Two weeks to go…

Yes, I’m nearly there. Nearly at the start line of my first event. 2 exactly yesterday in fact is event number 1, the Exmouth triathlon, then exactly a week later, the Great West run half marathon, which I hope to complete using my normal everyday wheelchair. So, a few weeks have passed since my last post. My wife and I drove the great West run route. Shocked doesn’t even cover it. It was said to be relatively flat! It definitely is not. But I’m glad I knew in advance to get some hill work in. There are 5 very long, very steep hills, that would require standing if cycling up… (gives you an idea of how steep they are!). The worst being University hill past Exeter University. It scared me… But since then I’ve managed to get up an equally long and difficult hill, without too much trouble, so my confidence is not too bad!

Hill training (photos never do justice to the angle!!)

Along with this, I’ve been getting out there on my handbike and of course, swimming. This has been rather tricky, I must say, as I’ve had to relearn how to swim with one leg. I’ve found that I can’t kick at all, as this sets stumpey off in a shivering tangent, which closely follows my sinking, coughing and spluttering!! (Rather embarrassing). So, I’ve had to learn to swim with just arms, and tbh, I’m still learning. So the Triathlon will be a very hard event for me. But I’m super excited.

Getting out on the handbike.

Last week, and this weekend has probably been the most difficult in terms of training, and acceptance when I can’t. I’ve been suffering a huge increase in pain in my stump. Thus followed an appointment with my amazing consultant Miss Tania Cubison. The result being that she thinks there is a problem with another nerve in my leg, and I need to go to East Grinstead again, for an ultrasound and nerve block. So, the pain has been hindering training for a few days. Then I managed to get in a good long wheel, in my fastest time ever, but then my body decided to have a fibro flare, which I’m in day 2 of now! Blooming bad timing as always! If only we could predict these things! I’m hoping that because it’s now, it won’t be when the event is?!

My fibromyalgia, like many other people’s is triggers by a few specific things. Hormone changes is a big one, so being female is a pain. Then there’s smells, hair spray, and cigarette smoke are the worst. Also, stress, so again specific times of the month are against me. For almost 2 weeks straight or sometimes longer, I battle against pmdd, fibro and crps simultaneously! (My poor wife is a Saint!). I train every day that I can, and every opportunity I can. It is hard. It is annoying. But I can’t give in. I met a man out the other day, who asked if I was training for something. I told him what I was doing, and immediately he told me it wasn’t possible (apparently because he hadn’t done it, and he had done EVERYTHING!) And that I was stupid to be event trying to do a half marathon using a normal wheelchair, let alone a full marathon. Well, I was left firstly annoyed, then upset, but now it just makes me want to push through stronger. I told him that not many women have done what I’m doing and I’m hoping to set a world record. His answer was that no one has done it because its stupid! (Thanks for the support!!) But then I suppose you have to expect some people not being supportive. I have the support of blesma, my wife and a couple of online friends. They really carry me through.

Medals collected so far during training and my last good wheel.

So, as for the time being, I’m stuck convalescing on the sofa. Better than yesterday where I barely woke all day (typical fibro!). I’m hoping that I may be able to swim later, but if not, I have to accept that these days happen, and the more I fight, the longer they last. This is the most difficult part for me. Not the training, or the agony of training. It’s my body not letting me train when I want to. Or the looming possibility of more treatment, which could get in the way of it all. The negative people I have encountered are annoying, but I try (now) not to let them get to me. Just prove them wrong! 😉

So, fingers crossed 🤞 and toes! I hope to be fighting fit for my first event, and hope that all goes to plan. That’s all I can do… hope, and keep listening to my body.

Progress…

So, in the past couple of weeks I have been making some good progress in training. I have also added another 2 events to the calendar. The Cardiff summer half marathon on the 3rd of July and The Rehabilitation Triathlon for amputee veterans in Plymouth on 23rd June. Both great events, and right in between the others. This brings the official total to 7 events, although there will be a number of virtual ones as well. On theat subject, I managed to complete the niagra falls conquer challenge yesterday, 113km in 29 days. I was very happy with this, as I’ve had to have almost 2 weeks off from training with various flares.

Out an about training.

