Scars & Souvenirs

Note: Some photos of my surgery scars – but I only share ones that are not excessively graphic!

Yesterday I returned to the pool. I’ve been approved to for a few weeks but I had a few obstacles: getting my car going again, becoming more steady (with a cane) to be able to handle driving and going out on my own, the recent disastrous increase of Covid cases in my community (many cases are the variants and it’s putting a strain in hospitals), shame for the surgery weight gain, the scars left on my leg from surgery, and the stares I’d get for using a cane at 36.

Post Op Surgery Scars – February 9, 2021 (10 weeks/2.5 months post op)

The car was fixed (needed new battery), the snow and ice melted, and I was more steady and comfortable in driving and going out without help. But I was still hesitant. A lot of the hesitation was due to not wanting to put myself at risk for Covid and also trying to determine if swimming was a necessary outing or one I could omit to help my community reduce the spread of cases. I talked to my local YMCA and my physiotherapist. The current protocol in the pool and the Y made me feel very safe in going to the pool and that swimming wouldn’t be an unnecessary risk. My physiotherapist also strongly believed it would be immensely helpful in my recovery and my progress. Yet, when I put on a bathing suit, I saw my reflection and at first, I did not recognize the woman in the mirror.

First time back in a bathing suit. 4.5 months post op.

Now, I’m not a vain person. I am the woman who stopped using make up 7 years ago because I liked the woman I was without makeup and always felt more comfortable without. I’m the woman who lived in an excessively overweight body for most of my childhood, all of my teen years and most of my twenties. I’ve learned to live in a body I didn’t feel comfortable in and to still dress and style myself to be comfortable for me, not others.

However, a huge part of me wanted to use multiple excuses – Covid, using a cane, all the other physio I’m already doing and justifying it as enough, wait until I lose some weight – to not return to swimming. But I forced those thoughts back, threw on pants and a hoodie over my suit, I grabbed my swim bag, I drove to the YMCA, I got out of my car, made it to the change room, and I got myself into the pool.

The swim felt amazing!

First post op swim

I did receive some stares and some even asked – and I just shared my story and I found so many were supportive and one person said to me: “If you can come back to the pool from all of that, and be here even with a cane and scars, then I have no excuse to come back tomorrow either.” So when I came across the quote: “I would rather have a body full of scars and a head full memories than a life of regrets and perfect skin.”, I really understand what that meant.

The body full of scars is both physical and mental scars. This journey is not just a physical battle but it is a mental battle almost every hour. Some days I have to really convince myself to complete a physio task as I’m so exhausted physically and mentally. The weight gain has been a major mental challenge with myself. I worked hard to lose the weight I did over 3 years and I worked hard throughout the before surgery, during surgery and after surgery to eat healthy and do what I could to manage it – but unfortunately not being able to do the high intensity of training I used to, the weight has crept back on – very nearly to where I was when I began.

Yes, I could take all of what I’ve been through, the setbacks I’ve had, and the losses this journey has created and fixate on it to a point of a major depression. And trust me, I have been near there – I won’t sugarcoat it. This. Is. Not. Easy. And to accept and face it every day takes an emotional toll. So I tell myself take each task one at a time. Take each hour by hour, each day by day.

So, with swimming I focused on step by step. First I called to ask about Covid protocol. Next, I packed my swimming bag. After, I booked a swim time. Then, I put on my bathing suit followed by throwing on clothes. By putting suit on at home, it reduced the anxiety of getting changed in change room both due to my weight gain and my scars, and I could have less excuses to leave the change room and not get into the pool. I still had to shower and change after the swim, but it was getting into the pool that would be the challenge as after, you have no choice but to shower and change – especially in Saskatchewan when winter returns – there’s no way you can just leave in your wet suit!

Shorts weather… my top 2 scars are covered but the middle scar (the worst one) and one my knee show.

So, I am battling a body full of physical and mental scars. But I will have memories of how hard I fought this whole journey. My goal isn’t to look perfect, act perfect, or have perfect skin during this setback or even after it. But when I look back, I hope I can say I didn’t have regrets with how I dealt with what I was given. I still aim to get back on track with my weight loss journey and to get back to as many activities I used to do before this. My priority is returning to teaching, followed by being able to do long walks, rucking, kettlebells, and hopefully running too. My priority is to always recognize the woman in the mirror regardless of what she looks like and if her physical appearance changes, for better or for worse.

And I’ll put on those shorts and bathing suits without shame but with pride in the warrior I am and for the scars and memories I am fortunate to have – as it all just means I am alive, I am living life the best I can, and that I fought for myself to have a better pain free life.

Running or Winning?

In summer 2020, I read “No One Ever Asked” by Katie Ganshert.

Click image to go to the Goodreads addition for this book.

I highlighted this quote in the book: “I guess the question you need to ask yourself is, What do you really love? Running or winning? If it’s running, then you’re not really going to lose …”

Since March 2018, I’ve really faced missing out – on training, on running, and on races and events. I had to cancel all of my events in February 2020 due to my hip condition – even before that became a reality for everyone else with the pandemic. Everyone has been faced with missing races and fitness events as we once knew them since the pandemic a year ago. Sure, there are virtual races everywhere but any athlete will tell you that it isn’t the same feeling.

But when you’re also faced with being on the sidelines completely, the first thing you miss is not the races – it’s the running. It’s the training. While I am a positive person, I cannot deny how often I feel down when I can’t just get out for a run, ruck, or ruck. Or when I can’t just crush a kettlebell workout. As well, not being able to be a part of doing any training with my team has been very isolating.

