Do You Play Through the Pain?

01.31.14

I’ve had a lifetime of joyful physical activity. From a childhood on the beach with hours spent in the ocean, on bikes, in the sand playing soccer and volleyball or hiking in the cliffs, there was never a day we kids weren’t in motion. As a teen I learned to love running and as a college student I took up mountaineering and cycling, both on the road and on the trails. Early adulthood brought me back to running and it was only during the 2007 City of Angels Half Marathon that I thought to myself, “If I play tennis there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll win. If I keep doing these runs I’ll never win a thing.” And because I missed competing I took up tennis. In retrospect it’s also the first time I knew that something was wrong with my body. I felt fatigue and joint pain and intuitively knew there was a problem, a big problem and decided to ignore it.

I’m not a great tennis player. I’m not even very good. I’m a solid 3.5 club player and the only reason I’m a 3.5 and not a 3.0 is because when we get to the third set I’m not tired. I’m just starting. My body is built for distance. I’m happy running (now quite slowly) for a couple of hours. My lungs feel like they’re full of glass the first 20 minutes but sometime around 30 minutes in they feel full and sweet with air and near the end of the first hour I feel a surge of lightness and joy and that’s when I know I’m about to have fun.

When I exercise I stop thinking in words and that’s the most important benefit that exercise has given me. This brain shut off comes around the end of the first hour and it’s a joy unlike anything I’ve ever known. It’s higher than any drug and sweeter than any candy. You know the sound of a baby’s laugh? My body feels like that laughter has been bottled and injected into my veins for a full hour. It’s bliss. Golden bliss.

Except that a year ago my tennis racquet fell out of my hand. And I dropped a dinner plate because my hand couldn’t support it. And the acupuncture that I was having three days a week wasn’t taking the pain away and I’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to live in a body that doesn’t hurt. I don’t even miss the pain free feeling anymore because it’s so unfamiliar, so lost.

My elbow hurts. Most days it only hurts a bit. I’m still having acupuncture and doing the physical therapy that was prescribed to me a year ago. I haven’t required a pain pill and I’m using topical anti inflammatories only. I can pick up a plate and I even bowled right handed (though the score is really no better than when I use my not dominant left hand). I miss tennis and I’m ready to get back to it. Perhaps even with a small ache in my elbow.

I’m going to beg the doctor for a cortisone injection next week and live my life again. I can’t be a runner again. Yes, I can run about 3 miles straight and not ache the next day but if I run the fourth it’s impossible to get out of bed the following morning. For some reason the side to side, sprinting and bouncing of a tennis court hurt a lot less and quite often not at all.

When I was younger and wanted to run faster, jump higher or just look better I trained through the pain. But before rheumatoid arthritis the pain wasn’t debilitating. It was the sweet pain of muscle growth. This new pain is the pain of joints deteriorating and I have to decide if I want to be happy now or later. Part of me knows that getting back to tennis without being 100% healed will hurt me down the road, but the other part of me really needs to play. It’s the part that needs to compete and is bored silly with Pilates. I’m at war with my own immune system. Hopefully my rheumatologist can give me secret weapon next week.

How to Ignore Pain and Hurt Your Body More: A Lesson in How to not Live with RA

04.3.13

If you have Rheumatoid Arthritis the chances are pretty good that you live with a certain amount of pain. My doctor is always asking what it is on a scale of 1 to 10 and I’m pretty content at a 1 or a 2. I’ve learned to live with it and enjoy my life. Maybe I’ll get into remission one day but it’s entirely possible that I won’t and my life will still be filled with mostly great days.

After the initial diagnosis I got immediate relief from various medicines. Some of them worked like miracles for me and others didn’t work so well. I take a few pills each day and most of the time I forget that I have RA. I have little aches and pains that acupuncture does a good job of lessening. Every 25 days I have to give myself an injection. Every 25 days I feel like a patient. Twice a year that injection isn’t covered by insurance (it’s only FDA approved for use every 30 days) so twice a year I beg every physician I’ve ever met for a sample since it’s a $2,500 injection. Twice a year I get really bitter.

In any event I’ve had a good year or so and I’d upped my tennis to about four days a week. I was playing well and loving it until my elbow started hurting a bit so I slowed down. When I slowed down to twice a week my elbow hurt less but it still hurt so I went ahead and booked the acupuncturist twice a week and added another tennis match to the schedule.

I suspect you’re seeing the problem here?

Well I went ahead and bought a tennis elbow strap. I’m always seeing people in them and my FSA covered it so I thought I’d give it a go. It worked miracles so I added another day a week.

Now I’m back to four days a week of tennis plus an elbow strap and two days a week of acupuncture. I’m uncomfortable, after a match my pain is at a 3 or a 4 but I have Celebrex so I can knock it down to a 2-3 and add a little ice. I enjoy tennis. I love to compete and I’m going to just ignore this elbow and live my life.

I had a terrible plan.

About a month ago I was playing a match and my racket fell out of my hand. My stomach dropped, that’s exactly what happened when I was first diagnosed with RA. I picked up my racket and finished the match. The next day I played again and every time I hit the ball it was like the ball was hitting my elbow and I was fighting back tears.

I finished the match. This is a sign of weakness not strength. I was too embarrassed to tell my opponent that I was in a lot of pain and needed to stop. I hate having part of my body not work and my refusal to acknowledge it makes everything worse.

