Sunday, October 23, 2016

...............................Foot Surgery: One Year Later...............................



The above picture was taken on the 19th of October, 2015. Before I had found Altra running shoes, I was wearing a brand that did substantial damage to my left foot. I tried to run and walk, but the pain was intense with every step. Not at all happy with the next step, I went to my doctor to see what could be done. The optional cortisone shots were given over a few months time. My doctor and his assistant seemed to be prolonging what obviously had to be done. That's when I found Altra, and started wearing them in late 2014 to see if they would help. They did. Unfortunately for me, the damage was so great that I had to have surgery.

My downtime from surgery would be lengthy. However, it only got worse after the first few weeks. I ended up breaking a toe right next to the incision while trying to walk some. From there, a stress fracture to the sesamoid bone on the same foot. It just spiraled down for me. Having to constantly go back to the surgeon, only to hear more bad news was heartbreaking. Realistically, I should have been healed by the end of the year. But life doesn't always go as planned. I was still in a walking boot in mid January and feeling a lot of pain. I still remember sitting in my doctor's office and hearing my surgeon say, "You will never be able to run again." To this day, a year and a week later, that still stings deep.

I spent months rotating between a wheelchair, crutches, and a walking boot. Depression set in as I watched people run along the roads. Or by posting on social media. A grown man who was once active having to use a walker while at home was a lot to hold in mentally. Finally, after a few months of some healing came physical therapy. I wish I could say that went great, but I can't. I ended up contracting a very serious skin cancer on my forehead and needed surgery as soon as they could schedule me. All physical therapy would be postponed until I recover from my second surgery.


Ahhhhh...the beauty of not even being 45 years of age and losing almost half of your forehead close to a quarter inch deep is NOT a good feeling. Especially when you are still limping from a surgery six months prior. I will save you all of the grotesque photos. Mainly because I hate seeing myself like that. But having your friends say that it looks like you could be a Walking Dead extra. Or saying it looks like someone blew the front part of your head off. Comments like that will always stay with me. It would take two months of daily cleaning by my wife. It would also take weekly visits and work from my plastic surgeon for it to finally close up. And while this was happening, I would do months of extensive physical therapy on my foot. No long walks. No running. No bike riding. Just twice a week visits to get better.

That puts us to the months of July/August. My physical therapy was extended for another month. My foot was getting better, but still had some pain around the ankle. I kept wearing my Altra running shoes because of the natural foot shaped toebox. I also wore Injinji toesocks. The combination of the two, along with very slow walks, helped to strengthen my foot even more. They also helped because my toes weren't being jammed and squeezed into a tight toebox. They were allowed to sit naturally inside and splay out. It was like slipping my feet into a protective cover. I kept at the slow walking, and from time to time, a very short jog of ten to twenty feet.



In mid August I was lucky enough to even get some miles in with the current Appalachian Trail Speed Record Holder, Karl Meltzer. In fact, I was able to get in 15 miles that day. One thing stood out from that adventure. My foot did not hurt as bad as before. Feeling somewhat confident, I ran my first legit race in mid September. Although I only covered a little over 21 miles in eight hours, it was a giant leap for me. The trail was rocky, up and down, and had roots. And it was a loop course so I hit it four loops in a row. Again, there was foot pain, but that was not due to anything surgery wise. It was due to being out of trail shape. Fast forward until today, October, 23rd. It's been slightly over a year since my foot surgery. There have been many setbacks, an added surgery, and many worries.



However, all of that is in the past. I am currently skin cancer free and thinking positive for the future. And I am running! Not fast, and that's the plan. I'm working on getting there in my own time. My foot/feet are getting stronger. I am wearing the right shoes finally. Shoes that I will wear until my days are done. I have put close to 7,000 feet of climbing on my legs and feet on 100 plus miles without a hint of pain. For the record...I am an ambassador for Altra Running shoes now. I am sure some of you may be saying that I am just advertising their brand. You would be correct. But I am advertising their brand because I believe in their shoes. And while they may not work for some people, they have helped me to run and walk pain free. If I were just an everyday runner/walker that had no association with the brand, I would still promote what they have done. They are feet savers! I was even able to hike up a very tough Maryland Heights trail, and then run down the gnarliest, steepest section.



Even more thrilling to me was that last night, I ran my fastest three miles in over a year. On my third mile, even with some timed walk breaks, I ran a 10:55. One month ago, I believe I was over 15 minutes per mile. Baby steps are getting me back to big boy steps. Those haunting words from my surgeon, "You will never be able to run again." He was wrong. Never underestimate a person that wears the right shoes and socks on his feet. And also finds that "never give up" attitude that was hidden deep with them. They will be unstoppable.

.........................................My Year In Review.........................................



