Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Disabling the Disability

You know, it’s funny. I commuted into Boston today to work out of our corporate headquarters. I took the train, and then walked from the train station about 10 blocks/a half mile to our office. As I got ready in the morning, I knew I had to wear sneakers because of this long walk. I put my sneakers on thinking “Will I ever be able to make a decision without weighing the effects it will have on my hips?” I thought that even though I’m surgically “fixed”…I’m not really, technically, fixed. I guess that even after a surgery like this, us hippies always have to worry about the fatigue, and the arthritis damage, and all of our little dings and dents we’ve gathered along the way. While I feel great (and I really do), I think everyone can admit that we still seem to have some minor limitations. And it got me to thinking, even after having a corrective surgery, do we still carry the burden of a “disability?”

Before surgery, it look me a long time to admit that I have a disability. It seems like a word that’s meant for people who are truly worse off than I am, or was. I always felt like saying that I have a disability was me trying to make excuses for myself. As my pain progressed, everyday things got harder and harder for me. I began to face that fact that admitting that I have a disability is not making excuses, it’s accepting myself and my limitations for who I am and what they are. And that is far more important than pride. Mentally and physically, that was the hardest thing for me to admit.

Then, I settled into that definition. I came to terms with it. And, as I planned out the surgery and recovery, it really came to be a part of me and I embraced it. I knew my limitations and I could accommodate them. It was certainly a hard pill to swallow, but I felt as though the best way to deal with the situation was to face it head on. And so I did. Throughout PAO and scope recovery, I pushed myself when I needed to, and I cut myself slack when it was necessary. I lived with the hope that with every passing day, I was leaving my “disability” a little farther behind. 

As time went on, I got stronger; I became mobile and agile, and I became essentially pain free. And after a long while, I really felt great. And I still do. I feel better than I EVER have in my life. But, the reality is, I will never, ever be 100%. None of us hippies will ever truly be 100%. I just don’t think it’s possible. 

We all have our creaks and our cracks, and we have our aches and our pains (some worse than others). I have “start-up” pain in my left hip, and I still have arthritis pain in both hips most days. It’s not terrible, and it’s not constant, but it’s there. I guess my question is, we can recover from surgery, but do we ever recover from our “disability?” I was probably insatiably optimistic to think that I would wake up one day and feel like I never ever had any hip problems at all. I’m learning more and more, as time passes, that I will never truly shake myself of this feeling of being “disabled.” Even on my good days, where I am predominantly pain free, I worry about my hip. Mostly unnecessarily, for sure, but the slightest bit of worry is there.

And what’s worse is that these are the best days for me and my hips. They are great days, and I am thankful for them. I am doing things every day that I wouldn’t have been able to do effortlessly pre-surgery. However, I can’t help but have this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that it’s really kind of all downhill from here. These blue skies and tranquil waters are available for a limited time only. It’s like a ticking time bomb.  When will the other shoe drop?

Anyway, I hate to sound dramatic. It’s certainly not like I’m feeling this way every day. This morning, as I planned to wear sneakers because of the long walk, it just kind of struck me that there really is no way around these hip thoughts. And even though I feel better, I will never feel totally “normal.” I won’t ever be able to be totally carefree about my hips and how I use them. This is a fact of life for us hippies. 

However, I insist to always look at the positive. I still am thankful, every day, for the PAO surgery and my recovery. I am thankful that I can walk pain free, every day. I’m thankful for Dr. Schiller, and University Orthopedics. I’m thankful for Rhode Island Hospital and their fabulous care. I am thankful for Lepre Physical Therapy, and for Tom Almeida, who was a Godsend to me during my recovery. Truly a friend and huge supporter. I’m thankful for a one-of-a-kind husband who is irreplaceable. I (literally) could not have done all of this without him. And I’m thankful for all of my family and my friends.

I have a good life, and there’s no disability that will ever change that.