Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Six months later...

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

I can't believe it's been over six months since my surgery. My new hip feels like new, and moves much more freely than it has for years. Unfortunately, I notice these days in my left hip signs that I remember from the deterioration of my right. I initially thought these pains were temporary. That if I just did a little more yoga, or changed my sequence, or tried the right healing practice, they would go away. Turns out the only way to make them go away was to have surgery!

I've been trying to stick to an lectin-free, which seems to make a big difference. Since the surgery, and the advent of harvest, I've been enjoying fresh tomatoes and potatoes from the garden. But my left hip is getting so achy, it's time to dust off my self discipline. Here's a link with some useful info on lectins http://www.marksdailyapple.com/lectins/#axzz2holUCSIH

To get back in shape, I have hopped back on my bike. When I lived in the city, I rode everywhere, but out here in Sooke, the car is a more efficient way of getting around. I've been taking some rides on the Galloping Goose trail, and have even biked into the village a few times. It's such a lovely ride, surrounded by trees, on a wide even path, hardly anyone else around. I highly recommend it!

As I ride, my right hip circles fluidly, but my left pinches at the hip flexor. In the past, as my hip got more and more painful, I raised my seat to open up the angle at the front of the hip, taking the pressure off. These days my right hip, knee and foot stay easily in line, but my left knee swings out to the side, and my heel rubs the frame of the bike. The pain in my left hip decreases as I warm up, and it feels very healing for the joint to do half an hour of easy spinning. It's does my heart and soul good, as well. I was missing riding my bike!

It's quite the exercise in delayed gratification, having the left hip degenerate as the right hip increases in capability. Stretching feels so good these days, the quality of the muscle fibre more willing to release and elongate.  My left leg is still willing to stretch, though the flexibility in that hip is decreasing. I have been waiting to be able to sit cross-legged without sitting on blocks, but it turns out I'll have to wait until after surgery #2. Though I can now sit cross legged on the floor, my left knee is higher than my right, and the hip feels tight. I'll be back on the blocks very soon, I think.

In honour of autumn, the Equinox, and new beginnings, I have expanded my morning routine. I am drinking lemon juice and water, doing neti pot, tongue scraping and oil pulling. Besides the health benefits of these practices, it is a real boost to start the day with some self-care. Though it takes time, it's a wonderful and effective reminder to myself that I am worth caring for. Try it!

I am so grateful for the meticulous hands of my surgeon, and the competence of the hospital staff. For my loving partner and family, who have been patient and considerate during my healing process. And for the concern and caring of my community of friends, who have stood by me during my descent into pain, and my joyful recovery.

Here's an appropriate Thanksgiving poem:

Be Thankful
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.

Author Unknown

Monday, July 29, 2013

Back on my Feet!

Today was the my first day back to standing poses without my restrictions. Very exciting! Generally, it felt so good to allow my body to gently extend further, although there were a few disappointments.

Surya Namaskar
To stay true to my 'don't bend not past 90 degrees at the hips' rule, I have been doing Sun Salutations with a block under each hand. I also released my right leg backward, and bent my left knee as I lowered my hands to the blocks. The nice not-restricted feeling of reaching my hands towards the floor, was tempered by creaky, stiff muscles. I don't know why I was so surprised! I am moving like a stiff-as-a-board beginner. Very humbling. 

In Surya Namaskara B, I have been doing a looong squat, while my partner moves through Warrior I on the the right side. My quads still need strengthening. I was happy to leave the squat behind (who likes squats??), and it was a treat to step forward into Virabhadrasana I on the right side for the first time in months. My hip is still sharply painful with downward pressure on the right foot. 

Ardha Chandrasana
When I did Half Moon pose on my operated leg, I dropped into a familiar, joyous sensation of flying. I actually felt more stable, and more fluid in my right leg, than on my left.  The more ease I feel on the right side, the more I notice the beginnings of same downward spiral on the left, starting with the same tight, sore feeling in the adductor. Standing on the left, my hip feels tight and held, the SI joint close to seizing. Damn.

Virabhadrasana 1 and 2
Both Warriors feel tighter and stiffer on my left hip. A bit discouraging. Still, I will keep working with a vision of fluidity, encouraging the freedom in the right hip inform the left. I'm sure it will help that with the left hip, I know what I'm dealing with. I have many more tools at my disposal. I hope I can keep it healthy for a long time. 

Shades of Past Practice
In gently stretching my muscles into the poses, two things were apparent. 

1. As my right hip becomes more fluid, my left hip is probably going to tighten up. I will do what I can, with diet, exercise, and visualization, but... It's kinda sad I don't get to enjoy two healthy hips at once until after I get my left hip replaced. But. It is what it is.

2. I remember doing standing practices, something like six months ago, feeling very distracted. After I'd corrected Zack the umpteenth time, he diplomatically asked if my mind was a bit busy. I centered myself, and burst into tears. "I can't be present - it hurts too much!", I said. I'm so lucky to have left that pain behind!

