Ever seen a flatter foot? This was the beginning of my PTTD surgery journey...

Ever seen a flatter foot?  This was the beginning of my PTTD surgery journey...
Left Foot Pre-Surgery X-ray: Ankle with heel valgus and flatfoot deformity

Saturday, January 7, 2017

New Journey: Autoimmune CHRONICles

To all my readers, especially to the ones who suffer from PTTD and/or other foot and ankle injuries and found this blog in a time of desperation, THANK YOU for sharing in my journey with me.  I learned so much about myself and found your comments as encouraging to me as many of you found my blog to be informative, positive, and uplifting to you.  This will be my last post here.  As my "Something isn't right" post alluded to, there is more to my story.  I started this blog as a graduate student who had turned to running and triathlon to stay in shape and to feed my competitive spirit after my time as a collegiate athlete ended, and then was stopped in my tracks by developing PTTD, having both of my ankles collapse to flat feet, and then requiring reconstructive surgeries.  My personal goal for my recovery was to return to my athletic, active, and healthy lifestyle, and I am proud to say that I did just that.  Over the last couple of years, I took the adventure trip of a lifetime backpacking through Central America, got my 5k time back down to the low thirties and within reach of my pre-surgery times, competed in my first ever cycling competition, began to place highly in my age group in triathlons and even qualified for the 2016 USA Triathlon Age-Group National Championships, and swam competitive times at US Masters National Swimming Championships. Now, people address me as doctor, I'm a college professor, and I have realized that unfortunately, PTTD was never really my problem.  Of the many doctors I saw for my ankle injuries, not a single one could explain to me why someone who was in excellent shape, lead a healthy lifestyle, did not experience a traumatic event, and was not overtraining would suffer from such severe ankle injuries.  My case was marked as 'atypical' and I continued being a medical mystery.  Last summer (2016), during my trip to Thailand, everything continued to get worse and it became really clear that something more was wrong with me. When I returned home, I saw several medical specialists, and resumed physical therapy.  I continued to receive diagnoses from physicians that could not explain my myriad of symptoms, until I had amassed enough diagnostic data (blood tests, x-rays, physical exams) from all of my medical appointments to do the research myself and connect the dots for them.  I discovered that I have an autoimmune disease, an inflammatory arthritis condition in the class of seronegative spondyloarthropathies that includes enthesitis as a key feature.  What is enthesitis?  The easy explanation is when tendons become inflamed near joint insertions.  If you look back to my very first post, "What the heck is PTTD and why do I need surgery?," you will find a picture that shows how the posterior tibial tendon connects to the bony portion of your arch. Upon my first visit to a rheumatologist, my diagnosis was confirmed (and my theory from my research proved to be right) and I began treatment for my autoimmune disease. It also became clear that this was the underlying cause of my ankle problems and every other "sports injury" that I have had since I went to college.

This is not goodbye, you can find me over at my new website, www.autoimmunechronicles.com.  If you find this blog and relate to my story and want to continue to follow it, or you suspect something more may be going on with your health, visit my new site, and please follow up with your primary care physician for a referral to a rheumatologist BEFORE you have surgery for PTTD.

Wishing you all the best!



Sincerely,
Amanda Alise Price, Ph.D.








Sunday, May 29, 2016

Something isn't right

Through the winter and spring, I have focused on swimming as my main sport and mode of exercise.  I developed a workout regimen that included 5-6 swims and 2-3 lifting sessions at the gym per week. Sure, it was a tough schedule to follow, considering I had to be up around 4:40 am most days of the week to swim before work and then go to the gym after work several days a week, but it was well within my capabilities with the high level of fitness that I have gained over the last several years following my surgeries. It tested my commitment for sure, but my goals for the year were clear, I wanted to get stronger and I wanted to be competitive at swimming.

But...

My body had other plans.

In February, I began experiencing shoulder/scapula and elbow pain, primarily on my left side.  I worked with my coaches to really hone in on my swim technique to ensure that my stroke was biomechanically sound.  That helped somewhat.  

In March, I was completely surprised one morning at swim practice by knee pain.  It was mild at first and only bothered me in the pool, then it continued worsening until it was not only limiting my swimming but becoming difficult to complete my activities of daily living on land like walking, going up stairs, sitting normally, and sleeping restfully.  

