The Simple Beautiful Things

I like rainy days, the morning’s first tea, sunshine, the love of a dog, seeing things grow, sunsets and sunrises, and starting a new book. I like the crispness of fall, the coziness of winter, the freshness of spring, and the hazy days of summer. I like the sweet and simple things that remind me that even if life can be complicated and hard, it is also beautiful.

Don’t Judge the Weight on a Scale by Its Number

This is only one of 3 bins of clothing I packed up yesterday. I’ve been ignoring the multitude of clothing that doesn’t fit me anymore. However with returning to teaching next week, I was forced to realize I couldn’t do that anymore. Every article of clothing (mostly sizes small to medium, a few large sizes) folded up and stored away felt like a knife jab into my heart.

Left: 2012 Right: 2017

I worked hard to change my lifestyle starting in September 2013. I started by walking and then tried running which I fell in love with. I joined a local strength training group and begin to train for obstacle course races. I also began rucking in 2018. By summer 2017, I had lost 96.5 pounds. It was freeing and I felt more confident than I have in years. I know that everyone has different bodies and that’s okay but it had become a health risk for me as I was testing pre-diabetic. Luckily, the work I put into becoming active and eating healthier has meant I haven’t tested pre-diabetic in 4 years.

While I felt like I could do anything and achieve anything, life had its own course for me. In March 2018, I began to have chronic pain in my left hip and leg. It led to a surgery in June 2018 to repair a hip labral tear. While waiting for surgery, I was on bed rest and while I continued to eat healthy, the inactivity still slowly crept some weight on. I gained 30-40 pounds this setback.

After surgery, I worked a healthy recovery and at returning to my active life – deciding to focus on trail running instead of obstacle course racing. I didn’t want to risk damaging my hip anymore. I was working with physiotherapist for the best recovery possible. Little issues kept popping up and then the little issues began to become larger issues. I had slowly begun to lose weight again – about 10 of the 30-40 pounds I gained on bed rest. Then in January 2020, I found myself with such a chronic pain flare up, I could barely walk. I was sent back to my surgeon, all activities stopped, and underwent more testing.

In March 2020, 5 days before our province closed everything down due to the pandemic, I was told that the surgery in 2018 only fixed a secondary issue. The main issue was that my left hip had a condition called femoral retroversion. It was highly likely this caused my hip labral tear. My first surgeon wasn’t qualified to do the surgery to repair this condition so I was referred to my second surgeon. At the time, it was supposed to be within a couple weeks due to my history and that this issue wasn’t caught the first time.

However, the province shut down and along with everyone else, my life was frozen. Yet, I was even more limited as even walking and working was challenging. When school went to online the last few months of 2020, I was able to work the last few months from home. But each day, the pain worsened and each step was getting harder. I was prescribed pain medication – not super strong ones as I refused to go back on the addictive opioid ones I was on the first time. While I needed the pain medication both times, the second time, I did not want to be on it long term as we had no idea when I’d be able to see the new surgeon. Even when it’s prescribed and even when it’s needed, the medications are very hard on the body. Instead I managed the pain with rest, medication, and reading – taking only the medication when really needed.

I was finally able to see my new surgeon at the end of July 2020. With his consultation, the surgery he would do – a derotational femoral osteotomy – he strongly believed it would reduced or eliminate my chronic pain and the issues I was having due to the femoral retroversion. Due to the pandemic, I was told to expect a 1-1.5 year wait for surgery. This was a hard to hear but I couldn’t change it. I put my energy into reading, eating healthy, and going for very short walks to keep up some strength.

The reduced activity, even with adjusting my nutrition, still meant the weight crept back on. I am sure stress didn’t help with it at all either! In October 2020, I received a call that I would actually be getting surgery November 30, 2020. That was a hard 5-6 weeks while we waited as we were told it could also be cancelled – even up to the morning of the surgery!

Fortunately, the surgery happened as planned and I was finally on the other side. I went into surgery 185lbs. While I had fluctuated throughout my setbacks, I went into surgery 30lbs heavier than my lowest weight. The recovery that came after wreaked havoc on my body – between the medications (now having to take prescribed strong pain medications and other medications for the first 2 weeks after surgery) plus being stuck in bed with a leg that had gone through being broken, realigned, and put back together with hardware.

