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.