The only way I know how to keep moving while standing still is writing. Recently I’ve become stagnant and eutrophic, deprived of life force. It’s time to dive back in and shake things up, blast the dormant particles into suspension, and get my energy flowing again.
Not long ago I spilled warm honey onto my laptop, the remnants of which now feel like tar lodged under certain keys. Metaphor for my inability to get my words out? I’ve held things inside awhile, so it may take some time to dislodge the more sticky truths.
Tomorrow is the 3-year anniversary of my left periacetabular osteotomy (LPAO; May 9, 2013). In 36 days, I will have an operation to reattach left hip area muscles that are currently attached incorrectly for unknown reasons.
I have chosen my RPAO (May 29, 2014) surgeon at Stanford to operate. He will (1) cut away my obliques from where they are scarred in (and have created the canyon in my hip) and reattach them to my ilium where they belong, (2) investigate possible causes of my atrophic sartorius and constantly sore tensor fasciae latae (possible incorrect or damaged attachments), and (3) remove my right hip screws.
Now that the agitation of indecision has fallen away, I feel very peaceful. I am 100% all in. I am committed to believing that all is as it should be. I am invested in manifesting a pain-free hip that functions perfectly and smoothly. My hypnotherapist recorded for me a 15-minute guided journey into self-healing that electrifies my cells and leaves my entire body humming, as if I have somehow accessed a portal through which cosmic healing energy spirals directly into my left hip.
The walls of this cocoon are made of a sparkling, iridescent film, luxurious to all my senses, infused with body- and soul-healing nutrients. Inside I am warm and glowing. My purple wings grow stronger, ready to fucking fly so very soon.
It hurts to walk today, owing to what I estimate is right psoas pain. Fresh off another kickass weekend snowboarding in Tahoe, I’m lying in bed with a heating pad on my pelvis, thinking about the tough decision I have on my plate. In 11 days, I’ll meet with my RPAO surgeon to discuss a possible surgery to correct complications from my LPAO. I really hope that my right side pain is tied to the deficiency in muscle function in my left hip area. It has a lot to do with the fact that my right side is my back/power leg and skating push-off leg while snowboarding. It certainly didn’t help that I began my weekend already sore from a Thursday TRX class. I was hurting all day Saturday as I shredded down Fire Break.. twice. The second time was brutal on my hips, as the increasingly choppy snow had gotten heavier with the afternoon heat. Now, I consider those leftover Percocet, even though I know I’ll just pop a couple ibuprofen periodically throughout the day. But it’s absolutely worth it. I’ll snowboard until my hips crumble into dust.
This blog, on some level, has been a love story—my journey through hip dysplasia and PAOs back into the tender, fierce embrace of my lover, snowboarding. As I contemplate a 4th hip surgery in as many years, I also contemplate the last 4 1/2 years of my life on this hip journey. I’m not sad anymore. I’m not angry. This just IS what it is. A blend of melancholy and frustration touches me this morning, but I balance it out by remembering how bursting with life and love I am on my Tahoe weekends. Not even pain in my body can dim my heartlight when I’m up in my happy place.
August 2011—Sudden, intense hip pain in left groin while backpacking.
April 2012—Left hip labral tear diagnosed.
August 2012—PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection to tear site. No effect.
October 2012—Consult with hip arthroscopic surgeon at Stanford. Diagnosed with bilteral hip dysplasia, referred to PAO surgeon.
November 2012—Consult with Dr. B. at Stanford. Still in denial…
December 2012—Snowboard on powder with considerable pain. Accept my fate. Consult with Dr. D at UCSF and agree to bilateral periacetabular osteotomies.
May 2013—Left PAO at UCSF.
May 2014—Right PAO at Stanford.
April 2015—Left screw removal at Stanford with RPAO surgeon.
May 2015—In response to inquiry about left hip issues, RPAO surgeon says, “You don’t need more surgery, go back to PT and get stronger.”
July 2015—Consult with LPAO surgeon at UCSF to address left hip issues. Get 1.5T MRI (half power because of my metal Paragard IUD). LPAO surgeon ignores MRI results and tells me that he wants to operate and reattach ostensibly unattached oblique abdominals.
October 2015—Consult with a different PAO surgeon at Stanford, Dr. P, to get additional feedback. She says surgery might help, but probably won’t solve all my issues. She says she will meet with an MSK radiology specialist to get a read on my MRI. I get copper IUD removed, anticipating the need for a full-power (3T) MRI in the near future.
- I ask LPAO surgeon for a referral to MSK radiology at UCSF. He tells me another MRI won’t help me, that his “clinical” diagnosis is sufficient. He wants to operate to reattach muscles that he suggests have ripped away post-PAO. I will not agree to a surgery unless I have some kind of imagery showing me precisely which muscles are affected or not attached.
- I arrange for Dr. P at Stanford to meet with an MSK radiologist to review my 1.5T MRI. Results—MRI image too weak at 1.5T to be readable; furthermore, MRI was not a full pelvic view, and ab muscles were not visible. New MRI ordered.
