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.

Being brave in a time of fear – realigning priorities

Amid this coronavirus crisis, it’s been an odd experience as someone already secluded from society due to an injury due to a newly diagnosed hip condition – femoral retroversion. The past 2 months I’ve focused on navigating how I can live my now with the pain until my diagnosis – waiting for tests and surgeon appointments. Now with a diagnosis, I am focusing on the tools being given to me from physiotherapy to reduce the pain I’ve been in. It’s going to take time and patience. I’ve been overwhelmed by the uncertain future of decisions we will make because of it as we await to meet with a new specialist surgeon for this condition. So amidst all of this, it has been hard to balance the emotions of my own world and the world around me.

As someone who has already cancelled most of her 2020 race season, the emotions I’ve felt as I’ve heard cancellation after cancellation along with the reactions to the cancellations has been something I couldn’t quite register the last few days. But today, I finally understand the emotions I’ve been feeling and hope these can help you realign and make this a positive experience. While I feel terrible for people who have had races, even multiple races, cancelled and my heart breaks with them as I know the effort and time we put into our training, at the same time, I’ve seen posts where some have said “everything I’ve trained for was for nothing”. I’ve also seen posts from the team I train with who are still putting in their all to train for the upcoming Montana Spartan races, even with fears it may be cancelled. My team is a great example of how to see training is for tomorrow and for life – not for just a race. Even if that tomorrow has changed.

If you’ve felt like you’re training only for sake of races, step back a moment. Reevaluate. Training is a life achievement – and what you are doing is not just valued by the events you choose to challenge yourself with. Challenging yourself each and every day to be the best you can is a value all on its own. You have a new opportunity to prove that again. Regardless whether the race you’ve planned for is cancelled or likely to be cancelled. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. You don’t know when the day will come when you can’t do any of it at all.

My races were cancelled before this virus thing all began. I was disappointed- still am but I am still focusing on the priority that training is for me – it’s a lifestyle change. It’s what gives me motivation. I can’t run or do any kettlebell training right now, barely can walk, and I just found out I can’t even do the short stationary bike rides I was doing – at least for the immediate future. And I used to hate the pool and now find myself in a position where that’s the only exercise I can do with limited pain. So I’ve embraced it and even fallen a little bit in love with it. I went from forgetting how to be able to front crawl even 5 metres and now I can do 80 metres of front crawl laps before switching to a breast stroke or back crawl for a break. While I am terrified that pools may eventually close, I’m taking it day by day. I can’t control the future or what happens – I’ve sure learned that these past 2 years. But I can control how I deal with it.

So yes. Be disappointed but don’t let that interfere with what you’re doing to change your life as it is still so worth it. Find something else to embrace the disappointment with and put your energy into the positive. Be the best you can be. This is temporary and while for some of us, it feels like it’s just starting, I know it’ll end. As someone who has experienced setback to setback for the last 2 years and still isn’t fully through it all, all I have is hope that there is still more to come.

I am awe of anyone who trains regardless if they race or not this year. All of you that keep moving forward regardless of current situations are inspiring those who are struggling whether due to lack of motivation, an injury, an illness, or physical disability. Whether it is because of the coronavirus or due to an injury like me, we can be brave in a time of fear, we can realign priorities for what is truly important today, and we can not give up just because we can’t do something. Races will be back eventually but you can’t get back the days you wasted throwing in the towel and only moaning about what you can’t control. Do something with this. Continue to be brave. Continue to be amazing.

How to write unexpected journeys in your own words

We don’t always get a say or choice in the factors that determine our journeys, but we do get to decide how to move forward, not move at all or move backwards, in the journey forced upon us.

My pre surgery symptoms have returned. While I am managing it way better than the first time, I am in almost constant pain just at different varying levels. Some nights I can’t sleep again, some days worse than others. Sitting and standing long periods are more challenging than the 20k ruck i did over Christmas break.

However, whether I’m more mentally strong this time or luckily the pain is less severe more often, I am trying to resort to only necessary measures for pain relief. So right now just OTC extra strength Advil recommended for the almost constant inflammation. The effects of the narcotic pain meds last time were almost worse than pain itself. There may be a time that medical team may not agree, and I’ll listen to all parties involved before making my own decisions as I am now, but right now at this moment fortunately they are working with me on this and supporting my decision.