The above picture was taken on the 19th of October, 2015. Before I had found Altra running shoes, I was wearing a brand that did substantial damage to my left foot. I tried to run and walk, but the pain was intense with every step. Not at all happy with the next step...I went to my doctor to see what could be done. The optional cortisone shots were given over a few months time. My doctor and his assistant seemed to be prolonging what obviously had to be done. That's when I found Altra, and started wearing them in late 2014 to see if they would help. They did. Unfortunately for me, the damage was so great that I had to have surgery.

My downtime from surgery would be lengthy. However, it only got worse after the first few weeks. I ended up breaking a toe right next to the incision while trying to walk some. From there, a stress fracture to the sesamoid bone on the same foot. It just spiraled down for me. Having to constantly go back to the surgeon, only to hear more bad news was heartbreaking. Realistically, I should have been healed by the end of the year. But life doesn't always go as planned. I was still in a walking boot in mid January and feeling a lot of pain. I still remember sitting in my doctor's office and hearing my surgeon say, "You will never be able to run again." To this day, a year and a week later, that still stings deep.

I spent months rotating between a wheelchair, crutches, and a walking boot. Depression set in as I watched people run along the roads. Or by posting on social media. A grown man who was once active having to use a walker while at home was a lot to hold in mentally. Finally, after a few months of some healing came physical therapy. I wish I could say that went great, but I can't. I ended up contracting a very serious skin cancer on my forehead and needed surgery as soon as they could schedule me. All physical therapy would be postponed until I recover from my second surgery.


Ahhhhh...the beauty of not even being 45 years of age and losing almost half of your forehead close to a quarter inch deep is NOT a good feeling. Especially when you are still limping from a surgery six months prior. I will save you all of the grotesque photos. Mainly because I hate seeing myself like that. But having your friends say that it looks like you could be a Walking Dead extra. Or saying it looks like someone blew the front part of your head off. Comments like that will always stay with me. It would take two months of daily cleaning by my wife. It would also take weekly visits and work from my plastic surgeon for it to finally close up. And while this was happening, I would do months of extensive physical therapy on my foot. No long walks. No running. No bike riding. Just twice a week visits to get better.

That puts us to the months of July/August. My physical therapy was extended for another month. My foot was getting better, but still had some pain around the ankle. I kept wearing my Altra running shoes because of the natural foot shaped toebox. I also wore Injinji toesocks. The combination of the two, along with very slow walks, helped to strengthen my foot even more. They also helped because my toes weren't being jammed and squeezed into a tight toebox. They were allowed to sit naturally inside and splay out. It was like slipping my feet into a protective cover. I kept at the slow walking, and from time to time, a very short jog of ten to twenty feet.



In mid August I was lucky enough to even get some miles in with the current Appalachian Trail Speed Record Holder, Karl Meltzer. In fact, I was able to get in 15 miles that day. One thing stood out from that adventure. My foot started did not hurt as bad as before. Feeling somewhat confident, I ran my first legit race in mid September. Although I only covered a little over 21 miles in eight hours, it was a giant leap for me. The trail was rocky, up and down, and had roots. And it was a loop course so I hit it four loops in a row. Again, there was foot pain, but that was not due to anything surgery wise. It was due to being out of trail shape. Fast forward until today, October, 23rd. It's been slightly over a year since my foot surgery. There have been many setbacks, an added surgery, and many worries.



However, all of that is in the past. I am currently skin cancer free and thinking positive for the future. And I am running! Not fast, and that's the plan. I'm working on getting there in my own time. My foot/feet are getting stronger. I am wearing the right shoes finally. Shoes that I will wear until my days are done. I have put close to 7,000 feet of climbing on my legs and feet on 100 plus miles without a hint of pain. For the record...I am an ambassador for Altra Running shoes now. I am sure some of you may be saying that I am just advertising their brand. You would be correct. But I am advertising their brand because I believe in their shoes. And while they may not work for some people, they have helped me to run and walk pain free. If I were just an everyday runner/walker that had no association with the brand, I would still promote what they have done. They are feet savers! I was even able to hike up a very tough Maryland Heights trail, and then run down the gnarliest, steepest section.



Even more thrilling to me was that last night, I ran my fastest three miles in over a year. On my third mile, even with some timed walk breaks, I ran a 10:55. One month ago, I believe I was over 15 minutes per mile. Baby steps are getting me back to big boy steps. Those haunting words from my surgeon, "You will never be able to run again." He was wrong. Never underestimate a person that wears the right shoes and socks on his feet. And also finds that "never give up" attitude that was hidden deep with them. They will be unstoppable.

My Year In Review



The above picture was taken on the 19th of October, 2015. Before I had found Altra running shoes, I was wearing a brand that did substantial damage to my left foot. I tried to run and walk, but the pain was intense with every step. Not at all happy with the next step...I went to my doctor to see what could be done. The optional cortisone shots were given over a few months time. My doctor and his assistant seemed to be prolonging what obviously had to be done. That's when I found Altra, and started wearing them in late 2014 to see if they would help. They did. Unfortunately for me, the damage was so great that I had to have surgery.

