, not listening. I decided they were tired so sent them to bed early. Oleg fell asleep in minutes, Max is right behind.

Ahhhhh. Sweet silence.

Small children’s efforts to derail my inner zen notwithstanding, I got in a good workout today. Did about a half hour on the elliptical – going as hard as I could. I dripped all over the machine, so that means I was working hard right? I guess when you go 180 rpm on there with reasonable resistance, “sweat happens.”

Normally, I am not a big fan of the elliptical. So boring. You can get your heart rate up on it though and that is all I needed. I had to skip running – my ankle has been bothering me more this week so I decided to get off it. It seems that the 9 or so miles of run/walking I did this week, combined with the Physical Therapy I’ve been doing for my ankle, was a lot.

Since the ankle is kind of sore, I’m going to try to stay off it until Wednesday and see if it calms down. If it does I will try to do the Inspiring Hope run next weekend. It may end up being an Inspiring Hope walk. I will run on Wednesday just to see how it is doing, then if it seems okay, I’ll sign up.

After elliptical I did my PT exercises. While I was doing the Arm and Leg swings in the Sagittal Plane (the hardest one I have to do) some wiseacre next to me goes, “I guess that exercise must be harder than it looks.”

I thought to myself, “What was your first clue, genius? The fact that I keep practically falling over, or that my face is beet red and I look like someone is poking me in the leg with a red hot poker?”

I was nice, though. I just said “yup,” and kept at it.

I sure will be glad to have running not cause me pain anymore, because I miss being able to do long runs on the weekend. As a friend of mine said to me this week, running is my sanity. It (and this blog) are my “me” things that I do. I like getting in a good workout at the gym, but it is not the same as running outside for an hour for my general outlook. I like getting sweaty out in nature I guess.

I said this was a 7 week recovery report. Guess I better report.

As far as the surgery aspect, things are good. No abdominal pain at all, everything feels pretty normal now. In fact, I’m not sure how much longer I will keep doing these reports because I am not sure how much longer the surgery itself will be a factor with regards to the things I am interested in talking about on this blog. I feel pretty good, can do pretty much everything I want to, and I still feel like long term there shouldn’t be much in the way of negative impact.

The only thing I am still struggling with is the ankle. I had really hoped the bed rest in March and time I’ve spent not running over the last 3 months (pretty much since the Rain Run) would have fixed me up. I certainly didn’t expect to still be having pain 3 months later. I think the PT is helping, and will help more and more as I get stronger, I just feel frustrated that this is the thing holding me back.

On the other hand, maybe it’s good this ankle thing is happening. Since the surgery recovery seems so easy, I’d probably have hurt myself already if there wasn’t something slowing me down, so maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.

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Recovery Report – Week 6

Yesterday was 6 weeks to the day since my hysterectomy surgery and I am excited because all my restrictions on exercise are finally lifted. I can start running again!

Truth be told, I jumped the gun and ran a little bit last week anyway, but now I am actually allowed to. Yay!

So I ran on Sunday, and again this morning. Technically, Sunday was the day before I was released. But whatever. Close enough – no harm was done. I ran about a mile and a quarter, and 1 mile of that was non stop, albeit going pretty slow. Didn’t wear a watch or keep track, I just ran on feel. It felt fine, though I was definitely ready to stop after that mile.

Today I did about 16 minutes on the treadmill, broken up into intervals of 5 – 6 minutes at about a 10 – 11 minute pace. So, I’m not sure of the exact distance, but I think it was probably a mile and a half or so. This was after I also did 20 minutes on the adaptive motion trainer, and before a core strength class. In core I had to modify everything and didn’t do V-sits at all (just seemed like a bad idea), but I got out there and did what I could.

So I’m proud of myself and feeling pretty pleased with my progress. Even though I don’t have the stamina I used to and my ankle is still a bit sore, I’m not going to focus on that – the important part is that I CAN run. I can still do these things. And soon, I’ll be able to do more – before long, I should be back to where I was. I am healed up, feeling good, and the PT I have been doing for the ankle issues has made a big difference very quickly.