I went home, iced my elbow, took my first Tramadol in nearly a year and called the doctor. An appointment confirmed it is, in fact, tennis elbow and it’s an injury that typically develops over the course of several years and may take up to a year to heal.

So then I left and got into my car and cried.

I’ve begun OT, I’m resting and icing and taking fists full of anti inflammatories but I’m upset with myself that I keep repeating the same pattern and seem to never learn. Three months ago this might have been a much smaller injury. I’ve just put a three month hold on my tennis club membership. I’m guessing I’ll need more months off than that.

The problem is that I listen to my body and then I basically talk back to it. The conversation sounds something like this:

Hey, I’m your elbow and this is hurting me you should probably ask the doctor why. 

Oh, I’d love to treat you well but right now I need some endorphines so can you shut up and play tennis please? 

Sure, but I’m going to hurt again all afternoon so be sure to listen to me then. Okay? 

Okay. I promise I will. 

And then, you know… I’ve lied to myself, ignored it all and I’m left with this mess.

 

Buying New Cars on a Whim

02.13.13

I’d really been looking for a larger sedan for Mr. G but then I turned on the diesel engine and felt the power and… well…. the rest is history. My father in law had just explained to me how he’s bought all of his cars on impulse. My father in law has impeccable taste in automobiles.

350E bluetech mercedes benz 2013

 

My tennis partner loves when I show up in new cars and she delights in driving each of them but this is the first time she’s been tempted. We’re going shopping in an hour. She wants the same car but not the diesel engine.

The Only Thing Better than an Hour of Tennis is Two Hours of Tennis

01.29.13

The Facebook, G+ and Twitter fast is going better than I’d ever imagined. I have seen a drop off of readership here and I’m sorry about that but I try to tell myself that at some point my friends will think, “I haven’t heard from Jessica in a while. Maybe I should check her blog.” Or maybe not. Maybe I’m missable. That’s okay with me too.

I had a tennis match at 9 this morning and typically you have 90 minutes on the court before someone gives you the boot. Sometimes that’s frustrating, sometimes 90 minutes is more than enough time to humiliate yourself. This morning I had a match with an actress. The pro had told me she was an actress and he’d also told me that he expected her to win the ladies 3.5 singles tourney (in which I’m competing). Actresses are my least favorite people, they’re sort of like bloggers with body dysmorphia thrown in and have a habit of actress avoidance.

The actress was very unactressy and that was just the beginning of a mostly perfect day. Of course she was tall and thin and she sort of lept across the court and she even beat me (but I really don’t think that will happen again). She was really nice, really fun to play tennis with (we were stuck at deuce a zillion times) and when we stopped to chat and catch our breaths she was really insightful and curious. So when I got a text that my 11am meeting was pushed to 11.15 and it was 10.40 and 4-2 I was thrilled to be able to finish the second set. Of course it was a 55 degree morning and my arthritis hates the cold so it was absolute kismet that I would have a 1.45 acupuncture appointment.

Is there any cliche I haven’t become?

From tennis there was a meeting with Glass Elevator and every so often I pinch myself because I realize that I’m working with women who are bright and creative and articulate and I’ve somehow fooled them into taking me along for the ride. We are SoClose to being able to share an exciting new project with the world that will have you laughing and loving the way we communicate.

And to round out the perfection it’s my husband’s first night away. I love that man but I love the first night he’s gone. I’m going to sleep diagonal after watching Downton Abbey or some other estrofest and in addition to not having put on any makeup I haven’t brushed my hair nor do I plan on it. That first night away is good for both of us. The second night I really miss him and the third night is downright lonely. The fourth night is miserable and I usually start inviting people for dinner and I’m thrilled to say that this time there will be no fifth night. He’ll be home for Super Bowl.

Which reminds me of my own pending travel and the fact that I’ve booked airline tickets for myself and my son but not Mr. G. His new work schedule has been so awful that we are doubting that he’ll come along for spring break so rather than buying and not using a ticket we’ve decided to roll the dice and if he can join us he will. Jane will be in London and Alexander and I will return to Amelia Island with a friend of his. It’s our first time doing anything like this and I see it as a sign of marital strength even though it has me feeling lonely and overwhelmed in advance.

2013 will be the year of independence. Unwanted independence for both of us. I’m not worried about if we can do it. I’m just a little pissy that we have to.

 

Tennis Needs to Declare Independence from the Royals

07.4.12

We were trying to watch tennis at Wimbledon this morning but the camera seems to have a hard time staying on the court. You see there’s this guy out of England who is a pretty solid fourth. Well, Nadal is out so maybe if he’s lucky he’ll be third behind Federer and Djokovic, but let’s face it, if Andy Murray had any luck at all he wouldn’t have been born in the same era as Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.

Murray shows promise though, he’s the best tennis player to come out of Jolly Old England in like 70 years. What’s killing me is that the Royals are so delighted with Murray that they’re coming out to every match and the cameras are spending more time on Middleton and whathisface than the court.

I want my tennis free from the Monarchy on Independence Day.

I find it odd that Americans care about Middelton, didn’t we try to get away from England and it’s ridiculous taxes that support old ladies and their tea sets?  I get that Middleton is  “pretty”, but she’s not exactly iconic. If she showed up at carpool at my kids’ school or camp she’d rate a solid 6, maybe a 7 with good lighting and no bags under the eyes.

Can someone, anyone, please give me a good reason for Americans to care?