Thursday, June 3, 2010

Compressed

First of all, let me start this post by assuring you, that NO PHOTOGRAPHIC evidence exists. None - zero, zilch. And yes, while I realize that a picture equals a thousand words (yadda yadda yadda), I can safely say that some things should just NOT be photographed.

My lower half would be one of those things. (Or would that be two, because I have two feet, two legs, etc?)

Let me back up for a sec, okay?

Do you remember a few months ago, when I was experiencing lower leg problems? Swelling, inability to run without pain, cankles....? Well, I did. It's easy to forget about that with all the sinus and pneumonia drama - trust me, I know.

Anyway, I've had a history of cankles and my lower leg veins-popping experience wasn't going unnoticed. I just didn't know what I could DO about it.

Three weeks ago, things became alarmingly clear.

It was pretty embarrassing, actually. Especially since I noticed it at the gym. While doing lunges of all things. Lunges! I don't mind lunges - they do wonders for the body. And it looks especially impressive if you add an 8 lb medicine ball to your routine. Suddenly the uber hard core Marines flexing the muscles in the mirror take notice.

I took a step forward on my right leg and - WHAM! There it was, clearly defined in the mirror. It flashed briefly, and I thought, for a second that my muscle was having a spasm. Alternate lunge side was fine. Another lunge forward on the right side and - BOOM! Again, I saw what looked like a snake flash up my leg from my ankle to my shorts line.

Um. Hello? Excuse me? WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?

Now, I'm not one to normally gawk. And I certainly don't make a practice of standing in front of mirrors and flexing - we all know I make fun of people like that. But, when I spotted my first varicose vein while lunging, all bets were off.

I waited for the Marines working out behind me to leave, and then within seconds of their departure, I found myself holding the lunge position which made my unsightly vein most noticeable.

Veins.

Uh-oh.

There was more than one.

How? Why? What, where when? WHY??


Miraculously, I managed to not get pulled over while speeding home - and did the first thing that any normal person would do. 1) Looked up every article and source of information about varicose veins on the internet 2) Stared in the mirror at my vein.

Veins. Bloody Hell.

Luckily, I had a doctor's appointment later in the week, so I figured my awesome primary care physician could help me out with any questions or concerns. While lunging at the gym a few days later, I snuck a peek - just to confirm they were still there.

They were.

My doctor was really helpful and referred me to a vascular surgeon.... one ultrasound later (which consisted of holding my breath and making grunting noises akin to giving birth...meant to promote blood flow in the lower extremities...), the surgeon gave me the *great* news. While I'm in great physical health - the valves on my leg arteries are not functioning properly, and therefore causing varicose veins in the superficial veins, blood to pool in the legs, fluid retention, and....cankles!

I remember being the only kid on the high school cross country running team with cankles - yeah. Nothing says awkward teenager, like the violin-playing girl with cankles. Now, I understand why.

Thankfully, there are things we can do NOW to alleviate the pressure and pain and swelling that these veins have been causing. Ultimately, though - the surgeon warned that within 5 to 10 years (sooner if we start a family), I would most likely need to get my veins stripped. It's just how I'm built...the genetic cards I was dealt. Goody!

But taking the bad along with the good - because there are lots of GREAT things I pulled from my relatives that I would NOT change - is a part of life. So, I'll take everything together, and learn as much as I can along the way.

Ultimately, we decided on sclerotherapy - a minimally invasive procedure, that involved injecting the affected veins with a solution that would make them (warning: graphic!) - shrivel up and die. The veins that were causing me problems weren't large enough (YET!) to warrant anything extremely invasive; and the idea was to prevent other veins from being affected, and to eliminate the already-formed varicose veins.

I decided to have the procedure as soon as I could after returning from St. Paul. I'm in week 4 or 5 of my base building period, and given the severity of pain and increased cankle-ness while training (yes, I wear compression socks while running - but I do it for MEDICINAL purposes, NOT for fashion purposes!) - I wanted to get this taken care of asap.

June 1st came and went...my doctor was very nice, and the injections didn't hurt too much. I've actually dealt with much worse pain in my life - but no one likes to hear about that stuff. Broken bones, missing toenails, hiking boot blisters - pretty much a mood killer. Besides, I wanted my doctor to focus on treating my veins. NOT gasp in surprise when I described the size of my last hiking boot blister.