So if you’re reading this, and you or someone you know is going to have a hysterectomy, or similar surgery – please know, it doesn’t have to be a scary thing. I know I was very scared about it and only did it when I really felt there was no other option.

Some people have a hard recovery, but mine has been quite easy since about the 10th day. I would guess my experience is fairly typical. And really, a couple weeks of feeling not so great is a very short amount of time when you consider that it is going to keep me from having to worry about the possibility of cancer developing later. The recovery was hard at first but I think I will eventually feel better than ever.

Better Every Day

Every time someone asks me how I am feeling since my surgery, I tell them I feel better every day. It wasn’t true at first, but it has been true for the last couple of weeks since I started back to walking at the gym. I am at 5 weeks today and am really feeling strong now. I occasionally have odd twinges of soreness, but for the most part my surgical stuff is not causing me any pain.

If only based on my recovery from surgery, I think I would be getting back to running pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the tendinitis I developed back in January is still bothering me.

Since I’ve already tried giving it a couple of months of rest and doing some rehab exercises I found on the Internet – a course of action that hasn’t quite worked- I decided to stop futzing around and actually go see a doctor about it today. He basically agreed with my Internet diagnosis of posterior tibial tendonitis, and recommended 2 more weeks of high dose Ibuprofen three times daily, some PT and some orthotics, and then see where we are. He also said I need to go back to Brooks when I go back to running as the Asics I switched to are probably not a stable enough shoe for me. Honestly, I can feel the squishyness of them so I definitely think it could be the shoes are at least partially responsible.

Anyway, If there’s no improvement in a couple of weeks, then we will do an MRI and possibly refer me to a podiatrist.

The good news for now is that he felt that I didn’t seem to be in enough pain for a stress fracture to be very likely, and that tendonitis was very consistent with what I told him about my training. A lot of mileage added quickly is a pretty textbook way to give yourself tendinitis, which I knew. What I didn’t know was how fast it would go from “no problem” to “big problem”. At the time I knew I was adding miles pretty quickly but had just hoped to get by with it for a few weeks. Obviously, I miscalculated. Lesson learned, I guess.

Disappointed

Had a very disappointing post operative appointment today. I had been thinking that since I have been feeling so good that I would probably be released to resume more of my normal activities. Even if I didn’t get released, I thought at least there would be some sort examination and I would get to hear about how things are healing up. But, neither of those things happened. The doctor asked how I was doing, I told him great and when could I start running. He said he was glad to hear I was doing great, but he never releases anyone for exercise before 6 weeks.

So. Not sure how to feel about this. Guess I will just keep doing what I am doing, maybe ease off somewhat, and continue to wait it out like I have been. Grr.

Obeying the Letter if not the Spirit

I have continued my walking workouts and am finding every day feels a little better. I was told that until I was cleared by my doctor I should walk as much as possible, but to start out with no more than 15 minutes of leisurely walking. I was also told not to lift anything more than 10 pounds, and to try not to bend at the waist and do no core work since I still have stitches inside that are healing.

I guess you could say I am going by the letter if not the spirit of what I was told. What I took from all this is that after two weeks I could go to the gym as long as I limited my activities to:

Walking on the treadmill. Started out with “leisurely pace” on Monday (22 minute/mile) and graduated to “business-like pace” today (20 minute/mile). Before surgery my walking pace was about a 16 minute mile. I am keeping it slower so as to keep from feeling any strain in the core. I am starting with 15 minutes this week, and will increase 5 minutes each week or as I am able.

Upper body. Bicep curls, shoulder presses, triceps presses and shoulder openers using 5 lb. weights. These require minimal core engagement so they seem safe. Right now I am doing all upper body exercises while seated on a stability ball, to further protect the pelvic floor. I basically am doing the exercises recommended in this video with a couple of extras added in.

Hip bridges and pelvic tilts. I am being gentle with these, doing them mostly to get some relief for lower back discomfort (from sitting around), and to maintain flexibility in the hip flexors and some strength in the glutes.