I saw my surgeon yesterday and he believes there is a high chance I have a hip labral tear again – what extent is unknown. Is this definite diagnosis? Not at all. But he said the symptoms and physical exam indicate it is highly likely.

Ok, what’s up Doc? As in what’s next. The short answer. Waiting. And more waiting. And tests.

Test 1: I’ll need another MRI to confirm if it is a hip labral tear again or maybe even perhaps something else. Right now, it looks to be about 3-6 months wait. In Saskatchewan, MRI are covered by public health care. However, the recent provincial government has a new program of a few years where you can pay to get it privately done. The catch? To take advantage of the faster privately paid one, the program in place has the cost higher than paying what a private one typically costs. You’re actually paying for you, and paying for a public one as well. A special government deal to address the backlog of private MRI. While you get the advantage of being guaranteed to have MRI done within 2 weeks instead and therefore jumping the queue and getting results and any possible surgeries sooner – it comes at a financial cost. I think we may be leaning towards private but we haven’t decided 100%. We are waiting to hear about the actual price from the private company before making final decisions. Hopefully we hear early next week or even by end of next week.

Test 2: CT Scan. Surgeon believes there may be more going on the hip that originally thought. So to determine any femur or rotational issues this test will rule anything else out. This will also help him to know if something more needs to be fixed – especially if MRI does confirm a hip labral tear, the CT scan may point towards a body make up reason for it that can be addressed.

My life: Running and rucking are out obviously. Kettlebell club is on hold too. Even simple tasks as doing dishes and getting ready for the day are challenging and slow- within 10 minutes my leg is flaming and groin is stabbing. And as much as I’ve always been the “get it done now person”, I’m once again learning that sometimes you have to stop. Resume when able.

Regardless of results, my race season is likely done. I already am working on cancelling Spartan Montana Trail Race in May. Even if tests are sooner than expected and/or diagnosis is not as serious with a much easier quicker fix – my body won’t be ready for it with less than 3 months to go. There’s next year or the year after. I don’t have the body or time to train for it this year and at this moment so there’s no point sulking and trying to find a way around it – just move on and try it again when ready for it. My big September race will still depend on results and timeline. If it is a tear, it is 100% not happening but right now I have the time to hold off on that decision. One decision at a time and accepting the necessity to back out of Montana was heartbreaking enough today.

My medical team, my coach, and I are going to focus on making sure I go into this surgery stronger than last time as it will help reduce the length of my recovery. I am off work for now – I cannot stand or sit longer than 10 minutes without pain and mobility issues. My focus needs to be on using rest and minimizing pain, while doing physio approved activities so my body does not lose all the muscle and strength and conditioning it had last time. Physio has outlined a plan of swimming, short walks, stationary biking with seat high up, upper and core strength. I must avoid 1 legged activities and any hip bending beyond 90 degrees. I will see my physiotherapist every 2 weeks for now. My coach is going to help use physio/surgeon approved activities for a daily plan. I will focus on my nutrition plan with him so I can maintain or even lose weight – my hip issues will be better for any weight maintaining/weight loss I can achieve especially if I’m facing a surgery again.

I am forever grateful for a coach willing to work with athletes of any kind, all with extremely different goals, and as well at any step of their journey, even injured ones. I am also grateful for a physiotherapist and surgeon who have worked hard and put in countless hours in my recovery and continue to fight for me and with me. This is not the outcome anyone wanted and we all honestly thought I had surpassed what the surgeon originally thought I would be able to do after surgery.

So for now, I focus day to day. Hour to hour. I may or may not be able to do something one day that I can another day. Even what I’m capable of doing may be change or be reduced if pain increases. And I have to listen to my body and know when to stop. Rest and not push myself back into severe pain that excessively reduces my mobility, like a week ago, is the priority right now. But I want to use any available tools approved to get myself back to my life 110% hopefully more timely this time.

