In the last twelve months I've published three posts. Three. I've written nine. Six posts sit in my drafts folder, unfinished. While I fail at blogging, I succeed majestically at the art of staring at a computer screen, failing to find words.
It's hard to find the words around big stuff sometimes. If I write about something that's more theoretical or reflective, words come easy. If I try to write while my heart is full, not so much. My heart is full. My words won't flow. Don't ask me how many times I've edited this post.
I wrote in February about going back to physical therapy. I predicted that 2016 would be the year I ride again, and I was right, although I haven't written much about why. I wrote in January that my father passed away, but didn't write much about the last years and months of his life. There's a lot I tend to leave out which in retrospect I shouldn't because these two things might seem disparate, but they are deeply connected.
My dad spent the last several years of his life doing little more than sitting in a chair by the window. He was a diabetic and developed congestive heart failure, a result of which was severe swelling in his feet and ankles. He took a diuretic medication to help with the water retention, but diabetes and CHF are not terrifically friendly to your kidneys, and I think it's a delicate balancing act to get the body to shed enough water to keep the patient breathing but not enough to shut down the kidneys. Eventually the swelling was a permanent condition for him, and he had some loss of feeling in his feet as well.
He had a terrible time walking, but he was so damned stubborn he'd refuse to use a cane or a walker, instead holding on to furniture and counter tops to make it from his chair to the bathroom or the table or to bed. Occasionally he'd fall, and since he was a large man and my mother a small woman, she could not get him up on her own. At first she called me, but the two of us could not do it. Next she called SG, but he couldn't manage it either, so she ended up being reliant on the local Fire Department to come help.
After Dad decided to stop taking his medication just before the holidays last year, he had a fall, and when the firefighters came once more to offer assistance, he told one of them that he had decided to stop taking his medication and that he wanted to die. Because of that, the decision was made to take him to the ER and admit him into the hospital for some evaluation. At that time it was determined that he was eligible for hospice care.
After Dad was accepted into hospice and his dementia increased, he was put on an anti-anxiety medication to help keep his mood more stable. This helped a lot with his irritability, but had an even further detrimental effect on his mobility. He finally was willing to use the walker, but needed more and more help getting up and down, getting dressed, using the bathroom. He fell more frequently. Eventually he went to hospice house for a respite stay so that Mom could have time to arrange some help for herself at home, but as it turned out he never came back home, passing away five days later.
Watching how hard this was for my mother was simultaneously heartbreaking and enlightening.
I had reached a point in my own pain and mobility issues where depression and fatigue had fairly well stripped me of the idea that I could or would eventually get better. Any optimism I may have held about being well enough to ride again had exited the building. For the sake of others I often pretended that I still felt I would improve, but my internal dialogue went more along the lines of "You will never get better. NEVER." I understand how unhealthy a place this was for me to be, particularly considering my parenting and work obligations, but I didn't really have the motivation to change it.
As I witnessed the last months with my father, helping Mom with things like getting him in to bed, getting to and from the table, going to the bathroom, it finally dawned on me that if I wasn't going to do anything to change my own circumstances, I was essentially watching my own future.It wouldn't be much fun for me, but even more importantly, my family was going to suffer for it. In good conscience I needed to find a way to get better. I just felt like I'd run into so many damn walls with doctors that I was hesitant to go to them for more help. At some point in researching ilipsoas and piriformis inflammation, I came across an article about Graston therapy which sounded promising. I researched local physical therapists and found an office that offered the technique. I gritted my teeth and made an appointment.
While therapy seemed to be helping in keeping my pain from getting worse, I also wasn't getting any better. I'd have better range of motion and a bit less pain after a session, but if I overdid it between sessions or went too long between, I'd regress. Finally, after three months, my, PT suggested I visit my pain doctor for another steroid injection to help us get on top of things.
The doctor who performed my stem cell and PRP injections was no longer providing services at the practice I'd gone to, so I decided to try a different orthopedic group. I scheduled a consult with their pain specialist, who decided an updated set of x-rays would be useful. He took one look at them and refused to touch me. He referred me instead for an MRI and a visit to the orthopedic surgeon.
The 8th of August I had my right hip completely replaced.
I AM BIONIC. I also set off metal detectors, which is a great way to get felt up at airports.
All joking aside, I am not sure I can adequately describe the change this has made not just in terms of fixing my busted old body but in the way of curing my soul.
Let me ask you this: do you have a hobby or activity that you engage in that brings you joy, peace, sanity, wholeness, or any combination of these things? If you could no longer engage in that activity, would you be able to easily replace it? What would you do if it was taken away? How would you feel, in general, and how would your self-perception change?
You know, I hesitate to diminish what my horses are to me by calling them a "hobby" or an "interest." They are indescribably more. From the first moment I beheld that first horse - a fat old paint named "Ginger," it's like I was injected with a virus (benevolent or otherwise, hard to say) that wound itself around my DNA. To lose that for such a length of time; to contemplate that horses were perhaps out of my life forever - kind of took away the incentive to do anything beyond remember to breathe in and out once in a while. It isn't just that what was happening with my body prevented me from being able to ride - it ultimately prevented me from doing much of anything with my horses. Occasionally I'd hobble out to the barn or put a chair in the pasture just to be around them. Even doing groundwork was too painful to be worth it. In short, I've spent the last couple of years wanting to be with my horses, hoping that someday soon I might be able to ride, but most of the time being very afraid that I would never ride again.
8 weeks post-surgery I rode my horse for an hour. We walked, trotted, cantered. Nothing hurt. NOTHING HURT.
The time frame between surgery and being released to ride was short, I think partly because I'm relatively young for a hip replacement patient, but mostly because I was so incredibly motivated to return to my life, to get back in the game. I've since managed three or four good rides, at least two of them better than two hours long. I still feel good.
SG and I have started going on a morning walk most days, and I feel my stamina improving right along with my mental state.
I'm so much better. I've been gone from this space for too long. I hope this finds you all well.