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A Tale of Two Hips

A Surgery so nice, I did it twice.

Just kidding.  

everything I could do to smile after waking up from surgery #2

everything I could do to smile after waking up from surgery #2

Anyone who has been through a hip arthroscopy surgery knows, it's really not nice, but I did do it twice.  Some people like to ask me if I'm glad I went through with surgery (again).  If I could make a meme of how I currently feel, the top picture would say "how I answer" and would have a picture of me smiling.  The bottom picture would say "how I actually feel" and it would be me poking my eye balls out.  

I know that's kind of graphic, but it's the truth.  I haven't blogged much about this recovery because I haven't really known what to say.  I've started a new post, then I don't finish it, then I delete it, then I re-write, don't post, don't finish, delete, try again.  My recovery timeline should (in theory) be the same as last year, I know what to expect, and I know that I CAN get back to where I need to be when the time is right.  Some people like to ask me if this makes it easier, the answer to that, is no.  Just because I did surgery once, doesn't make the second time any easier.  One time is a mystery, the second time is hard.  I'm ready to put an end to this chapter of my life, and some days I'm holding strong, and then there are days where I feel like I'm hanging on by a thread.  

All in all, things are progressing, slowly, because that's the way it goes with this surgery.  Everyone keeps telling me they think I'm doing better than I was last year, and I just smile and nod and tell them it's the same.  In reality, I feel I'm in the same place process wise last year, but I have better spirits, less overall pain, and more knowledge regarding recovery.  I think because I came back from my first hip so well, people think recovery was easy.  Honestly, this second hip at this point in recovery, compared to the first, has been a breeze (I haven't wanted to say that out loud as I'm afraid I'll curse myself).  What people don't know is how much pain I woke up with everyday last year.  Every morning for the first 2 months-ish my hip ached and throbbed in the groin, any type of internal rotation or adduction, or external rotation HURT.  A slight pivot on that foot left me crumbling to the ground in pain.  For the first few weeks post-op BEING IN A CAR HURT, not the sitting (that hurt too though) but the accelerating, the braking, the turning, it was excruciating.  I couldn't sit without irritation for MONTHS (think....6+ months).  I had joint pain for nearly 8 months.  Yes, I recovered, but it came with a lot of patience, a lot of tears, HOURS of physical therapy, weekly acupuncture visits for 7 months, and persistence.  Hip surgery is not for the faint of heart and I'm continuously in awe of people who don't take it seriously.  

I even ate cake on my birthday!

I even ate cake on my birthday!

This go around I've had to hold myself back more often than not.  While I feel last year I was "conservative", I was still holding on to that tiny thread of hope.  Hope of being able to get back out there sooner, hope that I could hang onto some tiny ounce of fitness I had going into surgery. Hope that I could maintain my strength and muscle.  Looking back now, I realize I was holding onto so much hope, I ignored so many signs I should have listened to.  2018 Courtenay laughs at 2017 Courtenay.  I'm a much wiser recover'er this time around.  

What many don't know, because I didn't want to talk about it or go into details about, is my major flare up 3 months post-op last year.  I ended up with SI Joint Dysfunction, compressed vertebra, and a massively flared up hip.  I think I touched on it on a post at some point, but honestly, it broke me, physically and mentally.  I had worked so hard to get to the point I was at, I was (so I thought at the time) so incredibly patient, and when things flared, I lost all hope in my recovery.  I kept counting in my head how many months I had to prepare for CX, and each day as the pain didn't subside, was another day lost.  What you don't know, is it took me well over 2 months to recover from that back flare, the hip settled after a couple of weeks, but my back pain lingered into July, and on and off clear into the CX season.  To this day I'm not sure what went wrong last year, if it was a pile up of signs I should have seen before it all happened, or if the universe wanted me to learn something, I just don't know.  

