Learning to Let Go

"Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be"

This couldn't have popped into my life at a better moment.  Scrolling through Instagram this morning, I found this quote on my friends recent photo.  The funny thing was, I already started this blog post over the weekend, regarding this exact same thing.  I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and this my friends, speaks to me at the perfect time of my life.

When in your life have you been given the green light to do nothing for longer than 1 day?

Think about it. 

It doesn't happen often...if at all.  

My favorite at home recovery tools + some of my PT (at the time of the photo)

My favorite at home recovery tools + some of my PT (at the time of the photo)

Hip surgery isn't easy.  When I was given the green light to do nothing, it shifted my attitude towards daily life.  Things slowed down and everything took 3x longer to get done.  I'm not one to sit, especially at home, there are always chores to be done, but this, I let go.  I brushed my OCD aside, when the house was dirty, I didn't cringe, I threw out my twitching itchy legs that want to be active, and I let it all go.  I waved goodbye to my all star fitness, I watched my leg atrophy, without getting TOO sad, I holed myself in our guest room and I hid from the world.  My exercise became 6 hours in a CPM machine a day, and maybe a crutch walk to the mail box 2 driveways away from the house.  I had nearly 1 year to 100% completely mentally give into surgery.  I prepared myself for the worst (or what I believed would be the worst from what I heard from others), I accepted it, my body accepted it, and together we worked hard to heal as quickly as possible, while I watched my friends rip their mountain bikes down trails in the torrential rains, wishing I was out there splashing around.  

When you're slow enough to ride bikes with your Dad.

When you're slow enough to ride bikes with your Dad.

For years I've struggled with the social media aspect of being a professional athlete.  Watching other athletes train, seeing their posts, their rides, priding themselves on how they nailed their interval workout for the day, or gloating on about the X mile ride they did and how their base training is amazing.  It get's you wondering "am I doing enough" "maybe I need to do what they're doing" "I'm not good enough".  With age, experience, and a shift in mental attitude I've been able to stray away from these thoughts and pressure the past year or so.  I knew surgery and the lack of ability to train would be a mental struggle, I knew it would be hard to see my fellow competitors out there getting back to their training and prep for the upcoming season, because the training (whether intervals, base training, or rest) is always happening.  My mental attitude shifted, I let go of my jealousy, my guilt, my desire to be there.  I told myself "this is where I'm at, I can't change it, this is what I can do".  I've learned in this process the only person that matters when it comes to training, is me.  This is my personal body, I'm not you, you're not me.  I can't do what you're doing, but I can do what I'm doing, and with that, I accept it.  I've learned to be grateful for the 60 minutes of riding outside I'm given, and cherish it.  I've learned the vast differences there are between my left side and the right side of my body.  I've learned I'm far more mentally tough than I ever knew.  I'm learning my body is capable of more than I gave it credit for, my body is my temple, and I've learned to treat it as such.  

I do love my BOSU!!!  Cheating one day to see if I could balance one 1 leg on the BOSU.  Turns out, I could!

I do love my BOSU!!!  Cheating one day to see if I could balance one 1 leg on the BOSU.  Turns out, I could!

Prior to surgery I thought to myself that by March I could probably hop on the trainer and get training again.  4 weeks came, and I scoffed at that thought, I was just happy when my hip would catch only 1x on my trainer rides!  I told myself the light at the end of the tunnel would be 8 weeks when my surgeon let me ride outside.  I would be able to start training then, thinking he gave me 1 hour to ride in March, then come April I could ride for 2 hours.  8 weeks arrived, and I was given another slap across the face, when I was told I could only ride for 1 hour outside until 12 weeks, and had to start at 30 minutes.  I was in for a rude awakening during my first outside ride when, in fact, my surgeon was correct, it IS different riding outside.  I accepted it, my drive to train is chomping at the bits and I can't wait to go hard on the bike again, but sometimes there are more important things than getting back to training.  At this 8 week point in my recovery, I realized I truly did need to throw out my desire to train hard, I needed to give into my lack of fitness, and just let it be.  Let my body tell me when it was ready.  

