Author Archives: Rhonda Ashurst

4 Months Left Hip; 1 year Right

Wow, it’s hard to believe I’ve reached the one year mark with my right hip! Unfortunately, I am still struggling with that danged cerclage cable around the femur (aka The Zip Tie). I did a new video which demonstrates the problems I’m having functionally because of it. You can see it at this link:  Rhonda’s Hip Adventure Videos.

So, I went to see my surgeon for the one-year follow up appointment on September 18th. Both he and Davis watched me demonstrate for them what is on the video. Dr. Shukla had me stand next to him, so he could touch my thigh as I contracted my muscles. You can both hear and feel the snap of the muscles over the cable. I winced with the jolt this always gives me and he winced right along with me. I will always remember him looking up at me with his cherub face and telling me he was sorry, but he had to do it. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he understood how much pain and difficulty this cable has caused me over the year. I looked down and said, “I know you had to do it. We always agreed the structural integrity was the most important thing, and you nailed that. You told me the cable might bother me and if it did, we’d take it out. So, let’s just take it out.”

It was one of those sweet moments you never forget, when compassion shines through and you realize why you trust this man to help you function again with your legs under you and without pain. I know we are getting there. One last surgery to go. 

On October 31st (Halloween), they will take out the cable. It will be about a 20-minute operation. They will cut a 2-inch incision into the bottom of my current scar, part all the muscles to the bone, clip and remove the cable, and put me back together. I’ll have a different bandage this time that has a battery-operated catheter in it to remove fluids and help it heal faster. I’m looking forward to getting that thing out of there and seeing what I can do then!

Leftie is doing very well at four months, getting stronger and more flexible all the time. I occasionally get a little stiff and sore if I overdo, but mostly I can’t even tell I had a hip replacement on that side. I can’t wait to feel the same way on the right side!

Meeks Bay Trip

Last weekend, we went to Meeks Bay at North Lake Tahoe for a 4-day camping trip with our neighbors, Bruce and Peggy. It was beautiful! The temps got a little chilly at night, but thankfully Scott bought us a Little Buddy propane heater that made the inside of Pearl nice and toasty. This was our last camping trip of the season, which is always a bit sad, but what a way to end it! I was able to do a 2+ mile hike with them through the meadow which was lovely. We also met a new friend, Sandy, from Oregon who was camped next to us.

Sitting area in our camp site
Their tent trailer and Pearl snuggled in the trees
The Beach
View back into campground from the beach
Martinis to celebrate Bruce’s Birthday in real glasses!
The traditional trip to Garwoods for Wet Woody’s and delicious food!
Rhonda, Scott, Bruce and Peggy
Yoga and kayaks
Bruce, Peggy, Sandy and Scott standing under Pearl’s galley door
Kayaking in Tahoe

3 Months Left Hip; 11 Months Right Hip

I am at that magic 90-day mark when they say you are over the biggest hump of your hip healing. It’s WAY BETTER with this hip and I continue to be very grateful for this. My walk is back to normal, though I am still working on the stamina to go longer distances and to stand longer. Here’s the latest video of my walk (the last one):   Rhonda’s Hip Adventure Videos.

As you can see I no longer have a limp or stiff hip. Yay! I can do a mile pretty easily now and 2 miles once a week. I did learn this month that doing 2 miles three times in one week was a bad idea and I set myself back and had more pain and stiffness as a result. It’s taken a couple of weeks to get over that. I was just so excited to get back on all my familiar trails and favorite places… But there is nothing like pain to encourage you to return to your Goldilocks Zone!

My new routine includes swimming three times a week, walking a mile once a week and 2 once a week, plus short walks around the neighborhood more frequently. I also do Tai Chi and Qigong every morning for 30 minutes to wake up and warm up. I do yoga 3-4 times a week in the afternoons to stretch, keep up my core and upper body strength and work on my one-legged balance poses which strengthen my legs and improve my balance. 

I tend to move from one activity to another (sitting, standing, moving) at least every hour. This seems to keep me from having too much pain and stiffness by overdoing any one activity.  I can sit for 2+ hours if necessary (e.g. to watch a movie or performance). I do some stretches and flex muscles around the hips in my seat when I sit that long. 