So, I have had some questions about the gloves which I wear for wheeling. I purchase work gloves from ebay, which retail from £2-7 per pair depending on the thickness. The orange ones in the photo below are warm lined and waterproof, which is brilliant for the winter. The red ones come in various types, and you can bulk buy. They are great for warmer weather, and when it is very warm, I lop off the fingers and hey presto, perfect summer wheeling gloves which virtually eliminate blisters. They are all gripped with a form of latex which is perfect for wheeling.

As for post workout nutrition, I use a sports drink to replace lost electrolytes. Very important if you want to avoid cramp, or other more potential serious health problems caused by an imbalance of electrolytes. I use High 5 as it is gluten and sugar free. Food wise, I’m a bit of a sucker for midget gems, so normally have 50g of them, and some form of protein and carbs, such as a protein bar.

As mentioned, I have now finished my 4th challenge with #theconquerchallenges. They are great fun to do, and really keep that motivation up. I have also now included handcycling, swimming and weights at the gym to my weekly program. I do have a day off a week, and sometimes more when my body dictates it so. Probably the most annoying part of CRPS (next to the pain) is the how unpredictable it is. Also Fibromyalgia follows the same trend = completely unpredictable. Although I have found a couple of triggers, which are so important to identify. I have discovered that cigarette smoke, and pungent hair spray, as well as post menstrual hormone changes are a big trigger for me. These three put me out of training for a week at a time. With CRPS, my biggest trigger is sugar and stress. Also anything touching my leg. So I have to almost wrap myself in cotton wool, and behave, just so I can train. I have had to give up alot of other pursuits to complete this year’s challenges, but it will be worth it, and I’m hoping Blesma will reap the benefits of my labour.

Yesterdays wheel (above), & medals so far 😊

It’s 6 weeks before my first event. My lovely wife will be doing the first 2 with me (running), which will be wonderful. It will be the first time we have both started on the same start line, and her first ever events. I am so happy to be able to share this with her. So, off to do some more training today. Wish me luck!

London marathon here we come…

https://blesma.enthuse.com/pf/lexi-chambers-799fb

Above is hopefully the link to my fundraising page for Blesma. So, you may have read on pervious posts that I plan to complete a series of events this year to raise money for Blesma. As you also may have read, this charity is very close to my heart. They have helped me and my family so much since my amputation. So I feel it is only right to try to give back. Last week I received the wonderful news that I have been accepted to complete the London marathon as part of #team blesma. I am so honoured to have been selected. I am hoping to raise at least £2000 for them. I have set a fundraising page to include all the events I plan on completing this year. I will be completing 2 half marathons, 2 marathons and a Triathlon. On top of this I will be completing a number of virtual events. All of this will be completed using my normal everyday wheelchair, my Quickie Argon 2. I have heard that I will be the first woman to complete a marathon using a normal wheelchair like this. I know lots of women have completed a magnitude of distances using a sport chair, but not their day one. Maybe I’m the only person crazy enough to try! Ha ha!

Here she is… The chair which I will be self propelling all those miles…

I have set up a Facebook page, titled the same, and shared my page amongst my 400 Facebook friends, yet so far only received 1 donation, and I can’t thank that lovely chap enough. I am hoping my page may be shared far and wide so that I can raise as much as I can for such a wonderful charity for limbless veterans.

I will be keeping everyone updated along the way of this journey. My CRPS and Fibromyalgia are going to definitely present a challenge, but I am extremely motivated and have longed to complete a marathon and Triathlon for years. It was whilst training for these events over 8 years ago that my feet began to hurt, which led to my 1st surgery, which led to my CRPS, which 8 surgeries later, led to my amputation, which brings us back to my having crps again! So, if you can’t run it…wheel it!

Fibro it is then!

Yep, as the title suggests, I have now been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia as well! I must admit, that although I knew it was a possibility, when the words fell from the lips of my Gp, it hit like a baseball bat to the face! I went home, sat, and cried! Now I don’t normally cry much. The only things which draw me to tears are the extreme pain of a crps flare, thinking about the death of my beloved cat, Winkeypoo, and seeing any sence of animal cruelty. But this, for some reason floored me. To have another incurable pain condition? I mean, what did I do in a previous life? Am I Jack the ripper incarnate? I’m starting to think so!

