Sunday, March 29, 2009

When the shoe is on the other foot

This morning I did something I have never done before. I went quad roller skating.

I have skated on inline skates, and I probably went to roller rink birthday parties as a kid way back when. But this was the first time I ever went to a real roller dance session, with people who take it seriously. I got up at 6 AM on a Sunday to meet Tim, my ice dancing partner, who before switching to ice was a national champion roller dancer, at the roller rink. We decided it was time for me to see things from his perspective.

I met a lot of nice dancers and Tim's roller coach, Joan. Before I even got on the floor, they told me that it was harder to go from ice to roller than vice versa. They said I would not be able to turn. Joan said most ice skaters can't even stand up on the floor. Add to this dismal outlook the fact that I was wearing rental skates - something I wouldn't even consider on ice - and I figured this would be an hour of tortured falling scenarios.

When Tim first started skating on ice, he was gung ho and fearless. There was nothing he wouldn't try. He had no idea that we were pushing him to do really difficult things, and so he just did them with no preconceived notions. I swore I'd do the same on the floor today, and mostly I did. Only I knew we were doing difficult things because we were doing all of our ice dances - the blues, the samba and the Viennese - which are hard even on the ice!

The technique is different enough that certain things I can do in my sleep on ice, such as swing rolls, were extremely difficult on the floor. Without Tim to hold onto I wouldn't have been able to do anything, but hanging on for dear life I was able to do 3 turns and mohawks, or at least sort of hurl myself into turns from forward to back. Nothing was elegant or pretty but I didn't fall down and I didn't throw up, which makes the outing a success per my friend Marilu.

It was actually a blast. Tim taught me some of the roller dances on the fly. I have some new blisters, and a new pair of non-rental roller skates thanks to the kindhearted people at the rink who, after an hour on the rental skates, went home to get me some decent skates they just happened to have sitting in their garage. I think this will be excellent cross training for ice, since I have no choice but to let Tim lead. Also the skates are heavier so I am working the same muscles I need to build up in my legs before surgery. Finally - the roller rink is WARM. I do better if I'm not standing around in the cold. Not that our mall rink is cold, but the other rinks are brutal.

Don't worry ice friends, I am not going to the dark side. But what a challenge to try something similar, but just different enough to make me work hard. We'll see what new aches and pains I wake up with tomorrow.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Searching For Sarah

A bit of good news today from my friend and fellow ice dancer Mike B. A few weeks ago, a woman who used to skate showed up for the social dance session after a long hiatus. It turns out that two years ago she had PERIACETABULAR OSTEOTOMY. That's right, PAO, the same surgery I'm having. And she's back at the rink skating.

I have been searching everywhere for an ice dancer, any ice dancer, who has had PAO. I have found one ballet dancer and a hockey player but that's the closest I've come. The ballet dancer had other issues so I can't compare her outcome to mine, and the hockey player is still recovering from PAO#1 and looking forward to PAO#2, so there isn't much data there (although I was thrilled when she went to the rink and skated a couple of weeks ago).

But now, a figure skater, an actual gold-level ice dancer (per Mike) has walked into the rink and skated post PAO on a day when I wasn't there. Now I just have to find her! A few people know her, I think they know her last name, and will get me the correct spelling so I can look her up. I've put people on the alert that if they see her again, they MUST get her phone number so I can take her to lunch and ask all of the burning questions nobody else can answer.

Questions like how much range of motion did you lose, how long did it take to get your quad strength back, can you do a swing roll, what's your extension like, can you point your toes, can you still bend your knees, do you have more or less turnout, what can you do, what can't you do, oh my, I don't even know where to start with these questions.

Today we did the Austrian Waltz en masse at the social session, and it is so much fun, and I will be at most 8 weeks post PAO (likely still on crutches) when they do it at the dance camp. I know I'll be sitting on the sidelines and that really sucks big time, but at least I get to participate now, thanks to good friends at the rink who are teaching me the partnering. It won't be so bad to sit out in September if I feel I've "been there and done that" already. Right?

Ha! Who am I kidding. Sarah ... where are you???

