I leaned my head back,

I looked at your lips.

Unsure what I want – 

Perhaps just a kiss?

Maybe your eyes

Were telling the truth

That way deep inside,

You wanted it, too.

Despite, there we stayed

With nothing to say

An empty I can’t,

But thinking Please Stay.

If only we knew

What life had in store,

Then maybe we’d lean

Just a little bit more.

I reached out my hand,

But it was too late.

This wasn’t a night out

It wasn’t a date.

Perhaps it was timing

That wasn’t our friend. 

Perhaps it was that distance 

That forced our end.


Digital Pop Art by me. Art Instagram: @anuarrt

I wrote this when I was still barely bending my knee. I wasn’t in a very good place mentally during this time. I hope my story of getting my knee manipulated will help someone out there who feels like they have to hide their emotions during their recovery, which can be very frustrating and draining. Enjoy the read!

When I woke up from my procedure, the first thing I felt was a sharp pain in my knee. I remember groaning and seeing I was still in the operating room. I was confused and wondered if I woke up too early. The anesthesiologist said “I don’t know why she’s in pain. The only thing he did was bend her knee, I saw it.” Then they rolled me out of the OR and into the recovery room. I was wide awake at this point, and I still felt a pulling pain in my knee. I figured that was normal after a knee manipulation. My hand hurt as well, but not as much. 

The surgeon came in to speak with me like he did after every surgery. He told me he bent my knee all the way and that I was able to do it, I just had to push through the pain. He asked if I wanted to see. I said “Yes” OF COURSE I WANT TO SEE MY KNEE BEND! He picked my leg up and started to bend it, but at about 30 degrees I was already yelping. 

“It’s just sore right now, but you can bend it,” he showed me a picture of my knee bent all the way while I was under anesthesia. His face looked annoyed. I mean, he’s a surgeon. He should know there’s a lot I can do when I’m passed out, that I can’t do fully conscious. For example, getting my hand cut open, but what do I know?

After getting my knee manipulated, I still can’t bend it past 90 degrees on my own. I have been getting knee manipulations constantly in PT and at home. I imagine tearing something in your knee feels the same as getting a knee manipulation. I wouldn’t be off by much since the goal of knee manipulation is to tear up the scar tissue in your knee. Sometimes you can even hear something ripping when I’m getting it done. I can handle the pain up to about 95-100 degrees, but once it goes past that, the pain is unbearable. 

It’s always the same. I lay down on my stomach, I grab the examination table or bed with one hand, and I try to cover my mouth with the other. Keep in mind, my right hand is also healing. I do my breaths like my Physical Therapists have taught me; A deep breath in through my nose and a slow breath out through my mouth. 

I feel the pain around 90 degrees, but it’s not much of a pain. It feels like I banged my knee on the bed when trying to go around it. She pushes more and now it feels like I banged my knee on the corner of a wall while running to the bathroom. Then, before I know it, It feels like a gorilla yanked me by my leg and is trying to bend my knee in impossible ways. Or something like that, you know?

I muffle my screams with my hand, I don’t feel the dull pain from making a fist (until later). When I can’t take it anymore, my body gets defensive and fights with the “enemy”. My legs flail and my hands push me up from the table, my torso twists and bends like a snake.

When they let go, I weep into the pillow under me, trying to cry as quietly as I can, even though everybody just heard me scream. My doctor rubs my back and says “We got a little bit more today. We got up to 110 degrees,” but I remember that last time I got up to 115 degrees, and it hurt just as much. Now I’m weeping because I feel like I failed. Sometimes I weep because I’m embarrassed. Mostly I weep because it freakin’ hurts. 

It’s funny. My brain forgets the physical pain that I felt, but my body remembers. When the person who manipulated my knee approaches, my body tenses up, I start to sweat and sometimes I shake. My brain remembers something else, though. Sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep or when I’m not fully occupied during the day, I hear myself screaming. Tears stream down my face and bring me back to reality. My heart beats fast and I take my breaths. In through my nose and out through my mouth.

I saw my surgeon and told him I’m concerned. I don’t know anything about what’s happening to my knee, but I can’t imagine this is normal. My surgeon tells me “Sometimes people cry wolf.” He quickly says he doesn’t think I am, but why would he say that if he didn’t want me to hear it. He says I may be less tolerable of pain. When me or my mom mention that this is a complication after surgery, he gets defensive and angry. He is quick to compose himself right after. He ignores my mom’s concerns, he answers only to me. His kind and caring “personality” was just a facade. 