My downtime from surgery would be lengthy. However, it only got worse after the first few weeks. I ended up breaking a toe right next to the incision while trying to walk some. From there, a stress fracture to the sesamoid bone on the same foot. It just spiraled down for me. Having to constantly go back to the surgeon, only to hear more bad news was heartbreaking. Realistically, I should have been healed by the end of the year. But life doesn't always go as planned. I was still in a walking boot in mid January and feeling a lot of pain. I still remember sitting in my doctor's office and hearing my surgeon say, "You will never be able to run again." To this day, a year and a week later, that still stings deep.

I spent months rotating between a wheelchair, crutches, and a walking boot. Depression set in as I watched people run along the roads. Or by posting on social media. A grown man who was once active having to use a walker while at home was a lot to hold in mentally. Finally, after a few months of some healing came physical therapy. I wish I could say that went great, but I can't. I ended up contracting a very serious skin cancer on my forehead and needed surgery as soon as they could schedule me. All physical therapy would be postponed until I recover from my second surgery.


Ahhhhh...the beauty of not even being 45 years of age and losing almost half of your forehead close to a quarter inch deep is NOT a good feeling. Especially when you are still limping from a surgery six months prior. I will save you all of the grotesque photos. Mainly because I hate seeing myself like that. But having your friends say that it looks like you could be a Walking Dead extra. Or saying it looks like someone blew the front part of your head off. Comments like that will always stay with me. It would take two months of daily cleaning by my wife. It would also take weekly visits and work from my plastic surgeon for it to finally close up. And while this was happening, I would do months of extensive physical therapy on my foot. No long walks. No running. No bike riding. Just twice a week visits to get better.

That puts us to the months of July/August. My physical therapy was extended for another month. My foot was getting better, but still had some pain around the ankle. I kept wearing my Altra running shoes because of the natural foot shaped toebox. I also wore Injinji toesocks. The combination of the two, along with very slow walks, helped to strengthen my foot even more. They also helped because my toes weren't being jammed and squeezed into a tight toebox. They were allowed to sit naturally inside and splay out. It was like slipping my feet into a protective cover. I kept at the slow walking, and from time to time, a very short jog of ten to twenty feet.



In mid August I was lucky enough to even get some miles in with the current Appalachian Trail Speed Record Holder, Karl Meltzer. In fact, I was able to get in 15 miles that day. One thing stood out from that adventure. My foot started did not hurt as bad as before. Feeling somewhat confident, I ran my first legit race in mid September. Although I only covered a little over 21 miles in eight hours, it was a giant leap for me. The trail was rocky, up and down, and had roots. And it was a loop course so I hit it four loops in a row. Again, there was foot pain, but that was not due to anything surgery wise. It was due to being out of trail shape. Fast forward until today, October, 23rd. It's been slightly over a year since my foot surgery. There have been many setbacks, an added surgery, and many worries.



However, all of that is in the past. I am currently skin cancer free and thinking positive for the future. And I am running! Not fast, and that's the plan. I'm working on getting there in my own time. My foot/feet are getting stronger. I am wearing the right shoes finally. Shoes that I will wear until my days are done. I have put close to 7,000 feet of climbing on my legs and feet on 100 plus miles without a hint of pain. For the record...I am an ambassador for Altra Running shoes now. I am sure some of you may be saying that I am just advertising their brand. You would be correct. But I am advertising their brand because I believe in their shoes. And while they may not work for some people, they have helped me to run and walk pain free. If I were just an everyday runner/walker that had no association with the brand, I would still promote what they have done. They are feet savers! I was even able to hike up a very tough Maryland Heights trail, and then run down the gnarliest, steepest section.



Even more thrilling to me was that last night, I ran my fastest three miles in over a year. On my third mile, even with some timed walk breaks, I ran a 10:55. One month ago, I believe I was over 15 minutes per mile. Baby steps are getting me back to big boy steps. Those haunting words from my surgeon, "You will never be able to run again." He was wrong. Never underestimate a person that wears the right shoes and socks on his feet. And also finds that "never give up" attitude that was hidden deep with them. They will be unstoppable.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Our Past Does Not Define Us.....





It's been a crazy year for me. And because of that, I lost my way and stopped doing things that I enjoy. I have let myself get down because of all that has been happening in my personal life. So over the past few months I have been working hard to change that. I have learned that it doesn't happen over night. It's a work in progress. But the work is worth it. I have realized that I am at my own crossroads. Do I keep looking back in my rearview mirror and worrying about what has transpired? Or do I say enough is enough and start looking ahead at what's to come? Looking back was keeping me from moving forward. I was tired of being stagnant. That's why I started moving.

Most of you that know me know what has happened. A foot surgery that has been less than cooperative for almost a year now. A gnarly skin cancer surgery in April that took two months to heal up. Constant physical therapy to get my foot and ankle back in shape. I let all of that consume me. Mentally, I was defeated. And then one day, I am not sure exactly when, I said the heck with it. I went out for a long walk. And then I went out for another one the next day. And do you know what I realized? My foot felt somewhat better. Going to physical therapy twice a week was nice. But I needed my own therapy. Mentally and physically.