Calf raises and foot/ankle stability exercises. These are important since I gave myself tendinitis of the posterior tibial tendon back in January and am rehabbing from that in addition to surgery. It is possible that the tendinitis, rather than the surgery recovery, will be the limiter of when I go back to running. So I will work on this in hopes that everything will be ready at the same time.

One of the things I have noticed is that recovering from this surgery is very individual. Some people heal quickly, others don’t. I think I will be toward the quicker end, as I’ve really had relatively little pain all along, and I was pretty strong to begin with. And it may also help that as a runner I’ve been very tuned in to my body. I notice when things aren’t feeling right and tend to pay attention.

I also notice that there is no set formula for returning to exercise. Some people are running marathons 6 weeks later, and others take months even to run a mile. Not sure what this will look like for me, but I’m hoping to be running again by summer.

I didn’t die!

On January 25, I ran my half marathon, and didn’t die. I gave myself tendinitis, but otherwise things went well. Looking forward to doing that again sometime.

February we took two family trips to go skiing – we went to Banff and skied at Sunshine Village (which was great) and for my birthday weekend we went to Mission Ridge, which is a little closer to home. Everyone in the family had a good time. And in spite of avalanches and snowstorms, none of us died.

And then it was March and my surgery date was upon me.  The closer I got to the big day, the more nervous I got and for a few days before I was trying to talk myself out of doing the surgery at all. But my husband kept reminding me that surgery would be better than not having surgery and then finding out I had cancer, so I had to be a big girl.

Then it was March 10 – the big day.  I had a 5am wake up, a shower with the weird soap they gave me and then my husband drove me to the hospital for a 6am check in, leaving my children in my auntie’s capable hands.

Actual surgery was at 7:30 but it takes an hour and a half for them to take you back to surgery. That time is spent getting you ready to go back and asking you repeatedly if you know what they plan to do. I had listened to my doctor at the preop appointment and done my research so I not only knew what the plan was, I also had a pretty good visual as far as what it would look like. Ew. I told my doctor to be careful in there and try not to kill me or anything, and then they gave me the Versed and wheeled me back to the OR. Seconds later the anaesthetic kicked in and I was out. 

Surgery was uneventful, so I hear.  I was out cold, so I don’t know anything other than what they told me – which is that they found all manner of problems (endometriosis, adenomyosis, Fallopian tubes adhered shut,  plus the fibroids and complex hyperplasia that we already knew about), but the surgery went well and was over in about an hour and a half. No sign of cancer, thank goodness.

The next thing I remember is waking up in my room at noon feeling queasy. The nausea stuck around for a while along with some dizziness whenever they adjusted my pain meds, but by the afternoon I started feeling better. At 5 they kicked me out of bed to take a walk around the floor, then my kids came for a visit. Then I slept until morning. They released me next day as soon as I proved to the nurses that I could still pee.

So my surgery is over and I didn’t die! Since then, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been on total pelvic rest, meaning I pretty much can’t do anything that involves the pelvis or the belly. No bending, lifting, twisting or running. Honestly, this directive has not been a problem since the first week I was pretty much flat on my back, and even last week I still didn’t have much energy.

During this whole ordeal I was fortunate to have my aunt and my dad here to help me with the kids and the housework that I would normally do, so that really helped me relax and recover. For the last few days I’ve been feeling better, so I’ve done a little bit of leisurely walking. I’m pretty tired after so I know that it will be a while before I will be ready to run. It’s more important right now to rest and recover. Running will still be there when my body is ready.

Today marked the end of 2 weeks of total rest, so I am starting back with more of my usual routine (still resting a lot though and going easy). I started back at the gym with 15 minutes of walking on the treadmill with 1% incline at a 2.3 mph pace. I felt little twinges near my incision when I tried to go faster, so I just backed it off to where I didn’t have any discomfort. After the walking was over I sat down for a little to rest (I was feeling a bit sore), then I went and worked on my ankle strength using the rocker board. A little light stretching and that was it for my first workout. If I feel up to it tomorrow I’ll try to go a bit faster, do a little more,  and see how I do.

