Archive for March 23rd, 2009

Today I went to Kaiser for a couple of tests to see if my doctor can determine the cause of the numbness.  (Are you getting as tired as I am of reading that phrase?)

First up was an ultrasound of my legs.  I pictured myself lying on a bed, goo smothered over both naked thighs and legs, with a machine imaging the insides of them.  Luckily it was a lot less invasive than this.  The technician instructed me to take off my shoes and socks, but keep the rest of my clothes on.  Thank God!  He then put blood pressure cuffs around both arms and both ankles.  Then he smeared a small probe with the goo and put it at each spot, first “listening” to the normal pulse, then turning on the cuffs so that they tightened, and then “listened” again, once the cuff was fully expanded.  In my arms, the pulse sounded strong, even after the cuff was taut.  On my feet, the pulse definitely lessened in intensity when the cuff was expanded.  I’m not sure what this means, if anything.  Then the tech had me get up and go up and down on my tippy toes for 2 minutes in order to “stress my legs.”  And stress them they did.  I could only do about 20 of those toe lifts in a row before I had some major cramps in my legs and had to stop for a second.  I told him these cramps were exactly how it felt whenever I started fitness walking.  Then he measured everything again.  I’m hoping that the results show something.

Next I went down to pathology to get my blood drawn for a series of tests.  The doctor had instructed me to fast from midnight on, which I did.  She said I could only have water.  Not a problem.  Or so I thought.  The ladies who were going to draw the blood asked if I had any gum that morning (maybe they smelled my minty-fresh breath?).  When I said I had had some sugar free gum, they lost their shit.  They started yelling at me saying that I had broken the fast.  They were literally yelling at me over gum?!  I got angry and told them in a very strong voice that it was only sugar free gum, that my doctor hadn’t said I couldn’t have gum, and that I wanted them to draw the blood anyway, broken fast or not.  I told them that I would retake the blood test if the doctor said I needed to, but in the mean time, I wanted it taken.  I guess they realized that they were dealing with someone with half a brain, because they took the blood and then at the end mentioned that the only thing the gum might throw off were my sugar levels.  Not quite the catastrophe they made it out to be.

I got the results of the blood tests back already, and almost everything is in the normal range.  The only thing that is a bit high is the “red blood cell corpuscle width,” although I have no idea what that means.  I found out that my doctor is out of the office until Monday, but I didn’t want to wait that long to hear what these results meant in layman’s terms, so I called the advice nurse and asked that someone from the doctor’s office call me back and interpret the results to me.  They should call back within 24 hours.

I’m glad that the process of discovery has begun, and I’m truly hoping that these initial tests will indicate what the problem is.  But, I’m also preparing for the reality that we may not find out what this is with the first test and other tests may be in my future.  As long as I eventually find out what this is, I’ll be glad.


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Be forewarned, this is going to be a L-O-N-G post, but I hope it will be worth it, because there’s so much to tell!

The Plan
My friend, Harj, decided that for her 30th birthday this year, she wanted to invite a bunch of her girlfriends to participate in the different Mermaid events taking place at Shoreline Park in Mt. View.  I invited LC to join me, thinking that the 5K would be a great way for us to spend some time together and get a little exercise while we were at it.  I also thought I could count it as my Sunday OYO training for TNT, so it would serve a double-duty.  We registered about a month ago, before I knew about the numbness issue with my feet/legs.  After I got the go-ahead from the doctor, I was looking forward to the event, because it meant that LC and I would have some time alone, just the two of us.

Bib & Goodie Bag Pick-Up
In order to avoid long lines on race day, the Mermaid people set up a bib & goodie bag pick up at Sports Basement on Saturday.  I decided to make the trip out to the store (about 25 minutes from my house, one way) so that LC and I could save time on Sunday morning.  I got to the store, picked up our bibs and goodie bags, only to discover that they had “run out” of the XXL women’s cut shirts we had both signed up to receive when we registered.  They were trying to offer me XL shirts.  Seriously?  If I thought I could fit an XL shirt, wouldn’t I have ordered one?  I was pissed and said, “what do you mean you’ve run out?  Why did we sign up for a certain size if you weren’t going to get enough of them?  This is completely disorganized and ridiculous!”  Finally one of the organizers came over and offered to give me 2 XXL unisex shirts, which weren’t as cute as the women’s cut ones, but at least they’d fit.

img_01471I love the saying on the shirt, don’t you?