Once I was cleared to exercise, I put my running gear on and went out. I was, and still am smart enough not to go out and try to be who I was before my surgery. I take it easy and enjoy each step that is gifted to me. I could sit around still and complain about nagging pain. Something that I was doing. But the reality is that I can stand on both feet. I can move on my own. I truly am turtle slow at this point. But that doesn't matter. I am moving. And when I move...I move ahead with my life. I am leaving a really bad year behind me. A year that doesn't define who I am in the grand scheme of things. And with all of that said, I signed up for my first legit race. But before I toed the line at Rick's Run/Ultra Challenge, I toed the line in a few small "fat ass" style races. I told no one. Only my wife knew.

By doing those, one thing was obvious. My foot did not hurt like before. I am not saying I am 100 percent. Heck, I am not even saying a percentage at all. I just know it didn't put me in intense pain to move. Physical therapy was a key factor with that. And doing key exercises that Golden Harper talked about helped. But I also appreciate the gear that covers my feet. Fast forward to Rick's Ultra Challenge.



Even for the fittest runner, Rick's is a challenge. Held on the outskirts of Boonsboro, MD, inside Greenbrier State Park, Rick's Trail Race is a 5.22 mile looped course that runs along the lake and through the mountain trails surrounding it. Long story short. It was humid. It was hot. It was hard. My secret goal was to do four loops if my foot cooperated. I planned to not push it and enjoy being back in the trail running community. I did just that. I finished the first loop and rested. I switched my Altra Lone Peak 2.0's to the Paradigm model.



While I love running the Paradigm, I went back to the Lone Peak's after I finished my second loop. I grabbed some food and went out for a third loop. Before the race, volunteers put up signs all over the course. You would see them over and over. Each loop I would see one that will always stay with me. "The human body can only do so much. Then the heart and spirit must take over." That sign was a reminder that even while out of shape, tired, sore, drained. I had to keep going. So after completing my third loop, I didn't let my mind beat me. I went out for a fourth loop. It was hard, but it was worth it. At the end of the day I had went further than 51 people. And while this wasn't about placement, it showed me that I am slowly getting better. It was the furthest distance I had covered since last April. I was stoked. I still am.



Since that day in mid September, I have went out and tackled over 16 miles on hilly roads. I have went to the Appalachian Trail and covered 10 miles on rocky terrain. And a few days ago, 14 more miles on the Appalachian Trail. Up steep climbs, and back down. Over thousands of rocks, one thing sticks out. I felt no real foot pain. My surgeon told me last year that I would never run again. That I should take up biking. I can honestly say by being smart, taking it slow, and wearing the proper products on my feet. Well...my surgeon is wrong. Altra Running shoes have brought my foot-feet back from the dead. No cheesy style shout out. That is 100 percent truth. I am now moving ahead in life and leaving a bad year behind me. And I am seeing miles in front of me. Races on the horizon. Yes, kids...there's a big world out there. It's time to go explore it again. Come explore it with me.

THANK YOU INJINJI and ALTRA RUNNING!

Our Past Does Not Define Us.....





It's been a crazy year for me. And because of that, I lost my way and stopped doing things that I enjoy. I have let myself get down because of all that has been happening in my personal life. So over the past few months I have been working hard to change that. I have learned that it doesn't happen over night. It's a work in progress. But the work is worth it. I have realized that I am at my own crossroads. Do I keep looking back in my rearview mirror and worrying about what has transpired? Or do I say enough is enough and start looking ahead at what's to come? Looking back was keeping me from moving forward. I was tired of being stagnant. That's why I started moving.

Most of you that know me know what has happened. A foot surgery that has been less than cooperative for almost a year now. A gnarly skin cancer surgery in April that took two months to heal up. Constant physical therapy to get my foot and ankle back in shape. I let all of that consume me. Mentally, I was defeated. And then one day, I am not sure exactly when, I said the heck with it. I went out for a long walk. And then I went out for another one the next day. And do you know what I realized? My foot felt somewhat better. Going to physical therapy twice a week was nice. But I needed my own therapy. Mentally and physically.

Once I was cleared to exercise, I put my running gear on and went out. I was, and still am smart enough not to go out and try to be who I was before my surgery. I take it easy and enjoy each step that is gifted to me. I could sit around still and complain about nagging pain. Something that I was doing. But the reality is that I can stand on both feet. I can move on my own. I truly am turtle slow at this point. But that doesn't matter. I am moving. And when I move...I move ahead with my life. I am leaving a really bad year behind me. A year that doesn't define who I am in the grand scheme of things. And with all of that said, I signed up for my first legit race. But before I toed the line at Rick's Run/Ultra Challenge, I toed the line in a few small "fat ass" style races. I told no one. Only my wife knew.