As I approach 12 weeks post op, I've realized how much my mental attitude has shifted towards training, towards rehab, and this whole process.  I've learned you can't hold onto the past, you can't hold onto what was, that's done and gone, that me, is written in history.  Instead of dwelling on how unfit I currently am, how my hip is taking forever to heal (because that's the nature of a labral repair), I'm working on the aspects of my life I can control.  This surgery has literally forced me to take 2 steps back, to re-evaluate where my body is, not just my hip, but my entire body, head to toe.  I've been pushing my body for nearly half my life, and as I look back at that time, I realize I've never given my body the physical and mental break it needs.  I'm looking at my time away from hard training as an opportunity for a complete reset for my body, both physiologically and biomechaniclly.  Physiologically my body is getting a rest it's never received in a few years, seriously, 3-4 months with basically NO training.  If you don't call that a reset (or detraining ;-) ), I don't know what it is!  Biomechanically, I'm focusing on everything that I know is wrong with me.  I know my posture sucks (lots of low back pain), I've focused extremely hard on my posture, static and walking.  I get a lot of back pain associated with my lack of thoracic rotation and mobility (thank you bike riding), so I'm doing daily exercises to improve it (mobility and also foam rolling exercises).  My scapulas wing, so I'm working on exercises to help with shoulder stabilization, and that's on top of all my rehab for my hip.  

I feel in life, sometimes you need to go backwards in order to keep progressing forward.  Maybe I'm not where I want to be on the bike at this point or where I have been in years past, and I've had a lot of people ask if I'm happy I went through with surgery.  I can't say yes or no at this point, but I'm trusting the process of getting me there, getting me exactly where I want to be before my CX season starts.  I'm trusting that every day of PT, every effort I put forth to heal and rehab is an effort in the right direction.  I trust that I will and can be right where I need to be when the time is right.  

I spent 4 days in Monterey at Sea Otter connecting with sponsors and friends.  It was a great test for the hip to see what it could handle.  The hip did better than I anticipated, but the trip was 1 day too long for the hip.

I spent 4 days in Monterey at Sea Otter connecting with sponsors and friends.  It was a great test for the hip to see what it could handle.  The hip did better than I anticipated, but the trip was 1 day too long for the hip.

Catching up with great friends was the highlight of my trip to Monterey.

Catching up with great friends was the highlight of my trip to Monterey.

The following weekend after Monterey, Chris and I spent the weekend on the Washington Coast with his family.  Of course I brought my bike to get my daily 60 minute ride in, and soak up the different views of the Washington Coast compared to the California Coast.  

The following weekend after Monterey, Chris and I spent the weekend on the Washington Coast with his family.  Of course I brought my bike to get my daily 60 minute ride in, and soak up the different views of the Washington Coast compared to the California Coast.  

In Thickest Darkness, The Stars Shine Brightest - 9 Weeks Post-Op

Thank you Henry David Thoreau for that reminder, I found that quote to be so perfect for the past 5 weeks.

Sometimes when I need an inspirational quote, I open this book to help me smile

Sometimes when I need an inspirational quote, I open this book to help me smile

Being an athlete can be very isolating if you let it, and believe me...I let it.  I train 90% of the time alone, I miss out on outings with friends because..well...I don't have that many friends in Bellingham, and when we get together, we're being active in the day time, riding bikes, going on hikes, walking, running, etc.  Literally, my life revolves around activity, my social life is activity, everything is activity.  When you think being an athlete is isolating, now be an injured athlete, and then lets talk about isolation.  I've seen some pretty good mental lows, and I've had to truly dig myself out of them every time.  I've stared at walls for extended periods of time asking "why", I've had pity parties alone on my couch, in bed, at the pool.  Every time, I've had to work so hard to force a smile on my face, to laugh it off, to find the light that is getting me through this.  I was living in darkness, my life felt like Bill Murray in "Ground Hogs Day", only I wasn't smiling.  You know the best thing about darkness?  It doesn't last forever, there's ALWAYS light somewhere, and I found my bright stars.  

