“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Rumi
I am 54 when the team wheels me towards surgery. The nurse looks at me curiously, “Athlete?” I guess in her experience most people my age, lying in my position were either athletes, chronic over-exercisers, had an acute injury, or were born with hip issues. I nodded knowing that wasn’t the only story. It was easy to hide behind the legacy of an athlete and state level hurdler. But I knew it wasn’t as simple as that. I knew that what was happening to me was not just because I hurdled for 12 years when my bones and joints were growing and I was putting excessive stress on them. It was a constellation of many factors from my perfectionist nature, family trauma, a family history of arthritis, and an inability to move forward during difficult times in my life. Isn’t that what healthy hips do when you find yourself stuck? Move you courageously, outrageously forward to the edge of the cliff, where below all your greatest fears lie ready to gobble you up – unworthiness, not good enough, not loveable enough, not enough, not…. It took me until the age of 50 to find the courage to step off the edge and jump into the abyss to experience the fleeting, luscious free fall, before hitting rock bottom. There below was all that I feared, the wounds and scars of my life, the delusions, the pain and grief that before I was unwilling to face.
Movement was how I made sense of the world growing up in suburban Melbourne in the 70’s. It was how I processed difficult e-motions. They moved through my body, to a point of release and relief. In the unremitting winters of my childhood I would sprint on the spot in the shower until the hot water kicked in or my parents banged on the door to tell me to stop. I would jump off roofs of houses to show my rebellion, climb trees to see a different world, flip off high monkey bars in the playground to prove my worth and deal with the boredom of school, while a group of kids gathered below to watch. It wasn’t words that I used to express myself, it was movement. Competition seemed natural from that point and a way to show the pre pubescent boys that girls were in fact stronger, better and faster over the hurdles than they, before all our hormones kicked in and changed everything.
My body has always been fit, lithe and dependable, and I fearless in my physicality. I could trust it to do anything for me. My father was a mountaineer in the early days of the development of the Victorian high country and introduced my brother and I to his beloved Mount Bogong and Kosciusko. We hiked or cross country skied with enough supplies for a week of adventuring around one of the many alpine huts. We made snow caves, skied in blizzards, and relished the mountains and the bush as an escape from the humdrum of suburbia. Back in the city, I played every sport I could and just kept running, jumping, and hurdling. And yes I did push my body because that was what athletes did, to the point of exhaustion, vomiting up the food that I thought would help get me through the training session. Kind and gentle in the way I inhabited my body was something I had to arrive at much later.
Three years ago I thought hips were supposed to last a lifetime, along with the rest of my body. A tactless but astute physiotherapist had once said to me after mobilising my hips that I was destined for arthritis. I laughed but look back and wonder what he heard and felt grinding away in those already ancient but only twenty year old hip sockets. I had given up running before 50, happy to walk, hike, swim and dance my way into my fifties. But ageing wasn’t something I wanted to dance with. I didn’t want to do the pretend ageing thing of wearing clothes that covered floppy arm skin, injecting, dyeing, pulling up things that were heading south. I had to come to terms with what ageing meant to me before I could accept that my right hip was completely stuffed. End stage Right Hip Osteoarthritis (OA), positive Trendelenburg gait, subchondral cysts, complete loss of joint space, no damn cartilage. The medical terminology laid it out the X ray proved it. But what was ageing? Acceptance that my life will end, that bits wear out and things get loose and hang down, old age, sickness and death. But in the process I have become a wise elder for my family, peers and children, the next generation. That I have had the courage to have real and edgy conversations with people in my life before it’s too late knowing in my bones that an unexamined life is not worth living. To know that I have loved deeply and loved well.
