Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week Seven Post-Op

I am continuing to feel better every week.  I was back at work full time this week and sitting in my chair is definitely easier than it was previously.  I am walking faster and going to the store amongst normal people isn't scary anymore.  I feel like I can blend into the crowd now.     

This week at PT we advanced some of my strengthening and stability exercises.  I am now doing partial lunges, side stepping squats with resistance bands, more squat type stuff for my glutes, and one legged bridges.  I am finally feeling like my glutes are getting some good work, since I woke up the next day a little sore (sore muscles, not joint.)  I don't mind the muscle pain, but I must say that my hamstrings were pretty painful for a few days following.  On my own I am also doing planks and calf raises.  (A side note on calf raises - you can't not use your legs for over a month and then break out 50 calf raises.  Ouch.  I felt that one for a good few days afterwards.)  My range of motion seems to be almost back to normal, aside from some certain movements, which they said will come with time.  PT also gave me the green light to "walk for exercise."  They were pretty ambiguous about the distance, but I figure as long as I am pain free, then it's okay.  My gait still isn't perfect (feels only very slightly off), but I'm reasonably sure I look like I normal person walking down the street now.  Walking on flats is definitely easier than on hills.  I slow down significantly on the hills yet. 

Monday: Grocery store (this was a good enough walk that day for me)
Tuesday: 1.8 mile walk
Wednesday: 1 mile walk
Thursday: 2 mile walk
Friday: 2 mile walk
Saturday: 10 mile bike ride
Sunday: 10 mile bike ride + 1.3 mile walk

I have determined that biking is magic.  Sometimes I will wake up with a small limp or some minor pain, but after I've hopped on the bike for a while it's instantly gone.  Maybe it has to do with that "motion is lotion" saying about your joints.  Speaking of biking, I rode my bike OUTSIDE for the first time on Saturday.  I stuck to as flat of a route as possible and just took it nice and easy.  Low gears, easy pedaling, plenty of coasting.  The few hills I did encounter I just put it in a super easy gear and spun away without getting up off the seat.  It felt totally fine and it was great to get outside.  I hadn't been outside on a bike since November, so the first few minutes were like, "Wheeeeeeeeeeee!"  I stopped at a picnic table half way through and took a 5 minute break.  I wound up going 10 miles in about 55 minutes.  Ridiculously slow, but the point was just to get outside and enjoy myself and see how it felt.  My ride on Sunday felt even better and I was faster, so I can't complain about that kind of instant progress.  I'll consult with PT on Monday just to be sure, but hopefully this means I can start to bike outside a few days a week!

I can now easily sleep on my operated side.  I don't really even think about rolling over in bed anymore.  It's just normal aside from the pillow between my legs, which I think I'll continue to use for a while just in case.  (In case of what, I'm not sure, but it can't hurt.)  When going up and down stairs now I have that little urge to jog, since that's my typical behavior.  I figure that's a good sign that my brain wants me to jog, even though I won't be doing that anytime soon.  I would say that the only normal movements I am still having difficulty with is getting in/out of the car.  I am still careful about my leg and use my hands to lift it slightly.  If I forget, I'll get a small zing of pain to remind me that there is still a lot of healing going on inside of me. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week Six Post-Op

This week was all about returning back to normal.  I was still only at work part time, but I am starting to feel ready to put this fragile stage behind me.  I am moving much better now.  I can bend over and touch my toes, cross my legs both ways, sit indian style, and sit with my op-leg foot on the knee of my other leg.  I can't think of any positions right now that would bother me.  However, being stuck in my desk chair at work was still slightly irritating if I didn't get up and move around enough.  Nothing to warrant even ibuprofen; it's just annoying. 

PT really did a number on me this week.  The lady clipped this belt (looked like a seat belt) around my leg and around her at the same time and did all sorts of weird pulling and pushing to try and increase my ROM.  I'm still having pain bringing my knee toward my chest when I am on my back, but apparently that's normal.  I'm now doing mini squats with a band around my knees and then walking sideways and forward.  I also got permission to walk a mile outside and then slowly increase to 30 minutes.  The first time I walked a mile on Tuesday was pretty difficult.  It felt like a long way to walk and I could definitely tell I was slowing down toward the end.  But by Saturday, it became a lot easier.  I've found that if something feels hard at the beginning of the week, I can expect it to be a lot easier toward the end of the week.  Healing in action and all that.  Mileage this week:

Monday: 8/10 of a mile
Tuesday: 1 mile
Wednesday: 1 mile
Thursday: 6/10 of a mile
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 1 mile
Sunday: 1 mile

I am still riding the bike every day, but toward the end of the week I started alternating my easy spinning with a little resistance.  Adding in the resistance actually makes me feel like I'm doing a workout.  It feels good to sweat again, even if it's just inside my living room.  For some reason I've found riding the trainer a lot more tolerable this year than last year.  I don't know if it's because I've adjusted my bike so much that it fits better or if because I am just desperate for something to do.  Either way, I've been listening to music and happily going for 30-40 minutes at a time. 