I am down to taking 1-2 ibuprofen at night and one dropper of CBD oil for sleep. This is working well. 

I continue to have problems with bearing weight and really contracting the muscles in my right leg. At this point, I am solid in my plan to request the cable be removed at the end of October. I see my surgeon to discuss this on September 18th, so I’ll include the result of that conversation and some video footage of the problems I’m having with the cable in my next monthly update. 

Until then, I’m cruising along, staying in my Goldilocks Zone and listening to what my body tells me. It’s amazing how smart it is! You would think by now I’d be better at listening to it instead of what my head’s agenda is. But, the tricky thing is I still don’t know when I’m overdoing it until I’ve done it and then it’s too late! My advice to my fellow hipsters is take it easy and slowly build up your stamina and strength, even if it feels like you could keep going.

Silver Lake Trip

We just returned from a beautiful trip to Silver Lake, one of the lakes on the June Lake Loop off 395, near Mammoth, California. I used to ski at June Mountain when I was a kid, but had never been on the Lake Loop before. 

We went with our friends, Lisa and Terry (and their dog, Beauty). They planned the trip last winter and we decided to tag along once we knew my hip could handle it. They are easy to be with and experienced campers. They have a Mercedes van conversion which is very cool! We spent a whole afternoon eating and talking and drinking wine in this sweet spot in the aspens overlooking the lake.

Beauty, Lisa, Terry, Scott at our picnic table — Silver Lake Resort

View from our picnic table–not bad huh?

We stayed at the Silver Lake Resort and RV Park and had a great spot looking up at a waterfall.

On the second morning, they went on a hike to Parker Lake, about a 3-4 mile round trip hike. My “girls” said there was no way they were taking me that far! So I stayed back and took a short hike up Rush Creek which meanders through the Silver Lake Campground. It was beautiful and easy.

We stayed two nights and I got this cool, crazy shot of the sunset on the last night:

It was a very relaxing and pretty trip, even with the smoke from all the wildfires. I’m happy to report I was able to stay in my “Goldilocks Zone” and not overdo it like I did on the Graeagle trip! See, old gals can learn new ways of being…

First Camping Trip in Pearl since May, 2017

For my 52nd Birthday I decided what I most wanted to do was go camping in Pearl, our sweet teardrop! Here’s some pictures of her:

We bought Pearl in 2015. The first big trip we did with her was for my 50X50. This was an insane trip in retrospect! I wanted to see all 50 states by my 50th Birthday. And wouldn’t you know what was left? North Dakota, Minnesota and Kansas! So, we did a boomerang trip to Duluth, Minnesota for Fourth Fest. We went through North Dakota on the way over and Kansas on the way home. We also passed through Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado and Utah! We traveled 5,500 miles through 12 states in 3 weeks! CRAZY! But we sure had the teardrop experience down by the time we got home…

Pearl is an awesome way to camp. She is super easy to deal with because she is basically just a bed with lovely maple cabinets for all your stuff and a kitchen galley in the back. We stay at RV Parks or campgrounds that have bathrooms and they usually give us a spot close by. She is set up and ready to go during season, so all we have to do is pack our clothes, bathroom stuff and food and we’re off! Scott found the most awesome shade structures that we use to protect against sun and rain. Pearl can actually fit under these if necessary.

Here’s Pearl at our camp spot for this trip in Blairsden/Graeagle, CA at the Dream Catcher RV Park, a sweet little campground near national forest, lakes, and great hiking trails:

The nice thing is it’s only an hour from our house! They had a nice, cool recreation room where I set up an office and yoga studio:

One of the things we notice about RV parks these days is most people don’t get out of their big trailers, so we get most of the facilities/amenities all to ourselves.

Our first day we explored Eureka-Plumas State Park and took a 1.5 mile walk around Madora Lake:

We drove to the beautiful Nakoma Resort and peaked into the restaurant at the Lodge:

We had an awesome Italian dinner at Cuccia’s in Graeagle overlooking a horse stable:

The last day, on our way home, we drove through the scenic Lakes Basin area and visited Sardine Lake, passed through Sierraville, and stopped in Truckee for a beer at the Fifty/Fifty Brewing Company. We enjoyed a nice, smoke-free sunset at home in our garden!

