I’ve always said that hindsight is 20/20. In SO many parts of my life, this has been the case. Everything that happens is part of a plan that God has for me. It’s hard to swallow sometimes while things are happening, but in the end, it almost always seems to make sense. I’ve also realized that my God has a sense of humor ;-). I make plans, He laughs! So no more plans for this girl!
Moving on. I found myself telling a new friend and fellow Nerium Brand Partner my story Saturday night, and typing everything out from start to finish. (You know who you are, and thank you so much for wanting to hear it! It’s a long one…) As I was typing, I started to see the pieces fitting together and falling into place. I was filling in the blanks where it never made sense before. It seems absolutely batshit crazy that I will have had 5 orthopedic surgeries by the age of 32! People are probably starting to wonder if I just really like having surgeries! (Well, I actually love it if it means I will get back to being healthy and have my life back again! Other than that, I didn’t just wake up one day and decide that it sounded like fun to have both hamstrings taken off the bone and put back on. Who does that?)
Some of you know this story from the beginning, and some only know part of it. Every time someone asks me how I injured myself, I laugh! Well, how much time do you have? So I thought it would be cool to tell my story from the very beginning up to where I am at now, so I don’t have to take up too much of anyone’s time when they want to know the whole story.
I’m not done with my surgeries yet, (God willing one more to go!) but I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a pinhole, but it’s still a light. I have a very good sense for when things are right, and when something is missing. My gut feeling for the last couple of months has been that there is still a piece of the puzzle missing. I even kept saying it to LaRissa and Garrett at PT. I didn’t know exactly what it was or how we would have to deal with it, but there was just something. Something still wasn’t right with my body. I have a good feeling about these last two surgeries. As I will explain later, I have always has issues with both hamstring attachments. These surgeries are addressing this exact spot. So let me go ahead and get into the story.
I was a dancer and cheerleader from the time I was 6 years old, and ended up ultimately dancing through high school and college. During my senior year of high school and freshman year of college on the Purdue Dance Team, I had major issues with my hamstrings. I hyperextended leaps and jumps, forced kicks higher than they should’ve been regardless of whether or not I was properly stretched at the moment, and didn’t stop when my body was telling me to. (Sound familiar you guys?) The pain went back and forth from one leg to the other, and I would switch my leaps to my good leg to compensate. I became good at leaps on both legs pretty quickly! I would not let it slow me down, but at the same time I was just ruining my body.
Back in the good old days at Purdue
So when I stopped dancing, I eventually stopped working out altogether. For probably 6 or 7 years, I never worked out consistently. I would start to, and then stop. I gradually gained weight from all of the alcohol and unhealthy food I was consuming, and got up to 155lbs. As a result, I never did anything that aggravated my hamstrings. Most of you already know this, but I am in recovery from alcoholism, and I’ve been sober for about 4.5 years (that is a story for another time.) After getting sober in 2010, I started becoming active again. I started hiking, then running, then running a 5K and a 10K, and eventually, 5 half marathons, Ragnar, and was trained for NYC marathon in 2012. Unfortunately, I never got to run 26.2, because we got to NYC to find out the race had been cancelled 30 minutes after we arrived at the hotel. (Hurricane Sandy.) I paid for that race three times and still haven’t been able to run it. Again, I make plans and see what happens?
Team BTB in Central Park the day before the race was supposed to have happened.
Over the course of my running career, I dropped about 40 pounds. I fell in love with running. I even joined BTB (Believe Train Become) and trained with Susan Loken. I was on a running team! It became what I did to blow off steam, and keep me sane. It was my release. It was therapy. I’m a pharmacist, and my job is stressful. I need that to stay sane! Running didn’t just help my health, it made me happy. It became a part of who I was (and still am.) It’s also part of what my blog is built on. I used to blog about my training, races, and everything that went along with them. You guys get it. Running is not just exercise for me.
This picture is from the Kentucky Derby Festival half marathon in 2013.
The happiness I’m showing is so genuine, as I am approaching my family
who finally got to come and support me at a race for the first time.
