Thursday, November 2, 2017

Total Hip Replacement at 36

I am trapped in a body that does not work.

Me.  A gymnast.  A dancer.  An Actress.  A gymnastics coach.  A choreographer.  An athlete.  A wedding planner.  A weight trainer.  A 10,000 steps 6 days a week mover (curse you, my beloved Fitbit).

Lest you are confused, rest assured I have spent the past six weeks trying to wrap my head around the words, "We have two options.  One - do nothing.  Two - you need a total hip replacement."

As my mind spun out of control, the doctor went on to explain to me that something to do with Hip Dysplasia is measured on a scale from 1-4, 4 being the worst.  I'm a 4.  Osteoarthritis is measured on a scale from 1-3, 3 being the worst.  I'm a 3.  There is an angle they measure to recommend hip replacements at anything less than a 20.  I'm a 14.  Obviously, I lost grasp of details here.

Other words swirling as they entered my brain were:
bone-on-bone, bone spurs, no ligaments, calcified ligaments, zero range of motion

Time to back-track.

Most of you are probably confused, either never having heard me complain or perhaps remembering a time or two I mentioned my hip was sore.  I didn't want anyone knowing I was in pain because then I might not get cast as a dancer in a show or asked to coach gymnastics, or I'd be lectured on why I wasn't going to the doctor.  I was afraid.  I was afraid of knowing what was wrong.  I was afraid of being stupid because I had no idea where to start with the doctors.  I was afraid of medical bills.  I was afraid of being told there was nothing they could do.  I was afraid, most of all, that I was crazy and making up some phantom pain. 

But I am not crazy.

This all started 4 years ago when my hip started popping just prior to getting married.  The feeling was a discomfortable pop out of place - like a searing knuckle popping almost.

In January of '14, I had my first of many, as I call them, "flare ups."  The pain in my groin/inner hip area was as if I was being stabbed.  I could not walk without a severe limp and my poor husband found me collapsed on the stairs in tears, paralyzed with fear.  But the pain subsided after a few days.

Every few weeks, I'd have a day or two of pain.  Especially if I had a heavy dance day.  I remember auditioning for "Footloose" and hardly being able to walk that night.  But I kept moving and dancing, hoping I'd just tweaked some muscle or aggravated something in my aging body, accepting my new normal.  My husband became accustomed to hearing, "I'm having a flare up today, don't walk so fast." But that never stopped me.  I kept trucking right along.

Along the way, I tried massage therapy, chiropractic care, sports chiropractic therapy, stretching, stretching, more stretching, and I even became a gymnastics coach in part because I knew it would keep me active and stretching every day.   All the while I continued to work out 6 days a week with weights and cardio.  I tried anything I could do to loosen up what I thought was a "locked hip," but nothing helped.  Even cold/heat therapy, electric stimulation, a daily regime of mobility exercises, and ultrasound stimulation.  I am often told, "Just hearing about all you do is wearing me out." 

Why did I keep pushing through this pain?

Let me tell you a story that helps you understand what happens inside of me when I do gymnastics or dance.  Last May, I auditioned for "Beauty and the Beast" at Hale Centre Theatre.  I left the theater feeling as if I were flying through clouds of freedom.  My body moved!  I moved!  I cartwheeled and high-kicked and tap-danced and split and jumped and leaped and every beat of my heart exhilarated the core of my soul.  I posted from the parking lot, "And then I danced.  And suddenly all was right in the world."

You see, when I dance or tumble, my soul is free.  My heart is free.  Anything is possible.  Happiness is limitless.  My brain tingles.  I love feeling the strength of my body and of what it is capable, tying together what is inside my heart with physical expression.  My body is literally flying when I do a back tuck or an aerial...literally I am a bird soaring.  There is nothing in this world that can free my mind, body, and soul this way.  I can fly.

Back to "Beauty and the Beast."  I sought some massage therapy before my final audition (callback) and my leg was manipulated in all sorts of positions.  Thinking it was simply a muscle problem, imagine my chagrin when this caused the worst flareup yet.  At our first rehearsal a month later (I made it!), I walked as normally as I could, not wanting my new cast mates to know that not only was I 10 years older than all of the other dancers, my body wasn't working.  A few weeks later, I did something coaching gymnastics that rendered me practically immobile.  My hip would pop painfully without warning with almost any movement.  I'm talking paralyzing, breath-stealing pain.  I remember a friend grabbing my leg at rehearsal to fix my positioning on the floor, my hip popping, and then the room flashing bright colors and spinning around me because of the blinding, searing pain.

Yet I danced.  I danced for 4 months day in and day out.  I loved every moment as much as my comprehension of love allows.  No experience in my life has left me more fulfilled.

