Post-op day 10… yup. I said post-op. In this article, I will keep y’all up to date with a little piece of my life and recent adjustments. We will also talk about how to keep the soul and heart focused on OUR dreams and ambitions, which can be challenging when faced with adversity and setbacks.
Life update is coming atcha!
A few months ago I was officially diagnosed with femoral acetabular impingement (FAI), or sometimes just called hip impingement. Grossly simplified, this is when the head of the femur is too big and square shaped, going into a round, smaller hole/socket. This progressively weathers the connective structures of the joint itself. For me, my symptoms presented as severe pain and irritability in movements involving flexion since muscles were doing the work of the labrum (sucks the head of the femur into the socket). I had many physical therapists’, doctors, even orthopedic specialist’s tell me nothing was wrong, that I had weak glutes, or I had a tight iliopsoas. Ultimately, I had muscular imbalances and irritable muscles presenting as a symptom of a much broader condition, and rather than looking for the valid etiology, I had many healthcare professionals treating the symptoms as this is how the healthcare system typically works. What I learned about this condition is, many people can have this condition and be asymptomatic their entire life, it is predominantly hereditary in females in particular, and it is associated with articular cartilage damage and labral tears, leading to arthritic changes at a much younger age than clinically expected.
I had been experiencing on and off the pain for about 6 years but had always attributed my pain to my extensive dance career from a young age. My parents and I chose not to seek treatment as hip-related injuries were a quick way to end a dance career, and my passion. At this stage of my life, I was content icing my achy body between classes, taking ibuprofen, and ignoring it the best I could. As my life changed, the pain would come and go through my changing athletic hobbies (i.e., cardio phase > group fitness junkie > lifting). As my phases came and went, the pain would come and go until eventually this summer it was at its peak and was there to stay.
Over the summer, I took in all resources I could to relieve pain related to hip conditions presenting as mine did. Eventually honing in on unfunctional movements every day to work out any muscular imbalances. For 3 months I worked almost every day I was in the gym to incorporate what I was finding from credible sources and online physical therapists, without relief. Finally, while teaching a group fitness class, I did one kick that I vividly remember as my leg did not move and I was trapped inside a broken body that was not mine.
I contacted an orthopedic surgeon the next day, and I truly believe God was watching me. There had just been a cancellation for the following day when I was available…. which is almost never! After the surgeon officially diagnosed me and took over an hour to indeed heed my concerns, answer my questions, and let me leave knowing as much as I could. I was faced with the following options:
live in pain next to a bottle of anti-inflammatories…no thanks that wasn’t doing it anymore
rehabilitation which would possibly help and require lifelong maintenance to ensure the quality of life I had been missing
or have an extensive surgery with a recovery leaving me at a year+ recovery period to the body I sat in for that moment.
This weighed heavy on my heart. I did not want to feel that I was skipping to surgery to fix my body, but I had spent countless hours in the gym, and my quality of life was debilitating. I went through 6 weeks of physical therapy while scheduling and preparing for surgery if this route was unsuccessful. After a few sessions with the physical therapist, it became evident that surgery was no longer avoidable. Sessions soon turned into pre-habilitation, preparing for my scheduled surgery.
*This ties into a point I would like to share with all of you beautiful humans*
I soon became resentful of my body, feeling like it was my fault I was in the excruciating pain every single day and that I was faced with an extreme setback. I had even thought maybe God was punishing me. My quality of life was wretched. I was unable to do the things that used to warm my heart and feed my soul, but I couldn’t even get through a night without waking up to the painful reminder of my physical disability. I slowly became more silent in my presence on social media, in the gym, and in my many roles in life (i.e., daughter, partner, teacher, trainer, student). Every time I was in the gym, I was not only in pain, but I was continually resenting those around me for the work they were capable of, good and bad. Typically, I am in my zone focused on my goals, and myself. Now, I felt as if I were in a fishbowl, looking out at everyone that was able to do everything pain-free and even with cringe-worthy form imperfections. Watching others throwing their body around in the gym and not caring about form just to take pics in the mirror or to look cool for the #bros, was so upsetting to me. I was unable to finish workouts or would even discover myself in tears after completing my exercises because I was overwhelmingly unsettled. It took me a long time to not only grieve my fitness passion but more importantly, understand the etiology of my case. I had the hardest time making a mental shift from: “Why me” to “This is who I am.”
