Thursday, January 15, 2009

Welcome to VEGAS, bay-beeeeeeeee!!!

In May, Perry is making the annual trek to Vegas for the International Council of Shopping Centers Convention. (This is far superior to the annual trek he used to make with his prior employer to "World Of Concrete." Trust me, the shopping center people give much better trade show swag than the concrete people.)

I am accompanying him since the date coincides with our anniversary, and we're staying in a really nice hotel. We're also going all out with the shows - I'm talking Cher, "O", and Tom Jones. (Go ahead, scoff if you must, but I know you're all jealous. It's Vegas!)

We'll be eating in some fantabulous dining establishments (and I don't mean the all-you-can-eat buffets). Plus I love the desert sun, and while I'm not a gambler, I might try to recoup some of what I've lost in my 401(k) at the nickel slots while Perry is at the trade show.

When I signed up to go to Vegas I was looking forward to a good time. But by May, walking may be something I do only in one-minute increments. I've already gotten to the point where I call in to meetings that happen in the building across the street. Since Perry does most of the grocery shopping I have not yet had the supermarket scooter experience, but I'm sure it's in my near future. I never leave home without a cane.

So you'd think it would be no big deal to see the e-mail confirmation from our hotel:

"Dear Mr. Levine,
Your wife's wheelchair will be ready on (date) ..."

Ouch. That's how I feel about cruising the strip with the top down ... in my shiny geriatric chair. That's right, me and all the other "mature" ladies who hang out in Vegas, although I have a feeling most of them are going to be more mobile than I will be. And suddenly this is not sounding like such a fun vacation any more.

Although I do think I am eligible for priority seating at the Tom Jones show.

It's the standing, stupid

While working out last night, I was reminded of my lifelong disgust with myself for never being able to “get fit.” No matter how much I worked out, it seemed my leg muscles would never get used to exercise and my legs always tired quickly and started to ache.

When I lived in Colorado, in my 30’s, I walked 3 to 5 miles every day in my hilly neighborhood. Since I lived on a mountain this was also a way to see wildlife and enjoy the outdoors. I was already athletic so walking seemed easy in some ways – I didn’t get out of breath – but my legs hurt while I was walking and after. So I figured I needed to just keep walking and over time my muscles would build up to the task and the pain would stop.

I walked for 4 years, after buying the latest in cushioned walking shoes, and I walked on dirt trails which I realize now were softer and better for my hips than concrete, but my “muscles” never stopped hurting. The same thing happened if I went to an aerobics class, or did any kind of high impact cardio training. I cursed myself for being such a weenie and just did it anyway. I trained harder, hoping that would do it. I always wondered why everyone else was in better shape (meaning able to walk just fine) without even trying.

When I started skating again I had the same achy leg issues, but put them firmly in the back of my mind. It always bothered me that despite all of that exercise it never got better and I was still “out of shape.” When I tested or competed I had to be very careful not to warm up much so that my legs wouldn’t be “dead” by the time I performed. It was hard for me to reconcile that I just didn’t have any stamina in my legs, although my lungs were fine. I learned how to conserve my energy for when it was needed.

Last night I was doing some standing leg exercises. The leg doing the weight lifting was fine. But the leg I was standing on, putting all my weight on in fact, instantly had that same “muscle” pain and tiredness I used to get. I realize now based on the location of the pain that it wasn’t my muscles that were aching at all. It was my femur bone slamming into my acetabulum that was causing the pain, because my acetabulum doesn’t cover the femur properly. So, all my life, all of my weight has been borne by a very small part of the bone. No amount of training was going to make that pain go away. I just trained myself to ignore it.