The goodie bag is my favorite, though.  I really like all of the inspirational sayings on it:


A Sister Sleepover
Since LC hates to leave her husband with her two daughters too often (they can be a handful sometimes), I suggested that she come over my house Saturday night after she put the kids to bed.  That way, she’d be there for bath and story time, but she could still spend the night so that it would be easier to get to the event the next morning.  Plus, it would be fun to have a sleepover.

In honor of the sleepover, I made a special trip (to the only Whole Foods in my area that carries) it to buy some of the Lesser Evil Black & White Kettle Corn. (Although as I just went on their website to find the link, I noticed that Safeway and Target are now carrying these snacks, too.  Good to know, because I love it, and I hate having to drive all around town for it).  I had a feeling LC would love it, too, so I made sure to buy a bag for her to take with her.

I also thought that no sleepover would be complete without some hot cocoa.  This wasn’t going to be just any hot cocoa, though.  This was going to be the Hungry Girl fake out of the Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa that LC loves so much.  The Starbucks version is delicious, but it’s also 10 points, which is quite a splurge.  The HG version promised to be just as delicious and the point count is only 2.  Much better, don’t you think?  I had the hot chocolate packets and the salt, but couldn’t find the caramel anywhere.  When I told LC about it, she said that she’d stop at Safeway on her way to my house, because she thought she knew where it was.  She ended up buying Smucker’s sugar free caramel and said she found it on the end cap by the ice cream.  Perfect!  She also bought the light can of whipped cream, so we were in business.  We didn’t add the Splenda, because we felt that the chocolate mix would be sweet enough, especially with the whipped cream and caramel.  And boy, was it!  This was one of the most decadent-tasting treats I’ve had in a long time.  It tasted every bit as good as the Starbucks version, and at 1/5 the points!  Well, see for yourself:



Maybe a little heavy on the caramel, but still a low-point treat

Maybe a little heavy on the caramel, but still a low-point treat

After we got in our sugar fix and talked for a couple of hours, we got ready for bed.  Of course, we didn’t make it to sleep until after midnight, and we knew that 6am was going to come very quickly, but it was worth it.  All late-night, chocolate-filled gab sessions are, aren’t they?

Race Day
The morning of the race was a flurry of getting up, drinking coffee, having breakfast, fighting for the bathroom, and getting out the door.  We made it to Shoreline Park without incident (although I did take a left when I should’ve taken a right, but we quickly got back on track).  The weather reports were predicting rain, but we were hoping that it would hold out until after we finished the event.  And it did.  It wasn’t raining at all, but it was incredibly windy.  Given that these marshlands are set right on SF Bay, we knew it would be windy, but the wind was especially strong on Sunday, making for quite a chilly morning.  Still, LC and I had fun getting ready for the race.

My bib number

My bib number

LC's bib number

LC's bib number

We even bought some Mermaid hats, just in case the rain did decide to make an appearance:

LC's hat

LC's hat

My hat

My hat

The 5K
A little after 9am, they announced that it was time for all of the 5K participants to get in the starting lineup.  LC and I took our place among the rest of the women.  A bit off to the side, so that we wouldn’t be in the way as the runners passed us.  I was really excited to begin, but also felt a bit of trepidation, wondering when the numbness would kick in.  Still, it’s always such a rush to wait to start a walk like this.

Waiting for the "Ready, Set, Go!"

Waiting for the "Ready, Set, Go!"

As soon as the race began, everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE took off running.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Granted, the only other 5K I’ve been in was the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day and most of those participants were just people who were looking to take a leisurely stroll to work off some pre-Thanksgiving calories, but still!  Wasn’t anyone walking in this event?  Even the moms with strollers were passing us by.

