In which I'm still hop-hop-hopping along, but really: only barely

Lately, I'm in a bunch of pain.

I got a good giggle out of this!
How much pain?

Well, enough that the thought of continuing this level of activity with this level of pain in my arthritic hip is bringing me to tears faster than the thought of having surgery.

Whoa.  That's a big change.

My goal is to ride a (t least one) 50-miler this year.

Mostly to contribute towards getting Fiddle a "decade award" (we've got three years into that already), but also because it's what I do.  

At the end of last season, a 25 or 30 mile ride was not just do-able, it was almost easy...but a 50 seemed pretty out-of-reach.  I got a cortisone injection right after my final ride of the season, and felt better.  For a while.

I was hoping that cortisone might last me until a few weeks before the 2014 ride season started up, so I could get another injection, try to ride a 50, and then make decisions from there.

But it hasn't lasted long enough. Right now the pain meds are only knocking the top off the pain, and it takes a major effort to get my own socks on each morning.  Shoelaces are a thing of the past.

I'm hoping to get approved for another injection next week (fingers crossed) and then another injection in mid-March before Home on the Range if the February shot is wearing thin.  I already know the doc won't be thrilled about two shots so close together.

On the other hand, the doc does Ironman.  He has heard of Lew Hollander (who was a Pacific Northwest endurance rider and Ride-and-Tie-r before he was ever an Ironman).  It's possible, though not likely, that the doc will get it.  It's not like I'm proposing a plan to live on cortisone for five more years.

Just get me through a 50, or let me at least give a 50 a good, honest try.

If I can't finish, I'll pull.

If I don't try, I will probably go crazy and I will probably take major parts of the Western Hemisphere with me.

As Monica has said, keeping me on the Disabled/Inactive list will not bring prosperity and happiness to society.

If I can barely struggle through a 50, I'll schedule hip replacement surgery right after the ride so I'll be able to at least swing a pulaski with the Renegade Rendezvous trail crew at the end of June.  If it's not that bad, I'll probably try another 50 or at least do some LD's until we get past Renegade, and THEN I'll schedule surgery.

The days of hoping I'm going to make it through the entire 2014 season on my own hip are gone.

I keep hearing that hip surgeries are "no big deal" these days, and that people who have them wish they'd had them sooner.

Hmmm.  The thought still scares me to death.



  1. Aarene - It' seems to me that you are too "young" yet, to be considering a replacement. You'll do your research I'm sure before committing to surgery. Riding in pain is no fun...

  2. Oh wow, I have no experience with hip replacement so can offer no advice. I will send my best healing thoughts your way though!

    Is there any chance that the shots might last longer as the weather warms up?

    I would try the same plan, try the 50, see how it goes, and then make your decision.

    I do know several people who have had excellent results with knee replacements.

  3. Disclaimer: I'm 25. I am (I hope) a very very very long way away from this being a problem. But, seriously, I would go for it. Everyone I know, except one person who is in complication hell, has had much improved quality of life. If you have the option to get it done before you are immobilised by pain then that is a good thing IMO. Pain isn't cool, it is incredibly exhausting, and makes life un-fun.

  4. If you give someone $100 on Monday, and he spends $50 on candy, he'll probably regret that purchase on Tuesday. In a way, he'll still think of himself as a guy with $100—half of which is wasted.

    What he really is is a guy with $50, just as he would be if you'd handed him a fifty-dollar bill. A sunk cost from yesterday should not be part of today's equation. What he should be thinking is this: "What should I do with my $50?"

    This isn't a perfect metaphor at all... but it kind of ties in a bit with you wanting so badly to have your 2014 season, or at least one ride before then.

    What you are is a person with intelligence, a great horse, a loving husband, a (TM) good life, and one bum hip which absolutely has a fix. A scary fix, but still a fix.

    If evil joints conspire to make you miss out on your last 50 with two regular hips rather than one regular and one bionic one...

    You aren't your body. You are *YOU* - and your body is just the sack of meat that serves at the car that gets YOU from point A to point B. Your car currently has a flat tire. You may be late to a few appointments because you need to fix it, and that's frustrating and disappointing - but you still have that $50 in your pocket. You haven't missed out on anything - you've gained a new hip.

