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Structural Integrity

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

As I was walking along the beach near Sunset Beach in Watsonville, CA, earlier today, I started thinking about my relationship with the act of walking.

Stopped in my tracks

From 2000-2005, I used to walk to work. It was a bit more than a mile each way. I loved to walk. Once I moved to NYC and took the train to work, I made an effort to find ways to add walking back into my regular routine.

In March 2007, my ability to walk diminished until by the end of the following month I could barely stand. For the next two and a half years, I had severe limitations in my ability to walk, stand, and get up and down. As soon as I got my hands on one, I used a cane. Sometimes I used a wheelchair. Even with the cane, I hobbled in slow motion (if I could stand) or stayed in my apartment when I could not.

At the time, I had significant pain, stiffness, muscle atrophy, and neurological problems. Over those years, I imagined a time when I could walk around like a regular person again.

 

Slow progress

By October 2009, I had taken enough antibiotics to get me to the point where I could kind of walk on my own. A series of colonic treatments got me over the hump. But my gait was far from normal. My balance wasn’t very good. And though I could walk on my own, I couldn’t walk far, maybe 100-150 yards at a time, before I needed to rest.

In autumn 2010, I took IV Rocephin. It reduced my neurological Lyme infection load enough that I could finally walk normally after 13 weeks of treatment. The only problem was that all the joint pain and stiffness was coming back. Still, I could walk a few blocks, to and from my parents’ apartment on the same day. I was elated. I felt like I could walk again, even though I was aware of how limited my abilities were.

In autumn 2011, I had been using the coil machine for over 6 months. I took the leap into coiling my whole body for Lyme Disease. Holy cow! I saw marked improvements in my gait and stamina  between September and December. Significant, obvious improvements. I was amazed. By the end of December, I could walk a mile in a day (though I was then unable to do much of anything else for the remainder of the day). It seemed like a dream.

From Walking to Running

The other thing I learned last autumn is that I have osteoporosis (though it turns out that calling it low bone mineral density is more accurate and that in pre-menopausal women there is a debate as to whether or not to call it osteoporosis). In other words, I have a lower bone density than my mother who is in her 70s and has already had a wrist fracture. When I went to see a rheumatologist (which is who one sees with this kind of diagnosis), he told me to forget about the various drugs used to prevent bone fractures in post-menopausal women and instead train for a marathon.

I thought he  was out of his mind. I still hadn’t run a single step in years. At the same time, I rejoiced in the idea that my healing is in my hands, even according to a mainstream allopathic doctor. It put the idea in my head that in addition to learning to walk again, which I had successfully done, I have to learn to run again.

I read about running. I read about running injuries. I read about the barefoot running movement. I got myself a pair of Vibram 5-Finger Bikilas, (which I’ve walked in a bunch and tried to run in for 20 yards at a time). I read about how to start running barefoot without causing injury. This is a key issue for me since my bones are more prone to fracture than your average 37 year old woman.

More recently I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  The book talks a lot about the structure of the foot, running injuries, muscles, and makes a convincing argument for running as a way to build and fine tune the human body. I found it very inspiring (as well a hilarious and entertaining).

Born to Run has a side story about Barefoot Ted who started running barefoot to be able to enjoy running without giving himself back pain. I read about his shoes. Then I read reviews about huaraches for runners and people who like to feel the ground under their feet when they walk. I ended up purchasing a pair of Invisible Shoes which I love to wear around the neighborhood. I don’t think I could run in them at this point…I’ll stick to my Vibrams when I eventually start running just to keep my toes from getting roughed up.

The idea of rebuilding my body and go from hobbling to running a marathon (doctor’s orders!) reminded me of Perry Fields. I stumbled on her website back in autumn 2010. I even considered calling her for a consultation (before I found out about using a coil machine). I remember being both inspired and intimidated by her story. Today, I once again find it inspiring.

Where to Begin?

The reality is that I’m in no condition to run just yet. The 20 yard jogs I’ve done have winded me and caused heart palpitations that lasted over an hour each time. This autumn, my goal is to get rid of Bartonella and start building my muscles using weight machines at the gym. With any luck, I’ll also be doing yoga regularly. Those 3 goals are already a tall order.

Before I give up on the running just yet, I understand from my readings that the first thing I have to do is strengthen my feet…which is what I was thinking about as I walked barefoot on the beach this afternoon. I walked long enough for my ankles to hurt and my calves to get tired. Beach walking is tough. I walked partly in the compacted sand by the water, but on portions of the beach, it was too much of an incline to walk on. So I walked in the soft, dry sand. That was much harder, but also more satisfying. I could feel how I balance. I could feel the way my feet moved to accommodate the uneven surface as well as my weight.

Walking on the beach barefoot meant I could feel the rocks and shells and dried bits of wood. I could feel the heat and the cold. It reminded me of the little bit of barefoot walking I did in Hawaii. It was painful yet exhilarating to be in touch with the ground as well as all the small, rough, hard objects lying on it.

Step by step

For now, the only pre-running training I’m doing is walking with minimal cushion on my feet and building up my foot and leg muscles. I’m strengthening my arches naturally. Soon I’ll be building other muscles with machines. This is the beginning of regaining my body’s structural integrity.

Recovering from Lyme Disease is a step by step process. Each course of antibiotics whittled away the infection. Last year I got rid of the active form of a Babesia infection by coiling. While coiling for Lyme this year, I’ve set up the rest of my life in a more hopeful, connected way, including a move to California to be with my partner (who is now my husband). The emotional steps have been just as important as killing the infection. This next step is going beyond just eradicating infections but onto the next stage: rebuilding my body.

With any luck, by this time next year, I’ll be training for a marathon.

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