Let the recovery begin!!

Factory parts no longer under warrantee

Been pretty quiet on the blog lately, I know. I’ll rectify that situation now and give a brief update. But look out – I’m gonna be all old and talk about my health problems. Worse, I’m gonna talk about my lady parts.

The upshot is, the factory warrantee on my lady bits is about to expire. About the time I stopped posting, I started having some female problems. More specifically, I had the recurrence of some problems I had managed to keep on the back burner for the last few years.

A few years ago (2010), I had been having a lot of heavy bleeding between periods, which my doctor at the time kind of dismissed as being no big deal given that we knew I had some fairly good size fibroids. Her attitude was kind of “well, you have fibroids. Bleeding happens.”

I wasn’t satisfied with this answer though because up to that point, it hadn’t been happening to me. I knew that the fibroids had been there for years and never caused any abnormal bleeding before. Why did they suddenly start bleeding now? That didn’t seem right to me, so I asked her, how do we know everything is normal? She basically said, we don’t know, I am just making certain assumptions based on your age and general health. You don’t fit the profile for uterine cancer, but would you like me to test and make sure?

I said yes so she did an endometrial biopsy. And found that I had complex endometrial hyperplasia – which is not cancer, but can develop into cancer in some cases. She prescribed a round of progesterone and assured me that they could probably make the condition reverse and my bleeding would stop being an issue.

It didn’t work. I was referred to a gynecologist. Two more rounds of progesterone, more tests and still no improvement.

This time (early 2012) I was referred to a gynecological surgeon. The first words out of his mouth were – I think you are at high risk for this to develop into cancer given that you don’t fit the profile and aren’t responding to the usual course of action and I recommend hysterectomy.

That scared me. I had just adopted two high energy little boys and basically felt that my home situation was not under control enough to where I could consider anything that would incapacitate me for more than about 5 seconds. I wasn’t ready to take that step. So we decided to try some last ditch efforts to keep my factory parts. He prescribed megestrol, a high dose progesterone pill that is given to cancer patients to fight endometrial cancer (which I did not have, but I did have a precancerous condition so it was an appropriate treatment).

I also had to have a D&C. At the end of this, it appeared that the hyperplasia had finally been reversed and so I was able to avoid having the hysterectomy at that time. Instead, I was put on the Mirena IUD to provide a constant localized dose of progesterone in hopes that this would keep the bleeding issues at bay. Mirena actually stops periods completely, so after a few months I wasn’t supposed to be having any bleeding at all – not even my period.

It worked for a while but in early November, I had a period after not having had one for over 6 months. So once again, things were not responding as they are supposed to. And honestly, at this point I am just tired of worrying about this. Who wants to have the big C hanging over their head? I don’t have it now – and I don’t want to have it at any point in the future. I don’t really want to give things a chance to develop to that point.

So now is as good a time as any to take care of this. My life basically feels under control, I know my kids will be okay and that I will be okay, there is no reason to continue having this scary thing hanging over my head. I’m healthy and want to stay that way. So it is coming out in early March. I am just ready to be done with it.

How this ties into my running is, that since I don’t know how I will recover from the surgery, I am trying to get in as much running and exercise as possible before the big day so that I can be in as good of shape as possible beforehand. I am hoping this will make the recovery easier. It’s supposed to be laparascopic and minimally invasive, but still there will be some down time and recovery involved.

I have some goals I am working toward (partly to make myself feel better about this situation). I plan to do a half marathon at the end of January, and just did a 12k on December 15.

Some of my other plans for 2014 are on hold though – I won’t be doing the Heroes Half in April. I should be walking and maybe doing some short distance running by then, but 13 miles is right out. So running wise, I expect that I will spend most of next Spring and early Summer in recovery, and maybe if all goes really well, I can do a half sometime in the fall.

I will have to be careful though. They say you only get one chance to recover from this so I plan to take it easy and come back slowly. But until then I plan to run as much as I can, as fast as I can, until I can’t.