I cried… but just a little. The smile and wind on my face wouldn’t let those tears of joy win!!
The last time I rode I also cried – it hurt so bad. I couldn’t even pedal without turning my right leg 45 degrees out and had to lay the bike on the ground to dismount because I couldn’t lift either leg over the bar.
Today, I felt like I was 10 again and trying out my bright blue brand-new Schwinn 10-speed for the first time!!
I didn’t even hurt getting on or off!
I kept it easy today – partly because I forgot to put air in those tires and partly because I still have what feels like a chalkboard eraser in my upper thigh which made pedaling feel a bit weird. But I will take weird any day over the nausea inducing pain of yore!
Keeping with the theme of TEN from above- I walked TEN miles yesterday (over 2 walks) and today my surgeon released me to live again – but take it easy, girl – my new hip is a PERFECT TEN – and he’ll see me in TEN years for a checkup!
Healing is complex. It’s the torture and heaven of physical therapy. It is discipline and grace. It is the constant challenge of knowing your limits but also not being afraid to test them.
For me, it is also the arduous work of excavating one’s life down to its foundation so this “new life” of mine won’t just be a replay of my past mistakes. That I might have a fighting chance. This might be the most painful work of all, but it is also the most promising.
At times, though, it’s as simple as listening to the bees quiet down as the sun sets on another day. Grateful for nature’s little reminders of the proper order of life and the simple serenity of a quiet summer evening.
Today marks 28 days of being a hippie – the titanium variation. I have literally made great strides in the last 4 weeks – remarkably so when I look back on those first few days. I felt like a newborn foal on wobbly legs, uncertain of every step and amazed that I could even take one! The initial pain and brain fogginess have subsided and now acetaminophen is the only medication I take – to ease the soreness and the zingers shooting down my leg from the thigh muscles and nerves that were cut. This is good pain. It serves as a healthy reminder that I am still healing – and I need to be reminded. I am only 1/3 of the way through the initial healing process of a total hip replacement and I have a good ways to go. My mind thinks otherwise and my body takes the brunt of lessons learned the hard way.
The body has an amazing ability to heal – if we allow it to.
In the initial stages of recovery, this is not such a difficult feat. I was exhausted and physically could not do anything other than eat, sleep, move as prescribed, sleep again, eat again and sleep again. Gradually the need for sleep gave way to the need for more movement – a sign that I was reaching a stable state and my body was at a point where I could start challenging it to resume daily activities – like changing the bed linens, vacuuming, walking with less and less equipment assisting me, and returning to work. In this stage, I would quickly learn when I had done too much because my body would quit on me – right then and there – and I would give it proper rest. I often felt frustrated and defeated. I despaired at the level of fitness I had “lost” overnight. Mind you this was days 14-21. A mere 2 weeks out from my surgery!!
But now, here I am at day 28 – officially 4 weeks from the day my femur met the saw blade and my hip socket met a reamer. I have established a new routine and returned to work full-time. I walk in the morning and the evening and take short jaunts around the parking lot throughout the day to keep my hip from getting stiff. I do my balance work and resistance band exercises twice a day and I am making good progress. This is the first time in years I have been able to stand on one leg and hold that pose for a solid minute! BUT, I have always had a more-is-better mentality and this is where I struggle. This is when the healing process really gets hard. I want to push myself to go farther – to do more – to get rid of of the ants in my pants!
My patience for recovery is wearing thin. I’m tired of runners sprinting by me on my walks and bicyclists passing me by. I long for a mountain summit now that the rain has stopped, the sun is warm, and the wildflowers beckon. The urgency of now is the bane of my current existence!!
My mind remembers my 17-mile runs, my twice daily 6-8-mile walks, and my HIIT & strength training routines of just 2 months ago and craves the activity. Celebrating walking 4 miles twice a day just seems so – so miniscule – such a physical diminishment. And yet – my body is doing something greater than pumping iron and setting personal bests – it is healing the largest bone in my body, it is becoming one with titanium, it is recreating and building cut muscles and finding new nerve pathways. Why do I struggle to celebrate these amazing feats? Why is is so hard to let the healing process happen? Why does this slowed down present time feel like an eternity when it seems like just yesterday I was waking up to a wonderful new reality?
