Coming to Accept Replacement Parts

On the 21st of January, I turned 41, healthy and happy. Only issue was a nagging pain in my right quads that I was getting treated with PT (physio to the Aussies), so that I could start training for another half marathon. Many people who have spent time with me this past year have asked me why I’m limping. Lovely human being that I am, those well-meaning people are often told they are nuts—I’m NOT limping; I just took a funny step. 😉
Well I was limping, and ignored for several months that I was in pain. A friend encouraged me to get it looked at last May so I could start training for a half marathon then. I went to two sessions and then got a stomach flu, the flu and pneumonia, all within two weeks. That meant no half marathon last year and cutting back on running for a while. It also ended my PT—didn’t see the point.
On Halloween, while dressed as Wonder Woman no less, another friend commented on my limp and said I was just being a typical Mom, ignoring my own pain while looking after everyone else. I decided she was right; the strengthening exercises I’d looked up online weren’t working, so I made another appointment. He worked on me intensively right up until our two-week vacation before Christmas and it didn’t get any better. In fact, the trip was rough in terms of pain and limping.
When I got back, the PT told me to stop running completely for a few weeks and to get an MRI. I stopped running, but checked into getting an MRI, told him I didn’t think it was worth the money and asked why it was necessary. He convinced me and on January 22nd, I got one. Although, I was in so little pain at the time, I almost cancelled and felt embarrassed wasting the technicians’ time while I was there, time they could have spent on patients who actually had problems that needed attending to.
The next day, my doctor and good friend tilted my world on its axis when he read me the report. Apparently, my hip is trashed—severe osteoarthritis which has led to all kinds of fraying, tearing, inflammation, swelling, cysts, etc. He recommended I consult with a surgeon, who confirmed the following week what my doctor had prepared me for—I need a hip replacement. Seriously?! I’m forty-f…ing-one! I’m healthy! I eat well and exercise daily. I still can’t believe it.
But the problem is, no one wants to give a 41-year-old a hip replacement. I’ll be 58 and needing another one. The surgeon, thankfully, wants to wait as long as possible. He says if I modify my activity and am careful, he’s hopeful I can make it to age 45 before surgery, especially since my pain is so minor right now. It really is. I thought I was getting better, that my physical therapy was finally working and I was ready to get back to running. Oh, how I’d been missing it! I was feeling down and out when I was hardly running at all and still in so much pain. Since I’d stopped completely for a few weeks and was feeling so much better, I thought I’d turned the corner and was ready to go again.
Don’t get me wrong, I think this surgeon is excellent and I am so grateful he doesn’t want me to have surgery today. But I think I spent the entire appointment with my jaw hanging open. No more running. Not ever. Skiing is not recommended, but I can a little if I’m very careful. Hiking? Be careful if it’s steep and involves much scrambling. Pilates? Ok, but take it easy. Biking? Sure, but be careful; it’ll still wear away your cartilage. Yoga? Yes! The silver lining! Do as much yoga as you can tolerate! Apparently, he and others are surprised I can tolerate it, but if I can, go for it!
I honestly have never thought of myself as very athletic or overly active, until he went through this list with me of ways I need to modify my activity to preserve my hip for as long as possible. I’m not an extreme athlete or fitness freak by any means; I just like to be active, out, enjoying life.
He found that I have hip dysplasia, which I would have had all my life, and that is what has caused the arthritis. He, thankfully did comment that I am overall very healthy and he can’t tell me to lose weight or to work on my flexibility to preserve my hip—the only thing he can tell me to do is to modify my activity.
He said the reason my pain is so controlled right now is because arthritis waxes and wanes. I’ll have periods of the extreme pain I had on our trip and I’ll have periods like this, where I think all this is a lot of fuss over nothing. It’s when the periods of extreme pain don’t go away that I cannot put off surgery any longer.
I wish I could say that I’ve taken this news in stride, focused on the people I know or hear of who are facing life threatening diseases, realised that this news is nowhere near as bad as what they are facing, counted the many things my life that I am extremely grateful for, dealt with it and moved on, activity level happily modified.
I wish I could say that. But if I did, it wouldn’t be true. I’ve been sad, mad and frustrated these past couple weeks, I’m sure a complete annoyance to anyone with a life-threatening disease. I’ve cried. A lot.
Just before I met with the surgeon, I told my best friend what was going on and said, “I really hope he doesn’t take running and yoga from me.” It sounds funny maybe, but they’re MY things; some days, they can be all that keeps me sane. Darn if he didn’t take my running. But he didn’t take yoga!
I took my kids to the zoo the other day and with all the walking, my hip started to feel sore, and I got tired and snappy. I had to sit down and rest for a while. I don’t want to be the crabby, lazy mom that skips exploring with her kids to sit and rest. I want to run around and look at the fun stuff with them!
The bright side to that one is that now the kids and I know what is wrong with me; we know WHY I’m crabby and tired and need to rest; we know WHY I’m limping, which has been happening for months on our long days out. I just had to say to them, “Boys, I’m sorry, but my hip is bothering me and I need to sit and rest for a few minutes.” They understood.
The morning after the surgical consult, I woke up (well, let’s be honest; I didn’t sleep well.) and practiced yoga, as I do regularly. And as I finished, I cried. I felt good, just a bit of pain in my hip, but relatively good. How can I appear so healthy on the outside and have no idea what is going on under my skin? Why did my hip betray my otherwise healthy body?
On Wednesday last week, I went for a farewell run. Don’t worry—it wasn’t a “real” run. I walked at a fast pace to the park, jogged around the park and walked home. I had to. I needed closure. I cried. During. After. I will REALLY miss running! I’m sad and angry that I went from getting a sore muscle treated so I could train for a long-distance race to putting away my running shoes forever. That was not the plan.
I walked up behind my favourite old lady that I see regularly out walking while I’m on my morning runs. I always look at her and think that I hope I’m like her when I’m that age. Except I guess I’m like her now. I’m 41, but my hip seems to be 80. I walked by other older people out walking and waved and said hello. Older people out walking are usually friendly. They’re a good group to be associated with. That’s a silver lining.
I walked by other runners and felt jealous. And annoyed at them. They’re all so serious and sullen, staring at the ground. I liked to smile while I was out running—”Look at this gorgeous day! Smell those flowers! Yes, I just made it up that big hill! Wow, my time is good today!” Here’s my advice to runners—look up! If you’re fortunate enough to be out, and able to run, enjoy that privilege! You never know which one will be your last.
I know. I’m pathetic. I’ve been having a right royal pity party over one bum body part. It’s lame. I’ll get there. I’m working on it. It is what it is. It’s teaching me already—helping me remember not to get attached to my physical body. It’s not who I am. It’s a vessel, not my essence. It’s temporary—one part of it just happened to get run down before I was ready for it to. I enjoyed walking at a fast pace that day. I’ve gone for a couple bike rides and really enjoy that! I’m even going to consider taking swimming lessons again—not sure I can ever get into that, but you never know. I’m still having fun and celebrating each day, enjoying my life, as I try to do normally. One day at a time.

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