While all of the Jeopardy excitement was going on, I was slowly rehabilitating from what has now been nearly a two-year injury. The digression was good timing, because frankly, writing about a series of progressively lengthening training rides was not going to be fascinating. The idea was that once this was all over, I would write a recap of the rehab over the last couple of months.
Some bad news threw a wrench in my plans.
After that first ride in May, and a few more in June, I was well on my way. I managed 144 miles on the bike, mostly easy, tempo rides, with 10 total hours in the saddle. I had also done a lot of therapy work, spent some time on stationary bikes, and done a few other things to get my fitness level back up. The last ride was 27 miles, and while I struggled to keep up with my friends, I found that I had some fitness. I was on my way back.
Each ride would leave me sore, although it steadily got easier and easier. I would need some recovery time, but I started feeling better faster. It was clear, steady improvement, just like the doctor ordered.
After Jeopardy, we spent our weekends traveling to visit family, and I made a short sojourn to Boone to put on my reporter hat. Finding time to ride was difficult because I had PT during the week. That always results in a little bit of soreness even though we were being careful not to push too hard. I wisely decided against riding when sore. The way it turned out, I wasn’t able to ride for a couple weeks.
A week ago on Thursday, I had a particularly tough day at therapy that included the exercise bike. I was sore that evening and the next day, and then felt better on Saturday. That was pretty much the norm. Aside from a couple hiccups, after a short recovery period I would be fine. Occasionally the hip would randomly pop and give me some added soreness for a couple of days, but it would pass.
This past Saturday, when my wife and I were sitting on a couch talking about her Jeopardy experience with my family, I moved my leg slightly to adjust. I moved it at most three inches outward.
Did you hear that? My wife said that she had. It wasn’t sore right away, but I had a feeling it would be. The next day we returned home and it was only tender, so I was encouraged it would pass. This wasn’t the first time it had popped. The other times I had written it off as scar tissue redeveloping, and I didn’t worry much. It had never popped this loudly.
It started to hurt the next day, and by Monday, it was nearly excruciating. It is hard to describe hip pain when it is bad. It feels like someone is clawing at you from your insides, and you cannot get comfortable no matter how you sit or lie down. It radiates to other parts of the leg, making each muscle feel like they had just run a marathon. Of all the different types of pain I’ve experienced, this is my least favorite.
I had to dip back into my pain medication to get through Monday. Tuesday was no better. I took half a day off work just to rest the hip, again in bed with medication.
I was concerned. This couldn’t be scar tissue, could it? I called the doctor’s office and they were also concerned. No, it didn’t sound like scar tissue to them either. Usually that doesn’t hurt as bad or last as long. They told me to stop everything except for stretching until the doctor can see me. Since he left for vacation on Wednesday, that’ll be two weeks from now.
At first I was disappointed, a little depressed even. As you blog readers know all too well, every time I begin to make some progress, something happens to set me back a ways. After the pain had barely subsided by Wednesday, and stayed about the same Thursday, I knew this was a major setback. Since I am now nearly six months from surgery, the implications are dire. Unless I am the slowest healer on the planet, it is clear that the surgery was not successful. If only the surgeon had repaired the hip instead of cutting off the torn portion, then I probably wouldn’t be in this situation.
The bad news is that I am off the bike and everything indefinitely. I have a feeling the doctor will say it is okay to pool walk or do easy swimming, but even that will probably bring back pain. It is time for a long period of rest, maybe a couple of months, maybe the rest of the year. This is no longer about me returning to the sport I love. This is about me living my life and being able to perform daily activities.
The above 800 words sound depressing, and like I said, that’s how I first interpreted them. Since then, I have actually come to a place of relief and acceptance. That’s why I think this setback was partially good news.
Knowing that I need to let myself heal has taken a weight off my shoulders. In a few weeks, I should be able to walk normally again and pain free. Rather than continue to push myself into a perpetual state of agony, I’ll enjoy being recovered and having as much mobility and comfort as possible.
The random popping should end because it only happens after workouts. That’s my hip telling me it isn’t ready. I need more time.
The potential downside is that there’s an outside chance that I’ll need another surgery. The hip may need to be completely repaired. I’ve been through this surgery once and am not excited about going through it again, but I will take that step if it’s a matter of me never being active again.
When my friends and family have heard this news, they have apologized to me, and given me plenty of prayers, support and encouragement. I cannot express enough how much it is appreciated. But this isn’t a funeral. This is part of a lengthy rebirth. Everyone goes through hurdles in life, and everyone finds a way to deal with them. While I’ve had to endure a lot more than the average person, I’ve still found a way to love life. That’s not going to change. There are plenty of adventures waiting for me. The question is whether they’ll be in a few months, next year, or yes, maybe even the year after.
In the meantime, I have this blog. My past adventures are well documented, and just recently I found a way to enjoy my passion from another perspective. That will continue. With some of this free time, there will be other avenues to get involved. I’ve already been participating with a number of local bike planning and advocacy groups. The 50 State Project may be on hold, but there are plenty of other projects waiting around the corner. Stay tuned.
July 11th, 2014 at 9:54 pm
This is good news for me too brother. I was secretly worried about you kicking my butt, and after a hip surgery at that!
I was thinking the other day, I’ve been kicking around a huge four day ride and I promised my wife I’d wait till the oldest was old enough to watch the youngest so that’s end of August 2016 over the Labor Day weekend (Thursday to Sunday)… If it works out, it’d be a great time. Kick it around a bit, I’m in no hurry – and if that doesn’t work out, we can grab dinner and a movie with the wives when we come down (or something). Heal fast brother, you know I’m holding vigil for you.
July 11th, 2014 at 10:19 pm
In a way, this really sucks, but you have a good attitude, and will find your way back, not just on the bike, but to a good level of fitness and well-being.
Hang in there and fight, but don’t fight yourself.
July 11th, 2014 at 10:46 pm
You may be the most courageous athlete I know, Aaron. Not only for the pain and disappointment, but for looking for good in a dire situation. You know that life works in mysterious ways, and when you are in the midst of the battle it’s hard to see there is a bigger cause than what you are staring in the face. I know it’s easier said than done, especially if you’re no the one in the fox hole, but you certainly have the right mental outlook and strength to get through this. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up being a national event planner, or cyclist writer, or whatever. Never lose the passion, buddy. And good luck, many people will be pulling for you, including me.
ps… you helped me endure the four-month hip injury I suffered the end of last year. That’s small potatoes compared to what you are going through, but you are inspiring people.
July 13th, 2014 at 8:47 pm
I love Jim’s comment above, Aaron. He is right. I have no idea why this trial seems to continue for you, but I do trust in due time we will all see the fruit of it as you recognize the purpose, and then share it in your writing.
In the meantime, while you are still on “this end” of the struggle, we will continue to be positive with you and hang back for our GC guy!
July 16th, 2014 at 10:14 am
Sorry to here about your setback Aaron. I feel for you ant the roller coaster ride you’re going through. I had a tough time in 2013 with regular upper respitory sickness turning to adult onset asthma then later developing herniated disks. I too was way to optimistic about recovery and experienced multiple setbacks. You are definitely taking the right tack by focusing on rest and recovery and in doing so reducing your mental stress revolving around the slow progression to cycling fitness. I do suggest that you find a massuese trained in Trager as an alternative to pain medication. Tonight my wife and I head north to Dahlonega, GA for a ten days of training on the mountains of the famed 6-Gap century and slay the Rapha Rising challenge in the process. You will find your way back with patience and persistence. “If you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need” The Stones… profound as ever.