Today marks 55 days since my total hip replacement! I haven’t felt this good since 2016. This weekend I rode 50 miles on my bike and walked 30 miles over two days. No pain. I have shed so many tears of complete joy – giddiness does not begin to describe my emotions! My new hip is more than a miracle – it is giving me life again.
I am no longer a pill-popper!! For the last 6 years I grew increasingly dependent on my 8-pill a day Tylenol- Advil cocktail while covering it all with a smile and grit. I became the Martha Stewart of pain management – my drawers are filled with capsaicin creams, heating pads, ice packs, strange looking body rollers, tennis balls, TENS therapy units, etc. Have pain? I WAS your go-to girl!!
My life has been a bit chaotic in those 6 years – my mother died, a long term relationship ended, my father died, I bought my first house, I finished lay school for ministry, I met a wonderful man, we got married and then we were “annulled” in a courtroom. Within weeks of that courtroom scene we were plunged into a pandemic and I survived all by myself – really – all by myself. I broke my foot, and then my hip finally gave way. Through it all – extreme runs and workouts were what “kept me sane.” My life revolved around working out and managing the pain afterwards. Like I said – “It kept me sane.” It was the only way I knew how survive. The only thing I didn’t know how to do anymore was live.
Having this downtime after surgery and being forced to rest and “deal” with my life I have a whole new appreciation for who I am, and who I can be. I want to be more than running and conquering the next mile.
I am loving long walks with my dog and pain free bike rides on the back roads of the town I live in. I love not being crazed if I don’t wake up at 4am to get my 3+hour workout in before work. I love waking up when I wake up and seeing my faithful companion’s tail wagging ready for our time together. I love reading and playing the piano again – sometimes for hours!! Heck, I am even enjoying cooking and baking again – because I have time to do so! And then – there are the people I “didn’t have time for”. I think that is what hurts the most now – the realization of the relationships lost, broken, or unrealized because of my wayward focus.
I have missed out on so much life because I was just trying to manage my physical and mental anguish in ways that were not helping me in any way. Not every one gets a second chance at life – this will be my third. They say the third time is the charm. I’m not going to waste it!!
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!
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!
I wrote those words a little over a week ago, oblivious to just how prophetic they would be in the coming days. I’m not sure why the sudden pothole I fell into came as such a surprise – perhaps it is because I have been living in denial.
Denial that despite what the Social Security Administration has in their official records on me – I can’t possibly be a year past 50. Denial that though most of my high school friends are celebrating 25 years plus of marriage and have kids who are now getting married – I am still living a carefree single girl’s life. Denial that my body is a human body, nothing more, nothing less – and not a spectacular specimen of immortality.
No, I should not have been surprised. In fact, in my free wheeling days leading up to the “news” I had finally made out my will and detailed how I want my life to end if I am unable to have a say in the matter. A sobering exercise if there ever was one, made even more so by the fact that ‘ll likely have no one other than my churches and charities to leave whatever riches I have left to – and no one to carry on my legacy let alone see to my needs in my last days – all documented in official legalese. But even that did little to change the reflection I chose to see in the mirror every day – the one to whom the laws of the universe don’t apply.
I ran across an “old” acquaintance from high school the other day on Facebook. He had posted a picture of his family – and for a minute I thought he must have taken the picture of his dad with the rest of his family but then it dawned on me that the balding man with more than just flecks of grey in his beard and deep lines on his forehead was actually my classmate! Wow, I thought to myself, I wonder what happened to him? He looked happy, but old.
But not me! No, I’m the one who faced down death at 23 and had a completely unnerving brush with death at 45 but laughed in the face of it both times – assured that God still had plans for me on this great earth. I’m the one who the devil rolls his eyes at as I bound out of bed for my daily 10 mile runs at the crack of dawn come rain, shine, blizzard, or below zero temperatures. Who didn’t let a sprained ankle or broken toe stop me. Who, once I discovered that God inhabited the summits and hugged me with the sky, repeatedly climbed mountains and hiked 23 miles a day back-to-back every summer. I’m the one who has proven time and again that my body can heal itself. Throughout all of life’s travails, I have always believed that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.