On Friday, I got to move back to my own house!  Staying with my parent's was extremely helpful for those first few weeks.  I couldn't imagine doing it on my own or mostly on my own.  Long distance relationships are certainly not very helpful in these types of situations, so I was lucky to have my parents close enough to take me in.  I didn't have too much to haul between houses, but my dad did most of the heavy lifting.  I did pick up a big duffel bag and twisted or rotated oddly and tweaked myself pretty badly.  I was limping most of the rest of the day, but iced off and on and woke up feeling fine the next day.  I guess I still do need help with some things, but I feel mostly back to normal in terms of day to day type of activities.

I think the most important thing to note over the past six weeks is that while I've had various pains, I have not had any of my pre-op pain.  None.  For the first time in almost 2 years, I have no groin pain.  It's pretty crazy to think about.  I can roll over in my sleep again!  Rolling over in bed probably caused me the most acute pain before.  I can't wait to discover even more things that don't cause me pain anymore.

2 of my 3 scope wounds.  The other is on my outer hip.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Post-Op Appointment #2 and Learning About Healing

I am finally caught with my blog and am posting in real time now!  I had my second post-op appointment yesterday.  It went just fine, but it was mostly pointless.  Dr. Keene had a 30 minute delay, so things were pretty rushed.  After spending too much time in the waiting room, I was finally called back.  Some resident/intern guy came in and wanted to compare my ROM from my right to my left.  He was a little too rough for my liking on my operated side - pushing and rotating my leg with the same force as my right.  Ummm, hey dude, I just had surgery 5.5 weeks ago!

I had to fill out some form regarding my pain and activities.  Dr. Keene came in and we chatted for a few minutes.  He just wanted to know that I was healing well and that my incisions weren't causing me any pain.  Check and check.  I asked about restrictions and he said I had none.  I asked about biking and walking and he said not to increase too quickly, but I could very slowly increase time and resistance.  I scheduled another appointment in 6 weeks.  He said that the most progress is made in weeks 6-12, so that was exciting to hear.

Today it has been 5 weeks and 4 days since surgery.  5 weeks and 5 days since I've run.  I've only recently remembered to start looking at the big picture again.  It's hard to convince myself that there's an end game to this whole thing.  I've been so consumed with never ending pain for 2 years that it's hard to realize that I'm actually on the road to getting better now.  I have a hard time describing my situation as chronic pain, as I hardly suffered like people with true chronic pain do.  However, it really did take over my entire life in a way.  I had to stop doing the things that I loved to do.  I wondered every day how bad it was going to be.  It dominated my thoughts.  It was just something I eventually accepted as part of me, because you can't move forward with your life without accepting that.  When you're running an ultra and you're alone in the woods in the dark, you are supposed to make friends with your pain so you never feel alone.  So I asked my pain out for coffee and it stayed a while.  It's not that you stop thinking about it, it's that you just get used to it.  The pain becomes your new normal.  I'm trying to remind myself that a new normal is coming yet again. 

What has amazed me in the last few weeks is the feeling of healing.  That might sound silly, but I had forgotten what it was like to heal.  After you've exhausted a dozen options and given up on having anything change, to be able to watch yourself make progress and GET BETTER is indescribable.  I know I am still early in this process and I have a very long way to go, but I'm hopeful that there will come a day where I don't think about my hip.  I want to go through the motions of a normal day, come home from work and go for a run with my dog and lay in bed pain free that night and think, "Huh.  I'm missing something here."

Every day that I walk a little farther makes me smile.  I walked 1 mile last night.  I may have ran 63 miles in a day before, but damn if I wasn't proud of that 1 mile. 

