Monday, August 14, 2017

Feet (or rather heel) don't fail me now

Tanglewood on a beautiful day 
After fear of relapse and fear of death, the thing I fear most is return of the dreaded heel pain, plantar fasciitis.

It practically crippled me for months that I had it years ago, and it was a pain to get rid of, cured finally by the soft orthotics that I got from physical therapist Ken Holt out in Montague. I complained bitterly (a favorite word of my father's) about it, while not complaining at all about leukemia. So the twinges that I have had lately have set off alarm bells. I do not want to go back to the period when I couldn't even walk down my driveway without piercing pain.

It might have started from walking barefoot more than I used to; a friend doesn't allow shoes in the house, and I walked barefoot until I could find the appropriate footwear to put on in place of the slippers offered. The slippers were almost the same as going barefoot because they were flat, plus, they were ugly! I repurposed a pair of old sandals by cleaning them. Opinion varies on whether going barefoot is good or bad for plantar fasciitis; in my case it is bed because I need the support.

Then I exacerbated it on an otherwise lovely day at Tanglewood with the Boston University Alumni Association and guests last week. (Some people were confused by my FB posting saying I was with the BU group because they thought I went to Vassar. I got my undergrad from Vassar and my master's in journalism from BU.) I have been to Tanglewood many times but never took an official walking tour like I did last week. Learning about the history was interesting on the beautiful day, but I did it in shoes not made for walking. Hence by the end of the day my feet really killed.

It didn't detract from enjoying the music while sitting in the Shed, a totally different experience from sitting on the lawn, on the day of Yo Yo Ma's "Little Carlito" entreaty. Such a pleasure to hear a star speak like a "real" person, even giving the number of the Stockbridge and Lenox police departments should anyone find the conductor's lost dog. If you read this story, you will discover the happy denouement.

I agree with my friend Ken Ross, who said of Yo Yo Ma in his review on Masslive, "One thing I will say about Ma that really makes him stand out - he always looks so happy to be performing on stage. Some artists might look like tortured souls. In contrast, Ma often has a genuine smile on his face when he's playing. And today was no exception. Other things I noticed about Ma today during his performance of Schumann's Cello Concerto - his effortless transitions, his crystal clear tone, his lighter-than-air touch and his superb sense of rhythm."

Meanwhile, back to my feet...I  stretched and iced a lot during the week and began to feel reassured that the twinges would stay at just that. Though you never can be sure because it can sneak up on you.

Race volunteer
On Friday I was a volunteer at the T-shirt handout for the Bridge of Flowers 10-K in Shelburne Falls, held on Saturday. I was with others from Northampton's Cancer Connection, which, among other non-profits, benefits from the proceeds. We worked at the Shelburne-Buckland Elementary School for a couple of hours, with a break for a spaghetti supper and ice cream. When chatting with some of the runners while in line, I told them I was a runner who wasn't running...much. I told them I was playing a lot of tennis and the running was taking a back seat. Still, I had a twinge of envy as I gave out the T-shirts.

Afterwards, I drove to the Bridge of Flowers, walked across and back, and lingered for a while. In the twilight, it was so beautiful that it was hard to leave.

Bridge of Flowers at dusk
Yesterday when I woke up early enough to go for a run and with no tennis planned, I said to myself that if I was still a real runner and not a so-called one, I would take advantage of the cooler morning to go out and do it. With tennis usually taking precedence, I last ran about a week and a half ago.

So I laced up and stretched and out I went. My mind was its usual chatterbox, but by the time I got into it a little, it had quieted down. I got a taste of why I like it so much as I got into a little bit of a groove. I tried my best to pick it up a little between certain markers and felt pretty good.

When I checked my mileage on my phone after, I was surprised to see that I had gone 3.7 miles. Nothing hurt. Still, today, I got a few more twinges. I better pay attention to them. In many ways when you get to a certain age, running is not good for the body. But it is definitely good for the soul.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Writing up a storm, coping with neuropathy and other things

At fun party in Fairfield for Nell's second birthday
I've been remiss in posting on the blog but busy writing in other places and doing things such as going to Nell's second birthday party (fun) and going to Dana-Farber for ECP sans my friend who was driving me because the friend is on the disabled list (not too bad of a drive because I had one of the best drivers though not great about the friend on the DL).

I wrote this one for the Huffington Post about how John McCain's brain tumor diagnosis sparked memories of my father's. And another  about the difficulties in treating neuropathy. I did research and interviewed people who suffer from this intractable problem that has plagued me since my last round of chemotherapy eight years ago. (It must have been the strong rabbit serum, or ATG, that thankfully knocked the leukemia out of me.)

As the people I interviewed told me, it is a strange condition in which your extremities (in my case my feet) are numb and tingling and painful at the same time. I had proposed it to an editor I met at the American Association of Journalists and Authors conference in New York this spring. It was through Client Connections, a sort of speed dating event with editors, in which you have nine minutes to present yourself and your ideas.

Callen snoozing
You don't always get a story, so I was glad I got this one. It was my first time and I admit to being flummoxed. I haven't heard from the two other editors and should probably follow up by sending them the neuropathy clip, which is not a clip in the old sense of course but I still like to use it. Marketing is a good part of this freelance life and not one that an "old" newspaper person like me enjoys, but I have to do it because there are a lot of us out there.

My story ran as the August feature on the website of the MedShadow Foundation, whose goal is to educate on the side effects of prescription medicines and the potential alternatives. Of course as I was writing it, my feet felt worse, and I imagined myself eventually incapacitated as were some of the people I interviewed.

Which is similar to when you're a reporter and you write about people suffering from different diseases and imagine yourself getting that same disease. (You might have tried to avoid the story by making yourself "invisible" by sliding down in your chair when the editor came by with the assignment that you knew was coming but somebody had to do it, and the editors knew the tricks.)

And then you Snapped Out of It, thinking of good things that were happening at the time or just bringing yourself back to earth by reminding yourself that you were writing about other people and not about yourself.

Part of dealing with neuropathy has to do with distracting yourself rather than focusing on it. So other things I have been thinking of include cute talkative Nell and cuddly newborn Callen (who I cradled in my arms at the birthday party); happy Ben and Meghan and Joe and Katie all doing such good jobs; the guy whose name I can't mention (due to confidentiality) who I'm now taking care of as so many people used to take care of me; coach George sharing his tennis wisdom which I keep saying I'm going to write down, (and saying to me at a clinic yesterday when I was tired and trudging to pick up balls, "On your toes, on your toes"); and tennis friends joking yesterday that the title of my autobiography could be what I said when we were doing volleys and I made the right shot with the wrong foot in front.

"I had the wrong foot, but I made it."

Watch Federer always using the correct foot!