February 2016—Full pelvic 3T MRI at Stanford.
Results—Very atrophic sartorius, suggesting detachment or incorrect attachment (consistent with my pain and trouble with activities involving hip flexion, especially weighted, for example, anything with an uphill component). Oblique abdominals are not attached at ASIS; instead, they appear to be “scarred in” somewhere on the inside part of my hip bone. Both of these issues are the likely cause of my hip divet/dent. Dr. P also mentioned atrophy in both TFLs, much more apparent in left side, and the left iliacus. She recommends I consult with Dr. B at Stanford if I want to pursue the path of surgical correction.
March 2016—Appointment with Dr. B, my RPAO surgeon at Stanford, on March 4 to discuss possible surgery for LPAO complications.
Can additional surgery help me? Is my sartorius far too atrophic after 2 years and 10 months to become a functional muscle again? Can scarred-in muscles be ripped away, reattached in the correct place, then become functional again? What are the long-term effects of doing nothing, that is, living with the muscle dysfunction forever?
I don’t look forward to another surgery, recovery, and many months of rehabilitation, but I realize that surgery gives me hope. I want Dr. B to view my MRI results and say, “YES, I can help you. I want to help you.”
To be continued…
I write to find a pathway into my depths and unlock my deepest everything. I feared what I would find. Profuse suffering welled just beneath the surface. One light scratch, and I might never stop the bleeding.
Anger is a cage with razorblade bars, and the only way out was to fight my way through. I felt it silently rip through me, chew me apart from the inside out, before I could set myself free.
I loved him once, in the way a patient has a special place in her heart for the surgeon that could ease her pain. But that piece of my heart blackened and died, steeled to form that razorblade cage. I’m free now, but my wounds have yet to heal.
And he did ease my pain—my excruciating labral-tear pain disappeared after he rotated my acetabulum to a new, more-horizontal position wherein the raw, frayed labrum is no longer being constantly irritated and inflamed by every movement. For that I am grateful. However, a new dysfunction and pain was born on the day of my LPAO, nearly 3 years ago now, and it has not left me.
Sometimes I feel as if it doesn’t matter. I’m ok, really. I can handle it. My life is pretty rad, all-things-other-than-hips considered. Other times, I feel as if my spirit is raw and frayed. I sit and gaze at the infinite space beyond the bars of a bigger, more elusive cage while I wait for answers.
I know the anger, and the blame, aren’t fair. Nor are they productive. I can’t prove he sewed my abdominal muscles back in the wrong place; it’s possible that they ripped away on their own shortly after the procedure. Furthermore, I can’t blame my continued hip pain, the money siphoned away in my attempts to ease it, and the resulting trauma of spirit for all of the malaise I feel about my life’s path. It’s far more complex than that. Even if I could somehow prove he is at fault for my post-PAO complication, would it even matter? I believe what matters most are the steps I choose to take today, my path forward on this journey of growth and healing.
Writing, for me, is processing. A few months ago, I stopped writing completely. I’ve always found freedom in writing, but I needed a different kind of freedom. I suppose it was more of an escape from thoughts I wasn’t ready to face. It’s a new year, and I don’t have any resolutions. I seek resolution.
I’m not yet ready to unload the weighty blogsack that’s been building up inside me. Instead, I’ll share a hidden note I found tucked away in a small notebook. I wrote it the morning after backpacking 6 miles in the Sierras with a group of awesome ladies. My hip saga had begun almost exactly 4 years prior, when I tore my labrum while backpacking in Marin County. I was nervous about backpacking, but I really wanted to test my body in that way again.
The truth is I feel like bailing on Burning Man. I feel like bailing on a lot of things—physical therapy, my job, my apartment, the BayHole, dating men, wearing makeup, giving fucks, my pain. I want my pain to leave me, but I think it’s possible that this is my existence. I can’t run away from the thing I crave most release from. I’m sitting in front of one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever witnessed—Lyons Lake in Desolation Wilderness. And I feel so melancholy. Right hip pain deep in groin, left hip tightness in TFL area every time I lift my knee. The hike in was not pain-free. After approximately 2 miles, intense, sharp, stabbing pain in left hip. Rested, it subsided. By the end of the day, it hurt every step. It still does in the morning.—Aug. 9, 2015
It’s good for me to read this and remind myself that my comeback to sports and adventure last summer was amazing but definitely had its limitations. Despite my warrior-grade effort to return to mountain biking, after a few months I had to admit to myself that the dread of how bad it would feel in my left hip while climbing had begun to outweigh the overall pleasure of riding in the woods. Can I live the rest of my life without long climbs on my mountain bike and hiking with all my shit strapped to my back? Not ideal, but sure.
