-itis

Sometimes, as the week winds down, you just don’t want to do anything. This is where I was sitting on Friday afternoon, more than an hour before the end of my work day. I was tired of work, tired of my office, ready to enjoy some free time.

My work: I write all around this topic in a vague fashion—as if my profession is a big secret—so I’m guessing that my job is unclear to any and all readers: I work as the finance director of a YWCA. My workplace is similar to a YMCA—fitness center, child care, swimming pool, etc—but our stated purpose is different. The YMCA focuses on youth development, healthy living, social responsibility. The YWCA is partially about empowering women… but incongruously, it’s mostly about eliminating racism. It’s interesting to note that there’s no Christianity in either mission statement.

But while we say that our goal is eliminating racism and empowering women, we’re also a business. So primarily, my YWCA provides child care and sells fitness memberships.

Right in the middle of my Friday I’m-ready-to-be-done-with-the-day funk, my daughter Sophie walked into my office. At fourteen, she just completed her first job interview, scored her first job. She got hired as the Saturday morning baby-sitter for people coming in to exercise.

This is where people will think: “Hmmm, so your daughter is now working for you. How nepotistic.” Well Susan works at the Y too, as a massage therapist, so that bridge has already been crossed. We might as well make it a family affair.

We only live a half mile or so from the Y, but it was pouring out, so I offered Sophie a ride home. During this brief trip, I decided that I was done for the day. I grabbed my cycling clothes and shoes and returned to the Y for an intense hour in the spin room.

For the past year. I’ve been battling –itises. Medically, an “-itis” is inflammation of a body part. But popularly, it can also be used as a shortcut to describe a chronic condition. Here’s an example: when I was younger, I had a bad case of cocktail-itis!”

But my cocktail-itis condition has cleared up. Now my -itis is inflammation. Specifically, in my tendons, my bursae, and my fasciae. I’m getting really sick of it. I’m going through one of those phases where I’m dropping activities because of chronic inflammation. When I lift weights, I get tendinitis and bursitis in my elbow and shoulder. Last fall, from my running, I got fasciitis on the bottom of my foot.

For the last seven years, the one physical activity that has caused zero injuries is spinning.

For the uninformed, spinning is an indoor bicycle ride. The Y has fifteen spin-bikes in a semi-circle around an instructor-bike. The instructor puts together a music playlist and a choreographed workout. The class follows along. Spin workouts range from moderate exercise to puddle-of-sweat-on-the-floor. But because each rider controls the tension on their own bike, any class is a good fit for a wide range of fitness levels.

So, who gets to be the instructor? I do.

In addition to financial management, I instruct a Monday evening class. I’d like to say mine is a popular class, but I’m really just too weird. I pull in a decent number of riders—around ten—each week. My class is consistently challenging, but the music becomes a bit of a sticking point. Most instructors use pop and classic rock. I use those too, but sparingly. What I want to play is obscure songs by obscure punk bands from the seventies, eighties and nineties. My conversational banter tends to be small jokes that only I understand, and I have this problem where I can’t tell if I’ve met someone before. I introduce myself to the same people week after week.

Sorry, digression. Back to my -itis problem.

About a month ago, just before spring really sprung on southern Pennsylvania, we got whacked with a snowstorm. For me, this was appreciated and perfectly timed. I love a good dumping, but I also want it to melt away quickly so I don’t need to deal with icy roadways as I ride my bike to work. My favorite part of snow is shoveling the driveway. It’s physical, it’s meditative, and it’s easy to tell when you’re done. In contrast, my work, with its monthly and annual cycles, is never done. Close out a month and you’re halfway into the next month. Wrap up a year and you’re already thinking about the end of the next year. There’s no winning the race. There’s always another lap to run.

The day after shoveling snow, I had tendinitis in both shoulders. And not just run-of-the-mill tendinitis, but the super-painful kind. Reach for a glass on the top shelf and it feels like someone has poked a glowing hot ice-pick through your skin. Lift a carton of milk out of the refrigerator, and it feels like something is tearing apart deep in your joint.

I’d had enough. I went to the doctor and got a round of prednisone to zap the inflammation in my shoulder, my elbow and my foot.

