Five Months Post Op :: The good, the bad and the beautiful

Howdy! Over the last four weeks I’ve wanted to blog so badly, but the computer keyboard has mostly been beyond my grasp. There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one is that my husband and I moved from the city to the country. It’s beautiful and wonderful and exciting and so, so peaceful. We even have a swimming pool and a hot tub! (Never thought those words would come out of my mouth.) But despite the amazing blessing, here’s the truth: moving is hard. It’s hard on the body and the mind and the heart. But especially the body. And then there’s the whole financial piece. This is what I feel like I’ve been doing for the last month:


girl throwing money


Plus, I totally forgot how much a pain in the ass moving is. I have a habit of pretending that my expectations of myself are completely realistic. All too often I dwell in la-la land, where I assume the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman role, trying to do more than any golden lasso could tame. Nevermind that I had back surgery five months ago, and am dealing with three autoimmune conditions. Nevermind that in the midst of it I had a health scare that rocked me to the core. I keep cracking the whip at myself while others say, “You just need to stop.”


I’m trying.


All the while, I’ve kept at the physical therapy. Up until we moved on June 7th, I was going to PT three times a week—even though I hadn’t packed and was spinning plates whilst juggling balls and standing on my head stacking BB’s. (That just means that I had a ridiculous number of things to accomplish in order to move. But I wasn’t giving up my physical therapy, by god.)


Once we moved I cut back to one session a week. No big deal, right? Well, it kind of is. Instead of it being a 10-12 minute drive for me, now it’s a 90-mile round trip. Yes. You read that right.


N-i-n-e-t-y. M-i-l-e-s.


And I’ll tell you without skipping a beat that my therapists are totally worth it. They are the best of the best. We’ve been pretty aggressive with my treatment, which is to say it’s all for a good cause. It was my idea to power through. But working out all my old, crippling coping patterns and challenging my epic muscle imbalances sometimes stirs the pain pot. And this isn’t exactly the best time to be stirring that pot. Except that it is. Because there’s no time like the present. I’m not going to go to all the trouble of having surgery and then slack on the rehab. (See: Wonder Woman complex.)


What am I going to do with me?


So you’re probably wondering how I’m doing. Really well, all things considered. First things first: I am still super glad I had the surgery. The lumbar muscle spasms that plagued me for 30 years are still 90% better. I know I sound like a broken record, but this does not mean I am completely pain free. It means that one of the worst sources of my pain has been addressed and it no longer torments me every hour of the day. But I still have other sources. And I’m in the midst of trying to figure them out. It’s exhausting, really.


I still have intermittent groin pain. And the feeling that my leg somehow needs to “pop” where it meets my pelvis drives me crazy on some days. About 25% of the time I can get it to move. The other 75% I’m trying to relax into the wisdom of my body and trust that it’s doing what it needs to in order to “reset” itself. In terms of pain I’d say it’s maybe a three or four at most when it’s acting up. But here’s where things get a little muddier.


About a month ago I had a hip MRI and subsequently learned that I have a labral tear on the right (which is my SI joint fusion side.) Here’s what the doctor told me: it’s small, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not causing the pain. Conversely, large ones can cause no pain for some people. In other words, small or large doesn’t matter. It’s whether or not it’s symptomatic. He said the best way to tell if the tear is what’s causing my groin pain is to have an injection there, kind of like the ones I had in my SI joint (think: fluoroscopy.) And while we’re not ruling the labrum out as a part of my pain equation, the doctor said he strongly believes my symptoms are a result of chronic (and sometimes severe) hip-flexor tendonitis. We agreed to wait and see what happened with the injection, which I will do when the moving drama dies down. Let’s just say it’s on my to-do list.


But that wasn’t even the health scare I mentioned earlier in this post. When I had the hip MRI that showed the labral tear, they mentioned that I had a very small cyst on my left ovary. And I freaked out on the poor orthopedist.


