Femoral Derotional Osteotomy. Chapter 1.

Day trip to meet new surgeon

We are on our way to meet the new hip preservation specialist surgeon to discuss the femoral derotional osteotomy that realign my retroverted hip femur. The emotions I feel are many – anxious, hopeful, uncertain, angry, impatient, excited, worried… but really – just ready to do it now with hope this is the finale of this ridiculous hip journey.

I’ve been dedicated and passionate about my comeback from the hip labral tear surgery in June 2018. 2 years of recovery, physio, pain, and missing out on many things almost feels like it was for nothing. It’s hard not to feel let down or discouraged. Yet, there’s no way of going back to change any of it. I only have now. Today. Tomorrow. I can choose to let the past define me or I can define myself throughout this next chapter of this journey.

I’m worried about hearing it’s a lengthy wait for this surgery. I’m hopeful maybe it won’t be. I have doubts – as in is this really the last problem causing my pain? Or are they just pinpointing the first thing they found again? While the surgeon said on my phone call appointment two weeks ago that he is positive I’m a good candidate, today he decides for sure – so I’m also scared – what if he rules me out for it? What if my osteoarthritis worsened and he can’t do it?

These what if’s can control you so much when you’re facing an uncertain future with something that affects your life so intensely every day. And more than ever, I’ve felt closed off from the world – Covid didn’t help that much. The first time I went through my hip labral tear surgery, I still felt more connected with those around me. This time, I feel more far apart. I know there’s many reasons for it:

  • I have to say no to many things and I know that has meant some may have given up inviting me.
  • I’m unable to join my team and friends in things we used to do. The common athletic interests and fitness goals I had (still have but on pause, some may be unable to do ever again), while I’m still interested, I’m unable to do. I feel less important now that I’m not able to participate in events or crush the daily training plans.
  • This is 2.5 years now – some do not understand what chronic pain is like to live with and have cut themselves off as it’s too hard to be around something that scares them and they can’t understand it.
  • Unintentionally, I’ve secluded myself. Driving anywhere hurts. Being outside the comfort of my home where I know the spots and places I can sit or lie down in that will reduce pain – or even that I can just be comfortable in even when the pain is at it’s worse. I’m terrified to go out and then be somewhere when pain flares up badly. I hate admitting this so more often, I come up with excuses instead for why I can’t go to a friend’s or out somewhere with friends.
  • I’m tired all of the time. This isn’t like me at all. I’m the 5am get up and run and do 8009 things in a day person. Now, taking a shower means needing to rest after. And I never knew before, but pain is exhausting. It takes everything out of you and more. It’s hard to even find the energy to hang out with a friend – even if in my own home.
  • Covid. Oh, Covid. While many are struggling with Covid fatigue and many are immersing themselves into the Reopening plans, due to upcoming medical appointments and surgery, I’m having to retreat more into my bubble. I can’t risk getting sick and missing the opportunity if surgery in the immediate future is a possibility.

While many of these may be all on my emotions, I think there’s truth to all of it too. When you’re the one with life on hold, you don’t want your family and friends to put theirs on hold – heck, you become more empathetic for when those you love also face setbacks – but at the same time, it isn’t easy to be the one left behind. Especially for 2.5 years and counting! And while you’ll hear all same similar well wishes that most resort to, these only make you cringe. Such as:

  • “This too shall pass”. (Sure, easy words to say. Pass when? This too? I’m on multiple “this” setbacks in just 3 years and “this” hasn’t passed. “This” means unable to walk, stand, sit, lie down without pain and it means 5+ years of my life on hold…. so “this” shall pass feels like belittling the trauma and negative related consequences (like affecting finances) this has brought, and will bring.
  • “At least you’re moving forward.” Umm – moving forward doesn’t mean not even knowing when I’ll have surgery and the wait time. It sure doesn’t feel like forward when it now means another surgery after one already. And one that means breaking my femur and needing a metal rod put in. Moving forward would be best determined AFTER the surgery and actually seeing some positive progress. Not still stuck in pain.
  • “Feel better soon”. See above. This is best used for short term illnesses like the flu….

