What the hell happened to me? (or why I’ve been screaming in pain for the past 3-ish months)

I’ve been absent from the world and extremely grumpy since November 2011. Being in the sort of pain where industrial strength painkillers have absolutely no effect does that to you. Some of you out there have asked me what happened. Well, this is for you (and maybe some of you who just happened to wander in out of curiosity)

This all started back in late October. My foot suffered a minor pinched nerve. I was used to this sort of injury from badminton and running. It was the type of injury that just a needed a couple of days rest. A couple of days rest later, it stayed on but didn’t really get worse. So I started walking around again and doing normal everyday things. NORMAL in this case means no strenuous activity. No gym, no badminton, no running, no physical activity whatsoever. NOTHING!

It got a little worse again, with some irritation crawling up the leg to the knee. Rested a bit again. It was getting better when I got forced to go to the doctor to have it checked.  The drive. The long walk from the parking lot to the doctor’s office. The standing around waiting for the doctor. The long walk back to the parking lot. The drive back. My leg was throbbing but not painful after this trip. Two days later, SUFFERING 1.0 began. What was a minor pain in the foot became what felt like small nails being pounded in the foot and the knee.

A trip to the doctor’s office made it worse. Ironic, isn’t it?

Anyway, complete rest for about a week and again, it was getting better. Felt well enough to allow myself to get dragged to mass. Got there late. There were no seats. Stood up for the whole mass. And two days later, SUFFERING 2.0 began.

When you wake up and you find that your knee is locked into position neither being able to be straightened or bended , be afraid. When every little movement feels like bigger nails from SUFFERING 1.0 being hammered into the back of your knee, be VERY afraid.  After a week, the pain dissipated enough for me to go to a doctor (not the one from SUFFERING 1.0). My knee remained locked at about a 170° so I was walking really oddly. While staying still and making small movement, there was really no pain but walking was another story. Every step would cause said nails to be pounded into the leg.

The visit to this doctor did not go well. The doctor was 2 hours late. I was really not happy with the consultation. As I was telling the whole sordid story, the doctor interrupted me to examine the leg. He tried to push the leg down to straighten it. The knee wouldn’t budge and wouldn’t straighten into place. So the doctor started saying some really scary words like MRI… Torn Ligament… Torn Miniscus… ACL… After leaving, I immediately decided to look for a second opinion.

Now, I USED to live a pretty active life. I play badminton. I go to the gym. I run. And if this injury happened a couple of days, heck, after a week of doing these. I’d really understand. But this happened as I was living a sedentary lifestyle. That is, recuperating from a “minor” foot nerve pinch. I admit it could have been a result of the continuous strain these activities due to my being gravity-friendly and all. But I digress…

Anyway, towards the last part of November,  I heard about INTERCARE. This really good, but somewhat expensive, sports medicine clinic in Makati. They took a look at the injury. The doctor listened to the whole sordid story and proceeded with treatment. Treatment was a daily 2-hour session of intense pain. The affected areas (which turned out to be the entire back the leg from the foot, up to the calves and the hamstring)  were  so sensitive that even light rubbing would make the entire leg spasm and would summon the dreaded nails. A week later, treatments were down to three times a week. The leg was straightening out really slowly, though the pain during treatment was still 11 out of 10. To add to my misery, the treatments were not covered by my HMO. Did I mention that the clinic was somewhat expensive?

What did the doctor say? The muscles of the back of the leg tensed up and could not relax. Which is why when the doctors tried to push the knee down, it never straightened and all it was to cause a lot of pain. During the first week of treatment, the fear of an ACL and/or torn miniscus was still lingering. The really weird thing (though reassuring) was that while there was pain, and the locked leg, there was no swelling and lessened the probability that it was a torn ligament. To the doctor’s credit, they decided to try therapy before asking me to go for an MRI. (Side note: I didn’t need an MRI).  As to WHY and HOW this happened? That’s something the doctor couldn’t even answer.

By the way, though somewhat expensive, I cannot recommend INTERCARE enough for anyone with this sort of injury. Besides getting better, the constant reassurance that I didn’t need an operation was very comforting. The doctors and therapists really know what they’re doing. Check them out http://www.intercare-centers.com.

And now back to your regularly scheduled program…

This was my December 2012 story. Crutches, pain, painkillers, Muscle Relaxants, therapy, rinse, repeat. I couldn’t even sit down for long periods or else the leg would lock back into the bended position and undo the progress from therapy. So no computer games, no work (primarily though because of pain the painkillers I was taking were making me really woozy), no Christmas parties. These days were spent with  hot compresses and weight spread over the leg to push down and straighten it. Not comfortable at all and in varying degrees of pain.

Towards the end of December, things were getting better. I traded the crutches for a cane. I really thought I’d have fully recovered by New Year’s Eve. I was wrong.

