Looking Back At 2015

About this time every year I find myself looking back at the year and like many of you, looking forward to the next year to come. 2015 for our family was not a typical year, from beginning to end, it seemed to challenge our strength as a family both mentally and physically. However, I will say, I do feel like we won this battle and came through it pretty well.

Take a look back with me,

January 2015

I experienced my first dislocated rib while working out and preparing for our rock scrambling vacation in February. Very painful!!!

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February 2015

Our rock scrambling vacation we had prepared for for months was suddenly cancelled due to a major snow storm and no flights were coming or going. We were completely disgusted for weeks….

March 2015

I celebrated a birthday this month with a venture out of the house and some first steps of the year on a muddy trail.

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April 2015

I finally decided to see a doctor for a sore foot I had been having for a few months. After testing and imaging I found out I had torn two tendons in my ankle. Which resulted in some new footwear for weeks.

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On the brighter side, my husband picked up his brand new Jackson kayak this month.

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May 2015

After 6 weeks in that orthopedic boot I thought I was going to go see my doctor and he would say everything looks good and I could remove it. Well, that was not quite what I heard from him. He said I still had two weeks to go, but now I could do anything I wanted to do as long as I wore the boot. I took that line,”anything I want” very seriously and left two days later for a hiking trip to our favorite WI state park. Thanks to my husband and son, I made it to the top of the bluff and back down again with that horrendous contraption on my leg. Let me tell you, IT WAS NOT EASY BUT I (we) DID IT!

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June 2015

I finally was able to remove my ortho boot and what happens next…..my husband suffers a sudden back injury that literally changes our entire summer outlook. After a day of lake kayaking and standup paddling where we were rained on all day, we returned home that night with him feeling pain in his leg.

IMG_1277Nothing had happened all day so this was strange that he was feeling pain. By the next day it was intolerable and medical attention was needed.  IMG_1410

After numerous tests, doctors, and images, we had a diagnosis that we were hoping not to hear. Next would be physical therapy for weeks, a lifting restriction for quite sometime, and learning how to do things differently for the rest of his life. This took some soul searching and a lot of praying that he could eventually recover enough to continue doing what we love to do again.

July 2015

This month was the start of a few months of physical therapy which we all tried helping with. He did seek professional help for awhile but after some time his neurologist thought he could accomplish more on his own. Most people need a therapist because they are so inactive that they don’t know where to start. We, however, are very active and just needed to know the basics of what would give him the biggest benefits toward his recovery. We found all sorts of ways to do physical therapy.

TENS Therapy: IMG_1701

Stretching:  IMG_1732

Water Therapy:  IMG_1741

Inversion Therapy:  IMG_1749

Resistance Bands:

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Walking:

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August 2015

After all that therapy he was given the ok to go on our planned family vacation which just so happened to be hiking in the desert southwest in extreme heat and with extreme elevation. He was limited on backpack weight and was not allowed to even touch our luggage but could hike as far as his body allowed him to hike(as the doctor kindly stated). So we did. And it turned out spectacular!

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September 2015

We returned from vacation, rested up for two weeks and hit the trail again, only a little closer to home this time. We headed to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and hiked the Chapel Loop together….10.6 miles in a day.  IMG_2530

He was still feeling some discomfort but by now we had learned how to deal with any pain he was having. We would rest when the pain started or soaking his foot in cold water was also a nice way to help decrease his discomfort.  IMG_1798  IMG_2661

I also got away in September for a girls day to Cranberry Fest. We had a blast!

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October 2015

October is when we celebrated our 22nd. wedding anniversary. We did this with a overnight trip to Sister Bay, WI at the Birchwood Lodge.

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November 2015

The beginning of this month we found ourselves, yet again, among numerous medical professionals supporting my father-in-law with a major surgery.