Week Five Post-Op

This was the week that marked my return to (semi) independence.  1.)  My parents were leaving for Virgina for a week to visit my brother.  2.)  I was going back to work part time.  I was stuck tying my shoes all by myself.  We joked that I could probably pay the neighbor kid next door to come over and tie my shoes every morning, but I managed okay by myself.  I still couldn't bend down to do it, but I could bring my foot up on my opposite leg.  It was nice to be on my own for a while.  I very slowly navigated around the grocery store one afternoon.  It felt weird to be out in public and be moving so slowly.  Some people gave me funny looks; I needed a sign on my back that stated I just had surgery. 

At PT this week, they had me starting to do mini squats and balancing on my operated leg, as well as walking forward and sideways in the mini squat position.  I was a little worried about incorporating new exercises when I was just getting my walking legs back, but I didn't have any pain or problems.  I felt like my gait was starting to normalize after a little over a week off the crutches.  I obviously wasn't going anywhere fast, but my limp was getting less pronounced.  PT said my range of motion was getting a lot better and continuing to improve.  It's really important to work hard on your range of motion since you have a limited time frame to get it back. 

I feel like I went back to work at the right time for me.  I could have gone back earlier, but it wouldn't have felt right.  The plan was 4 weeks totally off, 2 weeks back part time (4 hours/day), and then back to my normal full time hours.  Those first few days this week were tiring and I was very ready to get out of the desk chair by the end of my 4 hours.  My joint felt mildly uncomfortable by my limited positions.  I missed my recliner.  It wasn't bad, but I guess I didn't realize how much normal things still made me tired, even after a month. 

In the middle of the week, I was dog sitting for my brother's little 5 pound dog.  He was fun to have around because he was so easy to handle and I could actually take him for a walk and not worry about being pulled over.  We decided to try and make it around the block (approximately a half mile).  Toward the end I was dragging pretty badly.  My leg was just really tired and I was starting to get some pain in the joint.  Getting back to the house seemed so far away!  When I got home I iced it and took some ibuprofen and all seemed fine an hour later.  A few days later I was able to walk a half of a mile with no problems.  My walk schedule this week looked like this:

Monday: 1.5 miles (last walk on crutches)
Tuesday: 2/10 of a mile
Wednesday: 1/2 of a mile (dog walk)
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 1/2 of a mile
Saturday: 1/2 of a mile
Sunday: 7/10 of a mile

Sleeping was getting a lot easier.  My movements in bed were almost totally pain free and I could sleep on the operated side with only a little bit of weird feeling.  I am still sleeping with a pillow between my legs; I'll probably continue to do that as a precaution for a while.

Hanging out with the little guy on a nice day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Week Four Post-Op

After 3 weeks and 1 day, I was officially given the approval to wean off the crutches from PT.  They told me I could go down to one crutch for a few days and then to no crutches, but I wound up skipping the one crutch phase.  I tried it for a few hours around the house and it just felt awkward.  I felt better just slowly walking normally, so that's what I did.  PT had me doing "gait training" where I would walk backwards, side step, and make sure that I was walking without a limp.  They told me to take my crutches with me outside or if I went anywhere such as the store.  I was comfortable walking in the house, but being out in the world without the crutches felt like too much too soon, so I was happy to follow that advice.  I continued going for my crutch walks this week, but I was getting a cold and feeling a little run down, so I only "walked" 3 days for approximately 5 miles.

On my second full day off crutches I walked normally around the house, drove myself home to get my mail, did some laundry at home, and then at the end of the day that big tendon that runs down the inside of my leg was little sore.  I used The Stick on it and that felt good.  The joint itself felt fine, but tendonitis is supposedly a common side effect from this surgery, so I'm trying to be really aware of that and stop and take care of small issues before they become big problems.  I was just so happy to be able to carry my own coffee cup (or beer!) around the house again.  
You have to treat yourself to good beer during recovery!
On Saturday it was so nice outside and my walking felt that it was progressing well enough indoors to go for a VERY short jaunt outside without the crutches.  It was probably not much more than 1/10 of a mile.  It was slightly scary and my leg felt clunky and heavy, but I walked about 4 houses down the street and then back.  (Normal suburbia type neighborhood.)  It didn't hurt, but I wasn't trying to push anything.  I was walking very slowly at this point.  I just couldn't move very quickly and I had to concentrate on each footstep.  The dog and I had a good time sitting on the deck in the sunshine later that day after my big outing.  

It's a hard life.