No amount of kinesiology, Pilates, yoga, high dose nutrient supplements, acupuncture, meditation could bring my hip back. These all helped to strengthen and support me in one way or another, to bring me greater clarity around the issues I was reluctant to face. At a 10 day Tibetan Vipassana retreat, I miraculously found on the third day that the pain from sitting on my custom built meditation stool left my body. I realised that when I let go of finding a solution to my hip – just let go – the pain subsided. I could walk in meditation up and down a hillside and feel completely grounded and relatively pain free. I relished the slow, gentle rhythms of each day, the silence, eating to taste each mouthful, not talking, and the sense of my being ness. There was no need to DO anything but commune with myself, cultivate kindness towards my body and go beyond my mind’s endless narrative to explore the outer reaches where openness, peace and non attachment lay. Space and time expanded and in those moments there was no thingness; there was no thing to do, no body to fix or cure, no time. Meditation helped me make peace with where I was and what lay in front of me. It didn’t change my hip, it changed how I was in relation to it. After that week I knew I could never be a non-mediator. Meditation would always be a part of my life and integral to the acceptance of my new hip.
Back in the world of medicine and 3 months into my year off, I start my search for a surgeon. Eighteen months after my first x-rays were taken I find myself in the rooms of an orthopaedic surgeon talking about everything but what was involved in the operation, great inner city jazz bars in Melbourne, Africa and my upcoming trip to South Africa. I was a dead ringer for a Total Hip Replacement (THR) he says and he even got me to sign a hospital admissions form. I speak to Deb my dear childhood friend who had had a THR seven years ago and she lets me know gently that this is a BIG thing, it’s major surgery and advises me, “YOU are interviewing the surgeon to assess their suitability to work with you”. I liked that! With over 300,000 THR performed in the US annually and maybe one third that in Australia and with a burgeoning A list of orthopaedic surgeons in each city, I had the good fortune to have private health insurance and the right to be picky. I refine my interview technique for the next surgeon I meet and do my homework. Do you offer the anterior approach? What type of prosthesis do you recommend? Cemented or uncemented stem? Can you tell what my bone density is like from the X-ray? Do you check for leg length discrepancy during surgery? Do you do a CT scan prior to surgery? Why do you work with that anaesthetist?
It worked! I find a young cutting edge – bad joke- orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Daevyd Rodda that answers all my questions directly, holding my gaze the whole time. He seems a rarity in a world of specialists because he sees the whole me not just my hip. Dr Rodda doesn’t push me into surgery saying most people know when they have come to the end of the line and implies that it is his job to cross the line with them in full trust and confidence. Dr Rodda spreads his work life between Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast. He also trains other doctors in Australia in the Minimally Invasive Anterior Approach (MIAA) using the Medacta system. I am given a Garmin in the week prior to surgery to monitor my steps, sleep and calories via a clever app called Patient Optimised Pathway (POP). This is the only orthopaedic clinic in Australia that offers patients a wearable and a way to monitor progress. It’s the way of the future says Dr Rodda and he is at the leading edge of this patient practitioner interface. He works out of a brand new hospital on the Sunshine Coast and I figure the two and a half hour plus drive from my home will be worth it. The other factor I deeply appreciate is the team that support him in his clinic. A lovely, helpful, knowledgeable, professional and open group of women who I can work with, ask any question and not feel like a nuisance. Okay, deep breath, book the surgery. As my Dad would have said, paraphrasing the Mt Bogong Club motto adopted from RAAF in World War 2, “Non Circum Coimus”, no turning around.
When I start telling my friends that I have booked the operation it becomes comical to sit back and watch the well intended show. Everyone has a positive new hip story and every story has its favourite protagonist/surgeon. “My aunt, my nieces cousin, my dad, my husband had a hip replacement and they were up walking the next day, best thing they ever did, they’re back skiing, brilliant surgeon”. As well meaning as they are, it was a relief when my friend holds my hand and says, “Oh are you ok about that?” and “How are you feeling about having major surgery?”. It makes me well up because she has taken the time to be with me in my pain, not find the bright sunny side to the outcomes which I know exist but is not what I need right now. I also realise that unless you have been through this before, it’s a roller coaster ride of emotions into the unknown lying ahead.
