Hello. (insert sad face here)
I managed to get an appointment with my old Pain Management group in Thousand Oaks. Finally, someone has decided that I need an MRI. My insurance company will probably deny the approval because they say I am maxed out my benefits for the year. Huh?
So, to alleviate some pain till they know what’s causing it, he prescribed instant release morphine. For some reason, it was hard to find. I tried the Rite Aid in my old town, they didn’t have it, then the new Target store, nope, then the Rite Aid in Glendale, nope.. They told me a sister store in Los Angeles had it. I called several closer drug stores (as Rite Aid could only check stock at Rite Aids) and none of THEM had it, either.
So I ended up, after having spent most of my day driving (this IS Los Angeles) having to go out again and drive to Weho (West Hollywood) to get my prescription filled. Drugs seldom work for me, but it’s better than nothing. Placebo if anything. I’ve been using marijuana for pain, I still have my California license, as it works fast, lessens my depression a bit, and generally makes me feel better and better able to handle my big letdown.
If I get a call from the radiology place, it means the insurance denied it. Otherwise. Saturday I get my back zapped. I’ve had a lot of MRIs, I usually fall asleep during them.
My son rented a movie from Red Box called The Way, starring Martin Sheen. Good movie, but at the end, the travelers come up over a rise and see the ocean. Made me cry. I didn’t get to do that. I did have quite a breakdown when I came up on Lake Huron for the first time, when I walked to the top of Michigan. I was hoping the next time I saw the Pacific I’d be walking through Ocean City, Washington, over a rise I’d see the sea past the rocky shore. <sigh>
Instead I’m in the giant clusterfuck known as LA. Hell-A is what I call it. There’s just too many people. I live in Cody Wyoming (when I’m holding still long enough to call one place home that is). It has a population of about 9000. No suburbs, just Cody. The town I lived in here, Simi Valley, has a population of 125,500. The two nearby towns, Thousand Oaks (pop. 127,000) and Oxnard (pop. 200,000), the three, combined, are the population of Wyoming. That’s just three Southern California towns, not even in Los Angeles County. LA and it’s surrounding megalopolis contain 12,000,000 people give or take, and give or take several thousand “undocumented” residents. Anyway, just rambling. In other words, I don’t dig crowds, lines, traffic jams, etc. There’s a reason I moved from LA.
I drove the twisty road from Westlake to Malibu. Switchback after switchback, corkscrews and blind curves, steep grades, cactus and ocean views. It’s fun to drive in a sports car, or even a jeep with their great turning radius, but I was in the Silverado that my ex loaned to me. Four door, long bed. Can’t take the curves too fast with THAT behemoth.
Regardless, the road spills out onto the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, or Route 1) a bit north of Malibu. There wasn’t a parking spot to be found along the PCH by Zuma Beach, so I ventured north and stopped at Neptune’s Net, a seafood restaurant and bar and big biker hangout. Had a couple beers while I looked out over the blue Pacific, and talked to someone in “entertainment” who talked like a surfer. Two other surfers sat on the other side of me, They have an odd way of talking, so, like, like, so they’re like, ya know, like hard to follow. You know?
I’m just so terribly terribly saddened by this. (stopping my walk for now) But something I learned on my trip (which I’ll admit, is hard to keep on the forefront here in LA) is patience, taking what comes. Basically the serenity prayer:
“… grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
I’m not in AA or NA, but the lesson’s the same outside the self help groups. It’s been very hard to accept this failure, this damned evil interruption in my fun, my journey. It’s hard to see a dream fizzle and die, unfulfilled. If you’ve read my journal the past few months, you have seen how I was treated practically like a celebrity, which was very humbling, with free places to stay, free meals, free drinks, open homes, invitations, having my picture made. Now I’m just one of 12 million people fighting my way through the traffic of this city. I have a terrible limp now, walking stiff as a board from pain. I really did a number on myself. Or something did. I’m not convinced it’s all from walking.