In April, my shoulder/arm and knee issues became debilitating and rendered swimming and exercising nearly impossible.  I couldn't swim with my top or bottom half, the best I could do is use a pull buoy to float my bottom half and scull (drills that swimmers do to work on feel for the water and hand position) with my top half. I had this gut feeling of terror that something major was going on with my health again.  How these joints felt was eerily similar to how my ankles felt on the path to collapsing and requiring reconstructive surgery.  I've gone through two surgeries already and somehow found a way to come out well on the other side, I DO NOT WANT TO GO THROUGH THIS ALL AGAIN. Tears...tears...and more tears were shed.

While extremely hesitant to go to a doctor regarding joint problems again, I made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor to get checked out.  The ortho diagnosed me with IT Band Syndrome and Bursitis in the knee and Impingement Syndrome and Bursitis in my shoulder.  He also gave me cortisone shots in both places.  He didn't think that these new injuries were connected in any way to my ankles, and couldn't provide an explanation for why my ankles collapsed, the same as my former doctors.  I continue to be a medical mystery.

The cortisone shots provided a little relief, just enough for me to resume some level of training to prepare myself to compete in the US Masters Swimming National Championship Meet.  I had been training for this meet for well over a year, so I was thrilled that I was on the mend just enough to swim well.  I absolutely crushed my former times and exceeded both my own and my coaches' expectations of me for that meet.  My goal was to be competitively last in my age group for each of my swims, and I accomplished that and beat a few people along the way.  With my limited swimming background and my ankles/shoulder/knee issues, I was beyond proud of myself.  It was also the first time that I ever competed in a tech suit, the very thin, water repellant, and buoyant suits that go down to your knees, the ones you see olympic swimmers wear. I had reached the ultimate level of swimmer...

and then...

In May, less than two weeks after USMS Nationals, I couldn't swim at all.  All the pain returned in full force.  I was in so much pain that I couldn't sleep, that it was distracting me from work tasks, that it became tough to make it through each day.  Having tried and failed treatment by cortisone shots, I decided to completely back off my training and return to physical therapy. I was preparing to travel to the national conference in my field, the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting in Boston, and then to spend the month of June in Thailand.  I had a short amount of time to stabilize my condition before embarking on these trips.  

I switched to a new physical therapist and a brand new sports medicine clinic for these injuries. My goal was to learn some rehab exercises that I could do while I was away.  In the first few minutes of meeting my new physical therapist, I knew I was in the right place.  From the questions he asked me about my health history and the thorough evaluation he performed, I felt like I couldn't be in better hands, the same way I felt with my original physical therapist who worked with me through the very dark days after both of my surgeries, before I moved.  Not every healthcare practitioner treats the person, many just treat individual symptoms as if they don't belong to a real living and breathing human, I could tell that I was working with someone that was going to treat me as a whole and not just my injuries. When he checked me for muscle imbalances and flexibility issues that could have contributed to the diagnoses that I was given by my ortho, he couldn't find a rationale for me having severe issues with those joints. He was impressed by the muscular strength and athleticism that I had built back, all on my own since ending physical therapy after my second surgery.

These were clues that I had been misdiagnosed, and that something else entirely was going on...








Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year 2016!

This is boring...I've spent my entire holiday break writing a manuscript from some of my previous research.  It had a deadline of January 1st...and of course I waited too long to start working on it, which meant I had to give up my break for it.  I am at least happy to report that it is finished and submitted!  Spending time writing my paper kept me away from some family time, but it was a good time to reflect and think about my goals for the next year.  My dog was so bored that she would go up to my bedroom and play and rest up there, while I was typing away at my computer on my kitchen table downstairs.  I felt like a total nerd, so much so, that my dog doesn't event think I'm cool right now.

At this juncture, my big goals are to: (1) continue making physical progress by focusing on getting stronger, and becoming more competitive at swimming, (2) keep progressing in my career, and (3) make time to enjoy the little things in life, since I know more than most how quickly life can change on you.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Race Report- Santa's Tune Up for Nationals

I'm back in the water full time!!! Tri season is over, my dabble into running for the 5k last month is over, now the pool has my focus.  My last meet was in March, so it has been quite some time.  This swim meet was a "tune-up" for the US Masters Swimming National Championships coming up in late April.  The meet was held at the same pool that Nationals will be held in.  That is my ultimate 'A' race/meet to end this solid year of training I have put in and physical gains that I have made.  I'll take a break next summer and regroup.

