No more expecting the worst

When I woke up this morning, I had anticipated getting so much more done including writing a different blog entry than this; one that included a short new video. Instead, all I managed to check off my list was a physical therapy appointment, grocery shopping and a very messy appliance change with an uncooperative stoma which led to extra laundry and some other clean-up duties. So much for expectations!

One good unexpected thing that happened today was that I got my hip MRI results. I didn’t think I would find out what the test revealed until tomorrow. My primary care doctor told me that the radiology report showed some tendinosis in the joint, but no avascular necrosis. Before I throw a huge party, she does want my orthopedic doctor to also look at the MRI to make sure he concurs with the findings. Still, I am hugely relieved by the news as I would think it would be pretty unlikely that something wasn’t caught in the MRI.

I realize through all my recent hip pain woes,  I was hoping for the best, but preparing for and anticipating the worst. The pain in my hip has felt exactly like the AVN in my shoulder and I was really dreading getting the MRI results because I was almost certain they would say that I had developed the disease in another joint. Every research study I could find on steroid-induced shoulder AVN said that it was common for  it to also show up in the hip joint. How could my worsening hip pain not be caused by AVN? It seemed like a given and yet it turns out this is not the problem. The ironic thing is that I originally thought my shoulder issue was tendonitis and it ended up being AVN.  Now I was sure the hip problem had to be AVN, and here it is likely tendonitis!  Again, so much for expectations.

More and more I am finding that trying to anticipate what is going to happen with my health conditions is completely futile. I have always found it to be very important to research my health issues in order to make the best decisions possible regarding treatment options, but at some point I have also found it necessary to surrender to the many unknowns and simply put my trust in my doctors.

I have come across so many stories of people whose AVN has been missed in tests, so of course I start to wonder if that could end up being me. However, it makes me miserable to constantly speculate over whether or not things are being treated correctly, or whether or not I am doing absolutely everything I can to control the outcome of a disease. I went through this with my ulcerative colitis. There was always one more opinion I should get… one more diet I should go on… one more try this.  Eventually all that wondering just got to be too much for me. I am at that point with the avascular necrosis. My biggest hope right now is to simply find a doctor I am comfortable with for this condition. I have an appointment with another orthopedic doctor soon who was highly recommended to me to get another take on my AVN case, but once I consult with him, I am going to ride this out and see what happens.

From now on, instead of hoping for the best, but expecting the worst, I am going to try to hope for the best and trust that everything will somehow work out.

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Next time?

Wow! That looks like fun I thought as I gazed up at The Ridge at Loveland ski area on Sunday and saw three skiers floating down an area of untracked powder. If only we had time to get up there. Doug and I were planning on leaving the ski area early to avoid the nightmare traffic jams that always happen on ski weekends when everyone is trying to get back home to Colorado’s Front Range. Getting to the area where these people had been skiing involved signing a waiver down at the lift ticket office and then riding the new Loveland Ridge Cat. We figured it would take at least an hour to get our pass and then ride all the necessary lifts to get to the area where the snowcat picked skiers up. Not to mention that the snowcat stopped operating at 2:30 p.m. We would really have to rush to catch the last ride.

That seemed like a lot to do for one run, and I almost shrugged it off  thinking it wasn’t worth the hassle. Anyway, we had passes to the ski area and there was always next time, right?

As I sat there in the snow looking up at the snowy ridge, I had this horrible nagging feeling that maybe there wouldn’t be a next time to do that run. I hate having depressing thoughts like that, and I really do try to stay positive as much as I can. However, sometimes the downer feelings sneak in and this was one of those times.

This Thursday, I am going in for an MRI of my left hip. I have been experiencing a rapid worsening of pain in the joint. What started out as a dull ache in the beginning of January has now changed to a sharp pain whenever I lift my leg in a certain position. The joint is starting to hurt when I walk and it feels alarmingly like the avascular necrosis (AVN) in my shoulder. Though I am definitely staying hopeful, I am also scared of what the MRI might reveal. If the results came back showing AVN, I am pretty sure snowboarding black diamond runs on The Ridge would be out of the question.

I suddenly had this incredible drive to get up there and to the run right away. There was no time to waste! Who cared about getting stuck in traffic. Doug and I raced down the mountain, got our passes for the Ridge Cat and made our way up the lifts to the loading zone for the vehicle.