The last time my recovery was not just focused on rebuilding my repaired hip and weakened left side due to the hip injury but I had to rebuild my whole body as the pain was serious enough to give up on everything and was on complete bed rest. Was it right or wrong to do that – I won’t question the decisions of the past as it was what was directed by medical care but it sure had its negatives too. But in this moment, I only have now and how I deal with this journey in the present.

So, yesterday I began step 1 with my surgeon appointment. Today I’ve been working on step 2. It may be some time before I can move from step 2 depending on wait time for tests and results of those tests but I haven’t quit. And I’ve still taking the first step to begin. I’m not quitting. I’m not throwing in the towel. Turning the page or closing the book? I’m not ready to close the book on my journey so I’ll turn the page and while not the words I expected to be written for me this year but I will be writing what are MY WORDS. I want my journey and my book to be written by me – not for me. Some of the future pages may not be where I want to go in my story and may still encounter more setbacks but I’m promising 2 things – it’ll be me holding the pen and it’s going be one heck of a comeback story.

Hitting the brakes

In October I was in a car accident when a lady turned left into my lane as I was going straight. Easy at fault verdict? Not really. It was the first day of snow and roads hadn’t been cleared or sanded. Instinct? I was only going 35km and thought I had time to stop, so I braked slowly. And I hit a patch of ice that left me with 0 control of my car as I slowly slid sideways into a car waiting at a red light going the complete opposite direction. It was like slow motion slide that I had no control over. It took a month to fix my car. The provincial insurance we are mandated to have only looked at who hit who – not who caused it. I was put at fault but won my appeal with the safety points taken off given back. The highway board also said “We can’t reverse the fault” but I could tell they didn’t fully agree with provincial government insurance decision for fault.

I feel like I’ve lost that same control again. Yet this time it’s my body and my former pre surgery injury symptoms. I was heading straight – progress was great, and I was following all the directions I was given by surgeon and physio. Then suddenly an unexpected obstacle in my path. My body began to slowly feel the old groin pinch. The stiffness in upper left leg. The worst it got the more my left side suffered. Swelling. Knee stiffening up. Pain into the left butt cheek and lower back. Not able to sleep on my side anymore. I feel like something is grinding in the hip joint. And a couple of familiar old pops in the joint. So I hit the brakes first on running and kettlebell training. On Monday, I received the call that my surgeon would see me February 6. All I had to do was make it through 2 weeks of work…

But each day it worsened. The more I was on my feet teaching – or even just doing mundane household chores – the worse the symptoms grew. I said I could bare it. I would be ok. My pain was evident to many of those I worked with – while I thought I was doing okay masking it. By Tuesday, someone reminded me that “just making it through the day” means I shouldn’t really be at work. I considered this and by end of the day, my body was screaming no more. I booked a sub for 2 days and made appointment with my family doctor.

Today, my family doctor put me off until I see the surgeon. I wanted to haggle for half days or something – anything that doesn’t mean time off. But my doctor said that the symptoms being so similar, it isn’t worth the risk of my health. And working in pain in my job is not safe for me. As I left, maybe because he saw the tears in my eyes or maybe because he knows how long my recovery was the first time and how diligent I worked in this recovery – he said with such force that it was like he knew I was already beating myself up: “Jess, take it easy. And be easy on yourself.”

“Be easy on yourself.” Since the first time I even let myself admit I was in serious pain, all I’ve been thinking of is others – my new students, the school I’m fallen in love teaching at, coaching basketball, falling behind on my resining goals, my partner and I finally back on track financially after the last injury and surgery, my partner and I making plans again for the future, my friends and commitments to them… I also had the “what if we have to go through this injury and surgery all over again?”

Meanwhile for those I’ve shared this news with, I’ve put up a brave front. I’ll deal with whatever comes I say. We will figure it out. Maybe it’s nothing. Yet inside I am feeling a turmoil of pain, doubts, fears.

The injury and surgery do not scare me – heck, if they said they could diagnose and fix me tomorrow I’d be game. It’s the uncertainty until we figure it out that scares me. The time lost. Losing the moments for all the opportunities I had planned this year. In Canada, a diagnosis for this type of injury takes awhile. We have to wait for tests such as MRI’s. Last time it took 3 months – my life on hold for 3 months. 1/4 of the year. Followed by 2 years of rehab that I really hadn’t fully finished.