My anxiety creeps back in and the trust I had in my surgeon who has done so many surgeries on me, fades. He doesn’t believe me anymore. He thinks he did nothing wrong, but my pain is real. He refuses the idea that it’s a surgery complication, but I was able to bend my knee in November. 

All I want is to be able to bend my knee again.

𝐻𝑒𝓇𝑒 𝒲𝑒 𝒢𝑜 𝒜𝑔𝒶𝒾𝓃…

Drawing of a medical bed with many circles in the background, with overlaying rain. Over it, are lyrics from Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”
Since the surgery, my knee hasn’t been bending past 60 degrees. I go to Physical Therapy and I do all of my exercises, but it seems that no matter what I do, there is progress everywhere except the knee…

Since the surgery, my knee hasn’t been bending past 60 degrees. I go to Physical Therapy and I do all of my exercises, but it seems that no matter what I do, there is progress everywhere except the knee…

This isn’t the update I hoped I would be writing, but here we are. I finally had my second post-op appointment this Friday, to check up on my progress. I started worrying about a week ago because in Physical Therapy they kept asking when I’m going to see the doctor. They always asked me when they were manipulating my knee to bend.

I love the PT that I go to. They put together such an amazing team of people; even the patients seem to add life to this place. Some of the patients were joking that they should have a reality TV show with the staff as the main characters and the patients as returning characters. Maybe even some romances can start. The mood in PT is light and upbeat, which is a lot to ask for when most of the people there are being pushed past their limits. Sometimes I really think: Is my knee actually going to snap in a second if he keeps pushing?

This past Thursday, the PT doctor was manipulating my knee as usual, and as I squinted my eyes and bit the inside of my lower lips, he again asked “You’re seeing your surgeon tomorrow, right?” My heart fluttered around in my chest as if the doctor just said something bad. 

“Yep.” I replied. I looked at the doctor’s face and he wasn’t smiling like usual. The mood around his question wasn’t light, and I could tell that I needed to be worried. Nonetheless, I went home afterward and tried not to think too much. I was seeing the doctor the next day.

Friday rolls around and I see my surgeon. It’s important to know that my surgeon has a very mellow personality. When he talks, no matter what he’s telling you, you feel a sense of calmness. So, after getting my X-rays taken in the office, I went to the room and waited for my surgeon.

I had a lot to tell my surgeon because after getting my Ganglion Cyst (in my wrist) aspirated, it had been coming to the surface in a bubble and then draining. I had to keep squeezing out jelly-like, clear fluid. Also, my lower back has been causing me a lot of pain and I still had a bruise below my tailbone, and first and foremost, my knee was still not bending.

My surgeon asked me how I was doing post surgery. I led with the knee because that’s what was causing the most concern.

“Okay, hop up here, let’s have a look” he said in his Xanax-like voice. So I did. He moved my knee around a little bit and then he told me to rest my legs off the edge of the exam table. I dropped my legs and my left leg slowly contoured the edge of the table. My right leg, though, hung in the air like a flag. My surgeon’s subtle smile quickly faded as he realized that my leg was bent as far as it could go. I saw panic in his face for the first time. His eyes darted from my leg, to the X-ray pictures on his screen, and back to my leg.

He immediately vocalized his worry. Apparently it’s not normal for my knee to not get past 60 degrees after 7 weeks. He got another set of X-Rays – this time of only my knee. The X-rays were inconclusive, but either way, he said he has to book me in for his nearest surgery slot; the reason being that most likely my scar tissue has built up so much that it’s blocking my knee from bending all the way. He has to take me in to manipulate my knee as much as it can go, but I have to be under anesthesia because it will be unbearably painful. FUN! On the bright side, there will be no addition cuts being made (AKA no additional scars being made).

In the meantime, I had to get an MRI as soon as possible before the surgery date. I don’t know if any of you have had an MRI before, but usually it takes a few days for the insurance company to approve you to get an MRI with coverage from your insurance company. Since it was a Friday when I saw the doctor, I was shooting for getting the MRI maybe on Tuesday if all goes well. My approval for the MRI was done the same day, and even though I needed a specific machine that had limited availability (due to me having a metal rod in my leg, which interferes with the MRI reading), I was able to get an appointment for an MRI for that same day. The process went unbelievably quick! Is anyone else as shocked as I am? Nobody? Okay, moving on.