At this point in my recovery, progress feels like it's moving at a snails pace, seriously, I wake up and every day feels the same.  My typical day includes 1-3 hours of at home PT (exercises, stretching, foam rolling), 1 hour spin on my bike, 1-2 hours of using my Compex (Muscle Stim), plus 40 minutes 1 or 2 times/day of ice/heat contract, AND some incision work at the end of the day.  I go to the pool 2x/week to work on range of motion, I go to the gym 2x/week to do my PT and a little upper body work, and most importantly, to get out of the house and see other faces outside of my television screen.  I go to PT 2x/week, acupuncture 1x/week (started with 2x), massage every other week, and started seeing my chiropractor for some soft tissue work the other week, and will add him to my rehab program from here on out.  

I have found the largest struggle as of recent (aside from some pain with some motions) is muscle tightness in the Quads, TFL to IT band, Adductors, Hamstrings, everything really!  I struggle with external rotation, still causes a little pain, I'm still restricted on flexion, no more than 90, and no active hip flexion.  Occasionally when I ride my bike on the trainer (1x/ride) if I move too much because I'm antsy, my hip will catch.  That's a new one for me.  But my guess is there is still some inflammation in the joint and lots and lots of healing is still going on.  While I'm not having constant nagging pain in my hip, my back on the other hand has been taking a beating.  I have a history of back pain, so this isn't abnormal for me, but it certainly sucks!  My PT exercises feel awesome, I'm doing squats and lunges on the BOSU, lots and lots of banded glute work, balance work, bridges, planks, the whole thing!  I've been riding my bike for an hour for the past 2 weeks, adding gears very slowly, and it's been feeling awesome.  Riding the bike feels fantastic, tightens the hip a bit, but nothing stretching can't work out.  

I had my 8 week post-op appointment, and it literally shook me to my core, I was so damn nervous.  I couldn't speak, my surgeon asked how everything was going, and I literally sat there speechless I was so nervous and anxious, this seems to be a common trend for me when I see him.  :-/  Once I was able to relax everything started flowing.  He said my hip feels great, it's moving awesome, and upon chatting a bit more he told me "I CAN RIDE OUTSIDE".  Looking back at my appointment, I have to chuckle a little bit, I pushed my surgeon's limits, as my Dad said, always negotiating, yes sir...I am.  He told me I could ride outside, on flat roads, no standing, no sprints, no low cadence, no high torque, and no harder than 5 out of 10.  Seems like a lot of negative doesn't it?  He told me to start out with 30 minutes, my response was literally..WTF.  It gets even better, start at 30 minutes, and add 10 minutes per ride up to an hour for the next 4 weeks.  Another WTF.  I knew he was going to cap my time for rides, but I was thinking I'd be able to get to 2 hours at least!!  I didn't say this to him of course, so in my head I decided to meet him in the middle, and asked for 1.5 hour.  He told me no.  I asked again, he said no.  We went back and forth, and it was settled...I lost, he won.  He told me riding outside would be different than the trainer, and a lot harder.  I chuckled and said no way!  Lets just say, this surgery has taught me that I will not be right about everything.  He also told me no riding in the rain.  Another big WTF, first off this is the PNW, its going to rain, and I WANT TO RIDE OUTSIDE, secondly, I know how to ride my bike, I'm not your average Jane, I can ride outside in the rain and be okay.  So you know what I did, I sent him a link of the Worlds Championship CX race in Luxembourg and told him if I survived this race without crashing, I can survive riding flat pavement in the rain.  I won that battle.  