I figure that to be in the best shape presurgery, I need to be fitter than I am. Walking more than 1km and stair climbing is out of the question, Pilates, yoga and I had parted ways a while back so swimming is my saviour. I love whole body movement and swimming in the Gold Coast summer is a delicious treat. My friend Nic and I do laps together, half of the session kicking and the rest gliding freestyle through supportive warm water. We would have breakfast outside and quietly give thanks to the abundance of our lives. My least favourite exercises are floor ones. I know I have to strengthen those weak and pesky gluteus medius muscles that give me the classic gait, and dutifully succumb to the captivity of a theraband around my ankles twice a day, doing exercises that were shown to me by a Melbourne health practitioner who had recommended the surgeon.
There is nothing like a urinary tract infection (UTI) to stop me in my tracks, two weeks before surgery. With no previous history of UTI, I am in agony wondering if this is the universe’s cruel joke to prepare me for the pain post surgery, if indeed I am able to have it al all. I don’t like talking much about health complaints as I have been such a well person, but it’s what illness and pain teach you that’s interesting. Six nights in a row, I lie on the lounge room floor wondering what it all means. When I can sit on my meditation stool with the pain, I realise how completely freaked out I am about the looming invasion of my body. I stay with the fear and what comes out doesn’t surprise me, a long held belief, “I don’t trust doctors.”
It feels sinful to say out loud as I have had some very positive experiences with GP’s and some are friends and family, but in reality I had, many years ago put the trust in my body’s wisdom to know how to heal myself. And I have to face the fact that I have failed to heal my hip. I have to arrive at the point that I have done my best, my hip has taken me to some wild, beautiful places on earth – Yemen, Syria, Iran, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, South Africa – but that I am ready to accept medical help. Together, with my knowledge of how to heal my body I am going to join forces with a talented surgeon who does 300 of these operations every year, and together we are going to create the best possible outcome for me. That realisation – my mantra – is more powerful than anything I can do or take before the surgery. I also give thanks to my old, worn out hip and farewell the part of it that won’t come home with me. Nobody tells you, take time out to face your fears and give thanks to your body well before you find yourself lying on the trolley on your way to theatre.
Taking time to examine the limiting beliefs that emerge in those dark days, helps me to let go of a sense of failure and accept my new hip. In the absence of not “trusting doctors”, I have placed a huge responsibility and burden on myself. I have to give up my sense of superiority, my precious image of myself, and become humble in order to heal myself. I learnt to ask for help in the past when I felt wobbly, drawing on the expertise of therapists from diverse healing modalities including yoga, ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, functional and integrative medicine, compounding pharmacy and I called on these in times of dis-ease. Now is the time to bring aspects of these back into my life and I relish the wisdom of my acupuncturist to help me before surgery.
As a nutritionist of 20 years I have incorporated many aspects of these modalities in my work. More recently, my interest is sparked in Epigenetics, how our environment and lifestyle impact on the expression of our genes. It is a natural progression, evolutionary, possibly revolutionary to know my genetic profile, especially before surgery. I know that I am a BRCA2 tumour suppressor gene carrier, or more correctly this gene is absent in my genome, the breast cancer gene that my mother, my uncle, my sister all carried and who all subsequently died of cancer. I also know that on my father’s side heart disease is familial. I struggle with the medical model of cancer treatment, it leaves me in a state of unspeakable sadness, the incestuousness of big Pharma with big Medicine that has no bearing on the people, my family being treated. I want to know my other genetic variations that might impact on my health and well-being in conjunction with the BRCA2 gene. And let’s face it, diseases from single gene disorders account for around 5 percent of all diseases (The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton, PhD). Whereas, 95 percent of all illnesses relate to the way we choose to live our life; how we eat, move, breathe and love our way through life.
When I received the results of my smartDNA test 6 months before my operation – a test was offered as part of the practitioner training – I felt completely dejected. In the 80 plus genes covered on the Genomic Wellness Test, ones specially selected because research indicates these genes have known metabolic and biochemical pathways in the body that are readily modified by diet and lifestyle, more than half of mine carried mutations. After the initial shock of realising that I was still alive albeit a “mutant”, the results made sense of so many areas of my life: why I was so sensitive to sugar, why the liver was struggling to detox despite a clean diet, a tendency towards inflammation and 70% reduced methylation, a process so vital to cellular function that in a few years time it will be common for health conscious people and their practitioners to know if they carry variations in the MTHFR gene.