By doing those, one thing was obvious. My foot did not hurt like before. I am not saying I am 100 percent. Heck, I am not even saying a percentage at all. I just know it didn't put me in intense pain to move. Physical therapy was a key factor with that. And doing key exercises that Golden Harper talked about helped. But I also appreciate the gear that covers my feet. Fast forward to Rick's Ultra Challenge.



Even for the fittest runner, Rick's is a challenge. Held on the outskirts of Boonsboro, MD, inside Greenbrier State Park, Rick's Trail Race is a 5.22 mile looped course that runs along the lake and through the mountain trails surrounding it. Long story short. It was humid. It was hot. It was hard. My secret goal was to do four loops if my foot cooperated. I planned to not push it and enjoy being back in the trail running community. I did just that. I finished the first loop and rested. I switched my Altra Lone Peak 2.0's to the Paradigm model.



While I love running the Paradigm, I went back to the Lone Peak's after I finished my second loop. I grabbed some food and went out for a third loop. Before the race, volunteers put up signs all over the course. You would see them over and over. Each loop I would see one that will always stay with me. "The human body can only do so much. Then the heart and spirit must take over." That sign was a reminder that even while out of shape, tired, sore, drained. I had to keep going. So after completing my third loop, I didn't let my mind beat me. I went out for a fourth loop. It was hard, but it was worth it. At the end of the day I had went further than 51 people. And while this wasn't about placement, it showed me that I am slowly getting better. It was the furthest distance I had covered since last April. I was stoked. I still am.



Since that day in mid September, I have went out and tackled over 16 miles on hilly roads. I have went to the Appalachian Trail and covered 10 miles on rocky terrain. And a few days ago, 14 more miles on the Appalachian Trail. Up steep climbs, and back down. Over thousands of rocks, one thing sticks out. I felt no real foot pain. My surgeon told me last year that I would never run again. That I should take up biking. I can honestly say by being smart, taking it slow, and wearing the proper products on my feet. Well...my surgeon is wrong. Altra Running shoes have brought my foot-feet back from the dead. No cheesy style shout out. That is 100 percent truth. I am now moving ahead in life and leaving a bad year behind me. And I am seeing miles in front of me. Races on the horizon. Yes, kids...there's a big world out there. It's time to go explore it again. Come explore it with me.

THANK YOU INJINJI and ALTRA RUNNING!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Skin Cancer Surgery: Then and Now

Disclaimer: There are very graphic photos in this blog. I wanted to add them to illustrate the point on how serious skin cancer can be. If you do not wish to see me after surgery, please back out and do not continue.



Crazy how life works. My last blog entry was in early January. Since then, life has dealt me another blow. This time it was in the form of skin cancer. Under the above Altra buff, in the pic above, I was missing almost half of my forehead. To make matters worse, it was almost a quarter inch deep. I had known about the small, yet growing, spot on my head for over a year before my wife finally made me get it looked at. Never once did I think it would be any sort of cancer. Boy was I wrong!

Call me blind, or dumb, but I should have known. Years of living a few miles from the ocean, growing up on the beach. Follow that up by years of running on hot paved roads without using SPF of any kind. I was a walking poster boy on the "what not to do" when being outside. A small red mark that slowly started growing, then cracking open, and eventually healing. This would go on for over a year. It slowly started manipulating the skin around it. Yet, I did nothing. Just wave it off. "I'm tough", I thought. "It will go away", I would tell myself. It never did. Finally, after months of my wife telling me to get looked at, I did. They knew right away that it was skin cancer. They did a biopsy right away to determine the exact type. Again, I am about to post some graphic pics to show just how bad it was, and still is. Here is a pic of the biopsy.



The discoloration all around the open wound is also cancer. It would take two weeks to get the results back. In that time, I worried...a lot. I'll keep those dark worries to myself. But knowing it was a cancer had me in a place I didn't like to be, with thoughts I didn't want to think. Finally the results came back and I was headed to speak with the doctor. The news was good, yet crushing. I had Infiltrating Basal Cell Carcinoma. And while Basal Cell Carcinoma is the easiest to treat, I let it fester and grow on my head for too long. It had made its way down into the deeper tissues. I was then scheduled for Mohs Surgery. Luckily, I was having one of the very best perform the surgery. But still I worried...a lot.

On April, 7th, I was sitting in a chair while a nurse bombarded me with questions I can't even remember. I was nervous, sweating, and scared. My wife was with me throughout the procedure, but looked out of the window as much as possible. We were told that if they did not get all of the cancer the first time, we would be brought back in from the waiting room to take more skin and tissue. We waited for roughly an hour in a room that could only fit about 8 people. Looking at people that were easily thirty years older than me did not sit well in my stomach. When I was told by the nurses that they had to take more, I really started to worry. During the whole procedure, I was wide awake. With close to fifty shots to numb my head, they cut, snipped, cut more. When it was finally over, we waited for the results. The good news was that they got all of the cancer out. The bad news is that it took taking almost half of my forehead to do so. And because the wound was so big, other problems surfaced.