At this point, I've ridden outside 3 times!  I've worked my way up to 50 minutes, staying on what is mostly flat for Bellingham, which means I have to drive to ride my bike because I live on a giant hill.  That's okay, because...I get to ride outside.  My surgeon was also correct, riding outside is different than riding the trainer, and it is harder, and it feels different on the hip.  In my 3 rides outside I've realized this:

  • I need to treat them as recovery rides
  • Sometimes I end up using my left leg more than my right, it's a good indicator for me to take a gear off and pedal with both legs, because I must be hesitant to push that gear with my right leg. 
  • Riding outside does cause my hip to tighten up a bit more than on the trainer.  I believe it's due to the fact that I'm not sitting up as much as I am on the trainer.  Repetitive flexion, it's going to be like that for awhile.  To help, I've raised my stem.
  • I was never afraid of cars until now, when they pass me too closely, I freak out and want to yell "MY HIP"!
  • Undulating roads, I have to think about shifting a lot more than I did prior to surgery. Before surgery upon seeing a small hill, I would just push the same gear or stand up. Post surgery, I have to shift down to small gears and keep those legs spinning!
Some of my favorite recovery tools I use nearly daily.  Plus a sneak peak at some of my PT exercises.

Some of my favorite recovery tools I use nearly daily.  Plus a sneak peak at some of my PT exercises.

You know what else he said I could do?  He gave me the green light to go to Yoga!  So of course, I was nervous at first and wanted to do a couple of private sessions before going to a class, but ended up getting anxious and wanted to go, so I went to my first Yoga class!  I modified the entire class by using Yoga Blocks for everything so I didn't brake my 90 degree flexion restriction, I avoided any 1 legged plank things, I didn't do any active hip flexion (because I cannot do any active hip flexion for 3 months post-op), I sat out a couple of poses that I knew were just out of the question for me, and I survived!  I learned a lot about Yoga and my body, more than I realized!  Turns out, there are some SNEAKY things your hips are doing in Yoga, that you wont realize until you have hip surgery.  I wasn't sure how the hip would respond to Yoga, so naturally I was really nervous and a little guarded for the beginning of class, it was a bit touch and go, but by 1/2 way through everything started to feel really good, and by the end, my hip felt amazing!  Today?  I'm SO SORE (not my hip), my upper body is so sore, all that rotation and twisting you do in Yoga and you don't do in life, makes me sore!  It feels amazing to feel my muscles again.  

Looking back at my last post, it's amazing to me how far I've come in the past 4 weeks.  Last time I blogged, I just added in squats, NOW I've been squatting on a BOSU doing woodchoppers with a 4lb medicine ball.  That's pretty cool!  I've also been walking crutch free for quite some time now, my hip doesn't get achy anymore, AND moving in the kitchen to cook and clean is so much easier.  I'm still mindful of my walking, where I'm walking (surfaces) and how I'm walking, plus my walking speed, but I don't think about it nearly as often as I did.  I've found it's significantly easier to get in and out of bed, the car, and on and off the couch.  I don't have any pain with those movements!  I still get sharp shocking pain with random movements, but those are few and far beyond.  I don't even think twice about driving anymore, my couch and I are slowly drifting away throughout the day, but we're still buddies in the evenings.  I still ice, because well..why not?  It feels good, but I always follow up my ice with some heat, to get a little blood rush into the joint.  I've also started training my client (in my house) to get back to some normalcy, and this Friday I'll be back to teaching my Spin class (every other Friday to start)!  Slowly I'm getting my life back to "normal".  

I've been able to slowly start incorporating more household chores into my daily life (because they didn't get done for the past 2 months), like wash the dishes, help with dinner, vacuum, sweep, dust, do laundry, fold laundry.  My house is (kind of) getting put back together, I've been slowly cleaning up the guest room that I camped in for 7 weeks, washing the sheets (haven't made the bed yet though), picking up and putting away my thousands of pill bottles, throwing away garbage that was laying around, and putting everything back into it's neat OCD order.  My living room is...not quite back together, since the couch and I still have a personal connection, I leave all my pillows, my ice machine, my heating pack, and anything else I might need within an arms reach out in the living room, but I've dusted up the cat fur!

I feel extremely lucky to have the ability to make rehab my job and not be stressed about having to work and get my rehab in.  I'm able to fully put all my attention and energy into healing, and I think it's paying off big time.  My pain is VERY minimal, sitting is becoming WAY more tolerable, I even ate dinner at the dinner table last night for the FIRST time since surgery!  I can do a kneeling lunge now without discomfort in the hip (something I couldn't do prior to surgery), and that to me, is very very encouraging.  I still haven't woken up and thought "I'm so happy I did that", but I think that day will come, when I'm not thinking about it.  While I know I'm far from healed, I know for a fact I'm out of the darkest of dark days and nights and getting closer to seeing a positive and encouraging light.  