So what is Fibromyalgia, for those of you how are unaware of this bundle of fun. According to NHS.uk ‘Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain and extreme tiredness.’ It is that, but there are a few more symptoms to keep one on their toes! For me, I started to realise there was a problem when I was spending time with my friend. She smokes when drinking, so when we meet up, both her and her partner would be opposite me smoking away, and following this I was ending up with a chronic migrane and then at least 5 days of feeling like I had the worst flu ever. I couldn’t move off the sofa. The migrane was relentless and I felt in pain all over. I thought the first time that I had the flu! Then after the 4th time of the same thing happening, I realised it was the smoke that was making this happen! Now I had a bigger problem, how could I tell my good friend that her smoking was making me sick? Well, the answer to that is that I still haven’t (chicken, I know! I will soon!). So needless to say, I knew there was a problem. It was when a friend suggested it that I began reading around it, and saw that smoke can be a trigger for a Fibromyalgia flare up! Hurrah I felt! There’s my answer! But then came the dread! I didn’t want it to be true. But I had to find out. So I spoke to my GP who organised blood tests and a Fibromyalgia test. Well, following all this there was no doubt!

So, what now you may ask? Well…nothing! The treatments are all the same as the ones I have for crps, which don’t really work! I can’t take half the medications necessary to help with some of the issues due to be allergic to them, so it’s a case of learning and self management! As I’ve already been waiting over 2 years for an appointment with exeter pain team, I won’t even bother them with this…its clear that they have no interest in helping me at all. I’m lucky that I have a good GP. He is wonderful.

So for now, I will carry on as before. I’ve managed to complete my 11k for Blesma, and have a 5k on the 2nd of December, where we all dress as santa and run, or wheel in my case around the streets of Exeter, so that should be fun.

My article in Blesma magazine

Oh, this happened! I had a two double page spread written about me in the blesma magazine. I was so humbled by what they wrote. It was so lovely and kind. I’m so glad that I could be part of getting TMR surgery notariety. I am still recovering from my surgery, but seeing some positive results. I can wear my leg for a few minutes now. I know I will never be able to wear it all of the time, but at least 20% will be lovely.

So for now, I am hoping that this new part to my life will not overtake the wishes I have. I believe that we can overcome most things. It is never easy, and this illness has knocked me for six, but there are things I want put of my life, and I will have to make some adjustments, but hopefully desire will prevail! (Fingers crossed!!).

The sofa blues…

Oh how I miss wheeling, and handcycling… yes, as you may have guessed, I’m still not up to par. I’m currently awaiting more blood results which will hopefully tell me why I feel so awful! I’m extremely lethargic, to the point of wanting to sleep all the time. Nausea and lack of appetite kind of go hand in hand, and just feeling generally weak and feeble! So, what do you do when you can’t do what you want? Well if your anything like me, you get frustrated and annoyed with your body. It won’t buck up and get better in the timescale you want. The swimming pool is calling, and my body isn’t listening! I’d like to say that I’m a good patient, but I don’t think that I am. I want to feel better now…and don’t like having to wait for my body to behave! But that is what I have to do. So I’m sat watching the paralympics, wishing to be that good! (Maybe one day!). But it won’t happen from a static position on my sofa!! So for now, when I can I’m writing, and doing a bit of drawing, but finding myself falling asleep doing that! It was my 13th wedding anniversary on the 22nd. I managed to be out with my lovely wife for a couple of hours, but then had to go home. I could eat a tiny bit of my meal, but had to leave most of it. I felt like such a party pooper! But when things are like this, it reminds you to give it your all when you do feel well, and to embrace every moment.

So for now, it’s back to convalescing on the sofa, and hoping to feel better soon. Then watch out David Lloyd, for a will be in the pool as much as I can be. My mum would have said, ‘these things are sent to try us!’ And I completely agree. But still wish they wouldn’t!!

Come on! Let me train!!!

