Candor CP – One Week In

As part of the Candor CP team, I am very excited to see people download our app and give it a whirl!

We have already seen people use the Candor app to encourage some great interactions, advice, thoughts and support. It strengthens our conviction that our app can be a great service to the CP community.

Of course, the more people that join, the better the experience for everyone. Tell anyone you think will benefit to download the app and join the conversation! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook so that you can stay up to date. Spread the word!

We are working on some cool updates and look forward to sharing with you all soon to make the experience even better!

Download the app! https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/candor-cp/id889659031?mt=8

Candor CP

Announcing Candor CP

One of the frustrations I have dealt with because I have Cerebral Palsy is that it is often difficult to find other people like me, who have CP, to talk to.  The growth of the internet has been very helpful in addressing that issue.  Facebook Groups, online forums, and the web have been invaluable resources.  However, I still struggle with using these resources as they often associate my posts with who I am and there is not a way to delete a post once I put it out there.  I would bet that anyone with a health issue can empathize with the desire to communicate with others anonymously about some of the more private or potentially embarrassing aspects of their disease. 

For example, I recently posted a question I had about my orthotics in one of the Facebook CP groups I am a member of.  The question was not really that embarrassing. However, I posted it under the assumption that it would only be visible to other members of the group.  Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when I was having dinner with a family member and she asked if I was able to resolve the issue.  Apparently, the post was visible to anyone who was friends with me on Facebook!  Had I known that, I would not have posted my question.

Today, I am launching a project I have been working on with a couple of people – Candor CP.  Candor CP is an app that let’s you chat anonymously with other people who have CP. Getting setup to use the app is simple: create an account using an email address and create a password.  THAT’S IT.  No usernames, photos, personal information, share settings, or linking to other social media sites.  As you post and comment, the app dynamically assigns you an avatar that is unique to each thread.

I am ecstatic to get Candor CP out in the wild and hope everyone finds it useful.  I am also looking for feedback from all of you on how we can improve the app and make it better. Feel free to email the Candor team at support@candorapp.com, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

A special thanks to those readers of the blog who assisted with testing.

Don’t forget to download the app and join the conversation!

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The Spartan Race

Yesterday, a group of friends and I did The Spartan Sprint at The Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center in NY.  I decided to do this race as a challenge to see how far I have come since the surgery.  I trained for it like a maniac in the months preceding the race.  Despite all the training a quarter of the way through I was already saying “this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.”  Not quite an exact quote but I want to keep this blog family friendly ;).

A few details about the course:

  1. The course was 4 “hilly miles.”
  2. There were 25 obstacles spread through the course.
  3. It rained pretty heavily the day before so the entire course was very muddy and slippery.
  4. For every obstacle a racer did not complete there was a 30 burpee penalty.

Map:

Spartan Course Tuxedo

I am going to focus on the obstacles that I think highlight the new abilities I have as a result of the surgery.

The Hills – the whole course was going up and down steep hills.  It was more like a hike than a run.  Hiking up the trails required a lot weight shifting and balancing on one leg.  The fact that the earth was drenched in mud made it pretty tough and I slipped and fell quite a few times.

Hurdles – I had to traverse hurdles (going uphill) that were about 1.5 feet high.  I used my hands to hop over the first hurdle and was scolded by one the monitors.  Rather than risk doing 30 burpees I decided to try the next few hands free.  Shockingly, I was able to get over the hurdles by stepping over one leg at a time.  If you’ve been reading since the beginning you will remember how I struggled to step over cones in PT and when I hit the milestone of stepping over 12 inch cones.  Before the surgery I struggled to step over 3 inch cones.

Tire Trudge – I had to walk through a field of tires with nothing to hold on to.  It was much easier than I expected it to be.  As with the hurdles this would not have been possible pre op. I couldn’t lift my legs high enough and my balance on one leg was much worse.

Sandbag Carry – I was supposed to carry a sandbag that was not really that heavy up a steep, muddy hill.  I fell 3x right at the beginning and decided to skip it.  The earth was just too slippery for me.  Hellooooooooooooo burpees!

Vertical Cargo Net – this one was a mixed bag. I got very close to the top of the cargo net but then I got stuck because I could not raise my right leg enough to make the next rung in the net.  My hip flexion on the right side is still a work in progress.  Luckily, my teammates were there to help me and push my right leg up.  Boom!  Once that happened I was able to get over the net down the other side.

Fire Jump – I didn’t bother trying this one.  Normally, I prefer to at least try an obstacle but the chance of landing in pile of burning coals didn’t seem worth the risk.

Tractor Drag – I had a to drag a heavy cement block up a hill and then back down.  This one wasn’t too bad to complete at all and was all powered by my legs.