But the test is only a one dimensional look at my genes. It is the raw data and it doesn’t tell me which genes I am expressing. Because as Dr Ben Lynch writes in his book, “Dirty Genes” we can be born with dirty genes or we can make them dirty through poor diet and lifestyle. In my case I was born with many dirty genes but because of my lifestyle they perhaps aren’t being expressed. Well, except in the case of osteoarthritis where my poor detoxification and susceptibility to inflammation may be contributing factors. It is helpful, possibly life saving, to know my genetic vulnerabilities to help design a specific individualised diet, lifestyle and nutrient supplement protocol that could be way more powerful than the latest paleo, vegan, keto, superfood diet. Once I embark on my own clean genes protocol it is like coming home to my body. It is our birthright but we often get bumped off the path by dogmatic and unhealthful, health messages. Here is my own unique biochemical roadmap laid out for me and even though it is way too late to impact on my OA it might help preserve the moderate OA in my left hip and other degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease. In the months leading up to my surgery I work with a compounding pharmacist to create an individualised supplement regime that could support me to be the most prepared for surgery. Many of these I stop in the week prior to surgery.
The countdown is on to the surgery date and can I suggest having your house in order before you head to the hospital. Whatever is most important and supportive to you get done now. Is it clearing your desk and to do list, cooking a few of your favourite things, clean washing or having your bits and pieces in close reach? All of the above for me. And have your care team in place. In my limited experience, it seems partners can be fabulous in the acute phase, when the pressure is on, ie in hospital. But after that when you get home and the pressures of daily living kick in, line up your natural caregivers. Have your women tribe prepped and ready for action – driving, shopping, cooking, foot massages – and ask for what you need as no one knows but you. One more observation to share. If you are used to caring for others in a codependent relationship whether it is family or friends, sometimes these people drop away when the tables are turned and you are in need of TLC. I found this a helpful insight to sit with whilst I recovered, to work out ways to bring more love and compassion to myself and others.
It’s the day of the surgery and I’m feeling very calm and nurtured having packed all my goodies for the 4-6 day stay. Would my smudge sticks to clear the dead energy of my hospital room set off the smoke alarm, would the essential oils be too overpowering, did I have enough good things to listen to and read? The drive and nourishing conversation with Chris settle me and I arrive at hospital ready as I can ever be. When I arrive at Day of Surgery admission, the woman admitting me delivers the best words I need to hear, “Oh you have a great doctor!” Thank you! Without second guessing that she says this to everyone.
It’s game on, they are waiting for me in theatre and I need to move fast. There is no time to get my surgery knickers in a twist. We are at the business end of the road. It is such a relief to have a team who clearly love working together from the theatre nurse, the anaesthetist, doctors assistant and surgeon. Jokes and laughter are the best medicine when you are about to have a cannula and spinal anaesthetic. When my surgeon asks me what he can do for me I replied, “please just be kind and gentle.” His reply reminds me of the the words written by doctor and novelist, Abraham Verghese, in his book Cutting for Stone. “Tell us please, what treatment in an emergency is administered by ear?”….I met his gaze and I did not blink. “Words of comfort.”
The last memory I have is looking up to the circular theatre lights, sensing the ubertechnology of precision surgical instruments laid out around me, that I could understand why as a doctor this could be your speciality. Giving your patient the gift of a new hip to bring the joy of pain free movement back to their world.
Through recovery and back in my hospital room, whatever am I thinking. Hippy dippy smudge sticks? I am more interested in surviving: the crazy noise the inflation boots are making around my feet and ankles to prevent DVT – where’s the mute button? – the cannula and regular “obs” done by the team of nurses. My blood pressure is low and I am not drinking enough fluids. All I know is that I crave salt. I tip a packet of it into my evening soup and that seems to allay the cravings. The pain medication seems to be working but there is no way I can stand to take my first assisted steps on Day 2. The physio team do their best but I keep blacking out and then vomiting. It comes to 7pm and I am wheeled off in the express lane to xray after my evening meal. Oh no, bad mistake. The winding path to get there, motion sickness, along with a dose of strong pain relief, endone brings my dinner vomiting back up.
