Thursday, June 27, 2013

*No More Skiing?

"What are you going to do when you retire?"  I heard that question time after time as the end of May approached.  And I knew how to answer it, too. We're going to hike, bike, and ski. I've enjoyed an active lifestyle since about 2000, when I tried weight lifting, walking and running to get in better shape. When I was in my late forties, I decided I needed to learn to ski.

Still smiling on New Year's Day
Last Christmas, I gave my teenager a season pass to Eagle Point Ski Resort. I wanted us to take advantage of the weekends we had together by skiing and boarding. New Year's Day was a perfect day for skiing, clear skies and sunshine. 

It is also the day that I joined the ranks of the injured athlete. I'm no professional; I am a "nube," a novice, but I try to make up for any athletic prowess I lack with enthusiasm. That can get a girl in trouble, apparently. 

I finally agreed to take on the hill to which my ski instructor had challenged me the previous year. It was with great trepidation that I started my descent, and the next thing I knew, gravity took over, and I was a tangled mess of arms, legs, skis and ski poles, careening down the mountain like a tumbleweed.

My doctor told me that I had torn my MCL. (I'd only heard of ACLs; the MCL is the ligament of the inner knee.) His face lit up with a big smile.  

"You have something in common with Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz!  This is the same injury that ended his career."  

If that was supposed to be comforting, it certainly was not. Lucky for me, I don't rely on my knees to make my money. I was able to return to my fifth grade classroom immediately; I just had a little "hitch in my get-along," as they say.

It seems that my passion for skiing would have to wait until the MCL healed, until about June. June is a pretty crummy time to hit the slopes, and my hopes were dashed. We only skied that one day last season, and the klutz in me saw to it that we we began and ended our fun times together on New Year's. NOT WHAT I'D ENVISIONED.

Summer came; I retired; I started hiking. I hiked with my boys in Saint George, checking out the ancient petroglyphs; I hiked with friends along the Bonneville Shoreline; I hiked alone in Bullion Canyon; I hiked with Bridger to Calf Creek Falls. I met a woman while I was hiking, and we exchanged phone numbers.  I had enlisted another hiking partner! The summer was off to a joyous start.

I just like this x-ray. My doctor assures me we can prevent
further damage in my finger joints by getting started now.
And then I met with my rheumatologist yesterday. I wasn't there about pain, necessarily, but about weakness. I knew there might be a problem when I started thinking perhaps we should buy our milk in quart-sized quantities because lifting half gallons hurt my wrists. Offers to massage family members dwindled because it hurt my hands to knead muscles for longer than a few minutes. Whenever I brush my finger across my nose, there is a sharp pain in my index finger. Once during a massage for myself, my wrists cracked and popped, much to the horror of the masseuse.  

"Wrists shouldn't do that.  You need to see a doctor soon," he advised.

So there I was, waiting for my lab and x-ray results. It seems my rheumatologist had two things to discuss...previous injuries that were causing a problem, and a diagnosis to explain my weakness and pain. Dr. Mathews snapped the x-ray of my back onto the lighted view box. I knew it wouldn't be a pretty sight. Falling out of a tree on my tailbone, and a couple of BAD landings in gymnastics when I was young had taken their toll on my spine. Lower back pain is just something I've dealt with since I was a teenager.

Basically, he told me that the GOOD news was that the damage in my spine occurred in the vertebra just below the end of the spinal cord, so if a future injury occurs in that fragile spot, it won't paralyze me. Well, that WAS some good news!  (Holy cow, this wasn't going the way I'd hoped.) He went on to tell me how unstable my back is.  

"You could do the same movement a hundred times without a problem, and then one day, your back might slip, and you will require the assistance of an ambulance to get you to a hospital, and surgery to relieve the pain in your back."

There was a crooked woman...
That tail bone should NOT be
that far to the right.

No walking on un-level surfaces. No sudden falls. No twisting ever. No lifting anything more than 25 pounds. No taking chances. No hiking. No skiing. No fun.
Then he went on to tell me I have Sjogren's Syndrome. Long story short, my body is a desert. I lack sufficient moisture (dry mouth, dry nose, dry eyes, etc.) that also affects the lubrication of my joints, which leads to arthritic conditions. Lovely. When I Googled Sjogren's, I learned that I have something in common with Venus Williams, the famous tennis player. This condition is what sidelined HER this year.

If I am going to have things in common with famous athletes, I would prefer it to be their salaries, their muscled physiques, or their mansions, if anyone in the heavens is listening. Just sayin'...

This is all still sinking in to my muddled brain. I am bummed. My feelings are hurt. And yes, I guess I'm a little depressed about the diagnosis, but I've always been a Pollyanna when it comes to setbacks. 

My mom taught me to see problems as challenges.  I've always banked on "when there's a will, there's a way." Once I realize that my life isn't ending, it's just going to be different, I'll be fine.

Was everything Dr. Mathews told me gloom and doom?  No.  I did hear a couple of "green lights." I can still walk on level surfaces, although NON-weight-bearing exercises are preferred. Biking and swimming are great, he reminded me. Biking is an activity I enjoy. We'll have to check out more of the bike trails in Utah. I love water, but I don't like swimming long, monotonous laps with my head underwater.  I like to "soak."  If I'm not going to be hiking and skiing, I better figure out new ways to burn calories because I sure don't plan to give up eating.

Speaking of eating, Venus Williams has adopted a raw, vegan diet since her diagnosis of Sjogren's. I've been trying to incorporate more veggies into my eating, and less red meat this summer anyway. I'm going to go slowly. Research. Experiment. Maybe this will turn into one of those blessings in disguise. Miss Venus is looking pretty trim these days. Miss Denise could use a little more lean flesh herself! There's the first glimmer of the silver lining.  

"It's all good," as they say in the south.  There's a saying which is not attributed to anyone famous, or anyone at all, really, that I like.

"It's not over until it's over."  And my ride definitely isn't over.  It's really just beginning, isn't it?

P.S. I cannot find the source of the above quote located on Pinterest, but I found a wonderful blog entry by Laura Jayne Martin that explores this whole "Everything will be okay" thing. She came to the same conclusion about the source of this quote. It's been attributed to many, including Paolo Coelho and John Lennon. I loved her writing.  Warning:  her language may offend some, but if that doesn't scare you, try reading "Everything Will be OK" here:


  1. I know you're bummed. I have some of those kind of issues and have been putting off going back to see my rheumatologist. I hated taking meds and feel better having been off (with the exception of motrin now and then)of them for years. You have a good attitude and will make lifestyle changes as needed...I feel assured I will always see that bright smile on your face no matter!

  2. Thanks, Susan. Once my brain settles down, I'm sure I'll see many more positives. I love my doctor's non-radical approach. No surgery; no extreme medications...just trying to prevent further damage and keep symptoms at bay. Thanks for the positive feedback!


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