The last 9 months have been a doozy. The first couple months felt very slow in healing but after that I have been progressing very steadily. I am finally returning to work 50% next week and this milestone brought a whole new reality to me.

I knew I had gained weight the last 9 months. I had worked hard at eating right and healthy – with still allowing for moments of balance such as takeout and movie date night in with my partner or cooking a delicious pasta meal at home. Even with healthy eating and as I began walking again, it still seemed the scale was going up. Each time I weighed myself, I wanted to cry. I felt I was losing myself with each pound gained on the scale. The weight slowly crept on throughout the last 9 months until I went from 158.4 as my lowest weight that was worked hard to get to… to 185lbs just before surgery… to 245lbs. Jut 10lbs below what I was before I began this journey.

I haven’t shared much about this part of the journey because it hurts. I feel ashamed, guilty, sad, angry – all of the emotions all at once. Yet, I have to share as I truly believe sharing the good and the bad is how we connect with others in the world and maybe make a difference with even one person. In “Seven Days in June” by Tia Williams, she writes “There was power in showing the messiness of her life and what it took to hold her together.” Insert expletive or two here…. Holding me together has been a daily battle. Heck, some days it’s an hourly battle. I feel so lost some days, and others, all I feel is hope and motivation. I feel excited and fearful at the same time. I feel doubt I’ll ever lose this weight again, and I also feel determined to do it. I have anxiety that the pain will return at the same I am enjoying returning to previous activities.

While I am still in the recovery phase and will be classified in it for another 1-1.5 years, the surgery seems to have been successful. The chronic pain in my hip, knee and leg are all gone. I have some minor issues from the hardware put in and I will be having surgery sometime this year to remove it. I have lost some weight and I’m at 239.4lbs from the 245 I went back up to. It’s a long journey back to my lowest weight of 158.4lbs but I can only focus on today to get to the tomorrow’s.

My current combined total of weight losses and gains is likely a gazillion pounds with the fluctuations over the last 8 years but I am focusing at where I’m at now. I have lost 15.5 pounds from my highest weight of 254.9. I faced reality, I packed up my smaller clothing (but keeping it as I plan to get back there again) and I went out back to school clothes shopping for clothing that was cute and comfy – even if in larger sizes.

There have been so many stumbles the last 3 years, I’ve lost track. While I feel so far away from where I had gotten to in my journey, I still feel like I can get back on that road. I have no idea what the future looks like – and I’m not going to promise what mine will look like. I’ve learned through my setbacks that you can’t always be guaranteed where you’re heading but I can only deal with what I do in every day as it comes.

So I start with today. This morning, I went for a short walk with Ginny, I had a healthy breakfast, I did a long stationary bike ride, I did my healthy meal prep for the week, and I will also rest this afternoon. I will keep working at being the best possible of myself each and every day to come. Perhaps I’ll find the me that wears the size small and medium clothing again. Perhaps I’ll be the person that wears large or extra large but works hard every day at being healthy and her best self. Regardless of what the number is on the weigh scale, it doesn’t see the work I’ve put in or the setbacks I’ve faced. I’ll work at not letting that number on the scale define who I am either. I’ll celebrate the losses but I’ll also grow from the gains.

3 months later…

Yes. I am alive! I sort of jumped off the internet there for while.

My surgery on November 30 went well but it sure was not an easy surgery or recovery. The surgery again is called “derotational femoral osteotomy” – say that three times fast. Basically what they did was break my femur, realign it (it was retroverted, basically angled backwards), put a rod in and then screws to hold the rod in. I needed some extra screws due to my femur being shaped more like an oval than a circle. Best I can explain the medical jargon I was giving the day after surgery.

I was in the hospital 2 nights. Holy heck – I was miserable for the first 24 hours and it still wasn’t easy. Pain was mostly well managed but the nausea and vomiting just hours after surgery was horrendous. I ended up having spinal and twilight sleep instead of general anesthesia as they said it would be better pain management after – I think also they are trying to save as many vents possible due to Covid-19 and with a spinal, I wouldn’t need one. So my nausea and vomiting was likely to the spinal but I also had that with general 2 years ago so there isn’t really a downside due to both having similar post op reactions. I was terrified to have spinal and that I’d hear them or be awake enough to see something but I don’t remember anything until they had me come out of twilight sleep.