Friday, March 20, 2009

Caught Red Handed

I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with a throbbing pain in my left hand. I call this malady “cane hand.” Even though the cane handle is padded, there has to be some trauma to my hand due to repetitive use. My guess is this is a pretty common problem. My palm hurts, and my fingers are a bit stiff.

Although my right hip is worse than my left, I sometimes switch the cane to my right hand. Might as well get used to that since at some point I’ll have the left hip done. I am left handed, so I am decidedly more comfortable using the cane with my left hand. Need more practice with the right.

I had an interesting meeting at work yesterday morning. I walked into the conference room where a co-worker and a vendor representative were already meeting. The first thing the vendor representative said was, “you have a cane already!”

“Already?” What did he mean? This man had never met me before in his life. Was it too early in the day for a cane? (“No canes before 11:00 AM!”) Was it too early in the year for a cane? (“No white canes before Memorial Day!”) I am not savvy about the cane timing rules. Perhaps it had something to do with Daylight Savings Time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Countdown

I am getting close to the "three months until surgery" countdown. Up until now my surgery was a thing of the future; nothing to worry about because it was so far away.

As I updated my calendar today, I realized that if my surgery is scheduled for the first week in July (exact date can’t be finalized until May), I have about 3 and a half months left until the day of. And prior to that, a lot of scary things are going to happen in rapid succession such that I really can’t ignore them any more:

~Three autologous blood donations: For someone with tiny rubbery veins, giving any blood is a major trauma. When people say, “it’s just a simple blood donation,” I want to slap them. The thought of giving a pint on three different occasions sounds like 30 minutes of brutal digging around in my inner arms for a reluctant vessel followed by 90 minutes of slow-trickling horror for each donation.

~Physical by my GP: And guess what, they are going to take more blood at this appointment too to make sure I’m healthy. My veins are already retreating deeper into my body in rebellion.

~Pre-certification with insurance: Almost as horrifying as giving blood. I already know the answer is going to be "no" but we're going to ask again just for kicks.

~Pre-operative appointment with hospital/surgeon: They go over what to expect in surgery, I sign a bunch of papers, they take final x-rays, etc. I don’t think they take any more blood, but perhaps the joke will be on me. As I see it, this is my last chance to chicken out.

~Packing for hospital: Packing is not my forte as I’ve never mastered the concept of “traveling light.” Based on the advice of other hipchicks, I don’t think I need much. Ipod, hygiene items and something to wear home that is a size “large,” since I’ll be all swollen, should do it. I think underwear is optional in the hospital so I'm going al fresco. That should keep the mean physical therapists away.

~Checking in for surgery: The first thing they will do is insert an IV to sedate me. Enough with the veins already! Good luck finding one! HAHAHAHAHA!

(As you can see, my attitude needs a bit of adjusting over the next several months.)

I have been staring at my right upper leg a lot while in the shower or otherwise undressed. Taking a good gander at what it looks like now, before the big scar that I’ll wear forever after July. Not that my leg is so great looking now, but I have this nostalgic urge to take a picture for posterity. I’m not sure why it’s so important for me to document my pre-surgery body; I never wanted documentation of it before. It's not something I'll post on the blog since it feels too personal. However, once it's all cut open and gross, it's fair game for posting. So you can all look forward to gory scar photos galore - that's a promise.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Susie Homemaker I am not.

It's not for lack of good intentions. I like clean surroundings. But sometimes I get involved in other things and forget to vacuum for longer than I should. I can and do live with a little dust now and then - OK, pretty much all the time. I own enough underwear to get through an extended period without doing laundry. And I can eat leftovers for several days to avoid cooking.

My mother-in-law asked me if I was going to hire in help while I was recovering from surgery. I gave this some serious consideration, but I do wonder if I will even care if the house is clean when I'm confined to a CPM machine and the couch. Why would I want the house to be cleaner than normal if I am going to be spending time sitting around? A few dust bunnies are not going to trip me up. And I certainly don't want someone cooking for me if I'm not going to be exercising. A starvation diet is probably the only way I will come out on the other side of all this with some hint of my girlish figure.