Riding outside is fun!

Riding outside is fun!

5 Weeks Post-Op: Finding an Identity

5 Weeks!  I wrote most of this at the 4 week mark, but never finished, and I'm glad I didn't, because A LOT has happened and changed over the past week.

I decided I'm going to start my post with the rough stuff and end with the good stuff.  I haven't really blogged too much about the surgery and recovery, and now that I've had some good highs and some pretty terrible lows, I feel like I have something worth typing out.  

To put it bluntly, surgery + recovery is fucking hard.  Sorry for the swear word, but I'll be real.  This isn't for the faint of heart, and I can see how people wouldn't recover well from surgery because they're so down on themselves, their body can't heal.  I went from the highest high, the most fit I've been, the strongest, the most confident, to sitting in bed feeling like Sloth from The Goonies.  The first week was easy, I suppose being drugged up on painkillers helps that.  I took pain killers for the first 5 days and then stopped, I really wasn't in to how they made me feel, but they made the time go by incredibly fast.  After the first week it felt like time halted, it didn't help that the 2nd week my pain increased and I freaked out that I re-tore the labrum and couldn't call my surgeon because he was out of town on vacation.  That was probably the longest week of my life, I  think I cried 6 days straight, but after the 14th day I knew things were going to get better, mentally and physically.  

Some days start fantastically and then as the day progressed I'd start to feel worthless since I couldn't do anything for myself.  When you can't physically do anything for yourself it's hard to keep going, it's hard to smile, it's hard to think there's an end.  When I finally was able to call my surgeon, you better believe I did!  It was nice to hear I was doing everything as I should, but it brought to my attention how much my life really revolves around riding.  The days go by insanely slow when you can't get out on your bike or do any form of exercise, and when you're life is literally exercise, it's hard.  Everything is THAT much harder, and it's that much more of a fight to keep healing and stay positive.  I live for my PT appointments, my acupuncture, and my rest!  

Now that it's officially been 5 weeks post-op (as of yesterday) I can do a little more!  So instead of focusing on everything I'm NOT allowed to do (because believe me, there's a lot), I'm going to focus on the progress I have made in the past 5 weeks.  Yes, there's a heck of a lot to work on and I have time on my side to get it done!  My incisions are healed so I've been in the pool 2x, swimming with a pull buoy (because..big surprise, I can't kick) and doing some range of motion exercises in the pool.  As of 3 weeks I could put 50% of my weight on my surgery side, as of 4 weeks I could learn to walk again!  I ditched 1 crutch on the 4 week mark (only in the house, 2 crutches when in public), and by the 4.5 week mark I ditched the single crutch and was walking (but took a single crutch with me when leaving the house).  The first day I could walk with 1 crutch my hip was pretty achy, and each day it's gotten stronger and stronger and less and less achy.  Now that I'm officially walking, I'm still taking it relatively easy when it comes to standing and walking, as too much of it brings on the aches, and my leg is pretty weak from lack of doing anything for nearly 4 weeks.  When walking I'm extremely careful, and each step is mindful of my gait, where my feet are, and what my hips are doing.  Small spaces are hard, working in the kitchen can be challenging, because I dare you to NOT pivot when reaching around for things!  Pivoting can be the worst thing to do for your hip while it's healing, so I'm trying to be very mindful of what I'm doing, I'm really good at swiveling on my left leg!  It's important I continue to listen to my body, as even though I don't look injured on the outside, I am still very injured on the inside.