I’m so incredibly grateful that I can snowboard. My weeks are so bipolar—miserable midweek, alive and free and in my element on the weekends. I live for my Tahoe weekends. I’m so happy in the mountains, then I drop down into the BayHole and choke on the stank. More intense riding days bother my hips, but it’s manageable. I rode my splitboard last weekend. Not a tour, just several downhill laps on a variety of terrain. It was a heavier and stiffer board than I’m used to, and a board like that takes more muscle power to maneuver. My hips were both irate, particularly the left. It’s unfortunate because I like the way that board charged hard through everything in its path. I haven’t tried uphill splitboarding this season yet. I don’t have any compelling reason to think it will hurt any less than it did 10 1/2 months ago. Will it be better on my hips if I switch out my gear for more lightweight versions? Or will I have to abandon splitboarding completely? I’m not so nonchalant about that loss.
This review of my body status is important. A bit of self-psychoanalysis reveals what I’m doing here. I’m making a case for moving forward with corrective surgery for my post-LPAO issue. I haven’t made a decision yet; I’m still harvesting information…
I have to stop writing about this now. Thinking about surgery makes my chest hurt. It’s like the opposite of heart chakra vibes. Another surgery is like a black hole where all the heart chakra vibes go to die.
“You’re a complicated case,” Hip Jesus informs me, his magic hands resting on my misbehaving hip. His casual touch reflects our easy, natural intimacy. “Uh-huh,” I murmur, eyes closed. More than you could possibly know. I’m so tight, and he knows exactly how to go deep into my trigger points. When he finds my sweet spots and pushes into them with sure, adept thumbs, pain flares so suddenly I wince and clutch the vinyl cushion I’m lying on. I gasp hard, stop breathing for a beat, then force out a steady exhale from pursed lips. Don’t stop, Hip Jesus. Despite my apparent distress, I crave those white-hot pulses of pain. His touch ignites fireworks in my synapses, brings intense relief.
He had no patients scheduled after me that day, so he more than doubled his time working miracles on my body. Perhaps it’s simply the pelvic focus of his work or the positions he puts me in to get the right leverage—keeping me on the edge of pain and pleasure—but I think I like it more than professional propriety allows. Good Lord.
If you haven’t already deduced, Hip Jesus is my chiropractor. His specialty is fascial distortion technique. I experienced some relief in the hands of Hip Jesus—the insanely tight part of my left TFL area eased up a bit—but the effect was not long-lasting. He’s a talented man, but… I’m a complicated case.
Some of life’s most intense moments balance precariously between pleasure and pain, a reality made quite clear to me recently with leather whips, nipple clamps, and an electro-shock wand. Just the right amount of pain delivered in just the right way snaps your attention into the purely physical, engages all the senses, and pulls you out of any sticky head trips. Pain can be exciting, even pleasurable. Insistent, uninvited, chronic hip pain?—not so much. I’ve been testing my body’s limits, finding the optimal balance of intensity level and discomfort level. At what point does the pleasure factor no longer outweigh the pain?
I appreciate any workout that kicks my ass. I like trembling muscles, lungs screaming for air, adrenaline rushes, and a technical challenge requiring absolute focus. Mountain biking satisfies nearly all those categories. Before I met snowboarding, mountain biking was my big love. After a multi-year hiatus, I got my mtb groove back on this summer. Every climb feels shitty in my left hip, but the downhills are exhilarating. The energetic high and sense of peacefulness I get from riding in the woods is worth the discomfort. Lately, though, I find myself hesitating when I think about mountain biking. I think about how shitty the climbs feel, and a bit of dread pulls at my solar plexus.
Today, as I climbed out of El Corte de Madera on my bike, I was overwhelmed by that feeling of wrongness in my left side. The unattached abdominal muscles have created a cascading effect of muscular dysfunction from my lower back to my feet. For the first time ever, I longed for surgery. I want my abdominals reattached! I want to feel right again.
I’m not sure which I fear more—more surgery, atrophy, and subsequent months of rehab, or the idea that nothing can help me, that this is as good as it gets for my hips.
Although silent to those around me, chronic pain whispers at the edges of my awareness. Some days, it’s an insistent, nagging shout. I won’t go into details because, frankly, I’m sick of writing about it. I have decided that I will not let chronic pain subjugate my well-being.
Here are some of my chronic pain management strategies:
Honor your pain. I’m not dying or starving of suffering in the way many people suffer in this world. I can still participate in many of the activities that I love.. so what am I bitching about? True statements, but just because it could be worse doesn’t make the pain I do feel any less real. Chronic pain—even if it’s the moderate, manageable sort—is an insidious, energetically corrosive beast. Don’t let yourself or anyone else minimize or invalidate your experience.
Don’t attach stories to your pain. This is one is really tough. Sometimes something as simple as a yoga class can become an existential reckoning. Will my hips be in tatters by the time I’m 50? Will I ever be able to do backcountry snowboarding? Will I have hip-dysplasia-associated pain every day for the rest of my life? Will I proceed with abdominal reattachment surgery? My tight, strong abs are going to turn into jello. I’ll never escape this abominable BayHole. And so on as it continues to spiral downward..
