Giving Up Gardening?
I am thinking that I should give up gardening. A couple of years ago, I planted a number of new peony plants in an established garden in my side-yard. In the last two years, I watched in amazement as the new flowers grew and then bloomed, but then as the heat of the season increased, I left them alone. In no time at all, the beds were overtaken by flowering weeds and crabgrass. Determined to keep this from happening this year, I set out two days ago to weed my garden-space and to give the peonies a fighting chance for survival. It was my plan to pull out all of the existing weeds and crabgrass fragments and to then treat the bed with a pre-emergent weed and grass killer.
Left: An example of one of the new peonies that I added to my garden two seasons ago.
I spent a few hours on my knees in the garden day before yesterday in the balmy 70º F weather of January, 2007 (Is this a sign of global warming?). The following day, I found that I could barely move my legs. You may find this humorous and laugh at an older guy who is learning that his body can’t return to normal as quickly as it used to do, but I think this is not just average wear and tear that we experience with aging. I suspect a potentially serious side-effect of my medication: lactic acidosis. Hell, I am only 47 years old—the age my dad was at my 10th birthday and I never remember seeing him deal with anything like this.
Luckily, I have an appointment tomorrow morning with my HIV specialist. It has been 4 months since I last saw him, and since then, I have found that the muscles in my shoulders and back, and now in my thighs and buttocks tend to veer toward extreme tension that is painful and resistant to relief from medication and massage. Individual muscles, all buried deeply under the surface muscles, tend to turn into huge knots of flesh that are extremely painful to the touch. Additionally, my joints are popping and cracking when I move as if I were a bag of microwave popcorn set on high. It has been years now that my muscles have exhibited hypertrophy and extreme definition for no apparent reason (I am not a gym bunny and my calves are about 18 inches in diameter!!!)
Left: A photo of my right leg, showing the hypertrophic development of the muscles of my calf and the extreme definition of the muscles in my thigh. I do not work out, so this is a tad bit bizarre, eh?
When I have been treated to massage, my partner has spent hours working on just one part of my body only to find that he was exhausted at the end of the process. Pressing on an individual muscle would cause me to moan in pain, while he tried to push and squeeze the muscle into relaxation. I have likened the experience to being ironed, especially when he is working on my back. I can feel his strong arms moving from my lower back, pressing with all of his strength into the flesh, only to find that his arm will encounter a muscle mass so rigid that it will roll under his weight to suddenly give and pop under his arm, right back into its place. When he finds such a “wrinkle”, he will come back to it with deep pressure on the muscle with his thumbs, starting at one end of the muscle and pressing along its length until that one muscle relaxes. Then, he moves on to the next.
At times, when he presses into the tissue, the pain is so intense that it actually sends waves of pain into my feet, my hands, my neck and head, but no where as badly as in the spot where his thumb is pressing in the middle of my back. I moan and sometimes cry out in pain, but when the individual muscles actually do finally release their tension, the relief is unbelievably wonderful. I was having particular problems with pain in my right shoulder last week, and when the muscles at the top of my shoulders finally relaxed, I felt and heard the bones of my shoulder actually pick up and move into the place that they should have been occupying. My muscle tension seems to have actually pulled the bones from their proper location.
The fact that any one muscle can take 10-15 minutes of attention, you can imagine the duration of these sessions and the extent of the problem. I could spend a good 4 hours on a massage table only to have one shoulder relaxed and another one to remain completely seized up. My partner has been a wonderful soul to spend his time and energy kneading my back, but it exhausts him and worse, disturbs him about the quality of my health and my healthcare.
At present, I am unable to walk without a limp because of the seizing of the muscles in my thighs and buttocks. It is much too painful to flex my legs to lift their weight. To cross my legs, I have to grab the cuff of my pants and pull it up until my leg is in place. Sitting down is a huge source of pain. I have to find a seat where I can brace myself by placing my arms on the chair or couch, and then have to ease myself down slowly. If I can not reach the seat of the chair with my hands, I basically have to fall into the seat with a small cry of pain. Toilet seats are particularly painful as they usually have no padding and the sore muscles suddenly are slammed into a hard plastic seat that seems to be aimed perfectly at the sources of the pain. I spent an hour and a half last night having these muscles kneaded, but in that time, only one of my legs could be done. Today, I am walking a little bit sideways.
I look forward to talking about these new health issues with my doctor. I would prefer to find a solution that does not involve taking new medications as I am already taking more than 20 pills a day. It is likely that some of my problems are related to the medications that I am already taking. If the offending drugs are my anti-retroviral medications, then it may be time to consider another change of regimen. Those of you who know me know that I am not keen on fiddling around with these meds as their own side-effect profiles differ so greatly from one drug to another. I could find that my muscles relax, but that I have to live with chronic diarrhea, liver toxicity or super-realistic horrifying dreams and changes in mental status brought on by new drugs. Also, I am already resistant to a number of antiretroviral drugs, so my options are beginning to wane.
It may not be a surprise to you to realize that facing a drug regimen change is a stressful situation. I find myself dealing with issues of quality of life that are substantial and anxiety about how taking a new drug can redefine my life. I do know, though, that this muscle tension is not a normal situation and that something has to be done to stop it.
Categories: HIV AIDS HIV/AIDS muscles side-effects anti-retroviral+treatment gardening photography medications