Defining and Finding Myself after Multiple Setbacks

Back on the trails

It has been a long time since I wrote. I missed writing but I didn’t have the energy nor the capacity for it. Writing has been my outlet and I hope to come back to it. I write for myself but if my blog can help others, even if just one person, that’s even better.

So… where am I at? What has happened? Well, very briefly without the many pages I could write, this is where I’ve come from with my hip setbacks:

  • 4 months 2 weeks post hardware removal surgery
  • 1 year almost 6 months post derotational femoral osteotomy for left hip due to femoral retroversion
  • 3 years 11 months post hip labral tear surgery
  • 4 years 2 months since the issues all began and I was pretty much on bed rest

Before all of this, I was running 20-30km a week. I could run 20-30km long distances. I had started doing Spartan obstacle course races, half marathons and long distance trail runs.

And the last 4 years I’ve battled barely getting out of bed, waiting for tests, waiting for diagnoses, waiting for surgeries, waiting for recovery….

Every ”fix” seemed to lead to another issue that was missed or caused by one of the previous surgeries.

From September 2013 until I was sidelined in March 2018, I had lost 96.5lbs. Sadly the yo-yo effect of the last 4 years, I’ve gained most of it back even with healthy eating – unfortunately my body is the type that needs exercise to lose weight and even macros and calorie counting don’t do a lot – especially with the stress and medications.

My final (hopefully) surgery on January 7 to remove the hardware (rod and screws) that was causing issues (when surgeon opened up, the screws at bottom of rod were pushing into IT band and also I unfortunately had excessive heterotopic ossification that grew around the top of the rod. Surgeon removed about 2/3 of the HO and doesn’t think the rest he couldn’t get as deep into hip capsule will be a problem.) Since then, I’ve mostly struggled with stamina – after the initial few weeks, I could tell a huge difference without the issues the hardware was causing. But I tired easily. Each new thing I could do came with such bone weary exhaustion later. I went back to teaching at 30% on April 4. I started 50% on April 25. This is my last week at 50% and I will start 70% next week.

During weekdays, teaching exhausts me so much that I can barely do anything else – cook, dishes, a short walk – I often feel like I have to make deals with myself for what I can do in a day. It’s hard not to just do all I used to.

The surgeon said to me after all I’ve been through in 4 years with surgeries, delays due to pandemic leaving me on bed rest and my body weakening – it will take 1-1.5 years after the hardware removal surgery to be ”fully recovered.” I often forget that and that I’m only 4 months post op.

Some days, a shower is the struggle. Or cooking a meal feels like I’m lifting a 50lb kettlebell. Some days teaching feels like 42.2km run (marathon).

But some days, like today, I reach a milestone. I finally walked over 5km. And it feels like I have won the lottery.

Milestone Walk

This surgery does not come with a manual. It does not come with a guarantee. It doesn’t make space for all the other things I was dealing in life. I came into this setback completely unaware of how different a person I would become throughout the process.

My hip issues took a lot away from me the last 4 years, but I won’t stop trying to take back all it took – even if what I take back may look a bit differently. What I mean by this is, I will take back my life – my active lifestyle. But I’m also making some adjustments. I am quitting OCR. It is too risky for injury. After all I’ve been through to get back to where I am today, I am not going to risk it by climbing walls and other wooden structures. I’m not sure about running again as though surgeon and physiotherapist said I can do it again eventually, it is harder on joints.

Before this, I was truly enjoying rucking (look it up) and it burns as much calories as running without running! I love just throwing on audiobook and walking. I will focus on longer walks and hopefully can add back rucking down the road too. I love biking and hope to get a better outdoor bike to try that more. I hadn’t biked since I was a kid before this journey and the required cycling for recovery has made me fall in love with it again. I am slowly getting back into my kettlebell training. I’ll do less races – I was racing a lot before and the constant need to train for long distance races is hard on a body. Instead, after I am fully recovered, I’m planning on very few races, maybe one or two a year. Instead, I’m going to enjoy what I do on my own time and in my own way – and with Ginny. I’m going to enjoy what I do every day to be active and healthy, not let racing become the focus.

View on today’s milestone walk

I know I can’t always avoid injury or setbacks but I can choose to do the things that aren’t highly likely to sideline me again. By sacrificing some of the riskier activities I used to do, I’m not giving up. I’m choosing to live. I’m choosing to move. I’m choosing to respect what my body can do and also respect its limitations.

I won’t define myself solely by my setbacks. I won’t forget those challenges and obstacles I’ve overcome. My comeback isn’t my only definition of who I am. I refuse to define myself by what I can or can’t do. And I won’t define myself by how others are dealing with this process or their own obstacles. I also won’t define myself based on how others think I am or how I should handle my setbacks.

Instead, I’ll define myself by what I did and what I do each day to get to tomorrow. I get to choose.

And, thanks to my 4 legged walking partner, Ginny, I can always see in her eyes how amazing I am.

“Mom, you’re amazing.” – Ginny looking back at me to check in and encourage me during our walks.

Ginny’s smile means the world to me. Each walk is “the best walkie ever.” Coming back from multiple surgeries and a lengthy period of being in chronic pain and immobile, I often find myself viewing each walk like Ginny does. Each one is special regardless of how long or how far, regardless of where we go, regardless of weather, and regardless is was tough or easy… just being able to walk pain free with my 4 legged my best friend is a gift I’ve been given back that I’ll never take for granted.

Beautiful Ginny

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