Reflections - 1 year PO...AGAIN

Last year I reflected on my nearly 1 year post-op hip surgery. This second time around has been such a different experience all together. Without as many unknowns, I haven’t found myself celebrating the little things that make up the entire journey. I don’t know if it’s because a “been there done that” type of thing, if it’s me putting my head down telling myself no one really cares, or if it’s me trying not to think about everything I’ve been through with surgeries and recoveries the last 2 years, but it still doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take the time to reflect on the last year.

I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but hip surgery is pretty sucky, and having 2 surgeries is really sucky too, especially 1 year apart. It feels like once I got my life back, it was taken away again. I’ve spent the last 2 years rehabbing my hips, 3 if you count the entire year prior to my first surgery, and all I want to do is be “normal” without having to think “oh my hips…hang on”. I know that my life prior to my hip injuries is gone, and I’ll never go back to that, but I still dream of all those extra hours I used to have. Enough of me complaining.

Last year 3 days after coming home from Worlds I went right back in the OR for my second hip surgery. I tried to cram as much as I wanted to do at home for those 3 days before going under, and then the day came and went, and the rehab started all over again. The second hip recovery was easier because I knew what to expect, but also harder because my patience wasn’t as great. I was constantly competing with my prior self, and all I wanted to do was prove to me and everyone else that I was going to be even better than before. This second surgery was anything but the same as my first. My experience was drastically different than the first time around, even though I did the EXACT same thing as the year prior. Life is a beautiful unpredictable journey. I look back at the last year, and I’m constantly reminding myself that I did in fact have a hip surgery. My body reminds me, but my mind hasn’t really grasped it, which is a weird feeling. The first surgery was so insanely scary committing to something that was unknown, that by the time the second one came along I didn’t even blink when it was time to put in the work of recovery.

I have no regrets of any of my surgeries, I have no regrets of my journey. Being 1 year PO officially on my left hip and 2 years PO on my right hip, I feel good. Is my left hip perfect (yet), the answer is no, it’s not. I’d put myself in the 95-99% range of being where I want it, and just like with my first hip, I know it will take time. Was my right hip 100% at the year mark? At the time I would have told you yes, but today I can tell you no it wasn’t. A year ago I succumbed to how my hip felt and just decided this was it, but now I know, the hip continues to improve, it continues to gain range of motion and strength. I know that even though I still think about my left hip, those days will come to end soon enough, and with time everything will be exactly where it needs to and is meant to be.

The closing of a chapter

Two years ago I wrote a blog about life being like a chapter book.  Each segment of life is a chapter, and when one ends, a new one starts.  I originally wrote about my stepping out of the fitness industry (with full intentions of coming back), closing that chapter while I open a new one.  One filled with a bike racing journey full of highs and lows, a journey where I could focus 100% of my time  on racing, just to see how far I could go.  How far can I push my body?  What are my limits?  With the closing of that chapter I opened up a new one focused solely on bike racing, fully knowing the future of my hip.

Last week I walked into my surgeons office for my 4 month follow up visit, and had a flash of nostalgia as I was walking out of the office, for the last time (we hope).  When I got to my car, I turned around for one last look at the building, I snapped a picture, and I waved good bye.  It's funny what changes in a year.  Last year at this time I walked out crying, so thankful that I made it four months post op, and was so excited, yet so scared to start pushing my hip.  I had flash backs not just from my first trip into the building (more on that later), but flash backs to the start of this chapter.  This hip chapter is interwoven amongst so many other chapters of my life.  

My first summer of mountain biking.  

My first summer of mountain biking.  

I was 25 when I went for that 30 minute easy run and ended up limping for 25 minutes of it.  I was in my final year of Grad School studying "Human Movement and Performance" and I was convinced I knew everything there was to know about my body.  I was 27 in 2012, that's when my back started hurting.  I thought it was from cyclocross and and traveling.  It hurt a lot.  I was 30 when my hip took a turn for the worse.  I figured I nursed it back to a pretty functional state for 5 years, why couldn't I do it again.  I did what I did before, only this time nothing I could do would make it better.  Rest wasn't helping, taking out the aggravating activities didn't help.  I raced on it, that didn't help.  I started PT.  I was 31 when I walked into my surgeon's office.  It took me 6 years to walk into that office.  6 years.  6 years of denial that anything horrible was wrong.  6 years of sitting with what felt like someone was lighting a torch in my hip.  6 years of basically quitting running (my original love before biking) because it hurt too bad.  6 years of just never quite feeling "normal", but what wasn't normal to some, became my new normal.  