There must be truth to the old adage “Time heals all wounds,” or it wouldn’t have stood the test of time. It is a hard lesson to appreciate in the urgency of now but I know my future health and happiness depends on it.
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:28-31
Last night I went out for my evening walk. It was a beautiful evening and I started out strong. I am using walking poles as I walk alone with my dog (he has an e-collar and heels like a good boy!) and a my PT reminds me every session – falling is about the only thing I can do right now to mess this up. Having walked in the morning, I had planned to do 4.5 miles max tonight. At just under mile 4, we met this beautiful collie. I know her well – she is about 11 years young and the most docile dog I have ever met in the field. Ember, my dog, loves her too. The only problem was she was without her owner and seemed very anxious. Being the dog-lover I am and not having her owner’s phone number but knowing about where she lives, I decided to take the Collie home – it was only another mile – or so…
Ember & I got her home safely – at least I hope so as the owner was not home but she seemed happy to stay in the yard – and it is a secluded house – you can barely see it from the road. Ember and I turned around and began to make our way home. And then I realized I still had about 2 miles to go. 2 miles too many.
To admit that was crushing. I used to run 17 miles without blinking. I never gave in – I even ran after falling on the ice and hitting my head because I didn’t want to cut my workout short. I ended up with staples up the back of my scalp and a concussion as I didn’t realize I had split my head open in the fall – but I got my 12 miles in that morning! But that was another time. My perspective has changed.
And yet, I was adamant that I was not going to call someone. It’s a JUST A WALK after all. Who can’t walk two miles, I said to myself. I was mad for letting this happen. My hip was starting to get tight and hurt. I knew I was going to pay for this. And then out of the blue, a car pulls up next to me and I hear – “Hey there, friend! How is your evening going?”
It was a dear friend of mine who walked with me in my early post-op days. I had tears brimming but not yet falling as relief washed over me. I heard myself starting to say, “Great but I am a bit tired…” and she stopped me right there and said “Get in. I was just coming home from bible study and saw you out later than normal. Let’s get you home…”
Fortuitous timing, no? She was definitely a Godsend. Perhaps my earlier good deed had warranted an angel on my shoulder?
I iced my hip and went to bed.
I feel a bit worn this morning. My upper thigh is quite tight – but nothing aches – thank God. I walked a shorter route because it felt good to move, but I definitely crossed my limits last night. The hard things is – you don’t know you have until – well – you have already gone too far or done too much.
Trying to return to normal is such a process and a craft I have yet to master.
“Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?”
– From “What to Remember when Waking” David Whyte
It was one of those magical mid-June mornings in between the typical 4-day long rains of June and the Great Rain of 2022. A brilliant sun broke over the cloud-enshrouded mountain causing my rain-soaked lawn and leafy trees to shimmer just a bit. A few birds continued their morning song while the rest of the world rested. Including me.
I gazed at this foreign wonder before me. Unable to rush off to church or get on with the endless chores of landscape maintenance or go for my once twice weekly 17-mile long-run – I realized that in the last 6+ years my parents died, I bought my house, my marriage came and went, I completed 2+ years of theology studies and began my role as a Lay Pastor while continuing to work 40 hours a week but I have not once done this – just sit and take things in. Just rest.
And as I gazed upon this scene, I realized that I really do love my yard now that I am not a slave to the constant mowing of it (I had to hire someone for this summer as I recover) and I actually look forward to tending my garden beds rather seeing it as yet another invasion of my busy scheduled life.
And oh, how I love Ember – my now 4-year-old Brittany. He is such a light in this unsettled world. Just watching him amuse himself is a joy. Even at 4 years old he discovers everything anew with such gusto! A leaf on the grass, his chewed-up tennis ball, a piece of bark, not to mention the starlings teasing him – all were a feast of joy for his eyes and induced exuberant frolicking.
