In which pain is a thing and fear is a thing, and Spring is coming fast!

I learned about pain a long time ago, in what could almost be called a "past life."

Nidan promotion ceremony, I think.  Lookit the hair!!!
This was not a female-driven school--
we had only 4 or 5 women in the building most nights.
For thirteen years after finishing my undergrad work, I studied goju ryu karate.  

Despite being distinctly smaller than most of the other students (and I frequently had to practice with the juniors because of that), 

I told you I was a bad ass.
I learned a lot, had fun, and eventually earned the rank of sandan (third-degree black belt).  Persons of my stature often do well in kata practice, which can be compared to dressage : the perfection of the form, working towards demonstrated excellence of kicks, blocks, and punches.  Those who know me will understand that I did my kata only because it helped with kumite, which is sparring practice.  The relationship between kata and kumite can be compared to the relationship between dressage and trails--the practice makes things happen better when the rubber (or steel) hits the road.

Like every other karate student, I got injured.  I broke most of my toes (one at a time, not all together), crunched up most of my fingers, and had fabulous bruises on my shins and lower arms almost all the time. 

There was even a joke--funny, because it was so obviously true--that you could tell a student's rank without looking at the belt whenever he broke a finger:  
  • When a white belt (beginner) breaks a finger, there is crying, there is cussing, and the student gets hauled off to the nearby hospital for a splint and a round of painkillers.  
  • When a green belt (more advanced) student breaks a finger, there is cussing, and then the student drives himself to the hospital for treatment.  
  • When a brown belt (even more advanced) student breaks a finger, he finishes the exercise with some minor cussing and then heads down to the dressing room to grab a painkiller left from the last time he got injured.  
  • When a black belt student breaks a finger, he says, "Sh*t.  Not again."

(BTW, the last time I broke a finger, the first words out of my mouth were, I kid you not, "Sh*t, not again.")

Black belts don't feel less pain than white belts.  

However, after years of experience with injury, there isn't much fear involved with breaking a finger.  It hurts, but if you've done it (several times) before, you know approximately how bad the pain will get, you know that it will eventually stop hurting, and you even know approximately how long the pain will last.  

Most of the problem with pain, I learned in karate class, is that it is tightly wrapped up with fear.

Which brings us to the present day:

Consulting with hip surgeon #1
Hip Surgeon #1 (HS1) looked at the xray, and said, "yep, yep, those are some crummy hip joints right there."

Shallow hip sockets (hip dysplasia, just like in dogs), plus
the "ball" part of the joint is supported by a very thick "neck" which
impinges mobility. Very little space remains between ball and socket,
 especially on the left side (photo right) -- the cartilage is almost entirely gone.
He outlined some options for me.  Doing nothing is perfectly acceptable.  The hip pain would increase, I would eventually require two canes (I now need one, and not all the time), and riding my horse would become unbearably painful.  The pain would never go away, but it wouldn't kill me.

If I were 30 years younger, there is a "resculpting surgery" that would be helpful, except that 30 years ago the procedure didn't exist.  These days, there's even a treatment for dysplastic newborns that didn't exist in the olden days when I was little.

The realistic option that will get me back into my normal, hyperactive life, is total hip replacement.  Two months ago, the idea of this surgery terrified me. But in the last two months, the pain has increased a lot.  I haven't gotten on my horse in three weeks--probably the longest time I've been out of the saddle in 30 years.  I am not happy--and I know, from experience, that the fear that the pain will continue forever unless we do something drastic is making the pain worse.

Truthfully, if they offered to take me in for the procedure this afternoon, I would grab my truck keys and drive myself to the hospital.

In real world life, it will probably take 3-4 weeks for my name to come up on their schedule...but I am ready now.  It hurts. I'm afraid of losing more of my lifetime fun to this pain.

And besides,  Spring (and Summer) are coming.

I want my LIFE back!

Let's get this thing done!


  1. Very cool about the karate! I did aikido for a couple of years and only managed a few sprained digits. My husband had a black belt and broke so many toes that I became an expert at taping the broken one to the non-broken neighbour! :-) Will still call one toe that is all crooked "Snappy" because he broke it 3 or 4 times and it healed a bit wonky. (guess my taping wasn't good enough that last time!)

    I'm very sorry about the ongoing hip pain - that is no way to live your life when you are still so young. Well, chronic pain is no way for anyone to live, really... I hope the surgery is scheduled sooner rather than later and that the recovery is speedy so you can get back out there and hit the trails.

    I wish

  2. I always prefer having a plan of action, as opposed to "winging it", so I hope you feel at least a little better now that you've made your decision! You'll be back in the saddle in no time- you're an endurance rider!!!

  3. A friend of mine, who also rides, went through this several years ago - total hip replacement. The recovery period wasn't too long, as I recall, and today walks 4-5 miles per day and is able to ride lightly (she also has an old back injury and the other hip needs replacing, so that limits her riding more than the original hip). She's actually looking forward for the other hip to be "bad" enough to require replacement, since it's what pains her now!

    Many hugs, though, and I hope for a speedy and complete recovery!

  4. Kick on, dude. I hope the surgery goes smoothly, your recovery is swift, and you have a fantastic and comfortable rest of the year.

  5. May you recover as quickly and completely as my 80 year old cowboy friend, who was back in the saddle in exactly two months.

  6. Very well said. I was trying to get at that, how pain messes with your head, when I commented last, but you said it much better here! Erica Poseley,, is a dressage trainer I met last year who has had both hips replaced -- I found her inspirational. Best of luck with repair & recuperation. Your mare will wait for you ;-).

  7. I still stand by the fact that I bet you feel better after your surgery than you did before. When my appendix burst in December, a few hours afterwards I felt like I could cartwheel across the room, simply because the pain had lessened so much. Sure, I had surgery pain, but omgosh, comparatively? It was amazing.

    I would bet you some serious money it's going to be the same for you. You'll be terrified going in, come out all woozy on drugs, and then aside from a couple of flares of pain as you learn how to maneuver your new bionic body, you're going to feel amazing. There will be no more constant aching. You will be pain free, except when you're exercising during the recovery period... and I bet you're going to wish you'd done it months sooner.

    I'm excited for you. I understand the fear, but I bet the fear you're going through is worse than the pain ever will be. Hugs.

  8. An incredibly poignant post. I have to admit the first thought through my head when I saw on FB that surgery was an option was "she could be back in the saddle before the end of summer!!!!" and yes - I think I've finally been able to start to understand the lesson of pain and fear. I won't lie and say that I always face the unknown with courage, but at least now I know WHY I fear the unkonwn and I acknowledge it and then continue to step forward knowing that eventually it will be OK even though it scares me to death. it's incredibly comforting to hear stories like yours.

    I'm excited for you, nervous for you, all wrapped up in one big giant ball.

  9. This whole entry reminds me of when Mike got kidney stones last year. He said the worst part about the pain was not knowing what was causing it or how much worse it was going to get. He said that once he got a diagnosis, it helped with the physical pain. He also said that if he got stones a second time, he would probably cope better simply by knowing what was causing the pain.

  10. Get it done, recover, and get on with living. Wishing you well.

  11. I'd lay odds that once you are done with the surgery, you'll wonder why you put it off for so long! :)

    I don't comment often, but I love your blog & stories. As a fellow Swamplander, I sympathize especially with your weather posts! :)

    Sending thoughts for a future speedy recovery your way!

  12. I had to go back here and read why you chose hip surgery. Totally get it! You are brave, smart, and by now, about healed!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond


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