|Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, just north of Norfolk Virginia|
Taken with the camera held through an open sunroof
Life is a strange journey. If you hang on and go for the ride it will take you places you never expected to go. I have been a lot of places, and I am sure I have a few left to go. But there can be some unexpected turns along the way.
Those who have seen me over the past 5-6 years may have noticed that I was slow standing up, not always steady on my feet. The change in my gait have become noticeable over the past couple of years. In recent months it has gotten worse. The initial assumption was arthritis, worn out knees, I was a gym rat that ran 1,000 plus miles a year, rode a bike 5,000+ miles a year and swam 100 + miles a year for a decade. Over the counter anti-inflammatories, creams and rubs and trying to move more have had limited effect on my walking.
Over recent months I have started falling. I am walking with a cane most of the time. I haven't ridden a bike in 4-5 months. I have also noticed changes in sensation and muscle control in my legs and feet. A lot of stiffness, some pain. I fell coming out of the metro station on Wednesday evening. I called Thursday and scheduled an appointment with a new doctor for 8:30 AM on Friday. The good news, it is not arthritis, my blood sugar level was normal; the bad news is we need to figure out what is causing it. I spend over an hour in an MRI machine on Friday evening (a novel experience, just lay back, close your eyes and try to make music out of the rhythm of the machine - don't open your eyes unless you like laying in a white cave with the ceiling three inches from your nose. I have a whole CD of MRI images I could bore you with.) The options are not pretty, it could be a fluid collection, it could be a disk issue in my spine - though I have little back pain, it could be a neurological condition. Now the wait for results and treatment options.
Some days are good, some are not and my journey drops me on my knees. If you ask me how I am, the answer is okay, or good, or not bad, or unbelievable. Unbelievable is a good answer, it always fits, unbelievably bad or good, I don't have to go into details. Bitching won't change anything, why should I screw with someone's day? (But isn't that what I am doing here, I guess I just need to ramble and vent for a few minutes, ignore this post if it depresses you.)
So, I focus on what I can do. I can still move and travel, though with less walking, or climbing stairs. I move slower and as a result I see, hear and smell things that I would have charged past in the past. J-Bear has a huge file of pictures of me walking away - as he stopped to smell the roses and I charged onward, now he has to slow down to stay with me. I can still work. I have a backlog of travel pictures that will keep Travel Penguin going until they all become fodder for TBT. My mind is intact. I have my sweet bear. I can still try to improve the lives of older adults (the focus of my professional work for the past 15 years - but I don't talk about my work here.) I have a new found understanding of changes in mobility and how little changes in an environment can make a huge difference in everyone being able to participate - this is likely to feature passionately in my work over coming years (just ask Ron how eye opening this is.) I can still drive, or ride in a car, I can still fly - and with a cane you get to board before first class (if I had known that I would have bought a folding cane to travel with years ago.) I can still sample the good whiskeys of the world, used in moderation it might even help lower my blood pressure. And when you are not steady on your feet to start with, you have practice moderation.
Over the next month, we hope to figure out where this journey is going next. Hang on, it might be a wild ride around an unexpected corner. I promise to keep you informed, but to try not to lament my tale of woe. As I told the doctor, "I am here today," I didn't say that I have left a dusty road in my wake.