This meet meant more to me than any meet I’ve done before, because it was about proving to myself that I really can do anything I set my mind to. This brings me to the next chapter of this blog. I went through meet prep and game day with a torn labrum in my right hip. I truly believe the reason I did so well this day was, well, a cortisone shot, but my mindset.
I unknowingly was dealing with this during nationals as well, which most definitely contributed to how I performed that day. I had been dealing with this undiagnosed tear for a very long time, but always thought it was a minor injury that my body would just “get over”. I have spent a stupid amount of money over the last year on chiropractic visits, massage therapy, cupping, graston, dry needling, physical therapy, ice, heat, stretching…basically every possible rehab method, to try and heal whatever was going on. No matter what I did or who I went to, my hip never felt any better. In fact, it gradually got worse and worse.
Squatting was a damn nightmare. I had such severe pelvic instability and weakness, that I could not squat anything above 185# without peeing my pants. Incontinence became a very big issue for me, although I couldn’t help it, it was obviously extremely embarrassing. The descent of the squat was the most painful. I could literally feel my labrum being pinched as I went down, but being the stubborn woman I am, I pushed through. My hip pain became aggressively worse. Sleeping, walking, biking, basic life activities, were agonizing. I knew something deeper was wrong, and despite my financial situation, I finally decided to bite the bullet and go have an MRI done, because you can’t put a price on your body. Health is an investment, not an expense.
A few days later (December of 2018), I woke up to a phone call from my chiropractor who had received the results from the radiologist. He didn’t beat around the bush breaking the news to me, because there really wasn’t any sugar coating the issue at hand here. The radiologist had suspected a labrum tear in my right hip, and I needed to meet with a surgeon to discuss what the next steps were. I had to wait a month to see the surgeon I wanted to see, but I wanted one of the best I could get, and one with a sports medicine background. I needed someone who could understand how detrimental this injury was to my me, and how important recovery would be.
According to Google, denial is not just a river in Egypt, but can be "the action of declaring something to be untrue" or, "refusal of something requested or desired" or maybe is, "a statement that something is not true". I have always been someone to be in denial. When I was consumed with my eating disorder, I was in complete and utter denial. Irrational me had convinced real me that I wasn’t sick enough, thin enough, or pretty enough. “I am indestructible and it will never happen to me. I will never end up in a treatment center. I will never be less than 100 pounds.” Well, guess what, that scale read below 90 pounds in 2012, I did go to treatment, and I damn near almost died. So when I actually had to be honest with myself here, it was a tough pill to swallow.
When I sat in Paul Fagan’s orthopedic office that day, I had a list of expectations that I had thought I had prepared myself for. I had Googled the shit out of every possible outcome, talked to other people who had gone through the same thing, and done all my homework (which isn’t the most wise thing to do in some cases…especially endlessly researching your symptoms on the internet). Like my chiropractor, he also wasted no time getting to the point. I look back on that appointment with Dr. Fagan now, and I actually do not remember about 95% of that day. It all happened so fast. I only remember the diagnoses, and the “S” word, surgery. My injury was caused from a combination of powerlifting, and my anatomy. My official diagnoses was a tear of right acetabular labrum, femoroacetabular impingement, and snapping hip syndrome of the right hip.
I nervously crossed my legs and shied away from the gaze of the doctors, fighting back tears. He told me that he knew it wasn’t what I wanted, but if I didn’t get it handled now, I would end up with osteoporosis in that hip, eventually turning into severe arthritis, which would result in an entire hip replacement at a much too young age. I knew right then and there, that this is something that I couldn’t live with the rest of my life. I couldn’t manage this. I couldn’t just continue to get cortisone shots the rest of my life, and hope things would be okay. I had to be an adult and ask myself how important being an athlete was to me, but not just being a regular athlete. I had to ask myself, how important was it to be to be a SMART athlete with the big picture in mind. This surgery was going to secure the big picture. This decision to proceed with surgery was me prioritizing longevity. Of course I didn’t want the surgery. Who wants to have to start over? It wasn’t about me not wanting the surgery. It was about me not wanting a hip replacement down the line.
Dr. Fagan gave me powerful anti-inflammatories, a cortisone shot, and a plan for game day. This was a different kind of game day. On January 25th, 2019, I wasn’t stepping onto my usual game day platform, but going to the hospital to lay on my game day surgical table. I asked him how long would it be before I could do what I love to do again, and without hesitation, he answered, “Sooner than you think, if you’re smart about it”. He discussed what surgery would be, 4-6 weeks on crutches, slowly easing my way back into my sport, but probably no hard efforts until about 3-6 months in, and 1-2 years for a FULL recovery. My stomach fell out my butt. 1-2 YEARS? What the hell was I going to do with my life, when my entire life was exercise? Lifting weights has been my anti-depressant for the last few years, how was I going to battle my demons without it? Dr. Fagan rested his cold hand on my lap and said, “That recovery time is for my average patient. You, are not average.” I cracked a smile and knew he was right. I left his office that day, and didn’t cry much. It hadn’t really sunk in yet. I held back tears and many mixed of emotions. I know this isn't an end all be all surgery, but it's never an easy choice to put yourself under and CHOOSE to go through such a painful (physical and mental) process.
