Wednesday, February 22, 2023

HIPS and BACK, oh my.... 2023


WOW. The body keeps the score.

So, I had my MRI followup today with the orthopedic dr. that specializes in hips. Fun times.  I actually couldn’t wait to go in.  First- I couldn’t wait for last weeks “nap” in the MRI tube.  Then today, I couldn’t wait to kind of hear my future.

After my MRI, I received the report online and saw that it wasn’t great.  Gosh- there were tears in all hamstring tendons, labral tears, bone marrow edema, the structure of my actual bones in hip is not within the degrees it’s supposed to be sitting in, blah blah blah.  I was a little shocked, but also not shocked at all- there was a reason I had gone in- there was bad stuff going on- hip giving out and MASSIVE PAIN when it goes out.  On top of this, although I can “run” sometimes, my entire leg like doesn’t FIRE right- all the way through my calf/shin/ankle/foot.  It is just not firing cohesively and it feels like my calf/shin/ankle are going to explode with pressure.  It’s just strange.  I knew the MRI wasn’t good, but I got to this odd place of almost kind of like laughing it off like “geez, everything is torn, whoa”… knowing I had to wait until today to get more details anyway, so why get too much in my own head about it.

Well, today happened.  When I arrived, I kind of made up a story to myself that maybe I was reading the MRI wrong- that maybe the ortho wouldn’t really think these tears were too bad.. or all the other things too troubling!  And… off I could go, back to the open roads…  Obviously, that was a story.

He walked in and just kind of looked at me, like whhhhhheeeew, and said, well, “there’s a lot going on in your hip and back, isn’t there.”  And so with that, I knew my fake story was not going to hold.

So, we reviewed the tears, both hips now, (one hip full thickness tear of the tendon), a bunch of other fun things, grade 3 arthritis (over 50% cartilage gone), but he said my back is almost as troublesome as my hips (not surprising to me, my back is my real fear in life because when that goes out, I’ve never experienced greater pain). I have herniations L3 and below down to S1 with the bottom one pressing on a nerve root (which I FEEL daily, so again not a surprise to me, almost a nice confirmation). No surgery now because we are going to prioritize problem solving and finding out what is causing maybe the most pain.  I’ll have an injection in the hamstring tendon first.  Then a few weeks later, maybe one in the hip joint to see if that dissipates symptoms.  Maybe one in back.  It’s ok, we don’t need to solve it today.  He said what needed to be said- that this isn’t surprising for someone as active as I am, but I am now at a place that I need to make some decisions because I will not be able to continue doing what I’m doing and he realizes it is also my profession/passion, and I need to come to some thoughts on where I may be headed.  (well, isn’t that an understatement, ahem).

Anyway, so I got a little dizzy and numb and spaced out (and maybe some tears trying to contain in my eyes) and maybe for the first time realized where I am in my life.  I’m not a spring chicken, even though I love to play one by day.  My time is limited, my body only has so much that it can hold up for, I am not superhuman.  And this is obviously a big deal to my heart.  My life since I can remember it has been in sports and active.  I knew from when I was so darn small that moving, pushing myself, playing physically, spoke to my soul.  I somehow get a RUSH from being physical.  Even now, when I hang on my pullup bar to get some traction on my back, if it feels better, I start swinging, and SWINGING reminds me of being a gymnast and somehow the joy of playful moving just lights up my heart.  I’ll be the first to admit, most nights, either as I’m falling asleep or in the middle of night if I’m trying to fall back asleep, I am visualizing myself doing bar or beam routines (of course never vault!!).  I picture myself doing routines and movements I’ve never even done- way above my level, but it is still just this weird OBSESSION.  I often think there is something majorly wrong with me that I am this old, still doing routines in my head, but other times just am having fun with my fake routines in my head that I don’t mind!  It is what I’ve always loved, who I am.

This past December, after I went surfing in Hawaii, I couldn’t believe that for about 2 weeks after, my night time “visualization” routine went to SURFING- was so odd- I just kept repeating this EXHILARATION feeling that I got a few times when the speed of the wave caught me at just the right time and there was this HUGE FORCE just pulling me on the board.  It was this perfect mix of a bit scary and just pure DELIGHT.  This just reinforced to me what I already know- MOVEMENT just speaks to me.

For whatever reason, the exhilaration of pushing, the frustration of the struggles, the exhaustion of the grind, the perseverance in the goal are in the fibers of my being, my true essence.  I love racing, but it is the daily/weekly/monthly training that gives me pure joy in the journey.  I’ve literally never known life without this daily chasing of a goal, and so there it is- I definitely feel this gut punch.  This reality of needing to set some shift in priorities and long term thoughts, this recognition that my time is limited to achieve some of my running and triathlon goals is not what I wanted.  But it is what it is, I’ve done literally every single thing I could to stay healthy and strong, and this is where the cards fell with my body.

Do I have a pang of pissed off ness?  Yes.  I have a little pity party for myself thinking that my body has ALWAYS felt against me, specifically of course when it mattered most when I was a young gymnast.  Now, I feel like I’m just in an alternate fight against my insides which feel red, raw and occasionally now give out on me.  Frustrating.

But I also realize, I’ve sure had a really good run at all this that I’ve loved.  I’ve put on these old bones thousands of miles.  I’ve run through desserts, along oceans, through mountains.  I’ve connected with cities and towns that I’ve traveled to for races by being literally IN THEM- in the streets.  In grinding out the last 10K of marathon, I always feel like you get “connected” to the earth you are in the midst of.  I’ve seen sunrises, run in the dark, my first marathon and Ironman were in the pouring rain. What a FULL RIDE it has been.  I’ve ran in Oregon, California, Arizona, Vermont, Alabama, Wisconsin, and all over the east coast.  I’ve run in closed off streets in DC (swam in the filthy Potomac River), but just am thrilled to have had the capacity to do all that I have done.  It has been an honor to get as far as I did:  remember, I was the girl who got mocked by her high school gym coach when I couldn’t finish the mile without walking and she screamed across the track, “Sharon Anderson, the GYMNAST- cannot run a mile”. (horrifying… but as always, don’t ever doubt me).  I began doing these races because I wasn’t sure I could.  I was running FROM stuff, and ended up running into the dream of a lifetime. 

I’m not done completely.  I am thinking, strategizing, prioritizing.  I’ll have to be choosey with my training and my goals.  I’ve done Big Sur marathon, which was a huge bucket list item.  But I do have  more, and now I have to see how I can manage to do what I can with whatever my cartilage/bones/tendons have left.  And who knows, I’ve committed to myself that I WILL live in Hawaii someday, so maybe daily surfing is in my future…. I mean…. Less stress on the joints, right?!

So there it is.  Thanks to so many of my friends for caring and knowing this is something I’m really working to process and put together right now.

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