Monday, October 7, 2013

Tis the Season to Be Busy

It's been a whirlwind of activities the past several weeks.  I've been working with my strength coach for several weeks and my waist shrunk 4", I shed 6.5 pounds of fat and added 6.5 pounds of muscle - WOWZA!  Very pleased with my progress and we're kicking up my training to a new level.

My dad flew in to see Lizzie and me compete at the last tourney for the outdoor season.  It was an amazing two day tourney.  Day 1 closed out in a downpour while shooting the last 6 arrows of the day.  Thank God the entire day wasn't like that, but at least we were prepared with rain gear on hand.  Day 2 was beautiful sunny skies. 

One of the most surprising things was that during the rain, a drop of water landed in my peep sight which is a tiny sight close to my eye that helps my vision line up with the bigger sight down near my hand.  As I came to full draw I realized I couldn't see anything at all because of the drop of rain.  I should have let down which means to carefully turn the bow down and slowly release tension on the string to set up for a better shot.  Well, since my bow was so slippery with rain, I didn't trust my strength to carefully let down.  Instead I prayed, "Jesus, let my arrow hit the target."  Nothing worse than missing a target and losing an arrow.  Not only was my prayer answered, but I hit a red ring which is next to the gold!  Thank you, Jesus!  Now I know, if I'm shooting in the rain (which I trained for over the summer), before I draw, blow into the peep sight to remove any possible drop of water!  :)

The second most surprising thing was beating my goal.  This tourney was a full FITA tourney, 2 days, 72 arrows each day, total 144 arrows to shoot.  The last time I shot a full FITA in May, my goal was 1,000 points out of a possible 1,440 and I scored 950.  I was pretty happy with that outcome.  This time, my goal was 1,150 and I scored 1,213!!!!  Woooo Hoooo!!!!  I won 2nd place!  Lizzie won 1st place and is the GA State Champion two years running!  SO proud of her!

Lizzie, Pa and me

I'm now training for the Georgia Archery Team tryouts in a few weeks.  My coach has me doing practice score rounds and I've done better than the MQS (minimum qualifying score) to make the cut for the team.  I'll have to shoot 30 arrows into a small target and score at least 255 points out of a possible 300.  So far my practice scores have been 274, 275, 283. 

I flew to St. Louis recently by myself; first solo trip postop.  It was a same day trip and was happy security at both ends of the trip were wonderful.  Absolutely no pat down!  Dr. Lenke is really excited about my progress with archery and plans to compete at the Paralympics 2016.  I told him about the issues I've been experiencing since I last saw him in Feb 2013.  He said, "I'm so sorry, but none of these issues are a result from what I've done."  He, along with Dr. Riew, urged me to see a new neurologist with whom I'll see Oct 14.  Lenke said, "... the hardware looks great, it's right where I left it."  He's such a funny guy!

So the updates on the medical issues are:
My balance issue is called Romberg's and I have Hoffman's Sign (using cane all the time).

Still waiting for Dr. Riew's report from three MRI's; however, his nurse said there is a bulge in my neck but don't need surgery and that I have carpal tunnel and ulnar neuropathy.

Second opinion rheumatologist said everything looks normal except for osteoarthritis.  She has me on Indomethacin which has helped better than Mobic or Diclofenac.

Dr. Lenke is the 4th doc to say he strongly believes I have MS.  The neurologist I see on Monday is at the MS Center of Atlanta and I've heard great things about him.

Oh, almost forgot, I went to my first concert postop (well... the Tony Bennett concert over the summer doesn't really count since it was so low key... you know... no mosh pit stuff happening).  I was really nervous about buying tickets for the concert because there was no seating, only general admission, first come, first served.  I called the venue to talk about possible accessible seating and explained my situation (not in a wheelchair, but unable to stand for a long time).  The general manager at the Tabernacle was super helpful and explained they have a special area for guests with disabilities and that I was welcome to sit there.  He said, "but it's right up front, you'll be in front of the front row, is that ok?"  Uh, YEAH THAT'S OK!!!  So not only did we (Jeremy, Lizzie and me) have the BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE, but Lizzie was able to get on stage with 30 Seconds to Mars too!!!  I had no idea I could enjoy a concert like this!!!   :)

Cover Photo

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Saturday Night Shoot Under the Lights

Lizzie and I recently competed for the first time together at a night shoot, what fun!  The music was pumping, the football lights were on, and the dogs and BBQ were grilling!  It is interesting shooting at night outdoors because when the dew point hits, scopes fog which means you can't see the target.  :-0 

My goal for this tourney was to hit at least 750 out of a possible 900 points.  My score was 811 - Wooo Hooo!  My distances were 40m, 50m, and 60m.  I calculated that I walked the equivalent of a 90m football field 33 times (retrieving my arrows).  That a lot of walking!  Lizzie and I brought home the gold in each of our divisions.

I have to say, the shadow on my tooth is driving me crazy.  :)
Our last outdoor tourney of the season is the end of September, Georgia Outdoor State Tourney.  My distances will be 30m, 50m, 60m, and 70m.  In order for me to hit 70m, I needed to increase my draw weight again.  I bumped up the weight from 33# to 34.5# and have to say I'm shooting strong at the heavier weight.  It may not sound like much of an increase, but because I'm shooting with compromised back muscle strength, it's a huge deal to me.  I've been weight training hard the past several weeks and my first day shooting at 34.5#, I was able to shoot 84 arrows.  The last time I bumped my draw weight from 31# to 34.75#, I could barely shoot 15 arrows.

My strength coach provided me with some simple tweaks and additions to my training routine which I firmly believe are the key to me being able to comfortably shoot at the heavier weight.

Training hard and shooting straight for the big tourney!

MRI Results

I finally have the results from the x3 MRIs, but am still waiting for Dr. Riew's feedback.

