‘When life hands you lemons, learn to make lemonade.’
quote usually attributed to Dale Carnegie
A few weeks before my retirement in June I learned that I had moderately severe osteo-arthritis in my left hip and would eventually need a hip replacement. The first reaction was denial — not me! How could a fit woman dedicated for years to regular and moderate physical activity need a new hip? I wasn’t that old and I wasn’t overweight. I had never had a serious injury.
After arguing with my doctor about the fact that my knee hurt and not my hip, and hearing explanations of radiated pain, I sought a second and then a third opinion carrying my joint x-rays to each specialist with me on a CD. All of the doctors showed me the x-ray details — a left hip socket with no evidence of cartilage to protect the socket. During the summer on long beach walks and attempts to continue physical fitness routines, I gradually experienced more discomfort and realized that movement in the left leg was becoming restricted and painful. Things that I took for granted were uncomfortable — turning over in bed, walking up stairs, getting into and out of cars. My yoga teachers also noticed differences in my capability on the mat — some poses no longer came easily. While physiotherapy was advised and sought, it was only helping me to maintain some of the muscle strength and gradually a degree of muscle atrophy began to set in. I found that I needed to use a cane on a semi-regular basis when attending receptions or engaging in activities that involved walking for any distance on hard surfaces or climbing stairs. A planned trip to Europe had to be cancelled as museums, castles, wineries and galleries inevitably involved steep stone stairs that would be difficult to navigate.
I had to face the inevitable. Hip replacement surgery could not be avoided. I found myself having an assessment by an orthopaedic surgeon and am now scheduled for surgery later this fall.
Yes, life has handed me a bunch of lemons. So what is the postworksavvy response? Now that I realize that this health challenge must be faced, there is no point in moping around feeling sorry for myself. Taking a lesson from some of my previous posts, here is my strategy:
- Gratitude. Many people face health issues. Although undergoing a hip replacement was not part of my retirement plan, this type of surgery allows for a recovery that will allow an excellent quality of life in future. Many illnesses do not have such a prognosis. Thank goodness for the Canadian health care system — this surgery won’t be a major financial burden.
- Maintaining fitness routines as much as possible so that my body is prepared. I don’t want further muscle atrophy so I try to do the physio exercises every day. Because water activities are not weight-bearing, aquatic conditioning classes offered at my gym are now part of the weekly routine until surgery. I also continue to attend yoga classes and do poses to the extent that my body allows.”
- Staying engaged with life including attending a couple of continuing education courses, keeping up a schedule of meeting friends, spending time with my husband doing those things that we have always enjoyed — cottaging, gardening, cooking together. During the summer I rejected a schedule in favour of living ‘in the moment’ but now I find that having planned activities keeps me enthusiastic about each day.
- Mental preparation. I am reading about the techniques that will be used during the surgery. The hospital has compiled a binder of information and has also scheduled a 4 hour preparatory session. Although I prefer not to think about some of the details of the post surgical recovery and limitations that I will face during convalescence, I know that mental preparation is essential.
- Keeping my sense of humour. It strikes me that laughing my way through this unwanted turn of events in my life will make the journey easier. I have learned that calling my cane ‘my new boy friend’, laughing when I forget where I left my cane, joking about the number of medical appointments that I now attend are all helping me to face the inevitable. I know that the loss of personal dignity that comes with surgery, hospital stays and learning techniques of ambulation will offer lots of opportunity for humour.
I’m sure that all readers of this blog have faced health issues and other curve balls. How have you turned the lemons into lemonade and used the event to make your life more rewarding? What strategies were helpful as you moved through difficult period of your life? Please provide your comments and ideas as I will need a lot of help and support in the coming weeks and months. Your comment will also help others who are facing their own curve balls and overcoming unplanned life issues. If you don’t want me to publish your comments, I promise to keep them private.
Thank you for reading this post. If you like my blog, please become a subscriber, email the posts to others or tell others about this blog. I appreciate your interest. Sincerely, Jeanette