I am just over a week removed from an accomplishment that I still cannot wrap my head around. I qualified for the Ironman World Championships in the 70.3 mile distance. When I first started triathlon about 9 years ago I did so in an attempt to keep myself lean and moving while trying to maintain my competitive drive. I never imagined that I would have the success that I have had given my spinal fusion. It is because of this success that I can say (given my make up) that it has all been worth it despite the extra wear and tear. I can also say that I feel VERY comfortable officially calling it quits for long distance triathlon!
I am also just over a week away from my cervical rhizotomy which will hopefully take the edge off of often debilitating stabbing neck pain and awful tension headaches and migraines. Also as I very much expected after this last race my low back hardware and low back pain is acting up and cannot be ignored. If it weren’t for the decades I have been managing and dealing with this pain I would think it unbearable. It is not though it often feels that way.
I look forward to some modest pain relief, continued focus on exercise and healthy eating while doing a little more reading and possibly writing. It wouldn’t hurt to be able to continue working as well! In addition I will have to find other more relatable ways to reach out to the Metal Parts community in order to be a source of encouragement, motivation and perhaps even inspiration to press for living life to it’s fullest despite our limitations.
How? It seems as if every year the same thing happens. We work, live, survive and thrive and then SO much time has passed. Thankfully despite a very difficult year full of highs and lows I find myself feeling very grateful about where we are as of 10/4/2017. I believe that this is part of how I am able to grind through awful and near debilitating pain on a regular basis: my philosophy regarding how the universe will balance itself out if you allow it. Whether by practice, experience, genetics or some combination I find that I don’t get either too high or too low.
This approach helps in that when things get really bad I don’t allow myself to ask “why me?” questions or get so bummed out that I go catatonic. A few months ago a dear aunt was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. Though I experience death and dying in my medical practice often due to seeing predominantly elderly patients I have yet to experience this type of loss in my personal life (not counting dogs but that is another story). Then this entire year my neck arthritis, bone spurs and headaches have made it necessary to further reduce my work hours and the number of patients I can see. I just completed a series of 4 insurance mandated painful test injections in the neck to determine if I should proceed with a nerve burning procedure. This appears to be happening next month so hope is alive.
Where this approach may be harmful is that I know that I am missing out on some feelings at the extremes that may actually be beneficial. I am not a crier so I don’t often release pent up feelings or emotions with tears. I have tended to value this stoicism but it can’t be the only way to handle very low lows. Also I realized after Ironman Arizona 140.6 in late 2015 that I also don’t experience a lot of joy and jubilation. As is the case with many of my accomplishments in work life and athletics I have lost the Joy and satisfaction that I should be feeling from what I am still able to do.
This May I went with my wife and friends for the first time to Utah and Zion for a Ragnar trail race. The experience was amazing except that the travel was rough and I ended up dislocating my pinkie and it is crooked forever plus I have to relocate it periodically quite painfully. I then was able to compete in Escape from Alcatraz in June which is a tough race to even get in to. Last minute they cancelled the swim due to dangerous currents so I did not experience the actual race the way it is designed plus the course is very hilly (San Francisco) and thus, of course, my body took forever to recover.
Gratitude for me comes from knowing that things could always be either better or worse in all areas of life. I find myself at this time thankful for it being a Wednesday in October where I was able to wake up, work a little, exercise a little, come home early to play with my dogs and then lie down to rest my neck and back so I can have a chance to do it all again tomorrow in pain but alive. Carry on.