She also asked me if I had any hobbies, since I will be sitting around a lot and won't be able to do much. She qualified this by saying "sedentary" hobbies, but I know what she really meant. That's right, she meant "non-skating-related" hobbies. Because I do have hobbies as you all know. I skate. I judge. I sew costumes for skating. I cut music for skating. I do off-ice training for skating. I am on several committees for skating. Those are my hobbies.

I don't play cards and I don't do crafts, and we've already established that I don't cook except when absolutely necessary to avoid starvation. I don't really like to watch movies other than classics, and I've seen all of those. I do like to read, but I have a feeling in the early days post-PAO I might be on so many drugs that reading will be too taxing.

So I decided to find a sedentary, non-skating-related hobby that requires little thought. Something I can do to avoid boredom after surgery. Being practical, it had to be something with a tangible outcome. And I came up with ... knitting. On the Internet, it is touted as a "relaxing hobby that anyone can learn." It's inexpensive and has a tangible outcome. I love scarves, so why not knit a few? Perhaps I can even learn to make gloves and legwarmers, but then this becomes "skating related," so I guess I better stick to scarves.

I decided to learn now so that I'll be an expert in several months and will be able to knit successfully even while drugged. My mother-in-law happily gave me a bag full of "scrap" yarn in various colors not commonly found in nature, such as bright pink, neon orange and aqua. ("Hmmm, I thought, these colors are good for only one thing really -- skating costumes, particularly the Latin international dances." But I digress.)

I have learned a few things about knitting in the past couple of days. First, knitting and cats don't mix. My cat thought the ball of yarn was HERS, not MINE, and didn't understand that tangling the yarn was not helpful. Second, some left-handed people like me don't catch on to knitting very well. I finally had to come up with my own stitches, which are upside down and backwards, after watching the video several times and ending up with a knotted mess. The good news -- once I came up with my own backwardass technique, it started to work, and I'm now well on my way to owning a bright pink potholder/scarf/not sure what yet.

(Hmmmmmmm, my own backwardass technique. Sounds just a little too much like skating to me.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's the economy, stupid

Today I went to the rink and solo'd the Austrian, Cha Cha Congelado, and Ravensburger. I made up a new hydroblade/lunge move which I think is sort of cool. It's pretty much business as usual on the ice now that I'm into the Aleve. The minute I get off the ice my hips remind me that I can't walk very well, but for that hour at lunchtime I am just another skater on the ice.

Tonight we filled out the paperwork to refinance our house in order to take out enough money to pay for two PAO surgeries. Now is the right time - rates ticked down today, we are both employed, and our house is probably losing value on paper every day.

I've decided not to buy new boots. They are a "want" and not a "need," and in this economy that's a key distinction. When you are paying for surgical reconstruction of your body parts, there aren't many other things you can justify needing quite as much.

Monday, March 9, 2009

You might be dysplastic if ...

1. You are under 30 and own a walker, a raised toilet seat and a hip kit.
2. You have said, "it's not a hip replacement, they are breaking my pelvis" more than once in the same day.
3. You are adept at doing the "fist in hand" demonstration of a what a normal hip looks like, followed by what YOURS looks like, followed by how the surgeon will correct it.
4. While carving a turkey, you take the opportunity to demonstrate for your guests how periacetabular osteotomy works using the carving knife, said turkey, and a few screws from the junk drawer in the kitchen. You end up ordering pizza.
5. You are the youngest person in your aquatherapy class.
6. You are the oldest patient at the children's hospital.
7. Before going on any outing you ask, "how far will I have to walk?"
8. You can spell "iliopsoas" and "trochanter."
9. Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow. You have hundreds of words for hip pain: snapping, grinding, tin foil, popping, giving way, ripping, tearing, shredding, burning ...
10. Even though you got a "C" in high school biology, you can name and describe the function of every muscle, tendon and bone between your belly button and your knee cap.
11. You practice sleeping on your back so that you'll be ready for the weeks post surgery.
12. You are a woman but you say the word "groin" a lot.
13. You have posted a picture of yourself in a hospital gown on the internet.
14. You have posted pictures of your incision, your x-rays, your hardware, or your surgeon on the internet.
15. You've refinanced your house and/or cashed out your retirement accounts just in case you have to pay for a surgery which your insurance company may, at the last minute, deem "not medically necessary."
16. You have a blog which you update hourly (first week post diagnosis), obsessively (in the months leading up to surgery), daily (the week before surgery), daily with help from a family member or nurse (from the time the epidural comes out until you leave the hospital), bi-weekly (from the time you leave the hospital until you get to throw the damn crutches away), then twice monthly until such time as you just want to get on with your life again. You then update the blog one year after surgery with a picture of your healed incision. Unless ... you need surgery on the other side; if so, repeat.