I love my practice for many things, but especially as a barometer of the changes in my body from one day to the next, from one year to the next. I am so blessed to have achieved a high level of fitness and facility before my hip seized up. To be able to move forward again is such a phenomenal gift. I am dancing in my head ALL the time these days, and can't wait to get into the studio. I'm looking at teaching some classes in the fall.

I have so much more appreciation of my body and its abilities. This is such a journey of staying present with what is.

Today's Quote: 'Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got til it's gone." Joni Mitchell

Monday, July 22, 2013

12 Week Surgeon Visit

I went to see the surgeon on Thursday, the day before my 51st birthday. As usual, it was a bit underwhelming. He started off by saying the X-rays showed my left hip looks good, but the right one is pretty bad. After my shocked "What??" he said, "oh, was it your right hip I did?". I think he was having a busy day.

My Left Hip
He says the left hip will also need to be replaced, eventually. He assured me that since I've already been through it, I'll know when it's time. I'm still hoping to postpone it as long as possible with diet and yoga. It is the irony of my healing process, that as I joyfully find more movement and fluidity in my healing right hip, I can feel the deterioration growing in the left. 

Range of Motion
The doc didn't even mention taking the restrictions off, although I've been feeling it's time for the last week or two. We even took the stinky tall toilet seat off a few days before my appointment. He said I can never cross my right leg over my left, without risk of dislocation. I wasn't expecting any 'nevers'. But he did give me the green light to stretch, gradually and carefully.

I asked him whether I can get back to mountain biking, bouncing on the trampoline, and acroyga. He said biking is okay, but single track or road riding are preferable to downhill mountain biking. He said I could break either hip by crashing on rock. Bouncing on the tramp is fine, but he recommended against seat drops or flips. I also asked him about acroyoga, which he said was fine, though I don't think he knew what I was talking about. 

A Gift
The surgeon's way of helping me decide what to do or not do, is by telling me that I've been given a gift, and it's up to me to choose how to take care of it. High impact activities, like running or playing basketball, will shorten the life of my new hip. Not that I was about to take up basketball, but I would like to be able do some leaps and jumps in dance class. I figure he doesn't know the added benefits of yoga practice. That engaging the tensegrity body, and strengthening muscles to support joints, will prolong the life of my new hip. I hope. 

Happy Birthday to Me!
Anyway, I had a wonderful birthday. There are so many things I haven't been able to do. I put my own sock on my right foot. I didn't have to use the sock pull, or ask Zack to do it. I dried the lower half of my right leg, rather than letting it air dry. I don't have to reach my right leg back anymore when I bend down to feed the cats, or cuddle a dog. I'm getting better at walking up and down stairs just like everyone else, rather than taking one step at a time.

It's not over yet...
I still have pain in my hip, and I can tell I need to be cautious about stretching. I'm dying to try cartwheels and handstands, but I'm going to wait until things feel completely healed. I have been reading a bit about dislocation after THR. It sounds like something I'd really rather avoid. 

I can't wait to get back to dancing, to riding my bike, to doing acroyoga. I could, if I allowed myself, dwell on the fact that there are certain yoga poses and dance moves I'll never do, or have done for the last time. That it looks like I won't be downhill mountain biking with my wonderful family. And that one day I'll have to pay another $2000+ for another ceramic hip, and go through all this again. But really, I am SO lucky! I could still be living with the pain and stiffness I had just over three months ago. I could be hobbling through the woods when I walk the dogs, gingerly stepping over logs because of my restricted movement. Instead, I feel like I'm preparing to fly!

Today's quotes: 
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
― Thich Nhat HanhPeace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Things I'm happy to say goodbye to.

Well, I had this beautiful long post all written, and it vanished into cyberspace. Has that happened to you? Kinda took the wind out of my blogging sails for awhile. I'll rewrite it - I think - but in the meantime here's what I've been simmering on lately. 

Welcome Post-Surgery Changes

1. No more tension in my right hip
When standing, I would often notice the external rotators of my right hip (aka my right butt cheek) clenched. I would relax them, only to notice them tense again moments later. I'm sure this was a holding pattern in reaction to pain. Now, though my hip still hurts a bit from the surgery, this butt-squeezing has melted away. When I check in, I notice myself standing evenly on both feet, with no extra tension. There is still a little tightness, but I'm thinking I need to do some hip-swaying dance to relax my hips, get them swinging with my stride again. Bellydance, anyone?

2. No more pain at front of my right ankle
The morning after dance class, and after karate, as well as during yoga practice, the corner where the front of my ankle joins the top of my foot was sharply painful. The pain would abate, only to return the next week. After surgery - gone.

3. My toes touch
My right leg has been outwardly rotated at 45 degrees for a few years now. I remember the moment of deciding that forcing it to stay parallel in yoga practice created more pain in my hip, and wasn't useful. The muscles in the inner thigh are weak, and I get a certain knotting of the muscles at the front of the right hip when I walk uphill, which is the proper muscles remembering to work. But it is a joy to stand with my feet in Tadasana, mountain pose, all 10 toes facing the same direction. I love setting up for Urdva Danurasana, a backbend, and just touching my toes together before I press up, to make sure both feet are parallel. Like rediscovering an old friend.