Pain is a physical sensation. It just IS. Remove the emotional charge by letting yourself simply be present with it. Observe and acknowledge.
Adapt and optimize. Find your hip-optimization cocktail. It’s likely that it will constantly evolve. The PAO life affects your physical, emotional, and spiritual self. Thus, prioritize a self-care routine that encompasses all of the above. Here’s mine right now:
- Stretch and foam roll daily
- Low- to moderate-intensity exercise most days: Pilates, yoga, swimming, bicycling, snowboarding, strength training, hiking
- Get up from my desk every 30 minutes
- Find a new physical therapist to keep working on my muscle imbalances
- Read inspiring literature
- Live a creative life of radical self-expression
- Spend quality time in nature
- Be adventurous, curious, and daring
My pain will be my ever-present reminder to be here, now—mindful, awake, and somatically aware.
When you cultivate presence, you’ll hear my voice more clearly.
What do I mean by that? Notice the flower, but don’t assign a value judgement to it by calling it “beautiful.” Notice the icy cold wind but don’t make the weather “bad.” Notice the ache in your heart but don’t make the heartache wrong. Notice the loneliness and just be with the loneliness instead of telling yourself that you’ll be lonely for the rest of your life.
Like weather, like seasons, like clouds, nothing is permanent. Beautiful flowers fade. The sun comes out. The heart heals. The loneliness eases.
Be here now,
I’ve been beating my wings, waiting to be the Phoenix and rise. I’m shifting now, and I can feel it inside my flesh and in all the spaces in between. After a week getting primitive and making heart connections on a hot and windy desert playa, I still haven’t found my ground… and I like it. The last 2 days I’ve burst into tears upon walking into my office. The status quo is no longer acceptable. There is no turning back from this fork in my path.
Burning Man was for me a journey into a constantly shifting internal and external landscape, where at any moment anything feels possible. Upon my return home, I was convinced that everything in my life was set for imminent and transformative shift. Grand art-installation visions took hold of my daydreams. I felt limitless. Now, I can feel the magic slowly fading. I’m struggling to keep that visionary fire inside me burning. It’s a strange balance between residing inside the present moment and opening myself up to the dreams of all the fantastical potential paths my life can take.
But at what point do dreams become the trappings of a perpetually unsatisfied escape artist? Looking back, I’ve lived most of my adult life with one foot out the door. I’m reluctant to date locally because I sincerely do not want to meet somebody that will interfere with my BayHole Exodus (formerly known as Juicey’s Great Escape) plans. Hell, the fact that I own a sofa gives me anxiety sometimes. It’s an investment in home, a sign that I’m settling—a vile proposition. There have been times that I’ve temporarily embraced my life in the here and now, but I prefer having an escape plan.
Ultimate dream—live in a van and roadtrip to all the beautiful wilderness in Canada and the American West. Jump in rivers and paddle across lakes. Write about it. Home is wherever I roam.
Freedom is so close now. One more surgery, and then I can fly, wyld and free, into the grand, ostensibly perfect unknown future where all my dreams come true, kindred soulmates arrive, creative visions manifest, and my adventure-seeking body has no limitations.
Do you see what I’ve been doing? I’m resisting my reality and giving my future far too much power, turning it into a kind of Holy Grail with magical, cure-all powers. I’m always on the chase for what remains elusive, never quite finding it. Instead, I want to hold my vision for the future while investing my power wholeheartedly in the present moment. It’s time to make HOME in the here and now. Home is that space of self-knowing inside of me, where my mind is still, my heart is at peace, and my soul is fully activated and expressed. Home is inside me, always. I bring the darkness, and the light, wherever I roam.
My path is approaching a fully divergent crossroads. Fork #1—I recently interviewed for a job in the Lake Tahoe area. The interview went really well, and I’m certain I could kick ass in that position. The pay cut would be severe (more than $20k less than I bring in now), but I know I could make it work by simplifying my life. I’ve been under the thumb of this hip saga for far too long; it’s time to sail into my dreams already! If offered the opportunity, will I seize it? Fork #2—I settle into the security of my current setup, lay low and pay off credit card debt, and utilize my excellent health insurance benefits ($200 copay for surgery is clutch). Queue the curse words. Lots of them. Fuck! I know this next surgery will be a piece of cake compared to a PAO, but the whole drill of delaying a life more in alignment with my soul for yet another hip operation is such bullshit. I’m done with being a sad little bird with a broken wing.
When will I rise from the ashes of this hip saga? When do I get to be the Phoenix and fly away?
At my current perspective, I am powerless. Exodus is my only freedom, my salvation. I have a choice. I can fight against my surroundings, or I can re-embrace the here and now in all of its blessings and abundance. Even if offered the Lake Tahoe job, I don’t think I can take it. The more strategic move is to resolve my medical issues and take care of my pressing debt before blithely flying away into the sunset. This isn’t easy. To potentially just walk away from an opportunity I’ve been seeking for many years feels cowardly. Haven’t I been telling myself that when I arrive at the crossroads, I must step boldly into the flames and face my fears?