Up ’til now, I could use a cane but extending the leg is still painful and the knee has a tendency to buckle. Just last week, the doctor said I could just have a home therapist go to the house every couple of days. And these sessions are still really painful. Stairs are still an obstacle. Walking long distances cause knee pain and sometimes tighten up the loosened muscles. I still can’t drive because the leg can’t move fast enough to use the brake and gas safely, in traffic. Hopefully, I’ll be fully up and at ’em by late January. At least, I can sit down without fear of the leg locking again. Trying to avoid painkillers as much as possible. I’m sure I’ve ingested enough from November and December to need major detox when I get out and about.

This ordeal was no joke. Besides the constant excruciating pain, I was constantly on the verge of getting really depressed. On several levels, It wasn’t really a good 2011 for me. Being alone and in pain, gave me scratch that, forced me to really think about several things that have to be done and have to be removed purged exorcised (and I don’t use that term lightly). It made me rethink relationships and friendships. Of Whys, Why Nots, What-Coulda-Beens and Thank God-That’s-Bloody-Over. There were several bits of sunshine (one coming from an unlikely, though very welcome source) that seeped through the clouds, and to those bits of light, you have my gratitude and it is a privilege for me to call you friend.

After this, I’ll never look at a flight of steps in the same way ever again. Heck, I won’t take walking for granted ever again. Besides the “insult” of being severely injured while being sedentary, there was another “insult” which I’ll share if ever we bump into each other. If you’re still reading and got to the end of this tale, I really pray that nothing this bad will ever happen to you.

Listening to my 15k running playlist as I finish this off. See y’all when I see you.

The Cycle Of Opportunity Resolution… 2011

The Cycle of Destruction of 2010 for me has ended. And it WAS a violent and depressing cycle. End of Destruction. Beginning of opportunity.

If there’s something I took away from the ReaderCon yesterday, it’s that I really need to get this blog out there. Not for anyone else, but really for me. At least something that gets me up and at ’em in the morning. I resolve to write (not blog, write) something, anything, with mistakes, with errors and with the least amount of OC-ness just to click on that PUBLISH button.

I’ve merged the three blogs into this. I’ll be getting some of my book reviews from Shelfari as well. There are some drafts leftover and I have to finish ’em. Even if the content is obsolete and outdated.

Wish me luck. Here’s hoping this kickstarts the next 365 days. (sigh)

Brooks Loomis, DTM: In Memoriam

Brooks During this 80th... errr.. 79th birthday

The following is an article (with some personal excerpts) I wrote for the 2011 District Convention souvenir program honoring the Makati Toastmasters beloved Mentor, Brooks Loomis.

Farewell, buddy. You will be remembered and you will be missed.

When I found out Brooks passed away, I tried to write a eulogy to mourn his death… but I couldn’t. How can one write something so sad about someone who not only lived loving what he was doing, but died sharing what he was most passionate about to the world?

My first encounter with Brooks was when I attended a Speechcraft seminar way back in 1995. I really didn’t expect to get anything out of Toastmasters. I thought I knew enough about communication. It took a lot of cajoling to get me to attend the first session. I really had no intention of going back. Then I met Brooks Loomis, and he made me realize that what I thought I knew about public speaking and presentations were sorely lacking.

It turns out that at that point, Brooks had been in Manila for some time and he had been a Toastmaster for much longer. His Toastmasters career began in the US Navy while he was stationed in Spain. He joined to improve his ability to represent the navy in public forums. His favorite story from this era was that he used to keep speeches around just in case nobody delivers. He would get his norms in record time this way.

Brooks always had a penchant for leadership. He retired as Master Chief Petty Officer from the US Navy. His retirement ceremony was one of the most well-attended ever in the history of the US Navy. His leadership style endeared him to peers and subordinates alike.

In the Toastmaster movement, he became District Governor of District 7, comprising the states of Maryland and Delaware.  His number one mentor was the late Past International President Ted Wood, DTM.

Brooks had an opportunity to be the Toastmasters International President. He was being groomed to be the first international president of the new millenium. However, a romantic twist of fate changed all that. He met Dinah Santos who was running for an international position back in the 1990s. They got married in 1992 in California and that’s when Brooks moved to the Philippines.

In his younger years, Brooks, together with Dinah, organized, sponsored and mentored at least 35 new clubs around Metro Manila. Several of those clubs have become inactive, but those that are active are still growing and benefit from the training Brooks and Dinah have imparted to them.

Brooks pushed for initiatives like the MIPIT (Most Important Person In Toastmasters) addition to the officers training sessions. This stressed the importance of the member as the most important cog in the Toastmasters machinery. He wanted this as a way to educated the members of the District.

He was constantly called on to be chief contest judge. Besides having encyclopedic knowledge and unquestioned integrity, Brooks’ wrath when it came to biased judging was legendary. Woe to any judge who dared cross him.

As a pillar of the Makati Toastmasters Club, he was a dear mentor, a member and a friend. Even in his late years, he would still make the effort to attend meetings, struggling through Manila’s nightmarish traffic. He wasn’t selfish about sharing his knowledge on public speaking, communication, leadership and everything else. His “STGO/Something To Grow On” evaluations are always encouraging and the style has trickled down to all of the clubs he’s supported.