4. I'm taller!
I measured myself about a year ago, and I was 5'8". I couldn't believe it. I've been 5'9" since I stopped growing as a teen. I couldn't figure how I'd lost a whole inch. I think two things contributed. First, the compression in the hip joint with the deterioration of cartilage. Second, the pain was causing my hip flexors/psoas to shorten, making me stand with my pelvis tipped forward, my lower back arched. i realize how much, as I rehabilitate and stand straighter. There is a sweet, spacious feeling  across the front of my hips into my belly. So I measured myself just for fun the other day, and there I was 5'9" again! I feel like I was given something back I didn't know I'd lost.

5. I can run!
Well, not like I'm going to do a marathon anytime soon, but at least I could run for the bus if I had to. At some point in the last couple of years I stopped being able to run. It's hard to explain why. It was partly pain, but also I just felt to stiff to run. I spontaneously broke into a run the other day, just because I could. Only from the car to house. It felt wonderful!

6. More mobility = more enjoyable walking
Sashia on the pipeline
I realized on my walk today how much easier it is to walk up hills, and on uneven terrain. Before surgery, it was getting tough to step over logs, and I felt a bit unstable and scared of falling. The tightness in my inner thighs hindered my mobility, as did the limited range of motion in my hips. Last week I graduated from sticking to the pipeline (an old, unused pipe that's like a sidewalk behind our property), to following trails and deertrails up the hills and through the underbrush. I'm not completely healed up yet, but I'm so happy to be able to move again.

Isn't this an amazing journey? I feel blessed to have fallen into that hole of reduced mobility and pain, and be lucky enough to come back out again. It changes you, living with pain. It's different, learning to be a person who has to say 'sorry, I can't', instead of one who says 'sure, let me do that!' 

It's good to know both sides, to learn empathy for others. I have much more understanding these days of seniors, of others with disabilities. I am better at slowing down to help, to be patient, to offer a kind word. I know what it feels like not to be able to trust your body. To wonder whether or not to say how much you hurt. Sharing our pain, and our joy, is the way to empathy and compassion.

Today's Quote: There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from. - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Monday, June 17, 2013

Core Stabilization and Strrrrretching!

I had another physio visit yesterday at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. With a lilting Irish accent, David watched my gait, and pronounced it 'goot'. He said, however, that I need to lengthen my hip flexors and energize my transverse abdominals. The pain in my hip flexors over the past years had caused me to increase the curve in my lumbar spine, relaxing my abs.

Core Stabilization
David asked me to lie on my back, knees bent. He put something slippery under my right foot, and his fingers lightly on my belly. He asked me to slide my foot away from me about a foot, then back. I told him I felt my abs working. David explained that my rectus femoris were working, when they should be relaxed. That my transverse abdominals aren't doing their work of stabilizing so I can move from the leg.

Then David offered a lovely image. To imagine my heart to be connected by a string to my diaphragm. As I inhale, the diaphragm bows downward, and the heart rises up, lengthening the string. With the exhale, the drum skin of the diaphragm  and the heart move towards each other, shortening the cord. He left me to breath like that for 5 minutes.

Then he asked me to picture the framework of core stabilization surround my core. The transverse abdominus as a girdle across my belly, and the multifidus winding through the erector spinae, stabilizing the back. At the top, the diaphragm, and at the base the pelvic floor. So ever since, I've been passing to check if I'm engaging, gently, this core support. 

As my core becomes more stable, my hip flexors and psoas are opening. Backbends feel awesome! I had not realized how omnipresent the sense of pain and tightness at the front of my hips had been. How when I lay on my back to stretch on leg, the hip flexor of the other leg was the first place I felt the stretch. 

I can also feel the beginnings of how glorious it is going to feel to stretch my inner thighs. The first place I felt pain was the right hip flexor, probably in 2002. The second was the inner thigh of the same leg, after a workshop in 2007. It never healed, both adductors becoming tighter and tighter, until when I tried stretching, it felt like pulling a thick robe. Solid. Immobile. Now the feel loose, fluid, willing to let go and elongate. But not yet.

The day before my birthday, July 18th, I have my 12 week visit with the surgeon. I'm hoping I get the go ahead to start some gentle stretching. Can't wait!

Today's Quote: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others

~ erroneously attributed to Nelson Mandela, actually written by Marianne Williamson. Let's send some healing thoughts to Mr. Mandela, hospitalized with a lung infection. He is 94 years old. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Prepare for the long haul

I've been told more than once that I limp less now than I did before my surgery. Which makes me want to consider my healing finished. But it's a long process. In fact, as I move forward, I realize that my sore hip was affecting me more than I understood.

It's a weird thing, how chronic pain seeps into one's life. At first a few twinges, a pulled muscle that doesn't go away. Pain after a long, beautiful walk with the dogs. I saw most clearly how far things had progressed when I saw myself through the eyes of my brothers and sister last Christmas.

