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.

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.

“Just take one step [and breath]”…

Never quit.jpg
Spartan Race. (2017, February 19). When you feel like quitting, remember why you started. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/SpartanRaceCanada/photos/a.210659052410902.64175.146505632159578/1023597291117070/?type=3&theater

This is basically what kept going through in my head yesterday after an asthma attack hit middle of a Spartan Saturday outdoor workout.

“…remember why you started”.

I am fortunate to have my asthma very controlled and it rarely acts up – mostly only when I am getting sick. And I was starting to get a minor cold. That feeling of not being able to breathe is never something I can get used to even after years of asthma. After the attack, I could have quit. My team and coach wouldn’t have judged me. It was a pretty severe attack. But I knew once I had it under control that I could go on and finish if I slowed down and controlled my breathing. So I did it.

It took me pretty much double the time I normally spend on a Saturday workout but I did not quit. I found even trying to slow down was hard for me. I like to take challenges and push myself. I had to remind myself all throughout the long finish of the exercises, that today my challenge was not to push hard. But it was to simply finish the workout.

These workouts are more than just helping me become a healthier person physically. They are helping realize myself mentally too. For me, it isn’t all just about overcoming the obstacles or improving in the workouts. It is how the training for all of this is changing how I think. My brain thinks a lot like the image posted above from Spartan’s Facebook page.

Yesterday, my team and my coach helped push me through. When I decided to continue, they didn’t stop me. Not everyone knew at time that it had happened. Just my coach and a few who saw it happen. I know they watched me to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it and if at any moment, it looked like I was, I know they would have kindly insisted I stop. But when they saw that I was able to continue, very slowly, I heard words of encouragement. I was given high fives. On my last round, I remember hearing my coach say “Just take one step”. I remember laughing sarcastically in my head “I think you mean, just take one breath…” Humour helps when I struggle. But I took one breath and one step. I finished. One hour 47 minutes. Usually a Saturday workout takes one hour or one hour 15 minutes. It may have not been my “fastest” or my “strongest” workout. I may not have had a “PR” – personal record. However, after this workout, I teared up a bit as I felt immensely proud of myself and felt like I just accomplished the best workout ever. Finishing this workout felt better than any other PB or PR I have yet earned. It reminded me of the reasons why I started and why I have been so fortunate to change my life. I never gave up. From the moment I was given a reason to start (testing pre-diabetic in August 2013), I have continued to take one more step and I will continue to take one more stop for the rest of my life. My end goal isn’t just a goal weight anymore. My end goal is a continuous goal of health and fitness and challenging myself. My end goal is continuing to transform myself physically and mentally. My end goal is never quitting.

Thank you so much to my coach, Riley Nadoroznick, yesterday for sticking with me until I finished. Even though it took a very long time. I know you said I didn’t have to thank you but you have a life too and yet, you waited. Also thanks to my teammates yesterday. I may not have replied to all of your encouraging words as I was focusing on my breathing but I couldn’t have found a better family to challenge myself with. If you are local to Regina, and ready to also take that step, check out Conviction Fitness one day. Riley offers so much for people. Online programming for busy people and non local people too! Spartan Pro and Spartan Lite programming… Unfortunately, I think the March/April program is full or almost full but here’s the website to check out and has contact info if you are ready for a new challenge: http://convictionfitness.ca/

Instagram Conviction Fitness.jpg
@convictionfitness. (2017, February 18). Huge shout to…[Instagram post]. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/BQqWr4dgTTq/?hl=en