I have goals to reach. I freaking love my job as a travel cart French teacher – as crazy as my job is. My job is a part of my “home” and a huge part of me, Being away from what I love doing takes away from who I am. And I feel so lost again.

For 2 weeks I’ve hidden these feelings. Ive beaten myself up. Like my accident – questioned whose fault is this – mine? Did I do something wrong? Did I do something to deserve this pain? I’ve put on a mask. Said I was being brave and tough. Taking on facing the unknown courageously while hiding how you feel really isn’t courageous. So here it goes – I’m freaking out. I’m losing my mind. And guess what? Even just admitting that brings me back a small sense of control. So the question is now what do I do about this? Well, I’m going to rest. I’m going to read, sleep, Netflix/Disney/Crave/Amazon Prime binge the heck out of this week. I’m going to prepare myself for how I’ll handle the worst but also hold hope that maybe an easier shorter fix is possible.

Meanwhile, life will go on. My students will miss me, basketball will likely find another coach temporarily, my workouts will go undone. But I do know that whether it takes a week or another year, there’s still so much more out there for me. And it isn’t anyone’s fault. I have to let go of blaming myself for life’s setbacks. I grew up blaming myself for family challenges that I couldn’t fix. Never did fix. It has created me to always blame myself in any situation.

I am sliding out of control. Hit the brakes. Time to rest. Minimize the damage. Let go of the guilt and blame. Accidents happen. Injuries happen. Sometimes there’s no explanations why – so you just have to deal with what life has given you.

It took my car a month to be fixed. Maybe it’ll take me just this week. Maybe it’ll take me a month. Or a year. Either way, pressing the gas going directly into the obstacle is likely only going to result in a head on collision with more significant damage and a longer recovery time.

Training and Extreme Cold Warning Day 10.

In our prairie province of Saskatchewan, in my city of Regina, we’ve been in a deep freeze for 10 days. -40 degree Celsius weather has been our daily average. Thursday we hit -49 Celsius.

With a long period of extreme cold, the challenge of my outdoor running, rucks, walks, and even today’s outdoor workout with my team become a mental battle of should I go or should I not. I really don’t like training in cold weather- even before in injury I didn’t. But I did it often before my injury and surgery. I could layer up, force out the mileage, and after a workout while thawing out – I didn’t hurt.

But now, intense cold weather makes my body stiffen, harden and flexibility and mobility are significantly reduced – so much I can’t really feel what my body is even doing, and when I do warm up, I’m hurting a lot. So for myself, it isn’t worth the pain it causes to force my body to train outside in -40 temps. Not being able to feel or have better control of my body risks injuries. And I don’t want to be on the sidelines again. I also now realize the risk in forcing myself out in the cold with my asthma and no inhaler available due to it freezing. I’d rather have a high quality workout indoors than a miserable workout outdoors where my body isn’t cooperating with me but I’m pushing it to anyway. I always felt there was shame and cowardice if I didn’t do my planned outdoor workout. Yet, more often than not, pushing through extreme weather has resulted in missing multiple workouts due to pushing my asthma and my body in elements that hurt me.

So… I’m learning to put myself first and that everyone is different. Some have no problems pushing through this weather. Others, like me, it ends up being a painful experience – such as asthma flare up or mobility issues due to an injury. So I’m learning it’s okay to choose the treadmill over an outdoor run. That the stationary bike is a great option when I can’t get my daily walks in. Or grabbing a kettlebell and doing some mobility.

It isn’t that I’m giving up by adapting my outdoor workouts to indoors. I am just doing what’s best for me today so that tomorrow’s workout and all the ones after also get the best of me.

And yes, I first did start the day with a protein tea latte, my weighted blanket, and a book. But I still plan to crush an inclined treadmill run after lunch.

I am a runner

I haven’t been running all my life. Heck, I haven’t been running even 1/2 of my life. I didn’t begin running until April 2014 – I was 29 years old. Yet, I rarely still feel comfortable calling myself a runner.