Day 3 and the nightmare ends. I wake after a delicious saline drip has replaced my vital salts and fluids, my blood pressure is back up and I can take my first steps with a gutter frame walker. Isn’t it incredible that this coupling of two elements, sodium and chloride can make such a huge difference along with a dash of anti nausea. No wonder salt was traded for gold and spices in desert cultures. I find the right cocktail of pain meds, Palexia – or tapentadol – with Panadol and my other drug of choice ICE, the cold stuff that my surgeon wanted me to use 24/7. Dutifully the nurses replace my cold pack and the swelling and pain subside quickly. Ice becomes one of my main analgesics and I attribute my lack of swelling and faster recovery to constant use of ice.
Day 4, I sneak out of bed on my own, before the nurses and physio arrive to go to the toilet. What delightful independence, no more bedpans! Today, I start walking further around the ward and practice stairs. And no more cannula or antibiotics. The doctor on duty is pleased to tell me the cause of my low blood pressure. My sodium reading was way below normal, hence the salt craving. I hear the nurses conferencing outside my bedroom door. “She’s refusing some of her medications.” I guess I’m not the most compliant patient when it comes to certain drugs (antibiotics, anti inflammatories), but at least I am getting the most out of my pain relief.
Day 5 and home. Becoming used to being a blob on the bed gives me plenty of time to reflect. Most days I have a visit from girlfriends and I find joy in listening and being with them hearing about their struggles knowing I’m not the only one in pain. I listen to my surgeon’s advice about icing, rest and not overdoing exercise too early so I make a pact with myself not to start exercises until after week 2 and focus on walking. Learning to walk again with crutches, without effort or compensation is an act of mindfulness. My friend and I practise her walking mantra in a cooky Indian accent and classic head shake which cracks me up, “Place the heel of the foot on the ground, transfer your weight, pump the foot, and feel your balanced connection to the earth as you extend up to the sky”. That felt awesome! Walking meditation on two crutches fills my first week at home.
After week 2, the work that lies ahead of me feels overwhelming and demoralising; the long, slow road to strengthen those weak and overused muscles that have dragged me and my hip around for the last few years. But the body knows how to heal given the right conditions. Just by doing a little targeted exercises each day, my strength gradually improves. I switched to one crutch and imagine myself doing all the movement I love – bush walking, dancing, swimming, climbing avocado trees and am reminded of a quote from the book I am reading by Garth Stein, The Art Of Racing in the Rain , “ That which we manifest is before us”.
At the end of week 2 I’m doing a wound review. It’s the part of the process that I have sketchy understanding of how it’s all sewed up and stuck back together. And it IS literally stuck. Una, the nurse practitioner from the orthopaedics surgeon’s office kindly explains that the neat 6-7 cm wound is held together with glue, steri strips and underneath internal sutures. Amazing, that all the moving parts for a brand new hip could be slotted into place behind this very small incision. All is well with the wound and she assures me I can remove the outer dressing protecting and shielding me from having to look directly at the site of the incursion. Why am I so squeamish? Below lies the evidence of what has just happened and it still feels raw.
On Monday 18th February at 7.07pm, two weeks after I was discharged from hospital, an astrological event takes place. Chiron, a meteorite moves into Aries. According to astrologists this is an auspicious time for the emerging energy of Chiron, the wounded healer. In mythic Greece, Chiron an immortal centaur and the god of healing, was wounded on the hip by a poison arrow from Hercules, that Chiron himself had taught Hercules to make. Ironically, though Chiron was the god of healing, he could not heal himself and was forced to live with incredible pain until he chose to give up his immortality.