Carried away ...

I participated in the Phillip Mills choreography seminar on Sunday morning (representing adult skaters, along with two other brave young-at-heart ladies, in the large group of kids), followed by ice dancing for an hour. Today I am definitely feeling the pain, but sometimes you just have to say "what the fuck."

Amped up as I was on Aleve, I did 3 flip jumps (yeah I know, really dumb idea, but I was having so much fun that when the kids jumped, I jumped too) and a toe loop (barely counts as a jump, come on). Then there were a number of spins. It was really a fun seminar and made me feel better, emotionally, that I can still participate. What happens in the rink stays in the rink, and Dr. Mayo does not need to know about this!!

I should have quit there, but the hour of ice dancing after was just icing on the cake, and I worked on some of the partnering for the Austrian Waltz with Bob R. This is the dance we will be doing at the High Dance Camp this year ... well, not technically "we," because "I" will be on crutches ... but I will be dancing along from the sidelines. Depending on when my surgery is scheduled I'll be at most 8 or 9 weeks post-PAO, so I know there is no miracle of modern science that will allow me to skate by then. I really like the Austrian so I'm sad that I'll miss this year. However, I'd be sad to miss any year. I will certainly lobby hard for the Ravensburger Waltz for 2010's dance camp -- that will motivate me to be rehabbed and ready by then.

(My skating readers know what I'm talking about when I say Austrian Waltz, but for my hip sisters, here's a rendition of the dance done at Nationals a couple of years back.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


So it has been almost two months since Tim and I last skated. Last time he was weak and I was in pain and it was a wonder we stayed vertical. Today I was on pain killers and he looked tan and fit, so we ran through our erstwhile competition dances, the Viennese Waltz and Silver Samba, and also the choreography for our free dance just to see if we remembered it. We even walked through the Ravensburger Waltz.

The last time we skated Tim didn't have the strength to lift me - in fact he could barely lift himself. Today we did our spread eagle lift as easy as ever, with only slight pain in my hip, thanks to those great pain killers. I swear, he must have been skating these past 2 months when I wasn't looking, because he was none the worse for wear. I was actually able to put weight on my legs thanks to these groovy meds. We skated really well. It was almost as if we had been ... practicing. But neither of us has really skated since early January.

Perhaps practicing is overrated.

A former dance coach, David S., caught up with us in the parking lot and told us he liked our Samba and Viennese. He had been shopping in the mall and unknown to us, saw us skating. He didn't know who we were since he quit coaching about the time I moved back to Portland, but I knew who he was. He thought we looked good! It's nice to know we haven't lost everything. It's nice to know our dances are still recognizable! Another adult freestyle skater also said we looked good and asked if we were competing. Sigh.

It was really fun to skate with Tim again; I've missed it. It's nice to have someone to hold me up since I'm not so good at doing that myself any more. We are going to skate for fun now and then and see what happens. Who knows, we might even tackle the Austrian Waltz so Tim can skate the high dance camp when I'm out of commission!

I'm also thinking of buying the new boots I desperately need. I figure I can break them in now, and if I buy them it will be all the more reason to get back on the ice after surgery. Something to look forward to, actual dance boots vs. these broken down freestyle monstrosities. But I'm not sure I really want to spend the money. What if, after surgery, I am unable to skate, and I'm stuck with brand new boots? Sigh again. There are worse dilemmas to have.