I was discharged after the second night and we had 2.5 hour drive home. It was the hardest long drive home of my life – every jostle radiated pain through me and even with pain meds, it wasn’t enough for the ride. I managed to get home and into bed where I slept most of the evening.

Post surgery – some of my physio tools, stretches, exercises, elevation. My incisions.

Since my surgery, here are some quick point notes to catch you up:

  • My partner was amazing. He had to take all of this in and do everything. I can’t also imagine being stuck at a hotel and just waiting for me to be discharged. Unable to be with me. He was only allowed to stay with me during pre op and then kicked out. He wasn’t allowed to visit due to Covid protocol. I’m sure that 36 hours in hotel just texting me wasn’t easy. Then he has to drive me home, see me in pain, help me into the house and literally take care of everything. It was definitely a lot for any person but he did it.
  • Crutches are torture – not having your hands to do things like make a meal – it’s frustrating and gets old fast. I was on crutches for 6 weeks – went to using one around 5th week and then the cane around 6-7 weeks. I finally been walking in the house without cane a few weeks and using cane when we go outdoors (basically only for physio) as it’s icy where I am due to the good ol’ early melt and freeze spring. Melts during day, freezes at night. We have so many icy spots on sidewalks and driveways.
  • Dogs are amazing. Having Ginny with me felt less alone. I cannot wait to get back to our walks and runs together – I haven’t been told I won’t be able to run again so I have hope!
  • Physio is amazing. Especially when you have a phenomenal advocate as a physiotherapist. My progress after surgery has been in a large part due to physio.
  • Recovery and being on leave is not just lying around binging Netflix doing nothing. It was for maybe the first few weeks where rest was essential for bone healing and for the body after a major surgery but I always had physio to do even at home. Since the first couple weeks, physio has intensified. Besides going to physio (weekly initially, just started biweekly) but my at home physio program is intense. It takes all day. I’m doing all I can so I am not just doing the bare minimum exercises but with physio encouragement, I also use the stationary bike to strengthen, the treadmill work on walking and gait, and yoga to help with muscle strength. I’m doing short seated upper body workouts to keep my upper body strong. None of what I’m doing is to the intensity of my active lifestyle before this journey began but it feels like it is due to the body recovering. I have to break up items throughout the day. But it’s worth all of the time and effort as I want to do this right and give myself every advantage for a positive healing and recovery. My rehabilitation is a full time job, with even some over time.
  • 6 week post op X-rays showed bone was healing but a bit slower than average. 12 week post op X-rays revealed healing has continued and was much better from 6-12 than 0-6 weeks. We will now wait until July and will check again. Hardware removal will be discussed then as well – it is possible to leave it in if it isn’t bothering me but I’ve already had some knee issues with swelling and mild pain that I feel are the screws in the knee. I feel if removed, the knee would move more free. But we will see how the rehabilitation continues and discuss later.
6 week post op X-rays (Hip joint to femur)
6 week post op X-rays (thigh to knee)
  • Where am I at recovery wise? It’s so hard to say in this journey. There’s no manual or set steps. I can walk in the house but with a limp still – before I can go for even a short walk, the limp needs to go away or it can become something that becomes a problem. In this, you are retraining your body to walk but there’s so much more to that. You can’t let your body learn bad habits either. I also don’t just have issues due to the surgery but due to my body compensating for the pain it had up until surgery. My left side has a lot of work to do to catch up to working normally. So while I can walk in house, it’s only for short time. I have to break up things I want to do – whether it’s physio, household work (that I’m able to do as can’t do all of it yet), personal care, and things I enjoy doing for fun. For example, I can shower but then I need a break before I can get dressed. I can sit now to work on a puzzle but I have to do it in short timed sessions with breaks as I can’t sit too long. Sitting is improving since surgery but there’s a lot of work the left side needs and when I sit, it stiffens up and the knee begins to ache and the groin begins to get a bit inflamed. So I am definitely improving, surgery has been positive, but I have months of work ahead still.
  • Surgery and recovery during a pandemic. Just imagine having all the restrictions of the pandemic and on top of it, you now can’t drive nor can you even take a 5 minute walk outside. It has been hard. When I find myself unable to breath and the walls closing in as I haven’t been able to do either of these things to reduce the feeling of being stuck – I try to do something that lets me breathe. Fall into a good book. Work on a puzzle. Take one step onto my deck (where ice has finally melted off the first half of it) and get some air. I’ve actually been locked down since end of January when my hip issues were so intense, I couldn’t walk and had to be off work. I’ve already been through over a year of a lock down. And there’s no sugarcoating – it sucks. But I found I can focus on what I can’t do, get depressed and moody OR I can find something I do enjoy even if it’s not want I really want to be doing. If I only focus on the negative, that’s all I’ll feel is the negative. I can’t change the pandemic or the restrictions with it but I can still choose happiness for myself instead of grumpiness.

