Adjusting My Path Accordingly


“The pessimist looks down and hits his head. The optimist looks up and loses his footing. The realist looks forward and adjusts his path accordingly.”

-- Robert Kirkman

I like to think of myself as an optimist -- especially when it comes to my health and well-being. Each time I come out of surgery, I set goals and prepare for the battle ahead. The battle is with myself and I have to keep my eye on the prize. I cannot settle. I can even go as far as making unrealistic goals in the hopes that I'll come out of this better... faster... stronger.

However, each new day has it's way of knocking me back to reality. I have to be realistic. I have to adjust my path accordingly. This is the case for so many things -- goals, expectations, feelings.

For nearly six years I have really wanted just one thing -- to walk normal again. Sure, no pain would be great, but again, experience has taught me that is not a feasible goal for myself. My circumstances have been a roller coaster ride filled with important lessons along every drop, flip and turn. And I know that the absolute wildest part of this particular ride is behind me. Surely, there are more rides to come, but I'm ready to hop off this one with a thrill-filled smile on my face, exit through the turnstiles and never get back on.

I return to work a week from today. I came out of surgery feeling strong and optimistic. That optimism carried me through two full weeks of recovery with hardly any wavering. At the height of my optimism, shortly after leaving my physical therapy assessment, I decided that my goal was to return to work completely aide free. That day, I'd switched from my walker to my cane and I was feeling really good about it.

The weekend passed and my first physical therapy session came on Monday. I got little sleep the night before because of the pain (it's the worst at night) and wasn't feeling as confident or as well as I'd hoped going into it. About 20 minutes in, I asked to sit and began to feel nauseous. I couldn't go on any more, because I knew it wasn't a sick feeling that would easily disappear. I reluctantly told my trainer that I was done for the day. That tore me to me pieces to say out loud. There were others in PT dealing with far worse circumstances and they weren't quitting. But I did.

As I waited for my dad to pick me up and the whole way home, I kept my head down and my eyes closed, wondering how I let this happen. I kept replaying the moment when I told the trainer I was sorry and she replied with, "it's OK -- your body has been through so much."

Eventually I realized that she was right. It had. And I was being really hard on myself. I was being overly optimistic, a touch pessimistic and not realistic. And it was not doing me any favors.

I went back to physical therapy on Wednesday, but I returned as a realist. I made it through the full session and left feeling like I'd made some progress. But the realist in me knew I still have a ways to go. The realist in me knew I wasn't going to go back to work aide-free by next week.

During my hip replacement, my femur fractured. This has lengthened the healing process and made it extremely difficult to get my gait back to normal. I'm still compensating for the pain and the muscles in my entire right leg are readjusting to new angles and trying to break out of old habits that have lasted years. I can't really expect all of that to just get better four short weeks after a hip replacement.

One thing I can say is that I will not be a consistent pessimist. I will not look down and hit my head. This entire experience from being diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis has seen me through stages of pessimism, optimism, and realism. When your body is your own worst enemy, it's sometimes easy to be all three in a single day. But these past 5-plus years have taught me many lessons about staying out of the pitfall of pessimism.

In the past, I've felt negatively about my progress, about the care [or lack thereof] from others, or about whether or not I'd ever be able to do simple things like paint my own toe nails or chase after my children. But I've learned to manage those negative feelings. I've learned to use my recovery time as a time to grow and evolve. In the silent, still moments of the day, I can wallow or I can refuel my heart and soul -- and though I do have moments where I do wallow, more often than not, I choose to refuel.

I put my faith and trust in a God that is so much larger than any circumstance. I can spend my days on the deck reflecting on His beauty, singing and reading words of His promise, and living in His grace. For me, there is no better way to deal with my realities and be reminded that I am loved, I am healing, and I can be patient with myself. I will miss these moments once I return to the hustle of a typical day.

Do I wish I could return to work and regular life without a cane? Of course I do. But I can't force things that aren't meant to be.

I have to be a realist. I have to look ahead. And I will adjust my path accordingly.

"In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight."

-- Proverbs 3:6

Right Hip Revival


It's been 8 days since I had my right hip replaced. With it being my second replacement, I knew what to expect going into surgery.

I was feeling good about surgery, but as the nurse was prepping me before anesthesia, she went through a group of questions. One was: "If you die on the table, would you like to be revived?" I wasn't expecting that one. "Um, yes, please," I responded to the nurse. She walked out of the room and it was just my husband and I left. I went into panic mode and began to tell him my wishes for our children and family through my tears. He asked me to stop, but it felt so necessary at the time. After all, it was a possibility. I don't know why the fear set in with surgery this time after I'd already survived 4 others, but after the nurse asked me that, part of me felt selfish -- like I was taking a risk I didn't need to take. I was having this surgery to improve my quality of life, but what if it resulted in the absolute worst?

I took a few deep breaths, and I said a prayer.

I was taken to anesthesia, where I knew it wouldn't be long before I knew my fate. Time would begin to warp and I'd wake up in recovery ... or I wouldn't.

Low and behold -- I woke up in recovery and made some desperate attempts at eye contact with a nurse. I was in pain and under heavy medications, but I was alive. The hospital was in overflow so I ended up being taken to a wing of the hospital where the nurses didn't typically tend to orthopedic patients. They were all great, however, and did their best.

I think I was so joyful to be out of surgery that it completely masked any pain I was having. I was exhausted, but not completely drained like I was with my first replacement in 2012. I walked up and down the hall using a walker the night of surgery. It was a slow walk, but it felt as normal a walk as I'd experienced in nearly five years.

They discharged me from the hospital the day after surgery, which was a huge relief. I didn't need a blood transfusion this time and I couldn't wait to get home to my own bed.

Since I've been home, I've had good days and some really bad days. There's been struggles with figuring out how to manage pain, get rest, keep my appetite and just get around the house to do very mundane things. Getting from one side of the house to the other is my equivalent of a marathon right now. I'm still using a walker to get around.

When I first came home, my right leg felt like it weighed 200 pounds. But just in the last day or two, it's gone back to a normal weight and I'm able to lift it with some ease. I can already feel my range of motion in my right leg improve.

Before surgery, my husband noticed that I was starting to walk and sit with my right foot turned inward. I'm certain I was doing that because when my hip rotated outward, it hurt so badly it felt like it could break off. I got used to turning it in to avoid the pain. Now that my hip can turn out, my entire right leg down to my toes are getting used to being able to turn outward again. The first few days, I had terrible pains in my leg as it adjusted, but that pain lessens a little each day.

I'd hoped to start PT by now but I haven't yet, because my doctor held off for a bit until I could get some strength back. I should begin in-home PT in the next few days.

Although I'm sure there will still be some tough days ahead, I feel like the worst of them are behind me. It's honestly difficult at this point to even imagine myself with the strength and balance to just walk normal. But each step on my left leg is a reminder of what's to come for my right.

For now, I just need to be patient with myself and let the healing continue.


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