Every athlete has had to face this pandemic reevaluating and replanning training and races. But my hip surgery has left me with even less, and some days that crushes you. Everyone is feeling the effects of the losses but some have lost even more. I am worse off than some, but I am better of than many too.

As a teacher, I truly love being in the classrooms. Teaching Core French isn’t just what I do but a part of who I am. I miss every moment I’m missing teaching. But I do have to take care of myself first – and that’s hard to do. I am better at taking care of others!

I can focus on all that I’ve lost this past year and that I’m losing right now in teaching, running and training. But if I focus on what I really love – while I can’t do it now, there’s a lot of hope that I’ll be able to in the future. I may be sidelined but what I truly love – running, rucking, walking, kettlebells – will always be there. I still don’t know what I’ll all be able to return to but I do know that I will be returning to my active lifestyle. It may mean long walks but no running. It may mean no swinging kettlebells but I will be able do other kettlebell work. Right now, I’ve been told nothing I was doing before this fitness wise is off the table yet.

So, if focus on my love of teaching, running, and other training and embody the reasons of why I love those into what I’m doing now in my recovery and whatever I’m able (or even not able) to do in the future, I am not “really going to lose anything.”

Old photo of me running at Wascana Trails with Ginny.

First Day of Spring 2021

Last year, the world was feeling pretty dark and dreadful. I was just recently diagnosed with femoral retroversion – finding out my first surgery was only a fix of a secondary issue and not the main issue fixed. The pandemic was spreading and lockdowns began happening – resulting in making my surgery even that much more delayed. Spring’s usual joy was muted by so many setbacks.

This year, spring is the opposite. I feel so much hope. The pandemic is still surrounding us but vaccines are underway. There’s some light even with some uncertainty. My hip surgery happened and while I am still limping, have some healing issues to work on, and I have a lot of work ahead of me in my recovery, I’m on the other side of the journey. The waiting to be “fixed” side, the limbo side, is so much worse.

None of the last year’s struggles with the pandemic should be minimized – lives lost, jobs lost, homes lost, families broken – nor should the setback I went through either. But spring has a way of letting you feel free to let out the breath you held all winter and the really breathe deep. A real cleansing breathe. Something I think we all need right now. So, wherever you are – if you can, go outside and let out the breath you’re holding and take in a new one.

Hello spring. Welcome. You are very much what we need right now. Please be gentle with us.

Living My Year in a Global Pandemic & Medical Setback

For all who are also running on fumes. You are not alone. Your best is enough.


“She believed she should so she did” is one of my favourite short motivational quotes. However, we forget that “she should” and “she did” doesn’t mean you can’t say no to things too or take the necessary time to rest. I’ve believed I could do so many things – my lifestyle change, weight loss, comeback from 2018 surgery, my thesis, this current journey – and I did and I am doing. But none of it was done without also balancing my physical and mental health.

None of what I’ve achieved in my life was done without also having days of not doing anything. None of what I’ve done in the past or now was or is perfect and none of it was or is possible without setting realistic expectations. And sometimes, even when she could and she did, she has to start over again – and that’s okay too.

I know – because due to my setback with my hip disability and surgery, I’m restarting my weight loss journey as well as working towards a comeback to teaching (again) and back to any of the fitness activities I loved and I am able to do again.

And…the pandemic. I know, I know. We are so tired of talking about it, but it’s been a year since Covid began to really hit North America and initiated lockdowns world wide. I’ve really been on a lockdown since January 2020 when my hip issues intensified forcing me to be put on leave from work as I couldn’t even walk. After 6 weeks of being unable to walk, drive, work – I watched the world become almost as restricted as I was. It was surreal.

The most ironic part of the pandemic is that when the world became locked down, more services became available to me, someone disabled and stuck at home. So many things that I could not get before the pandemic suddenly became easily available with a click on the phone and delivered right to my door.

The pandemic really challenged everyone in similar and different ways. It’s often hard to change the routines we’ve had for years and realize that the realistic expectations we had for ourselves before the pandemic may need to be adjusted or completely changed now. That’s the same with my surgery and recovery. If you’re just doing your best each day, even if you don’t accomplish all the tasks you thought you should, that is enough. There’s no set rule book for how to survive a pandemic, or a medical setback. We have to take it day by day. Sometimes even hour by hour. Just remember – you are not alone.

So, now, sometime today, please go pour let’s go make ourselves a cup of coffee or tea and take a moment for ourselves.

Day 1: Embrace the journey

My tshirt I wore up to Saskatoon yesterday said embrace the journey. A part of me was like “hell yes” let’s do this. Another part of me today says I’ve embraced this and fought this so long, I’m so tired.

But today is day 1. I can’t give up now.

I haven’t written in awhile. I’ve been waiting for a surgery date and it finally has arrived. That date is today. I don’t really don’t know what to expect. I’m checking into the hospital at 10am and my surgery is scheduled at 1pm. I’m trusting the surgeon. I’m trusting the powers that be.

I know today’s surgery is not going to be easy. To fix the femoral retroversion, the procedure is called a derotational femoral osteotomy. The surgeon will cut into my femur to break it, realign it, put a rod in, and then stitch/staple me up. I’ll be in the hospital for undetermined amount of days – anywhere from 2-4 days. Thanks to the pandemic, my partner cannot be with me. I’m alone while waiting for surgery, after surgery and during the hospital stay. I think that part is what scares me the most as he is my solid ground when the life is crazy.

I don’t have much to write today. I’m writing as the start gun to this important long race. so here we go. Bang. The race began. Day 1.

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.