Friday, July 31, 2015

New Hip. Hooray!

(By request this blog post from my now defunct blog - Mostly Zen- is being re-run)

I’m a bionic woman!  2015 opened the door to some really big changes in my life. My research, diligence, and prayers  to find funding, health insurance, and a quality physician throughout the Fall and Winter of 2014, paid off.  The clouds parted, the angels sang and in May of this year I acquired a shiny metal hip joint.  Yay!  While this past five week recovery process has been a physical (and dear Lord) emotional roller coaster ride, it’s also hauled in a few more lessons I apparently needed to know in order to earn extra credits towards my Mostly Zen status. Even writing this, I feel my heart flutter with a tinge of excitement at a pain-free and bright future of new paths and exploration on my sexy new metal leg. 

My leg issues were undiagnosed for the longest time because I rarely go to a doctor for anything other than extreme emergencies. Examples of extreme emergency: A burst fallopian tube or a face full of shingles.  A few years ago, I attributed the increasing ache in my right buttock and an inability to stand up without pain, as just part of this aging process, too many Spin classes, and carrying the weight of the world on my solitary shoulders for way too many years. In March of 2014 a rogue gallbladder needed to be removed and the delusional optimist in me thought maybe the pain in my diseased organ and the pain in my butt were somehow related.  After all, from a spiritual, holistic perspective, isn't it all  connected?  That line of thinking was hopeful but I now know it was the direct result of some pretty awesome pain medication post gall bladder surgery.  Nothing hurt. For about six weeks.  

The awareness I needed to see a neurologist or an orthopedic doctor came when I stepped out of my car, balancing a brand new oversize George Foreman Grill from my cousin; it was her contribution to my eat healthy plan to help stop the rapidly increasing number on the scales. Not only did I have this horrific pain, I had packed away two clothing sizes (I couldn't bear to get rid of them)  as I packed on enough pounds to drive me into a serious depression. By now, my Planet Fitness usage was merely a pipe dream and a drain on my checking account. A doctor wrote me a prescription to halt my membership for six months without monetary penalties.   Giving up my beloved exercise and gym was not an effective cure. My mind and my body slid into a lethargic spiral.   I was convinced, as a result of my daily incessant Web MD, and Internet diagnostician practice, that I had Multiple Sclerosis. So, naturally,  I started with a neurologist, who upon trying to bend my leg like a chicken wing brought forth animal sounds that I didn't know could come from a human being.  Puzzled, he  X-rayed my right hip.  An immediate review and his proclamation of advanced, bone on bone hip arthritis, as well as a referral to someone who might be able to really help me, sparked a small hope for relief. The sports medicine doctor while witty, compassionate, and wise didn't really tell me what I wanted to hear. As with most things in my life, I was in search of the quick, easy, fix. It wasn't that simple.  It wouldn't reverse itself.  Any treatment would be palliative at best. Total hip replacement was the only cure. I wasn't ready.  Nor was my pocketbook.   A temporary fix in the form of a prescription for anti-inflammatory medication and a nightly dose of Tramadol helped me pretend it might go away.  And, I prayed.  The effectiveness of the prescriptions lasted about as long as the blush of a new relationship. I was ready for a new lover within months  and  I'd heard cortisone shots were the answer.  The injection hurt so good - within minutes I could feel relief settling into my arthritic joint. This love affair lasted just long enough for me to mop floors and clean tubs that I couldn't move to do on my own for a few months.  I socialized, went to basketball games, drove all over town, pain free.  For 3 1/2 weeks. 