Here are some of the items that caught my eye that I need clarification on:

1.  Paraspinal muscle atrophy in lumbar.

2.  Levels L2-L5 with fluid signal within the laminectomy bed... lumbar spine with fluid collection.

3.  Spondylolisthesis at C3-C4.

4.  C5-C6 mild left neuroforaminal stenosis.

Looking forward to hearing from Dr. Riew soon.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shedding Some Light

I am still waiting for the x3 MRI results and the leg EMG results. EMG doc confirmed no nerves are being pinched in my lumbar. This means I still don't know what the source is of my numb feet. Today I met with a foot doc who said my foot muscle is extremely tight and he is treating me as if I have plantar fasciitis over the next several weeks. He explained that if the symptoms do not improve (horrible pain in heel, feels like I'm walking on shards of glass), then the issue is an autoimmune disease. He confirmed that the numbness is a result of a global rheumatological issue that has yet to be pinpointed. Today's doc is the third doc that said I have some sort of autoimmune disease.

Not knowing the specific issue is frustrating as I am several months into my journey of trying to solve the puzzle. I'm very thankful to know certain things have been ruled out and that the scope is narrowing on the cause. Next steps are meet with Emory Rheumatology Clinic who know how to identify autoimmune diseases that frequently are not detected by blood tests.

Until next time!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Time To Kick It Up A Notch

With the slew of doctor's visits over the past few months, I started to fall into a rut and the thought, "When these issues are resolved, I'll feel better and move forward with certain goals," ran through my mind.  That's not a healthy mindset because let's face it, life happens and there will never be a perfect time.  So, no more pity party!

Coach Jim recently had me increase the draw weight on my bow to 35# so that I'll be able to hit 70m which is the farthest distance in some of the tourneys.  Boy o boy, pulling 35# ain't no joke!  I was averaging 90 arrows on shooting days at 31# and now I've been slowly working my way up from 30 arrows, 42, and most recently 55 arrows.  It was just 8 months ago I started archery with a 15# bow.

Yesterday, Lizzie and I spent the day at the range sighting in our bows for the various tourney distances.  It was a beautiful day topped with a young deer (a bit older than a fawn) running in front of us as we walked toward a target to get our arrows.

Over the past month, the three of us (Jeremy, Lizzie and I) have been eating really clean: lean meats, fresh fruits/veggies, dairy and gluten free, with a sweet treat every now and then.  We all feel great and I'm happy to say that the spinach and bananas are now getting eaten before they rot.  Can't tell you how much $ we've wasted in the past with not eating fresh food fast enough.

We recently found the old Body of Work video from the late 90's where Jeremy and I got seriously inspired to live healthy.  It was in 1999 that Jeremy shed over 70 pounds of fat and I released 45 pounds too.  Notice I didn't say "lost fat"?  We didn't lose it because we aren't looking for it.  :)

Here are some of Jeremy's before/after pix:

Halfway through 3 month sprint, Sept 1999.  After: Nov 1999.

Before: Aug 1999.  After: July 2000.  12 month sprint.

12 month sprint, July 2000.

Before: 1998.

Before: late 2000.
Before: late 2000.

Halfway thru 3 month sprint, early 2001.

After: spring 2001.

After: spring 2001.

After: 2003.

After watching the vid, I looked up Lynn Lingenfelter, one of the champions who was a big inspiration to both of us.  I learned that he is suffering from a brain virus since the filming of Body of Work.  Despite Lynn's challenges, his faith is strong in God and he still inspires me.  Through Lynn, I learned about his strength coach, Darin Steen

Darin is a natural body builder who has the same philosophy as we do; how to BE healthy from the inside out.  After talking with Jeremy about my desire to incorporate more exercises into my routine and need to build strength for archery, I decided to reach out to Darin.  We had a great chat where he interviewed me and I interviewed him about my goals and physical limitations.  Having a coach to train me safely is #1 priority.  We both agree there is a good connection and I'll start training with Darin soon.

Here is my starting point for 2013 training:

Before: Aug 2013.

Before: Aug 2013.

Before: Aug 2013.
Before: Aug 2013.

The time has come to kick my training and nutrition up a notch and train like an athlete!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Quick Update: Test Results

Recently had an EMG test done on my arms to see if Dr. Riew's prediction of the cause of my numb hands was accurate.  He was spot on as the results show ulnar neuropathy.  The ulnar nerve is being pinched in my elbows.  Thank God the issue isn't in the thoracic; no rib removal required!  :)  The treatment will be PT and splinting of my elbows.  I'm quite happy to know the source of the hand issue; especially that I don't need more surgery!

Some other updates, I tested positive for:
Jaw Jerk - I need to get clarification on this.

Hoffman's Sign -

Romberg's Test -'s_test
This means my balance issues now have a name.

I'm still waiting to get an EMG on my legs to see if, once again, Dr. Riew's prediction of the cause of numbness in my feet and right leg are being caused by a pinched nerve in my lumbar.

How strange that my neuro has yet to respond to Dr. Riew's report that shows none of her (neuro's) predictions that all my issues are directly tied to my cervical are accurate.

Looking forward to closing the chapter on all this stuff.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Saddle for Sale

Lizzie is raising funds for her trip as a US Delegate with the People to People program traveling to 7 countries next summer.

Below are pix of her English saddle which is in good condition with just a few scrapes on the back of the cantle. It measures 17" and comes with a fleece pad. Saddle is located near Atlanta. Shipping/insurance within continental US extra.  Email me if you are interested


Thursday, July 4, 2013

STL Updates

The last batch of tests showed no auto immune diseases and now both rheumatologist and neuro insist all issues stem from cervical condition. Well, that's not the case.