I had a challenging week with a stomach flu this week. Ever since my injury and surgery, I take even the smallest of setbacks and obstacles really to heart. I feel like I’m finally getting into a routine, sticking to my training plan – and bam, life has a different plan beyond my control.

Today I had planned to go for a long run. Yet, we had tons of snow fall and I knew a long run on many snow packed paths would definitely cause a hip flare up. If you haven’t ran on 7-8 inches of fresh snow along with many blown snow drifts, you wouldn’t get it. But it’s like constantly running in mounds of sand. It causes bad running stride – and there’s 0 chance I could do it painlessly.

So I decided I would go for a long ruck with Ginny instead. It’s getting cold so we layered up – I put on my 10lb ruck and I put on Ginny’s 2lb ruck. As we entered the nearby park with paths, only about 1km in, we encounter a dog off leash. It is city rules to have dogs leashes in city parks. Sadly Ginny was attached 5 years ago seriously enough for surgery and to leave her with anxiety. The dog prowled and jumped her – I had my dog spray and screamed loud enough to deter it. The owner, without apology, finally managed to leash his dog. Ginny and continue. Not even a full minute later, we come upon 2 off leash dogs from 1 different owners who have begun to chase other. I yell to them I have a dog who doesn’t like to be approached and they try to call their dogs. It took 3-4 minutes.

By now, Ginny is extremely stressed and anxious and I know her ruck is done. I return home defeated that we didn’t even get in 3k (did 2.67km). This was nowhere near my planned 105 minute aerobic activity.

I sat on the chair for a bit contemplating my afternoon. I have tons of school work unfinished. I feel completely off from the inpromptu flu – in training, in report cards, in lesson planning, in home chores, and just off mentally and physically too.

I don’t feel like the athlete I was before all of this. I have gained weight since the injury and surgery. I have battled numerous setbacks. I can’t seem to lose weight. I can’t perform to the extent that I used to. So I often just feel as if I’m working towards something I can’t even achieve.

I pushed these ever recurring thoughts aside and I decided I would walk on the treadmill. Not tracking it. Just walk as long as I felt like it. I also knew I’d play a movie I’ve wanted to for while off amazon prime – “Brittany Runs a Marathon”.

And just… bam. Watching Brittany’s fictional life had me reliving my own. I began running because I was told I was pre-diabetic. I started running to change my life. To change where my life was going. And while my abilities have changed a bit, and some things are more challenging than before, the reasons I run have not changed. I am a runner. I am still a runner.

We often define a runner as an extreme fit skinny long legged fast beast. I’m not extremely fit. I’m not skinny. I’m definitely not long legged (which makes running even more challenging). But I am a runner.

In the movie, someone says to Brittany “You changing your life was never about your weight, it was about taking responsibility for yourself.” This is the truth and love that I find about running. It’s a typical human habit to fall victim to not falling into the typical stereotypes of what we should be. But what is the most important about being a runner isn’t what others perceive of you, nor the medal around your neck – it’s about your own self confidence of who you are, of what you are doing, why you are doing it and where you are going with it. I am a runner. I run because I love it. I run because I want to become better. I run because I know I can. I run because it gives me quality time with Ginny – running with Ginny is an experience I can’t describe. You have to just experience your own run with a 4 legged partner. I run because I’ve taken responsibility for myself and how I live my life. I’m working also at taking responsibility at how I love myself.

I may not get back to where I was. My journey may have changed. But I am still a runner.

I. Am. A. Runner.

Oh, and you just have to watch “Brittany Runs a Marathon”. It’s priceless.

2020 – ready or not, here we go!

A blur of half of year went by and I haven’t written a single blog.

The remainder of my 2019 was spent transferring schools – I work for a school board with a transfer policy every 8-10 years – I was ready to move on to a new school but it has been a hectic start of the 2019-2020 school year. 2019 was also spent completing my thesis writing – done. Defending it in November – successfully done – Master of Education complete! Running my first big comeback 20k race since surgery in September – done. Continuing to manage post injury and post surgery flare ups. And just managing life, meal prep and nutrition goals, and training goals.