Now that 5 weeks have gone by horribly slow, I'm able to add in some active range of motion exercises, light strength work, and some stretches!  YES!  I can move my own leg, except for flexion.  I can't actively flex my hip for 3 months.  The 4 week mark also meant I can start adding more time on my bike (up to 40 minutes now) plus slowly adding more resistance (more gears to push...YES), but we should note I'm only allowed on the trainer and I can only ride an hour for the next 3 weeks, and my heart rate is SOO high (NOT, if it gets above 100 that's pretty monumental).  The pain has minimized, I still have sharp pain with some movements, and my range of motion needs to be worked on, but I suspect that will decrease with time, as even in the past week it's gotten significantly better.  There's scar tissue around my incisions that needs to be worked out, but each day with a little work it gets better and better.  All the muscles around the joint are insanely tight, so I'm doing daily soft tissue work on them when I'm on the couch.  As of the 5 week mark I took my first drive since pre-surgery.  It was a little nerve racking, but my mind and body knew what to do, so it wasn't too bad.  

I haven't done much in regards to leaving my house for any social activities and I'm not currently working.  I'm pretty focused on PT and healing, and don't want to do anything that will prolong my recovery, it's just not worth it in the long run, so to say I've been taking it conservatively, slow, and easy, would be putting it lightly!  I'm saving my first big outing for next Thursday, which will be the 6 week mark AND my 32nd birthday.   Go big or go home friends!  I see my surgeon in 3 weeks and hopefully by that time I'll be cleared to ride outside on the road.  For now, I'll keep plugging away at my daily PT, riding my bike inside, and hanging out on the couch.  

Why I Opted for Hip Surgery

Today is officially 3 weeks post-op.  

I'm not sure if I'm writing this post for my readers, or for me (for reassurance of my choice).  Hip arthroscopy is an elective surgery, as in, it's not really something you HAVE to do, I chose this.  I chose my ultimate destiny.  I've been sitting in bed for 3 weeks watching my bike friends on social media riding their bikes in sunny places (or cold and wet places like the PNW currently).  I wouldn't say I'm "jealous" per say, especially since the weather currently sucks, but there's a small part of me kinda sad, knowing I put myself through this.  

Here's why I CHOSE this surgery, since I get a lot of people asking me "you got 15th at Worlds, and you're having surgery"?  Even my surgeon asked me if it was something I really wanted.  

Spring of 2010 I went for an "easy" 30 minute run, and within 5 minutes of my run I had this excruciating pain in the front of my hip.  I gimped through the run, got home, stretched, and limped for a couple days after.  Once the pain went away, I went for a run again, and it was the same thing.  Pain, limping.  I was convinced I did something to my hip flexors, so I proceeded to ignore it and thought maybe it would be best if I stopped running since that was the only thing that really hurt it.  So I quit running for a couple of months.  I eventually started running again and noticed anytime I ran longer than 30-40 minutes my hip would hurt, or perhaps if I ran too fast I would get this deep pulling sensation in my hip.  For over a year after the initial pain I noticed anytime I sat, the front of my hip would burn like crazy, car rides sucked!  I couldn't sit still for very long without this horrible burning, but much like the pain, it subsided and life went on.  

Every once in awhile the pain would come back for a couple of days and then go away.  I never thought anything of it, and I called it "my hip thing".  The only thing I couldn't do was run for longer than 40 minutes, and given at this point I loved riding my bike, I didn't care.  

Spring 2015 my life went topsy turvy, much like Tony in "I dream of Jeanie".  Ultimately, it was a workout in the gym that gave me my final destiny.  I remember the workout to a T, and I'm a go-getter, so you know I was putting in all 110% effort, 2 days later my hip pain came back with vengeance.  I kid you not.  I knew what it was, I knew I needed to not run, and at this point in my life I had an idea I had a torn labrum (now that I had heard of it and knew plenty of people who had the surgery).  Only this time, things were different.  Nothing I could do would help my hip, I quit running that Spring and Summer and just rode my bike, because if I dare do anything other than ride my bike (like walk for 30 minutes), my back would seize.  Given the upcoming season, I wasn't about to do anything drastic except damage control.  I raced that Fall of 2015 with hip pain, a constant burning hip, and unable to run without pain.  My season was pretty subpar.  