Dr. Riew is one of the best cervical doc's in the country which is why I came to STL to get his expert opinion.  Dr. Riew said that based on the numb areas I am experiencing, the source is either my elbows or a pinched nerve in my thoracic area. He said with a smile that I don't need cervical surgery because there is sufficient space around my spinal cord and the collapsing disc is not at the surgical stage right now. Praise God!  Doc explain that I have two tests to do at home which will determine which area is the source of the numbness. The elbow situation is like carpal tunnel but in the elbows. I need to get a copy of his report because I don't remember the technical terms he used. There is a slight chance I might need elbow surgery or, if the thoracic is the source, might need surgery to remove one rib.

Doc was shocked that the local cervical doc said I needed a four level fusion. It amazes me how one doctor can say something inaccurate and scare the bejezuz outta someone. I felt totally confident in what Dr. Riew told me. As far as the numbness in my leg and foot, I'll have a lumbar MRI to see if something is being pinched.  

I wonder what my neuro and rheumatologist will say when I explain to them their theories of all my issues are coming from my cervical are not valid.  I sense these two doc's were maybe looking for an easy explanation by blaming everything on the cervical. Dr. Riew asked me if my neuro was good. I told him I don't know; she's the only one I've seen. Sounds like I need to seek a new neuro.

In any event, I'm thrilled I don't need surgery and look forward to getting these tests done.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

On Again, Off Again, On Again - Enough Already!

Since my last update, I received results from my neuropsychology test which was a 3 hour test involving several components: memorization, math, puzzles, pattern identification, etc.  The first thing the doc said was, "You are the mysterious woman."  I didn't like the sound of that.  He explained that his results show exactly what I've explained as the symptoms I've been experiencing.  He said that while he is unable to definitively say I have this or that, he said he thinks it is MS.  Really?  We're back to that?  I thought MS was off my radar since the neuro did not find any MS lesions in the MRI.  The NP (neuropsychology) doc explained that a lot of my results show I process information the same way as a person with MS does.

For instance, there were two areas where I bombed the test, so bad that the NP doc said I scored worse than a person with Alzheimer's.  I thought for sure it would have been the math portion but it was a memorization section instead.  Doc explained that I got 3% correct; however, when the same test was reintroduced later in the session, I got almost 100% correct.  He said people with MS typically have a hard time processing new information/data/situations at first, but when the dust settles, they are able to process very well.

NP doc said that while he cannot say 100% for sure that I have MS (because I am showing indications of other things), he said, "I can say you definitely have some sort of autoimmune disease.  We just need to figure out which one."  After I brought him up to speed on the cervical issue (needing surgery), he said that he would call my neuro and let her know that the cervical is a red herring, a lot of my symptoms are from an autoimmune disease based on my results with his test.

So now I'm confused, how can this doc think I might have MS when I had a normal MRI result.  NP doc explained that 10% of people with MS have normal MRIs.  Sometimes the lesions (if there are some) are located in an area of the brain that the MRI cannot detect.  Doc said my neuro may change her mind about MS after seeing his report.

Since my last update, the numb areas are increasing: right foot constantly feels as if it is buried in sand, numbness has started below the knee on my right leg, the top of my left foot is going numb, half of my left hand is now numb as of this week, etc.  I'm waiting to hear back from neuro's nurse as to when she can schedule me to see neuro to get her feedback from the new NP results.

Met with rheumatologist doc yesterday for follow up visit, and the arthritis meds have not helped with joint pain.  I updated her on need for cervical surgery.  Before I even told her about NP doc saying he feels strongly I have an autoimmune disease, she said, "I want to do bloodwork looking for connective tissue autoimmune diseases."  I updated her on NP doc's conversation about his results.  So I have two docs that are in agreement that an autoimmune disease is involved, but which one?

I've been scrambling to get all these results and feedback so I can take the information with me to STL.  We'll leave soon.  My dad said recently, "It's a shame we don't have any medical information about your birth parents."  Indeed, just a sliver of information would shed a lot of light for my doctors.

Priority is to address cervical issue which may or may not be the root of the numbness.  Regardless, my neck is collapsing and it needs to be fixed.  As with any surgery, current symptoms may or may not get better and could get worse.  As with my spine surgery, I'm going into the cervical surgery not with the intent of restoring feeling to numb areas, but to stop the collapsing.  If feeling is restored, that will be gravy! :)

Yesterday, I started feeling overwhelmed.  So much is happening so fast, but I know God will only give me what He knows I can handle.  I found out there is a local one-day archery tournament after we get back from STL and I was seriously considering do it.  Then I remembered that Dr. Riew might want me to have the spinal tap while we are in STL and now that my left hand is going numb, it's not the right time to compete.  I'm still shooting in my yard and weight training, just very carefully.  Shooting is still a great outlet for me to take my mind off things.

I should have blood work results at the end of next week.  Until then...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Back to STL for Cervical Surgery

I've made my decision not to compete at the Ohio event simply because I found out yesterday I need cervical surgery. After meeting with a local cervical doc, he said there are 4 levels that are compromised. He was shocked at how bad my neck is and said I am way too young to be having this type of deterioration.  He's never done a 4 level fusion which is fine because I'll be on the road again for STL soon to meet with Dr. Riew (my spine surgeon's partner for cervical issues).  The local doc said my clock is ticking and to get to STL asap.

We decided to make the trip into a vacation since we've always been pressed for time with prior visits to STL. Since Dr. Riew has better availability to schedule surgeries (within 6 weeks) compared to Dr. Lenke (12+ months), I'm hoping to schedule a late July/early August surgery.

It will be interesting to see what Dr. Riew recommends for the procedure: anterior only, posterior only, or a combination of both. Dr. Riew's nurse said that depending on how many levels need to be corrected, surgery can take anywhere from 1 hour - 5 hours with one night in the hospital. Big difference to what I've already been through. Total time in STL will be one week.  Out of state patients are encouraged to stay in the STL area for a few days after discharge from hospital.

Depending on which levels will be corrected, my movement limitations could be minimal to severe. It will be nice if I can still turn my head to the left so I can continue shooting!  :)

Am I surprised that I need surgery?  No. I find a tremendous amount of comfort knowing that I'm in great hands with Dr. Lenke's colleague.