The doctor who originally did my back surgery back in like 2006 screwed up. It was supposed to be an overnight stay in the hospital, a quick recovery, and the arrogant ass of a surgeon I had actually used the word “guarantee” when he said he guaranteed I’d feel better in the morning. Instead, I woke screaming in pain and continued to scream for days, no help at all from the 5 narcotics I was on. He sent me home, still screaming myself blue from pain, for my poor bewildered and helpless husband to deal with. A couple days later he brought me back and said DO SOMETHING. So they hooked me back up to the morphine pump and and the next day my surgeon FINALLY MRI’ed me and suddenly I was headed for emergency surgery. He repeated the entire procedure, without explaining why. Kept telling me it was just blood clots or something, but I read the report. There’s a lot more to this tale, but this isn’t an organ recital.
It took months for me to get walking again, and this was during the time when I had the neurological issue that made me walk funny anyway. I used a walker, a wheelchair, canes, I took pain killers for so long I got addicted and had to take methadone for a year.
My point in all this, was the surgery involved removing bone to widen the spinal canal as it closed in around the spinal cord, rendering my legs pretty much useless. Or it was heading that way. So that’s all been cleared up and after the harrowing surgical ordeal, I did end up “better”, meaning I could stand up longer than 5 minutes at a time again. I doubt bone could grow back that fast. My back muscles get pulled easily, so I’m careful, and it didn’t bother me much at all in the first few states. It just gradually got worse, despite many days or rest, the shots I got, the medicines I took, hot tubs, massages, ice packs, easy days like 2 miles (so I didn’t get stiff)… nothing works and it continues to worsen. THAT’S what’s confusing. The pain is still worsening, and I’ve been resting, not walking MUCH, but walking SOME, like a few blocks to the store and stuff. But at this point I’m missing my cane and my blue parking tag!
What this doctor, like the one in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, said, was that I probably have a lot of scar tissue and arthritis, and he identified a pinched nerve down my left leg (another great job by my doctor, “yeah that’ll go away”.. it didn’t, I can’t feel the skin on my left leg, not really a problem but I do cut myself shaving a lot!) They both said that that much walking probably irritated and inflamed the scar tissue, aggravated the arthritis, etc. So, why wouldn’t the lack of me “pounding on my back” help it all calm down? (along with the anti-inflammatories and steroids I took)
You can’t blame me for being a bit pessimistic about tests… a brain MRI years ago revealed a brain tumor I didn’t know I had. I get spooked waiting for results of tests, … when your neurologist calls you back ten minutes after you got home from a brain scan and tells you you need to come back now cause they “found something”.. you don’t get over that. So I’m convinced something more ominous is going on since it’s worsening. Like a tumor pressing on my spinal cord. But who knows, I’m not a doctor. ……….. I don’t think my back surgeon was, either. ……………..
It hasn’t all sunk in, that it happened, that I walked even as far as I did.
My son works graveyard, so while he was sleeping the other day, I read my blog from April 1st on. The duration of my trip. Brought back so many memories, even stuff I left out (the book can catch the shake). What a fantastic journey I took. I doubt I’m articulate enough in my writing to really give a reader a feel of what it’s like to do what I did. It’s at once liberating and nerve-wracking. To wake up beside a stream, bathe in it, dress, and just WALK, strolling along, or stepping out on a mission each day, is a really simple existence. Then I pick up my GPS system on my smart phone, and start hunting down where to head to, a stopping place. THAT’S the nerve-wracking part. Say I wake up in A-town and it’s early but not crack of dawn by the time I dressed and ready to roll, whether in a hotel or a camp. I decide, by weather (checking radar and multiple forecasts for where I am) and by terrain, temperature, time and just by ME, how far I think I can manage in a day. Sometimes, when I can do 25 miles, there’s nothing THERE. I have had to break a longer distance into 2 days many times. If there’s no B-town or campground or motel at the 25 mile mark on the map, I look a bit beyond and a bit short of, and if nothing still, I use the satellite view and look for potential camping spots. Not knowing where I was going to sleep was a bit unnerving at times. But so many times, the plans I made changed anyway. I would be headed for a campground, or a place TO camp, or a bar, or a motel or just a town, and I’d meet someone, take a short ride, get invited over, etc., and wherever I picked to sleep didn’t matter anymore because I had the freedom to do that, which is cool. And to take an extra day here and there, like I did in Clyde, Ohio or Pembine or Tomahawk, Wisconsin, while setting me behind my mental schedule, added so much to my trip, and again, I had the freedom to stay or go as I pleased.
Kinda hard to give that up for a nine to five.
