Mika takes over my bed, for now

I've been wanting to do this for a while, so here goes

In a week I will be on my way to the very first adventure of the year. This is wonderful news in so many ways, the mark of a (sort of) end to a very, very long sabbatical away from something I dearly love and miss. That said, this Rogue River rafting trip is paid work and marks the beginning of another chapter in the adventure saga.

Going forward, not only do I have a pupper to mind, train and love with all my heart, but I also want to spend more time in the home I decided to keep. As I write, my handyman is finishing up the painting in the basement. The carpet gets replaced tomorrow. After I get back from the trip I get to set the house up bit by bit, this time in a completely different way.

I am planning and training for my eighties and nineties this time around.

This year's three river trips are all within driving distance. I am still recovering from surgeries in ways I hadn't planned for, so Big Badass Adventures of the type I loved in my sixties might have to wait. Some may never happen again, which is part of what this article is all about.

The nerves in my feet have not healed as expected. That was a surprise; the surgeon told me that it would take some eighteen months for the nerves to grow back. My left foot is now at twenty months. It would be fair to say that we're not seeing progress in nerve regeneration.

The middle part of my foot is numb to even sharp things. Both my feet hurt like an SOB at the end of the day no matter what we've done with shoes or orthotics. I'll bet some of you can relate.

My guess is numb feet are one reason that I took a header off my porch last July and broke my hip. Of course, if this is now a given, all future endeavors have to plan for this reality.

What I love about the coast

This past week I was out at the Coast, trying to walk on smooth rocks. I can, barely, but the experience underscored a simple fact: either use hiking poles even in such easy situations, or hope that the feet heal a lot better going forward. There is no guarantee of improvement.

This is not by way of complaint but explanation. For going on two years now I've spent time every night massaging, bending, pushing, rubbing. I've had to ask my feet not only to heal, but to recover from weeks in a boot, then adapt to new shoes, new orthotics and more.

Each stage required something different, new exercises, new ways to massage the feet as tendons corded into thick piano wire. That is in part a function of having abnormally high arches.

I've used all kinds of tricks, worked on my balance (which is forever work) and never given up hope. Nor will I. So far, lots of things have worked, but at this point, the big nerves in my feet have refused to regenerate.

So far. As all of us know at this point, each body is unique, the healing is different for each of us and never say never. We just don't know.

All you can do is shrug, shrug it off and do the work. This is the body I have, this is how it works, this is what I get to do to invite it back to its best level of health. My new 100% looks very different from the last decade.

Not sure what silly part of me believed at some level that I'd just have the surgery and get back to what I did before. Fused metatarsals have resulted in all kinds of side issues and complications that I didn't see coming.

This is genuinely funny when you have a fast-growing puppy with plenty of Great Dane blood in her demanding to be walked on a steep hill.

She prefers to poop smack in the middle of it, natch, because. She's a puppy.

Looking down a steep hill, a bumpy way to the bottom

I've taken several tumbles when she's pulled me after spotting a deer, which is one reason why my handyman will be building a banister for me when I hike up and down the slick, mossy stone steps behind my house. He already built one for the slate steps leading up to my wood pile, and I used it all last winter.

I schlep thirty to forty pounds of wood at a time, and the steps are like black ice:

This thing is a godsend

These are acknowledgments, not surrenders. I have zero interest in another serious fall, another broken hip, another six weeks before I walk again. It's foolish not to recognize the new demands that my numb feet place on me, and the potential reality that they may not improve. I move fast, I can be both clumsy and impatient. Those combined with slick rocks are a serious danger.

And I'm getting older, there's that. I want to adventure, not constantly recover.

My shoulders (three surgeries) and hands (four surgeries) are largely good. I've been back at the gym, doing balance work on the BOSU ball and hitting the weights as hard as I can for the time I can be away from Mika.

My left hand and shoulder are just fine. The right hand often hurts, and my right shoulder has some new tears. It's just life. You work around it. My PT and I keep extending our relationship out six months at a time. In all, given the seriously awful level of pain that all those parts were in prior, what I deal with now is minor.

It was worth it, and I am deeply grateful.

As soon as the carpet is in, I get to remake the downstairs gym. That way I can do some workouts at the house and take advantage of all kinds of YMCA offerings that I can't now because Mika's too young. I want to run pool laps and try various new yoga classes. Those take more time away than she can manage right now.

She's great in a crate, but swiftly outgrowing it. She also has an appetite for good shoes, so there are some places in the house she's not allowed until she's done ripping up teddy bears.

Friday, for the first time in a year, I hiked the hills around my house with Mika. Not far, and not fast. Also this past Wednesday I did a single sand dune lap with her. These are small steps. I need to work my hips with weight-bearing exercise again, but I also need to do this slowly so that I don't once again end up in that godawful boot.

The busted hip? Healed beautifully. It's a non-issue these days. I am so grateful for those sand dunes and the stairs I did last year. I hope to be back on the stairs again soon, but have to be very mindful of the potential of sesamoiditis, which I just got under control. Barely.

For clarity, that's not an age thing. It's an athlete thing:


Combine that with what we finally figured out was likely an attack of what was likely pseudogout, of all things, in my right toe joint, that's what's been sidelining me the most from hiking.

The best of all news is that after a protracted battle with the VA, I finally got referrals to the right specialists. Those specialists did all the right tests, those tests revealed the need for immediate dietary changes to prevent more kidney stones and to relieve the toe symptoms. Some of this was surprising as my diet is excellent, but I had way too much calcium.

That was because I have osteopenia, and haven't been able to hike because the sesamoiditis kept me in a boot for six weeks again. Normally, more calcium would have been a good idea, but not with my body chemistry. Which is why broad brush diets can't work for us all, and getting tested to work out our unique needs is so critical.

No more dairy but for one blessed coffee or tea per day. A small price to pay for no more kidney stones and to relieve any other symptoms. Just saying, that one cuppa is half whipping cream, but if I've got to have just one, that just one is gonna rock.

Any one of you can understand the frustration that all these have caused. It wasn't just the big surgeries, twelve in all since 2018. The complications, side shows and just stupid shit that kept happening have been something else again, particularly as I have pined a good bit for getting out and active.

However, there's light. While my hands will never work quite the same again, the work. My shoulders work. My hip works. My feet, while still recovering, work well enough so that I can walk and hike.

man in black jacket and blue denim jeans standing on green grass field near snow covered
Photo by Lê Tân / Unsplash

Whether or not I can do Annapurna, as I want to do, or other big hikes, I have no clue. Whether or not I will ever dance again, as in salsa which I love, I have no clue. But to be mobile again after so long is good news enough. We honestly can't appreciate what we have until we don't, a lesson that we can't seem to hold long enough.

I already knew that I'd be ratcheting back the extreme sports if for no other reason than I'm tired of the head injuries and coming home on a stretcher. Most of the time I was fine, but now with mildly compromised essential body parts, even with training I have to be far more careful.

So that's the partial update. I'll send more photos of the house once I get closer to finishing all the work. Right now I'm so glad to have a new dog, all the love you can imagine from her, new friendships forming, a community building, a friend who needs her horse ridden, all the things are coming together.

I hope all your spring days are full of warming sun and surprises like this, which Mika and found on our walk the other day:

We are lucky to be alive. I am lucky to be alive. I am incredibly fortunate in so many ways.