Deep into my prednisone, on a rainy Friday night, we cooked up some homemade pizza and turned on Daddy Daycare for family movie night. Prednisone is an agitating medication. While it works well to calm inflammation, it also amps up the nervous system. And Daddy Daycare is an agitating movie. Those serious parts that fly over my kids’ heads (the story between the testicular rackings and the hornets-nest poking) were inserted in the movie just to stress me out.

Family financial concerns, children with socialization problems, poor parenting, noncompliance with state child care regulations. These are all stressors that arise in my life on a regular basis. And they were all prominently placed in this “lighthearted comedy.”

Even the hornet nest scene left me feeling agitated. Last fall, while Susan and I were doing a season-ending garden clean-up, Susan upset a ground hive. She was instantly covered from foot to face with yellow-jackets. I chivalrously ran to her aid and only succeeded in getting myself stung a bunch of times as well. Now we were watching the same scene as comedy.

After the bee attack, the emergency room doctor prescribed Susan with a few days of prednisone as treatment. She spent two full days wide awake, itchy and agitated as the steroids worked their way through her system. Daddy Daycare’s hornets hit home.

I’m a vain person. At least when it comes to my physique. I want people to take a look at me and say “Whoa, that dude’s fit.” I was like this once: ripped, sinewy calves; squared off quads; six-pack abs, and cut, sectioned biceps and triceps. My shoulders are a lost cause. Naturally sloping, and forever marred by a 1995 bicycle accident. My left shoulder is two inches less broad than my right. I try to make up for this with the rest of my body.

My -itis problem has humbled me. Everything is turning soft, sort of flabby. The chiseled edges are now smooth and rounded.

My plantar fasciitis seems to be on the mend. My running distances are slowly increasing, a half a mile or so per week. Today I’m planning to run six miles, which in my mind is where ‘distance running’ begins. But my other -itises? I don’t think so. Yesterday, I popped into a store to grab a bucket of cat litter. For the past fifteen years, cat litter units have been increasing steadily. We’ve moved away from the fifteen pound bags the stores sold since I was a kid. What I bought yesterday was a thirty-pound bucket. After hauling it to the register, then out to my car, that soreness in my elbow returned. Bursitis! My prednisone isn’t working.

As my weekend winds down, Sunday morning—just one day left, I’m already dreading my return to work. Monday-itis. Will I be recharged, ready to face my workweek? Or will Monday morning just be a continuation of the malaise I was feeling on Friday afternoon?

10 thoughts on “-itis

  1. You teach spinning???? Cool! I am hoping to give it a try when I am on the mend. I love bike riding- so I am sure I will love spin class.
    I hear you about Monday-itis. That is a cruel bitchy ‘itis’ to have.

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  2. Welcome to mid-life, my friend. I started a new dance exercise routine a few weeks ago and loved it. I thought things were going really well until I woke up one morning and couldn’t move without screaming. The chiropractor couldn’t find anything wrong and thought I might simply be swollen around the ribs (rib-itis?) from the impact activity. It took ten days to heal. I’ve never felt so old!

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  3. Yeah, aging sucks. My upper body is soft and flabby now. The muscle’s been lost to shoulder arthritis and a rotator cuff injury. I still take a little comfort that my lower body is still muscular, however. Aerobic work is the best choice I ever made.

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  4. Very well-written article! You have my sympathies in all of this. Trying so hard and having your body react in such negative ways is tough. And it sounds like job dissatisfaction may add to tension and increase strain. Is there any kind of change you could do, different dept or such?

    Sometimes I wonder if diet can be at the root of some of our modern woes; allergies are usually quite up-front, like getting hives every time you eat oatmeal. If I eat ginger (esp fresh-baked cookies, pumpkin pie) my gums swell up with water blisters. I also discovered at one point that certain brands of coffee inflame my nerves so the nerves in my legs felt “on fire” all night. Easy enough: no coffee, no fire. But how does one know what one is allergic to if the results are a misc. “itis”?

    I’ve always heard, “If you stay fit and exercise a lot, you’ll feel great all the time. You won’t have all these stiffening-up issues.” Surprise! Arthritis affects my movements now, but a few years ago I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, (which is treatable.) Last year I took chemo from April to Sept, and during that time I barely knew I had arthritis. Gotta love those steroids!

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    • A few people have mentioned job dissatisfaction, which surprised me. I didn’t realize I was projecting this. It’s a real heads-up. I spend half my life trying to figure out how foods affect my body. The biggest surprise is that when I quit drinking alcohol, my knee bursitis went permanently away. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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