I could go on – but I never knew the power those simple common well wishes had. I never considered the meaning of the words before I encountered chronic pain and setbacks myself. I’m not attacking anyone who have used those – I’ve used them many times myself. But in situations where someone is encountering years of life spent on chronic pain, sometimes just saying “it sucks” or “I hope this surgery is the answer” or even uttering a few profanities is better than the well wishes that hold false positives for a lengthy painful process that has no guarantees. Well wishes that minimize the significance of the setback can send mixed messages that the setback is just an easy hill to climb – when for the person going through it – it’s a cluster of mountains with sharp cliffs and many ascents and descents.

I share this as all I’ve been through and continue to face, as well as all I’ve opened myself to learn in my setbacks have undeniably changed me. Unless I express how I feel, then I can’t expect anyone around me to understand or learn from my journey.

Today is Chapter 1. While I know I have months ahead of moments of isolation and feeling alone, I’m hoping my writing can break down the walls I feel around me. It is no fault of any person – circumstances have made some walls, such as Covid. I’m going to have to continue to say no to many things. While today isn’t the end of this journey nor really a big start, it is a start. While I’m going to have to put many things on hold in my life and continue to mostly isolate myself, hopefully today, we can turn Chapter 1 to Chapter 2.

My Life Not Running

It’s been awhile since I wrote. I really had no new information, no spectacular recovery, no fast forward button. If you have this button, please share! Covid-19 has pressed the slow motion button, heck – some days it feels like the pause button. No matter who you are – we all feel that.

Yet, when you’re waiting for something that significantly affects your life every day, that wait feels excruciatingly long. But I finally received a phone call from the new surgeon Tuesday – the one that I would have seen before June if Covid hadn’t blown everything out of whack. It was a good initial conversation. We discussed my past lifestyle change, my weight loss, the hip labral tear injury, and my current life quality. He discussed how we could spend more time trying to strengthen my left side but after our discussion, I think we both felt like it’s unlikely to change my pain as we have spent 2 years since the labral tear surgery doing that with physio and other strengthening with my trainer.

I’m now on the list for a femoral derotional osteotomy to correct my femoral retroversion. Yeah say that 3 times fast. Here’s a link about this procedure if you wish: https://www.hss.edu/conditions_femoral-osteotomy-overview.asp The surgeon explained it to me as well. The surgery is not a piece of cake. He has to break my femur, realign, and put in a rod. It will be approximately 9 months to let it heal along with rest, recovery, rehab. I know I’ll be either non weight bearing or partial weight bearing for some time – not sure if it means crutches, walker or cane – or a mix of all 3. After approximately 9 months, he’ll remove the rod. While this isn’t a guarantee to get me back to running and kettlebell training, he said that about 90% of his patients have had significant life improvement in day to day life. I’ll take that. Right now, a shower is enough to bring me to need a good hour off of my feet.

Now that we’ve had an initial discussion and I am on the list, the next step is to meet in person on July 27 and he will examine me and confirm I’m a good candidate. I’m 35 and will be 36 in August. Typically he doesn’t do this surgery after 35 – he has but it’s rare. He has to make sure my osteoarthritis hasn’t worsened too. He doesn’t foresee any issues though and is sure we can do it. There’s a high chance that this surgery will not just reduce or eliminate my pain, but also it will reduce the chance of more hip labral tears and even possibly reduce the progression of arthritis.

Two years of work that almost feel like I’ve just gotten nowhere and back at step 1. Another surgery. Another recovery. How do I feel? It’s hard to express the emotions I am trying to wrap my head around. It’s been 2 days since the phone call and while I feel there’s more of a plan and forward progress, I’m not going to minimize or just blow off how much this sucks. Regardless of all the well intentioned good wishes you usually get when sick or injured, regardless of the high positive chance of outcome, and regardless that we finally have a plan, even if it works, that means I will have spent 4-5 years on the sidelines. Longer depending on when I can get the surgery. That’s not nothing. That’s a huge chunk of my life. I’m allowed to be angry, hurt, frustrated, anxious, nervous, upset, pissed off, confused, uncertain. I’ve done every thing that has been asked of me by the medical world and more. Yet, the medical system failed me. They missed this condition because they found the other issue first and in our province – you don’t go looking for more if you find something that may fit your symptoms. They fix the first thing they find and hope that’s it. Knowing that’s why I’m still here is discouraging. And I am mostly powerless over the decisions the medical world makes. I can’t deny I feel doubt that they will miss something or fix the wrong thing.