Overall, the meet was ok.  I had some solid swims, but there is certainly room for improvement.

Results
50 free: 38:32 (+ 1.08 :/ GRRR.) Slow start, botched the flip turn, gave up after the turn.  I'm not happy and this race out of all of them showed me how much work I need to do to be able to execute technically at masters nationals.

100 free: 1:27:89 This was my first time racing a 100 free, and I had to channel my inner Michael Phelps, as my goggles filled up with water from the dive.  I raced the whole thing blind and nailed all 3 of my flipturns!  I need to take out the first 50 faster and work on closing better, but overall, I was happy considering the circumstances.

50 breast: 52:84 Second time racing this event, first time with a legal time. I am TERRIBLE at breaststroke, but that is exactly why I make a point to race it each meet.  I want to improve my IM (all four strokes), therefore, I need to master all of them.

50 butterfly: 44:45 First time racing fly in a meet, first full 50 of fly, EVER.  I did really awesome!  Much faster than my coaches expected of me, and certainly faster than I expected of myself.  My technique needs some work as I am very new to this stroke, however, it looks like it will be my bread and butter.  My coaches say that I am a natural, which is both a gift and a curse, as butterfly by far is the most challenging and tiring stroke.

100 IM: 1:52:32 (- 1.99) My favorite event, but it was the last one of the day.  I was totally beat by the time I got to this race and told myself to focus on executing perfect technique and not worry about the time or maxing out my effort.  Even without going full force, I dropped time, which tells me that my non-free strokes are coming along.

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Reflection

I was really upset by my dismal 50 free time.  I put 8 more months of training in, and my time was slower!  I'm a much better swimmer now than I was then, but you have to execute.  There are so many moving parts to a perfect race and I did not have it today.  I am mostly upset with myself because I had a poor attitude when I finished.  I was ANGRY!  It felt as if all my work was for nothing and I focused on external factors as excuses, and not the things that were in my control.  This meet inspired me to re-focus and step up and take responsibility for my training.  I've been doing a lot of yardage with my teams, and I'm coming off a summer of endurance training for my triathlons.  As an exercise physiologist, I know this to be true--You can go fast or you can go long, NOT both.  I have to be more strategic with my training and focus on shorter, high intensity sets to get my speed back.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Race Report- Huge 5k PR!!!

So pumped to have set a huge 5k PR on the road to recovery from bilateral ankle reconstruction surgeries.  34:43, 11:11 min/mile pace...now within 3 mins of my pre-surgery PR with no run training.  Swimming, cycling, and triathlon has helped me regain my fitness and far surpass my doctor's post surgery expectations...oh and saved my life too!!!  

Absolutely wonderful day spending Thanksgiving morning running a 5k with my family.  This is our tradition and it feels so great to participate again for the second year in a row after we took 2 years off for my ankle surgeries.  I knew that I was going to set a good time based on how I felt right from the start line.  Running felt effortless again, what an amazing feeling! I beat last year's time by over 2 minutes! I'm going to cherish this moment, because today, I felt as if I never had my ankles reconstructed, like the original Amanda, version 1.0.

I hope you have as wonderful of a Thanksgiving as I am having!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's my birthday!!! 28!

Now that my triathlon season is over, I've switched fully over to the pool.  My family made me this awesome cake as an ode to my swimming and included the 57.2, the mileage of my half iron distance aquabike accomplishment.  My swim coach also planned a sprint set (my favorite) to celebrate my birthday.  This year has been awesome personally and professionally and I look forward to seeing what is in store for me over the next year. 



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Purple Power

Still on the #LiveLifeOutLoud tour...

...so I decided to finally do what I've wanted to do for a very long time...dye my hair purple!!!!  The great part of my purple highlights is that my hair looks normal indoors, but when the sunlight hits it, it turns vibrant purple as shown in the picture.  I love it!  I feel like my hair finally matches my personality, and believe it or not, my purple hair looks more natural and better with my skin tone than my multi-tonal natural brown hair.  People keep asking me if I dress to match my hair color, the answer is NO, I am wearing the same clothes I have always worn, my hair just fully compliments my style now.

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Reflection

Yes.  I am a professor.  And Yes.  I do have purple hair.  My colleagues love it as much as I do, and so do my students.  Sometimes you just have to live a little and stop living the way you think others think you should. Don't be afraid to let your true colors shine.