My surgeon’s office called me on Monday and said there was nothing significant on the MRI, so we are scheduled for a Knee Manipulation, as planned. Since I’ll already be under anesthesia, my surgeon will cut out my Ganglion Cyst as well. I don’t want to keep getting knocked out for surgeries and procedures. I think I’ve had enough for my “younger years”.

I am feeling a little bit down because after the cyst removal, I will be unable to create art for a little while. I just made a Polyptych this past Saturday that I am so proud of. It felt so good to be able to paint, that I am devastated to have that  ability “stolen” from me – even just for a little while. Every artist knows that when you stop practicing for a little while, you have to work twice as hard when you start back up again.

Please keep me in your thoughts this week! I will be back as soon as I can type again (hopefully not too long after surgery).

The Artist

𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝙾𝚌𝚎𝚊𝚗 𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚗 𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚜𝚝.
𝚂𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚙𝚝𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚛𝚘𝚌𝚔𝚜 𝚊𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏.
𝙽𝚘 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔𝚜 𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚢 𝚜𝚑𝚎’𝚜 𝚌𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚍.
𝚂𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚍𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚊 𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚌𝚘𝚕𝚘𝚛𝚜,
𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚢𝚎𝚝 𝚠𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚋𝚕𝚞𝚎.
𝚂𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚛𝚞𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚜
𝙾𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚍𝚎𝚛, 𝚘𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚕𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚎𝚛,
𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝚊𝚕𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚟𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊 𝚙𝚒𝚎𝚌𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏
𝙾𝚗 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚌𝚊𝚗𝚟𝚊𝚜.
𝚂𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚠𝚜 𝚛𝚘𝚌𝚔𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚕𝚕𝚜.
𝚆𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚊𝚕 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚕𝚜
𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚜𝚑 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎.
𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝙾𝚌𝚎𝚊𝚗 𝚜𝚠𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚘𝚠𝚜 𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚘𝚕𝚎, 𝚏𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚙.
𝚂𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚙𝚒𝚝𝚜 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚊𝚗𝚜, 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚌 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝚗𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚜,
𝙰𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝚗𝚎𝚌𝚔𝚜,
𝚒𝚗𝚜𝚒𝚍𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚊𝚝𝚜…
𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝙾𝚌𝚎𝚊𝚗 𝚒𝚜 𝚍𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐;
𝚂𝚘 𝚒𝚜 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚌𝚊𝚗𝚟𝚊𝚜.
𝚆𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚒𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚜𝚑𝚎’𝚜 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚝𝚑𝚢.
𝚆𝚎 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚜 𝚊𝚝 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚋𝚎𝚍.
𝚈𝚎𝚝, 𝚠𝚎 𝚌𝚕𝚞𝚝𝚌𝚑 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚍𝚒𝚌𝚒𝚗𝚎
𝙻𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚜 𝚠𝚎 𝚊𝚛𝚎.
𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚜𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚘𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗 𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚜𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝.
𝚆𝚎’𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚞𝚢 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚙𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚜𝚑𝚎’𝚜 𝚐𝚘𝚗𝚎.
𝚆𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚣𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚌𝚊𝚗𝚟𝚊𝚜 𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚗 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚑𝚘𝚖𝚎,
𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚎’𝚟𝚎 𝚜𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚍𝚒𝚛𝚝𝚢 𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚜 𝚘𝚗 𝚒𝚝
𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚎𝚛𝚊𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚢
𝙾𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚜𝚝.

𝒜𝓃𝑔𝑒𝓁𝒾𝓀𝒶 𝐸𝓂

Gratitude and Recovery

Manipulated photo of me in the hospital after my most recent surgery (Dec. 5, 2019)

I had an MRI with contrast. They had to inject the contrast right into my hip joint. Even though they gave me some Lidocaine for numbing, I felt the long(est piece of pointy metal I’d ever seen) needle wiggle around in my hip. I bit the inside of my lip and pressed my eyes shut, as shut as they could go. That was the worst part. During the MRI, they played me some music and I laid as perfectly still as I possibly could. All of my limbs went numb by the end and when I got off, they filled with static, and just like an old TV, returned to function once I gave them a good whack.

Once the MRI confirmed that the problem was a Labrum Tear, I went to the specialist who I now refer to as my surgeon. Within the first two visits, I was scheduled for my surgery, which was done in December of 2015 – right at the end of my semester in college. 