I tried to go to that zen-like, “it doesn’t matter if I’m the last one” place that Kelly had tried to tell me about, but I just couldn’t get there.  It seriously bothered me that we were the last ones.  And I don’t mean the last by a little bit, I mean it was difficult to see the people in front of us.  Still, I knew that I shouldn’t try to go too fast at the beginning, before my legs had time to warm up.  LC was a trooper, because I know she could’ve gone faster than me if she wanted to, but she was a great sister and an even better friend for sticking in the back with me.  In fact, she really tried to shake me out of my competitive zone:

Bella: We are the last ones.  The LAST ones!  Everyone else has passed us.
LC: So what?  Who cares?  All that matters is that we’re doing this together and that we enjoy ourselves.
Bella: I know you’re right, but I’m just not “built” that way.  It really bothers me that we’re so far behind everyone else.  I HATE it.
LC: Why?  What’s the difference?
Bella: I hate feeling like I’m not good enough, or not as good as everyone else.  I know it’s stupid, but it’s just how I feel.  Ugh.  Arghhh!

And it got worse from there.

The winds picked up in a major way; so much so that we were really hitting a lot of resistance as we were walking against it.  Again when I complained about this, LC looked on the bright side and said, “just think about how much easier it will be on the way back, when the wind is pushing us!”  I really do love her so much for trying to stay so positive, even though my attitude was crap and I was being such a bitch.  And I hate that I was acting like that, because normally I am a positive person, myself.  I guess this just goes to show how much this whole thing is affecting me.

Then the numbness came, this time worse than it ever has been.  It got so bad that I almost stopped when LC asked me if I wanted to.  Instead, I pushed on, until it got to be too much, and then I felt the tears coming.  I told LC through sobs that I thought we should walk off the trail for a minute so I could stop and rest and because I needed a moment.  I basically had a mini breakdown right there.  I was so glad that LC was with me because I can be my true self with her.  I didn’t have to put on a brave face with her.  I didn’t have to pretend about anything.  I could cry, really cry, and tell her exactly what I was feeling.  I went on and on about everything I had been feeling and thinking and dealing with but holding inside.  LC was amazing, and I think that with her there, I finally knew what I needed to do.

A Realization
In the midst of my crying jag, I realized quite a few things.

First of all, that I was not going to be able to participate in the half marathon.  There is simply no way, at this point, with my injuries,  that I can walk for 13 miles when I can’t even go 2 miles without getting terrible numbness and pain.  No way.  Not even if I continue to “work through it anyway,” as I have been.  It was a relief, really.  I’ve been so angry at myself for not being able to progress in my trainings, and now I could stop all of that self-hate.  I made a mistake thinking that I could do this, at my size.  Which is not to say that I’m never going to be able to do a half marathon, but I know that I can’t do it right now.  And I’m not saying that someone at my weight can’t do one, because they can.  I just can’t.  Not with my current physical limitations.  My body has been trying to tell me something for over a month now, and I am finally ready to listen to it.  I am beginning to accept the fact that I can’t do this.  And that’s ok.  I’m not a quitter if I don’t complete the half marathon.

The other truth that I recognized during my crying fit was that my weight loss has suffered since I began the TNT trainings.  You would think the opposite would be true, that all of the extra exercise would be so good for my weight loss, but it has worked exactly the opposite.  I can’t go fast enough to really get my heart rate up to burn lots of calories, not like I can on the elliptical machine or by doing a workout DVD.  The pain prevents me from going has hard or as fast as I’d like to, and I hate that.  Also, I leave every training feeling so down on myself that I indulge in food to make myself feel better.  Classic “food as self-medication”/emotional eating behavior.  It is all too much to deal with at once, at least for me.  Between teaching the extra class, fundraising and training for TNT, and doing WW, something had to give.  Getting up early every single day was simply not going to happen, so I started sacrificing my Sunday morning WW meetings, which is the last thing I should have done.  Still, because I had stopped counting points, and had started to indulge in some high caloric foods, I wanted to avoid the scale, so it was easy to give up the meetings.  Easy, but the worst possible idea.  I know that I’ve gained weight because I can feel it in my clothes.  And the scale at the doctor’s office displayed a number I thought I’d never see again.