“I’m sorry, I know I’m here to discuss my hip, but did you say, ovarian cyst??


Whereas most people would’ve said, “Oh. That’s interesting,” I turned into Chicken Little and started imagining that the sky was falling. Ovarian anything is a trigger for me, because my mother died of ovarian cancer. It’s one of those, “Oh-God-anything-but-that” things in my life. It was a horrible demise.


So even though the radiologist didn’t recommend following up with my gynecologist about the cyst, I was on the phone making an appointment before I left the parking lot of the orthopedist’s office.


Long story a little shorter: I had a pelvic ultrasound. It showed the cyst on the left, and another on the right that the MRI hadn’t picked up. And the one on the right was kind of “iffy.” The doctor decided it would be a good idea to do a CA 125 blood test to determine whether or not to be concerned. If you don’t know CA 125 it’s an ovarian cancer marker—a sometimes unreliable one, but one of the only tools in the ovarian cancer detection tool bag. I freaked out at the mention of CA 125, because, my mom.


The test ended up being normal (but then so was my mom’s the year before she was diagnosed.) At least it wasn’t high!


If you’re not familiar with the BRCA genetic mutation, it’s a gene anomaly that’s associated with a high incidence of breast and ovarian cancer. My mom was tested and she did not have it. Which means that I—and my six female offspring—don’t either. Phew. But I’m still at a slightly greater risk for ovarian cancer since my mother had it.


However, yesterday I got some good news: I had another ultrasound and both cysts are reportedly gone (should get a call from the doctor today but the tech said she didn’t see cysts at all.) I’ve always said that if I got half a chance I was going to yank my ovaries out, since I haven’t had a uterus for nearly 20 years. And since I had SI joint surgery earlier this year, my out of pocket is met. So I intend to do it sometime this year. (I’m really going somewhere with this… stay with me.)


Both of my myofascial release therapists have said that they feel a pretty strong pelvic pull from my 20 year-old abdominal hysterectomy scar. I’ve always wondered if part of my right hip dysfunction is due to scar tissue (which I know I have because it causes excruciating pain when I stretch it too quickly.) Could it be that sticky scar tissue is jacking up my hip? Therapists seem to think it’s possible. So I asked my gynecologist about possibly cleaning some of the scar tissue out when I have my ovaries removed, and she said that’s it’s possible to free some adhesions. But you know me—I am going to research the hell out of this and make sure I’m going to the best doctor possible when I finally decide to have it done. (I won’t go in to all the detail here, but of course there is disagreement about whether or not trying to remove scar tissue is a good thing.)


All of this has reminded me of something I’ve tried to keep in mind throughout this whole pain-relieving journey I’m on: everything is a mixed bag. I moved to a gorgeous house, where my grandkids can come and frolic in the pool.


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But there’s a dark side: the scorpions are plentiful out here. Here’s one I found near the pool the other day.


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There’s an up and a down side to almost everything. I had cysts on my ovaries but they might be leading me to another piece of my pain puzzle (scar adhesions.) I have a labral tear, but it might not be a major culprit. Even if it is, it’s something identifiable and treatable. And I’ll take that over perpetual bewilderment any day. We’ve got to look for the blessings that are often so cleverly disguised.


I’m not gonna lie: I wish my SI joint surgery had been the last stop on the pain train. The prospect of starting over in terms of research and then having another surgery (or two) is quite disappointing and more than a little scary. But the key, for me, is gratitude. Gratitude for how far I’ve come. Gratitude for the collective chorus that reliably leads me to the best healthcare decisions (God, other people, research, kick-ass healthcare practitioners and my own intuition.) I’m thankful.


I’m still unpacking and trying to get a daily rhythm going with work and home responsibilities. It might take me another week or two, but I’m going to transcribe and post the rest of my interview with Katrina (my PT) and then post one with Jody Hendryx, about pelvic floor issues. It’s all really good stuff. Stay tuned.