After the surgery, I was going to Physical Therapy.  Since I had a break for the holidays, I was going to Physical Therapy pretty often. It was my first surgery, so I wasn’t too sure how quick my progress should go, or how my incisions should look, but I started to get worried about them. I showed my Physical Therapist. He immediately told me to call my surgeon. It turned out that my body was rejecting the stitches that were supposed to melt inside my body. Super fun. I had to go back on antibiotics for a while.

In the meantime my sister fell in school, which resulted in a torn meniscus and something with her patella as well (In the knee). Her knee was extremely swollen. We were close before this, but during this time, we created a special bond. We laughed about how “we’re in this together”. My sister was out of school for a lot longer than I was. She missed most of the school year. She had a whole struggle of her own during this time, but that’s a story for another time, if she’ll want to tell it.

For those of you who have been reading until this point of my story, you may recall that my wrist was hurting me also. Well, once my hip healed and I was doing everything as usual (better, even), I decided to tackle my wrist issue. I found out that I had a Ganglion Cyst. This is a lump that usually shows up in the joints or tendons of the wrist or hand. It was probably pressing on some nerves, which is why it hurt me so much, especially when I put my weight on it, but even during simple tasks like writing or painting. In March of 2016, right after my 21st birthday, I went for a surgery to get the cyst removed (instead of going to the club like a normal human being).

For the most part, my life started picking up from there. I found some new friends and I became more active. I was going hiking again, and working out whenever I had the time.

A photo of me during one of my first hikes after the first surgery.

It may seem to you that the story ends here. What more could there be to this already extremely long story? Well, NO.

About 2 years after the hip surgery, I started feeling an all too familiar pain in my Right Hip. Panic set in. No, it can’t be. I mean, the doctor said it could tear again, but it couldn’t have. Could it have? Did it? I tried to calm myself down. I figured the only way to know for sure, was to see my surgeon again. 

My surgeon sent me for another MRI with contrast again to look for another tear. The results came back clean. He said that the labrum had healed very nicely and there doesn’t seem to be any issues. The pain may be from a lack of movement, so he sent me to physical therapy again. 

Physical therapy wasn’t helping. The pain continued. I started to fall back into my old habits – doubting my pain. Well, my surgeon said that everything is fine, so why was my hip hurting me again? There had to be an explanation. I mustered up the courage that I worked so hard to build back up, and I took my butt (or my hip, actually) to my surgeon. I told him with confidence that I did my physical therapy, I started going to the gym again, but nothing was helping with my pain. Actually, it was making it worse.

I don’t know why I was surprised with my surgeon’s reply, but it really shook me. 

More or less:

“Although the labrum looked good in the MRI, you are still experiencing pain in that area. We have to trust that your body is telling you that something is wrong. I want to send you for a CT scan to see if you have any abnormalities in your bone structure. If that’s the case, we may be looking at a much more serious surgery.”

Not only did he believe me; he gave me a potential problem and a solution to that potential problem! Is anyone else impressed? Only me? OK.

Well, it turns out the potential problem was my actual problem all along, but it took a process of deduction and a REALLY dedicated surgeon to find it. My surgeon explained that I have a femoral anteversion. Whaaattttt?  What is that?  Yes, I know. The best way I can explain this, is that the head of my thigh bone (the Femur), which is supposed to go straight into my hip bone, like a puzzle… is not. I hope that was helpful, but here’s a picture to help.

A drawing by me that is most likely NOT anatomically correct, and should not be used as a factual representation of a Femoral Anteversion, but is drawn to the best of my knowledge. Angles are also not exact.

This explained why I walked with my toes facing in when I was very little. My parents worked hard to teach me how to straighten out my feet, but unfortunately my hip was probably still rotated. The hip may have not been rotated as much when I was little. It is possible that the injury I had with the fireman pole at the park, may have prevented my femur bone from naturally fixing itself during the most crucial time in my development. All of this is just speculation of course. We have no way of knowing for 100% when this happened or if I was born with it.

The surgery consisted of the doctor going in and cutting my femur bone, then rotating it to be as close to 10 degrees, as possible. A rod had to be inserted to hold the bone in place and keep it from reverting back to it’s previous position, and screws had to be put in to hold the rod in place.. or something along those lines. I’m no surgeon myself.

I decided that this surgery was way too complicated and I would just carry on living my life and try not to think about the pain. Besides, my surgeon himself said that if it was him in my place, he wouldn’t rush into this surgery.