I realized standing there crying with LC at my side trying to comfort me, that I had to make a change.  For my physical health, in terms of the injury, but also in terms of my weight loss and WW. And for my mental health, so that I could stop feeling like a failure every time I attempted to walk.  This was a huge decision, but it’s one that I know is the right one for me now.  I’m going to quit TNT. Of course, I sent in my recommitment forms on Wednesday, right before all of this happened, but I’m confident that if my doctor says I cannot participate because of my injuries, they’ll let me out of my “contract.”

I do feel incredibly guilty because of all of my friends and family members who donated money on my behalf.  I know that most of them wouldn’t have donated if it hadn’t have been for me. But as LC pointed out, “it’s not that you’re quitting because it’s too hard, you’re quitting because you have an injury that is making it impossible.  Plus, LLS is a worthy cause, and the people received a tax write-off, and I’m sure they’ll understand.”  I hope so.

We Completed It!
Once my emotional breakdown was over, I told LC that we need to get back on the track and finish the race.  Which we did.  Feeling so much relief after the cathartic release, I was finally able to just enjoy the walk.  Feeling the sun on my face, the wind whipping around us, and being there with my sister.  (Thank God for her!  I don’t know what I would’ve done without her, and she truly is one of the best people I know).  The scenery was gorgeous, too, and I think we were both finally able to enjoy it:

The SF Bay and marshlands

The SF Bay and marshlands

The trail on our way back.  Quite a journey, metaphorically.

The trail on our way back. Quite a journey, metaphorically.

The "tents" of Shoreline Amphitheatre in the background

The "tents" of Shoreline Amphitheatre in the background

We were both tired, emotionally drained (at least I was), and a bit muddy, but we had come to Shoreline Park to finish the Mermaid 5K and nothing was going to stop us. We made it to the finish line as numbers 282 and 283 to finish that event.  Not the last ones, either, by the way.  It felt good on so many levels to walk over the finish line with LC, one of my biggest supporters, best friends, and a woman who I greatly admire.

As we finished, we were given these great silver charms.  One side says “MermaidRun finisher” and the other side says, “find your happy pace.”  I’m going to put it on my silver chain and wear it as a reminder of the day and all that I accomplished.


The Farmers’ Market
After the excitement of the race, LC and I had been looking forward to the “pancake breakfast” that the website described.  We had thoughts of sitting down (finally!) at a large picnic table, enjoying pancakes with our fellow participants.  Oh how wrong we were.  The pancakes were being handed out on paper plates, and people were eating them standing up, as the rain was beginning to fall.  (Yes, we finished the race just before the rain started).  We decided that we deserved a better post-5K meal than that, so we headed to Campbell to go to Stacks, a great place for breakfast/brunch items of all sorts.

It just so happened that the weekly farmers’ market was also taking place, which was perfect.  We had an hour wait for our table (Stacks is a popular place on Sunday mornings), and we used the time to shop for some farm-fresh fruits and veggies.  The produce was amazing, and we each picked up lots of it.  I got baby bok choy, Chinese broccoli, Fuji apples, pink lady apples, yellow and red bell peppers, and some clementines.  I could’ve gotten a lot more, but I didn’t feel like schlepping it all around, since we had to go back to the restaurant to eat brunch.


I think this is probably the longest post I have ever written.  It’s almost 3000 words!  But I guess there was a lot to write about.  Quite an eventful weekend:  Decadent hot cocoa.  Huge realizations and self-awareness.  Sisterly bonding.  Fresh veggies.  I guess a little something for everyone, eh?

Thanks for reading, if you made it all the way through. I’ll leave you with one last picture.  LC brought me these lilies, straight from her garden, and I absolutely love them.  In a way I see them as a symbol of how I feel now – delicate yet strong, vibrant yet fragile.