I still have pain in my hip, but it's changing every day, for the better. I walked the dogs today, and felt a familiar lightness slipping into my psyche like an old friend turning up for coffee. I realize now in coming out of the pain how much it was affecting me. Much as I do my best to accept what each day brings, each 'no' carries a little sadness. Each 'sorry, I can't jump on the trampoline', or 'I wish I could come skiing too'. Even 'sorry, I can't help you with that', doesn't feel so good. 

Surgeon Visit
So I'm excited to be on the mend, to be moving forward, though my visit to the surgeon on Friday was a bit anti-climactic. He and the nurse were happy with my progress, and after watching me walk agree I'm okay to walk without a cane. 

The sad thing is the precautions stay. The family was hoping to say goodbye to the tall toilet seat, that gets stinky quickly. Not yet. So I still can't bend past 90 degrees, cross my right leg past the midline of my body, or twist at my right hip. For another 6 weeks, and maybe another 6 months after that!

The Precautions Continue
Turns out the precautions are not just to avoid dislocation. It's important to allow the body to build some thick scar tissue around the joint capsule, for long-term stability in the joint. Sigh.

So, here are the things you get good at in the looooong recovery from hip replacement.

1. Golfer's Reach
Since you can't bend forward at the hip 
without going past the recommended
90 degrees, one leg trails out behind 
when you bend down to give the dogs 
their bowls, sweep fluff into a dustpan 
or...pick up a golf ball.
2. Sock Pulling
I have borrowed this ingenious contraption, called the sock pull. It makes it easy to put a sock on my right foot, since I can't bend towards that leg. 

3. Uneven Downward Dog
This is how I get up and down from the floor, through a downward dog with my right leg extended. It makes me think of older students, who have looked at me with disbelief when I asked them to sit on the floor.

4. Asking for Help
I can't reach forward from sitting to pick up a cup from the coffee table. So I ask for help a lot. It's a good thing.

I'm doing my best to stay patient, to be in each day, and not look forward to the day the precautions are off and I can stretch my muscles out. It's going to feel sooo good! But I'm not looking forward to it or anything. Not at all. ;)

Today's Quote: There is no way to Happiness. Happiness is the way. ~ Buddha

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Six Week Update

Six weeks later
It's six weeks ago today that I came out of surgery. I'm walking without a cane, and have stopped taking pain meds - mostly. I still waddle a bit when I walk, but it's getting better all the time. I'm feeling great, full of energy, and ready to take up my life! There are so many things I've been held back from because of my hip pain. I'm excited! 

GP Visit
I saw my GP earlier in the week, and she said I'm doing great! I asked for her approval for me to drive. She asked what I thought. 'I'm fine.' I countered. So I'm driving again, which makes getting around much easier! 

My GP, Vanessa, showed me before and after X-rays. It was strange to see the x-ray of my hip and leg with the prosthesis in it. It was like looking at a picture of someone else. Vanessa showed me the X-ray of my hip before the surgery. You could see there was no space. It was, as they say, bone on bone. She asked me to describe the difference between the pain before, and now. 

The quality of pain
I remember it was sharp, I could feel the lack of cartilage. The amount of pain increased directly with the amount of heavy lifting I did - or walking on a hard surface. This pain is different. Rather than in the joint, I feel it in the muscle. It feels like if I could do a looooong held pigeon pose, it would feel much better. Exactly what I can't do right now, with my 3 precautions. 

Not the left hip too??
I also saw the x-ray of the other hip, and Vanessa checked its range of motion. She says I'll need to get the left hip done too, but to wait a bit. I have some ideas around that. I'll share them with you in another post. Can you say 'Lectins'?

At my physio visit yesterday, John manipulated my right leg. He says there's old stuff from the years of pain mixed up with trauma from the surgery and recovery. But he assures me plenty of movement in the future.

John asked me to stand, then tuck my pelvis under a lot. He had me stand up taller, then untuck two thirds. When I walked forward, I felt taller, and there was less pain. He also had me walk backwards a bit, which was uncomfortable, but switched things up so when I walked forward again it felt smoother. As suggested by John, when I remember to, I float forward from my lumbar, which smooths it out.

All in all, I'm very pleased with my recovery so far. Today I drove down to the hospital to get x-rays for the surgeon to look at before our meeting next Thursday. I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Second Physio Visit

Second Physio Visit
I saw a physio here in Sooke yesterday. Having practiced physiotherapy and acupuncture for 20-some years, John is compassionate and knowledgeable. An unassuming man with the soul of a healer and a monk-like, puckish grin.

John asked me about the history of my hip, noticing that I sat with my weight on the left. After a few gentle questions, I found my eyes tearing up. I remembered an ex-dancer in his early 50's who told me of his grieving following his double hip replacement. He'd waited until he could barely walk before getting surgery. John mentioned holding space for a natural grieving process. I realize it's a necessary part of my healing. I don't like having to live with a porcelain hip. I liked my body just fine as it was - before the pain. I think I need to play me some cryin' tunes.

The MyoFascial Web
John placed me in front of a mirror and looked at my posture. He asked me to notice how my pelvis was shifted to the left, my ribs and shoulders to the right. John described the fascia as a net that weaves through all the tissues of the body. Put your fingers into the net, and twist it. The twist will carry through the rest of the net, creating pulls in other places. 

