Tag Archives: hip joint surgery

No Expectations, Just Experience

Maybe I always believed in “bursting the boundaries.” After 40 years of chronic illness, it seems so. This kind of “resistance” to medical expectations takes a certain amount of naïveté, and I don’t mind admitting that.

It also means staying in the moment, regardless of the experience it offers–no expectations, just experience. And sometimes, I burst a boundary, like today.

I have been released from the care of my orthopedic surgeon who could not be more pleased with my progress. The fracture of my right femur is healing “beautifully” and growing new bone. The hip-joint replacement was pronounced “perfect.”

Medical expectations had been low.

I knew today’s x-ray results would be fine because of how my right hip and femur feel. And the x-rays supported my body’s signals. X-ray is such a wonderful way to look within the body to its structure.

I was reminded of the fusion of bone that is taking place in my neck, even more bone growth. That was not the expectation, either.

As someone with chronic autoimmune disease, I’m not the best candidate for healing, especially with medications like prednisone and methotrexate. Medical skepticism is not unwarranted.

I don’t ignore expectation but it does not occupy my time.

My focus is on what I eat and how I live, in particular my daily practice of meditation and yoga. I stay open to my body’s signals; they are my purpose. Healing will or will not occur.

It is a matter of feeding my body nutrient dense food no matter how I am feeling. In fact, the worse I feel, the more critical nutrition is. A single moment might be one of physical pain, frustration, hopelessness, fear, and fatigue—and it might last days—eating is fuel, food is energy.

Hope drifts in and out of moments. I let it go. I remain present for my pain, intertwining medication with yoga, working with the meditative state in my day-to-day. I meet my energy and even out its fluctuations.

What is the point in yearning for what my body cannot offer? Why not work with what it can? After all, “life always bursts the boundaries of formulas” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).

So it seems, so it seems.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

On the Thin Side

Sometimes, I am keenly aware of the metal in my hips, as well the plate and screws repairing the fracture in my right femur. It’s not a sensation of pain, it’s warmth, a light sunburn.

I am in awe of sinew uniting metal with bone and muscle as I move into my next yoga pose. I am grateful there is less of my body, not only metal replacing joints but simply less of me, physically.

The words of my orthopedic surgeon return, you tend to the thin side. He has only known this body and not the one that once was so much more; as well, he speaks to this mind that, too, shed “a lot of stuff.”  This mind-body is lighter, simpler now, by necessity.

Perhaps I do live on the thin side. I meet life with as few expectations as possible. It makes meeting the impossible less daunting.

Losing weight was not about numbers. I was desperate for food, caught up in my cravings. I had no idea about real hunger versus comfort eating. The more I ate, the more difficult it was for my body to process food.

And I did not know anything about food so I had no understanding of nutrition or inflammation, an issue that has been with me for 40 years. What I did know is that tests revealed a serious allergy to both wheat and yeast (Brewer’s and Baker’s). I began there, seven years ago.

My digestive issues all but disappeared as I removed wheat (and essentially all grains) and yeast from my diet. The relationship between yeast and sugar is a close one. I reduced my intake of high sugar fruit and high carb vegetables as well.

My emphasis was on what food worked for me, understanding that my body is unique and so are its nutritional needs. It is true that weight vanishes with nutrient dense food. Inflammation is another matter but food plays a role.

To help reduce inflammation, I increased my intake of greens, my fluids, and certain fruits, for me blackberries. For a time diet controlled my inflammation but no longer, as my disease process is now chronic. Yet, medication works better when I feed my body what it can use rather than what it cannot.

If the way I live is a tendency to the thin side, then yes. I carry less, which seems to make more possible. The opposite was true years ago when I was so much more but on the fringe of life, a side too thin.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Not Running Short of Small Change

On this Monday morning I am reminded of  “small change, small wonders—the currency of my endurance and ultimately of my life” (Barbara Kingsolver).

I had an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon to mark my six-week progress of my second hip-joint replacement. First there was the x-ray and then there was its viewing.

The surgeon and I chose a frontal view. The recently replaced hip joint includes an additional plate to heal a fracture at the top of the femur.

I was amazed at how large the plate is in relation to the small crack. Now I know why that area is sore from time to time. It is the plate. However, the soreness is nothing, not even on the list of my physical issues.

The surgeon assures me the plate can later be removed. The choice is mine. I think, why disturb such inner peace? Everything is in its place–balanced, mechanically fit. Such joy, and so much wonder.

This second hip replacement recovery was not an easy one; it bore little to no resemblance to the first. There were so many pivotal moments. Constant chaos. And then I came across these lines from a Robert Bly poem, “Things to Think”:

Think in ways you’ve never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Line by line, I felt myself filling up rather than emptying out. Small change, these lines of poetry–the “currency of my endurance.” Stuff continued to go wrong but I did not run short of small change.

On this Monday, as I stared at the frontal view of my mechanically fit hips, I knew only gratitude. “I have taught myself joy, over and over again. It’s not such a wide gulf to cross, then, from survival to poetry” (Barbara Kingsolver).

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

It Only Takes a Moment

I only looked away for a moment. I got up from my seat of mindfulness, no longer confident in just being. I wanted control.

There were complications with my latest hip replacement surgery–a fracture that became my only focus, my only reason for being. Physically, it is some of the most demanding pain I have ever experienced.