Where am I at? Well, though it often feels like not very far, I am at lot further than where I was this time last year. I survived a year of rehab, an after surgery setback of a stress fracture in my leg, multiple flare ups, and serious mental battle with myself about where to go from where I was in my training and athletic goals.

I found myself comparing myself to what others were doing and the results they were achieving. I compared myself to my old 2017 self that was crushing races and losing weight quickly. All of the comparing and degrading myself for not being where I thought I would be by end of 2019 left me exhausted and demoralized.

Then I remembered my go to – “She believed she could so she did.” One pronoun. Singular. This is my journey. Stop comparing myself to others and even to myself from previous years. There is no defined pathway for a journey. Sometimes you have to lose control to be reminded that you can’t control what has happened to you but only what you do with it. So here we go – ready or not.

In 2020, following a wise friend’s yearly tradition, I picked a theme for my year. I loved how each year she picked a theme and used that to live her life positively. I hate the idea of resolutions as for me, I am continuing the same healthy eating habits and training program as I did in 2019 with some slight changes. But an actual resolution seems pointless when I already have the tools I need for my goals. So I decided I would try this annual theme thing. I choose embrace happy.

I picked these two words and this phrase as throughout 2018 and 2019, I was constantly searching for happy in comparing myself to my past or to whom I see myself. I was searching for it by comparing myself by what I can’t do that my teammates and other athletic friends make look so easy.

But instead – I should be embracing happy. Each day. Every day. In my now. My morning routine. A cup of tea. A walk or ruck with Ginny. Supper with Brad. Each day has so much happy but I need to embrace it – to fully engage myself in it instead of monotonously going through the motions but only thinking how I can be happy in the future by losing the weight I want to be at or getting back to the running speed I was at. That isn’t going to help me be happy now.

I can also embrace happy in my challenges and any setbacks that may arise. A flare up of the hip – I’ll embrace that as it means I can focus on the tools I’ve been given to overcome it – stretching, foam rolling, mobility exercises. My car breaking down yet again (4 times in 6 weeks end of 2019 and also a car accident – oh, and a mouse in the car too)…is it possible to be happy in that? Yes it is – one, I have a car that I own fully and have the ability to pay to get fixed. And cars will break down – I can’t let that define my day or my year. So embrace happy as at least I do have a car that needs the occasional repair. Overloaded with marking, planning, and extracurricular as a teacher – yes, it’s exhausting and I have complained but I love it. I mean, who gets to be told by a student “You make me feel like I can do anything awesome in French.” Or, “I’ve never ran a real race before” for my school run/walk club. And sharing in a student’s first experience in running a real race? Priceless.

So yes. Challenges suck. Setbacks suck. I’ll likely post and share those too as they are real parts of my life. And who wants to see the perfect side only? But my goal will also be to post how that setback or challenge also brought me happiness – or if not immediately, I’ll share how I think that moment or event can lead to happiness.

So, each day, I’ll decide my own happy by being in the moment and embracing it – whatever those moments may be. I’ll decide the days, weeks, months, and year I’ll have. I will work at not comparing them to the days before or the days ahead.

Love to hear how you’ll embrace happy in 2020 for you. Happy New Year!

Setbacks and Breakthroughs

I finally had surgery on my teeth last week. 8 days ago. Two of my teeth had root canals that failed and I learned there is an even more in depth procedure to help that – an apicoectomy. And I learned there is a specialist for it called an endodontist, also known as root canal specialist. I had no clue before this.

My teeth started having problems in January. I scheduled an appointment with regular dentist and he said that he couldn’t see anything on xray so maybe just some trauma to tooth from bumping it. He expressed that there are rare cases when root canals fail and their xrays don’t pick up on it. However, he was positive that wasn’t my case. A couple weeks later and pain worsening, he referred me to the specialist who I had to wait to get in for 4 months. Finally in May, the appointment showed 2 of my root canaled teeth were severely infected. So she explained her best approach was an apicoectomy – going through gums to take out the top roots and leaving my crowns untouched. The surgery finally came (after a cancellation on their part making me wait almost 2 more weeks for new appointment) and finally last Thursday, it happened.