It was such an amazing feeling to have my family there and to run in my hometown!
This is by far my favorite race picture :-).
I re-aggravated my hamstring on the right side in December 2012 while doing sprints, and it has gone downhill ever since. I ended up running on it for 6 months before I finally threw in the towel. I would take a few weeks off here and there, but I knew if I didn’t stop running completely, I would never get better. Shortly after that, I sealed the deal doing strength training with my coach by tearing my right proximal hamstring tendon (partial tear.) My hamstrings just weren’t strong enough, and were too damaged to have been doing that kind of intense strength training. All the while, I thought I was helping myself.
The week after that happened, I had to stop working. I had to start sitting during my shift, because it hurt to stand for long periods of time. If anyone knows retail pharmacy, sitting is not in the job description. I took a long weekend plus a few sick days, and had no improvement. I even had burning pain going down my right leg. I ended up having to go out on disability. I saw two different doctors. The second doctor did an MRI and it showed nothing, according to the doctor that read it. I knew that was impossible, because there was so much pain that there HAD to be something wrong! In the end, the ultrasound is what finally ended up showing the partial tear. I also had bilateral trochanteric bursitis, inflammation of and scar tissue on both piriformis muscles, and something else not so severe that I can’t even remember. This was the best news I’d had in a long time! I went so long being told I just had tendinitis and getting treated with dry needling, grastin, rest, you name it, that having a definitive diagnosis was such a relief! Still, nothing worked. Do you know how much I rested that summer?? It hurt to get up and stand in the kitchen to make myself a salad for lunch! I stopped driving because it hurt to extend my leg and press on the pedals! My doctor and I decided to proceed with PRP injections (platelet rich plasma) to try and get the tendon to heal faster. FYI, PRP is not covered by insurance, and costs about $800. Awesome. It was my only hope at the time, though, so I did it. One and a half to two months later, I was still in pain.
I remember when I found Dr Guanche. I was laying in bed in pain one night, and thinking to myself, I am seriously just laying here, and I am still hurting. Something has to give! I can’t continue living like this and not getting better! My body was failing me, and no one knew what to do about it. No one could help me. I felt like I didn’t trust the healthcare system anymore. Even my ortho here in AZ told me he didn’t know what to do with me at that point. (I like him still to this day, and appreciate his honesty!) So I decided to take control of the situation, and become my own advocate. (Type A much?? lol) I googled partial hamstring tear surgical repair, and found a journal article describing exactly what I had, and exactly how to fix it! I Googled Carlos Guanche, and saw that he practiced in the LA area. I took a leap of faith, contacted his office, sent my records and MRI’s out to LA, and waited for him to look through everything. It turned out I needed surgery on both legs. So in February and April, I had scar tissue removed from both piriformis muscles, and trochanteric bursectomies on each side. There was so much scar tissue on my right piriformis encasing the sciatic nerve that it was aggravating it, and causing the burning that radiated down my leg. He also planned to repair the tendon tear on the right side, but it wasn’t there. The PRP injections actually worked!
After the second surgery, I still had significant pain in my right leg. The pain was in the same place as it was before, plus, my hip popped when I lifted my knee to my chest. He decided to have an MR arthrogram done, which is where they do an MRI with contrast injected into the hip joint itself. That was the weirdest feeling. It was not fun. They go in with a 3 inch needle from the front and fill up the joint with contrast. Anyway, the MRI showed a labral tear and an impingement (both cam and pincer lesions.) This was never apparent previously, because I had never had an MRI with contrast. So I had a third surgery to repair that. (These first three surgeries were arthroscopic.)
