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A last post to wrap up a shitty shitty year.

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This is a day late and a dollar short, but what gives?

To look back at the last January’s post for New Year’s resolutions, here’s what’s what:

  • -Find a new job.- That finally happened. I’ve moved out of the non-profit sector, which is really nice, and I’m finally earning an ‘adult’ salary. It was time and it’s taken a lot of stress out of our lives.
  • Spend more time with friends. Meh, kinda sorta. I’ve made an effort but life is really running by…
  • Travel more. Didn’t happen for a couple of reasons, not the least because of major surgery.

So, I’d say I managed to make, say 60% of what I wanted to do this last year, which is not so bad. And a new job is a biggie but really also the only good thing that happened this year. The other big event was my spinal surgery. It’s also the reason I didn’t really post much this year. The recovery went well. Actually, it went really well, very little pain and no need for medication. But it also took a lot longer than I expected, not because it took longer, but because I wasn’t really totally aware how big a deal this was. I was horizontal for 6-8 weeks and initially walked with a cane. And had to wear that terrible collar for the whole time. All of this is done now, and the bones are growing together nicely. The result of this is too though that my BJJ journey has ended this year. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but the risk doesn’t equal the rewards at this point and it’s time to say goodbye. And one word of advice — if your arm tingles, get that shit checked out. That is a neurological symptom and should be taken seriously, regardless what the online forums suggest. 😉

After that was taken care of a standard blood test showed some odd results and to make a long story short, turns out that I have Hemochromatosis. Not a huge deal, especially if it gets diagnosed this early, but it means one more chore — regular bloodletting. Yep, that’s the only way to control it.

I also got diagnosed with a wheat intolerance, because guess what, it’s not normal to have non-normal poo all the time. That means my diet has probably gotten better, but also that I can’t really drink beer anymore and, because of the hemochromatosis, I should not really consume any alcohol anyway.

This really rounds out 2016 and so far it seems also from what I heard from friends that this year sucked pretty much for everyone all around, on a personal level and I don’t have to mention the other shit that’s been going down in this country.

Anyway, onwards. Here’s to hoping that 2017 will be better. I’m recovered enough that I can get back into weightlifting, which I’m planning to start this year.

I’m also thinking about getting a new tattoo, but that really depends on whether the guy who has already done both of my arms happens to visit the PNW and is in driving distance of the Emerald City. So here are my ‘resolutions’

  • Start weightlifting and reach whatever goal my coach and I set for myself. Right now I’m really more interested in doing something but nothing. I worry about PRs later.
  • Travel at least one fucking bit! That must be possible, I’m an adult! And travel for work doesn’t count.
  • Spend more time with friends. That’s always a good resolution to have and it takes work and needs reminding.

Any good books I read this year? While recovering I devoured the Marla Mason series and am not also caught up on the Expanse series — both highly recommended. I’ve never watched the TV adaptation for the Expanse and, quite frankly, it looked like crap so I just skipped it entirely. I’ve been terrible with tracking my books on Goodreads this year, so I’m trying remember…bear with me as I enter my memory palace…I did read quite a bit of the Witcher books parallel to playing the Witcher 3, both of which was very fun. Oh, and I read The Cartel, Don Winslow’s follow-up to The Power of the Dog, both of which are terrible and amazing and terrifying and highly recommended.

A friend of mine talked me into getting Destiny and I dug it but have also now reached a very grindy endgame that I don’t really enjoy. I do jump into The Division from time to time, not because it’s a great game (it has a lot of flaws, actually) but I’m a sucker for the apocalypse and it’s oh so pretty.

So that’s that, fuck off 2016 and here’s to a hopefully better 2017. And I’m @beakperson on Twitter, so follow me there, you nerds.

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Hardware

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Huh, looks like I’ve never really posted this. This was about a month after surgery, I think, and that’s what I’m walking around with. Recovery is going extremely well, by the way, and I think the nerves on my left side are recovering, so the atrophy might be reversible. It’s been six months since the surgery and while I’m not cleared to do any heavy lifting like deadlifts and squats I have started working with kettlebells again. Nothing crazy, just something to get the heart pumping and rebuild some muscle. I’m throwing different workouts together out of Dan John’s excellent article on workouts using just one kettlebell, which I highly recommend for recovery.

There is lots of stuff going on and I’ll save it for a longer post, but hey, this is a sign of life, amirite?

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First week after surgery

Still alive. Not even barely. In pain, yes, kinda sorta. Immobile, for the most part but getting better every day. Freaked out from time to time about my neck healing right, oh yes. But alive and reasonably well.

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I spent one night in the hospital and was able to go home the next day in the afternoon, after having pretty much every person at the hospital tell me that the pain meds and the anaesthesia cause constipation and I got plenty of meds, poop-related and pain-related, sent home with me. The pain is actually manageable for the most part. The pain and problems relating to the disc issues were completely gone after the surgery — no more tingling, no numbness, no pain in the shoulder blade area. There are other pains, because, you know, major surgery has happened which involved pulling stuff out of my spine through an incision in the front of my neck, but the initial pain is gone. Just a lot of soreness and some difficulty swallowing. And I get weirdly out of breath when I sit for too long without moving.