It was a great trip to end a wonderful Birthday week for me. This Birthday has been about celebrating that my Hip Adventure is (mostly) behind me and now I have a new behind! The camping trip reminded me that I am not yet that strong. I stood and walked too much and so I am sore, stiff, weak and tired today. But it was worth it! I’ll need to pace myself better for our next trip. I forget how much standing and walking is involved with outdoor life and how much I want to hike! But my girls are always good reminders of my limits and that I am still healing from two major surgeries in one year.

The other thing that was special about this week was all the calls, visits, meals, texts, emails, and cards from the people in my life. I felt very loved! This is my favorite thing about Birthdays! (Well, that and the cake 🙂

Here’s a photo of Scott’s dad-Jim, my mom-Anita, me, mom’s friend-Wanda, Scott, and Jim and Scott’s old neighbor-Kitty having dinner at Jim and Kitty’s place (5 Star, Premier Residences):

A photo of me celebrating my 52nd in one of my favorite places, our back yard:

 

2 Months Left Hip; 10 months Right Hip

I have some exciting new milestone moments to share! My healing continues in leaps and bounds these days, surprising even me. I AM SO GRATEFUL!

This week I made it out to the Hemlock Grove for the first time in over a year. This is a very sacred place for me and it has been so hard to be unable to get there for so long. When I entered the grove, I started to cry and couldn’t stop for some time. It was like seeing a long lost friend. I could  feel all the special energy filling me up, restoring me at some deep level, like a drink of cool water for a parched soul. I laid back on the bare trunk of the old fallen Hemlock and stared up into the canopy. Evans Creek chuckled through the little meadow in the center. When my tears finally stopped, I knelt beside it and rinsed my face. I stayed until I felt complete, then wandered home slowly, stopping along the way to stretch my hips and legs. It’s about a 2-mile hike round trip, so I got stiff and had to loosen up and rest before continuing on. I was pretty sore the next day.

Today, I went out again with Scott and his family who are visiting. Luckily, one of them had a phone and took these photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I swam 1000 meters again for the first time since my second surgery! It felt effortless with no ill effects today. I didn’t think I could make it back out to the Hemlock Grove after doing that, but I did and I didn’t even have to stop this time! I guess we’ll see if I can still walk tonight…

I’ve been able to resume most of my yoga, but still struggle with one-legged balances, particularly the extensions out over my right leg (first hip). I am aware that I am favoring that leg all the time and it is weaker than my left. I’ll do the best I can with it until the cable can be removed in October. Then, we’ll see what I can do!

Being Tolerant of Intolerance

That was the topic of a conversation after Quaker silent worship yesterday. A small group of us stayed to chat. The topic of intolerance came up. We wondered together how do we respond to intolerance without becoming intolerant and aggressive ourselves? How do we stay true to our values of peace and non-violence?

Our consensus was that it is important not to meet intolerance with intolerance. But we were uncertain about how to share our values when confronted with intolerant attitudes, speech and behavior. I’m sure we all left continuing to ponder this increasingly important subject in our country.

Then an amazing thing happened. We were with Scott’s father in the emergency room of the Veteran’s Hospital. He is 92 and was not feeling well after a trip to see his twin sister in California. I was sitting in the waiting room while Scott was with Jim in an examining room.

There were two men behind a glass partition in the lobby behind me. One of them had helped us when we entered. I was sitting behind a partial wall with my back to them, reading. I had noticed they were two large men who seemed to double as greeters and security guards.

One of the men began a long, angry diatribe about children’s exposure to homosexuality in the schools. He must have been reading an opinion piece from the local paper, because he kept quoting passages from it. I gathered a video had been shown to local schoolchildren depicting homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, and the writer of the opinion piece objected to this. This man was also outraged, though he had no children, because his taxpayer money was paying for this atrocity.