Monday, May 27, 2013

If I Had Told You... 6 Week Sprint Results

I've truly had a remarkable 6 week sprint that included many surprises.  So let's see which goals were hit, which ones were missed and lessons learned along the way.

Goal #1 - Shoot 75 arrows on shooting days, 288 arrows per week
Actual - Shot on average 88 arrows on shooting days, 328 arrows per week

Goal #2 - Shoot 6 days a week
Actual - Shot on average 4 days a week

Goal #3 - Shoot 50 arrows blank bale as warm up
Actual - Shot 30 arrows blank bale as warm up. 
Coach Randi recommended 30 as a good number until I work up to shooting a lot more arrows per day.

Goal #4 - Weight train x3 days a week @ 25#
Actual - Trained x3 days a week @ 30#

As you can see, the goal that I didn't quite hit was goal #2.  After the fall, I had to stop shooting for a few days until x-ray results came in, in addition to a few days of not being able to shoot because I simply had too many errands to do.

When I started shooting with my bow in Feb, I told myself that my first tourney would probably be in December 2013 so I could give myself sufficient time to build strength and muscle over the year.  So, the MOST EXCITING update was after learning all x-rays did not show fractures, I thought long and hard about the Georgia Cup tourney on May 25 & 26, 2013.  I didn't want to fall into the "getting ready to get ready" mindset where people actually don't take action on their goals.  What better way to close out the last week of my sprint than by competing!!!!

It was a glorious weekend, perfect weather and even had a flock of geese do a morning fly-by over the field each morning.  The Georgia Cup was a two day event that concluded with Olympic Rounds on Sunday: short, fast rounds, head-to-head, winner advances to next bracket.  Practice began at 8a and the competition started at 9a.  I was so nervous with excitement that it was a bit comical how my bow arm was shaking.  I thought we would wrap up day #1 about 12p and was feeling really good after shooting 72 arrows which I thought was the total amount needed to shoot on Saturday.

Well, let me tell ya, I was more than shocked when I found out that the total amount of arrows needed to shoot on Saturday was 144, not 72!!!!  Slight miscalculation, eh?  The tourney was only half way done at 1p.  What wha??!!  I'd never shot that many arrows on one day before so I immediately turned my concern over to God and asked for Him to keep me strong and healthy and to keep my groupings tight.  Well, not all of my groupings were tight, but the important part of my prayer was answered (stay strong and healthy).   I immediately set a goal of finishing Saturday with a score of 1,000 (a perfect score is 1,440).  I came close to hitting the goal at a score of 951.    :)    We finished shooting at 4p on Saturday.  I shot a total of 156 arrows (including x2 practice ends) for over 7 hours with one 30 minute break!!!

When we arrived on Sunday, for a split second I thought I wouldn't make it past the first elimination round.  Again, I submitted to Him and asked for strength and good health and that whenever my time was done on the field, so be it.  Again, I was totally shocked when I won the first elimination round!  Advancing to the next bracket, I was paired with Griv (who happens to be a pro shooter and our buddy where Lizzie and I bought our bows).  Although I didn't win, it was really fun shooting next to him.  :)   I told Coach Jim that I was amazed that I survived the tourney.  He explained that full FITA (this was the type of competition) tourneys are normally split up between two days, so the 144 arrows are shot 72 on day 1 and 72 on day 2.  I didn't realize I had just finished a full FITA and that is when Coach said, "If I had told you it was a full FITA, you would have talked yourself out of it."  I smiled and said, "You're a smart coach!"

1st elimination round

2nd elimination round with Griv

We headed home at 11a and had a celebratory lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant that included a most tasty margarita!  Later that afternoon, Griv sent me a message saying that I received an award and that Coach Jim brought it home for me which I'll pick up from him in a few days.  Turns out I took 2nd place female compound division.  Not only did I place in my first tourney, I placed in an able bodied tourney too!  Not all tourneys have para-archer divisions.  There were two other para-archers competing this weekend shooting recurve bows: Paralympian Lee Ford-Faherty and Kinga Kiss.

When I started my sprint 6 weeks ago, I had no intentions of competing, but I'm very thankful plans shifted and unfolded in a different way.

Next goal: need to decide pretty quick if I want to compete at the Easton Nationals in Ohio with Lizzie.  I'll need to shoot at two new distances, 60m and 70m.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me on this journey!  The tourney directors and judges were incredibly kind and helpful: Mechell Pruitte, Kenny Compton and Kenny Withrow.  Big thanks to my agents who helped me pull arrows and helped me score: Jim Pruitte and Scott. Coach Jim, yer da best!  My loving team Bionica: Jeremy and Lizzie, everyone else!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Week #5 Progress

Shot well this week:
Mon - 84 arrows, weight training
Tues - 84 arrows
Wed - 114 arrows, weight training
Thu & Fri - too much running around, no time to train
Sat - 78 arrows

I decided to compete at the Georgia Cup tourney May 25 & 26, excited!  I'm shooting from a stool now because of increased numbness in right foot and persistent heel pain. 

After looking at old MRI from July 2011 and recent MRI, things that said mild/moderate on the old report now say moderate/severe. It looks things are moving in the wrong direction and my neck is collapsing. I have an appt with a local cervical doc to find out how fast things are deteriorating and then I plan to get a second opinion from Dr. Lenke's colleague, a cervical specialist, in St. Louis.  Quite honestly, if I need surgery, I only want someone that Dr. Lenke recommends doing the procedure.

I talked with Dr. Riew's nurse in STL and was trying to make an appt to see him at the same time I see Dr. Lenke in October.  Unfortunately, Dr. Riew will be gone the entire week that I will be in town.  The nurse was very nice and asked a lot of questions about where my numb areas area, balance issues, etc.  She said that I probably want to come in sooner than later because of the increasing numbness.  She explained that if the damaged nerves are left too long, they may result in permanent numbness. 