One idea was to squeeze my head as tight as possible and stitch it together. They wanted to stretch the skin to lessen the size of the wound. The problem with that was I was missing so much skin that it hurt intensely. I couldn't take the pressure once the pain medication wore off. I could not sleep, eat, drink. I constantly got sick and cried to my wife. The next day they took out the stitches to relieve pressure. Until I could see a plastic surgeon, I would keep the wound covered. My wife had the sad honors of cleaning it daily. The pic you are about to see is four days after surgery. I warn you, it is bad. So bad that it literally brings tears to my eyes looking at it.



It's been almost two months now and my head is still an open wound. My plastic surgeon felt that doing a skin graft would compromise the skin around the wound. And that later down the road, if any cancer comes back, it would be hard to deal with. We came up with a plan that no more surgeries would be needed. Something I am stoked about. Each week I go in and she does her magic. Between visits, my wife takes care of it. It's crazy how the body works. Within a few weeks the wound looked so much better, but still broke my heart when looking at it.



The above pic shows how the wound is closing. You can also see new skin forming. The final pic I am going to show you is from about two weeks ago. The difference between day four and then are night and day.



Why I am writing a blog about this? Why am I showing horrible pics in the open? Honestly....? Because this is a pain in ways a person can't even fathom. I want to show people that skin cancer is no joke. I want them...YOU...to know that skin cancer can be deadly. I want YOU to get screened right away if you have any worries. I want YOU to NOT be me. I waited too long and now I am paying for it. I still have an open wound that needs cleaned and bandaged daily. I have to watch what I do. Walking and running is sketchy. Once the skin grows over the wound, the wound is still not healed. I cannot let any sun hit it for at least six months because the new skin can be greatly damaged. It can also take up to a year for the scar to fully heal. My life, for the most part, is slow. I try to stay happy but the headaches and pain can turn it bad in a moments notice. I know that there are so many people out there that have life much worse. And I know...well believe...that I am cancer free. But the memories are with me every second of every day. And will be for the rest of my life.

In closing, PLEASE put a strong sunscreen on when going outside. Lather your children in it. Keep them safe, and you safe for them. I'm in no way shape or form an advocate. However, I am telling you this because life is too short to deal with things you can help prevent from happening. It's been a dark dark road at times for me since the surgery. My family and some really genuine friends have helped in every way possible. But it's still hard at times. Like right now. Four o'clock in the morning...I should be in bed sleeping peacefully. Yet my mind is racing with worry, stress, and sadness for those that see me like this. Yeh....any kind of cancer just plain F-ing sucks. Thanks for reading. By the way, I do my best to keep sane. Like four milers in the rain last night. Trying to stay positive is all I can do.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Don't Rush Recovery: What I have Learned




The photo above is a runner's nightmare. Orthopedic surgery with a three month recovery process. And not to over-dramatize the situation, but a three month layoff to someone who is actively active feels like a life sentence. At least to me it does.

In a time where social media rules everything, it is hard to fight the urge not to exercise. Especially when your friends are constantly posting photos of where they ran, or the miles they just put in. Only the injured know how mentally breaking that can be. While my friends were hitting the roads and trails, whether for races or training, I was literally laid up on the couch. For close to three weeks my foot was propped up to keep the swelling down. I couldn't walk on my own. I was stuck using a walker, being wheeled around in a wheelchair, and stuck on crutches. Even after four weeks, I still needed crutches and a walker to get around.

Heading into the second month, I was able to put some pressure on my foot when walking around the house. Even then, I was not able to wear a legitimate shoe. I had a beautiful orthopedic walking shoe that was on my foot anytime I tried to walk. Slowly, the severe pain started to ease up, and I started getting brave. I proudly woke my wife up in the middle of the night to show her I could walk eleven steps on my own. I actually broke down and cried because I was so happy. I have learned that when you are able to walk with both feet, you take walking for granted. But when I couldn't walk, when I had to get my wife to help carry food or drink, or help me to the bathroom, real depression set in.

That's when I said enough was enough. I made my wife drive me to the C&O Canal so I could try a small walk. Granted, I was still using crutches, but only for balance that day. The next day, which was my birthday, I was on the phone to my doctor. I had broke the toe next to the incision from overdoing it. One step forward, three steps back. I found it really hard to be on social media at that point. Friends were still posting awesome photos and bragging about their pace over certain distances. Not to mention signing up for races. There were moments when I even contemplated deactivating my accounts. I just wanted to run. Heck, I just wanted to walk on my own...and I couldn't. One thing that got me through those rough times, and still getting me through, was all the love and support from all of my friends. I would read, and reread their encouraging words to keep me from breaking. Those of you that have been in this situation know exactly what I mean. Another positive point was being able to put on a left shoe. A real left shoe. I was like a kid at Christmas.