Surgery day came quicker than I wanted. I barely slept the night before, taking a short nap from 3 to 4 in the morning, tossing and turning with a belly full of nerves. I had to be at the surgery center by 6:15 a.m to complete pre-op paperwork before I went under the knife at about 8:00. I would write more about that day, but quite honestly, I don’t remember it. I was knocked out by anesthesia, and had a long 2 hour surgery. While I was under, my surgeon went in, shaved my femur down (because I had too much bone on my femur, called a cam impingement) and repaired my labrum (cartilage that stabilizes the hip, and protects your articular cartilage). I had a pretty large tear, from the 11 to 3 o’clock position. He put in 6 anchors and then stitched the labrum back together. FAI can be genetic, can occur during growth depending on the sports you play growing up, or can occur from injury. FAI is also known as hip impingement, because of what happens during hip flexion (the acetabulum and femur impinge on each other, typically at angles of 90 or greater), and FAI consequently tears your labrum. Not everyone who has FAI will tear their labrum (lucky them), just like not everyone who has a torn labrum has FAI, it can tear from a traumatic event.
How do they perform the surgery? Well I'm no surgeon, but the surgery is called "minimally invasive", which makes me laugh because it's actually quite a major surgery, but since its an arthroscopic surgery, I guess that deems it minimally invasive. I suppose it makes sense when you think about it, but in order to get to the hip capsule they have to dislocate your hip for the surgery. So basically my hip was dislocated for 2 hours while tools were shoved into these tiny holes on the side of my quad (I have 3 incisions the width of my pointer fingers, that make the shape of a triangle), tools were jabbed into my cartilage, with rope looking stitches, and my bone was shaved down on the femur so it would fit better into the acetabulum.
Since the surgery's focus is hip/tissue preservation, my rehab is significantly longer and more difficult than rehab of a hip replacement. I've been put on crutches for 4 weeks, I can put 20lbs of weight on my surgical side, and after 3 weeks I can put 50% weight down, and by the 4th week I can learn to walk again! Days 1-3 post op were TOUGH. I was completely helpless and immobile. I spent the next few days under the care of Casey and his family, who did more for me than I could’ve ever asked for. Casey and his family helped me with everything and anything. From satisfying my food cravings, getting me my medications and ice, helping me go to the bathroom, to helping me up off the couch, every need of mine, they met, and more; And for that I am eternally grateful. Since I came home from Casey’s, I’ve been doing, well, pretty much absolutely nothing. I lay on the couch and rest for almost all hours of the day. The only times I get up are to eat, use the bathroom, and get ice. I did however, get to go out to the grocery store twice, which was SUPER exciting for me. Grocery shopping in general is always exciting, but more so when you’ve only seen the four walls of your room for days on end.
The first week after surgery had so many drastic improvements. I began to be able to use the stairs on my own, sit down on the toilet without my walker, and get up from the couch and my bed without help. I was so excited for the recovery, and it seemed on the 8th day the pain set in, and I mentally collapsed (hi, yes, today is the 8th day), which is why I came here. Writing has always been an outlet for me, but I mindlessly put it on the back burner for much too long.
There are many things I have taken for granted in my life, and while I thought I learned to not take things for granted the first time I was in hospitalized for my eating disorder, I suppose it’s human nature to do so. So here’s a small list of the things I have taken for granted pre-op and some things I’ve learned.
Dressing myself. Putting socks on by myself is out of the question.
Walking. Crutches suck. My armpits hurt like a mf’er.
Getting in and out of bed.
Sleeping on my side. I so desperately just want to roll over on my right side.
TMI, but pooping. Seriously. If someone didn't tell you, pain meds keep the poop in your system. I’m taking colon cleanse pills, laxative tea, and miralax, but I’m not having much luck.
I will never ever take Vicodin on an empty stomach again.
Making food for myself. I can’t carry anything to the microwave with my crutches, bend over, stand on my tippy toes for items in the cupboard, or really do anything I used to in the kitchen.
Showering and washing my hair. Our bathtub has a ledge, so I obviously cant get myself in there. I’ve only showered 1x post op. Disgusting, but it is a huge process that takes a long time, a process I can’t do by myself. I am hoping to shower tomorrow!
Going up and down stairs. This is a 10-15 minute process. So I can’t run up the stairs anymore because there’s a serial killer in my basement chasing me.
Driving. I miss driving so much. I am not allowed to drive since my operated leg is the driving leg, and I am unsure of when I can drive again.
Being active. I absolutely hate being lazy, so you can imagine how much I miss moving my body.
Having an appetite. I am never hungry anymore. Pain meds do that to ya.
Those are just a few things that I’ve added to the list that I’m sure will continue to grow over the next few days, weeks, and months. I have my first post-op appt this upcoming week, and I am super excited for it. I have a lot of questions. I need some reassurance. I just want to make sure that I am doing everything in my power and then some to make this the most successful recovery I could have. I have always had high expectations of myself, and I need to cut that out. It’s good to have expectations, but I believe having expectations with this obstacle in my life, will do me more harm than good. I need to get rid of the idea of having a timeline, doing this or that by month X. It’s only going to set me up for potential disappointment.
All in all, more than anything, I am scared. I am afraid of never being the athlete I once was. I am afraid of losing all my hard earned muscle. I know my muscles are going to shrink. I am so scared of looking flabby, disproportionate, or skinny-fat. My eating disorder is reering his ugly head into my life right now, that he sees an opportunity. Eating is mentally challenging, considering I lay around all day. I realize that I cannot heal without food, but it’s just not that easy for me. It’s a constant work in progress, but I do better when I have someone to eat with me.
I have a very long road ahead of me. I have many more bad days ahead of me, but also good days. I am excited to make progress. I get to start all over again, which brings out mixed feelings. I know this will make me a better athlete in the long run, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. No one ever said it would be easy. I really enjoyed writing tonight. I cranked out this post in 3 hours, and I feel like I’ve been sitting here for 20 minutes. This is definitely going to be something I will hold myself accountable to. I know that if I prioritize recovery from surgery as much as I prioritized being a successful powerlifter, I am going to come out better than ever.
Till next time,