This isn’t the first time since being diagnosed with AVN that I have had these sorts of thoughts. Last Friday I went to a two-hour Zumba dance party at my gym. Doing salsa moves, jumping around and swinging my hips was so much fun, and I smiled the entire time. Still, the dreaded thought once again entered my head: Would this be the last time I would get to dance so hard? Just in case, I closed my eyes and focused on the lovely sensation of my body moving to the music. Don’t ever forget how amazing this is I thought.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the rock climbing gym. My orthopedic surgeon had said it was okay to still climb as long as I followed some restrictions, avoided doing anything that elicited pain, and didn’t push too hard. I started tentatively–not knowing how my shoulder would handle things. Soon I realized that if I only climbed with my arms in front of me and did not do any moves where I was reaching far out to the side or back, I was fine. On the last climb of the day, I paid close attention to how strong and powerful I felt when to reaching up for a hold and making my way to the next one. Would there be a time in the near future when I couldn’t remember what that felt like due to decreased mobility?

First time climbing after my avascular necrosis diagnosis and still going strong.
My first time climbing after my avascular necrosis diagnosis. I was being cautious, but still felt strong.

On New Year’s Eve, I went ice skating with my brother-in-law’s family. As everyone went back to the warming room to take off their skates, I stayed behind and did a few laps. Once again I closed my eyes and tuned into the feeling of my legs gliding over the ice hoping to commit it to memory in the event that I wouldn’t be able to do it again.

Ice skating on New Year's Eve.
Ice skating on New Year’s Eve.

As I sat on The Ridge looking out at the gorgeous snow-capped peaks in the distance, I thought back to the climbing, ice skating and zumba instances and once again wondered if this was the last time I would be clicking my boots into my bindings and flying down a black diamond run. Sure, these thoughts were rather melancholy and I wished I could have been thinking about happier things. However, there was one silver lining to having these feelings: they made me want to soak up the moment and savor every bit of joy that was found there.

I tilted my board towards the fall line and began to slide down the slope. As I picked up speed, I listened to the wind rush past my ears and felt snow crystals touch my smiling cheeks. I felt my body turn into this amazingly coordinated machine and bend and sway with the subtle nuances of the terrain. With years of practice, it knew the exact pressure I needed to exert on the board to make it arc gracefully through the powder. I felt the sensations in my feet as I rolled from my heel-side edge to toe-side and heard the noise of my board slicing its way through the snow. I felt agile, giggly and content and wished that slope could have gone on for at least ten more miles.

I don’t know what Thursday’s test will reveal. Maybe I will have AVN in my hip. Perhaps the pain is just from a tweaked tendon. Whatever the results–that was one heck of a snowboard ride! Perhaps we all need to delight in those amazing moments as if there will be no next time.

Boarding the Loveland Ridge Cat
Boarding the Loveland Ridge Cat.
Unloading from the Ridge Cat. The individual behind me had just reminded us that all the terrain served by the snowcat was expert only. No turning back now!
Eagerly anticipating the run. The individual behind me had just reminded us that all the terrain served by the snowcat was expert-only. No turning back now!

The Phoenix magazine now available online

Beyond great doctors and following the treatment plans they prescribe, one of the things I find most important when dealing with difficult medical conditions is maintaining a sense of hope.  I simply have to be able to believe that the possibility of a good outcome exists, even if I know the road to get there might not be easy or certain. When I was facing ostomy surgery, one of my biggest sources of hope was The Phoenix magazine, the official publication of the nonprofit United Ostomy Associations of America. The minute I stumbled upon it online, I subscribed and bought all the back issues. I eagerly read every word of every issue. Along with a vast array of educational articles about products and managing an ostomy, there were countless inspirational stories about people with ostomies who were out there living life to the fullest. I learned about a woman who had hiked the Appalachian Trail and another who had visited China. I found out about a climbing guide in Alaska who had an ostomy and another individual who had climbed Everest. Reading about these people was as important as figuring out how to get my wafer to stick: they allowed me to visualize what my life could be like in the future. They gave me hope.

Last fall, I began contributing to The Phoenix myself by wring the quarterly Ostomy Outdoors column. This is certainly something I never would have visualized as being part of my future while lying in my hospital bed a couple of years ago! Life is full of beautiful surprises and being able to help people through the same magazine that provided so much inspiration for me is humbling.

Whether you are facing surgery, just recovering, or a seasoned ostomate, each issue is full of great articles on supplies, skin care, stories about others who have had ostomy surgery and so many other topics. And now it is even easier to view the publication! The UOAA is offering an online subscription for only $19.95. Find out more information and get a free preview of the online winter issue at the following link.

And speaking of hope — I hope to never let a season go by where The Phoenix doesn’t show up in my mailbox. It is such an invaluable resource for me.

Phoenix-post-web-version
The Phoenix magazine is as important as wafers, pouches and barrier rings when it comes to my life with an ostomy.