I am glad the mystery is solved. It will be nice to some day be able to stand on my leg and have the weight of my body correctly distributed over a larger surface area so I won’t have that aching tired sensation. When both surgeries/recoveries are over I’ll be almost 50 years old, and if all goes well I may just be able to stand and walk normally for the first time in my life.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

End of season

Tim and I decided today not to compete in April. The deadline for entries is tomorrow, and so now was the time for such a decision. It's actually not my hips that are causing this decision, but Tim has also been quite sick. Our decision actually has more to do with his health than mine, since he faces a long recovery period to get his strength back. I face a downhill slide with decreasing abilities, followed by surgery, followed by a long and painful recovery. Times two of course. But right now I still feel OK to skate 2 compulsories and a free dance.

It's the right decision for us and in some ways I'm relieved, because I had no way of knowing when my decline might become overwhelming, forcing us to drop out. Better to do so now before costumes are sewn, plane tickets are purchased, and our competition relies on us to be there.

We sat out last year due to Tim's severed achilles. We'll sit out this year. And we'll sit out next year because of my hip surgeries. Some teams would look at this track record and simply retire, but we really love skating as a team too much to consider doing that. I could find no better ice dancing partner. Our first and only competitive season was just a beginning, and we're not ready for an end yet. We feel like we have not yet had the chance to show what we can really do. So while I can't promise we'll be back, I know we'll make every attempt to do so.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I skated by myself today because Tim is sick. I have found the perfect piece of music to use for solo interpretive. It is sad, yet hopeful, reflecting my mood of late.

I have been toying with this music for some time now, doing a bit of choreography each time I skate by myself. I'm to the point where I feel it would really convey the emotions I'm feeling, and I'm tempted to enter the interpretive event at Nationals in April. But I know that it's going to take every bit of my mental and physical energy and focus to compete in the gold dance event with Tim, and that's my first priority.

I've gone back and forth in my mind - "compete in interpretive" ... "don't compete in interpretive" - and with the deadline for entries being next week, it's forced a decision. As much as I want to do it, I am not going to enter the event. I think I'll save this music and this choreography to do after I've had both of my surgeries and recovered.

I realize that for various reasons, it may never happen. But it does give me something to plan for and perhaps will provide some post-surgerical motivation when I'm hating my physical therapist and rebelling against another lap in the pool.

We'll all have to be patient, but if all goes as planned I'll debut the progam in April of 2011. Please mark your calendars.

Pity the runners

I pity anyone who has hip dysplasia and runs. I am not a runner myself - I never liked to run, and never was any good at it, and now with chronic hip issues I will probably never run another step in my life. But I know that runners are just as committed to running as skaters are to skating. It becomes more than a form of exercise, but a way of life. Similar to skaters, runners also socialize with other runners and find it to be great stress relief and escape from the daily grind. So it would be very painful emotionally to give up running.

Skating can be high impact if one does freestyle. The constant jump landings put pressure on the hip joint as well as the knees, ankles and back. I skated freestyle as a kid (heaven knows how I was able to do so with these wonky hips), but now I ice dance. While ice dancing is athletically rigorous in ways that aren't apparent to the casual observer, it has a much lower impact on the hips than freestyle skating or running. So, while I have been told ice dancing is a no-no for me, I justify it as part of my existence because I consider it "low impact" and it hurts me less than walking.

If I were a runner I would not have that option. Recently several posters on the Hipwomen Yahoo Group have talked about how difficult it is to give up running. I can absolutely relate. I am afraid that for those gals, giving up running will be permanent, even after successful surgery. It's just too risky to put an already compromised hip back into a high impact environment. I know that some of them do run again post PAO, but it's rare.

I am prepared to retire from ice dancing post PAO if I'm unable to get my strength, balance, and/or range of motion back. Some or all of these outcomes are possible. I am hopeful that with enough hard work in the gym and a good physical therapist I'll be able to get back on the ice post PAO. I have given it a lot of thought ... what will I do to replace skating if that occurs? What other activity that I could possibly do post PAO combines movement and music and speed and grace and working with a partner? Or even a subset of the above? I don't have an answer yet.

My heart goes out to the poor runners, who almost certainly must find something else to replace their activity of choice. There is nothing I can say, other than that I feel their pain, with every step I take.