We played fetch and he brought the ball back willingly about 8 times. Remarkable! On the occasion he decided to do his own thing I laid back in the chair and dropped my hand down and closed my eyes. After a minute he walked up and dropped the ball and laid his head on my lap and looked at me with the most adoring eyes. It just about made me cry. I sadly realized I had never made time for these moments before, or at least I can’t remember the last time I savored the simple pleasures of a quiet Sunday morning. I felt an ache inside at the realization of what I have not only missed, but lost.
And why? For what reason?
For years I have been plagued by an inner restlessness that has yet to be soothed. I always have to be doing something – even if that means pacing back and forth before moving on to the next must do. I live by the principle of work before pleasure at all times and my form of pleasure was always something highly active and results oriented. I never rested. I never balanced the go with the slow.
It saddens me how much our culture encourages constant doing and striving and achieving. It is all too easy to get tangled up with everything – the demands of life, the inner must-do’s, the expectations of others, the rigidity and comfort of routine.
It seems like the right thing to do – even noble – to be constantly working on something and never take breaks. I’ve heard myself make the same excuse over and over again for not taking time off – doing so always creates so much work before and after. It’s easier to just keep plugging on and letting life slip by. Keep going – go faster. Don’t be the slow car in the fast lane and while we’re at it – blast that slow car in the fast lane!! How can anyone drive slow like that – oblivious to the world racing by??
But now I wonder how can anyone sustain a lifestyle that is all go and no slow? How did I do it for so long and how unsettling it is that it took major surgery to make me realize this!
All of this serves as a reminder that we need to pay attention to balance in our lives. Too much pleasure and free time can be as detrimental as too much work and too much structure. Constantly punishing workouts will weaken the body as much as being a couch potato. Constant striving will at long last bring us to a place where there is no meaning to our endeavors and nothing left of us to enjoy our achievements once realized.
It’s up to us to determine how to balance all of the parts and pieces, people and places that contribute to us having a healthy and satisfying life.
There is a wonderful opportunity awaiting all of us in the very next moment. Perhaps it is a brilliant sun breaking over the cloud-enshrouded mountain causing a rain-soaked lawn and leafy trees to shimmer just a bit and your heart to sigh. Maybe it is the final chord of the morning birdsong. Perhaps it is just a quiet stillness waiting for you to gaze upon its foreign wonder and rest.
It’s hard to believe today marks two weeks since my surgery!! At times it has felt like eons – especially the not being able to drive part and not seeing anything beyond my little circle in the neighborhood. I am also very tired of being tired. But then, I was tired and in pain all the time before my surgery, so I am happy as well to just be tired now!
Yesterday was a big lesson in pacing myself. The “if it feels good keep on doing it” rule has its limits or so I am learning.
My wanderlust has reached a frightening level – but I am escaping via Norwegian literature and my newest obsession – Danish/Norwegian TV dramas!!
Grand treks are in sight though as I am happily walking up to 3 pain-free miles at a time with walking poles at just a minute off my pre-surgery-with-a-limp-and-nauseating-pain pace – so I am pleased!
Today was my second half day back at work. I finally felt like my brain was clicking again and I could type complete sentences. The computer still bothers my eye/brain happiness – but that is gradually improving too!
Tomorrow, I have my first post-op appointment. I am praying for a good report and permission to drive as I have been off all pain meds except for Tylenol for a week!!
I wish my brother could see me now. His immediate care was integral to my progress now. Thanks for carrying my initial distress with grace. It’s not fair just being a part of the yucky stuff and not seeing the end results! I love you, big brother.
10 days post-op! I toddled around my neighborhood three times yesterday for a total of 2.27 miles. This morning I woke up – shall we say – definitely feeling every one of those steps! I did my PT exercises, took 2 Tylenol, and decided to hold off on the Tramadol – just to see. After a deluge of rain all morning the sun peeked out over the mountain so Ember and I hurried up and headed out with my walker for a morning toddle thinking this might be it for the day. The longer I walked the better I felt! 1.5 miles later – no Tramadol and I am feeling good! Progress! (Mind, movement, and mediation over medication!)