There are 7 bones in the cervical spine and discs are the spongy areas between each bone.  Healthy discs are plump and have a whiter appearance in the middle area.  Unhealthy discs loose their height and the middle areas turn solid dark in color due to the watery gel deteriorating. 

You can see the upper discs have lost their height and lost the healthy white core (you can see the whitish core in the healthy bottom two discs).  The upper vertebrae are shifting into the spinal fluid area (white areas on each side of the dark gray spinal cord) and there are three levels that have bone spurs caused by cervical degenerative disc disease.


Archery has been a nice distraction from all of this stuff.  A few more test results are due soon from Neuro and she will make a diagnosis.  I think it will be nice to be able to pin point all my issues to one source, possibly my neck, but who knows.  Praying for God to keep me strong and at peace, to place the right doctors in my path and give them wisdom to make an accurate diagnosis.

July 2011

May 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

Week #3 & Week #4 Updates


Things were going great during week #3:
Mon shot 84 arrows, weight training
Tues shot 84 arrows
Wed shot 120 arrows, weight training

After Wednesday night's fall, I spent Thursday and Friday at different doctor's offices getting x-rays and MRIs.  I was quite sore until Tuesday of week #4 and ended up taking several unplanned days off from training.  :(

Docs found no fractures in knee, hip, shoulder or spine, thank God!  Since the fall, my right foot feels like it is buried in sand and there is pain radiating from my lumbar into my gluteus maximus.  Dr. Lenke (spine doc) wants me on steroids for 6 days to reduce the inflammation caused by the fall.

Other updates include my neuro not find any lesions in my brain - no MS!  :)  She did see that my neck has deteriorated more since the last MRI in 2010, but nothing is pinching the spinal cord.  I'm waiting to get the 2010 and 2013 reports to see which disc(s) are the problem.  I have a few more tests with her before she can make a diagnosis.

Yesterday, I saw the RA doc and she said while she sees slight inflammation in my right hand, she wants me on arthritis meds for 3 weeks and she'll do another ultrasound on the sore joints. If the meds don't help me and if she sees more inflammation, she'll treat me as RA patient.

I started training again this week:
Wed shot 84 arrows
Thu shot 90 arrows
Fri weight trained

I have a shooting stool now and shot with it yesterday.  It is SO comfortable!  I'll take the weekend off from training and am excited to get back on track Monday.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Week 2 Recap

It was a busy week last week as I closed out Week #2 of my sprint.  Last week's results:

1.  Shoot x4 days a week at 30m (blank bale in AM) - DONE
2.  Shoot at least 72 arrows each shooting day for weekly total of 
     288 - DONE AND THEN SOME!
3.  Weight train x3 days a week - DONE

I actually shot an extra day last week because I was feeling really good.

Mon - 102
Tues - 112
Thu -    72
Fri -    124
Sat -     85

My original goal for last week was a weekly total of 288 arrows.

Coach Jim had me shoot 50m last week and I was so tickled I actually hit the target!  Hubby was such a sweetie; extended my shooting lane to 50m by clearing out more trees. :)

Last week's 30m shot:

I hate when this happens!  Let's just say, arrows and trees are not a good mix:

It is still a challenge to make my scapula move since my back is numb.  Anyone have advise on how to make a numb body part move?  I'm working on lowering my elbow and slowing down my shot.  Another challenge I have is, if I hold a shot too long, my bow arm starts to fatigue.  I'm sure this will improve over time as I gain strength.

Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall, Humpty Dumpty had a Great Fall...

One of the worst things than can happen to a person with a fully fused spine happened to me the other night.  I was getting ready to head up to bed and was heating water in the microwave. I turned to get the water and didn't look to see if there was a dog laying near me. I took a sideways step and quickly realized our biggest dog (9 month old German Shepherd) was laying next to me, I tried to recover my failed first step, but my other foot got blocked by Indi too and down I went. My knee took the hit full force and then my hip and shoulder as my torso hit the floor. Hubby was out of town and thank God Lizzie was home!

I didn't feel anything pop in my back (popping means a rod snapped), but my knee is swollen. It was a helpless feeling when I didn't know how to get up off the floor. I landed on my right side. Lizzie slid a chair over, put a pillow under my head and knee and then pushed/lifted my lumbar area while I tried to log roll onto all fours. PAINFUL! From there I pulled my torso up with the help of the chair seat.

Dr. Lenke and my local doc had me take x-rays (spine, hip, knee and shoulder) yesterday so I'm waiting for the results.  I'm not an expert, but the crack in my pelvis by the bolt has me a bit concerned.

MRI results are due next week, too,  Stay tuned.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rethinking My Training Goals

Today starts week 2 of my training sprint and I'm quite shocked at my results from last week.  I forgot to mention in my last post that this sprint is not only archery training, but weight training too.  My weight increased last week to 25# so needless to say, the one day where I had both weight training and shooting, my arms were like noodles.  On that particular day, last Monday, I did AM blank bale immediately followed by weight training and then did PM shooting at 20m.  Today I have both weight training and shooting on my To Do list, but will instead shoot AM, PM and then weight train.  We'll see how I feel tonight.

OK, here is the recap of last week's results:
Goal: shoot x4 days a week at 20m - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
Goal: weight train x3 days a week - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
Goal: shoot x50 arrows per shooting day for a weekly total x200 arrows - FAR EXCEEDED GOAL!

On Monday I stopped shooting at exactly 25 arrows in the AM and PM for a total of 50 arrows shot.  Later that day, I thought about how good it felt to shoot and that I was a little disappointed that I stopped at 25 arrows each session.  Then I remembered what Coach Randi said, "... stop shooting when your form fails."  It was at that moment, I decided to rethink my goals: trust Coach Randi's advice and trust my body.