My shoe of choice was the Altra Running Olympus 1.5. With the wide toebox and maximal amount of cushion, it did not hurt my foot at all when putting it on. And even with the toe feeling better, and foot pain easing again, I forced myself not to try anything stupid. I continued to prop my foot up when on it too long. I continued to be smart and not give into the social media postings. I continued to heal the way my doctor wanted me to. On December 17th, I signed up for the C&O Canal 100 mile ultra. It was something to look forward to, and to get my head out of the funk it had been in for the past two months. I was especially stoked when my doctor gave me the green light to start up light walking on my own. I instantly went to our local towpath for a walk. I headed out alone while my wife and daughter waited in the car. A quarter mile in I was feeling good so I started to jog. That jog started for a few steps, then a few steps more. At the end I had managed to "run" an 11:37:49 mile. My wife was not as happy as I was. She knew this could spell trouble.



Fast forward to now, January 6th. I now have a stress fracture of the sesamoid bone, which connects to the big toe on the ball of the foot. This time it was just a freak accident because I was overcompensating to stay off the incision area. I am now taking it easy and stuck in a walking "boot" to be safe. Two days ago, with the help of trekking poles, I was able to walk a mile in 18:03:56. While I know not to overdue it, I plan to at least walk once a week for my own sanity. I was so excited when finished, I posted a photo to my Facebook timeline. So many friends had encouraging words for me. I was really overwhelmed by their kindness. But we all know there's always that sarcastic one that can take it all away with one comment. And whether this person was serious or not, it made me think. "That's a fast day for you", followed with some braggadocious comments. And ending with, "Gotta learn to run hurt lol."

Even in fun, these types of comments could have a negative impact on someone who is already fragile. Rushing recovery and running hurt can have a lifelong negative impact. Future surgeries to fix more problems that you caused yourself. Not being able to run again, or walk right. Running is something I love to do, but it is not my job. I have a wife and two daughters that need me. My plan is to see them both down the aisle when they get married. Regardless of what people tell me to do. No matter how much I want to run. Whatever names they jokingly call me. None of that will force me to run...until I am ready. I have learned that you can run through aches and pains, even broken toes. But you can't run through recovery from surgery. You have to be smart. You have to see the big picture for what it is. Block out the naysayers and thrive on the positiveness of friends far and wide. It's been a rough road, and it's still bumpy. But through the pain, the setbacks, the dark moments...there is a light at the end. The trail will be there. The road is not going to go anywhere. And when I am ready, I will visit them...on my own two feet. This is what I have learned while recovering. Thank you to everyone who has been there to carry me through. And to my wife, who is my everlasting support. I am forever thankful.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Injinji & Morton's Neuroma

(A week after surgery. My little daughter was my big helper)


While the photo above doesn't really stand out to most, there is a long story behind it. That long story is Morton's neuroma. For those that have had this, or still do, you know the pain that is involved. And for those that do not know what it is, I will give you a little insight. The following was taken from Wikipedia.

"Symptoms include: pain on weight bearing, frequently after only a short time. The nature of the pain varies widely among individuals. Some people experience shooting pain affecting the contiguous halves of two toes. Others describe a feeling like having a pebble in their shoe or walking on razor blades. Burning, numbness, and paresthesia may also be experienced. The symptoms progress over time, often beginning as a tingling sensation in the ball of the foot."

While this sounds like loads of fun, I can assure you it is not. I have had many injuries since I started running. Injuries that have included muscle tears, small breaks, etc. Nothing...and I mean nothing, compares to the pain of having Morton's. It is an excruciatingly painful nerve disorder that can take the joys of daily life from you. And as any orthopedic doctor or podiatrist will tell you, there are quite a few ways to contract it. I was lucky enough to contract it from wearing ill fitting shoes while logging many many miles on the road and trails where I live. In the very beginning it was somewhat tolerable at times. But as time wore on, I went from running upwards of 100 miles a week to zero.

When enough was enough, I sought medical help. I was told that surgery was the last option, and that cortisone shots were the first. When speaking with my orthopedic surgeon, he told me that I was doing something right. I was wearing toesocks. Instead of bunching my toes up in a traditional sock, I was letting my toes splay out naturally, like they should. And with Morton's, that is exactly what you want your toes to do. From there, I was given two cortisone shots over a years time. But the neuroma was so excessive that the shots did not work. That's when we decided that surgery was our best bet. Again, I was told that I was helping my foot out by wearing toesocks. Granted, they were not curing the overall shooting pain when I put weight on it. However, they were helping relieve the serious soreness in my toes by keeping them in their natural position.

I am forewarning you now. To show you why the photo above is so monumental to me, I have to show you exactly where the surgery was performed. No blood or guts, but stitches. This was taken a day or two after my surgery. (The yellowness is from the iodine)



As you can see, the surgery was right between the third and fourth toes. It started at the bottom of the medical tape, went up and between the toes, and finished on the backside. It was very painful. Because of the size of the neuroma, I was to stay off my feet for a week. I had my surgery on the 19th of October. My recovery time was 10 to 12 weeks. In that time, I would be confined to a wheelchair, walker, and crutches. Slowly, very slowly, I would begin to put pressure on it and try some steps. When I tried that, or any standing in length, my foot would swell up fast. I was forced to stay in an orthopedic walking shoe. And because I had no real traditional socks, my foot would stay wrapped in a ace bandage. Finally, on the 44th day after surgery, I tried to slide an Injinji Toesock on.