Yet – I have hope. I still have heart. And I sure as heck have enough courage left. I’m not giving up. I’ve spent the last couple days dealing with my emotions but also planning on how I can go into this next chapter as strong as possible. The surgeon gave me plenty of muscle strengthening exercises to do. I do also have to step back from a lot of other things I was trying to do while waiting for the surgeon but I’ll do whatever it is to have the best outcome.

And in the end, can I live a life without running? Easy answer. Yes. The more challenging answer – I don’t want to. So how do I figure out how to without letting it take a dark hold of me? Well, I’m doing it now while hurting constantly and by doing just what I’m able to day by day. So if a life without running after this also means a life without pain, I’ll learn how to do it. It will be something I have to accept day by day. I’ll learn what I can do and put my whole heart into that. Just like I always have.

One of my most favourite running books is “Let Your Mind Run” by Deena Kastor. One of her quotes is “You know how you let yourself think that everything will be all right if you can only get to a certain place or do a certain thing. But when you get there you find it’s not that simple.”

I’m a planner and like to know where my life is going. But the past 2.5 years, I have learned that I have 0 control over that. What I do have control over is what I do while on this journey and what I do with the uncertainties I face. That’s what makes me a runner – even if it’s just in my heart.

I’ll never have a life without running. Even if I never can run a step again, what I learned, failed, and achieved while I was able to run for an amazing 4 years will always be with me. It can’t be taken away. And I’ll take all of the experiences, moments, memories, failures, achievements, races, training, setbacks, comebacks with me as I navigate the uncertainties and challenges of this next chapter.

Thaw out and live for today

This past week I’ve felt the stress of family, friends, colleagues, parents, teachers, students, businesses government, and society in general. However, in this stress, I’ve also felt one other emotion – gratitude.

We’ve never experienced a moment where so much we take for granted for as a given to be there every day is just suddenly gone. For 8 weeks, I’ve been dependent on grocery delivery and pick up, and physio. It’s extremely challenging to get a grocery order right now and even physio is now closing next week. Likely my 2 month estimated time to see my new surgeon will be delayed. And it sure as heck is terrifying to not have the medical tools that help indefinitely or to have a timeline for seeing someone who can help me move forward.

This whole week I have felt frozen – I think we are all feeling frozen. The days feels surreal. Yet, I can’t live the next days, weeks or months like that. So, what do I do? I managed to get one last physio appt tomorrow. I am going to do my best to get as many tools I can – stretches, exercises, whatever – to help myself during this time. I have a TENS/EMS machine that while is no way comparable to what my physiotherapist can do, if I use it regularly, I think it’ll make a difference. My pool therapy is gone and I cannot swim – the one workout I could do almost pain free. I can’t change that so I’ll do my best. Surgeon is okay with short walks but to stop when it hurts. Some days this 20 minutes, some days 10, and even some days 5 minutes. Most days getting ready is a workout.

But – not all of you reading this will be that stuck. Get outside, sit on the deck or porch, go for a walk. Find an outdoor training program. If you don’t have a gym anymore, ask if anyone has any gym equipment they aren’t using and maybe you can borrow them. You can even get active by offering to do the grocery shopping for an elderly parent, grandparent or neighbour – it gets you out of the house while also helping them stay protected.

I have felt useless for 7 weeks and very alone. This week – I have felt useful and that I was needed. Nothing changed for me physically but suddenly we were forced into a world where it was acceptable to use my skills to teach online. I’ve been able to create lessons while lying in bed. I’ve helped share tools for parents while doing some physio exercises. I’ve thought of ideas to add to my i online French classroom website while icing and taking a rest or nap. This reminded me that we are all useful in some ways but sometimes our society, and even ourselves, doesn’t realize that until we are forced to.

The challenge comes with balance – I have to take care of me too. Sometimes even lying in bed with my laptop hurts and I have to know it can wait. Even if it is just making 1 document or adding 1 link. So as much as we all want to help, we also have to practice self awareness – for both physical and mental health. We are living in a time where we have to really pause and consider the physical ramifications of even just going to a grocery store. We have to consider beyond ourselves and for all of our loved ones too. So I rest and I am still putting myself first. I have naps, I do my physiotherapy exercises, I allow myself to simply do nothing especially when my pain is at its worst. I binge watch Netflix, read a book, lie in bed and look at the sunshine (or snow as event weather is wonky still.)