Life and mobility spiraled down from there.  Work was impossible, driving was dangerous and difficult and I was sending stock prices soaring on over the counter pain relievers. I had a dilemma.  I needed surgery and I had no job and no insurance.  With no income, I qualified for Medicaid, if, I would allow the government to take any assets that I had worked for years to accumulate.  I couldn't buy insurance through the Marketplace because I had no income.  Caught, clearly between the rock and hard place of need and bureaucracy,  I meditated, I researched, and I prayed for answers. Friends prayed for healing for me.  One insightful friend said she prayed for complete healing for me, however, she didn't define how that should happen. She let that be up to God how it would play out in my life. I thought to myself, that really was letting go.  I stopped praying for money, insurance, Prince Charming, a new hip, and humbly asked that He heal my life so that I may do His will. Sometimes we need to just get quiet enough to hear the stirring of divine direction and trust what we are asked to do.  Lying in bed one morning, something drove me to the social security website. Disappointed, I read that I was still too young to take early retirement. Something guided me to call their offices and talk to a representative.  The voice on the other end was empathetic and helpful.  Her first questions to me were, "Are you a widow and have you ever remarried?"  Two weeks later, my first survivor's benefit check was deposited in my checking account.   Heaven joined forces to continue to take care of me - God and my husband.  Oh, me of little faith.   I was able to purchase insurance off of the Marketplace because I now had an income.  

An early orange sunrise, warmed the May morning and portended a bright outcome as my daughter drove me to the hospital.  Any nervousness was at a minimum. Surgery felt like the reward at the end of long, solitary, trek through the wilds, complete with bruises and banged up knees from navigating so many obstacles and a feeble leg which collapsed on occassion.  I was exhilarated, but exhausted as a few hours later I went under the scalpel, hammer and saw.  I knew the tools of the trade because the Internet surgeon in me unabashedly watched an entire hip replacement a few weeks before.   I went into the operating room at 8:00 in the morning and was finished by 9:00.  At 10:30 a.m. I was in a room, and up and walking with a walker by afternoon.  By 8:00 that evening, I was on my way home to my own bed.  I fondly refer to my surgery as my drive-through hip replacement.  I knew when I stepped onto my surgical leg hours later, that very same day, all arthritis pain gone, no matter what I had to do to restore my strength and heal completely, I was willing to do it.  I was getting my life back and it was all wrapped up in a big red ribbon, bought with the prayers of friends and family, and the love of a heavenly Father and deceased husband. 

It's easy to be so flip and positive five weeks out as a big part of the healing has taken place. However, it's been, as most major life events are, enlightening. It's been the long haul.  I've learned so much about myself and surprisingly others. Trying times tend to strip away pretense and reveal people's true nature. Including our own.  What's left is honesty and essence of who we are; our values, character, and even our weaknesses -  stripped of fancy words and little white lies.  You find out who your true friends are and where your treasures lie in the isolation, fear and loneliness of a long recovery process.   Being incapacitated and alone, not being able to check your own mail, put out your trash, bend to pick something up, cut your own toenails, or drive for so many weeks snatches away your independence and makes you very vulnerable.  For self-sufficient warriors like me, that's difficult.  It takes a lot of courage to ask. And, it takes even more courage, when you do ask, and you are rejected to not take it personally. The old tapes of abandonment started playing loudly in the stillness of my solitude.  

However, I found in the solitude, stripped of everything, it was up to me to turn down that volume and lean into the faith that I had everything I needed for the care and nurturing of me.  I have learned how to navigate boredom and loneliness.  I understand the true meaning of self-care, and slathered on healthy doses of self-love.  Surprisingly, this time, I really didn't forget the one constant Source of help and support is right beside me - as close as my breath, just one prayer away.  That's the best it gets when push comes to shove. That's all we got and all we can ever count fully on - ourselves and God.  My strong new hip and even stronger faith, will carry me down my yellow brick road, no ruby slippers needed. I had the power all along.  Some blessings come disguised as challenges.  No experience is wasted.  I will always, on my very best and wisest day be the student and just Mostly Zen. Partially  there, hoping to arrive someday, yet content in knowing, I am at least on the path.   I am well on my way to 2015's intention - RENEW.  

Charge!  And, even that's now possible - on my brand new leg.