What if I had the story all wrong? I predicted a fear of flying off into the unknown, but what if my deeper fear is of sitting inside what I perceive as the known?
Well, then it’s time to dive into the fire. The only way out is through, and it’ll take balls of steel to warrior up and face the challenges ahead. I’m reinforcing my wings, strengthening and restructuring all that I am so that when I do fly away, I won’t falter. I can REDEFINE what it means to be the Phoenix. I will reclaim my power by diving deeply into every painful, wonderful, evanescent moment.
Biking in a white-out storm, howling headwind blasting my bare nipples with playa dust; a lonely sunrise pilgrimage to the temple, seeking solace from the earth and sky; feeling a heart beat and a breath rise, then fall, as I settle into an embrace; spinning like a Sufi dervish in my gypsy robes, tossing my playa-dusted curls, sweating as I dance under fire-breathing serpents; an electric, breathless kiss from a wolf-eyed viking on a mountaintop—I will take all of every moment all the way into my fierce, vibrant being.. and then let it go. I will rise like a Phoenix as I burn away the debris of each passing moment.
Standing still, I will behold the entire cosmos in every breath. I AM limitless.
The ephemeral nature of life is what makes it so precious, and so heart-wrenching. Like the Black Rock Desert, life can impart magic and ecstasy, or it can be harsh and punishing. It’s unpredictable, with constantly shifting energies. It blows my mind how much effort goes into building huge, intricate art structures, only to be torched at the end of the week. As I stared into the flames and watched structures collapse, I began to understand the power of impermanence. Great freedom can be found in knowing that nothing lasts. I want to fully experience all of life’s intricacies as they arise, then let them flow through me as I make space for whatever comes next. I will not grasp at an elusive future, nor will I run away from my fears.
Build, then burn.
Embrace, and let go.
Let it be.
Let it NOT BE.
Let the emotion flow through, and away.
Let life come together, then fall apart.
Touch your fear, and warrior on.
Burn away each moment and rise from the debris.
Every sacred moment, every sacred breath.
Be the Phoenix.
I’m soothing myself by sorting through my costume box. Stroking my furs. Wine draining down the gullet mighty fast. Today was a day of gravity.
My first burn begins in less than 2 weeks. Time and gravity will not exist on the playa. Only the moment.
Universal juxtaposition. Testing me. I see the Holy Grail, flanked by fire-breathing dragons and shit-infested waters. How badly do you want it, Juicer? Maybe it’s a mirage, and when I get close, I will see that it’s all an illusion.
“Life tastes more poignant with a bit of melancholy burning in my throat.”—Juicer6000
Poignant can be bitter. Rarely sweet. I’ll choke on the vile, poignant pill if that’s what it takes. I’ll deep throat it and let the acid burn through me. Show me the way, dear Universe.
Two weeks ago, I lay next to a lake, deep in the Desolation Wilderness. “I’m listening,” I told the Universe as I stared at a billion stars all at once. “Show me the path to my highest potential. Even if it hurts, I’ll go willingly.” No more limbo. Onward down the path of darkness and dappled light. I’m ready.
I thought of him then, the only man that has been able to briefly weave himself anywhere near my heart during these tumultuous last few years. I miss being wrapped up in his hard body, inside that timeless embrace. He kissed my scars, and it touched something in me. Healed a piece of my scarred soul. Faded to nothingness now, bitter pill still burning through my gut, but I trust the Universe.
I’m as free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change. I soar on the desert breeze, defying gravity. My WYLD heart pulsates energy waves into the ether.
42 is back. I see it everywhere. I trust the poignancy of 42—answer to the ultimate question of life, the Universe, and everything. Telling me to OPEN MY EYES.
WTF, Juicer6000, get to your mother-effing point. I’m great at buildup, the languid progression towards an unknown endpoint. If only a mere half of my sexual exploits contained such enticing foreplay.
I’m two full glasses of Dark Horse chardonnay in. Aiming for a third. Now where were we?
GRAVITY and JUXTAPOSITION.
You never forget your first. He was my hip savior, my demigod. Then he fell from his pedestal, and I moved on to another surgeon for my second PAO. I let him go. Now things seem to be coming full circle. I’m so angry. I want to slap him across the face, swift kick to the junk. Channel all my frustrations into a singular event, then dispose of them forever. I will tear that fancy white coat to shreds, with my teeth. I will leave him in tatters, not unlike my labrum.
My LPAO surgeon recommends a surgery to reattach my unattached abdominal muscles (transverse and obliques). Why are they unattached? Did somebody mistakenly forget to reattach them during the PAO? Did I rip them out of place after the PAO? I vividly remember the moment I first suspected something was off—lying in bed few weeks post LPAO, moving my knee up and sliding my foot across the bed (as instructed), and those muscles struggling, failing to properly activate, and just feeling so WRONG. After a PAO, so many things feel wrong and painful that it just sort of blended in. The huge dent in my hip took shape as my surrounding muscles got strong again and began to make up for the deficit. Between PAOs, my belly button was cockeyed. That seems consistent with unattached, laterally stabilizing muscles. It wasn’t until after my second PAO that I realized just how OFF I was from the first one.