I can’t believe I am where I am compared to even 5 days ago. I thought my world had ended because of the pain and extreme fatigue. I have been doing the comparison thing to some of my FB Group Athlete Hippie-mates- much to my detriment. I know I will not be in a CrossFit gym rowing, squatting, lunging or doing weighted deadlifts anytime soon!! I know I won’t be running 6 weeks post op. However, I am responsible for making my recovery a success and I have been extremely focused on doing my PT exercise in spite of the pain, regular icing as much as I detest it and elevating my chicken legs! I am eating lots of protein (which was not something I did prior to surgery), inflammation-fighting fruit, berries, and veggies, and giving in to those moments when I just must rest (this too is completely contradictory to how I normally operate!! )
I know I will have hard days ahead. Learning to balance my need for freedom and speed and the reality of where I am at in recovery is going to be a battle. Thank you all so very much for your support and continued prayers. I am feeling more and more like a better version of my old self!
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31
I had no idea it took so much energy to post something coherent!!
Alas, here I am at the close of day 6 since my hip replacement surgery. Since then, I have had some good moments and some awfully bad eons (not a typo) but the good ones are definitely starting to outweigh the bad. Mind you, those good ones seem to be quickly followed by a bad one just to keep everything – especially me – in check.
My body is a fighter. That’s a good thing! But it likes to fight with me when I need it to fight for me. I have learned I do not tolerate opioids well – and that is a very good thing! I do not see how anyone could become addicted to them given my experience with them. My physical aversion to them has also made for long days and longer nights trying to adjust to and then come off of them because of the side effects.
I have never slept so much or been so sleepless in my life than in the past 6 days. I have longed to read my book, the back of a cereal box, the latest political junk – anything – but have not been able to focus my eyes. I have fallen asleep in the middle of texting people… it is so frustrating. My patience for being a patient is wearing thin.
Whoever said hip replacement was a piece of cake has never had one or was far more drugged up than I have been. I had such BIG plans, I tell you! I was going to get so much “trivial” stuff done around the house! How naïve of me.
I did have a good report from my wonderful physical therapist who came for a home visit yesterday. She was super impressed by my range of motion – I can march in place!! I can lift my heels for 30 seconds!! I can hold my leg in the air!!
Ember was incredibly helpful during our session – insisting on helping her massage the swelling out of my IT band and providing resistance on my leg lifts. He then proceeded to roll on his back alongside me and attempt to get a tummy rub out of it. He makes a fine nurse.
My long afternoons – when the depression hits and the day just won’t end and I feel lonely and washed up and like I will never ever be the same – have been lifted by my dear friend Wendy who has gone out of her way to walk with me every day since Sunday, bring me fresh eggs and dinner, and keep me company. I am overwhelmed by the meals from friends delivered with love, and flowers that have brightened the inside of my house and me. I am so grateful for the errands ran and phone calls and texts from Jann, and the check-in calls with medical advice and understanding from Misty, and the rounds of encouragement from all of you.
I am blessed and technically stronger than before – so not the same – just not yet better. Getting there though! One moment at a time!
It dawned on me this morning – May 31st – that 28 years ago today I was stepping off a plane in Phoenix, AZ en route to my first steps of new life. It is not lost to me how incredible that is – given my parents were told there wasn’t much hope for me. Prior to that I spent 6 months in the hospital. I should have died. Who survives at 45 pounds after 3 cardiac arrests? I was literally a case study.
Well, I did survive and showed the world how tough and stubborn I am and what an amazing God we have.
Tomorrow I will have to learn how to walk – again – with a new perspective. I am ready. I am strong. I am willful, stubborn, and I am committed to honoring the body I have. God’s creation is going to run again. Stronger than ever.
As I reflect on this Memorial Day, pondering the lives of those we have lost and what we have lost as a nation of common men and women – whose flag flies for the United – I pray that we recognize that those who died in uniform for our country died for ideals far greater than for any politician’s personal ideations and far greater than our personal agendas and our love of self. They died for a love we are all called to, but few will ever know. May the memory of our fallen call us back to our highest ideals. And may God have mercy on us all.