What I also find intriguing this week is how much we are all thinking of how our actions affect our community – and sometimes we don’t always pause to reflect on that. More often, we have lived a life where we focus on ourselves and our families first as before, typically, our choices for our lives such as going to stores, gyms, parks, school, and work didn’t possibly cause harm or risk to others. Businesses are trying to find a balance of how to keep customers/clients safe yet while trying to be available for them. People are jumping to help others with lessons for kids, online workouts, getting groceries and running errands.

Overall, amidst the stress and chaos, I have seen so much kindness. Patience for the stores struggling to keep stock in; understanding for those who struggle to shop such as seniors and those with disabilities and opening store hours just for these individuals; buying from local businesses who are struggling to survive; gratitude expressed for teachers more so than I ever have felt before. I’ve even had more people checking in and I’ll admit, via texts and social media, I’ve checked in on people more myself this week.

I don’t want to forget yesterday or not get back to that – I know we will get back to the normalcy we grew dependent on. But this is what I hope we will not forget about this week or the upcoming weeks of uncertainty: One, we can survive by working together. Two, we are so fortunate to have so much available to us. Three, communication and socialization – it really does mean so much and it’s necessary for mental health. Sending a text or message to someone even when life is busy can make a world of difference for both the sender and the receiver. Even better, when this is over, don’t forget about those who actually are isolated due to illness or disability before all of this – make an effort to visit. make efforts to pause in a grocery store to have a conversation with someone you haven’t seen. More often – and I know I’ve done this too – we say “Oh hi! Sorry, wish I could chat, but I got to run.” Before, we were so focused on the next thing on our to do list as we took for granted we could chat with our friend next time. In this same mindset, let’s not forget the time we had with our families – time that was spent without multiple activities or events happening in our schedules. Four, physical fitness – while there are ways to do it now, many are facing limitations – don’t take it for granted. When this is over, if you’ve never trained or always done it alone, I recommend joining a local gym or training group – being physical is one thing but doing it with a group or around people is so different. I encourage you to try it. Plus you’re supporting a local community business who had to shut their doors for a period of time. Five, buy local – even if it’s a bit more money. I’m not saying you have to solely buy from them but even if you just buy a package of chicken here, or a load of bread here. Get a coffee from a local shop instead of Tim’s one day a week. These businesses will be the ones that will hurt the most from this Covid19 period but I’ve seen more local businesses reach out in compassion and kindness in so many ways as they try to help their community. If all of us made an effort to buy one local something each week in our community, we will help them build up again when this ends.

For today – unfreeze. Thaw. Melt. What can you do that’s positive right now with so much frozen around you? I started Duolingo and I’m making quite a dent in my Goodreads Want to Read list. I’m trying to be outside and get some fresh air but respecting my physical limitations with it. When able, I’ll continue to add lessons to my Online French classroom website during the duration of school closures – I’m still physically unable to teach but now I’m in a world where my body isn’t needed – just my mind. My partner has to work from home now – he has set up an office but then as soon as work is done, we have had some friendly Duolingo battles but also just enjoyed watching tv or Netflix together. He seems less stressed working as he gets up, works, done. I think having no commute has helped so much with reducing stress.

We have had such amazing yesterdays and so much to be grateful for in our past but we are only really recognizing that in this new reality – in this today. While there are so many stresses with this new unknown reality we are facing, we can find so much to make it positive. Once this ends, I hope we don’t rush back into old habits – forgetting what we’ve learned we took for granted and missed when we didn’t have it. While unexpected, not exactly wanted, and still surreal, I think this time and experience can inspire more patience, kindness and compassion in each of us; show us what is truly important in our lives; bring families closer while some may learn how to support each other in a multiple home family setting; make communities stronger; and maybe this experience of disempowerment and entitlement will help our society to grow to be more accommodating, charitable, and sympathetic. Hopefully we can continue to live with what we’ve learned this time, so that it doesn’t take a virus for us or future generations to have to learn it again.