I wanted to confine life, keep it within a frame, like the x-ray that revealed both fracture and hip-joint solidly secured, some 14 days after the surgery. That is good news but it is only one scene in a much larger picture.

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Nerves, muscles, and tendons must rearrange themselves, adapting to hardware rigid in its lack of both flesh and bone. It is an attachment, and the body works to adapt.

This adapting is a series of attempts with no deadline, it seems. Sometimes, the signals interrupt all else in the body. It is taking me some time to “cultivate nonjudgmental openness” as Pema Chödrön calls it.

And I will not do it with such a narrow focus for to practice equanimity is to accept, again, that life is not mine to control nor to confine. It is for me to experience no matter how surprising. Life has many lenses.

My fracture is a surprise to the surgeon and to me but less so to the body, I suspect. For years, I have not had ball joints in either of my hips for my pelvic area is riddled with osteoarthritis. Perhaps the body welcomes both the hip-joint replacement and the plate for the fracture, relieving stress so the body can adapt to other areas of weakness.

Maybe, maybe not. It seems reasonable. Such is what Pema Chödrön calls the “never-pin-downable quality-of-life.” On some days, this is more wearying than others but if I persist in trying to pin down life, I attach to a moment already experienced. What is the point in that?

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Mindfulness opens the uncertainty of the unknown as a possibility, maybe even an opportunity. Fractures and hip-joint replacements are experiences, not enemies. They are momentary, however long that may be. Each is a new life lens.

To aim for even is not to experience the easy, eschewing the painful. It is a delicate and ongoing balance of finding the way through, a dose at a time.

It is to trust in the peace of wild things, staying open to whatever arises.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

The Quiet That Is Courage

So often I forget the quiet that is courage, having been deafened by my own roar.

Every particle of creation sings its own song

of what is and what is not.

Hearing what is can make you wise;

hearing what is not can drive you mad.

 (Sufi poet Ghalib)

And so I do drive myself mad, tilting at windmills, believing I am changing the world, although how I could not say.

To stray outside the moment is to engage in such madness, and I do it many times each day. As well, however, I know those moments of being present, of realizing the miracle of life is in its unfolding.  

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It is more than believing in miracles, although that helps. It is trusting in all that I am and am not. Do I choose fear or courage? Do I want to seize upon a grievance, reveal my self-righteousness, and shout it from the rafters?

Or do I want to take a breath and trust in life itself, in me.

Loving [ourselves] requires a courage unlike any other.

 It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something

no one else can see that keeps

us in the world—our own self-worth.

 (Mark Nepo, Book of Awakening).

Every day is an opening night. I take a breath and take the stage. In each moment, I play to applause or catcalls. And with each curtain, I rest.

My next major scene is hip replacement surgery at the beginning of next week so there will be a pause in these posts. I am told the scenes following the surgery will be ones of learning to walk again.

I will have to listen closely, ignore the roar of fear, and settle in to the quiet of courage.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Pause and Repeat: The Monarch Warrior

A week from today I have my second hip replacement surgery. It means tapering off autoimmune disease medication.

It’s always a tricky time.

Physically, my cells shift to adapt to lack. In response, my mind releases words at whim. The challenge of the sentence looms.

I remember the warrior butterfly— bodhisattva— who forsakes the firm ground for walking on air. 

Such dramatic change does not come overnight but over a series of nights.

Each stage from ground to air is fraught with life ending possibilities. From the stillness of the larva, the caterpillar stirs to search for sustenance, consuming one leaf after another.

There is a reward for all this eating, and it is not rest but pupa spinning—the chrysalis—a chamber of tissue, limbs, and organs that once crawled but will one day fly.

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We delight in the beauty of the butterfly,

but rarely admit the changes it has gone

through to achieve that beauty.

 Maya Angelou

Patience, human.

No new life emerges until the old is transformed.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Updating and Restarting

These are days of updating—for me and for my laptop–one restart after another, with mixed results. It is not a longing for default. That is a past setting.

My voice recognition software doesn’t keep up with impermanence any better than I do. It is more silent than not, choosy in what it recognizes and then…silence.

Not appropriate but a response nonetheless. All the while, the chaos of chronic illness interrupts me. Just as I settle in, the software shuts me off mid-sentence or even mid-breath.  

There is a “new” default, and neither one of us has found it. What was a lull in chronic illness is now a storm. In a mere morning, I am restarted. So many updates to explore.

There is never a good time for restarting or updating, be it computer software or chronic illness. Both seem to happen at night when laptop and I are at rest. Activation comes with waking up, opening a screen.miccosukee-water-lily-0713

Still, some updates are scheduled. In two weeks, I’ll have my second hip replacement, just three months after the first. I’m looking forward to the surgery as my right hip is all but worn out. No doubt that discomfort is encouraging my autoimmune and spinal cord disease and vice versa.

Yet, it is the silence of the voice recognition software that stops the writing. Two years ago, I gave up typing or keyboarding, as it only exacerbates the nerve damage in my arms and hands.  

Restarting and updating is exhausting. I take a lot of naps.

As for the software, that’s a bit more complicated. It has old issues that make it suspect to other programs that update regularly. As with humans, those issues are not always readily apparent.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.