“You’re a complicated case,” they all say. No shit. I have asymmetry, imbalances, compensations, and muscles that are more reluctant to turn on than others. “You don’t need any more surgeries,” my RPAO surgeon said of my chronic left hip pain. “Go back to PT and get stronger.” I’ve been working hard these past few months, and I’m the strongest I’ve been in years. The concept of “neuromuscular retraining” makes a lot of sense, but is it possible to retrain your body to PROPERLY function when the mechanical parts of the machine are not properly connected? My gut says no.
Six weeks ago, the mere thought of another surgery sent me into tears, multiple times a day. In order to bring back my zest for life, I decided I would say NO to any recommended surgery. I feel some pain in both hips everyday, and I have limitations on my left side, but it’s a low-to-moderate, manageable level of pain. I can do most things I want to do. In my current state, I know I can rip down a mountain on a snowboard.
I asked for a surgery date, stat. September. I told him I need it either now or in the spring because “snowboarding is the love of my life. I love it more than any thing or person I’ve ever encountered. Will the rumored El Niño be cold and bring epic, powdery storms to the mountains? If so, and if I am unable to ride, I will tear the skin off my body with my bare hands. I want it THAT BADLY.”
The thought of surgery, atrophy, and the subsequent rebuilding of my strength and fitness (for the third time in as many years) is abhorrent—dissonant to every damn cell in my body. I’m scared. Estimated recovery is 6 weeks of using abs as little as possible followed by 6 weeks of light activity. Only at 3 months would I be allowed to try hardcore sports again. How long until I’m prime for the full range of things I want to do in life? Six months? The rub is that NOBODY KNOWS. I would be the second person my LPAO surgeon has performed this abdominal-reattachment procedure on. The first patient, a fellow PAO warrior who I am in close contact with, is only 7 weeks out.. too early to conclusively know the effectiveness of this surgery.
FUCK. THIS. I believe I’ve earned the right to be crass, so I’ll say it again. MOTHERFUCKING fuck.
Oh and there’s more. The Universe has delivered an intriguing juxtaposition of converging events. I have a chance at landing a full-time, salaried job working for the town government in a small mountain community near Lake Tahoe. This is my Holy Grail, the dream I’ve been envisioning for years. I’m in the second phase of the application process, the chosen few among 42 applicants. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the chance to wow them with my charisma in an interview.
Would I forfeit my dream for a surgery? Every piece of me screams NO, I won’t let this hip bullshit keep me from moving forward with life! Right now, I have a great setup for surgery—the security of a job that will allow for time off, excellent health insurance benefits that make it financially viable, and a solid support system of good friends in the Bay Area to help me during the recovery process. Security, however, can cause one to let all her dreams fly by.
I don’t know how all of this will shake out. I don’t know the right path.
Dear Universe, I’m still listening…
In the beginning, I made a timeline: LPAO first, RPAO 6 months later, life back to normal within a year, move on. Ha! “Juicer, you’re hilarious,” said the Universe. I’m nearing my 4-year anniversary of the day I took that fateful step while backpacking that tore my labrum and forever shifted my existence. Two PAOs and a screw-removal surgery later, the saga continues…
I may realistically be looking at another surgery on my left hip. In 2 days, I will meet with my left PAO surgeon to address my continued muscle soreness and dysfunction. The dent in my hip is likely caused by abdominal muscles that are not attached and have pulled away from the hip. This theory seems consistent with what I have been observing and feeling. A PAO buddy with the same hip indentation as me recently found out that her rectus abdominis, inguinal ligament, and external oblique “were disconnected, just chilling in my groin region.” Her pre-surgery symptoms—she has groin pain, whereas my issues are in my TFL area—are different and more severe than mine. She is currently in recovery from the surgery to reattached those muscles.
[Update: I just met with an elite level physical therapist who is not convinced that my abdominal muscle detachment is my biggest problem or even what is causing my painful tightness in the TFL area. I have very tight joint capsules that restrict proper muscle function, and my multifidus (deep spine muscles) and pelvic floor need strengthening. Neurological retraining of muscles is also necessary.]
The puzzle is complex. I think the next step should be an MRI to determine if my muscles are detached and how badly. Several questions stack up in my mind:
(1) Even if I have unattached muscles and ligaments, is that what is causing me continued (yet low level and manageable) pain and dysfunction?
(2) Would a reattachment surgery help me, result in no change, or introduce yet more complications/dysfunction?
(3) Will my dedicated physical therapy program to strengthen hamstrings and glutes, combined with continued fascial work by Hip Jesus, alleviate my pain?