    (Note: Not only did I mix metaphors like crazy, but I also plagiarized the heck out of this comment from a story I recently read, but that doesn't mean I mean it any less.)

    PS: No, I'm not ignoring your chronic pain you're living with. Chronic pain is... well, it can color every single thing you experience and every thought you have, and not in a good way. I vote hip replacement ASAP. I bet you're blocking pain without even realizing it, and won't even realize how much it's wearing on you until it's gone.

    PPS: 12 years ago I knew an 80 year old dude who had his knee replaced and it healed great. I can't help but think it's going to go a lot better for you.

    PPPS: If you had the replacement in two weeks, you could be back at 100% within 6 months if you took it easy. That's, like, July. You could have multiple 50 mile rides this season if Fee could handle the quick training schedule.

    1. Excellent metaphor-mixing. And now I'm hungry for candy.

  5. Disclaimers: 1) I am the guy that loves this blogger lady unreservedly; 2) This is background info for folks who may not have been following the whole deal; no intent to flame anyone, I just want to get us on the same page, information-wise; 3) I'm not sharing any secrets, although some information may not yet have appeared in this forum; 4) See #1.

    I admit that it seems as if "nearly 50" is too young for a hip replacement. The problem is that life is a variable, uncontrolled and unpredictable thing that makes it a crap-shoot for everyone who truly lives their lives, just as everyone who reads this blog does. So far as I know, there is no one reading this blog who does not take life at full speed ahead in their own way.

    Some of the variables we face are in our genes. In Aarene's case, she won the kind of hip joints that German Shepherd breeders try to warrant against: Shallow, with a bit of a hook on the ball side. I've seen the pictures. As we discussed today, it's not a matter of "if" so much as "when" will she replace the joint.

    Another variable is how we feel about doctors, surgeons and such people. Aarene has not been shy about expressing herself on the topic. She doesn't like the idea at all. (Neither do I, for as many reasons as she has, but this isn't about me. Much.)

    The bottom line is that the warranty ran out on the original equipment (true to the metaphor, with a wink at Becky) about last June. That hip has been glitchy since I've known Aarene, and it has finally worn out. If she'd been a different kind pf person, and had led a more sedate life (unimaginable), it might have lasted 10 or 20 more years.

    The last 7 months Aarene and I have spent doing the research, trying different things, and trying to stretch out the time before she has to commit to a replacement. As mentioned above, the language is changing from "if" to "when", and there is good reason and evidence for that.

    As for me, I try not to hand out advice unless asked; Aarene already has my advice, and knows that I have her back mentally, physically and spiritually. My main thing is to see her healthy, pain free and minimally medicated. ;-) I mostly want to make sure that folks realize the magnitude of the decision and therefore should understand, if you know her, the mountain of research that Aarene has put into this. Her question boils down to

  6. I hate computers that have minds of their own. I was almost done anyway, and you all have the gist of my thoughts. She seeks your advice as to when, not whether, she should schedule a hip replacement.

    1. I love my Santa. Just in case there were any questions about that.

  7. I regularly read your blog, but, rarely comment....with Jim's added backstory, I wouldn't wait to much longer on the surgery.
    I know the hip pain thing... mine is bursitis though. I had to be lucky (not) and get bursitis not on the outerside of the hip, but, get it in the groin area....It's miserable!
    So, go for the fix, hopefully it will be smooth and you will be back riding at the end of recovery....:)

  8. What exactly does "too young" mean? Too young to heal a helluva lot faster than if you have the surgery in ten years? Too young to enjoy riding again? Too young to get off injections and pain killers?
    My Dad had his knee replaced when he was 80. The surgery had been recommended when he was in his 60's. He held off for almost 20 years. He gave up fly fishing, dog walking (and dogs) riding horses, canoeing, I could go on, all because of debilitating pain. He was a mean, grumpy bastard.
    When he had the surgery, his recovery was long, slow and painful-- because of his age.
    Now, he is walking, travelling, his knee works like a champ, but the rest of him is in his 80's. He wishes, fervently, he hadn't waited until he was old enough. He's still a grumpy old bastard, joint replacement can't fix everything.