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Also this month my husband and I went on a shopping trip to my all time favorite city….Schaumburg, Illinois. I begged him to join me last year and he agreed. This year he offered to join me since we had so much fun last time. I think I may have a shopping partner (package carrier) for life:) Whoo Hoooo!  IMG_2888

December 2015

As predicted by weather forecasters, it had been a pleasant December. One of the best ways for me to celebrate a no snow December is to continue hiking which is exactly what we did. Here is where we spent Christmas Day as a family with sun in our eyes and doing what we love…..hiking.

(photo courtesy of our son, Quade Byrnes)

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So there you have it. Our year from start to finish. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride this year. Among so may other exciting things that have happened throughout the year, I am happy to see this year is now behind us.

My hopes for next year, of course, are to continue to stay healthy. We miss our kayaks severely, have not touched a golf disc in months, and are very excited to be traveling more in the upcoming months.

 

 

 

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Celebrating The Half Way Point To Recovery

This week marks the half way point of when all the medical professionals feel my husband will be recovered from his back injury. It’s been three months this week since this all started and after meeting with his neurologist recently, he has gotten the go ahead to start doing some things that he has not done in months.

We have returned to the gym…..yehhhhh! I have gone here and there throughout this ordeal but mostly I have been doing my exercise at home in one way or another. He has been told he can start back on light cardio and VERY LIGHT weights.

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He still has not been released to grab that kayak paddle and will not be told to do so until at least spring at the earliest. As depressing as this may be, we are looking at the bright side…..at least he will eventually be able to paddle again. When this first all happened we were not even sure if he would be able to continue driving much less paddle anything.

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Regardless of all his progress, he is still to continue his physical therapy and slowly continue to ween himself off his nerve medication that he is taking. He has tried this in the past without much luck, but as of today he is four days and counting on half the full dose and hoping for the best.

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It’s odd to think what we have all done these past three months with such a debilitating injury. At one of his first appointments his physician told him that if walking and hiking is something that he loves to do, go ahead and do it since it’s also one of the best exercises for him to continue doing. Which was great to hear since we had our vacation planned before this all came about and it included hiking. He worked really hard to continue this activity since his foot and leg were what was impacted the most by his back injury. At first we would only walk a mile and he would start to feel pain.

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We would then stop, rest, and do some stretches until the pain subsided. Slowly, he worked his way up to more distance but it was not easy. We found all sorts of ways to relieve the pain when it would start, like rolling his foot on a cold water bottle we would carry along with us.

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Some of our trails would cross county highways and you could find us, at times, stretching on these highway crossings. We would also carry ice packs and leave them in our vehicle so when we returned from a hike/walk, he could apply the ice to his back and this would help the swelling go down faster which was pressing on the nerve causing the pain in his leg/foot.

Two of the biggest changes we made were, he started using trekking poles and we purchased a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sleeping mat.

The trekking poles he used mainly when we went to Utah for help and balance with elevation hiking. He loved them going up into the mountains, stating that they gave him the extra boost he needed with every step. Going back down was a challenge, as normally they absorb some of the impact from your joints and pass that onto the poles. He, however, did not feel they helped him as much going down as they did going up.

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As for purchasing the Therm-a-Rest- Z Lite mat, this was one of the best buys we have made. We found this while we were vacationing in Utah at an outdoor store and I knew immediately we had to have it. There have been many times since this all happened that he gets to a point that he just needs to stop and rest. Not because he is tired….because the pain in his foot/leg is getting to be too much to handle, so we end up sitting right on the trail we happen to be on at the time…..which for us in WI can be almost anywhere. When we were in Utah at least we had rock to rest on and a great view, here we are typically in the woods, knee deep in bugs and critters and such. So having this mat is awesome! We simply strap it to my pack and when we reach the point of needing to rest his foot/leg, I lay it out and we sit and rest. We have also used it to have a snack on and also some stretching…it sure beats the highway concrete. It also beats sitting in the dirt, bugs, and dampness of morning dew to rest. When we are finished, we pick it up, give it a shake and its clean and ready to strap back on my pack for a few more miles. The best part is it’s so light weight that I don’t even feel like I am carrying a mat at all.