Symmetry, symmetry, symmetry!
To correct my posture, John asked me to root through my feet, still allowing my right foot to rotate outwards about 45 degrees. Then to do a Kegel (like yoga's Mula Bandha) and engage my core (Samanha Vayu), keeping the upper abdominals soft. He encouraged me to lengthen, to reach up through the crown of my head. Through creating length in the spine, taking the slack out, everything slid into alignment. 

My hip flexors have been shortening, and my lumbar curve deepening. John recommended that rather than a walker, I use crutches. These will enable me to walk evenly as well as continue to lengthen instead of leaning forward over the walker. Crutches for a bit, then a cane. I'll be walking unaided in no time.

I was already feeling impatient with 3 - 6 months of precautions. When John said 12 - 18 months for total recovery, I almost burst into tears. I realize he means until everything's all aligned, no limp, etc., but that's a long time!!!

He asked me what I am afraid of. These are my fears:
  1. That I'll need to get my left hip replaced too. Johns says it's likely.
  2. That when it's all healed up, I'll have a squeak, or a clunk, or one leg longer than the other.
  3. That my range of motion continues to be very limited.  
With this surgery, I am forever changed. Irreversibly. Even now, I'm not so sure it was the right decision. Yet I am at the same time very sure. Does that make sense?

It's about the journey
How often do I have to be reminded?? John suggested I enjoy this process of healing. Which started me thinking that it's kind of like a reverse pregnancy. My surgery could (with much less required from me) be likened to the trauma of childbirth. I need to spend more than nine months caring well for my body. Each month will bring more ease, rather than less. My work is accepting each day for the challenges it brings, and having faith in the process. 

Being reborn into a body that moves fluidly, painfree - I think that's worth waiting for. For that, I can do my best to live each day consciously. To eat well, move well and rest well. To care for my spirit and my soul, opening space for emotions to flow. I can choose patience, with that shining light at the end of the tunnel. 

Today's quote: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hip Replacement Video

I just found this very nicely done video of the workings of the hip joint, and what happens during a hip replacement. I love the capabilities we have we computer graphics to look inside the body for a deeper understanding of how it works.

Check it out! 


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Three Weeks Post-Surgery

Friday May 3rd marked three weeks since my surgery. My time on the operating table seems so long ago, as with every day I have less pain, and more movement. I'm not so tired anymore, and am feeling able to return to giving bodywork treatments. I'd like to balance my receiving practice with offering others the health and wellness of Clearheart Bodywork. Besides, much as I love my home, it's time for me to get out in the sunshine!

I was very pleased to have my first physiotherapy session yesterday. It was a treat to have some outside input on my healing journey. It's a bit weird hanging out at home, wondering whether I'm doing things right, or not. As the physio said, they give the same 3 precautions to everyone, regardless of personal requirements. It is nice that at 50, technically middle aged, (or old, according to my step-daughter), I am in the 'young' category. Most people who've had this surgery are much older than me. 

I went to the Royal Jubilee Hospital physio department. My physio, Jason, was easy-going and knowledgeable. One of his first questions was "So - about the driving thing...?"

Say 'no!' to Driving?!
A few days ago, I'd started helping drive our kids to various activities. I tossed my cushion on the driver's seat to keep my hips at less than 90 degrees, and proceded with care. At the Joint Replacement Clinic (JRC) they had said not to drive while on the heavy painkillers, which I'm long past. They also said there's a danger of clenching muscles in reaction to an intense driving situation, and perhaps do some damage. My pain is not so bad these days, and I'm pretty relaxed, so I reasoned, with a little luck, I'd be fine.

But Jason said if I have an accident, and ICBC found out I'd recently had a hip replacement, they'd have a field day. Usually you don't start driving until you get your surgeon's permission. Who knew? So, back to being chauffeured until I wangle a visit with my GP. 

Jason checked my healing, and watched me take a stroll with a walker. He said I move like my surgery was two months ago, not a scant three weeks. He did recommend that I keep using the walker, to retrain my muscles effectively. He suggested a 4 wheel, rather than the 2-wheeled one the JRC told me to use. It's tough to stay behind the walker, when I can walk pretty well without it.

He says my incision looks good, and showed me some cross-fibre massage, that will keep it from adhering to the fascia. I got the definite okay to get back in the hot tub - yay! He gave me some simple exercises and stretches, which I'll incorporate in my yoga practice. 

Visit to the Surgeon
I see the surgeon in three weeks, at which I can find out more about how long I continue with the three precautions. Jason reminded me that the ligaments around the joint capsule have been cut, and since there is little blood flow in the joint, they will take a long time to heal. If I do accidentally dislocate my hip, it will dislocate easily forever after. Yuck! So no pigeon pose for me for three, maybe even six months. It's going to feel sooo good when I get there!

Since the surgeon has been up close and personal with the head of my femur and my acetabulum (hip socket), he'll be able to tell me how great my risk of dislocation is. If the femoral head sits deep in the socket, I can probably get moving sooner. If my acetabulum is on the shallow side, I'll be cultivating more a lot more patience. 