On Tuesday, I kept Coach Randi's words in my head and was able to shoot a few more arrows until my form failed.  I repeated the process the remaining x2 shooting days of the week:

Mon - x50
Tues - x60
Thu - x72
Sat - x102

My original goal for last week was a weekly total of 200.

Monday's 20m shots:

Saturday's 20m shots - 1st time all gold:

Saturday's 20m shots - 2nd time all gold:

My adjusted goals for this week are:
Shoot x4 days a week at 30m (blank bale in AM)
Shoot at least 72 arrows each shooting day for weekly total of 288
Weight train x3 days a week

I need to take video of me shooting, but cannot find my Flip video at the moment.  :/

Last Thursday I had a glorious massage which I believe attributed to my sudden increase in arrows shot.  The massage therapist said everything in my back was rock hard but that she was able to achieve some release.  It was an odd experience because my entire back is still numb, I could hear her hands on my shirt, but couldn't feel her hands.  When she found a tight spot she was trying to release, I would feel a bee sting sensation deep down in the muscle but then it dissipated.  Very strange.  After the massage, I felt incredibly relaxed and my neck pain was greatly alleviated.  Looking forward to this week's massage!  :)

The target has been moved to 30m for this week so I'm super-duper excited to see how my progress unfold.  Ideally, my plan is to train at 40m next week and then move to Kennesaw Archery Club for 50m training the week after.  I've got the Georgia Cup tournament on my radar which is the end of May.  I've got a few weeks before I have to commit to sending in registration.  The deciding factor will be, how am I shooting at 50m because that is the tourney distance I will need to hit.

Heel/ankle pain is increasing to the point where it is impacting the way I walk.  Balance issues are increasing too along with numbness in hands and feet and now seeing multiple black dots in right eye.  Appointment with neuro is this week.

Off to shoot!

Monday, April 15, 2013

And So It Begins...

Paralympian team coach, Randi Smith, and Coach Jim helped me design a training program to achieve my goal of shooting 6 days a week. Today marks the start of the 6 week sprint with a goal of shooting 75 arrows per day, 6 days a week by May 25, 2013. This week's goal is shooting 50 arrows total, blank bale in the AM and 20m in the PM, 4 days a week. I'll incrementally increase the amount of arrows and days during the sprint. I'm eager to compete and have my eye on a few summer tourneys. At the end of the sprint, I'll evaluate my progress and decide which tourney will be my first. My weight training bumps up to 25# today too. I should be sleeping like a rock!

Dr. Lenke gave me a prescription for PT massage which I will cash in very, very soon. I'll make some calls this week and look forward to a little bit of pampering.

I've been having some health issues (non-spine related) and am trying to narrow things down to the source. My doc feels that I have RA (rheumatoid arthritis) and I FEEL like I have it too, based on where the pain is. While I tested negative on the two RA blood tests, my doc said 30% of those who test negative still have the disease. I'll be off to see the rheumatologist soon to see what my course of action will be. The worst pain is in my knees, ankles and heels (pain is in other places too, but these are at the top of the list). The pain in my heel is causing me to walk differently which isn't good for my spine. After shooting Saturday for almost one hour, the pain was shooting up into my calf and knee. I'll talk with coach about designing a shooting stool for me.

Another issue that has reappeared are MS (multiple sclerosis) type symptoms that I had the summer before my surgery. At the time, my neurologist confirmed a severe deficiency in B12 which can mimic MS symptoms. I started weekly B12 injections and the symptoms practically disappeared. Late last year, the symptoms started slowly reappearing and as of 2 months ago, the symptoms are almost as bad as they were in 2011 (memory/balance/strength, etc. issues. My B12 blood work showed a normal range which is good, but that means, my symptoms are no longer related to a B12 deficiency. My doc wants my neuro to revisit the MS possibility; I'll see her next week.

Off to shoot! :)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Baby Steps to Building Strength & Muscle

This week I increased my weight training from 15# to 20# and WOW, what a difference!  Here are the seated rows:

Glad to see things moving back there.  ;) 


Hit a new milestone this week of shooting x3 days in a row. Even though I only shot a total of x3 ends of 6 arrows each for each day, I was happy with the progress. I rec'd my arrows Wed and within 24 hours I was down x2 arrows and missing a 3rd. The first compromised arrow occurred at coach's house when the arrow hit the wood target frame. Coach did his best to remove the arrow, but after a hammer and chisel didn't work, it took a drill to get it out. The next compromised arrow occurred the next day at home shooting in my back yard. Ended up splitting an arrow already in the target when shooting another which caused the flying arrow to go missing in the yard. Fortunately, I was able to borrow coach's metal detector yesterday and found it.

We had a fun time at the local gun/archery shop. Hubby shot his rifle while I shot with our daughter and her friend. I had shot 5 ends when my string popped off again. Sigh. Back to Snellville this morning to have Griv fix my bow. First thing he said to me was, "I have never seen this before... we need to increase the DW." I can't afford to have my string pop anymore so now it is set at 31#. I'm able to pull it, but I definitely have my work cut out for me in regards to building more strength. On the drive home, I could feel the muscles in the side of my neck/trap area getting sore. I pushed through my scheduled workout today and am now physically wiped out. I forgot how easy my body fatigues. I had planned to go hiking with my family this afternoon, but felt it best to stay home and rest. I have not yet hiked since the surgery because I was restricted for a long time from walking on inclines/hills. Baby steps. I'm chillin at home with my x3 pups on the deck in the sunshine.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bull's Eye!

I finally shot my bow last week and am SO incredibly excited!  My shots were spot-on with great groupings:

Coach Jim measured the draw weight and let-off weight which turned out to be heavier than what I thought.  DW = 28.9#, LO = 7.7#.  So happy I've built the strength to comfortably draw at this weight.  It's hard to believe that just last September I was unable to move the string, much less draw on Lizzie's bow which is 22#!

My new arrows arrive this week; who knew that I would be excited about selecting the colors for my fletching.  How silly!  I'll post pix when they arrive.