(4) When will I be able to move on from this PAO saga? [I realize that there may never be a time that I will be able to “move on.” My hips are not normal and never will be. Maintenance and troubleshooting are my new normal.]
A deeply unsettling feeling has been gnawing at me for weeks. I claw my hands down my work desk—distracted, frustrated, ravenous for change. The thought of another surgery depresses the living fuck out of me. My well of patience has run dry. I’m desperate to break free, to change my life narrative, to risk security in the name of grand adventure. But I’m also tired of fighting the current. I have to let go, stop resisting what is, and embrace uncertainty.
I’m ready to be at peace, ready to take on whatever comes my way with the strength and grace of a true warrior. Instead of yearning so hard for a future to my exact specifications, I will open myself up to the great unknown. Cosmic flow may take me somewhere totally unexpected, far beyond anything I could possibly dream up. For now, I’ll seize the magnificent, epic fullness of all my days.
“You are not suffering because of the things you are experiencing. You are suffering because you think that what is happening is not supposed to be happening.”—Teal Swan
I channel everything I have into the climb. My breath huffs out and in, hard and fast; a heavy drop of sweat rolls down my forehead. Is this heaven? I ride a narrow path through a field of overhead wheat when a revelation strikes me—I’m grateful. For all of it. The anxiety, the euphoria, the breakthroughs, the setbacks. Look beyond the weeds and see the bigger picture, Juice. I emerge from the tall grass and look out into the setting sun. The hills burn gold-red. A teardrop teeming with life force escapes, and I smile.
Holy sweet scrotum of Christ! Mountain biking is THE CURE. It has the magical ability to make the stressball in my chest instantly vanish. I hereby christen my bike “Magic Mike.”
Magic Mike and I. We like to play rough and dirty. I ride him hard and he brings me fierce pleasure. I’m fairly obsessed with him these days. Modification options drift in my daydreams—fatter tires, longer stem, dropper seat post, wider handlebars…
I haven’t written a damn thing in 3.5 months. I’ve been busy living the shit out of my life—grabbing it by the ballsack, in fact. Sometimes literally. I can’t stop moving, planning, adventuring, grabbing. Bear with me as I get the hang of this blogging thing again.
The last two summers of my life I spent in a dark cocoon, pelvis broken, staring at walls and out windows, imagining the life I was not living. An essential part of me shut down. Six months ago, that part of me roared back to life. Every day that I can freely move my body is a gift. I vow to always live as fiercely as possible with the body I’ve been given.
This summer’s agenda: mountain biking, hiking, TRX, Pilates, swimming in lakes and rivers, pole dancing, yoga, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, backpacking, wakeboarding, camping, bangtown, Burning Man, new adventures, and new connections. I will push myself to my limits but also listen to my hips when they tell me to go gently.
Pain-free? Not quite. Will I ever be? Unknown.
My right hip (1 year post-RPAO) aches as I write this, after months of solid quiescence (other than a chronically tight upper hamstring). My recent foray into pole dancing seems to be activating something in my inner hip flexor area. It’s a minor intermittent ache and absolutely worth it. After years of having a hyper-vigilant, where-do-my-hips-hurt type of body focus, I’m redefining and refining my sense of self and body. Pole dancing has reawakened sensual awareness inside me. I close my eyes, feel the music, move my hips, and transcend all memory of my suffering.
My left hip is 2 years post-LPAO. Here’s where it gets a bit complicated…
My hip joint itself feels great. My post-LPAO muscle soreness and dysfunction persist but are much improved over the past couple of months, likely owing to chiropractic manipulation. When climbing hills on my mountain bike, I can feel a tightness/soreness in my outer hip in the TFL area. I can manage short climbs just fine, but cumulative stress on long climbs builds up a sustained sore, tight, inflamed feeling. For example, I climbed about 1,700 feet last Saturday, and my left hip didn’t manage well. In addition, I can feel the muscles that connect to my hip area moving differently on either side of my body. The mechanics of my left hip are just “off.” Muscles are recruiting incorrectly.
I’m not perfect, but am I good enough? I’m back to doing most of the things I was able to do pre-PAOs, so is it worth pursuing this further? I’m goddamn sick of doctor’s offices and surgeries. I’d rather eat a hundred thousand bags of dicks than have another surgery. OK, let me back up a second and stop jumping the gun. Nobody has recommended another surgery. In fact, Dr. B— set me free. I requested an MRI to troubleshoot this lingering, annoying issue. Go back to PT and get stronger, he said. Stay away from doctors for awhile. Gladly, dear Buddha. But I’m not satisfied with that answer. I want to optimize my hips as fully as possible.
Plan of action:
- Screw removal—I had my left-side PAO screws removed on April 28, 2015. The three massive screws were potentially contributing to my pain. Furthermore, screws must be absent to obtain a clear MRI image. Two months have passed, and I can say with confidence that screw removal has had little to no effect. [Note: Screw removal surgery and recovery was a breeze. I was back to normal activity within 2 weeks.]