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So as we celebrate the half way point of my husband being recovered, I hope by sharing this experience with all of you has only proved my point that moving is always better than sitting. We realize that he could have somewhat of a disability for life, which so far we have learned to live with quite well by making a few changes to our activities. Have we stopped being active……absolutely not!!!! Do we fully expect to be back in our kayaks next Spring…you bet we do…..but things will be different then also. There will be no more single person carrying kayaks, no more single person draining water from overturned kayaks and so on. We plan to do everything in pairs and treat our bodies kindly to some extent. Until that time when we feel the water drip from our paddles and hear the rumble of a rapid around the next corner, I will just be thankful he is still able to enjoy life like we choose to enjoy life and live in the moment….. together.

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Physical Therapy At Home…..It Is Possible

Let’s discuss something that can be quite controversial…..physical therapy. Do you need a professional?

During the last month my husband has seen many, many medical professionals and one of them happened to be a physical therapist. Now, I am not saying all physical therapist are the same or have the same approach with all their patients but after discussing with his neurologist the progression of therapy my husband was receiving he came home and asked me what my opinion was on continuing to keep his therapy appointments twice a week. These appointments had him doing very little and they took up 1 1/2 hours of his day. After discussing what they did, the outlook his pt person had for future appointments, and our normal activity level with the doctor he stated that maybe it would be more beneficial to continue doing everything we have been doing at our pace which would all benefit him greatly. Which then made me say let’s cancel pt all together and we can plan our daily routine around what we know is the best form of therapy for his condition and save us a lot of time and money. So we did.

Now, we are pretty lucky since we already had almost everything we needed that he would benefit from right at home from our years of physical activity. If you are not so lucky and don’t want to invest in some items that are recommended for your condition then you are probably best to still seek the skills of a physical therapist as directed by your doctor.

I would like to share his first week of at home physical therapy exercises. (Please remember that this routine is specific for his condition, so this may not be a routine for everyone and all conditions.)

Monday: hamstring stretch 2x’s day, 30 minutes on the stationary bike IMG_1753Tuesday: hamstring stretch 2x’s day, 3 mile walk, TENS therapy 30 minutes IMG_1701Wednesday: hamstring stretch 2x’s day, 2 mile trail walk, resistance bands foot/ankle IMG_0981 Thursday: 1 hour pool therapy, hamstring stretch 2x’s day IMG_1741

Friday: hamstring stretch 2x’s day, decompression/inversion table 15 minutes IMG_1749

Saturday: hamstring stretch 2x’s day, 30 minutes on the stationary bike

Sunday: hamstring stretch 2x’s day and a hike just short of 5 miles

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If you follow along you all know that the one thing about us is that we are a very active couple. This routine was by far a challenge to endure, but for some individuals it may be considered grueling. We went into this with no plan what so ever. We did what felt right for that particular day. You can see on Thursday, for instance, we ended up in a city pool for open swim time after dinner. He had a very long, hot and uncomfortable day as far as pain is considered at work and water has been our go to ever since it all started. We did not feel like traveling to our normal spot to swim in the bay of Green Bay so we drove and paid $6 for an hour of pool time.

If you are not a normal active person and you need that push of a physical therapist and a set time and place then I would suggest you go this route. We, however, do not need a set time and place to be active. We have figured out a way to just change up our normal active routine and adjust it to what he needs to work on to improve his condition. Making it fun, not in a medical facility, and including your family and children will make the actual process of doing whatever your doctor has suggested not so bad. Even my daycare children have started assisting him in ways he never thought he would be stretched.  IMG_1729

If you are suffering and physical therapy is part of your treatment plan, don’t feel like you have no options. For a few hundred dollars in supplies and some help from family and friends in some instances, it is possible to achieve results on your own. Just don’t push too hard and remember to rest when you need to rest. Sometimes that is the hardest part of healing. Your brain says you can do this and your body is telling you no it can’t.