I'm looking forward to shooting outside when the weather warms up.  It's still too cold for me to shoot outside and try not to shiver.  I've had my eye on a battery operated vest that can provide heat for up to 10 hours.  The problem with layering to shoot is, if the layers are too thick, I won't be able to get into proper position.  I'll figure out a solution.

My training is coming along great and am up to 15# on my exercises having started @ 5#.  I'm giving myself one more week of training at 15# and then bump it up to 20# next week.  Dr. Lenke prescribed PT massage which I'll start soon now that I'm shooting.  Jeremy helps me with massage but he's looking forward to a little bit of a break since I need massage more frequently now.

I'm really curious to see how I'm shooting at the end of the outdoor season. :D

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Official

UPDATE 3-20-13:  Seems there was a little faux pas on my results because Dr. Nyland contacted me today and said I am classified as an AR Standing Para archer to compete in the Open Division (compound).  :D

ORIGINAL POST 3-19-13:  I'm not disabled enough to make the cut as a classified para archer.  What exactly does this mean?  The process of getting classified for archery means having an exam with Dr. John Nyland in Louisville, KY who is the only classifying doctor in the US.  He explained that in an archery exam, the minimum points an archer must reach for 2013 is 15 points which translates to a loss of strength or range of movement.  The main focus for the archery exam is the arms and legs with little focus paid to the core/trunk area.  I had to do many different exercises that were quite painful.  I asked Dr. Nyland if his room was a torture chamber.  So while I have zero strength/mobility in my core, my arm and leg strength was good which resulted in me not hitting the 15 point requirement.  Had I been classifying for a different sport that has a primary focus on core strength/mobility, I would have been in like Flynn, but that's ok.

Dr. Nyland said that even if I hit the 15 points this year, that there is no way I could get re-classified next year when the point system changes to a minimum of 24 points.  The change is a result of the Russian Men's Standing Paralympic team who apparently fudged their disabilities at the 2012 London Games and shot great... too great.  This raised red flags with World Archery who will implement the new point system in 2014.  Dr. Nyland said that it is getting to the point that if an archer isn't missing a limb, they won't get classified.

How does that impact my long term goals?  Well, I am disappointed I won't be able to make it to the Paralympics, but that just means I need to focus on another target.  ;)  While I still have my disability, Dr. Nyland needs the committee to advise exactly what type of archer am I:
Able-bodied Archer
Disabled Archer
Para Archer without Classification

As an able-bodied archer, I'm unable to pull my arrows nor am I able to bend/lean to look around arrows when scoring.  I'll get this all figured out.

The reason we were in Louisville was for the NFAA Indoor Nationals where Lizzie shot.  This was a BIG event with over 1,400 youth shooters and I don't know how many adult and pro shooters.  It was a fun weekend; it even snowed!  I'm looking forward to shooting with her at Louisville next year.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Making Progress

I was able to get my bow fixed which was a big relief!  My draw weight is currently set at 26# on a 30#-40# bow until I get stronger which means there is some slack on the string being set so light.  I was at the end of my drawing practice when my bow arm fatigued.  As I was letting down my draw, my bow arm started to shake which tilted the bow and resulted in the string popping off.  I'll order arrows this week and plan to have a shooting lesson with GRIV in a couple of weeks. 

My weight training has been good and I've increased my weights from #10 to #15 and introduced a pec exercise on the machine.

Current training:
Lat Pull Down: x3 sets, 10 reps, #15
Seated Rows: x3 sets, 10 reps, #15
Pecs: x1 set, 10 reps, #5
Lunges: x10 on each leg
Therabands: prescribed exercises
Drawing bow until arrows arrive and I can actually shoot

Shot a vid today so I can see what my pull downs look like:
Despite trying to pinch my shoulder blades together, it doesn't look like I accomplished that movement yet.  At least I know what my starting point looks like.  It will be interesting to see how things change/improve a few months from now.

I'm getting excited about my classification appointment next week.  Lizzie will be shooting at the NFAA tourney this weekend.  I've heard this is a fun shoot and usually has a big turnout of about 1,200 archers.

We are looking forward to shooting with Kennesaw Archery Club when they move back to the outdoor range in a few weeks.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Good Grief!!!

Yesterday was a very exciting day because I finally got my bow set up with the d-loop, peep sight, arrow rest and sight with scope.  I'm feeling really good that the draw weight was set to 26#.  It felt great drawing the bow and I was happy I had built up the strength to pull it.  How horrible would it have been if I wasn't able to draw?  Shortly before leaving the shop, the tech guy said, "Because your draw weight is set so light, there is a very small chance the string can pop off."  I asked, "How much of a chance exactly?"  "Probably never," he said.

This morning I'm practicing drawing my bow (I need to order arrows so I won't be shooting for a couple more weeks) with my Flip vid because I want to see what it looks like.

After a few draws, I notice the peep sight is rotating and I can no longer see through it.  How odd; I'll be sure to show this to GRIV when I have a lesson with him.  Right after I shot this vid, I drew one more time and POW! The string jumped off the cams.  :(  I'm SOOO bummed.  Sigh.  Back to Snellville I go.  At least my scapula moved.

Monday, February 25, 2013

It Finally Happened!

I finally made it through Atlanta TSA airport security without a pat down!  Woo hoo!  When Lizzie and I arrived at the security area, there were two long lines. I approached one of the TSA agents and showed him my hidden disability card. Believe me, carrying three pounds of hardware in my spine definitely sets off  alarms. To minimize the drama, I asked to use the scanner machine which doesn't set off alarms like the step through metal detector.  In the past, this resulted in an agent giving me a pat down of my back area only, despite me warning them about my situation. So the agent read my card and directed me to follow her. She opened up a new lane just for me. I showed the agents at the machine my card again, stepped into the machine, and voilĂ !  The agent told me I was good and to have a nice trip. Wowza, wasn't expecting that.  My experiences with ATL TSA have been improving the past few flights.