Well, as you may guess, I’m starting to go a little stir crazy! This infection is relentless. I’m now on another type of antibiotic, Co-amoxiclav. The Flucloxacillin ran out the other day. It was very strange. I went to bed feeling a bit better. Then by lunch time the next day, after not having any antibiotics, I was back to feeling awful again. My heartrate was over 100 again, known as Tachycardia. I felt extremely tired, to the point that I couldn’t stay awake. I felt very sick and had no appetite at all. I also felt quite shakey. I had no temperature, but have not had a significant temperature (pyrexia) throughout the whole period of my illness. There is a common misconception that you have to have a temperature to have an infection or sepsis. My consultant said he thought I was septic when I finally received IV antibiotics. There is such a thing as hot sepsis, where you have a temperature (a temperature above 37.6) and cold sepsis, where your temperature is normal or below. Normal is different for everyone, but in general the normal range is 36-37 degrees. I am normally 36-36.5 when I’m well, so I know if I’m at 37.5 I’m usually not too well. We’ll my temp was a bit up bit not into the 38 plusses, which is where worrying begins. So at first they just focused on that. Until they finally realised that my other observations, like high heartrate (over 100 bpm) and low blood pressure was telling a story. Normal blood pressure is 120/80. Low is considered 90/60 or below. High is considered to be 140/90 or above. Mine was 60/40 at one point. My heartrate was 140-160 at rest, whilst laying in a bed. So there was no doubt I had a problem.

So, observation lesson over, I was basically feeling rubbish again. I decided to try 111 first before going to A&E, hoping to speak to an on call Dr. I spent over an hour with the phone on hold, and eventually gave up. So we were off to A&E again. We’ll bloods were taken and my platelets were high, my red blood count was low, and my crp was up. All showing infection. So I started on antibiotics again! The next day I felt a little better. Then on Monday these ran out and I fortunately spoke to a great GP at my local Dr surgery who decided to try another one. So here we are. Awaiting more blood results today! But still feeling rubbish to be honest.

Me training!

So here I am. Still feeling to rubbish to train. We now have access to a new pool and gym. My wifey, who is amazing joined us up to David Lloyd whilst I was in hospital, as she knew how desperate I was to swim again, and start training for a Triathlon. So now I’m at home, my handbike now accessible, my wheelchair itching to get going, the new pool and gym waiting for me…and I’m still stuck to the sofa. Finding it difficult to eat more than a bowl of cereal and a piece of toast in a day. My muscle mass is deteriating, and I’m feeling absolutely rubbish. No energy at all. Then I’ve been sat watching the Olympics, which makes me want to train more than ever. I want to do my half marathon, but now I know I can’t. I want to do a marathon. I want to start training to do Triathlons. Hopefully one day an Iron-man. I have so many ambitions, and yet being glued to the sofa, is not one of them! It is quite depressing to be honest. I’m not too patient at waiting to do things I love! I just wish this infection would listen to me, and GO AWAY!!!

So for now, it’s fingers crossed. Try to eat, and be patient 🤣. One day I will be back out there…and that day will be amazing!!

So good to be home.

I’m home, as you may have guessed from the title. I finally made it home at 7pm on Tuesday. I think it was probably the longest discharge in history! Saw the Dr’s o Tuesday Morning at approximately 9am. They said they’d have me ready for lunch time!!! My wife made her way after work at 2pm. I ended up sending her home before she even made it to the hospital, knowing I was nowhere near discharge. I had gotten myself dressed, and my bag was packed. By 3pm I gave up, and my pyjamas were back on!! 🤣 My wife then remade her way at 5pm, as we were told that things were ready! At 7pm finally I was discharged. I waited 10 hours for a discharge letter and a few tablets! But, to be honest, I didn’t care. By the time I got through my front door, and into my pyjamas again, and was cuddling my little Lily, nothing else mattered.

Cuddling my little Lily 💙

My experience on Wynard ward was thankfully very different to the disastrous 13 hours on AMU. All of the staff were lovely. I had a fantastic student, and I wish I remembered her name, (I’ve always been useless with names!), but she was incredible for her level. She’s only a few weeks away from qualifying, and I’ve met nurses who have been qualified for years who don’t sho her professionalsm, level of caring or expertise. She will make a fantastic nurse. I do know she had a job already, and will be mentored in it by my best friend from university, which is amazing. The Nurses were all lovely. The endless cannula attempts. I think I counted 24 attempts in total! My veins completely gave up, and ran for the hills!!

