Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Not really done!

Today I endured almost 10 hours of tests.  I was poked prodded, scanned, talked too and declared still healthy.  Great News, I know!

But, there was a but!  I hate exceptions!  Today's was pointed.  My achilles tendon is inflamed!  It has hurt after my last few runs, it is stiff EVERY day.  There is a spot that lights up on the MRI.  It should be OK, but it isn't normal and I have to be careful.

My surgeon says I am healthy beyond what she ever expected.  My sensation, my strength at my ankle given that my tumor was on the nerve is apparently amazing.  I love that, but...  The but is my ankle has been radiated and cut up, it will never be normal.  No act of will on my part will make it so.

I know I shouldn't be sad, but I am.  I want this behind me.  I want to not have limits placed on me; however, sadly my reality is different.  If I didn't respect my surgeon so much I'd have fought this, but I know she knows me, she knows my ankle, and she's worried.  A ruptured radiated achilles would be BAD.  I can accept limitations to avoid that. I can, really!

So, the good news I'm healthy. The bad news, I have to be careful.

I can deal.  Getting and recovering from cancer in my ankle woke me up from being in horrible shape.  A caution isn't a bad thing.  I'm good, really I swear I am!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moving On

I have decided that The Tale of My Left Foot is done. 34 monthes ago, I had my first surgery on my ankle and 1 month later learned I had cancer. I have documented my journey, my triumphs, my failures, my fears and last weekend I completed a triathlon. So, now the "Tale" feels done. Thanks for travelling this road with me.

I can now be found at my new blog Call Me Dr. Lisa .

Thanks for taking this journey with me.  I may come back....

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sometimes You Need an Ego Boost

There are days when you wake up and just don’t feel like your mojo is quite where it should be. I was sort of been on a high after doing the triathlon and for one reason or another the last two days have been a little bit of a letdown. What goes up usually has to come down, even when the up is caused only by an infusion of sweat and adrenaline and not something illicit. Still “there is no drug like adrenaline.”

Fortunately, for me I had scheduled to get a Brazilian Blow Dry yesterday since I could finally keep my hair dry for the requisite post period, since I am no longer training. So yesterday I sat in my stylist's chair while she put stuff in my hair that smelled like strawberries and then flat ironed it all into my hair for what seemed like hours. The end result, long straight hair now flows from my head.

This morning my pillow smelled like fermented strawberries, but other than that, two seconds with a brush and my hair was perfect. Then I came to work and have had to “endure” people telling me how awesome I look all day. It is rough being beautiful.

Thanks for the ego boost everyone. I can always use it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Tale of My First Triathlon

Yesterday morning I completed my first triathlon

On Saturday, I bundled my nervous energy into productivity and worked in my garden for hours, cleaned my house, and then headed off to pick up my bib number and timing chip to be ready for Sunday morning. Then off to my parents for a pre-race hot tub soak and pasta and protein dinner. Home, I put myself to bed by 10 and tried to find sleep with my mind going a thousand miles an hour. I was filled with that preanticipation anxiety/ excitement. Ultimately, sleep overtook me.

Sunday morning dawned EARLY, my alarm went off at 4:15, but I was already awake. I pulled myself out of bed, finished packing my bags, stretched, ate my 1st breakfast, and headed to my friend Jason's house, and then off we went to the Hansen Dam. We got registered, we got in the long line to settle into our transition area, we stretched, we chatted, I ate more and then soon it was race time...

We all lined up in order of age and gender as informed for out starting heat, and prepared to enter the MURKY waters of the Hansen Dam. The nervous energy in my body was palpable. I knew that I had done what I could to prepare, but I really didn't know what to expect, what the race would be like. So, as each group entered into the water, we all cheered and watched as first people started to come out of the water. Then next thing I knew it was the group before mine.

Preparing to enter the dam

I put on my goggles and told myself that this was just a warm up. An easy 500 yd swim, no big deal. They called out our group, I ran over the timing pad, into the water, started swimming. The water was so murky I couldn't even see my arms in the water, people were swimming all over me, running into each other etc. Then about 100 yds into it, I was in less crowded water, and then I realized I was way off course, I redirected. Turning the first corner, I finally felt like I was hitting my stride and then I took a breath on my left and the lifeguards were alongside me pointing to the right. I was in the middle of the dam, woops! They guided me back to the course and I had to keep checking to make sure I stayed on course. All said and done I probably swam an extra 100-150 yards. Once I found my way to the exit ramp I happily put my feet down and started to run up the ramp and over the timer mat. Thankful the swim was over. Swim time- 13:44 (disappointing)

Then into transition 1, I ran. I went to my spot, dried off my feet, put on my shoes and socks, grabbed some of my power bar and some water. Helmet on, I grabbed my bike and ran out to the appointed spot where I could get on my bike. T1-3:47

The bike was well, easy. I had done the majority of the course before with my friends. I was confident, I felt strong. I was able to keep my pace up hill and the downhills were great breaks. There was one turn that was a little hairy, but since I am cautious and slowed way down, and it was fine. I actually had fun on the bike. Then I got to the part where we had to dismount and again ran over the timer pad. Bike Time- 36:28

Entering transition 2, I grabbed more protein bar, more water, switched my helmet for a hat and ran out the other way over yet one more timer pad. T2- 1:29

Then I started to run, the first 0.5 miles was rough, I almost choaked on the water I tried to drink at the first water spot, but then I hit my stride. While I was sucking air, I was able to keep pace. I saw my friend heading towards the finish line as I crossed the first turn. Encouraged, I then heard them announce the first woman to finish who was named Lisa. She finished in just over an hour. Bolstered, I kept running. The last 0.5 mile was all uphill, but there was no way I'd walk. Pleased that my local runs are nothing if not hilly. I pushed forward. I entered the final stretch, they called my name out. I ran over one last timer pad, and I was done- Run time 27:05

Crossing the finish line

Standing there at the finish line were my friends and my cousin. I was so happy to hear them cheering for me. I was hot, sweaty and exhilirated. My Mom and Uncle came and joined us. I couldn't believe I did it. Total time- 1:22, not quite what I aimed for, but I am very proud.