With my hip, the universe is handing me an opportunity to explore the archetype of the wounded healer. What I discover and what I know intuitively is that healing our wounds is a solitary, alone process that takes tremendous courage. We cannot avoid, go around or pretend it’s not there, that it is only by being willing to face, consciously experience and go through our wound do we receive its blessing. We take full responsibility for our pain and recovery, just as Chiron did not blame Hercules for his wounding. In the process, I have the opportunity to work with attachment to aspects of my ego – denial of ageing, illusions of immortality, competitiveness, judgement, perfectionism, separate self…It’s like part of me is never going to be the same when I get to the other side of this. It’s not just that I have a new ceramic hip. Going through my wound is a genuine death experience, as I can feel a part of my old self “dying” in the process, while a new, more expansive and empowered part of myself is being born.
As wounded healers, we become transformed when we recognize that our wound is completely personal and uniquely our own, while simultaneously being a universal, impersonal process in which everyone is participating. It is this shared felt sense that deeply connects us with each other…realizing our interconnectedness, interdependence, unity and ultimate inseparability from the world and each other.”
Paul Levy, awakeninthedream.com
We are not separate from the earth, the planets, the moon or the sun or people, plants or animals. When I slow down and feel my way forward, trust my innate wisdom, everything I need is right here, I’m exactly where I need to be. I make up a blend of essential oils to massage around the scar using arnica, carrot seed oil, frankincense, lavender and helichrysum. Only one of the steri strips remain on the skin but it’s too soon at 3 weeks post hospital to put essential oils directly on the scar. Patience, there is no rush anymore.
I’m on one crutch, but Deb encourages me to try walking without it to accelerate my recovery. I’m in no rush to give it up, that crutch is my after and I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of the before. Walking on my own before the operation has memories of pain and discomfort. But Deb, an exercise physiologist, reminds me of the importance of training my brain to practise the new walking pattern, that my hip is stronger than before. That walking is no longer a painful experience, it’s in fact what I’ve been waiting for for years. I give up the crutch – you can see why they are called that – and find the confidence to go it alone. Though every day since the operation is different but better in some way, this day becomes one of the most significant in my recovery.
Week 4 and walking into the physiotherapists office without my crutches feels so good, that I have to drop my ego at the door along with my work in progress judgements and expectations. I’m here hoping to get signed off for driving. But I’m informed that it’s up to my car insurer and what is written into my policy. Instead the physio manually works the soft tissue around the wound which feels great. I tell her the difficulties I’m having with flexion at the hip which she explains is natural but says there are some adhesions and scar tissue limiting my hip flexors. Nobody, not even me has touched my “precious hard won” scar with its remaining forlorn looking steri strip waiting to drop off. Before she asks or I can give her permission she is massaging OVER my wound. It feels so personal and sensitive that I feel violated. I’m reminded that the therapeutic relationship especially in bodywork is so much about trust and checking in with the other’s personal boundaries. The end result though, is I’m no longer precious about my wound and I can now massage over and around it myself a few times a day, breaking down the scar tissue and adhesions and improving the blood flow with its healing cargo of nutrients.
It’s still early days as far as walking further comfortably without crutches and I can feel a niggling inner voice anxious about how long this discomfort will last. My brain still remembers the days, weeks, months and years where walking was painful before my operation. I pick up our next book club book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose your mind and create a new one by Dr Joe Dispenza and flick to the chapter Overcoming Your Body. What I read changes the course of my recovery. That to create a new brain pattern to replace the old one, I have to imagine myself walking with joy and freedom from pain and discomfort rather than perpetuating the fear, anxiety, pain loop that my body/brain knew so well. Instead of my routine of standard exercises I lie on the floor and manifest the bone growing around the new titanium stem. I imagine my new joint moving freely, well oiled, the muscles strong and long around my hip and the tendons, ligaments and fascia encircling and protecting the joint. I feel the joy of hiking the trails around my house. The more I practice this future event taking place with a feeling of excitement and elevated emotions the more it takes place in the now. The act of walking becomes as natural, joyful and pleasurable as breathing and eating. I apply this new learning to my scar as well and see the visible difference without even lifting a finger.
