Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hip Replacements and Who We Are

Ellen, pilates instructor extraordinaire, is bone-on-bone.  Her orthopedist says she needs her hip replaced.  She has an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon next week.  She has made plans for a substitute teacher during her recuperation.  She has total confidence in her physicians. 

She's sad.  She's mad.  She's infuriated.  She's confused.  She's determined.  She's annoyed.

She's all of those things at the same time.  She's crying in Italian restaurants.  She's sharing her angst with me because I get it.  It's like listening to myself.

We are active, speedy, fit women.  We define ourselves as such.  When the body - through normal wear and tear or extraordinary interactions with bullets -  decides to throw a monkey wrench in our plans, we find ourselves moaning that (she) won't be able to hike the Grand Canyon or (me) carry grandchildren.  It just doesn't seem. right fair appropriate congruent like our life. 

Ellen's heard the same things that I have heard: You can't compare yourself to what was.  You have to accept that aging is a process.  You have to set expectations that are realistic.  It doesn't help to moan about it.  You'll be fine.

Those well meaning phrases mean the same to her that they do to me - nothing.

If I can't compare myself to what was then what shall I use as a measuring stick?  Don't think I need a measuring stick?  Have you ever exercised?  We measure progress by how far we've come, what we can do now that we couldn't do a month ago, what we need to accomplish to move on to the next plateau.  We take notes and record our progress and, in fact, are always comparing ourselves to what came before.  Telling us to stop is like telling the tide to stop rolling in.  It's who we are.

Aging may be a process, but that doesn't mean that we have to accept the consequences with equanimity.  Getting old isn't for sissies and it's not for us, either.  Old doesn't mean what it did when G'ma turned 60; at 89 she still bristles at the appellation.  Old implies inability, restrictions, creaks and aches and deterioration.  We may be older but we are not old.  Not yet, anyway.... and not for a long long time, if G'ma is to be believed.

Realistic expectations vary according to who is doing the expecting.  Dr. Boaz, my surgeon, expects that he will be replacing my hip this summer.  I expect to be participating in a rigorous program of retraining instead.  Those are two realistic expectations shared by two intelligent people who are at odds with one another.  I go to visit him today; I'm bringing TBG along for protection.  I think it is realistic to expect that, with hard work and diligence, I will be walking pain free and smoothly.  I have no timetable any more.  I am letting the work create the experience and the progress will come.  Of this I am sure.  My therapists tell me so - all 7 of them here plus the 3 in Chicago - so it must be realistic.  If only Dr. Boaz could agree.

Telling me not to moan about it is self-serving on the speaker's part.  Moaning is part of the whole.  We are facing challenges which were unexpected, unintended, undesired.  We had a plan for our future and then our bodies interfered.  We knew we'd be agile and spry into our dotages; how dare our corporeal selves interfere with our expectations?  They weren't absurd, we weren't planning on the Olympics or even the Senior Olympics, we were simply certain that our efforts in the past would be rewarded in the future.

And then our bodies got another idea.  They decided to antagonize us.  They are working against us.  They are interfering.  Yes, we have much to be grateful for,  much to be thankful for, much to enjoy and profit from..... but we still hurt.  Standing up includes a stab in the butt.  Sitting for more than fifteen minutes brings a new and quite unenjoyable stiffness to the joints.  Cracks and crunches emanate from our selves, often loud enough for others to notice.... and stare.... and worry.... and sympathize... and empathize.... and with all that going on what's a little bit of moaning among friends?  We're not wallowing.  We're just taking an honest look at the situation and reacting in kind. 

And then there's my favorite one - you'll be fine.  FINE....such a special word.  Not excellent or over it or back to normal... just fine.  Fine has never been enough for either one of us.  We are perfectionists - in childrearing, in exercising, in life.  We're not persnickety, we just have high standards.  We're not outrageous, we just expect that, with determination and good form and following the rules excellence will come our way.  Having bodies that preclude excellence, that will be fine but not perfect or even totally functional,  this is new to us.

If we feel like moaning, cut us some slack.  Please?


  1. Getting old sucks! At 43, I'm having hip problems myself. My brother, who is 47, has already had his hip replaced. And he's very, very fit. He lives in Colorado and snowboards all the time. It's just some of us inherit these problems--even being fit. Then you have your ordeal thrown into the mix, and it sucks all around. :(

    If you do have the surgery, at least it will be before Little Cuter's wedding and hopefully, you will not be in anymore pain. That's a good thing. I too hate the word fine. To me it's a word that just means half-way or not perfect. Fine is like mediocre to me.

    I'm sure you will be back to excellent health, but this to shall take time.

    Sending hugs and understanding.

    Megan xxx

  2. At least we are around to decide that it sucks, Megan! That's where Ellen and I ended up on Monday morning, though it didn't really fit into the narrative of this post.

    I'm NOT having surgery ... at least not in the forseaable future. I'm working on it before I'm cutting into it again.

    Thanks for the understanding <3

  3. Getting old sucks a lot. Every time I ride Gates Pass using a much easier gear than I used to, I think about how much it sucks and why can't I do what I used to do? The hard work is just not rewarded with as much strength. One day after hearing me complaining about that fact for a really long time, my husband looked at me and said "well, you are getting older." I never thought I would be this old. Talk about uncharted territory!

  4. Once again, you articulate the frustration I feel so well. I have an appointment tomorrow with the same surgeon I swore two years ago I would never see again unless it was absolutely necessary. It turns out that I now have arthritis and no cartilage in my knees--as if the bilateral knee fracture and loss of range and function from my car wreck were not enough. I am sure he will recommend surgery, but I am NOT planning on going that route again unless and until it becomes the only option. Thanks for taking the time to put your experience and feelings into words. I think of you often as you are learning to navigate your new normal.

    BTW, I began watching Mad Men on Netflix after your post a few weeks ago--first out of curiosity, but now out of fascination. It is such a well done show.

  5. Not getting old sucks more. I was just told that I am a candidate for a hip replacement. Had my MRI last week. Definitely will see if I can go for sometime longer.

  6. Oh, Charla, thanks for letting me know that I turned you on to Mad Men. This season is even better, if that is possible. As for surgery, I feel your pain/frustration/determination. GRRRR.....

    Dear Buttercup, of course not getting old sucks more! Every once in a while, though, it just feels good to whine :)

    The serious answer to all of this is that the sun came up this morning and we were here to see it and that, by definition, makes it a good day!


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  8. I guess we have nothing to do about that. 100% of people who walk on earth grew old whether we like it or not. Lol. And with regards to your hip replacement, its better if you do have a little research or get a second opinion about it.


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