Coming home from St. Louis, the agents there are really great and always get me to the right scanner as quickly as possible. Being a small airport helps too. I still had to have a back pat down in STL, but the agent asked me how long my fusion was. With my hand, I motioned from the base of my neck down to my hiney.  He said, "Oh wow!  I only have two fused at C4 and C5 (the neck)."

Lizzie and I flew in Tuesday evening, checked into the hotel connected to the hospital, and walked across the street to my favorite Mexican restaurant. I found myself getting very excited being in STL as this was the place God literally worked a miracle through Dr. Lenke's hands on November 28, 2011. It's an odd feeling being excited going to a hospital for a check up, much less the surgery itself. I remember being very excited the day of the surgery.

Anyhoo, I planned our return flight home at 10:30a which would have given me a three hour window for my appointment with Dr. Lenke including a 45 minute taxi ride to the airport. A couple of hiccups occurred. First, Delta rescheduled my flight to 9:59a a few weeks before my trip. Then I found out I actually wasn't the first patient of the morning, there were actually 5 patients ahead of me!  Lenke's nurse suggested if I arrive at the xray department before 6:30a and be first in line, there was a chance I could sneak in ahead of the other patients. That worked like a charm!  My appointment was 7:15a and 14 minutes later, my consultation with Dr. Lenke was done.

Funny little thing happened in the xray dressing room. I walked into the room after my xrays were done to change into my clothes and I saw an older woman standing in her hospital gown with a sad look on her face. She said, "Can you help me?  Oh, wait, you probably can't bend over either." I laughed and said, "You're right, I'm not able to bend over, but how can I help you?" She looked down at the floor and that's when I saw the lock laying on the floor. There are lockers in the dressing room where patients lock up their clothes while taking xrays and the woman dropped her lock.  I asked, "Are you a patient of Dr. Lenke's?" which she confirmed. I carefully got down on my knees and lowered my torso downward while keeping my back straight. Fortunately, my arms are long and I was able to grab the lock. Good thing there was a door next to me so I could hold onto it on my way up. She thanked me profusely and I said, "My pleasure." That was my good deed for the day. :)

Dr. Lenke showed me where fusion appeared on my xrays and what the new bone looks like. PRAISE GOD! 
6 month post op xray, no fusion

15 month post op xray, fusion!
These still freak me out:

I only had a few questions which is why my time with Dr. Lenke was so short. Obviously, the first question was about the fusion. Next, I wanted to know why I frequently feel as if there are bugs running up and down my spine. Sometimes, it is so bad that I have Jeremy or Lizzie look down my shirt. Of course, nothing is there; they must think I'm crazy. Dr. Lenke explained that my nerves are trying to regenerate. He said that if I don't regain feeling within the next few months, that most likely those areas will remain numb.  As of today, my numb areas are across my entire thoracic area, my lower back, most of the front of my left thigh and an area on my right thigh.  Since the surgery, I have an extreme sensitivity to cold temperatures.  This winter I frequently wear two pairs of socks, 2 shirts and a sweater and that is while I'm inside the house!  When I venture outside, I usually wear two jackets on top of everything else.  Dr. Lenke said this is common in his thin patients because of muscle atrophy.  I do everything I can to prevent shivering because shivering really torques my spine.  Dr. Lenke explained that because there is no more insulation from muscle, the hardware is close to the surface of the skin and is definitely impacted by external temperature.  If you wonder why I'm always bundled up and drinking hot water all day long, it's my desperate attempt to stay warm.

He said everything looks great was happy to hear I've been so active and doing archery. He asked, "Does it feel good to get back into archery?" I responded, "I never did archery before my surgery." "Really?," replied Dr. Lenke. I told him that as a result of the surgery I'm now able to live my life and try new things which includes archery. Dr. Lenke had a big smile on his face. God is good!

Dr. Lenke was very happy that my coach, Jim White, has experience with Para archers. Jim helped coach Lee Ford-Faherty to compete at the 2012 Paralympics. Lee has been very helpful and I'm glad she lives in Georgia. I've got the right team in place to safely train and support me.

I was able to score a great bow case that has wheels (I'm not able to carry a heavy case) and it will arrive in a couple of days.  Next two items at the top of my list are arrows and a quiver.  I have an appointment with a doctor in Kentucky who does classifications for Para archers. There is only one doctor in the US who does classifications so while we'll be in town for one of Lizzie's tourneys, I'll take care of the classification appointment.

I'm hoping one of GRIV's guys can set up my bow next week. Their shop has been hosting a lot of tourneys recently and they are pretty busy.  Every Friday night, GRIV hosts a Wounded Warriors shoot. Prett cool, huh?  Check out the Archery Learning Center in Snellville, GA.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Set Up

Shortly after we returned from Paris, I ordered my bow and was told it would arrive several weeks later because of the custom color I wanted. To my shock and the shop owner's surprise, it arrived less than 4 weeks later!

Super excited!
I'll be sure to keep my eyes open when actually shooting! :)

Here is the set up of my gear so far.

Bow:  Hoyt Matrix 30#-40#, but dropping it back to 25# for now, DL 28"
Arrow Rest: Limb Driver Pro V
Sight: Shibuya Ultimate CP 520 w/ scope and x4 lens
Release: Tru Ball Boss X

Next on my acquisition list:

Arrows: Easton A/C/C with 100 grain points
Quiver: Badlands
Case: SKB

Since we'll be busy with Lizzie's four tourneys, I won't have a chance for GRIV to set everything up onto my bow for a few weeks. In the mean time, I've been using my Morin trainer while holding my bow so I can start strengthening my bow arm. Below is a video using the Morin by itself and another video using the Morin with my bow.

Now that I've been holding my bow with the Morin, I have back spasms afterwards.  Waking up some sleeping muscles for sure!  I'm super jazzed to sling some arrows soon!