 

Together We Can Do Anything

I suppose it would be best to update you all on what’s been happening here with us.

If you have been following you know a few weeks ago my husband sustained a back injury and we have been waiting, wondering, and hoping for good news from the medical professionals. That wait is now over, we know what is wrong, what they wish to do to try and fix the problem, and we have also finally figured out what we want to do to fix the problem.

Without going into great detail, I will make this brief and simple. Our kayaks are hung, paddles stored, and all our kayaking equipment has been packed away for the summer and it’s not even the end of July! My husband has handed over his disc golf supplies to our son as an early birthday present since this will never be a possibility again. I will now be the person who carries the heavy pack when we hike. The weight machines at the gym will not be getting any use from him anytime soon if ever again and his primary place of exercise happens in a physical therapy room 2x’s a week for the unforeseeable future. His pain is controlled and for this we are thankful. Although, their plan of attack and our plan of attack are completely different. For now, he is very limited on what he can and cannot do. Thankfully some of the activities we do normally are very helpful for his recovery and we plan to continue all these with great hope of success. That being said, it’s a long recovery if even possible.

I have always believed that God does not give us more than we can handle. We are a very close couple and do almost everything together. Which means together I believe we can succeed at improving his condition without drastic measures that involve huge risks to his future. This is the road we have started to travel and my hope is that we eventually find the end. I know it going to be hard, long and sometimes no fun but together we can do anything. For now life must go on…..

What I Am Loving Lately

Ahhh, it’s Friday and here are a few things I have been loving lately.

Workouts: I have had a whole week of my routine workouts back. I missed exercise so much being injured.

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New insoles: I think I am finally starting to get used to my new insoles. Those golf balls(arches) I felt like I was walking on seem to be getting smaller.

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Butter flavored olive oil: I am in love with this flavored olive oil. Sauteed with fresh veggies is the best ever!

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First kayaking trip of the year: We have our first river kayaking trip of the year planned for this weekend. Let’s all pray for warm water.

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Physical therapy: I am one week into physical therapy and am very happy with the results so far. I should shout out a big thanks to my hubby for holding these bands every night while I stretch them.

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Greek yogurt dressing: My new favorite salad dressing is Bolthouse Farms Greek Yogurt Dressing. The cucumber dill is fabulous on smoked salmon salads.

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Long holiday weekends: I am sure you love them as much as I do. So let’s all have some fun, relax, and enjoy!

Anything you wish to share that you are loving lately….let’s here it.

 

 

Trail Journals Give Me Hope

I have had a lot of time on my hands lately spending it sitting on my rear end resting this ankle. While doing this I have started reading trail journals from long distance hikers doing mostly the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail. Since this is a dream of mine I thought it would be interesting to see what they all experience while on this journey of a lifetime. After reading many journals I am happy to say, I still have hope to fulfill this dream.

As you know, hiking brings me great pleasure and mountains bring me pure happiness. I have no idea where my love of elevation came from but the higher the elevation the happier I am.

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When my doctor called with a torn tendon diagnosis in my ankle I felt my dreams come crashing down that mountain. Although, I find that many, many hikers have the same aches and pains as I have been experiencing and they are still out there doing what they love. So many have talked about getting cortisone injections before leaving for their journeys, eating pain killers like they are skittles, or even just simply pushing through the pain to reach their destinations. Which is why I feel there is still hope for me. So far I have not resorted to anything more than Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) and an ankle brace.

For now, I am trying to keep my head held high, pray this first treatment plan works, continue doing the therapy that was suggested for my healthy ankle, and try my best not to step on the scale and see how sitting around for this month has effected my body. I can only imagine what my first workout will be like when I am back to being able to exercise again.