I'm Doing Great!
Generally, Jason was very positive about my progress, and said I was doing great. These are the things I attribute it to:
  • healthy diet, with lots of greens, raw juices and smoothies
  • Arnica, Traumeel and Vitamin C
  • Nettle Tea
  • lots of water
  • plenty of conscious activity and rest 
  • positive attitude and visualizing healing
  • icepacks 3 - 4x/day
  • the love and support of my family and friends!!!
Asana Practice - Standing Poses!
I busted out a few standing poses this morning, which felt wonderful. Much as I love my restorative practice, it's been a month since I've done any standing asana. I warmed up with a few modified Sun Salutations, along with some squats to bring back the strength in my quads.

For balance poses, I did a very tiny tree pose, holding a wall when I stood on my right (operated) leg. I very gently practiced Triangle pose (Trikonasana), Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana), and Intense Side Stretch (Parsvottanasana). I did a nice standing quad stretch Jason showed me, supporting the foot of the stretching leg on a cushion rather than holding it. This allows the quad to be passive, and stretch more effectively.

It was interesting and a bit of a brain twist to remember not to fold more than 90 degrees at the hip in all postures. I focused a lot on engaging my leg muscles, and especially on drawing the head of the femur into the hip socket. After a very short time, I felt the muscles in my hip had had enough.

I opened, as usual, with Supta Baddha Konasana, and closed with a variation of it. An interesting side note from Jason, is that the hip and leg can relax best when supported in a slightly bent, and outwardly rotated position. No wonder this posture feels so deeply healing.

Today's quote: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao-tzuChinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)   
This is the popular form of this quotation, a more correct translation from the original Chinese would be "The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet." Rather than emphasizing the first step, Lau Tzu regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness. Another potential phrasing would be "Even the longest journey must begin where you stand." [note by Michael Moncur, September 01, 2004]

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Asking for Help

First, thanks to everyone who wrote in with advice to 'take it easy!' after the last post. Your reminders help when I feel like a wimp for lying around all the time. Still, when I tune into my body, it's clear. Lots of rest = lots of energy + less pain. Being on my feet a lot and getting a lot done = more pain + needing to rest. As with most things it's not easy to find the perfect balance. 

My life changed drastically in 2006, when I split up with husband of 12 years, sold my dance and yoga studio and moved to Montreal. As part of re-inventing myself, I took on a gratitude practice. I tried to let go of my pride in giving, and embrace the value of receiving. I reciprocated thanks with 'you're welcome' instead of 'no problem' or 'sure'. I allowed friends to offer me help, whether a listening ear or a temporary home. I found my new practice humbling.

But Rome wasn't built in a day. In Montreal, I furnished my apartment with other people's castoffs, found on the street, at yard sales, and Craigslist. I bought an 8 foot wardrobe, made of large heavy pieces of pressed board held together by tiny pegs inserted in holes. I bought it unassembled, no instructions included. 

Earlier in the same week, I had mentally chided my roommate for moving in without asking me for assistance. Somehow I didn't see the irony of assembling the Ikea Beast solo, when she was just down the hall. I assumed she was busy doing something important, like watching TV.

I tried to put everything together in the right order, but really, it was a job for two people. Though I used all my limbs, lifted and counterbalanced, pushed and pulled, I couldn't quite piece the thing together. Then just when I thought I had it figured out, it all crashed down on top of me like an oversized house of cards. I peeked out from underneath a heap of boards to see my roommate in the doorway, one eyebrow raised eloquently. 

Fast forward to my present state, post-surgery, limping behind my walker. Some things I can manage just fine. I've perfected 'The Golfer's Reach', sliding my operated leg out behind me as I bend my left knee to pick something up off the floor. But keeping from going past 90 degrees of flexion at the hip is a challenge. I can't reach forward to pick up my tea from the coffee table. I can't take off my right sock, or put on my pants. Walking with a glass full of juice is a messy proposition.

But it seems that all the letting go I've been doing in the past years makes it easier to ask for help. Of course I am lucky that my partner is generous and accommodating. My stepkids are more willing than usual to lend a hand, especially for things I obviously can't do myself. My friends are sweet with gifts of food, flowers and time. I don't feel anyone looking down their nose at me, mentally suggesting that I could be doing things myself.

I'm revisiting humility, and finding it rather exhilarating. There's something profound in searching for the balance between caring for yourself, and allowing others to care for you. It's a new version of opening up to receiving, of giving others the gift of giving to me. I hope that when I am once again able to do everything myself I will continue the practice of balancing giving and receiving. 

Today's Quote:  “We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.” 
― Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's a Rollercoaster!

I've been back home for a week and a bit. The first week wasn't too bad. Sure, there was pain, but there were meds too - Dilaudid, aka Hydramorphone. And every day I got just a little better. The biggest challenge is trying to sleep on my back, but I found if I propped myself up on pillows, it helped. Restorative Yoga every day makes a big difference too.