In those 6 years I wrote more than 1 chapter of my life, but what remained a constant, was this damn hip.  In those 6 years before walking into that office I graduated with my Masters, I moved in with Chris, I learned how to mountain bike, my brother came back from rehab, I got engaged, I got married, I became a professional CX racer (whaaaaaaat), my grandma passed away, I raced more bike races than I can count on my fingers and toes, I went through a total of 13 bikes.  That's a lot of bikes!  That's a lot of transitional life that was being lived. 

I can't tell you exactly why I walked into my surgeon's office when the thought of surgery wasn't even in my mind.  I think I wanted answers, even though in my gut I knew what was wrong.  I remember walking into that building, looking around and thinking to myself "I"m way too young to be here".  I remember the anxiety, the nervousness I felt.  I'm pretty sure the only words I mumbled to my surgeon that day was "I don't want surgery".  I walked into that office set on NO surgery.  I walked out crying.  I remember feeling blank as I sat there in his office.  I felt empty inside, scared, worried, concerned, confused on what I ACTUALLY should do.  

my first MRI with contrast

my first MRI with contrast

I had a lot of internal conversation with myself after that initial appointment, and when I went back in for a follow up after my MRI, I was open to surgery.  It's funny, there are moments in my life I think I'll remember forever, and then there are some I wish I could forget.  It's those I think I'm going to hold onto till the day I die that I forget, and it's things like every single ortho appointment I remember.  I can tell you every month I went to see my surgeon and everything that was discussed in each appointment.  I can tell you which appointments Chris came with me and which ones he didn't.  The past 2 years have been so pivotal in my life it's like every moment happened yesterday and I can see the detail of it all like it's right in front of me.  


April 2016, May 2016, October 2016, Feb 2017, April 2017, May 2017, August 2017, September 2017, January 2018, Feb 2018, March 2018, May 2018.  

14 visits (2 of those being surgery).

In retrospect, 14 isn't that big of a number, but this nostalgia I'm feeling from that last visit reminds me of my first.  I feel blank, confused, lost, and almost empty, but yet happier than ever to end this chapter.  I'm struggling to find words that truly express how I feel right now, and how I felt when I walked out of that office.  The only thing I can compare it to is how I felt when I finished reading the Harry Potter series.  Seriously!  I finished reading those books, and I felt like I lost my friends.  I all of the sudden had all this extra time and I didn't know what to do with myself.  

14 times isn't a lot to see someone, but it's enough to make something feel like a routine.  Walking into that building, checking in, waiting, seeing the MA, talking with my surgeon, all became a routine in my life for the past 2 years, and it's very strange for it to end.   Don't get me wrong, I won't miss the drive, the waiting, or the fact that I felt like I've been on a leash for the last 2 years, but it is enough to make it feel like a loss (in an extremely strange way).  My surgeon has been very involved in the whole process from pre-surgery, to post-op, to rooting for me in my racing.  It's strange to think that someone who has entered into your life for an extremely pivotal time is just done.  What's even stranger to me, is I know I'm just another number, another patient.  People come and go, and with enough time those memories fade.  

When I spend a significant amount of time with someone (and I would consider 14 visits significant), I take it personally.  It's probably a small character flaw at times, but truth be told, I'm going to slightly miss those 20 minute appointments, sometimes talking hips, bikes, racing, and me asking ridiculous questions, me trying to negotiate for more time on the bike (or me trying to go on an ATV tour in Hawaii) and him telling me no.  I won't miss the "no's", but I'll miss the ridiculousness of it all.

I'm not 100%, and I still have a lot of recovering to do, a lot of listening to my body and my hips, and a lot of work to put in before I'll be anywhere near ready for the CX season in September, but at this point, I'm nearing the closing of this hip chapter.  As I reflect back on the past 8 years there are so many people I have to thank who helped get me through everything.  