I was not expecting how bad the surgery would make me feel. I was in so much pain and I didn’t couldn’t run at all and only 1 day I managed a short walk (more so for my canine running partner than for me). I didn’t also expect a diet of mashed potatoes and soft foods (ice cream, Popsicles, smoothies) for so long. Sure, I thought one or two days but not the 5 days it lasted as it hurt so much to even eat soft foods. Opening my gums was painful.

I wasn’t too upset missing Friday. Saturday I was a bit glum….and it killed me to miss long run Sunday. And then Monday and Tuesday too. I had swollen up so bad on my left cheek thst it looked like I had actually been beaten. And the pain… wow. I was on a few meds (antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, pain meds, a special oral rinse) and those also made me feel worse in some ways. I missed 3 days of work and tried to return Tuesday. I barely survived the morning.

By Wednesday, I was beginning to improve but I felt bloated and disgusting. The 4 pounds I had just lost in May came back plus another 4. I wasn’t 100%… my gums were still sore and I tired easily. I planned to try a run/walk (more walk) in the morning) but meds made it hard to get going in morning. After surviving my first full day back and school, the last thing I wanted to do was run. But in the exhaustion and slight pain, I tied up the runners and went for an evening run. I decided to run 4 or 5k. When I hit 2k, I felt ok. I was slow but I was ok. I managed 5k… and it was humid, hot and sticky. Thank goodness for a running partner to look back at you with grateful brown eyes to keep you moving. After her hiatus, I could tell she also was struggling a bit but if I kept going, she didn’t give up either.

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Before Wednesday's 5k run

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After Wednesday's 5k run

It was a hard slow run but just taking the step to get back at it was amazing. I took Thursday off to do a kettlebell workout. My motivation, and also my stressing, has been coming from a 14k Trail run I signed up for that is tomorrow  (Saturday). I signed up for back before I even knew I had to have surgery.

Today I woke up and it was a teacher pd day. Prep and staff meetings and all that jazz. I decided to test myself for tomorrow. If I could manage 8k, even if slowly, I should be able managed the 14k tomorrow.

Well, it ended up being an amazing run and not a bad paced run at all.

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It felt great.

My other setback was my eating habits. I was doing so good with making sure my most carbs were eaten after workout with less throughout day. More veggies and protein. But a soft diet does not help. The carbs and sugars I was eating through ice cream, Popsicles, smoothies and mashed potatoes definitely made my newly reformed body feel worse.

To be honest, I was being hard on myself. I would try to not eat just because of it wasn’t my typical diet but by day 3, I realized not eating made the nausea from meds worse. So I gave in for a couple days and just let it happen. As of yesterday, day 7 post surgery, I started eating my normal again. And it feels great.

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One of my favs - chicken teriwacky

This chicken recipe from looneyspoons cookbook is one of my favs. Chicken teriwacky they called it. It’s chicken teriyaki haha. So good.

And the breakthrough. .. I can survive a setback. I can survive a few days of no exercise. I can survive a few days of crap food. I need to take care of me and then when ready… I just gotta lace up those shoes and take one more step forward yet again.

I stepped on the scale today. I felt better after just 2 days of returning to my eating habits and 3 days of exercise. I wanted to see what the scale said. Even in just a short 2 days, the extra weight from the food or no exercise or just bloating has actually already disappeared.

My other breakthrough the past couple days has been the realization that my new eating the way I have changed me physically and helped to lose weight. It also helps me run better. I feel like I’m using my body and not the carbs I use to eat so much of. And I’m still eating carbs for those of you thinking “oh carb free diet, not good for you”. No… I eat them. I just plan for the main serving of them to be after a workout and then tiny or smaller servings at other meals. It is great. I’m actually getting full after better portions and not hungry all the time like when I ate carbs for everything.

But… I still know when it’s time to have a glass of wine… and after 6 months of teeth pain and no alcohol from constantly being on antibiotics and pain meds… today I am pain med free and having that freaking glass of carb loaded wine. I may even indulge in a second.

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Wish me luck on that 14k Trail run. 😊