But the beginning of this week, things are getting a bit tougher. Don't get me wrong. I'm healing way faster than I thought I would. I can even get around a bit without my walker. Not really walking, more like a kind of drunken stumble. But I ran out of Dilaudid, and decided I don't really need it anymore, and I think I'm suffering some withdrawal. I'm very tired, and a little depressed the last couple of days. It's just such a loooooong journey I've undertaken! 

So I called my doc, and with her permission, went back on one a day Celebrex, that I was so happy with before my surgery. That, topped up with Tylenol keeps the pain at bay. Though the weird thing is, the pain's not so bad in my hip, but very sharp just above the knee. The muscle tissue feels very tight there, and it helps to stretch or jiggle it. I'm sure there're all sorts of strange things going on in my thigh from both the scalpel detaching muscle, the prosthesis inserted into my femur, and my strange walker-inspired gait. 

This morning, I integrated a bit of regular yoga into my practice. Wednesday is usually backbending day, so I did some mini backbends. No full-fledged Urdhva Dhanurasana yet! Just some lying on my belly, lifting my legs and arms. Sphinx and Upward Dog. Ustrasana (Camel) and Setu Bhandasana (Little Bridge). I felt SO AWESOME afterwards! It's going to be so good to eventually get back to practice. Especially since for the last few years I've had to work with my right foot outwardly rotated to 45 degrees. It already feels quite wonderful to walk and practice with both feet parallel. 

Still, I'm very tired. In fact I spent all of yesterday in bed. I was rewarded by feeling fabulous this morning, though it didn't last long. Baby steps, as they say. At the Joint Replacement Clinic, they said to expect to be pretty tired for the first two weeks.

It's very challenging, keeping my positive attitude. But this is what I have to remember. A good friend said to me, "Of course you're healing quickly! There are so many people that love you, and are sending you healing thoughts." It's hard not to feel it's a bit arrogant to believe that, but I know it's true. I have many friends and family all over the world rooting for me, and I know it's doing its magic. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart. I couldn't do this without you. You lift me up!

Today's Quote: Life isn't happening to you. Life is responding to you.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The View from the Other Side

Well, here we are, one week later, and I'm healing up nicely. It feels so good to have the operation over and done with, to be moving forward into the next phase of my life.

I went in to the hospital early last Friday morning, escorted by my family. Got gowned up, talked with my anesthesiologist and surgeon, then was wheeled into the operating room. It seemed full of machines (where was the machine that goes 'ping'?), and people in surgical gowns with masks. They introduced themselves, then put the needle into my hand for the IV. I started to cry. They asked if I was in pain. 'No, I'm just scared.' I sobbed. They were sympathetic. "Nobody really likes to be in here with us", they said.

So I had a little cry, then got the needle for the epidural, which I almost immediately felt sending ice down my legs. They laid me on my side, and said I'd be awake, but woozy for the operation. I felt them moving my hip around, and was about to protest that they hadn't given me enough freezing, when someone said, "That's it. You're done." What a relief. I hadn't liked the idea of being awake while my hip was dislocated. 

I was wheeled to the recovery room, where I kept myself entertained waiting for the feeling to come back to my legs. They felt as if I'd put them asleep from sitting and meditating for way too long. The difference was, there was no pins and needles as they came back to life. Eventually I got wheeled into a lovely private room with a view, where I spent the next three days.

The staff were friendly, though of course the food was terrible. In a place where people are staying to heal, don't you think the food would be packed with nutrition, rather than devoid of it - and flavour? The first couple of days I could barely swing myself out of bed to a walker, then shuffle to sit on a commode beside it. But by the last day I was walking myself to my private bathroom, and the morning I left even got a shower. Pure bliss!

I came home on Monday, and it was so lovely to wake up the next morning in my own bed, with the birds singing outside the window. I learned that first night not to be too stingy with my meds, as I couldn't sleep for the pain. So far I have to sleep on my back, rather than on my side as I usually do. One of the hardest, and most painful things is getting in and out of bed.

My three precautions that I have to keep up for three months are:
1. Don't bend at the hip more than 90 degrees
2. Don't cross your legs
3. Don't twist at the hip

Not so hard now, but I have a feeling they'll be difficult as I feel more capable. Apparently these movements put my hip at risk for re-dislocation, though on physio did say it would probably only happen if I was in one of those positions and got knocked by the dog or something.

Anyway, it's almost a week later, and though I'm getting pretty good at hobbling around with my walker. Today I actually 'walked' just scooting it in front of me, stepping one foot in front of the other without limping. I can put more weight on my right leg every day, and have invented a little sideways shuffle of my feet for going short distances. More humorous than efficient. 

After a week off, I got back to restorative yoga practice yesterday, and it feels SO good! Sleeping on my back has been uncomfortable, with this crunchy feeling behind my ribs that I knew would be fixed by some Supta Baddha Konasana. I'm trying to incorporate breathing exercises, though it's hard to keep my mind present, as the drugs take me interesting places. This posture, who's name eludes me at the moment, feels the most delicious, as it opens up space in both my hips. 