I started physical therapy right away when I got back to Arizona. I progressed a lot over the next 12 weeks. I got to go back to work on August 8th, which was incredible! I continued PT for the next couple of months, knowing that I had a lot of work ahead of me to get back to my normal active self again. I graduated to running on the AlterG sometime in September, which was awesome! I ran twice at 50-60% bodyweight, and had to stop after about 10 minutes of the second session. I was heartbroken. I knew that pain. It was still the same pain, weakness, unstable, pulling apart feeling that I always had at both hamstring attachment sites. At that point, LaRissa asked me if I would be willing to go back to the doctor and get checked out again. I didn’t want to have to travel back to LA, since it would be really hard with work, so I tried to get in with a hip specialist here in Arizona hoping it would be something they could fix. The doctor refused to see me, because Dr Guanche is literally one of the best in the nation at what he does, and I needed to go back to him. I already knew this, and I should’ve just done that in the first place. I just couldn’t fathom having to go back out to LA and do all of this over again! I was just back at work and doing well!! (Well, minus the pain I had standing after I had to stop running on the AlterG.)
So i jumped on a plane to LA to see Dr Guanche again. He said that my most recent MRI didn’t show damage where I was having pain. He said that the labrum looked good, and that I only had a little bit of inflammation of the right gluteus medius, which is normal having had the previous surgeries. I broke down in tears. I told him that there is still something seriously wrong, and that all I want is for it to get fixed. He decided to bring in the ultrasound machine and check the hamstring attachment sites that way. He saw evidence of damage in a few spots along the ischium (sit bone) on both sides, but ironically more on the left side. He ultimately suggested an open repair of that area given the amount of pain I am having, and the evidence of damage on the ultrasound. He had actually said in an email prior to my appointment that given the amount of sciatic nerve involvement I had on both sides before the first two surgeries, he was surprised I was still having these symptoms, but I may just one of those patients that needs EVERYTHING fixed. Low and behold, it all makes sense now. I really did jack up my hamstrings SO badly in college that I need both attachment sites repaired. Although there were clearly other issues, we couldn’t get away with only fixing those, and not addressing this. If I ever wanted to truly be back to an active lifestyle and pain-free standing at work, I needed to “suck it up buttercup” and get these last two surgeries done.
In a nutshell, what an open hamstring repair with ischial bursectomy (which was surgery #4 and will be surgery #5 on the left leg) is, is the hamstring is removed from the bone, unhealthy tissue removed and cleaned out, and hamstring is reattached to healthy bone. So yeah. That’s why I’m in a 90 degree knee brace and 100% non-weightbearing for at least 4-6 weeks. After 4 weeks, we will extend the brace by about 15 degrees each week until it is straight. As the brace extends and my foot gets closer to the ground, I can start to incorporate toe touch weight bearing as tolerated. I really hope I am able to go back to work between 8-10 weeks, and not 12 weeks. Yet again, though, not up to me. It will be at least 4 months before I can start trying to run again. I am planning on having the last surgery in March. Again, I feel good about this. They were able to get me in almost immediately for the 4th surgery. My parents dropped everything to fly out, take me there and take care of me. I am beyond grateful to them for doing that!! We had so much fun watching Louisville football and basketball at my house those weekends! Too ironic that we would get to watch one of each together!
I am now two weeks post-op as of today, and doing well considering the circumstances! I seriously have the best friends a girl could ever ask for! They have taken me places, cooked for me, come over to hang out, brought me FroYo, let me vent to them non-stop about crap that is bothering me, taken my garbage cans out and brought them back in, among other things. I also have the best physical therapists and techs ever! It just doesn’t feel right not hanging out at Spooner at least a few times a week. I can’t wait to start PT again!!
I know this was long, and if you’re still reading at this point, you rock!! I feel like I have told this story SO many times, and it continues to evolve as I put together more pieces of the puzzle. Now it is “on paper” and if anyone really wants the full version, I can just guide them here! Plus, for all those wondering about any aspect of my journey, it’s all here. Thanks for being so awesome! I love sharing my stories with y’all, and hopefully inspiring some of you along the way to never give up. I’m staying positive and hopeful, because that’s really the only way to be after everything that has happened. Injuries are very humbling, and they teach patience. It’s not always fun, but I am growing through this, and will come out that much stronger when all is said and done.
I hope to be back in due time writing about my running, training, cycling, swimming, and hopefully triathlon-ing! For now, I’ll just keep the recipes and tutorials coming :-).
Have an awesome week and stay positive!!