The pain is real. The shooting, numbing pain from your hip to your knee, around your butt and inner thigh. The feeling that your leg is going to give out at any moment and the constant fear that if you don’t hold on the handrail you could tumble to the bottom of the stairs in a split second. You limp, you lie about the pain, you drink just to help get numb, you secretly tell yourself that tomorrow it will all be better.
But it doesn’t get better. The pain. The slowness. The fear of not being able to get off the toilet. The frustrations with sex because let’s be honest. You can’t “back that thing up” anymore like you used to. The fact that putting on your pants requires you to completely sit down. And the awful realization that you can no longer tie your own damn shoe.
So you go to the doctor and explain your troubles. You go through X-rays and an MRI (which is personally terrifying and I only made it through by mentally going to my happy place) only to find out you have extreme rheumatoid arthritis and you’re walking bone-on-bone. What? How the hell did that happen?
Well, I think I know what made the final crack and let’s just say my partner is quietly high-fiving himself.
The solution? Since I was beyond the help of cortisone shots, my doctor told me a total hip replacement would be his recommendation. At the ripe old age of 48. It’s been almost ten months since my surgery. And this is my tale of shock and survival.
Ok, I’ll be honest here. I grew up with Jamie Sommers. You know, The Bionic Woman. I loved her! LOVED her! I would imagine myself getting in some horrifying wreck and the only way to save me was to make my body just like hers. I would be fast and strong and would be able to solve crimes! Yes, that was my fantasy growing up. A superhero in the making.
When my surgeon first told me my diagnosis, I had a quick flashback to Jamie. Maybe… just maybe he would get in there and have to do more. A lot more. Or he would be kind and suck out my belly fat. Or think a nice boob lift would be easy to do. I would wake up skinny and perky!
Yeah… those crazy thoughts didn’t last long. I soon found myself crying the shower with the insane thought of “I’m so fat, I broke my hip!” That’s more like it. A pity party. It lasted just a few minutes. I am stronger than this and it's time to take care of it.
The surgeon told me to take two-six weeks off from work. Six weeks? Since it was my left hip, I could drive after 10-14 days but I may need more time to recuperate. Of course, in my mind, I will up and running soon after surgery without a problem. I'm young and mobile. I'll be able to do jumping jacks and downward dog in no time!
Then he told me he would try his best to get the length of my leg the same as the other. Wait. What?
My employer told me to plan for three weeks. While it made sense to me, I knew I wouldn’t need that much time off. My job was as an event planner. I could simply not plan many activities or, better yet, plan a walking group to help me get up and move. Easy. Right?
So I planned and got things in order. I hired someone to watch the office while I was gone. I cleared the calendar and told my people not to expect to see me for a while but I would be back in time for the holidays.
In the meantime, my hip KNEW it was coming out and it was pissed. The pain grew. I couldn’t sit too long. I couldn’t stand too long. I was miserable.
A week before the surgery, a friend offered to organize a meal delivery for the two weeks I was going to be home. I was hesitant. I regularly don’t ask for a lot of help. But the look on her face told me I wasn’t going to be able to say no. I agreed thinking it would be easier on my mom who was coming down to stay with me. She didn’t want to cook and she didn’t drive. So yes, a meal or two would be very helpful.
The schedule I had from the surgeon’s office was wonderful. She walked me through the paperwork and made sure I understood the follow-up appointments. The hospital then contacted me and I was able to visit the facility beforehand. Blood work, more paperwork and a good idea of where I was going to be.
And no matter what they told me or how many times, the morning I walked in the hospital, I forgot everything.
To be continued...