The collar is terrible. I understand why I need it and to be honest I’ve gotten crazy anxious about the position and movement of my neck, but it sucks. Washing is difficult, everything is difficult.

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Ends and beginnings.

The story so far: I started BJJ about 4 years ago when I was 34. I did a lot of different things at that time; submission grappling, BJJ, kickboxing, and regular boxing — I was in the gym every day for about two hours at least. That was a lot. One day we were drilling in class, some kind of guard attack. I was in guard, got pulled forward, didn’t pay attention and posted with my left arm without really bracing my upper body, and boom — disc herniated. I assume my neck must’ve snapped back at a weird angle. I didn’t think at the time that this was a disc issue. I thought it was an especially bad tweak or pulled muscle and didn’t go and see a doctor until a year later, when the tingling started and the pain just would not go away. I had stopped doing anything but BJJ at that point, because it was just too much and I kept getting hurt in small ways (toe, knee, etc.). The pain came and went and it felt as if someone was pressing the tip of a broom into my back right next to the shoulder blade really really hard. Sitting in a chair was difficult, driving was terrible, because it caused my left arm to tingle and have ‘pins-and-needles’ to the point where it was so tingly that it felt numb.

So I started physical therapy and after 3 additional years I was ‘almost pain-free’ up until summer 2015, when I ended up being completely pain-free…yay!

November 2015 I stayed for open mat, rolled with an outside visitor, got greedy, went for a kimura from guard that was maybe 20% doable and didn’t let go when I should’ve. I got stacked hard and I immediately knew something popped again. Pain in the back and shoulder. Nothing I hadn’t had before, so I just thought ‘Shit, here we go again. Oh well, back to PT it is.’ It was completely my fault and it was ego, plain and simple. I really wanted that tap.

This time it didn’t get better, it actually got worse. The pain was constant, there was no position or contortion I could put my body in that would relieve it (believe me, I tried them all) and I went back to the doc, who prescribed pain medication and more PT. Pain didn’t go away until end of February and I hadn’t really slept for six weeks at that point because of the pain and believe me, that does something to a person. I stopped going to class or roll in December, because it aggravated the pain and tingling.

The pain let off towards the end of February/beginning of March, but with the pain receding (not gone, mind you, but tolerable levels for the most part) and being finally able to sleep again I noticed that my triceps on the left side was gone. As was my left pec. That freaked me out and I wrote my doc, who transferred me to a sports medicine doctor, who did a bunch of tests and ordered x-rays and an MRI. After the results came in he said that I need to see a surgeon for a consultation, saw that one the next Monday, with the result that I will get spinal fusion on c4-c7. The discs are herniated and pinch almost half-way through the cord. Oh, did I mention that in addition to the atrophy I had also developed a slight tremor in the left hand? It’s scary shit. And as I’ve learned, when it comes to spinal injuries it turns out that pain or lack of pain is not necessarily an indicator of improvement or healing. People can be completely pain-free but have continuing nerve damage.

I got a couple of second and third opinions but basically there is no other option at this point than surgery. The pressure on the cord is so strong that the nerve damage would continue, which is bad news. As to the muscle coming back…time will tell if the nerve can regenerate itself. Which sucks but to be honest, I’m looking forward to not being in pain, to be able to sit in a chair for longer than 1 minute without squirming all the time, drive a car without discomfort…you get the idea. I’ll deal with the atrophy later, all I can do right now is stop it from progressing and work on rehab.

As far as returning to BJJ — that’s an open question. It will take at least a year for the bone to fuse together and I will have screws and plates in my neck, so to be honest, I’m not sure if I will ever go back again. Maybe, maybe not. I love Jiu Jitsu and it has been a huge positive element in my life, mentally and physically. However, I’m a hobbyist, not a competitor. I like rolling hard and it’ll be difficult to change that mindset. I’ve never been into all that spinning shit, but I still would have to re-think my game A LOT in order to protect my neck…hah!

I’m getting surgery this week. The ideal timeline, if there are no complications, is that I will be able to return home the next day, and return to work in about 10 days (or work from home if I can’t). There’s a two week and a six week check-in with the surgeon. Neck brace for six weeks, after three months I should be able to start lifting. Total recovery time should be a year.

Given that BJJ is out, my plan is to start doing Starting Strength again as soon as I’m able, this time for real. I’ve done the program for 8 months five or six years ago, but half-assed it a bit. There are some weightlifting gyms in the area that have coaches, so I can actually work with someone who is certified check my technique and whatnot. I’ve always liked weightlifting but doing BJJ and weights together was just not possible if I wanted to do other things, like, I don’t know, spend time with my wife, hang out with friends…you know, nice things.