That is the short version – if you follow me on Instagram, I did post more frequently throughout my journey there. I recently made myself a goal to blog weekly as I love doing it. I just fell out of the habit. While my journey is not easy, I am still so blessed and I am grateful for how this journey has changed me as a person and for the people in my life – many I cannot see right now but have shown me they’re there for me in their own unique pandemic ways. All I want is to be healthy. To be pain free. To teach again. I’ll be happy with going for long walks even if I can’t run. It’s unclear yet and hasn’t been fully discussed if I’ll have permanent restrictions on any past activities but being pain free is a huge restriction already lifted. Even though there would be some heartbreak to let some go if I had to, I know I can redefine my activities as long as I have my family, my friends, my health, my pain free mobility, and my teaching career.

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.

Things Fall Apart: My Second Coming

The Second Coming (A Poem) by W.B. Yeats

I fell apart today. Tears streaming, snorting snuffling nose, splotchy face. Face buried in pillow. And I couldn’t stop it.

There really wasn’t any one reason why. I haven’t slept well in months. I can only get 1-2 hours of sleep here and there throughout a 24 hour day. My back has decided to join the hip pain party with muscle spasms. Luckily I know this doesn’t mean back issues but just a side effect of the hip condition and it’s likely due to compensating for the hip pain and condition. I have physio this week and I think she’ll be able to help me to calm down the back muscle spasms as she has before. For now, I’m just trying to rest as much as I can. And if sleep comes, I embrace it whether it’s 10pm, 8am, 12:30pm, 2pm, 4pm or 7pm – just whenever I can.

And that is exactly what I was trying to do when I melted down. Attempting to sleep mid afternoon. With the back spasms, I lay flat on my back with my left leg propped up on angle that helps the hip condition – and I began to doze off.

Ring, ring, ring. My phone rings. And when you’re waiting for a surgery date – you don’t like to ignore any phone call. First – a work call. 5-10 minute conversation. Done. Close eyes. Ring. A scam call. Click. Didn’t bother after the “if you do not pay us, you’ll be likely held in federal criminal law” or whatever line they use. Close eyes. Ring. My surgeon. A phone call appt/consult/check in. 20 minutes.

I didn’t feel as if I could sleep now but I was still desperately yearning for this nap so I crawled back into bed. I could not find a painless position at all. My usual go-tos were not helping. Toss toss turn turn toss. I couldn’t get comfortable – either my hip hurt in one position. If I moved, my back hurt. If I moved, my knee hurt.

When I finally managed to find one heck of an odd position that seemed to be okay for all 3 – the bedroom bathroom toilet starting to run constantly. I tried to ignore it – but constant running water is not something you can easily ignore. I did not want to move after all the effort to find a reasonably comfortably position, but I gave up after about 5 minutes and attempted to fix the problem. I couldn’t. So I thought I’d just close the bathroom door and my partner could fix it after he was done work. Bathroom door wouldn’t close. After 3 tries, I slammed the door shut.

And. Then. Everything. Fell. Apart. I just started ugly crying and sobbing. I climbed back into bed feeling weary and empty and exhausted. I was the tired where you know you’re so exhausted yet you’re not going to be able to sleep. I cried for 40 minutes instead.

After, I almost began to feel bad for this moment of vulnerability. For allowing myself to feel what I was truly feeling. But feeling your emotions is not shameful. It’s how you channel those emotions. So, I had a good cry fest in bed – but my actions didn’t hurt anyone. If I had taken those emotions and punched a whole in the wall – that is now going from feeling my emotions to letting my emotions control me.