In this time, I got engaged, and then married. Even though the pain was increasing, I didn’t have time to take a deep breath and think about the surgery that was suggested. I moved, I started a new job. Working with kids and being on my feet all day at work, and then coming home and working on my new house, was becoming too much. There were days that by the end of the day, I was crawling, not walking. By the way, my cyst returned in this time as well.

I put a lot of thought into the surgery on my own before I told my husband and my parents. If I decided to get this surgery, I would have to leave my new job for at least a month, and I would have to move back in with my parents. My husband would continue working, so I needed someone who could take care of me. My dad wasn’t working anymore and my mom was home most days. I knew the physical therapy in the area, I was familiar with the doctors and staff there, and it was easy to get there.

Finally, I told everyone about my decision. I received an overwhelming amount of support from my boss, my coworkers, even my students, as well as my family. I had everything I needed, so I took a leap of faith and I put my future into my surgeon’s hands. 

The surgery went well. My surgeon gave me the option of having him go back in to check the labrum while he would have my leg open. I agreed, and thank God for that, because my labrum was starting to tear again. It was fixed during the same surgery. If I hadn’t agreed, I would have done this surgery, and I would have still been in pain.

I also got my cyst aspirated. I am still struggling with it, but I hope to get rid of it once and for all! My body is rejecting my stitches again, but I know how to take care of it this time.

Today, it is 6 weeks after my surgery. I am making progress every single day. I have so much support from my friends and my family. Even the team in Physical Therapy is super supportive. They celebrate even my smallest improvements. They don’t judge me when I scream in pain while they stretch my knee, or when I sweat through my shirt. They push me so that I can get better.

I want to take this post to thank everyone that has been there for me through this journey. I want to thank you for believing me and believing in me. I want to thank you for helping my on and off the bed, for helping me get dressed, for helping me use the bathroom, for helping me shower. I want to thank you for making me coffee and sandwiches, for passing me my art supplies, for getting my crutches whenever I need them, for waking up when I need help in the middle of the night, for driving me around. Thank you for massaging my leg, for pushing me past my limits, for inspiring me, for giving me hope. Thank you for visiting me, or writing to me, or checking up on me in any way. THANK YOU! I am so grateful to every single one of you that have contributed to my healing. I am blessed to have you in my life.

Breaking Down Barriers

Digital Painting made by me

After seeing the doctor who didn’t believe me, I tried ignoring the pain I was feeling. I felt so stupid for going to the doctor for no reason so many times. I tried to shift my focus.

When I started college, I went to the gym less and less. I didn’t have to keep up with the tough gym class in my High School anymore. Whenever I would work out one day, I would suffer for two more days after that. Eventually, it just wasn’t worth it anymore. I stopped working out altogether. I gave up myself.

I originally went to college for radiology, but I found a passion for art (mostly during High School, but especially during College). I changed my major to Fine Arts. Art was a big release for me in general. When I was drawing or painting, I wasn’t thinking about my pain. There was one teacher that told me that I would crawl into my drawing if I could. We drew in Charcoal and I would always leave that class covered in it. 

It was in my art major that I found my saving, and I didn’t know it at the time. Yes, art itself did save me in some way, but it was a girl named Anne in one of my design classes, who really led me to the path of recovery. Anne was (and is) an inspiration to me in general. She is extremely talented and strong in a way that most people are not. 

One day before class, Anne was talking about her struggle with pain management. She had her own battle, which is not for me to speak about, but she spoke about it with perseverance. I don’t recall now, whether she was talking to me or to someone else. It was many years ago that this took place, but I do remember asking her about it some more. I mentioned my own pain, with some hesitance. I thought maybe she won’t believe me either, but she did. Anne looked at me sternly and told me to trust my body. She told me that if something is hurting me, I have to take care of it. I told her about my hesitation with going to the doctors because so far no one was willing to help. Anne assured me that I would find someone that would. I smiled and agreed and we went about our day.

I think Anne doesn’t remember this conversation that we had because it was just a regular conversation, but to me it was life changing. I started to allow myself to believe that the pain I was feeling was real. I wasn’t confident enough to go to the doctor yet, but at least I had taken my first step.

In 2015 I was done with my Associate’s Degree and I was working on my Bachelor’s degree. I was up on my feet a lot more and at this point, the pain was becoming to affect most of my daily activities. There were days when even throwing my leg over my bed to get on or off, would leave me in a fatal position with tears in my eyes. The cold weather was creeping up on us, and the colder it got, the more pain I felt. It wasn’t about activities anymore – I couldn’t even fall asleep. Finally, I was fed up. 