I had a moment of standing without my walker this morning that started me jubilantly singing 'I'm Free!' It was an amazing sensation, tho I've only been hobbled for a week, and every day it's getting easier to move. It gives me empathy for those, my Mum among them, who need to use walking aids all day every day, with no end in sight. I am counting my blessings! 

Today's quote: “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013


We were just finishing up our yoga practice last Thursday, when I got a call from the surgeon's office. I had gone to see him a month ago, to ask a few questions. I told him I'm a yoga teacher, and I can't work anymore, I'm getting so stiff. He said he'd see what he could do.

Well, turns out he put me at the top of the cancelation list. Someone else got a cold and had to rebook. They called, and asked if I was available for surgery on Friday April 12!! Of course I said yes. I've never been so excited and scared at the same time in my life.

Since then, I've been on a roller coaster of preparations and mixed emotions. I've been going for blood tests and x-rays, collecting long handled shoe horns and tall toilets seats. The surgery itself takes about an hour and a half, with a three day recovery in the hospital. The first two weeks I'll be pretty exhausted. Then three months of not bending more than 90 degrees, crossing my legs, or twisting at the waist. Today, it's feeling a bit intense. 

But I keep hearing encouraging tales from friends and family, of full recovery and NO pain. I'm pretty stoked for three months from now, when I can get back to doing the things I love again. 

I'd due at the hospital at 7:40am tomorrow morning. I still feel as if I might jump off the guerney at the last minute, and head for the hills. 
I don't want an operation. I don't want to have a ceramic hip. But I want to be able to dance again. I want to ski with my family. I'm very lucky that I don't have to spend the rest of my life hobbling around. 

I am blessed with very supportive friends and family, a loving partner and amazing kids.  I feel like I'm about to step into a long tunnel, that's darkest and the beginning, and very bright and shiny at the other end. 

Wish me luck!

Today's Quote:  Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy. ~ Saadi

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Torn Muscles and Tylenol

The moment that I consider the start of feeling the deterioration of my right hip was in a workshop taught by Richard Freeman, in August 2008. One of his videos had ushered me into a regular Ashtanga Yoga practice in the late nineties. I was mesmerized by his calm, liquid way of speaking and the rather unorthodox language he used. In person, he is one of those teachers you learn from just by being in his presence, while 'riding the wings of the breath.'
The workshop was in a huge room in Montreal, and I had the dubious honour of being one of eight participants on stage with this great man. I could smell his sweat, I was so close. 

We did the classic Ashtanga 'lift up', sitting crosslegged, pushing our hands down into the floor to pick up our hips. I lifted 'with enthusiasm' and felt a tear in my inner thigh. I left with a deeper understanding of Prana and Apana, (upward and downward moving energy), and the memory of Richard Freeman saying with gently raised eyebrows, 'Poo-ing is Apanic.' Along with what I thought was a torn adductor, that in retrospect I believe was actually an early sign of arthritis.

I sat on icepacks and did yoga to rehab the torn inner thigh muscle, but a year later it hadn't healed. My right foot wanted to turn out all the time. I tried to practice with a parallel right foot, but my hip hurt afterwards. So I started doing asana with it turned out a little. I also noticed in dancing that my hip flexors were tight, and for less range of motion in taking the leg to the back. There was a new stuck quality that I've become familiar with, different than muscles willing to eventually stretch.

In 2010 I moved back to BC, found a doctor, and went for X-Rays. I don't remember exactly what I thought I'd hear, but 'Hip Replacement' was not on the list. The doc talked me into taking painkillers. I had refused them so far, thinking it was better to accept what my body was giving me. Or maybe I was being tough. My doctor told me that by walking with a limp, I was creating referred pain in other parts of my body. She was right. At that point I had a lot of pain in my calf, along with the dull ache in my hip.

The first few days of 'Painkiller Yoga' were awesome. I'd been living with worsening pain for years, and it was a gift to move more freely. For the next year and a half, I took Tylenol Arthritis off and on. I popped them before dance or karate class. Before walking the dogs. It worked for awhile, but eventually the pain and diminishing range of motion nudged me to drop teaching weekly yoga classes, then going to dance class.

The last couple of months I've moved up to taking 3 at at time, and they were not longer working their magic. So I went back to the doctor and was prescribed Celebrex (http://www.celebrex.com/default.aspx). Hallelujah! My hips feel loose, almost fluid. I have more range of motion, and walk more easily. Karate the first day on Celebrex felt great.

But my joy was shortlived. A week later, I'm taking Tylenol again, with not much result. Maybe it was the crazy circling kicks we did in Karate last night. 

I continue to practice searching for that elusive ease. This morning on the mat, I focused on Rooting and Elongation, and did Handstand, Pincha Mayurasana and Backbends with relative lightness. I still love being upside down!

And I had a lovely walk with the dogs in the woods, serenaded by spring birdsong.  I was a bit more able to step over branches and bend down to pick up sticks to throw. The wild currants are blooming an improbable shade of pink, and I'm surrounded by love. Life is good. 

Today's Inspiration:
“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”
-- Margaret Atwood

Not sure if I managed that, but I did succeed in sharing a webpage with Richard Freeman. Namaste.