Healing is Hard Work

The road is long.

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

Too Far Afield

Day 22 Post-Op.

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.