I went to my mom with tears in my eyes. “I can’t sleep! My hip hurts me so much that I can’t even sleep anymore! I can’t be making this up! I’m not stressed about anything… well, other than this hip. I need help! If this is all in my head, I have to do something about it. I can’t keep living this way!”

My mom looked at me with compassion in her eyes. She thought for a little while and then she looked through her contacts and she gave me the name to a specialist she saw for her ACL transplant. “Listen, he may not specialize in hips, but maybe he will lead you to someone who can help you.” I called and I made an appointment.

The day of my visit came. My stomach twisted and turned as I walked into the office. They handed me an iPad to fill out my forms. Whoa, fancy, I thought to myself. I looked at the questions. “On a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being extremely difficult, how would you rate these daily activities?” The listed activities included walking, running, taking the stairs, sitting, getting up from sitting, getting in and out of a tub, etc. I found myself using the numbers 4 and 5 a lot. I tried to be as honest as possible without exaggerating because I thought if I put 5 for everything, they won’t believe me either. 

Finally, they took me into the exam room. Everyone so far was being really nice, but my stomach was still filled with knots. The Medical Assistant came in and introduced himself. He explained that he was a student in NYU and he was going to be asking me some questions before the doctor comes in. Slowly, I started explaining the pain I felt as nonchalantly as I possibly could. “Sometimes when I run it feels like my hip locks or something, I’m not really sure, but when it unlocks it hurts a lot. I told many doctors, but none of them found anything significant so here I am.” I was looking at my hands and shifting nervously.

“Oh, I know what the problem is!” I freeze and look up at the Medical Assistant, who suddenly looks like an Angel to me, “You most likely have a torn labrum in your hip. Your hip isn’t locking, that’s your leg popping out and back in. Obviously I have to ask the doctor what he thinks, but I’m pretty sure he will agree with me and send you for some testing.” I’m pretty sure I didn’t take more than a breath throughout the whole time this guy was talking. He went on about how he had that same thing and it was a very easy procedure and it helped him a lot. He then left the room to get the doctor. I sat there looking around the room, trying to fathom what just happened. 

The doctor came in and also introduced himself. He said he agreed with the MA’s diagnosis and he was getting a referral ready for an MRI ready. He immediately said that if the MRI results come back confirming a labrum tear, he is referring me to a specialist who will be able to help me. 

I left the doctor’s office feeling a hundred pounds lighter. I cried, I laughed, I processed my emotions. Yes, I was told that something is wrong with my leg… but someone believed me! Someone believed what I said AND they gave me a solution! I was ready to face the world.

To Be Continued…

Seeking Help

Photo Manipulation made by me

The pain I was experiencing in High School was hard to explain. It seemed like it wasn’t only my hip. My hip hurt me, my knee, my back, and my wrist – all on the right side. For the most part, I kept quiet about my pain in gym. I just pushed my body as far as it could go.

The best way that I was able to describe the way it hurt at the time, was as follows: I would be running or doing an exercise and all of a sudden it felt like my leg locked with my hip. That’s not the part that hurt though. The only way to “unlock” my leg was to move it, but no matter how slow or how carefully I moved, it would make a CLICK and it felt like thunder hit me right in the groin.

My wrist only hurt if I put pressure on it, for example if I were to put my palms together and push, it was unbearable.

For a lack of better understanding, that’s how I described my pains to my parents and the doctors. My mom figured that my pain may be returning from when I was little and got hurt at the park, so she told me to start swimming more again (I chose to stop going to swimming lessons because it wasn’t catching my interest anymore, and because I didn’t have friends there). The doctors weren’t any help. I didn’t think much of it the first time, but the more I went in, the more they made me feel crazy. They didn’t believe me. 

The lady at the front desk asked me why I was coming in. I told her it was for pain in my joints. She laughed and said something along the lines of “Little girl, at your age? Pain in your joints? Don’t be silly!” My heart sunk, but I was sure of my pain. The doctor took my blood. The next week she called and said I have Chicken Pox in my system and a minor case of Fifth disease. This can show up in the form of a rash, fever, and can lead to some swelling, and therefore, pain, in the joints. This explained my pain for the moment because I started getting pain in my fingers and elbows at that time, but I told her I was experiencing the hip and wrist pain for a long time. She chalked it up to the current problem and ignored my concerns. The doctor I saw the previous time said I was just trying to get out of gym class. I told her I liked the gym and I went on my own time, but that didn’t change her mind.

