Today, January 14, 2016, marks five years since my last hip surgery! A year ago I wouldn’t have written that sentence – let alone a blog post acknowledging it. A year ago I was still paralyzed by the fear that I could somehow jinx the viability of my hip replacements causing them to fail instantaneously. I’d whisper how many years had passed since my last surgery as if they could hear me, just waiting to press the self-destruct button if I acknowledged how far I’d come.
A lot can change in a year.
In my recent Live Bold Live Now story on Health Central, I talked about what a milestone this is. How monumental it is. How it feels like I should have a party to celebrate the occasion! But tonight is a quiet night. Penny and I are watching Modern Family reruns as I write this.
Tonight’s “celebration” is letting go of that fear that’s held me back from embracing these milestones for so long. There is no jinx. There is no self-destruct button. No cosmic force working against me as it has felt so many times in the past.
So what’s changed?
It wasn’t any one thing. 2015 was at times the best and the worst year of my life. My health challenged me at every turn, and, when it came down to it, I had to figure out a way to fight back in a way that motivated be to stop giving in to it. If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know the story: I decided to get back into shape. To reclaim my identity as an athlete. I decided to run a race. Then I decided to run 5 more.
In the 2 hours and 40 minutes it took me to run my first Spartan race, I had a lot of time to think. There were moments when I couldn’t help but pause and acknowledge what I was doing and think to myself “I was never supposed to do this. I was never supposed to do any of this.” Those were the first words out of my mouth after crossing the finish line and dropping to the ground. Not once out on that course did I think about injuring my hips or my hip replacements failing.
My surgeon, while incredibly supportive and proud of me, brought me back down to earth a few months later. Sometime during training for Mudderella, I tore the remaining cartilage in my right knee, and two days later I was filling Dr. Smith in on my race season. After injecting my knee with Cortisone we had some real talk. I, on the verge of tears, thanked him for giving me my life back. I thanked him for rebuilding me “better, stronger, faster”.
We laughed and then it was his turn. “Sometimes I have to be your surgeon and not your friend. And right now I have to remind you how hard it was for us to get you to this point. You have a limited amount of bone remaining in your right hip, and each subsequent surgery it’s going to be harder for us to rebuild. There is no safe amount of running for you. Not one mile. So I’m going to remind you to think about what you’re doing.”
I promised him that I would, and really I have. I can’t say that I won’t run any more races, though -that’d be a lie. And I know Dr. Smith is right. Everything he said is 100% accurate. I want to listen to him, really I do. But what I also know is that up until the moment that I sat in his office for the first time seven years ago and heard the words “catastrophic failure of your hip replacements” I’d done everything right. I’d been the model hip patient, but still, they failed.
So this time if they’re going to fail it’s going to be on my terms. It’ll be doing what I love – racing or otherwise. It won’t be a jinx or a self-destruct button. It will just be something that happens while living a life worth living.