I was planning on leaving here the day after my daughter’s birthday (8/20) but a good friend of mine who used to live here when I did, but who now lives in Florida, called me and is flying in the 24th; I haven’t seen him a 2 years, maybe 3. He’s coming to do some maintenance on one of his homes here that he rents out. So that’ll delay me leaving a few more days. And there’s the doctor factor as well. If they can identify the problem in my back and give me treatment options… (depends on insurance) that may delay me as well. The medical facilities in LA are far more expansive that Cody or Billings., Montana, where Cody people go for bigger procedures.
I don’t know what’s ahead. Right now I hurt too bad to try to take on work, but I need to when I get back to Wyoming. I do owe several drawings and I have a book to work on, but I need to get out there and make some money for part 2 of my trip.
I’m just so lost right now. I’m supposed to be sleeping out somewhere, in Wisconsin or Minnesota or North Dakota, with Panda parked beside me… not in a studio apartment in Glendale, California, handicapped again from pain. Not here, not now, not happening!
I started the walk on April 1st because it’s April Fool’s Day, and I knew I was a fool for trying this walk at my age and health. So I knew what I was up against, but I figured my legs would go. Or the heat would get me. Or relentless blisters. I didn’t think my BACK would be the culprit. And damn does it hurt! Honestly, Fran Camosse and others’ blogs I’ve read, well they all did a coast to coast a lot faster. They were also half my age and male. Sinewy, athletic dudes. Not a cut-open-more-times-than-I-can-count overweight 50 year old women with hot flashes. I did well, I would have spells of being tired, but for the most part I tackled a twenty mile day with energy to spare. Blisters usually gave me problems, but the back issue crept up gradually. A little hard to stand up when I bent over, a little slower start, more than normal aches and pains… until it began nagging louder and louder until NOW IT’S A SCREAM!
This is such a let down to me. I’m trying to focus on the good, because my god what a blast it was, but the fact that it ended not due to a mistake, not due to a miscalculation, or some accident, but just cause my body’s fucked up, is hard NOT to focus on. I don’t know WHY my back hurts, but if both doctors are right, it was just too much for my already compromised spine to handle. Somehow, like I said, I think there’s something else involved. It continues to worsen. I’ve got 3 morphine tablets in me, a couple Heinekens and a bowl of weed, you’d think I’d be sleeping or at least comfortable. Instead, I’m doing laundry, writing and am wide awake at 1:50 AM, … and I hurt. Go figure.
I’m sure when I get the book going, chapters and topics and anecdotes and such are coming to me in my head, and I start recalling all the details I left out, so many memories will come back, as they did when I just read the blog entries. I am trying to fill in the blanks by reading it, and like I said, I get immediate visual recollections of the places, homes, landscapes and all, and more details come back to me. When I read it, it amazed even me how many people I met (and only a fraction were mentioned!) and what a variety of places I walked through, by landscape, urbanity, culture, even food choices. Each state is almost like a mini-country, each has their own laws, their own language (well, just variants and accents and local words) and their own food. Ethnicities were different in places. Some predominately Italian, Finnish, Black, etc. So I’m hoping as I get writing, more will come back to me and I’ll glean more reason and lessons and morals and such from my odyssey.
I feel changed. I look the same, except people comment on my legs (is that good, to say I have walkers’ legs? Or does it mean I have big muscular dudes-legs?) and I have a tan, but inside I feel changed. I feel more at peace (when not in LA), I have a depth to me I don’t think I had, or not AS “deep” anyway. I feel like I took college courses in Life. I think I probably got a B. I don’t ALWAYS learn from my mistakes, Some I make time and again. Perhaps at that point they’re not mistakes, they’re just bad habits. But I feel different, like I have something you don’t, but NOT in a bragging way. Like a young lady with the secret smile who’s the only one who knows she’s pregnant, I have a special THING inside me, I don’t know what to call it, and you can’t tell by looking at me, but it’s there. It wasn’t there before. I’m not the same person. I feel wiser, I have a lot of love in me, I have never been more humbled in my life, I have never cried so much, tears of joy that is,… it was almost a daily occurrence. I have never worked so hard, missed someone so much, been so happy, felt so good (until the end there…)trusted so much and BEEN trusted so much, thought so much, acted so goofy, smiled so much or had so much fun in my whole life. I really took it all in, and loved every minute of it. This back pain is really bothering me and it hurts like a bitch, but in all honesty, it was worth it. I just want ‘em to patch me up and get me back on the road.