In Yeats’ poem, he writes “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…” My centre couldn’t hold today and things fell apart. In some ways, I’m in a world where darkness just keeps coming – the unknown, the pain, the insomnia, the exhaustion, the inability to do the things I love. While I am sure there are many more days where I’ll fall apart, my plan is to not be ashamed of those feelings but also be patient, with the waiting for surgery and with myself; to put myself first; to rest; to sleep when I can and however I can. I’m not sure when I’ll get my call for surgery but once it happens, I have my own second coming to look forward to. One that isn’t going to be an easy journey nor a short one. And one most definitely made up of many moments of “falling apart” that will be a part of the journey to put me back together again.

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.

The best view may be at the top, but the climb is what makes that view so amazing…

I’m leaving Vancouver but for such a short trip, I grew immensely in 36 hours.

First, the main reason for coming out here – to present my thesis research. I met an amazing group of educators and researchers. I received immensely useful feedback to my research that I can apply to my thesis writing. I felt welcomed and respected in the educational research community I never dreamed I’d ever belong or have a voice worth hearing. I overcame the fear to allow my voice to be heard, and through my voice I was able to share the voices of those in my research – both my participants and even the hundreds of students I’ve taught the last several years who all have inspired me to pursue this. The voices I also had the opportunity to hear during the conference I will take back into how I research, how I teach, and how I live. I am forever grateful to the community of inspiring leaders in education that I met this weekend.

Second, the climb on Grouse Grind Trail yesterday up Grouse Grind Mountain. I’ll never forget the views at the top, but most importantly, it was the climb that I’ll value the most. I enjoyed every gruelling moment of it. Each step took so much effort. I climbed 792 metres yesterday, and to compare this – when I ran 3-4 hills at Wascana Trails last weekend, it only totalled an elevation of 80 metres. This was a daunting challenge especially since I had to squeeze it in after my conference and before an early morning to get to airport.

After over a year of my life on pause, I’m feeling ready to take on new challenges – I have a goal to finish my thesis so I can defend it in the Fall 2019 term.

This fall, I also have my post surgery comeback race at Beaver Flat 50 – the Damn Hard 20k. I’ll continue to train with Conviction Fitness with the online kettlebell club and a weekly SGX workout with my main goal to reach a healthy goal weight and to just be physically active and healthy. I know the training program provided by our coach has immensely helped my rehab and recovery since surgery. I am progressed beyond even what my surgeon expected and it had to do with the time, compassion, and attention my coach put into my recovery. Many messages were sent to me of encouragement, and I sent many questions and was always given answers that helped me along this way. My training with this program also is what prepared me to be able to climb the mountain yesterday.

After my climb yesterday, I felt like my post surgery idea of switching from OCR racing to trail racing and mountain adventures is the right choice for me – when I’m in the mountains and on the trails, I feel at home even when it’s hard work. Perhaps in time with more research into hip labral tears and OCR racing, and a more confident confirmation that I can do OCR risk free, I may return to OCR world. I will always hold the OCR and Spartan community in my journey as I will always cheer on my amazing teammates and friends. I hope once I am completed my Masters of Education, and have more financial stability, I can plan my mountain adventures around volunteering for Spartan races to keep myself in that amazing atmosphere that the people bring to it.

I’ve climbed a literal mountain yesterday. I climbed a metaphorical mountain this whole past year. I may always still have soreness and some minor muscle and joint issues due to this injury and the osteoarthritis that it caused. But it is now manageable and I can still live fully with it. I was given a gift to restart my life again and I will take full advantage of every moment, every mountain, every step, every setback, every comeback yet to still come in my journey.

 

Grouse Mountain

Notre Dame Cathedral…la histoire, le futur, notre coeur

It is the morning after we lost so much of what made the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris a symbolic presence in our lives. Twelve hours later, I struggle with emotions and why this inanimate building feels like a significant loss to my life and to the world. Initially upon hearing a colleague say to me “Notre Dame is on fire”, my first question was “Montreal or Paris?” We quickly loaded up a live news feed and sure enough – there was Notre Dame in Paris on fire. Immediately upon seeing the large flames, I knew that the destruction would be catastrophic. I couldn’t stop watching the live news throughout my lunch hour.

