Defining and Finding Myself after Multiple Setbacks

Back on the trails

It has been a long time since I wrote. I missed writing but I didn’t have the energy nor the capacity for it. Writing has been my outlet and I hope to come back to it. I write for myself but if my blog can help others, even if just one person, that’s even better.

So… where am I at? What has happened? Well, very briefly without the many pages I could write, this is where I’ve come from with my hip setbacks:

  • 4 months 2 weeks post hardware removal surgery
  • 1 year almost 6 months post derotational femoral osteotomy for left hip due to femoral retroversion
  • 3 years 11 months post hip labral tear surgery
  • 4 years 2 months since the issues all began and I was pretty much on bed rest

Before all of this, I was running 20-30km a week. I could run 20-30km long distances. I had started doing Spartan obstacle course races, half marathons and long distance trail runs.

And the last 4 years I’ve battled barely getting out of bed, waiting for tests, waiting for diagnoses, waiting for surgeries, waiting for recovery….

Every ”fix” seemed to lead to another issue that was missed or caused by one of the previous surgeries.

From September 2013 until I was sidelined in March 2018, I had lost 96.5lbs. Sadly the yo-yo effect of the last 4 years, I’ve gained most of it back even with healthy eating – unfortunately my body is the type that needs exercise to lose weight and even macros and calorie counting don’t do a lot – especially with the stress and medications.

My final (hopefully) surgery on January 7 to remove the hardware (rod and screws) that was causing issues (when surgeon opened up, the screws at bottom of rod were pushing into IT band and also I unfortunately had excessive heterotopic ossification that grew around the top of the rod. Surgeon removed about 2/3 of the HO and doesn’t think the rest he couldn’t get as deep into hip capsule will be a problem.) Since then, I’ve mostly struggled with stamina – after the initial few weeks, I could tell a huge difference without the issues the hardware was causing. But I tired easily. Each new thing I could do came with such bone weary exhaustion later. I went back to teaching at 30% on April 4. I started 50% on April 25. This is my last week at 50% and I will start 70% next week.

During weekdays, teaching exhausts me so much that I can barely do anything else – cook, dishes, a short walk – I often feel like I have to make deals with myself for what I can do in a day. It’s hard not to just do all I used to.

The surgeon said to me after all I’ve been through in 4 years with surgeries, delays due to pandemic leaving me on bed rest and my body weakening – it will take 1-1.5 years after the hardware removal surgery to be ”fully recovered.” I often forget that and that I’m only 4 months post op.

Some days, a shower is the struggle. Or cooking a meal feels like I’m lifting a 50lb kettlebell. Some days teaching feels like 42.2km run (marathon).

But some days, like today, I reach a milestone. I finally walked over 5km. And it feels like I have won the lottery.

Milestone Walk

This surgery does not come with a manual. It does not come with a guarantee. It doesn’t make space for all the other things I was dealing in life. I came into this setback completely unaware of how different a person I would become throughout the process.

My hip issues took a lot away from me the last 4 years, but I won’t stop trying to take back all it took – even if what I take back may look a bit differently. What I mean by this is, I will take back my life – my active lifestyle. But I’m also making some adjustments. I am quitting OCR. It is too risky for injury. After all I’ve been through to get back to where I am today, I am not going to risk it by climbing walls and other wooden structures. I’m not sure about running again as though surgeon and physiotherapist said I can do it again eventually, it is harder on joints.

Before this, I was truly enjoying rucking (look it up) and it burns as much calories as running without running! I love just throwing on audiobook and walking. I will focus on longer walks and hopefully can add back rucking down the road too. I love biking and hope to get a better outdoor bike to try that more. I hadn’t biked since I was a kid before this journey and the required cycling for recovery has made me fall in love with it again. I am slowly getting back into my kettlebell training. I’ll do less races – I was racing a lot before and the constant need to train for long distance races is hard on a body. Instead, after I am fully recovered, I’m planning on very few races, maybe one or two a year. Instead, I’m going to enjoy what I do on my own time and in my own way – and with Ginny. I’m going to enjoy what I do every day to be active and healthy, not let racing become the focus.

View on today’s milestone walk

I know I can’t always avoid injury or setbacks but I can choose to do the things that aren’t highly likely to sideline me again. By sacrificing some of the riskier activities I used to do, I’m not giving up. I’m choosing to live. I’m choosing to move. I’m choosing to respect what my body can do and also respect its limitations.

I won’t define myself solely by my setbacks. I won’t forget those challenges and obstacles I’ve overcome. My comeback isn’t my only definition of who I am. I refuse to define myself by what I can or can’t do. And I won’t define myself by how others are dealing with this process or their own obstacles. I also won’t define myself based on how others think I am or how I should handle my setbacks.

Instead, I’ll define myself by what I did and what I do each day to get to tomorrow. I get to choose.

And, thanks to my 4 legged walking partner, Ginny, I can always see in her eyes how amazing I am.

“Mom, you’re amazing.” – Ginny looking back at me to check in and encourage me during our walks.

Ginny’s smile means the world to me. Each walk is “the best walkie ever.” Coming back from multiple surgeries and a lengthy period of being in chronic pain and immobile, I often find myself viewing each walk like Ginny does. Each one is special regardless of how long or how far, regardless of where we go, regardless of weather, and regardless is was tough or easy… just being able to walk pain free with my 4 legged my best friend is a gift I’ve been given back that I’ll never take for granted.

Beautiful Ginny

Scars & Souvenirs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The swim felt amazing!

First post op swim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running or Winning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old photo of me running at Wascana Trails with Ginny.

First Day of Spring 2021

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

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

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

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

Living My Year in a Global Pandemic & Medical Setback

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1: Embrace the journey

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

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

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

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

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

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.