I Am an Athlete (Comma, Damnit)

“One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.”K.L. Toth

Ugh, this is hard to write.  UGH.  The orthopedic doc I saw for my knee says no riding bikes, at least until the MRI results come back.  Nooooooo!
All who’ve seen the knee – the PT, the PA, and the ortho Dr. Hagan, agree I tore my PCL, which, if you ride gravel around Nebraska / Iowa you recognize as the swarthy awesome PIRATE CYCLING LEAGUE of gravel grinders, ARRRR!  Um, no, not that PCL, APPARENTLY.  They also agree that if you’re going to tear one of the knee ligaments, the PCL is the one to do. (Oh good, I made the BEST knee-fuckup choice when crashing my bike.)  It’s typically not surgical, and it can heal on its own, unlike the ACL, which is almost always surgical, and the LCL or MCL which – you know, I think they were just throwing random letters at me by that point.  L O L (which ligament is THAT? Hey, doc, actually, I think I tore my LOL).

Okay, so.  My plan for this weekend was to jump back on the horse that threw me and ride a few miles of gravel, including where I fell.  Not the hill, just the flat part, a total of maybe 4 miles, and then do it again tomorrow if things felt okay.

I told the docs & PT the same thing: I race gravel.  I am a gravel racer.  I need them (and all of you) to understand that I am an athlete.  I am not a cancer patient who is riding bikes; I’m in training.  I’m not doing anything brave or crazy, I’m just riding bikes like thousands of other ordinary people.  The cancer is gone, the chemo effects that are going to leave are gone* (no more curly hair, SAD), and I am no longer a sick person who rides.  I am a rider who has a few extra things to deal with, including a lot of fear and sometimes overwhelming emotions. Oh, whoops, where did that come from?  Erk.  To confirm that the chemo effects are gone, I offer as proof my amazingly fast skin healing from the crash — 3 weeks ago today.  I followed directions, keeping the skin MOIST (LOL sorry Jennie) with Neosporin and/or 2nd skin water squares and Tegaderm.  During chemo and the following months, even a scratch would take an absurdly long time to heal.  Now, I’m Wolverine!  I’m Deadpool!

*I saw Dr. Silverberg, the oncologist, for my 6-month checkup last week. He said it’s an average of 18 months for the IV chemo drugs to reach levels in the body that can no longer be measured, WOW.  I finished early May 2017, so, pretty much there.  Which means I’m probably keeping the neuropathy in my fingers & hands for good, (as he predicted) along with some joint pain, and it means the drugs did successfully push me into actual menopause, which SUUUUUUCKS.  One more thing – we talked about quitting the Tamoxifen & he convinced me to try an alternative, Letroprozole?, which I am doing.  I am happy to report no “chemo brain,” which was so upsetting, but disappointed to confirm its best-known side effect: joint pain. I was having problems with one hip and one elbow, now I feel like I’ve been tumbled in a spin cycle.  But hopefully it’s something I can get used to or figure out. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT ATHLETES DO.

The ortho said I should be back in the ankle-to-hip immobilizer to prevent the knee from bending; he wants it kept at less than 90 degrees.  I’m not going back in the immobilizer.  But once I got the professionals to talk to me like an athlete, not just some middle-aged fat woman who wants to tootle around the block on her Walmart bike, we could discuss it in a way that respected me and my goals.  Putting it back in the immobilizer guarantees I’m going to lose range of motion & the muscles will atrophy.  So I agreed to be careful, at least until the MRI comes back, which will tell us if there’s a small tear (lay off everything & let it heal) or if it’s completely torn (no point… will have to live with it).

Aside: you know what’s REALLY frustrating is to have a nurse tell you you’re overweight in the same visit you’re told to not do the thing that helps you stay healthy. (Yeah, okay, eat less, got it.)  This is where I do NOT post the photo of the Twinkie I had for breakfast instead of the eggs and lox I brought to the cabin with me.  Oops.

In defiance and stubbornness, I brought my bike to the cabin too, even though I am 94% resigned to not riding it.  What I need is some sort of platform that will let me keep my left leg straight while I pedal with my right.  Road pegs!  Or some sort of extra long pedal crank forward of the regular crank, so I can use the quad muscle (encouraged) but not the ham (frowny face) and my knee doesn’t bend as much.  Time to do some internet research, in case this is longer term than just waiting on next week’s MRI findings.  Because I am trying very hard not to cry about this.  No, I am not doing that at all. I may be paused, but I am not stopped.  It is a small setback in my path back to Ann Who Rides Bikes All The Time.  The kind of thing that happens to athletes all the time.  Athletes like ME.

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