I am still a little weak, and on antibiotics. Am very much looking forward to getting back to training. My lovely wife joined David Lloyd whilst I was in hospital, so I can swim again. In a pool which will not be overcrowded. It also has a handbike in the gym. I’m hoping to do my first swim on Saturday, all being well. I’m also going through classification for Triathlon for next year. There’s one in May which I’d like to do. As for my half marathon on the 5th of September! I’m going to have to see how I get on with training. I’m desperate to do it, but I know I’ve been through alot in the past 6 weeks, so have to build up slowly, and accept it if I can’t do it. I will find another to do instead! So for now, I’m trying my best to eat when I can, and stretching. The antibiotics make appetite a challenge, and make me very nautious, so the only thing I can stomach at the moment is toast, cereal and midget gems!! Not the best diet for fitness!!! But again, I’m home…. 😁😁

And I’m in again….

So, it’s been a few weeks. Finally made it home on the 19th of July from East Grinstead QVH hospital. They were incredible. Their treatment and kindness blew me away. Unfortunately on discharge, and just before I started having pain in the back of my leg where the nerve catheter was situated. We hoped it was just bruising and swelling from the sheer quantity of fluid that had gone into my leg. So after a couple of days at home, the pain got worse, and a tennis ball sized lump started to form in my hamstring (muscle in the upper back of your leg). I couldn’t sit on it, or even touch it. Systematically I also wasn’t doing too well. My heartrate was permanently over 100bpm which is known in the profession as Tachycardia, and my blood pressure was very low. These are all signs of infection. After a few days I put through an econsult with my gp. I was told they would phone between 1-6 on the Friday, but no one called. By 8pm the pain was so unbearable that we made the decision to go to A&E.

Me in A&E. Not looking too happy!

So after a bit of a wait I was trialed, and seen by a lovely Dr, who said I had to be admitted. They were very busy, and I was told that when I got to AMU, which is an emergency ward, I would be given pain relief, and they would scan my leg or do an ultrasound, and would be started on antibiotics. She reassured that they would get to the bottom of it. Well, none of this happened. I spent over 12 hours in a bed begging for pain relief, and no one would listen. Not only that, but they took my own medication from my bag, without my knowledge when I was in the bathroom. I have a chronic pain condition, and can’t go without my usual medication, and they wouldn’t even give me those. They did no tests, gave no treatment, and basically ignored me completely. I asked why, and was told they were busy. There were 5 other people in my bay and all 5 relieved treatment. Yet I was treated like I was a junkie asking for meds. They made a judgement and that was that. It wasn’t until 13 hours when I had asked repeatedly to speak to the ward manager that she showed up. She was lovely, and had no idea of what I was suffering. She immediately gave me my own medication back and I told her I wanted to go home. The crps was out of control by that point. I was briefly seen by a Dr, and despite the overwhelming symptoms pointing towards an infection, he refused antibiotics. Over the weekend I deteriorated further. I saw my gp on the Monday, who said I needed immediate treatment. But I had to go back to the same place. Well I just broke down. I couldn’t bear to be treated that way again. But she was amazing and spoke to the manager. Told her what had happened, and asked if I could be seen in the other part of the ward. So I was. There I had an ultrasound where they found a large sack filled with fluid inside my muscle. I was started on antibiotics and let home with an appointment for a scan the next day. I had my scan which showed a huge amount of swelling and a large fluid filled sack. The next day I was admitted for treatment. I ended up on the sister ward of amu and they were much nicer. I ended up being moved to Wynard ward where they’ve been wonderful. I had the lump drained by an amazing consultant in radiology. It was filled with what he called, pea soup… lovely puss. He took one look at my observations and said that I was septic. I was immediately started on IV antibiotics and oral antibiotics… and here we are. They know there is stafflococcus in my leg, but not sure as yet if its the MRSA (MRSA is a type of bacteria that’s resistant to several widely used antibiotics. This means infections with MRSA can be harder to treat than other bacterial infections) or another type. So I’m in isolation just incase, and awaiting news from microbiology, hopefully tomorrow.

