Wednesday, 25 May 2016

End of the Trail

It has been three years since I posted. The last time I competed in an event was 2011. I struggled on for a couple more years trying to find out what was wrong, as the previous posts below show. I had MRI's and appointments with surgeons.

In the interim, I looked for other opinions, other solutions, even tried cycling. Cycling hurt almost as much, and it just wasn't as compelling as running was.

I had another MRI recently, and another consultant appointment. Net outcome, it's the same, just worse.
  • I have a small disc bulge, which isn't major but it makes cycling very painful.
  • The main issue is I have a Pars defect. This is a healed fracture of my spine. No idea when I broke my back; but I did. This resulted it excess wear on the L5/S1 disc.
  • The L5 / S1 disc has degenerated. It has now degenerated considerably more than the MRI in the previous post shows.  You can now see pain signals on the vertebrae themselves, and what little running I could do a few years ago has now ceased. 
There is no magical cure. The disc have no blood supply to them, so it will never grow back to the size it was. Research into experimental stem cell treatments have to date been unsuccessful as the cells don't stay alive as there is no blood supply to the area. The rest of my discs are wonderfully healthy.

The only "treatment" is a serious operation; typically entering via the stomach, to take out what is left of the disc and fuse the L5 and S1 vertebrae together with a metal pin. This is something they do for people who can't work, or can't sleep with the pain.  That will come in time, but it's not where I am yet.

Getting out of bed is a bit of a struggle, and initially moving around is painful, but once it warms up I'm ok.  Sitting down hurts after a while. I can walk with mild discomfort; feels like I have tight hamstrings all the time. I can't run very far, a mile or two. So, it's manageable for now. 

I can still walk in the hills and get out and about, and I'll have to take that.  You never know what medical progress will bring, but I think the kind of breakthrough I need is some decades away.

I am enjoying organising my own events (Beyond Marathon Ltd) and my GPS Tracking (Race Drone), and that's what I have to satisfy myself will. 

So, there is no fairytale ending to the story. I had half a dozen years in the thick of ultra running, and it took me to some amazing places.  Maybe I can go and walk a few more; we'll have to see.  It's been semi-official for some years, but today's appointment really closed the door on running. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but I'm not waiting for a miracle anymore. That is some kind of closure.

Keep running while you still can!

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