During my senior year in gym class, I usually stayed close to the front of the gym because the first line got to lead exercises. I had built up a lot of strength by then and I loved exercising. One day I was somewhere near the front, but I don’t recall leading that day. We were doing exercises as usual. I specifically remember we were doing Star Jumps. We only had 20 to do, but this exercise was the hardest on my hip. We were just about to finish and someone started to make sounds of complaint.

I know what you must be thinking at this point – if you’re a reader who did not go to my high school. You may be confused in a few moments when I start saying what went through my mind, but keep in mind that my gym class was like a bootcamp. More importantly, both our gym teachers were in the army/military. Discipline was big in our gym class and disrespect was rare. When someone disrespected our teachers, the whole class had to pay for it, and then that student was hated by everyone for their “crime”.

One teacher asked who it was interrupting the class. When no one answered, I started to feel hot. I looked around the room. No one answered. I felt my face get flushed from anger. I barely made it through the first 20 Start Jumps and I knew what was coming next.

The teacher didn’t like the lack of reply. She ordered us to do more Star Jumps. Someone sucked their teeth in defiance – probably the same person who got us in this mess in the first place- now our teacher gives us double to amount. Anxiety creeps in. I discretely massage my leg before crouching into the start pose for our exercise as I glare around the room trying to find my new enemy. I’m sweating even more now from the heat of my anger.

ONE! we shout. TWO! THREE!… We do a few more and as I get down, click. My leg locks and I can’t move, I can’t jump. One of the teachers passes by me in what seems like slow motion. The room is spinning, but in the blur, I reach out my hand and I catch her leg. She looks down at me with wolf eyes, but then I shake my head  – as if saying “no”, as if surrendering. She turns around to me. She tells me to get up, to follow her, but I can’t. I can’t

I crawl out after my teacher. The whole class is looking at me. My teacher slowly helps me up. Click my leg unlocks, at this point pain is  becoming dull and ’m starting to come to myself again.  I finally break down my walls and tell her that I’ve been in pain for a long time. It was never that bad until that day. She tells me to see a doctor. I tell her I have, but they didn’t believe me enough to send me for tests (well, other than a blood test). My gym teacher told me to check for arthritis because I was too young to be experiencing pain in so many joints. 

So, I set out to the doctor again. I had been going to pediatricians until then, but at this point I was 17 years old, and I was able to see my mom’s doctor alone if I got consent from my parents. I went in and again I  had told the doctor what was hurting me, what my gym teacher said, what tests I had done, what came out of them and that I was still in pain. The doctor started talking to me and asking me random questions. At first, it made me feel more comfortable, but then she started asking me about my relationship and she said with judgement that she would never let her daughter date at my age. I tried to shrug it off. In my head, I was thinking that her daughter has probably already done a lot more than kissing, if she wasn’t allowed to date at the age of 17, but that was none of my business.

Something to note is that I was extremely shy around authority. I was raised at a time where authority figures were never seen as friends. There was always clear boundaries and things you were not allowed to say or do around adults – specifically in the Polish culture (the doctor was also polish). This made it even harder to open up to an adult, especially a doctor.

The doctor kept asking questions that I didn’t feel comfortable answering and I started to get more and more anxious as I sat in the room. She then said something like “Ugh, Angelika. Are you always going to be like this?” I asked her to clarify her question. She asked if I am always so anxious. Before giving me a chance to respond, or even collect my thoughts, she stated that if I had arthritis, it was probably induced by stress, but she insinuated that there was nothing wrong with me at all and that, again, I was making it up. She gave me a recommendation for a psychologist or psychiatrist and an arthritis specialist “just in case” and abruptly dismissed me from her office.

I left the office fuming. I walked into the house and told my mom that, apparently, I’m crazy. I laughed it off with my mom and my friends, but under the surface, I was angry and confused.

I didn’t talk to my gym teacher about it apart from that one time. I threw away the referrals for both the mental health and the arthritis specialist. I spent the next few years avoiding doctors at all costs. Whenever the pain would get worse, the doctor’s words rang in my head and I believed them. It’s stress-induced. It’s not real. I’m making it up. I’m making it up. I’m making it up.

To Be Continued…

How it Started

A photograph of me hiking when I was 17 years old.