After lunch, I went forward with my job – to teach French at an elementary school. I couldn’t bring myself to explain this loss to my students as I couldn’t yet grasp what I would say. I also couldn’t explain why I felt so strongly saddened by this loss. Was it because I am a French teacher and it represents a culture I feel strongly connected to? Was it because since I was a student of Grade 8, I fell in love with French language, culture, and history? Or was it because Notre Dame was one of the very first attractions my spouse and I saw on our first Europe excursion in 2016? Was I feeling the emotions of losing a piece of iconic history?

Part of my brain process reminded myself – this is just a building but yet it is so much more. Notre Dame Cathedral was built in 1163 and has survived the French revolution, 2 world wars. It is a strong symbol of Catholicism and French identity. Its foundation stone was laid by Pope Alexander the third. It is a piece of architecture that is indescribable as one must be able to see it to fully understand its magnificence. The cathedral has been a joy of imaginations of those who enjoyed the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame which was also made into a children’s movie. Millions of visitors visit Notre Dame every year.

As someone who has seen Notre Dame inside and out, I find it a new challenge to express what it is that we lost. As I continue to teach about Notre Dame in my cultural units, it will be with a saddened heart knowing my students will never to get to see Notre Dame in the splendour that I once did. Yet, already within just a few hours of the tragic accident, we see the good of people – and already millions of dollars have been donated for the rebuild of Notre Dame Cathedral. I believe seeing how this building brought a world together yesterday to mourn in its loss of what it represented reminded me that humanity is still good and kind. In a world where we hear so much violence and sadness, in this one situation, we also saw beauty. Beauty of a world that understands what losing a piece of history means and that it is okay to feel emotions in that loss. So yes, Lady Notre Dame will live again one day and it will have new stories and new history. But the point of all of this is… she will survive. We will survive. When the world comes together in agreement instead of disagreement – how powerful we can be. The next step is taking that bit of commonality of a moment when we all felt the same heartbreak as we watched Notre Dame in flames, and remember to hold that value in how we live each day.

Personally, the accidental destruction of Notre Dame reminds me of my last year dealing with a serious injury. Both Lady Notre Dame and myself could not do anything to prevent what happened to us. Both of us have been through some rough patches in our past but always stayed standing. Yet, this one time, something so severe happened that was beyond our control and we both fell. Like myself, Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt, but for us both, we will never be the same. We will have new outside and insides. We will perhaps be stronger. We will not forget what we lost but we will move forward to the future with new strength.

Hopefully, we can take this loss as a reminder to not take for granted the past, but also realize how much strength we have when we come together in a common place. 

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Barely running – journey back to running and to finding patience

Last year running would have been theain focus of my life. I lived for my days of training that included a run of any type – aerobic, intensity, hills. If it was running, I’d be excited for it.

Last week at physiotherapy when I was told I could start doing some outdoor running again, I was so excited initially. But then I was hit with a sense of fear and anxiety. What if my hip hurts? What I tear my labrum again (whether same hip or the other)? What if running isn’t good for me? What if I only ever hurt and exercise never feels good again?

But on Saturday last week, I layered up and said “runnies?” to my best friend and 4 legged running partner – a word she hasn’t heard since March 4, 2018. And we set off. It wasn’t easy but I enjoyed the 3k we did even with the run/walk intervals I have had to go back to.

The problem with my hip labral tear is that we don’t fully know the reason why I had it. The surgeon had thought it may have been a hip joint issue – that there was something on the hip joint that caused the tear. But when he did the surgery, nothing was wrong with the hip joint itself. So did the tear happen during the many hours of shovelling had done during a snowstorm? That’s when hip began to hurt. But I’ve been told shovelling isn’t a typical movement that would cause a hip labrum tear. Possible though. Or was it something that had already been happening due to running? Hip labral tears are a common (even if not well known) running injury.

I don’t talk about it much but I want a reason for this. I want to know what caused it so I can avoid it. I want to know the whys and the how’s. And even now, almost 5 months post op – it still haunts me.

Especially as I’m told it’s ok to start running again. But is it?

Each week I feel like I’m getting better, something else is bugging me. A few weeks ago, it was my knee. It hurts like heck – typically not during an activity but after and during just normal day walking around the house and such. Last week it’s the front of my shin. It has a sharp pain. My physiotherapist is amazing. She takes all my concerns seriously and I’ve learned that any small isn’t a small thing but important to share. I usually hate to complain. I don’t like to express how I feel or if I’m hurting. I hate admitting when I’m not doing well. But I’ve learned how to this past year. I still struggle admitting pain or when I can’t do something – but I am able to do even with a deep internal mental battle where I’m trying to convince myself I can.