And that's when the above photo was taken. It was a great feeling, that's for sure. The mesh top lock, arch support, and padded cushion felt great. It also helped by keeping the blood flow going, which kept it from swelling as much as it had previously. Another key feature is how the toesock is made. The top of my foot, and also between the toes, were not bothered by any ill placed stitching. It fit like a worn in glove, even though it was brand new. Everyday since, I have slept with a left Injinji on to keep it from overly swelling. I have also worn them each day since so my foot would heal properly.

I am now on the road to full recovery, albeit, a few minor setbacks. Two stress fractures due to my foot being weak from being off of it so long. In the long run, that is small potatoes compared to what I went through. I'll be back to logging miles sooner than later. In closing, I wanted to write this blog because a new friend on Twitter reached out and asked me about the benefits of wearing Injinji's. He told me he is also suffering from a mild case of Morton's.

As I tell people when talking about proper footwear, there is a reason podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons trust Injinji. It's because they work with proper toe alignment and keeping the foot balanced. And although I am an ambassador for Injinji Toesocks, that is not the reason I am writing this blog. I am writing this to let those that suffer from Morton's neuroma know that wearing proper fitting footwear can help alleviate some of the pain associated with Morton's. Just as wearing the proper shoes can help. You want your toes to splay out naturally. You don't want to shove them in an ill fitting, or improperly made shoe. That will only cause more pain.

So if you suffer from a mild form, or a more severe form as I did, please try a pair of Injinji's. If you need help selecting the right style, feel free to contact me. I am more than willing to help. And if you are wearing a narrow toeboxed shoe, check out Altra Running. They make everyday styles, as well as running and hiking models. For those that suffer, I wish you the best. And hope you get the relief you deserve. Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Altra: A Dream Come True



It all started with the shoes above. That is, my love affair with Altra Running. As soon I tried on the Lone Peak 2.0, well, I knew I found the brand I would wear for the rest of my days. Everything about them made me happy. The feel. The wide toebox. The natural foot shape. The amount of cushion. The zero drop platform. I had found the shoe that I had been looking for, and I wanted more. The Instinct 2.0 came next. After that was the Provision 1.5, then the Olympus 1.5. And to round it out to five, the Paradigm. Each model is different, but each felt perfect in their own way.

Another reason I absolutely love the Altra brand? I was suffering from Morton's neuroma in my left foot when they found their way to me. If you don't know what that is, it is very painful. Just standing and putting pressure on it could make me wince in real pain. Wearing my different models helped ease the pain greatly. From walking to running, as well as casual, they really helped. The bonus of wearing any Altra model? They look awesome on your feet. And because they looked great, I snapped photos while running different roads and trails. My various social media sites have a lot of shoe pics. I have always loved when Forrest said, "My momma always said you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes." That is so true!



However, you can also tell a lot about the brand, and company, by the shoes they create. In the 'Our Story' section on the Altra running website, Golden Harper says, "Zero Drop™ was just one of the steps we took to return runners' feet to their natural position. The research made it clear that our shoe needed a toe box that actually mirrored the shape of a healthy foot—imagine that! We built the distinctive FootShape™ toe box specifically to help alleviate foot problems, including bunions, neuromas, and plantar fasciitis. It also enhances stability and comfort while providing a more powerful push-off." When I first read that, I was blown away. Finally a company and its top talent gets it. Our feet are not meant to be shoved in shoes that don't fit because of design. The toes need to splay out naturally. The foot needs to sit inside...relaxed. If they don't, you are risking injury. This doesn't just go for running.



Some of you that stumble over this blog and take time to read it may not know anything about Altra Running. But those of us that love distance running on trails, and roads, know a lot about them. We also know that being selected as an ambassador is a coveted spot. That alone is a great testimony to how people feel for Altra. With that said, I am honored to say that I am officially an ambassador with Altra for the 2016 year. It's been three weeks since I found out that I was selected. And as I sit here and type this today, I am still on cloud nine. I am so stoked that I get to represent a company I truly believe in. Again, this just doesn't go for running. So many people in the 'real world' benefit from wearing Altra shoes. As one of those people, I am excited to spread the Altra love to any, and all.



I have already met many great fellow ambassadors who share the desire to spread Altra's vision. 2016 is going to be a great year, and I am extremely grateful that I have the chance to be a part of it. Whether on social media, trails or roads, or at races, I am going to enjoy talking about all the great things coming. If you have been on the fence about trying Altra, go for it! Your feet will certainly thank you.

I still can't believe it. "WELCOME TO THE ALTRA TEAM."

I am stoked beyond belief.

2016...Here We Come!