So... I ever-so-helpfully traced the squiggly veins immediately after my Tuesday morning run with a water-friendly colored pencil. He was only slightly alarmed and confessed that initially he thought the lines were scars. But he laughed and said that he had a device that would help him find the veins that needed injecting.

Humph. I didn't know that. I was just being helpful.


45 minutes later - yes 45 minutes to deal with the veins on my leg - we were done.

Immediately after the injections, I needed to put on my compression tights.

Now... these aren't ordinary compression tights. No, no, no my friends. These are medical grade hose, designed for people with severe vascular and leg swelling. And not that I've timed myself...but it takes me between 5-7 minutes to put them on.

Per leg.

Like a sweaty Biggest Looser contestant trying to squeeze into size 2 leather pants. Some things just aren't meant to go together.

They are SO difficult to wrestle on, that the doctor returned to the room and asked if I needed assistance. Yes, yes I do. But I'm too embarrassed to call for help - confined to this plastic exam table in my underwear, sweating, and cursing with medical-grade hose barely over my right foot.

Brilliant!

It didn't help that the techs who entered were younger than me.

*You know you're getting 'older' not only when people younger than you are assisting you with embarrassing tasks, but also - when you are so desperate for their help that you just don't care.

I swear, I thought I heard something 'pop' in our effort to get the hose on, but we eventually got it up. Cooking spray would have helped - barely. Now that I was in, I wasn't sure how I was going to get OUT. But... I had a full 48 hours to contemplate that dilemma. Because per doctor's orders - I was restricted to medical hose AT LEAST 48 hours post-procedure, in order to ensure the superficial veins remained closed.

For good measure, I slid a second knee-high, medical grade compression sock over my waist-high ones. Just to be sure. And no, I was rendered no assistance during that endeavor. But they stood by, just in case.

And then...it was 48 hours of compression-hoosen bliss.

Let me tell you - NOTHING gets a man going like waist-high medical grade compression stockings. (no photographic evidence exists.)

Thankfully, Nathaniel was flying night flights this week, so didn't really notice. And for the record, I'm not exactly sure that's a good thing - the fact that I'm wearing the VERY APPARENT compression gear that I am and my husband of nearly 7 years does NOT notice when he crawls into bed after hours of flying.

The first night was the roughest, because the hose was itchy, hot, and kept pinching me in very intimate areas. Additionally - I found - if I fell asleep with my knee bent or in any position other than straight-legged-and-on-my-back, circulation was cut off. There were some kicks, and I'm embarrassed to admit how many four letter words were uttered before 4 am. For the record - I could feel the welts forming, and was sure that my compression sock's brand would be forever compressed into my skin.

And now...here I am. With another 14 or 15 hours left to go...in my compression hosen bliss. Hopefully though, the varicose veins will be gone, my leg will return to normal, and Nathaniel will notice when I'm no longer in waist-high hose. After nearly 7 years of marriage, that my friends, would be wonderful.

Until then, I'm compressed. And counting down the hours.

8 comments:

Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

I'm trying to decide which part of this blog has me laughing the hardest....I think it's the cooking spray. Hope you heal quickly.

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

Wow! They actually just did a news report of that therapy last night! I'm glad you finally figured out what the problem was, and I really hope the procedure is effective!

My dad had hip surgery and had to wear those compression tights, so I know how tight they are! I don't think I could have gotten them on myself either! :)

cherelli said...

Oh c'mon, make my day - pictures please! You can wear a disguise and pretend it's some other compressed patient :) i hope the cankles have disappeared once you are de-compressed - at least for a few years til the genes kick in...glad you could deal with some of it now though!

Teresa said...

Glad your "vein-age" is getting better...no fun. Compression-be-gone :) tn

Teresa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth said...

Sounds like so much....fun. ;) But how happy you will be to be cankle-less in the future!!

Clair said...

I'm 33 and I have the legs of an 85 year old. This procedure is in my near future. I'm so glad to hear it's not so bad. Hope you're out of compression tights and back on your feet really soon!

Angela and David Kidd said...

"I was just trying to be helpful." Love it. I know this had to be a painful experience for you but this post is a classic.