My physiotherapist has always been compassionate, sympathetic, concerned, and patient in any small or big issue I have had. She works with me on it – gives me tools to help it. I often want an immediate fix but sometimes there is none. It just means time. I spent 4 months bedridden in pain before we were able to get the MRI to confirm the diagnosis that both physiotherapist and surgeon believed was a hip labral tear. After surgery, I was on crutches and mostly in bed for another 4 weeks, before progressing to 1 crutch for 2 weeks but still resting a lot in bed. My whole body, not just my left hip, has been through the wringer this year. My mind too. There is a lot of work to put back in to get me back to just functioning as pain free as possible. It’ll take that much more work to get me back to where I was athletic wise before this injury happened.

On Thursday, I went to my Conviction Fitness workout and was so excited to see kettlebell snatches in the daily WOD. The first 3 rounds felt amazing – I didn’t know if I’d even remember the movement but it came back like riding a bike. In the 4th round, something in my hip stabbed. I’ve been learning how to listen to my body – and to not let all pains freeze me into stopping what I’m doing. So I stopped, shook my hip out to loosen it up. Thought it felt ok. Positioned myself to try again, and one snatch in – same pain returned to my hip. So I stopped and asked my coach if I could do another movement instead. He asked “what’s wrong?” And I explained and he said “I say just stop. You don’t have to jump back into everything all at once. Sometimes it’s ok to just do what you can and stop.”

Again. Patience. I want to hit the ground running, push through the pain and just be who I was athletically before this. But that’s not what’s going to get me back to where I was. In fact, it’ll do the opposite.

After my Saturday run, I was sore so I didn’t jump immediately into a run on Sunday. I also got hit with a flu early hours of Monday morning. So I didn’t force it. On Wednesday, I felt way better and excitedly prepared for another run – thinking I’d do a 5k. I had a terrible run. Every step felt like I was fighting to move. My calves were angry. It’s now winter in Saskatchewan and winter running is not easy. I wore my grip tractions over my running shoes and that was great from my house to the park on the snow covered roads. Once I hit the park, the running paths were actually clear and the metal of the grips on asphalt seemed to jar my hip and my body more than it ever has in the 4 years of winter running I’ve done. It never bothered me before and made more sense to wear them for the sections that needed them than to not wear them and slip when I hit a bad section. Especially this year – I can’t risk a fall!

Throughout the whole run I wanted to cry. Something I used to enjoy seemed to have lost its spark. I slowly also became angry. Angry that this injury happened. Angry that everything seems to be a challenge. Angry that when it seems it’s getting better, something happens that reminds me it isn’t all easy. Angry that I can enthusiastically agree to do every event or activity presented to me. Angry that the cold winter hurts me more than it ever as. Angry that my calves were hurting. Angry that this took so long to get back to running.

I returned home angry.

I think under the surface for most of this week, I was angry. But after hearing my coach on Thursday and his comment “you don’t have to jump into everything fully right away” and hearing physio on Friday say similar things “you’re doing amazing but you have to give yourself time and patience”.

I am a giving person – except to myself. But I have to learn to be. I may be barely running right now but by learning to allow myself time and that it’s ok that I can’t do it all right now – I will be running again and loving it. I will be able to do more events with my Conviction Fitness team. I will be able to find a race (or 2) that I can do to fall in love (again) with the athletic person I’ve become.

Barely running.

For now.

That’s ok.

One day, I’ll be running again and I’ll be reminding myself that once I was barely running. And I’ll make sure to pause, breathe, and ask myself what am I doing each day to make sure I remember this new patience with myself I’m learning so that barely running isn’t forced due to injury but just a choice I make when my body needs to rest.

I used to love that quote that “a bad run is better than no run at all”. I don’t love this quote anymore. Forcing a bad run means you’re not listening to your body. Perhaps when your body is telling you not to run it’s time for a rest day or perhaps another aerobic activity you enjoy ( I like walking, swimming, the stationary bike and rucking).

This I do know now. Barely running is better than no running. And if I push it, I could find myself back to the point where running wasn’t even an option. I won’t take this gift of running and of learning patience that I’ve been given again.