Chris loved circles

Chris loved circles

Obviously a thank you to my husband, Chris, for spinning my leg(s) in circles for nearly 56 hours over the past 2 years (subtract a few hours from the days I was in PT for that and the days he went to work).  Thank you for cooking me 3 meals/day for the first month after each surgery.  For shaving my legs, lifting me in and out of bed, in and out of the car, on and off the toilet, in and out of the shower.  For waking up at 3am every night for the first couple of weeks to take me to the bathroom.  For lying with me through the first surgery when I was crying my eyes out scared I would never recover.  Thank you for putting up with my ever expanding PT/exercise tools, for understanding that I CANNOT DO THAT because of my hip.  For putting the Compex on and taking it off my glutes, for cupping and taping my back.  For dealing with my total and complete OCD.  

Thank you to Erik Deroche at Performance Health Northwest for being my chiropractor for the I don't even know the amount of years, but he's been here since the beginning of this saga.  Thank you for talking to me 2 weeks after my first surgery and telling me I was crazy for thinking I wouldn't be in pain 2 weeks after surgery.  Thank you for your continuous treatments, your man hands that release those muscles so fantastically.  Thank you for spending extra minutes talking to be during pivotal times of this process.  Thank You. 

Thank you to my PT and friend Sarah at CorePhysio.  Thank you for being such a caring provider, for getting me through my Pre-Op pains, getting me through my CX season in 2016 when we knew I was going in for surgery at the end of it.  Thank you for your knowledge, your time outside  of the PT clinic, and for talking me off so many cliffs during that first recovery.  Thank you for spinning my leg(s) in circles.  Thank You.  I think the world of you.

Thank you to Meg who took good care of me while Sarah went on maternity leave.  Meg, you got me through my first CX season after hip surgery.  Thank you for your crafty exercises and fun personality.  

Ash.  My acupuncturist.  Thank you.  Thank you for knowing what I need when I didn't even know I needed it.  Thank you for your ever expanding knowledge base, your care to learn and your care for your patients.  Bellingham is lucky to have you.

Kerry.  My massage therapist, thank you.  Thank you for your support when I did my first MRI with contrast, for letting me text you when I was worried, for your wise words, your wisdom, and your wealth of knowledge.  Thank you for your elbow grease in my TFL's, heaven knows I need it.  

My Bellingham hip sisters.  Thank you for keeping me going this second round.  I'm so happy to have you two in my life.  Without these crummy hips, we wouldn't have each other.  

My coach.  My poor coach.  A couple of weeks after we started working together I had my MRI and informed him of my labral tear in my hip.  I think nearly every check up he's asked "how are you doing, how are your hips".  Thank you for putting up with my stupid hips, working around them when we've needed to.  Thank for checking in on me after my first surgery and helping me through it.  Thank you for your patience, your knowledge, and your guidance.  Thank you for getting me back on top after my first surgery.  Thank you, I owe so much of that first season back to you.  No amount of thank you's can truly show my gratitude.

                               See ya!

                               See ya!

Thank you Dr. Nowak for caring.  I know you could have easily given in to my requests when I asked to do more, and you said no.  You cared enough about my healing to give me guidelines to make sure I would heal, to make sure there would be no flare ups, and no problems.  You pieced me back together to become a better athlete, whether you know it or not.  

Thank you to my sponsors who didn't care that I had hip surgery 7 months before the start of the season, and still supported me.  To the new ones who took a gamble on a freshly injured girl and the old ones who stuck by my side.  I'm one lucky gal.

Thank you to my community, my support, my tribe, and all of you who have reached out to me during the last couple of years.  Thank you for rooting for me, for following along on my journey and actually CARING.  Your energy powered me through that first come back.  

Heres to a continued upward direction of recovery, for this road is still long and there are still ups and downs to be had.  I'm still on a leash for PT, but we're slowly moving towards more and more FUN and exciting things!  These last two years have written a chapter of growth in life and sport.  I have more compassion for the injured, more gratitude for my body, and more thankfulness for those around me.  This chapter is a bright light in a crumby situation.  Thank you for being there, for reading, for following, for being you.  


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.  


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.