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When I left the doctor’s office on Friday, I really didn’t know how to feel.  Part of me was relieved that I wouldn’t have to attempt the 10-mile walk on Saturday, because I was feeling very unprepared to try to walk that distance.  Especially considering the numbness was occurring at the 1 1/2 to 2 mile mark.

I realized that I really had to stop pushing myself so hard and I needed to really listen to my body.  The thing is, I always push myself to accomplish anything I attempt, and I’m usually successful.  I put a ton of pressure on myself in everything I do, and it usually pays off.

This time, though, pushing myself isn’t working.  And to be honest, I’m not really pushing myself physically.  At least, not with the OYO trainings.  I’m not doing them.  But the reason I’m not doing them is because the Wednesday track practices and the Saturday Coach and Mentor-led walks are so painful.  If they weren’t so difficult for me to complete, I think I’d be in a better place mentally.  Mentally, I am really being hard on myself.  I still hate the fact that I’m so slow and not seeing any progress.  That I feel so weak when I feel the pain.  I feel like I should be able to push through it, but I simply can’t.  Plus, the numbness is really scary.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to put the TNT trainings on hold until I find out exactly what’s going on.  On Friday evening, I still thought that I would somehow be able to participate in the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon.  I don’t want to say anymore, because I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

I will say that I am feeling really frustrated, discouraged, and unhappy.  It sucks to set a goal for yourself and feel like you can’t accomplish it.

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I was anxious for my doctor’s appointment on Friday for a couple of reasons.  First because I hadn’t met her before, and I wanted to see what she was like.  (I had a different doctor a couple of years ago whose cold demeanor wasn’t doing it for me, so I chose Dr. Chau from a list of available doctors.  She looked good “on paper,” but the true test is meeting the person and seeing whether or not your personalities meld.

After waiting almost an hour (ugh!!!) to see her, Dr. Chau finally entered the exam room.  She was terrific!  A very sweet, friendly doctor, which is so nice.  She really listened to what I was telling her about my symptoms. She gave me a neurological test (following her finger with my eyes, tapping on my knees, etc.) and everything came up clear on that.  Thank goodness!

After listening to everything I said, she ordered two tests for me – an ultrasound of my legs (who knew they could ultrasound your legs?) and a blood test that would test for all sorts of things, including diabetes, cholesterol, and potassium levels.

In order to make it to the ultrasound with my crazy schedule, I had to take Monday off, as well, but again, this is what sick days are for.  I’ve only called in sick 2 other days this entire year, and I really want to get to the bottom of this numbness.

I asked the doctor about continuing my training, and she said that it would be alright for me to do the Mermaid 5K with LC this Sunday, but that she wouldn’t recommend the 10-mile walk I was supposed to do on Saturday at Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz with TNT.  She said that she’d like to figure out what was causing the numbness before I do any long walks like that, so that I don’t exacerbate the problem.

I left her office feeling like I had more questions than answers, but happy that at least I was taking the necessary steps to figure it all out.

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Looking for answers

2008_snappyanswers-1 If only the answers to my numbness could be snappy!!

Thursday morning after my first class, I headed to the running store, hoping against hope that they would have the answer to this problem with the numbness in my feet.

I spoke to the owner, and he said that my shoes were the right ones for my needs, they fit me well, had plenty of room for the normal swelling that occurs during long walks, and that they were laced properly.

When I described that my numbness began at the bottom of my feet and then spread upwards, all the way to my hips, he said that he really didn’t think the shoes were the issue.  He said that he wasn’t a doctor, but it sounded to him like I had some nerve “issue,” and that I should go see a podiatrist.  He recommended “Dr. Doug,” who actually came to one of the TNT track practices a couple of weeks before.  This podiatrist specializes in sports injuries, and also participates in marathons, so he understands the unique concerns of endurance athletes.  (Every time I refer to myself that way, I have to laugh, because I definitely don’t feel like an athlete of any kind).

I went back to my classroom and called Dr. Doug’s office.  Since I have Kaiser, I knew that any visit to a private podiatrist would be paid for out of pocket.  The receptionist told me that the visit itself would run between $150-200 and each X-Ray would run $75.  That’s over $300.  I made an appointment, but the earliest day he had that I could fit into my schedule was March 30th.