Part 2: Why I needed surgery

Since this situation is a lifelong journey, I am breaking it up into many parts to make it easier to read. I hope you enjoy!

Before I tell you about my recovery and how I am feeling post surgery, I must tell you how this all started.

When I first started walking, I walked with my feet turned in. My dad used to walk behind me and straighten my feet out with his foot. It did work, I started walking with my feet fairly straight. Although, I still always ruined my shoes because once in a while, those feet wanted to touch.

When I started walking correctly, it seemed that was the end of my leg issues, until my day at the park. I don’t remember how old I was. I am guessing it was anywhere from 8-12 years old. I wanted to conquer my fear of the fireman pole. Well, that would be the last time I tried to conquer that fear.

I was there with a family friend. I grabbed the pole with both of my hands. I braced myself. I was ready. I swung my body forward and BANG! I didn’t catch the pole with my legs. Instead, I crashed into it with my groin. It was the most painful thing that probably ever happened to me. I was bruised for what felt like weeks. It’s hard to say when it was such a long time ago and my conception of time was all messed up. What feels like a week now, felt like a month when I was little.

The problems started after that incident. My mom took me to get a scan. I’m guessing it was an MRI. It showed some swelling in the area, but nothing major. The doctor recommended taking up swimming as a form of Physical Therapy. So, my mom signed me and my brother up for swimming. We both loved it, and without even realizing it, my leg was much better.

Still, I complained a lot about my leg. It was mostly when I wasn’t moving around a lot. I even remember asking my 4th grade teacher if I can stand up when everyone else was sitting because my hip hurt when I sat for too long. I never told my mom about that, but I’m lucky my teacher let me do it. 

For the most part, I forgot about my leg pain throughout middle school. If it did hurt me, it must have not been so bad because it didn’t stick in my mind. In middle school, I was a cheerleader, so I stayed active, but it wasn’t enough to prepare me for High School.

In High School, our gym was basically a boot camp. The first day of gym, I came home crying and telling my mom that I want to switch schools. I wasn’t the first and I wasn’t the last. That was the experience for many people. It was a very tough gym class, but eventually I got really into it. 

I started going to the gym on my own time, to be able to keep up with the exercises in school. I was going to the gym almost every day (twice on the days I had gym in school). I was in great shape, I was very strong, but slowly I started getting pain in my hip again. In addition to that, I had pain in my wrist, but that was more manageable. I did pushup on my fists instead of open palms.

To Be Continued…

Home Away From Home

A Rough Drawing of my New Home

I got married this summer, and it has been such a difficult adjustment to move away from my family to a different state. I lived with my parents my whole life, until I lived with my husband.

In my parents house, everything was always very safe. If I was down, there was always someone in the house to talk to. If I needed help, my parents were always willing. In Greenpoint, everything was at the tip of my fingers.

My husband and I moved to New Jersey – not too far, but far enough. My husband stayed in his job in New York and travels to work. I got a new job close to where we moved. I started teaching in a PreSchool. I love my job. I love my house. I love my husband. Yet, despite all of that, it did get extremely lonely. 

Everything was an adjustment in New Jersey. If you want to go somewhere, you have to drive. The fast food there is fresher, but sushi is expensive and, let’s be real, that’s the only “fast food” I care about. If you know me, you know. 

Our house was always empty. I mean, my husband and I were there, but there was no rotation of people coming in and out of the house like I was used to in my family home. In New Jersey I have time alone… with my thoughts! I know – scary. No friends or family close-by.

Having a rotation of family in my home growing up, was great because I was able to meet my need for social interaction. A simple Hello or How was work? from a few people, was just enough to keep me going. Sometimes an aunt would come over, sometimes a cousin. I didn’t have that in New Jersey.

In addition to that, my sister is still living in my parents house, and we were always inseparable. I wished for her when I was little. She is my dream come true. I miss her a lot.

All of this leaves me ridden with guilt that I am not simply LOVING being in New Jersey in my new home with my new husband.

I did start getting acclimated, though. I was in New Jersey in my new job for a few months, and it was starting to feel right…

I was debating getting a very serious surgery for many months. The more time passed, the more I began limping and the worse the pain. In October I went to see my surgeon, and I decided to finally do the surgery. This meant that I had to move into my parents house again. I thought great, I worked so hard to get used to this… I will have to start all over again. This time though, I have my husband here.

It turns out this has been something I really needed – more than I ever knew.

To Be Continued…