The rest of the obstacles were difficult but not as challenging as the obstacles mentioned above.  My favorite obstacle was the Monkey Bars and my least favorite was the Barb Wire Crawl.

My only goal was to finish.  I failed 3.5 obstacles (Traverse Wall, Spear Throw, Fire Pit, and Rope Climb) and paid the burpee price; but I made it to end!  As I sit here 24 hours later writing this post my body feels pretty good which is amazing considering what I just put it through.  I have a lot of soreness in my right glute muscles but other than that I feel great.

I hope reading this post gives other people considering the surgery a good idea of what might be possible.  I was feeling pretty good about myself at the end of the race.

You can check out some photos my friends captured here.

Special thanks to Anna, Jarrett, Paul, Peter, Vasant, and Mitchell – it was definitely a team effort.

One Year Out!

One year ago today I underwent the SDR procedure at Barnes Jewish in St. Louis. I still remember most of the day as if it were yesterday.  From getting the first dose of medication to “relax”  before the operation to waking up after the procedure as I was getting moved to the ICU. The impact of the surgery did not really hit me until 3 days post op when I had to stand up for the first time since the surgery. After trying, and failing to stand up the first time  — moments later I was able to stand up and I felt 2 foreign objects that felt like overcooked pasta where my “al dente” legs used to be.  That is when it dawned on me that everything was likely to be different going forward.

Since then I have experienced the success and frustrations of intense physical therapy and done things that I never thought I would be capable of doing.  After more than 10 years of constantly searching for a treatment and seeing countless doctors who advised me to:

  • “Get over it.”
  • “Be happy you can walk.”
  • “There is nothing more you can do.”

I finally found a treatment that has made a substantial difference in my life.

I still feel as though I have more work to do in terms of strengthening my lower body and overcoming some challenges.  But I really look forward to  finding out what my body is capable of!

10 Months Out: Slow and Steady

Surprisingly, it’s been about 10 months now since I had the surgery.  I know it has been some time since the last update; but I reached the point in the process where the improvements I see are more subtle and coming at a slower pace.  Now, I focus on continuing to work hard at therapy, stretching, gaining more strength, and muscle control.

One thing I have noticed as time has passed is that I now find that I will do something without thinking about it and then realize in hindsight that I just did something that would not have been possible before.  For example, a few weeks ago I moved down a flight of stairs in the subway fairly quickly and without holding on to the handrail at all.  It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realized what just happened.   It’s very cool that I have reached the point where I am subconsciously using new abilities without thinking.

Similarly 3 friends have independently told me that my speed when walking has improved dramatically and they no longer have to slow down as much as they used to when walking with me.  I never really focus on walking faster – it just started happening.  The lesson I should, but probably won’t, take from this is to stop obsessing about every single detail of my gait and movement and just let the improvements come.

In October, I had a gait analysis done for the third time in my life.  The cool thing is that I had each done at the same facility so the report had the data from all 3 instances (2002, 2010, and 2012) so we can see how my gait was changing over the years and the effects of the SDR operation.  It also helped us to zero in on areas to focus on going forward in therapy.  Finally, it’s nice to see a quantification of the changes in my gait to back up anecdotal observations.

Here is a small chart I created with some data from gait analyses:

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 9.46.16 PM

What immediately jumps out to me is the decrease is my walking speed and stride length between 2002 and 2010.  The differences were not huge by any means but the downward trend was not a good.  This validates the feeling I had that my condition was getting worse over time.  The other highlight is the increase in my walking speed from 2010 to October of this year, which is pretty significant, and is in line with the observations I mentioned above.

I am still working quite a bit on physical therapy and I am a bit surprised at how long it is taking to increase the strength in certain muscles like my glutes and hamstrings.  It feels like I have to work 3x as hard on these muscles to realize any improvement.  Because of this I have been working hard to avoid the trap of getting lax with the exercise and stretching since the ‘rewards’ are not as immediately apparent as they were before.

Now that more time has passed since the surgery it’s easier for me to look back and think about how my quality of life has increased:

  • Less pain as I go about my day – Awesome
  • The lifespan of my footwear has increased at least 5x – My wallet loves this
  • I am generally more physically able – I cannot overstate how awesome this one is!
  • Stretching and exercise leads to actual results instead of feeling like a waste of time

Stopping to think about all these great changes from time is a great way to remind myself of how glad I am I had this done and how it will pay dividends for the rest of my life.

Improved Balance, Hip Flexion, and Glute Strength

So this happened in PT last week:

The cone in the video is 12 inches high.  In the past I struggled (read: knocked them down like Godzilla on a rampage) with 3 inch cones.  This is a HUGE triumph for me as I have struggled with this movement for months.  It has taken months to get here but the increased strength and balance is worth it!