In the mean time, I decided to call Kaiser and see what they could do.  I explained to the advice nurse that I was experiencing numbness whenever I fitness walked.  That usually the numbness began around the 2-mile mark, but that Wednesday it began after only 3/4 of a mile.  She seemed very concerned and wanted to get me in to see my primary doctor ASAP.  I couldn’t make an appointment for that day, because of my summer school after school class, but she really stressed that I try to make the appointment they had for the next day at 9:50am.  I was going to tell her that I couldn’t miss school, but then I said to myself, “why not?  This is exactly what sick days are for.”

I made the appointment, filled out my substitute request, wrote my sub plans, and hoped for the best.

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I went to the track practice on Wednesday ready to walk.  My blisters had healed, and I was ready to use this new “it doesn’t matter if I’m slow” philosophy on the track.

Things started out ok; I walked 3 times around the track without much complaint.  I mean, my calves always give me some pain and cramping, but I’m getting used to pushing through this.

Then we met up in a group and the coach told us that today we were going to work on building speed.  He told us he wanted us to start off slowly and gradually gain speed with each lap. Using this method, we’d be able to conserve our energy throughout the endurance event and would be able to sustain ourselves in order to finish strong.  This made sense to me because I always feel better at the end of my long Saturday walks than I do at the beginning.

I began on the slow lap and found my right foot cramping at the arch, but I wanted to push through it.  I completed the first lap in a reasonable amount of time (I can’t remember right now), and then during the 2nd lap, I began getting numb in my right foot.  Still, I tried to increase my speed, and when I rounded lap 2, my time came in at 9:45, which is great for me.  Then lap 3 came and I was really numb.  I can’t tell you how discouraging this was.  Usually it takes a couple of miles before I get numb, but today it was starting really early.

I tried my best to keep going, but the pain became too much.  I had to stop at the conclusion of my 3rd lap.  I removed my shoes, told one of the coaches what was going on, and tried a few of the foot stretches that she suggested.  I was getting so discouraged, because no matter how much I try to change my attitude about not worrying about being slow, this pain was getting to me.  Not only does it hurt (obviously!), but it keeps me from practicing, which is what I need to do in order to get better in my training.  I started thinking, “if I’m going numb at 3/4 of a mile, how the hell am I ever going to be able to complete a half marathon?”

I didn’t walk anymore that night, and took time to chat with Kelly about what had happened.  She said she thought I should go to the running store and see what they thought about the way my shoes were laced, whether or not they were the right fit, etc.  I decided that I’d go to the store the next day during my prep period, since the running store is close to my school.

I did stay to complete the core work, which always makes me feel good.  I don’t love doing the plank, but at least it’s a move I can do.  I may not do it perfectly or well, but I can do it without pain.  Yes, it makes me sore, but soreness and pain are definitely two different things.  I wanted to stay and do the core workout to help myself feel like I had tried my best that night.

The thing that worried me about the numbness was the fact that it was occurring so much sooner.  Whatever was causing the numbness was getting worse, and I wondered what that meant.  It’s so frustrating not knowing what is causing so much pain.

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Rule #1 for avoiding blisters – don’t unlace your shoes!  This causes your feet to be able to slide around in your shoes, and no matter what kind of moisture-wicking fabric your socks are made of, blisters will ensue!

Yes, I had major blisters on my feet on Saturday after my 6 mile walk.  I could hardly walk, the pain was so bad.  Not to sound like a whiner, but it was really terrible.  I had two blisters on the ball of my left foot, and a blister on my right big toe, a blister on each side of my right baby toe, and a huge blister on the ball of my right foot.

I did as TNT recommends and covered my blisters with a bandage.  I actually bought special bandaids made for blister protection and healing, although I don’t think they did much good.

The blisters lasted from Saturday through Tuesday, and needless to say, I wasn’t able to get in my OYO walks.  I could barely walk around my house or my classroom, let alone trying to walk for an hour per day.  It’s always something, right?


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