My official times

Me post race with Jason and Ryan

Post Race with Elle

Thanks so much for all of the support and encouragement.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why I'm doing a Triathlon

This Sunday I will do my first triathlon, The Hansen Dam Triathlon. Something I NEVER thought I’d do. Triathlons always seemed to me the pinnacle of obsessive exercise behavior. Especially the Iron Man (which I still think is crazy), but my journey of the last two years has brought me to the point of embarking on this my first “sprint triathlon.”

How did I get here? Two years ago, I finished my radiation treatment for cancer of the ankle. It would be another month before I’d walk again. That left me having spent 8 months in various stages of immobility- crutches, cane, hospitalized on complete bed rest, wheelchair, crutches, cane, crutches non-weight bearing again. During all of this time, I learned many things about myself and had endless amounts of time to think about my life. Shortly after getting my diagnosis, I was told that amputation would likely be the only way to avoid a recurrence of my cancer, and after going through all of my surgeries and treatments, I still face the reality that IF I have a local recurrence (ie. if the sarcoma comes back in my ankle) given how much of my ankle has already been removed, amputation still might be the only option. This is my reality. I don’t think about it often, but there it is. Through out my whole ordeal, I questioned what was the purpose of these trials? Would there be one, and what would I miss the most? I fought against my dependence on others, but I also learned to ask for help.

I realized that many of the things I feared losing, I had lost by letting myself get out of shape through years of my own medical training and not prioritizing my own health. I vowed to change that as soon as I was allowed to exercise again. Once I was given the green light, I was doing physical therapy twice a week, I joined a gym (largely to be able to swim), shortly thereafter I started working out with a personal trainer. Over the months and months that followed I got back to where I was before the first surgery, but suddenly that wasn’t good enough. I committed to being as healthy as possible. I kept weight lifting. I was up to swimming 1500-2000 yards at a go, and I started swimming butterfly again. I decided to start running. I prioritized my own health and fitness.

Now two years after completing my treatment I am in better shape than I have been since high school (if not ever), healthy eating and exercising are staples in my life. My outlook has never been better. A few months ago, friends started asking me with the fact that I am a swimmer, and now I ran 2-4 miles a few days a week when would I do triathlon. My response the first several times was an emphatic never. However, it got me thinking, why not? With a commitment to training, I could totally do it. This athletic event that always seemed miles out of my reach, suddenly sounded possible. My scarred, weakened ankle and I started training. I was hooked, I committed to doing the triathlon with a friend. I’ve now been training for 5 months, and I am sure I’ll be able to finish, but I am hoping to make a specific time. That old competitive spirit is alive in me.

I am doing this triathlon as a testament to my recovery, as thanks to the people who helped me get through my journey, as an outward sign of making my health a priority in my life.

Thanks to all of you for supporting me along this journey!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shedding my Shy Self

The other day I got a DM (twitter direct message- sort of like a text message) from Michael aka badassdadblog, a guy I have never met but whom I follow on twitter asking me if I wanted to join him and his family at a scuba diving event/ BarBQue this weekend. We had previously tweeted about diving and the possibility of going soon. So this wasn't completely out of the blue. He sent me the facebook link to the event. I read about it. I really wanted to go, I have been wanting to go diving more, I need to expand my social network etc., but I get nervous. I asked a friend if she wants to come, but she has to work, ack. What if I look stupid by myself, what it, what if. Blahhhhk, I could make myself crazy. I investigated the event, decided I'd go with or without my friend. I talked to the organizer today. Will rent equipment tomorrow. It will be fun. I am really excited about it actually despite my shy misgivings. Watch out world this could be a whole new me.

Last time I was diving!

Friday, July 31, 2009


I am a neonatologist, most of you know this. My specialty isn't all about happy endings and everything coming up roses. We deal with critically ill babies, babies so sick or with such rare diseases that they are transferred to us when they cannot be cared for in the community anymore. We have many wonderful success stories. I celebrate those because they keep me going through rough days. However, we also have many sad, sad stories and unfortunately some of the babies who come to us cannot be saved.

In my professional life, I am equally dedicated to saving the babies in my care who have a chance at survival and doing so with the highest level of skill and integrity that I can, as I am dedicated to not inflicting unnecessary suffering when it is clear that there is no possibility of survival. These dual goals of mine are not at all at odds with each other, but they do require extreme clarity and certainty of your knowledge. You must have the facts and when they are unclear fight for life. When the information is there you must be able to tell the family so they can understand and work towards acceptance. If you are not objective, this is not possible. There is a certain separation that must be maintained as the attending physician from your patients so that you can see clearly. This is why as physicians we do not care for family members, or those who are like family. Because try as you might, you cannot be objective. However, this is not in anyway to say that you should be withdrawn. As a neonatal intensivist, my humanity, my care, my concern is my center, my driving force. I must care, so that I can do my job to the best of my ability. As I have said the day that I do not shed a tear when a baby dies will be the day I quit. No questions asked, no second thoughts.

These thoughts have been in my head a lot lately. There are many reasons. Starting with my grandfather's stroke and continuing to what was not a very happy couple of weeks on service. Also, I have been trying to counsel some of my junior colleagues on these issues lately. It is not easy because everyone takes it so personally. I am far from perfect, but I do the best I can. I hope that I can still lead by example, and I hope that I can help my junior colleagues find their center in a place that will allow them to balance their lives and their patients lives.