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What I do know is, 2018 Courtenay learned a heck of a lot from that flare up.  I learned how to handle the back pain I've dealt with for YEARS.  It comes and goes, but when it comes, I can make it better with the techniques I learned in PT.  2018 Courtenay learned when you go through surgery, you can't hold onto fitness, LET IT GO.  This year, I let it go.  I didn't push what I thought "would be fine".  With my first hip when I was told I was allowed to do something, I went and did that something 100% of the time (which is probably what got me in trouble with these damn hips in the first place).  When my surgeon said I could ride outside for 1 hour, flat pavement, easy, I looked at it as something I could do every day, because when I'm fit 1 hour IS easy, so I rode my bike every damn day.  Funny, right?  When I was told I could go back to Yoga at 8 weeks, I went back to Yoga, 2x/week, because that's what I did before surgery, so why would it be a problem now?  I got myself back into the gym 2x/week for some upper body work.  Everything was fine, until it wasn't, and then it was awful.  2018 Courtenay laughs at 2017 Courtenay.  2017 Courtenay was kind of stupid, but I was holding onto hope I should have let go of.  

If I'm honest, I'm scared of a big flare up like that, because it was bad.  It hurt, I cried, I was humbled by life, and I don't want that again.  Everything we experience in life is a lesson, or it should be!  I learned how to be a wiser and better recover'er from that flareup.  I can look back and see where I went wrong, and I can hopefully, make it better.  I've been intentionally taking this recovery even SLOWER than my first one.  I've been riding my bike less days, I eased my way into outdoor riding, I've only been going to Yoga 1x/week, AND it's not on a day I ride my bike!  I haven't had a focus on going to the gym as much, as I would rather my hip recover and we don't have a big ol' flare up like last year.  I survived not only 1 but TWO 6 hour flights to and from Hawaii.  Along with the flights, I survived walking on sand, travel days, walking on uneven undulating lava trails, SWIMMING with KICKS (something I wasn't allowed to do until 3 months post-op), lots of car time, and on top of all that, lots of pool and beach time while in Hawaii.  

I'm continuously amazed at my body and what it is capable of.  I'm amazed every day when I get out of bed and my hips support me, I'm amazed every time I ride my bike in the pure beauty of being outside, and how far my body can take me.  I'm amazed at my resilience to keep persevering when there are days I want to give up.  I know I'm strong both physically and mentally, and when I'm on the other side of this chapter, I'll be that much stronger.  

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My scars of strength

Exactly 1 week Post-Op.

Exactly 1 week Post-Op.

I have two scars on my right upper lateral thigh, at one point they allowed access to my hip capsule.  Like every scar on my body, they have their own tale.  These scars don't tell the tale of flipping over my handle bars on the mountain bike.  They don't tell the tale of that one crash in that one race.  These scars, they aren't like the one down the middle of my shin from falling off my bike at 12 years old, or the emotional scar I was left with after being hit by a car 1 month after that.  These two tiny itty bitty scars, they remind me of my strength, not just my physical strength, but my mental and emotional strength.  Every time I look down and I see my scars I'm reminded how far I've come.  From the first day of pulling off those Post-Op bandages and being scared of what I might see, to holding back tears prior to my first race 1 week ago. 

The day I was allowed to stand on 2 feet. 

The day I was allowed to stand on 2 feet. 

These scars, their tale is that of persistence.  Persistence of watching myself walk in a mirror (over and over and over again) and not allowing myself to walk with a limp when I got off crutches.  Persistence of never giving up when at 3 months everything hit the fan, I couldn't lie down, stand up, or sit without excruciating pain in my back and consequently my hip flared up.  Persistence of building back everything I lost, and building it back better than it was before.  

These scars, their tale is that of dedication.  Dedication of going to the pool when I truly despised it so I could get my Range of Motion in when Chris was at work (those silly circles).  Dedication of hours of PT work to gain muscle function and strength back.  Dedication of daily foam rolling and stretching to keep my hip feeling "loose".  Dedication to following my surgeon's protocol to a T.  

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These scars, they have a tale of patience.  No, you can't do that yet, be patient, was something I heard way too much.  Patience of not doing too much when all I wanted was to go for a 5 hour ride in the woods (still haven't done that yet).  Patience of listening to both my surgeon and my PT.  Patience when I was finally allowed to ride outside, but only for 1 hour.  Patience for that 4 month mark when I was finally allowed to start "pushing" it.  These scars, they learned patience, and gained a lot of it.  

