I'm 1.5 weeks from my 1 year post op date (Feb. 9th). It's really hard to believe it's almost been a year since Chris and I woke up at 4am for me to head into surgery. The scariest part (to me) is I'll be turning around and doing it again on Feb. 8th for my left side.
I wanted to take some time to reflect on the past year, and since I'm jet lagged in Europe and I woke up at 6am this was the perfect time to do it!
Heading into surgery I had an idea of what to expect of recovery based on those I talked to pre-surgery. I didn't know what the surgery day would be like, IE, how I was going to get put under, or anything like that, and honestly, that scared me the most. I felt mentally ready to recover like a champ and put all my energy into healing. I had that under complete control (kinda of...at the time), but the anxiety I felt going into surgery was like nothing I've ever experienced. The nurse was kind and kept talking to me and asking me questions, I'm sure trying to take my mind off of surgery, but I just wanted to sit in silence and be scared, so I didn't really respond to her much.
Honestly, the first week post-op wasn't bad at all. You can read more about that here if you haven't already. What becomes challenging as the process of recovery continues, is your inability to do what you want, at the level you want. Your body doesn't meet your mental expectations and it becomes disheartening and frustrating. You get stuck in this circle of "what if's". What if I don't heal? What if I re-injure myself? What if my hip is worse off than it was before? Basic movements that used to be second nature, became frightening. I was scared of any type of repetitive active flexion movement for a really long time (we're talking at least 8 months). I didn't start feeling comfortable in the gym doing different type of exercises besides PT and stabilization until recently, at least 11 months. I still haven't done any heavy loading on my hip. I do feel that I could add in more heavy strength to the hip, as mentally and physically I'm ready, but being in season for CX, it doesn't make sense to start up that type of strength training right now, plus when I do anything heavy, it actually flares up my left hip. So I'm kinda of in this conundrum with heavy strength right now. I miss it, and I'll get back to it...some time.
I can't deny heading to Europe in November (10 months post op) and crashing hard twice on my surgical hip wasn't brutal. My hip definitely regressed a good amount after those crashes. We're talking...regression back to how it felt in August. It was a really, really, really big bummer mentally. I had a few freak out moments and thoughts, but none-the-less, I worked to stay positive about the whole situation. I had to have known pushing my hip to it's limits week in and week out would at some point regress it.
Having surgery was mentally so tough, but the saying goes, if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger. I hate cheesy things like that, but I'll tell you what, having surgery changed me, and changed me for the better. I was kind of a head case in August as I was preparing for the season, but as the season approached I set my expectations low, and realized I was just happy to be there. Surgery opened up my eyes to what our bodies are capable of. We spend too much time hating ourselves, trying to get our legs to look slimmer, wishing our butts were a little smaller, dying for that flat stomach, trying to lose that extra pound, because once we shed that pound, we'll be happy. We all know that's not how it works. With surgery, I learned to appreciate my body for what it went through and how it bounced back. I learned to love my body for how far it got me in 32 years. I learned this body is a gift I was given with my life, and I need to treat it respectfully, not only with movement, but with nutrition, and my mental attitude. I needed to love my body in a positive manner in order for it to heal.
Being on crutches and 20lbs weight bearing for 4.5 weeks, your muscles atrophy. My leg shrank and my butt dwindled, to the point that for the first time I can remember, my butt (okay lets be honest..my right butt cheek only) ACTUALLY fit into my swim suit.
I hated it. I hated the way it looked. My leg looked like a peg, and my butt was saggy. This was when I realized (even though I already knew this, but it took me seeing it on myself to realize) muscle is boss. Muscle rules all. There are all these stupid campaigns out there about "strong is beautiful" "strong is the new skinny", they make me want to vomit, especially because when you look at them...it's pictures of skinny girls! It kills me every time. Strong is functional, strong is stable, and strong should be your goal in life. Strong is your key to a long healthy amazing quality of life up until the day your die. Movement, without our bodies and our strength, we wouldn't be able to move. I grew to appreciate this mantra to myself throughout my recovery, it allowed me to stay positive and keep my head up. looking towards the light and the "end" of my recovery and onto bigger and better things.
The season was a mystery, but my mind was in an amazing place, and my body performed when the time was right. Having surgery was the best thing I could have done for my racing. Sounds crazy right? I missed out on a lot of fun over the Spring and Summer. I missed out on my long soul rides, mountain biking with friends, lost adventures, but because of this, I had a sense of calmness about the season, in a really strange way. For me, I was just happy to be there and racing my bike, pain free. This calmness helped me have more focus, fun, and less stress. Because of this, I out did myself with every step throughout the season. I didn't imagine a top 20 at either of the US World Cups. I finished 20th and 12th. I didn't imagine any UCI win's this year. I won twice. I didn't imagine a trip to Europe this year. I went twice. In August I wasn't going to race Nationals, I finished 4th. I didn't imagine making the Worlds team, I did.
You guys, the sky is the limit when it comes to your mental shift in attitude and positivity and how far you'll physically go with this shift. The past year was hard, insanely hard physically and mentally. Hip surgery seriously sucks. I don't look forward to doing it again at all, it actually really bums me out. The thing is, if I gained this much strength and knowledge from 1 hip surgery, I look forward to seeing what I can conquer with hip #2.
You'll hear from me on the flip side!