Scanning my life I can see many tightly held beliefs that have limited my ability to move forward. My mind had created and memorised neural networks from limiting thoughts, feelings and emotions that when wired together, fired together. My job now was to unlearn the patterns and manifest something completely different; rewrite the mental program and apply it to all areas of my life – relationships, health, work, living – a life that reflects who I truly am and want to be. To tap into this universal intelligence that created me and everything around me is a profound act of love. When we resonate with this loving intelligence we become it and this becomes the greatest gift we can offer.
Nothing ever happens in a linear fashion. There are days when I’ve done too much and the scar becomes angry, my legs weary. At week 5 when I think myself into walking again, I think I can resume my normal life and I’m quickly reminded to rest and put my feet up. In the past I might have ignored this quiet insistence. But now I’m bowing down with grace and paying respects to my body/mind with reverence, kindness and gentleness. It’s easy to be swept along in this fast paced world full of busy people doing busy things. For all intents and purposes it looks like the outer work has been done; I walk pain free with ease and comfort and my wound is healing well. I will gradually gain strength to fully embrace the movement I love. But I’m wondering what’s next, what’s my next project now that I’ve got 4 months left of my year off? Just with that thought alone, it’s clear that the inner work continues, to surrender to not knowing what comes next and trust that passion and purpose will collide when the time is right.
Week 6 I’m officially back driving and a part of me mourns the days I spent quietly, alone, simply at home, knowing at the time they were precious. It becomes a list of firsts over the next weeks and every experience feels like a rebirth; my first ocean swim, squatting in the soil to pull weeds, my first bush walk. Walking, this simple activity that all upright Homo Sapiens do is fundamental to health, is taken for granted by most humans. To me walking is a panacea, a protest – you can always walk away or into the fray with two good legs – and a form of philosophy. When I walk I untangle my mind, create space to ponder existential questions and simply immerse myself in nature.
It’s 8 weeks and I’m at my final appointment in the waiting room of Dr Rodda along with other hopefuls. We are all sipping tea that Una has made for us. A kind of ramshackle family united by our new or potential hips and knees. My x rays go up on the light board and I can see the results of our collaboration, my mantra; Dr Rodda’s expertise as a surgeon and my commitment to looking after myself. The Garmin wearable has helped along the way bugging me when I didn’t move enough or letting me know I’d reached my goal of steps for that day. He’s smiling, delighted with the outcome, leg length perfect and prosthesis happily in place. We review the print out from the POP app. It follows a textbook curve of recovery. I’m smiling delighted too because I feel like the million dollar woman with my new hip. The appointment bookends one chapter of my life and I’m ready to move forward into the next
Pain is so energy sapping and for many people the spiral down to depression and addiction to pain meds. When the pain is taken away, I have energy to care for my friends, family and community, care about the environment and most importantly care for myself the best way I know how. I look back to that teenager who hurdled her heart and hip out with fondness and understanding. No longer in harsh judgement but softly creating space for her to breathe and move in search of herself.
If I have one piece of advice to finish it is this. Don’t wait too long to have a hip replacement if all arrows point in that direction. I put off my surgery for way to long. The weak joint compromises the body in so many ways and life is not meant to be lived in continual pain and discomfort. The experience could bring about changes you never expected. No body, no thing, no time…non circum coimus.
I wrote my story after a chaiype (Chai + Skype) conversation one evening with a longtime dear friend, Catherine, in Paris. “You know, you are doing this for all the people like me who have never had major surgery (we both shared the experience of a cesarean but this felt completely different).” She got me thinking about how I could help others and after reading very medical accounts of hip replacements online, I felt my story could be told from a wider perspective. Acknowledging the range of emotions including fear and anxiety involved in a procedure like this as well as the potential for deeper healing and joy needed to be told. This in no way constitutes a definitive guide to a hip replacement, or provides any health or medical advice it is purely my own experience of a Minimally Invasive Anterior Approach. Please do your own research to find an orthopaedic surgeon who is right for you and understand the approach they use – anterior, posterior, or lateral – and what is right for you. Please consult your doctor and team of health professionals for advice.
Blessings on the journey, love and light.
Image thanks to the talented Jini Maxwell