These scars, they remind me I'm not that speedy, agile, athletic (and totally emotionally unstable) 15 year old anymore.  I'm no longer that 22 year old Group Fitness Instructor doing crazy fancy tricks (it's probably what killed my hips anyways) in the gym.  These scars tell me I'm not 25 anymore and I can't ignore a nagging pain in my hip and think it will go away.  These scars remind me I'm 32, they remind me how much I love myself, how proud I am of the strength they gave me. Of all the scars I have on my body (there's a lot...trust me), these are my favorite.  They tell the story of an emotional war I had with myself for months.  These scars, they tell me I'm better, more fit, and happier than I was at 15, 22, and 25.  

Every time I look down and I see my scars, I smile, because these scars, they make me proud of what I went through.  These scars gave me strength I didn't know I had.  These scars, they showed me persistence, dedication, and patience.  They allowed me to love more than I knew I could.  They taught me gratefulness, be grateful for the body I was given, the activity this body allows me to do, and grateful for the team behind me.  These scars remind me I'm stronger than anyone thought I was.  I have scars of strength, and when I line up for my first big race of the season (7 months, 3 weeks + 1 day post-op, but who's counting anyways) in 4 days, I'll smile, because I'm lucky to have my scars of strength.  

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What I've learned from having surgery

I've been wanting to blog about the end of my season, but then I was sick and tired when I got home, then I had surgery and they drugged me up and I'm pretty sure whatever I wrote, should not be published.  So instead lets hear it for what I've learned 6 days post-op.

There are many things in life I have taken for granted and things I've since learned after having surgery.  Here's a small list

  • Bending over to pick my pants up after going to the bathroom.  #1 thing I have taken for granted prior to surgery.  Seriously, when those pants fall past my knees it's like a 9 month pregnant women trying to tie her shoes (or what I would imagine it's like, because...I've never been pregnant).  Or how about just putting pants on in general.  A little help please?
  • Walking.  Until you have to crutch around, ugh I miss walking, and bounding up steps, but thank goodness for ADL ramps
  • Getting in and out of bed.  Really, I can't do it on my own...for at least another 3 weeks.  All ROM in my right hip is PASSIVE.  That means absolutely no muscle contraction (except for some slight isometrics with my PT).
  • My house is messy and dirty, and that's just how it's going to be.  I'm OCD.  My pants are dropped anywhere I can manage to get them off, my sheets are dirty because I eat in bed.  I mean, Chris is just feeding the messy monster in the guest bedroom. 
  • This one is personal, but it's REAL.  Pooping.  Seriously.  If someone didn't tell you, pain meds keep the poop in your system.  It's not very comfortable, I went the laxative route.  In case you're wondering, they work.
  • When you've prepared yourself mentally to literally do nothing, doing nothing is actually a lot easier than you thought.  6 days in, and so far I'm okay.  
  • I will never be a drug addict.  Apparently I like to be in control?  Those drugs do not make me feel good.  
  • I seriously miss sleeping on my side.  #2 thing in life I have taken for granted.  My butt is sore.
  • Personal hygiene- showering isn't enjoyable when you're terrified of slipping and breaking your hip.  It's a thing, they scared me at the pre-op appointment.  Since the surgeon shaved the femur down, the bone is weak right now, and if you fall there's a possibility of breaking your hip.  Also, since I'm non-weight bearing, trying showering on mainly 1 leg, and being terrified of slipping.  It's no longer this enjoyable part of my day.  So I've avoided it, and only showered 1x so far.  :-)

I'm happy to report so far I'm doing okay, mentally at least.  I've had 2 days of PT, my bruising is pretty minimal, my incisions look good, there is swelling, but I think it's not too bad.  Today was the first day I haven't woken up in pain, so I think that's a good sign!  I have an acupuncture appointment tomorrow and my post-op as well.  It's going to be a big day!  I hope the doctor has good things to say about my recovery thus far.  Until then...happy reading!