But even with the lofty heights that Brooks has scaled, he was still a down-to-earth regular Joe. He didn’t mind being the target of the jokes. He laughed with us as we made fun of his age and his being the evaluator of the Loomis household (Dinah was the General Evaluator).

Brooks took this duty of excellence even outside the Toastmaster’s meeting room. He made the best pasta bolognese I’ve ever had claiming it to be a recipe by the great Italian opera singer, Enrico Caruso. He claimed that to make the sauce perfectly, one needed to simmer the sauce for hours to extract all the flavors from the ground beef and herbs.

He was a kick-ass mentor and he taught by example. I had a problem getting credentials from Toastmasters International. I was in hibernation for about ten years and I wanted to continue where I left off. He told me who to write to in California. When I got my certification done, he was one of the first people I broke the news to. And he texts back “Congratulations AC-B Jeeves. At the rate you’re going, I’ll probably be DEAD before you reach DTM.” (Note: DTM/Distinguished Toastmaster is the highest rank that can be achieved in the Toastmasters movement) You can bet that that was enough motivation for me to finish soon.

On January 30, 2011, the Makati Toastmasters Club threw a birthday bash in honor of what we thought was his 80th birthday. Turned out that it was just his 79th birthday and we were one year ahead. Barely a month later on March 12, 2011, Brooks Loomis passed away as he was being interviewed for a TV show about leadership and communication.

It was a noble death befitting a noble life lived by a noble man. His wake became a collection of happy moments where mourners came together to remember, celebrate and make fun of the man, the Toastmaster, and the friend that was R. Brooks Loomis. He leaves behind a family that loved him, a global community that respected him and friends that he infected with his love of Toastmasters to continue his great work.

And we say to R.Brooks Loomis, wherever he may be. “Go with fair winds and following seas, my friend. You will be missed.”

The Day I Shot The Dream King

This all started with a snarky comment on a friend’s FB status message. She said she was interviewing Neil Gaiman in person. I jokingly remarked “If you need a photographer, I’ll shoot for free.”

Last Monday, I was really surprised to get an SMS from Ida saying “Are you serious about shooting for free?” Thought about it for a bit thinking of SMS-ing, “I meant FREElance.” Sandman and Death-Fanboyism took over and texted back, “Hell Yeah!” (WUSS!)

And that was it. Borrowed a 50mm f/1.8 lens just to make sure I do justice to the King Of Dreams’ pictures. Unsuccessfully attempted to get all those Gaiman books of mine floating about back home for autographs. Ended up wayy to busy to go to the bookstore and get new ones. But still, was ready as I could be for the morning with the Dream King.

The morning came. Happily lugged my camera/s, phones and laptop and crawled to Rockwell. Thought I was late but wasn’t. Had a conversation with the Adobo peeps about the pictures and the interview started.

When it was my turn to be introduced, I told him what he wrote about Michael Moorcock. “I’m mostly your fault.” Weird/eclectic, geek/nerd meets high priest. Was too busy snapping away to actually listen to the interview. Couldn’t help but think that he does sound like Alan Rickman. Towards the end, there were a couple of minutes where we all chilled out.

“I thought this was for Adobo, not for Playboy.” As Morpheus chilled out on the couch and proceeded to pose. Dang light got in the way. Adobo Editor said something about all hell breaking lose when fanboys meet their idol. I proceeded to sputter something about “You have to be O-C when you meet your high priest.” which got an amused nod of approval from the interviewee. I said something about never being starstruck (and this was a rare thing for me to be starstruck). Mr. Gaiman immediately said that it was okay to be starstruck and he was the same when he did his first interview with another sci-fi writer. I didn’t get the name ‘coz I was busy packing up my gear. Did the obligatory pics. Had him autograph the only book I could find on my shelf. Snapped a couple more pics…. and that was it.

I later learned that Neil Gaiman sponsors the prize money for The Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. Amazing guy. He’s really an evangelist/high priest of alternative literature making sure that the message spreads as far as our little corner of the globe. Truly someone who’s passionate about something.

And so as I was looking over the pictures over mediocre pasta, I just thought that there ARE things like this where the task itself is its own great reward. There are so many things I spend time, blood, sweat, gas (as in fuel… oh wait a minute) and money on to feed a a starved soul. Sadly, there are some that are slowly becoming obligations and duty rather passion and pride. Musts and have-tos rather then wants and “hell-yeah-let’s-do-it”s. Still, could be helluva lot worse. At least, I can still count myself among the lucky ones that when opportunities like these to quench the spirit come up, I can simply stumble into ’em and hope for the best. Nooo pressure.

That’s one thing I can check off the bucket list  (Have a conversation with Neil Gaiman.) And that’s worth helluva lot more than any photographer’s fees I’d be able to charge (at this stage anyway. :D)

Moral of the story is: Don’t be afraid to post snarky comments on friends FB status-es. Who knows where you’ll end up.