One of the challenges, almost equally debilitating as my pain, was when people said “you are so young!” or “but you’re so active and healthy?” or “it’s not a big deal, you’ll come back in no time.” This has been incredibly exhausting for me to face. Yes, I have done everything right. I have taken care of my body, worked my butt off in physical therapy, and there are still people in the gym throwing their bodies around because they do not know any better. This was all true, but what I chose to do with this challenge is what reminds me it’s not “why me,” and “I am BLESSED to be able to access to the care and support to better my health and quality of life.” I CHOOSE to make this journey positive, and for me, I wanted to be realistic with myself and other (NOT the same as throwing a pity party!) t is proven that patients with a positive attitude and outlook before surgery, have increased rehabilitation as well as higher postoperative outcomes sooner than those that do not. So if this is not like you, turn over a new leaf and enjoy the brighter side. It may be challenging, but you would be surprised at how beautifully amazing you can be when faced with adversity.
When staring at the base of a mountain of misfortune, we sometimes look around us for a gauge on normality. I was now tirelessly thinking with what was “wrong” with me, all I could do was watch others’ hip alignment in the gym. The same can be said for anything, even trouble in school. If you are struggling, you feel like you are dwelling on the thought of those that are doing well, and the thoughts may drown your ambition. This is not only an exhausting way to live life, but it is also inappropriate. The truth of the matter is, we are all unique and beautiful even in light of our imperfections. There is always more to the story, and the best way to have an authentic story in mind is to focus on yours. Your goals, your values, your struggles are just that. They are yours, and you can show them to others, but not everyone will have the holistic truth is you. It can be challenging to escape those around you mentally, but once you do, your self-efficacy will begin to reveal your honest self. As always, I talk about loving our bodies, and this is just as bad as shaming ourselves even though it is indirect in nature. Your challenging does not define you, and you’re always beautiful, no matter what imperfection, difficult time, or series of unfortunate events. Always know you know yourself best, and you can overcome anything.
My surgery: I had my hip surgery done by an orthopedic specialist that had done a fellowship in hip preservation, cartilage restoration & sports medicine. I had located this physician previously during the summer when shadowing a physical therapist, who recommended this doctor with the highest regard. If you are seeking professional healthcare opinions, use your resources and do some research too!)
The surgery itself was an arthroscopy, which is laparoscopic. Three small incisions were made for access with a scope and tools to shave down the bone (mine was considered cam impingement which means there was extra bone on the femoral head) to fit and move more smoothly in the ball and
socket joint. During the surgery, there were also labral tears which were not seen on imaging (MRI/CT does NOT show everything especially with joints in capsules) which were repaired. The surgeon stated the cam, or bone to be shaved down, was quite significant and the labral tears were quite average for this condition. I was also informed of arthritic changes already seen in the joint, reassuring me that this surgery would probably prevent me from having a hip replacement by 40, or even at all!
The past few months have been w whirlwind. I have been handling the challenges of an extensive 6-9 month recovery. The difficulties of reorganizing academic life, driving, parking, clinical placement for next semester, work rescheduling, and lots and lots of planning ahead! In the past week, I have been surrounded by an outpouring of warmth, prayers, and good wishes. I had not anticipated this, and it has warmed by heart dearly and made this critical time in my recovery so much brighter and with many more smiles than expected.
I hope this post has been helpful to you educationally as well as for your beautiful personal development. If you have any questions regarding something similar, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for recommendations on some fabulous healthcare professionals that can help you get back the quality of life you deserve.
Huge thank you to everyone emotional and physical support through this growth phase.