Summer mountain bike racing.  Photo Credit: Dave McElwaine

Summer mountain bike racing.  Photo Credit: Dave McElwaine

The season ended and I hung up my bike to give myself a break, I did other things, my back continued to seize, I tried running, and when I had shooting pain down the front of my quad, I decided it was time to do something about it.  Enter Physical Therapy, I started PT in February 2016, I saw my surgeon Mid April who was 100% convinced it was torn, and had an MRI at the end of April.  We did a follow up in May.  He told me I needed surgery right away, I said no, I wanted to race another season.  He told me I was crazy but okay come back in October for another appointment and we can schedule surgery after that.  

The 2016 season started, turns out it wasn't too bad.  I had some hiccups mid-way, but I resolved them (sort of, or just learned how to race with them), and heck, I had one of my best seasons to date, capping it off with my best World Cup results and a 15th at Worlds.  I crossed that finish line, and the first words I said to Chris was "I cannot wait to have surgery".  My hips hurt.  They ache.  I thought it was normal.  I now know it's not.  

Yes, I can race on my hip, I can ride my bike with my hip, but I couldn't do anything else in life.  I gave up everything.  I forced myself to get through running, I learned how I could run pain free.  I gave up hiking with friends, I gave up even attempting to get into a kayak on the lake in the summer, I gave up strength training because it flared my hip up, I gave up plyometric work at the gym, I gave up agility work (think any cutting like maneuvers), I gave up childs pose in yoga (heck I gave up a lot of poses in yoga..owiee my aching hips just couldn't take it), I quit my job and my hip stopped aching on the daily, I gave up an hour every day JUST to do PT work so my hip could function on my ride.  I sat through MANY uncomfortably LONG plane rides with an achy, burning hip.  I'm short, I know, but there was never enough leg room to stretch my hip out for it to feel good on any flight.  

I should be able to run across the airport for a tight connection and not be limping 5 minutes later and then pay for it for 3 days after the flight.  I should be able to be a tourist in a city like Rome and be able to walk around on cobblestones without grabbing, pulling, sharp hip pain.  I shouldn't have to think about my hip before I step up onto a tall ledge.  I shouldn't have back pain at 31.  I shouldn't have to put my car on cruise control on the freeway because the simple act of pushing on the gas pedal irritates my hip.  

There are so many things I gave up because of my hip, and so many things I miss.  While I sit here in bed recovering from surgery asking myself if this was the right choice, I look back at the past 2 years and think about everything I gave up, and I tell myself "yes" this was the right choice.  I'm not ready to succumb to a life of pain, and having to think about my hip before every action.  I'm ready to take my life back.  I know 3 weeks is a tiny blip on this long journey back, but I know the further away I get from my surgery date, the happier I'll be.  

The Vatican in Rome.  6 hours of playing tourist, and my hip was toast!

The Vatican in Rome.  6 hours of playing tourist, and my hip was toast!

Surgery

The first thing that comes to mind when I tell people I had hip surgery is "oh a hip replacement"?  A hip replacement is the most common hip surgery that people know of, so their mind goes straight there.  I didn't have a hip replacement, I'm 31 (going on 32), my cartilage looks good, and I'm not anywhere close to needing a hip replacement!  I wrote a blog last April/May about what was going on, but I'll repeat it here.  First and foremost, I thank my Dad for my quality hips, 60 years old and already has both left and right hips replacement.  Damn Dad, we were both gifted with FAI, only difference for me?  I'm younger, research is out, and my pain came on a lot earlier than my Dad, and they've figured out ways to correct the problem.  My hope is, by having surgery now, I will prolong the need for a hip replacement down the road (or not need one at all)!  

Top picture is the shaving of my femur - bottom is what it says, my tear!  Pretty good, huh?

Top picture is the shaving of my femur - bottom is what it says, my tear!  Pretty good, huh?

Onto the surgery.  

