Reclaiming My Body, Reclaiming My Life, Part I

On February 7th I had a total hip replacement. Just hours after surgery, my medical team began clearing me to go home. My vital signs were good, I had eaten and physical therapy helped me become mobile. Although I was still feeling the effects of the spinal block, I was amazed I could put weight on my replaced hip. I arrived at the hospital using a walker, my body bent over in pain. I left the hospital 12 hours later still using a walker, but with a straighter, more elongated spine, less pain in my right hip and hopeful for the future. I am optimistic that after replacing both hips, I will be able to play with my grandchildren and return to practicing and teaching yoga.

I grew up playing tennis, spent years in ballet, jazz and modern dance classes and taught dance for several years. Movement was and still is essential to my physical, mental, energetic and spiritual well-being. I began practicing yoga in 1990 with Melinda Ann Peterson. Her approach was unique for western yoga at that time. Along with practicing meditation and studying the ancient yogic texts, Melinda led us through gentle breath-centered asanas (poses) practices where we experienced meditative states. Her focus was on integrating all the tools that yoga has to offer. These practices became a refuge for me during challenging and stressful times. My yoga and spiritual practice helped me recover from mastectomies and reconstruction following a breast cancer diagnosis. Meditation, pranayama and gentle movement have helped me with osteoarthritis and prepared me physically and mentally for hip replacement surgery.

So how did I get to the point of needing assistance to walk? When I first met with the hip surgeon in December of 2021, he had not seen hips as bad as mine in months. I had been seeing a physical medicine doctor for six years. He diagnosed me with osteoarthritis in the spine and hips. It was no surprise to me as my father, grandmother and aunt all had debilitating arthritis. For a time, it was unclear if my pain was coming from the spine or the hips. I saw a spinal surgeon early on and he told me that I needed to have a spinal fusion before I had hip replacements as I would not be able to rehab my hips. Studies have shown that positive outcomes for lumbar fusion can range from 22 to 74 percent. For me, the risks of a lumbar spinal fusion simply outweighed the rewards. So I tried a number of therapies to address my pain and improve my mobility. They ranged from walking, pelvic floor therapy, acupuncture, dry needling, Rolfing and neuromuscular massage. I studied the work of Dr. John Sarno and his mind/body approach to chronic pain (pain that is experienced for more than three months). His protocols included expressive writing to deal with emotional issues like anger and fear, understanding the neuroscience of chronic pain and a consistent meditation practice or other mind/body practice, all to reprogram an overly sensitive nervous system. These activities were helpful in the beginning, but as time passed it became clear to me that most of my pain was coming from the degeneration of my hips. Last December, an x-ray showed significant structural issues in both hips and I had no choice but to address it surgically. To my relief, my team agreed that I would benefit having both hips replaced first and then address the spine.

As I moved closer to my surgery date, I would spend at least an hour a day practicing gentle movement with breath work, chanting and meditation. These practices helped me to develop in myself that I could reclaim my physical body, trust in my medical team that I would have a great outcome and trust in spirit to see me through process. These layers of trust are vital for my recovery.