- Chiropractic treatment, fascial distortion model—a man I call Hip Jesus has been working some miracles on my left hip. I have noticed much improvement over the past 6 weeks of working with him. Pain is much reduced.
- Appointment with left PAO surgeon, Dr. D—, scheduled for July 22. What will he say? Will he be willing to work with me on troubleshooting my left hip issues? I’m hoping an MRI image will at least be able to tell me if there are muscles that at not attached correctly. The deep crevice/dent that runs along my incision scar hints at some kind of structural problem.
- Physical therapy—Ugh. Back again. But this time, 6 months past my last PT run, I return with a honed in understanding of the dysfunction and muscle weaknesses and a commitment to fix my issues once and for all.
- Pilates ballet and reformer—I’m taking a 5-week intensive, small-group Pilates workshop aimed towards “neurological retraining.” My body has been compensating for so long that some muscles have become weaker and turned off, while other muscles are overworking. I need to wake up the right muscle groups and regain correct functional movement. In addition, regular Pilates ballet sessions keep my attention focused on my body’s proper alignment.
“Finding a light in a world of ruin. Starting to dance when the earth is caving in. Setting the sun and our hearts are burning. Leaving the nest to the back of a thousand winds. We’re ready to begin.”
—Angels & Airwaves, The Wolfpack
“I prefer a man who saves his dick moves for the bedroom.” I sent the message out into the ether, smug and satisfied at my one last brilliant comeback. I tried to push him out of my mind. Where could I possibly go from there, anyway? To engage would be like saying that kind of treatment is ok, and it’s not. Another one bites the dust, before it even began.
As it turns out, I have dick moves, too. I’ve got dick moves for days, and I have NOT been saving them for the bedroom. I’ve been slapping around my big dick, pulling moves left and right.
I’ve dicked my way out of two friends’ birthday parties, a PAO warrior meet-up that I organized, and most recently an offer from a man who would have given me just about everything I’ve ever wanted from a man. It made my heart feel funny—warm yet anxious. My “thanks but no thanks” might as well have been a donkey punch straight to his kidney. All these people offering me love, and what do I do? I slap them in the face with my dick. These people are my friends, and I truly care about them… so what gives?
I have a snow boner.
I have to ask myself: “Am I acting with a compassionate heart or am I being controlled by my hard on for snowy, mountainous peaks?” My answer is that I don’t think these things have to be mutually exclusive.
After years of my life being stuck in the vise grip of hip dysplasia, I’m alive again—exploding with all the fire, the wyld, and the fierce that has been suppressed within me for so long. The dam has collapsed and there is no stopping the rush of life force spilling out of me. I’m being swept downstream, away from my past and towards the great unknown… and the ride is exhilarating. I surrender fully to my momentum.
I call this era my Renaissance of Stoke. I’m grabbing life by its balls, and they are huge and heavy right now. I have this heart and soul imperative to get up to Tahoe as much as possible. Snowboarding was the love of my life for several years. We’ve been reunited, and I am horny as hell for my lover. I learned how to ski last weekend, and a whole new world has opened up. I’m obsessed. I’m already dreaming about it at night. Learning a new sport has turned a corn-slush spring day into the equivalent of a powder day. My hips aren’t perfect or pain-free, but I feel strong again. My limp has shifted into a swagger. In the PAO life spectrum, this is where I am now—getting after it, HARD as a motherfucker.
So how do I manage the inevitable winter rift wherein my mountain aspirations clash with potential nonsnow commitments in the Bay Area? I’ve let some people in my life down, and my guts are twisted over it. Just because I’m swept up in this wyld rush of stoke doesn’t mean I can’t see what’s passing me by on the banks of the metaphorical river.
It starts with honesty, openness, communication, self-awareness, and compromise. Honesty can sometimes feel like a dick move in itself, but what other choice do we have if we truly want to live an authentic life? By keeping it real and communicating with each other, we grow in our relationships with each other and with ourselves. Noncommittal half-truths serve nothing but our fears.
Next time I am invited to a mid-winter event, I have to be completely honest from the beginning and say that I’m sorry, you’re my friend and I care about you, but I just can’t commit. I’m wholly devoted to following my passions at this time. Let’s compromise and find another time (mid-week or after snowboarding season) to connect with each other. I have to honor where I’m at in life right now. Perhaps it might seem selfish to some, but the fucked-up PAO-induced darkness that I suffered through has taught me that life is too short to spend always trying to appease other people. Sometimes self-sacrifice is warranted—it’s a part of being a true friend—but I also need to be true to myself and to my soul quest.
As I came face to face with my own inner dickbag potential, my armor softened. High from a day of massive powderstoke, I cautiously reengaged with the aforementioned Mr. Dick Moves. When it comes to the meaning of life and dick moves, are there shades of gray? Definitely. Unexplained dick moves, however, are tough to overcome.. but not impossible. It requires second chances. It requires dropping some of our armor. It requires honesty and authenticity. I like to believe all of these things are possible.