Tomorrow is Sunday. What I used to diligently refer to and practice as long run Sunday. Perhaps I’ll wake up and my body will have no pain in the calves, knee or hip. Maybe I’ll lace up the running shoes and try a run. Or maybe I’ll wake up and feel just a twinge and decide to go for a ruck or walk instead. I’m learning that it doesn’t matter what the activity is I do. What matters is I’m getting up every day and I’m doing something active to strengthen myself that I feel capable of being able to do. That is patience. And that is what will get me from barely running to running again.

“I hate swimming”

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. The rehab for this hip surgery for a hip labral tear has been time consuming. If you wanted to keep more up to date, you can check me out on @jessirv04 on Instagram. I try to post not just good but the bad – to be an open book.

Overall my progress is going well. It comes with bad days as well as good. I’m progressing better than originally expected. I am still off work but this week my physiotherapist said we can start returning me gradually after Remembrance Day long weekend. I am a Core French teacher who teaches room to room off a travel cart so we want to build me back up to full time. I’m excited to be getting into more of a routine.

This week marked 17 weeks (4 months) since my surgery. Sometimes it feels so long ago but also sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Last week, physio started to give me exercises to build me back up into running. I am also trying to make an effort to swim more. I’ve been told this is such a positive thing to do. I still remember even when I was told I could swim and my first thought was “hell no. I hate swimming.” But wanting to make rehab the best possible and to be able to progress to the fullest possible outcome, I knew I had to ignore my mind. So I’ve been going though not as routinely as maybe I should.

It was easier when I was only allowed to walk in the water but once it was upgraded to swimming laps, I hit a wall. I had forgotten how to swim! I can’t afford lessons on disability and I could breast stroke and back crawl. But for some reason something was missing in my front crawl. I couldn’t do it. I would start and end up sputtering about 5-6 strokes in. I had lost the rhythm as I had allowed swimming to become non-existent in my life. I haven’t swam laps since I was 11-12.

So instead of sharing this, I stopped going. I would make a plan to go, pack a bag, and when it came time to go – I wouldn’t. I was embarrassed. Last week, I told myself that would change. I would keep going and figure out the problem. So I went and same issue. Frustrated, I finally vented to my boyfriend and he was able to help. The problem? I was trying to take a breath every stroke! I forgot it was t every stroke. He told me he remembers he picked every 3 strokes. I may have to pick one better for me but that information gave me the tools and motivation to try again.

So I went yesterday. I went to the 8am lane swim at a nearby leisure centre. There is only about 5 elderly people that go and since they prefer to do their walking and swimming with the width of the pool instead of length, the lifeguards don’t set up lanes. They offered to set one up for me but I said – heck, I can do width too. It’s still swimming! I got in and began. Being the only one under the age of 70, none of the other pool users had really talked to me.

I smile at them and nod but never initiate. One, I’ve been embarrassed as they have watched my struggle the past 5-6 weeks, without saying anything. Yesterday, I did the same. Smile. Nod. Goggles on. Start Garmin. And I started swimming front crawl with my boyfriend’s new information. And what do you know? I can swim. I still didn’t feel the most graceful and it wasn’t easy. I even became very grateful the daily lane swim users at this pool have made it possible to do the width of the pool instead of the length. But even though it wasn’t the best graceful swim, I was swimming! If I don’t quit, I can improve on that.

Towards the end of my planned 30 minute swim, one of the elderly woman was leaving and needed to cross my path. So I stopped and said go ahead as I could tell stopping and waiting would be harder for her. She crossed and got to standing level, she turned with a smile on her face and said “I’ve been watching you and you’ve never given up. And you’re actually a really good swimmer.” Well, I think she was exaggerated a little but that comment made all the struggle worth it. It made me realize how easily I could have quit and never heard that comment. I even learned that this woman had also been through hip surgery recently – hip replacement which is different and actually easier than hip arthroscopic surgery but still common ground. She said swimming doesn’t come easy to her but that I had been motivating her to keep coming back even if it felt uncomfortable. So I’ll be back. And even after I “graduate” from physiotherapy, I’m going to keep going back. Maybe not as often but swimming is going to become at least a once a week exercise for me.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I am starting to even find swimming fun.