  9. Aarene--All I can tell you is that my 80 year old cowboy friend has had one hip done (ten years ago) and one knee done (last year), and in both cases he was in enough pain that he couldn't ride any more. Both times he healed up and was riding again in two months and back to competing at team roping in three months. I know this is just anecdotal, and I hate doctors and hospitals as much as you do. But those operations literally SAVED my friend's quality of life, because he feels about team roping the way you do about endurance. So I vote you go for it as soon as you can. Many good wishes to you.

  10. Becky gets +1 from me for bringing up the sunk costs fallacy. :)

    In the course of my "real job," I receive a lot of feedback from people who have had joints replaced at our hospital. Not once in almost 8 years of doing this have I heard "I wish I had waited a few more years before getting surgery."

    I constantly hear the opposite.

    They tell me they didn't know how much pain they were in (they had gotten to the point where a 5 on the pain scale was just background noise) or how limited their activity had become until they got it all back. Becky is so right about that.

    You've done your research, so you likely know the success/failure rates for replacement for someone in your demo. You are already doing PT and taking meds, so that won't change much.

    The new devices are made of better material than the ones from even 5 or 10 years ago. They can easily last 30 years or more.

    I think you should do it. You have a lot more to gain than you have to lose. :)

  11. Aarene, we don't know each other well.... but... no major surgery is a small deal, but with our current technology? and research into what works and does not work? there are no guarantees, ever.... so, even given the no guarantees thing? I would suggest doing hip surgery now.... and plan for a pain free 2015 ride season because that is what being YOUNG and HEALTHY means--> great recovery possibilities... my 2 cents because I understand what pain means and what it does to the body. ( I saw you at PNER Board meeting and caught what it was doing to you). My beloved step mom's drs taught me to get in front of the pain and not chase it, I know you know what I am talkin' about here. GOOD Luck, and my daddy taught me that * no matter what you decide, it WILL be the right thing*.

  12. I second Tchr_lady and add that there is more than one right answer. I got that from National Geo photographer Dewitt Jones and it helps me to let go of finding the one right solution. Sending prayers for your hip and all that your decisions bring you. And love to your Santa for caring for you so well.

  13. Hi, fan of your books, and blog, just a friendly stranger. If you're at the point of when, not if, you need a replacement -- and that seems clear from your posts -- get r' done. I'm a yoga teacher and middle aged rider and am in training to be a medical social worker. I've been concentrating my research this year on how to help two populations with animal-assisted therapies: obese children, and post-op joint replacement adults. I'm going to get them walking with horses -- mini's, and big ones! Depression and pain are, from what I've seen in person & research, much worse for people than the experience of surgery & recovery. Almost everyone waits 'too long' (by ortho standards) and therefore goes into surgery in worse shape emotionally than you have to. Pain, and pain meds, are hard on a body & mind. As a rider, I can say that relieving hip pain has been a godsend for a handful of women I've met who spend a LOT of time in the saddle and doing barn chores. I would *never* encourage a stranger to have surgery . . . except for someone delaying this particular one, which I spend a fair amount of time thinking about. You're heading that way, don't dally -- that's my thought.

  14. Hmm, hope I'm not double-commenting - having browser trouble. I'm a total stranger & fan, voting for sooner. I'm a middle aged rider, yoga teacher & social worker in training who does a lot of horse-therapy work with folks. The only thing waiting for joint replacements seems to do for people is increase & prolong their suffering. My opinion is that this makes healing longer, both in body & mind. I've met a handful of 45+ women just this year who ride and have had one or both hips replaced and they're all instructors/horse pros who spend hours a day in the saddle. I was astounded at how fast they recovered and how soon they started riding again, too. I think you have to commit to staying strong and flexible for life after the surgery, but you sound like you have those habits established already. Whatever you do, best of luck with it. We need you riding that gorgeous big horse of yours! I like your blog so much I think about adopting a Standardbred ;-)

  15. I certainly didn't mean to offend with my post! Everyone knows what's best for them & as I wrote - I knew that the research would be done! A pirate of Aarene's mettle - will break all records for healing!


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