Updated: Sep 1, 2020
The day I found out I needed a total hip replacement, is not a day I’m likely to forget. It was difficult to wrap my mind around. After I left the doctor that day, I went down to the pier in Split, Croatia where I was staying at the time and sat by the water. I called my mom while simultaneously texting my dad. We were all stunned. The same amount of stunned that would come again a few months later, when I’d find out I needed two total hip replacements and that the doctors can’t say for certain what’s causing the degeneration of my hip joints. It’s a frustrating and painful uncertainty.
Needing my hips replaced made sense. I spent 5 years walking with a pronounced limp, some days barely being able to walk at all. Managing stairs was a comedy act more than it wasn't. Many days, after spending 8-10 hours cutting hair, I’d go home and cry from the pain. I had to be careful standing up, or changing directions when walking because my hip would give out with no warning. Of course that would lead any normal person to believe they likely needed new hips. But I had myself convinced it was something else. Something easier, less dramatic.
When people (outside of the handful who knew the severity of the problem) find out I need my hips replaced they’re shocked. They had no idea how bad it was. Maybe because I have an incredibly high threshold for pain, but more likely because suffering from chronic joint pain doesn’t make you “look sick.” That’s also why, as a young person, it’s easy to be brushed off when you’re complaining about joint pain. “You’re healthy! You’re too young for joint problems!”
I keep asking myself why I didn’t go back to the doctor sooner, and I don’t have a good answer. It was a combination of reasons. I didn’t want to spend the money. I thought it was something I could probably fix on my own. I was afraid to look stupid if I went and found out nothing was wrong, but then I was equally afraid to find out something horrible was wrong.
So, I guess the short version is that I didn’t go back to the doctor because I was afraid.
Having chronic pain in your hips is heinous. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed… but you need your hips for basically everything. There’s no resting them. They’re engaged when you’re standing up, sitting down, lying down, walking, standing still… You name it, your hips are involved.
I’m a little over a week out from having my first surgery and I’m full of anticipatory excitement. I’m also nervous (because why would anyone not be nervous about being sliced open, having a joint sawed off and becoming part bionic?).
The past few weeks since scheduling surgery have been full of preparations. There’s been pre-op blood work and testing, phone calls with various offices for various things, and pre-op physical therapy. There's the scheduling my my hip surgery preparation class, where I'll learn everything I need to know about what to expect pre and post-op. There’s been acquiring items I never thought I’d be asking for, like a raised toilet seat, walker, shower chair, and the optimal pair of compression shorts to sport during my recovery.
So naturally, I took two of the three weeks before surgery, when I had no doctors appointments or tests that needed done, and escaped for a pre-surgery vacation to Montana to visit family and have some time in the mountains.
I’m beyond lucky to be able to stay at my Mom’s through this whole process. She and my Dad will be carting me to and from surgery, to my post-op appointments and to physical therapy. They'll be helping me with basic daily functions, making sure my linens are clean, making sure I’m moving and doing my exercises, and then doing it all over again when it’s time for my second surgery (they are both going to be at saint-hood status by the time this is all said and done).
I hate needing to be taken care of. This whole situation has forced me to slow down, face my physical limitations and accept help. None of which have been an easy feat. I’ve always been physically able. I take pride in my ability to take care of myself. Asking for help has never been my strong suit.
I’ve always been a warp-speed kind of woman. I know how to relax, but I love keeping myself busy. My favorite hobbies are the ones that involve being physically active. I love traveling and exploring the world with my trusty backpack strapped to my back. And I’ve tried my damndest to keep up my normal life through the past five years, but looking back, I’m a little sad.
I’m sad I allowed myself to live in chronic pain because I was afraid to do anything about it after two failed attempts. I was getting involved with the self-help industry and thought maybe I just wasn’t doing a good enough job “raising my vibration” and “releasing old energy” or whatever other nonsense the Woo crowd professes about spirituality and physical health. I’d love to go back a few years and tap myself on the shoulder and say, “Hey, asshole. This isn’t about trapped energy, it’s about needing a new doctor BECAUSE YOUR HIPS JOINTS HAVE TOTALLY WORN OUT.” Don’t let anyone tell you the reason for your chronic pain is spiritual. All the spiritual woo in the world isn’t going to regrow cartilage.
I lived A LOT of life in those five years. I didn’t allow the pain to hold me back, but in many ways, it did.
It’s been coming up a lot lately how complex and multi-layered our lives are. I could create a website specifically for each drastically different part of my life. There’s the business owner/hairstylist part of my life. There’s the world traveling part. There’s the book writing/coaching/web designing part. There’s the weight training/physically fit part. There was the epic breakup, life flipped upside down part. There’s the, finally coming out of the closet, part. But one large and constant thread that has tied each one of these together, has been the chronic pain.
I feel like I should have some kind of farewell hips celebration. Like… thanks for (barely) carrying me through some of the most intense years of my life… but it’s time for you to take your final bow (and by bow, I mean like a, finger-guns-and-wink-throw-up-some-deuces, kind of exit, because a bow is quite literally out of the realm of physical possibility). But either way, it’s time. May you rest in pieces, wherever it is they lay busted up joints to rest.
I’m not going to end this first “journal-ish” blog with some profound “I’m grateful this has happened because” speech. Fuck that. I’m not grateful for needing two total hip replacements. I am however, grateful that getting my hips replaced is an option. I’m grateful to have a solution to fix my chronic pain. I’m grateful for my support system. I’m grateful that I’ll get to remember what life was like before this. I’m NOT grateful that I’ll have to have them replaced multiple times throughout my life. But I am hopeful to live long enough to need multiple replacements for my replacements. See? There’s always a bright side. Or something like that.
I’ll be posting regularly as I continue journeying on. My hope for this blog, is that it finds other young people who are suffering from chronic hip pain, and lets them know they’re not alone. Because I know how isolating it can feel to suffer in silence and it’s completely unnecessary.
I see you. I acknowledge the legitimacy of what you’re going through and you are not alone.
Now, please enjoy a montage of my best crutch-adventure photos.