But back to the book, if it ever comes to fruition, I hope I have or can develop the ability to really express the gazillion different things going on in my head, and to capture moments that I want to share, and get the reader (if there are any) to really feel what I was feeling. My idea for the “theme” of the book changed over miles. The outpouring of graciousness and generosity was amazing. I wrote about it several times, and not all the stories are in there. There were a LOT more free meals and drinks and such. There were so many conversations with so many strangers who just wanted to know what I was all about. Families and kids and men and women all would come over to ask me questions. Often the same basic ten questions I answered like ten times a day. Having lived in LA for like 15 years, and in Cody where rumors abounded about me, I had a bit of an attitude and zero self confidence or self esteem. I’m no prettier than I was, and not much thinner, but I have a lot better self image than I’ve ever had. Nobody judged me, everyone accepted me immediately, I know because of what I was doing, but many people I met still text or call me, I made friends across the states I walked through. It was a nice feeling I’ll admit, to for ONCE in my life, to feel special. I’m not, but everyone likes to feel that way once in a while. Like birthdays, you feel special. Well I felt birthday-special for four months. SEVERAL people told me they’d never met anyone like me. I like that. Not just another Joe Schmo. Er, Jane, rather.
I’m not saying there weren’t days when I was aggravated, questioned myself, “What the hell are you doing??!!”; days when I felt very alone, days when I didn’t feel good, my feet hurt, I was too tired to go to my planned quitting-for-the-day spot, etc. I had money issues the whole trip,and I had blisters the whole trip. I walked 5 miles the wrong way one day. I changed routes, I got lost, rained on, burned, all that not-so-good stuff.
But like Yin and Yang, there’s a balance, Mine appears to be a bit off-balance, but in a good way. Perhaps grief and sadness and frustration have more mass than happy times, so they balance out. Seriously, when you’re in love you “float”, when you’re happy you’re high, but when you’re sad you’re depressed, that means also “pushed down”.. when you have worries you have something “weighing you down”, my theory might be right. Sadness weighs more. So you need to be happy twice as much as sad, to keep the balance. I had by FAR more fun than I had blisters. And I got a lot of blisters.
And it’s hard to explain to people, as they have asked, “What’s so fun about walking twenty miles in this heat?” what exactly IS fun about it. It’s the freedom, the fact that I was walking a dream come true, that I was doing something for myself that I always wanted to do, that I saw a butterfly or a deer or a waterfall that the people whizzing by in their cars missed. It’s the sunshine and exercise and gallons of water. It’s fresh air, it’s people waving, it’s feeling stronger day by day. It’s no alarm clocks, no schedules, no one waiting at home, no home except wherever I land that night, for a few hours. Obligated only to myself. It’s amazing. Or was.
And it’s hard for me to understand what effect I had on other people, Several people told me I inspired them. In what way? I was just an old lady taking a walk. I wasn’t trying to prove anything, to raise money, to win anything. I simply walked from New Jersey west. When I was in Tomahawk, I got an email from a lady I’d met in South Jersey. She had found my card in her wallet and sent me a note, surprised that I was still (at the time) plugging away on my quest. She said, “… though our meeting was short you’ve made an impression on me that will last forever!” Another person said it was like I left a trail of pixie dust wherever I went. I don’t get it, but I do. But I don’t. See, when I met people doing what I was doing, walking, biking, whatever, I was inspired because I wanted to do that myself. So I understand being drawn to people like Fran, the young man that walked through Cody a couple years ago on HIS cross country walk. But most people I’ve met have never had the desire to walk 3000 miles. So how am I inspiring them? How have I moved so many, touched so many, inspired so many, when all I did was quietly walk along back roads? It blows me away, I’m just a nobody taking a walk. Or was. Now I’m just a nobody.
It will take some time, some going over the blog from it’s very beginning as I prepped for the trip, up to now, and taking notes about all the stuff I remember from each part, and soaking it all in; the meaning, what I learned, what I didn’t, what it all meant to me, what it meant to others, what others meant to me, what certain people meant, or mean, to me; and taking that information and try to get it worded so it all makes sense, .. well it’s going to be a task. But since I just walked 1700+ miles, I think I’m up for it.