February 9th I was knocked out by anesthesia, and had a long surgery, I think 2.5-3 hours.  While I was under, my surgeon (Dr. Nowak at Everett Bone and Joint) went in, shaved my femur down (because I had too much bone on my femur, called a cam impingement) and repaired my labrum (cartilage that stabilizes the hip, and protects your articular cartilage).  He put in 2 anchors and then stitched the labrum back together.  FAI can be genetic, can occur during growth depending on the sports you play growing up, or can occur from injury.  FAI is also known as hip impingement, because of what happens during hip flexion (the acetabulum and femur impinge on each other, typically at angles of 90 or greater), and FAI consequently tears your labrum.  Not everyone who has FAI will tear their labrum (lucky them), just like not everyone who has a torn labrum has FAI, it can tear from a traumatic event.  

Apparently my labrum was bruised, no wonder it was uncomfortable all the time!  Plus, the first of 2 anchors being put in.

Apparently my labrum was bruised, no wonder it was uncomfortable all the time!  Plus, the first of 2 anchors being put in.

How do they perform the surgery?  Well I'm no surgeon, but the surgery is called "minimally invasive", which makes me laugh because it's actually quite a major surgery, but since its an arthroscopic surgery, I guess that deems it minimally invasive.  I suppose it makes sense when you think about it, but in order to get to the hip capsule they have to dislocate your hip for the surgery.  OUCH!  So basically my hip was dislocated for 2-3 hours while tools were shoved into these tiny holes on the side of my quad (I have 2 incisions the width of my pointer fingers), tools were jabbed into my cartilage, with rope looking stitches, and my bone was shaved down on the femur so it would fit better into the acetabulum.  

My repaired labrum + femur shaved down

My repaired labrum + femur shaved down

Since the surgery's focus is hip/tissue preservation, my rehab is significantly longer and more difficult than rehab of a hip replacement.  I've been put on crutches for 4 weeks, I can put 20lbs of weight on my surgical side, and after 3 weeks I can put 50% weight down, and by the 4th week I can learn to walk again!  So far my rehab has been all about passive range of motion (meaning someone else does the moving of my hip for me) through the hip joint, breaking up any potential for scar tissue build up.  For the first 1.5 weeks I was 6 hours in a CPM machine, I hated it!  Along with passive ROM exercises, I can do some small light isometrics to prevent any muscle inhibition to keep those suckers firing for when it's time to start working back on strength.  I am allowed to spin on my bike (I've chosen a spin bike for more comfort and ease of pedaling), the spinning is really just to keep ROM in the hip and again, prevent scar tissue build up.  I've been building from 1 10 minute session and now I'm up to 2 18 minute sessions (one in the AM and one in the PM).  For the first 4 weeks I can get up to 2x30 minute sessions no resistance, just light spinning.  After 4 weeks I can start working on strength and slowly add time and resistance to the bike.  I'll also move over to my bike on the trainer for my spins, and if my 2 month follow up goes well, my surgeon told me he would let me ride outside on my road bike!  Wahoo!  

The CPM machine I spent 61 hours in before I gave up on it!

The CPM machine I spent 61 hours in before I gave up on it!

While my days are filled with rehab at home, I'm also attending PT 2x/week and going to acupuncture 2x/week, plus adding in massage where I see it fits/what my massage therapists recommends.  My goal for rehab is to listen to my body and make sure I'm doing enough, but not too much.  The first week after surgery had so many drastic improvements I was so excited for the recovery, and it seemed on the 9th day the pain set in, and I mentally collapsed, I think I cried for 6 straight days.  I feel I'm on the positive upswing of the last few days, pain has subsided (don't get me wrong, it still hurts, but not like it had), the range of motion is increasing, and my tightness has decreased.  I'm still not capable of doing much, and I can tell when I "do too much" (I.E. leave the house for too long), I get tired and my hip starts to ache.  Sitting is uncomfortable, standing sucks, so I pretty much sit in bed with ice/heat contrast when I'm not doing my rehab (which is multiple times/day).  

Today is Post-Op day #16, I know I'm going to have really good days, and I know I'll probably have really bad days.  I will listen to my body, I will stay present, I will stay off google, and be positive.  

Tiny incisions

Tiny incisions