This week was the first week I was able to put my own socks on.  I would sit low (think toilet) and take the foot of my operated leg and place it near the opposite leg's knee. It was still a bit of a struggle, but I was able to do it.  It was easier for someone else to tie my shoe on that foot, but I could have done it if needed.  Every day seemed a little easier and every day I woke up with slightly more range of motion and less pain than before.  If I moved in a weird way or twisted wrong, I would get a little jolt of pain, but over all I didn't have pain in my daily motions.

Since I was told I had no sleeping restrictions, I very carefully rolled over to my operated side one morning to test the waters.  I probably laid there for 10-15 minutes.  It felt weird, but not painful.  Kind of like Princess and the Pea.  I could feel something was off, but it was very slight.  I was still taking my good leg and hooking it underneath my operated leg to get into bed every night, since I didn't want to stress my hip flexors too much. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Week Three Post-Op

The beginning of week 3 felt pretty similar to last week.  I still couldn't walk, I still couldn't put on my own socks/shoes, and I was still spending most of my time in the recliner on the laptop or watching Netflix.  I could, however, crutch walk.  So crutch walk I did.

Monday: 1.3 miles
Tuesday: 1.5 miles
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 1.8 miles
Friday: 2.1 miles
Saturday: 1.3 miles
Sunday: 1.3 miles

Apparently it's a little weird to most people that I was going for "walks" on crutches.  A FedEx truck honked at me, lots of people initiated conversations from their yards, kids stopped and stared, and one guy in a car even slowed down to tell me that I was "ambitious."  But I am happiest when I am outside, so I was glad to be out there.  My wrists did get a little sore toward the end of the week though.  And I was building up plenty of arm muscle!

I don't remember any big accomplishments this week, but every day I still felt a little stronger, moved a little easier, and had less trouble doing every day things.  I read that a lot of people seem to hit the doldrums during this phase in recovery, but I felt okay.  I just kept getting outside and trying to keep myself occupied.  With my dad's help, I baked cookies one night.  Toward the end of the week, I remember cheating on my crutches a little and taking a step or two in the kitchen without them.  I was feeling ready to be off them, especially since at PT I was able to comfortably balance on my op leg.  PT exercises that week included the same as the previous week, but adding in more weight shifting plus bridges. 

Week Two Post-Op

I started PT this week at 8 days post-op.  I scheduled my appointment with the same PT who I had worked with pre-surgery, hoping that her knowledge of knowing me beforehand and seeing my struggles would be helpful.  The first session was pretty uneventful.  I told the story of how I wound up making the decision to have surgery and we did some light range of motion exercises as well as more glute and quad tightening.  I also laid on my back and did heel slides.  The ROM exercises included log rolls and laying on my stomach with my knee bent at 90 degrees and slowly swinging my foot outward and then inward like a pendulum.  My dad would help me with this exercise at home.  Even though it had only been a week, she had me doing some weight shifting too, to start loading my operated leg.  She had me stand on it full weight bearing once, but that was kind of scary even though it didn't cause any pain.

This was the week I started going on short crutch walks around my neighborhood.  The weather was finally starting to get warmer and the snow was melting, so I was happy to get outside.  I started out by crutching down the street and back.  Then around around block.  Then a little longer than around the block.  My energy was starting to come back and I was anxious to do something.  I'm not very good at sitting for long periods of time; probably part of the reason why I run so much.  I crutch walked 3 days this week for a grand total of 2 miles.

At day 10, I went for my first follow up appointment.  Turns out my surgeon was on vacation that week, so I would just see his PA.  The PA said I looked good and took out my stitches.  This didn't hurt at all; I could hardly even feel it happening.  I asked about transitioning off crutches and he told me that even if I was feeling good that I needed to stay on them to protect all the work that was done in there.  It was a pretty quick appointment, as Dr. Keene wasn't there to go over everything with me.  I would see him at 6 weeks post-op for all the details. 

I started sleeping better as I got more comfortable sleeping on my side.  My lower back pain also started to go away this week, since I was moving around more and sleeping in a more natural position for me.  I was still biking with no resistance with no issues at all.  I still wasn't holding onto the handlebars, but just sitting straight up and biking.  I felt that pinching sensation when I leaned forward, so I figured the handlebars would come with time.

One of my friends came to take me out to dinner and get me out of the house one night.  It felt good to go somewhere and to be out in public.  I was a little worried about sitting on a hard restaurant chair for so long, but it turned out to be okay.  I was a little achy toward the end, but over all it didn't really hurt.  Having a beer didn't hurt either!