That has been how the world has seen me and what I saw every morning in the mirror – despite the pain.
The damn pain that just would not go away. No matter what I tried – physical therapy, deep massage, changing my diet, and of course stopping the very activity that gave me life -running – the pain just kept coming back, malingering in the background – taunting me to pay attention to it.
I don’t know when I finally became cognizant of the fact that I no longer had control over my life – that I had ceded my days to pain. It crept its way into my being – shadowing my bright spirits – sapping life from me little by little. Honestly, I didn’t notice at first how much it was controlling me as I just pushed through it – to the point that pushing through was taking all I had until I had nothing more to give. I no longer recognized myself in the mirror.
And so, I gave in and finally made an appointment with a doctor – something I am loathe to do. Lucky for me I only had to wait 4 weeks to get in to see an orthopedist – surely – I convinced myself – this was a simple stress fracture – another 6-8 weeks of rest and I’ll be back. Alas it didn’t cross my mind that it would have to be one heck of a stress fracture to make my whole body hurt. I was certain of the point of pain though. What started with my broken foot led to over- compensation and poor muscle strength in areas no one pays attention to until their physical therapist points out just how weak they are that threw my stride off and thus threw my hip out of joint. I’m great at self-diagnosis. I’ve been around the block enough times to know exactly what was wrong, after all!
The doctor ran a gamut of x-rays and then came in for the “exam”. I gave an excellent presentation of my theory and said in finishing – “So if you could just get my hip to pop back into place, I know that will fix my problem.”
She tilted her head to one side and replied, “Well let’s have a look at the pictures…”
And there it was in black and white – well more like gray and white. My problem. There would be no simple popping my hip back into its socket. The damage was done. My hip socket is a mess. I’m walking around with bone on bone.
“You have significantly advanced arthritis,” she said. “I’m surprised to see this much damage in someone your age. I’d recommend a hip replacement – but you are too young. Do you have any questions for me?”
Literally – those were her very words. Do I have questions?? Of course I have questions!!! So, what does this mean? How are you going to relieve my pain? Are there alternatives? What caused this?
While athletes sometimes develop arthritis, especially after injury, she said not all do. People who are sedentary also get arthritis. For the most part it is idiopathic (unknown in cause) but does have strong ties to your genes. I watched my mother suffer from arthritis and saw her give in to it. I swore that would never be me and that is one of the reasons I stayed so active -to avoid the same fate. Apparently, my efforts were for naught.
What does this mean? I am not entirely sure. There is no easy fix, no magic pill. Pain will continue to rule my life for the foreseeable future – learning how to manage it will be my goal. Don’t put on weight, she said. Ha! First doctor who has EVER told me that!!! A steroid shot would be too invasive with a considerable risk of infection. She would be happy to prescribe a prescription-strength anti-inflammatory but when she described my options and the risks, I decided I want to stay away from those for as long as I can.
As for running – what once gave me life? She said if I get past this season of pain and want to try – fine but I am setting myself up for more pain – meaning less life. So, I am trying to be “fine” and make it my goal to hike fifteen miles a day come summer. That is all is want…
I am trying to keep this in perspective. I received a life-altering diagnosis not a life-taking one. For that I am thankful and almost ashamed by the state of despair I am in. In truth, it does feel like my life is being taken from me – chasing sunrises and sunsets on foot, losing myself in miles of thought and meditation, taking on mile after mile of adventure.
Or has it? I still believe that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. I will find my way through this. I will also ask for help to do so. I am determined to ensure that my present pothole state is not my new reality. I am strong because of my past and I am stronger still because I always believe in tomorrow.
In that same post from a week ago I wrote: “Think of all the times in your life you did not have a say in the matter – when a course correction was forced upon you. And yet, you are still here today – likely better for the challenge you accepted and made the most of.”
I AM still here today having faced many a challenge before this one; I am prepared to meet this the same way – with faith that God still has plans for me, that He isn’t done with me yet, and I will rise above this season of pain and learn to shine anew.
“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.”