Me on the ward…

They have been lovely on this ward. All the nurses and Dr’s have been fantastic. My veins are all rather rubbish now, so if my antibiotics need to continue longer, I may need a more permanent solution, like a long line or central line. Pretty scary stuff to be honest. So now I’m just waiting for news. Crossing all fingers that I can go home soon, and finally be on the road to recovery. The access and infection are a very rare complication of having a nerve catheter. So of course, being the Queen of rarities, it was bound to happen to me 🤣. Still, onwards and hopefully upwards. I’m busy watching Nurse Jackie box set, and my wonderful wifey has been to see me every day, so can’t grumble too much. The TMR surgical wound is so neat and I think it’s already helping. So, hopefully good news for tomorrow 🤞

20 days and counting …

As you may have gathered, I’m still in hospital! I mistakenly thought I’d be in and out within 5 days. I was pre-warned that it could take a couple of weeks, or possibly longer, but I thought, I’m tough, I’ve been through lots already, I have a very high tolerance to pain… None of those things make any difference to any hospital stay. It is impossible to predict how you will recover, or how long it will take. I can say, that previous to this experience, I was certain that I had reached the very hight of my pain level. That pain couldn’t possibly be worse that CRPS flares with neuromas… I was wrong. CRPS flares, with surgery is far worse. I was warned, so it wasn’t lime I went into this not knowing that things would be tough. But usual me… I shrugged it off, and thought to myself ‘oh well, what’s a little more pain?’ Well, I can tell you… a lot!!! I’m feeling battered, bruised, sore, sick, tired, and missing my babies. All that said, however, things are steadily improving, and the care and treatment I have received here at the QVH hospital in East Grinstead has been just incredible. All of the staff are just to kind, and caring. They have been there for me through night and day. I know you must be thinking, well thats what is supposed to happen in hospital, well let me say… it doesn’t always happen. After being a Nirse myself for 14 years, I’ve seen a substantial lack in compassion within the field. Yet here, they all have oodles of it. They are warm, and friendly. They make me cups of tea in the night when I’m awake in pain. My surgeon Tania Cubison, the genius, always comes by every morning to check on me. The pain nurses have been in every day, trying everything they can to see me through the tough times. The anaesthetists have been to see me every morning and evening to administer boluses into the nerve catheter in my leg. I am honestly, truly amazed.

Battered and bruised!!

So, we have lowered my intravenous pain medications now, and are lowering the local anaesthetic meds going into the nerve catheter in my leg. The pain is rather bad a couple of times a day, which is when the anaesthetists step in. But we’re making improvements in that respect as well. The plan is that the nerve catheter needs to come out by the weekend, as its been in too long by that stage, and could increase risk of infection, which I definitely do not need. So watch this space. Hopefully I will be home by early next week, if not sooner 🤞

Pin cushion!! 🤣

TMR progress…

I’ve now been in hospital 9 days. 8 days post op. Had my TMR (Targeted Muscle Reinnervation) surgery on Thursday last week. Had a bit of a rocky ride since then. My pain levels sky rocketed and not much seemed to bring it down, other than visits from an anaesthetist to put a bolus (big volume) of local anaesthetic into the catheter (tube) which was placed during surgery to administer constant local anaesthetic into my leg. We now think that the catheter was rubbing directly on a nerve, so causing more pain. So yesterday, the Dr’s had a pow-wow and decided to take the catheter out. The hope being that the pain would get better. It did with movement, but not anything else, intact it sky rocketed further. I spent the day screaming in pain. Never felt anything so bad. My CRPS was flaring, and my leg was killing, so it was back to theatre to have a new nerve catheter placed.

Pre and post op

Now, the next morning, there is a significant improvement. My pain is back to its normal level. Which is amazing. Along with the pain before, the Dr’s tried a few new medicines. Wish we hadn’t, as they all seemed to cause the same reaction… Sudden Tachycardia (high heart rate over 100 bpm) and light headedness. One of them dropped my BP as well, and another caused extreme shaking all over my body. This happened 6 times in total. Rather scary. So now, today, I will be happy just to have a day with less pain, and no complications.

Pin cushion!

So now I’m still in East Grinstead hospital. I have to say, the staff are all absolutely amazing. Completely different to any other hospital stay I’ve had. They actually believe you when you say that your in pain. They don’t try to kick you out just because they are convinced you should be going home now! Unlike another hospital. Who decided that after a week, I shouldn’t be in as much pain as I was, and started to get quite impatient with me for being in pain!

Here is what hospital treatment should be like. Where nurses actually care, and no one makes you feel like your a burden. I’d actually consider moving here, just for better treatment! So, fingers and toes crossed for the next few days, and with no more blips, hopefully I will start to recover nicely.