But the day after the show closed, I could not even lift my right leg.  I had to pick it up with my hands to get it in the car.

And you know what this dummy did?  Thought, "Huh, I must just be fatigued from the show.  It will get better."  That's right...I still didn't go to the doctor. I continued working out, dancing, choreographing, coaching gymnastics....all of it.

This summer, I was part of another production where my dancing was minimal, but I found myself frustrated.  How could this little amount of dancing cause me pain?  Then I wore my heels for the show.  Have mercy.  My hip wanted nothing to do with those heels.

I traveled to Disney World just before we opened, and my friend there, at the end of a 3-park day, said, "Are you okay?  Do you have blisters?  You are hobbling..."  I said, "No blisters, just this stupid hip thing I have where it hurts at the end of the day.  No big deal."  That's when I knew this was not something I could hide much longer.

One particularly emotional week when my husband was out of town, I had collapsed in pain too many times.  In between tears, I picked up my phone and googled something that lead me to the Orthopedic Specialty Group at TOSH.  I pretended I wasn't crying as I told the poor woman on the phone my sob story, not even knowing if she was someone who knew anything at all.  She was an angel and referred me to the right doctor based on our best guesses.

The next available appointment was 2 months out.  For. The. Love.

Which brings us back to some of the strangest words I've ever had to comprehend.  "You need a total hip replacement."

Aren't I too young for this?  Isn't there another option?  How could I have prevented this?

Nothing I did caused this and nothing I did could have prevented this.  Apparently, this condition is quite common for females in their 30s.  Hip dysplasia is genetic.

Do you know what was actually happening this whole time I was in pain?  Because of the dysplasia, I developed severe osteoarthritis.  My bones began slicing into my ligaments until they were destroyed, then began grinding into each other.   My body began building new bone to protect itself - calcifying the surrounding tissues and even forming bone spurs. The doctor cannot even temporarily prescribe pain medication because none will help my particular situation.

I walked out of the doctor's office into the perfect sunshine of a September morning.  The wind dried the tears off my face.  My life, as I know it, will change forever.  But there is an answer.  Relief is in site.  I am not crazy. 

This entire time I have been running about willy nilly with my bones grinding together.  Who does that?!

This is where I ask for your help, your patience, and your forgiveness.

I now know what my body has been going through.  I now know why my mental health has been slowly, yet steadily declining.

Chronic Pain.

I have been suffering with chronic pain for 4 years.  Please Google "long term effects of chronic pain" for more information.  What I can quickly tell you is that it deteriorates your mental state.  Sufferers are prone to emotional variances, depression, outbursts, extreme fatigue, lack of comprehension, and the list goes on.

I have had some friends say I don't seem as happy as I used to be, that I'm not myself.  Others have simply distanced themselves from me silently.  Several have asked about my "swollen" body.  Friends, I need you....there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  I will be back to "normal" in about 4-6 months!  Please hang in there with me.  Please.

Right now, I am exhausted beyond comprehension all but a few hours a day.  Choosing what to do with my very limited energy supplies each day is almost impossible and has left me disappointing others and myself almost constantly.  The surgeon said the most important thing I can do is to keep moving every day, so most of my energy is prioritized into workouts.  Frustrating workouts because my body is putting all of its focus on healing a hip that can't be healed and none into metabolizing.  This has left me humiliated and ashamed, as my whole lifestyle revolves around health and fitness.  I should not be because none of this is my fault, but I can't exactly stop every person on the street and say, "I'm just so swollen because (fill in the entire story I just told you)." 

My surgery is scheduled in January.  I'm scared.  Out. Of. My. Mind.

I recently watched the beautiful musical theater stage show, "American in Paris," at the Eccles Theatre.  As we walked back to the car, I started crying as I told my husband, "The dancers are all so free.  They all leap and spin and dance and their bodies are free.  I'm scared to death I will never feel that again in my life.  I need to feel that way, Rob.  I need to dance.  What if I never get to feel that way again?"

In one of his wisest marital moments to date, he responded, "You can't move like that now.  This surgery will fix you.  Maybe you won't be able to do everything you did before, but you certainly can't now.  Let's get you out of pain."

I am having a total hip replacement.  I am hoping for a new lease on life.  I am hoping to be able to feel free again in this body that currently has me trapped.

Until then, I'll cry every time I watch "Dancing with the Stars," or coach my gymnasts and watch them fly, or see my friends perform, or imagine what life will be like when I can once again take a step without pain.  

Yep, this is me playing "Grandma" in "Addams Family "just two weeks ago...still refusing to accept my condition


Janell said...

This sound excruciating. I cannot fathom how you have pushed yourself through so much pain for so long.

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