Occasionally, through the diatribe, I heard the other man’s soft voice interject content into the conversation. Sadly, I couldn’t make out his words because of his soft voice and my distance from the conversation and the glass partition. (Which tells you something about the volume of the other speaker’s voice.) The angry man seemed to take in the calm man’s comments/questions and then launch into another phase of his attack.

I’m not sure how the topic changed, but he began to rant about Pearl Harbor, the Japanese and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The general gist of his point was that we needed enough nuclear weapons to destroy as many of an enemy as we could, because that is what ends wars. Again, I heard a calm, soft response to this. Then, the angry man accused the calm man of being a liberal and a Nazi. He made some accusation about him being from Columbia, so not a “real” American. I remember raising my eyebrows. I wondered how he was going to respond to this.

I so wish I could have heard it. But again, it was calm. Suddenly, the angry man switched tactics and softened. He began talking about his 4th of July plans and asking the calm man about his. If you hadn’t heard what had come before, you would think they were two congenial co-workers. The angry man announced he was headed home and came out from behind the glass partition, heading towards the door. He paused and bantered some more, then wished his colleague a Happy 4th of July before leaving.

I sat there and soaked all this in and I thought, “Now that is Spirit giving you a real life demonstration to your question from earlier today!” I became curious about this calm man. Who was he? How did he learn to respond in this way to intolerance?

Later, when it was decided that Scott’s father would be staying the night in the hospital, I got the opportunity to see him in action. He was the one who handled the admission. It was quick, maybe 10 minutes. During this time, the gentle giant quipped and made jokes with my recalcitrant father-in-law, softening and cajoling him. I watched Jim grin in spite of himself. The man was probably in his mid to late 50’s and had a slight, Spanish accent. He must have been in the U.S. most of his life. His badge said he was a veteran.

Hip #2, 6-Week Anniversary

This morning I had my 6-week follow up with Davis. He was in one of his vintage suits with a very cool pair of shoes–such a dapper guy! I showed him my one-legged balances and demonstrated the difference between my right and left legs. I can easily hold a balance in any direction on my left leg (Hip #2), but I can’t stand on my right leg (Hip #1) and extend my left leg behind me. As soon as I try to extend out, my IT band hits the cerclage cable (zip tie) and gives out. I told him the PT’s and I discovered that when I do one-legged strength exercises, I’m stronger on Hip #2 and Hip #1 is atrophying. I asked to have the cable removed, if at my annual follow up in September, I am still having the same problems and cannot restore the strength and balance in my right leg. He agreed and said he would document it. He said, “If it really bothers you over the summer, let us know and we can schedule you for surgery to remove it.”

I am relieved that this didn’t require a fight, but wonder what the insurance company will say? Most of it will be on me, due to our high-deductible plan, so hopefully they won’t object. I’m certain at this point that if this doesn’t improve significantly by September, I want that cable out!

Overall, I told Davis, I am so thrilled with what they have done! I feel like I am structurally strong and balanced and I am having no other issues. This recovery is so much faster than the last one, and I’m very grateful for that.  They did an awesome job! I made sure he knew that I have never questioned the need for the cable and I’m glad they made the call they did, it has just been a sucky recovery because my muscles don’t like it. Fortunately, that is fixable.

This week I continued to make progress. I was able to walk a mile a few times, and I got up to 750 meters in the pool! My usual is 1000, so I’m pretty darn close already! My next goal is to work up to 2 miles and get back out to my favorite Hemlock Grove. My yoga and Tai Chi practices are getting back on track, except for those one-legged holds and strength moves on the right side. My flexibility is returning quickly, including being able to cross the left leg over my midline into a supine twist. Yay! That always helps my back release tension and it feels so good!

At this point, my restrictions are all officially lifted, so I can play at will and see what my body tells me. This is always a fun day! Last time I was still limping and experiencing pain, especially with walking very far and trying to go up stairs. This time, I have none of these issues. This is what I’d expected at this point last time. I remember Davis telling me it would come in 7-12 months and not to worry. I’m so grateful to be this good already, to not have to go through 7 months of painful frustration.

My annual follow-up is scheduled for September 18th. At that appointment, we will decide on the cable removal. If we decide to do it, I think I’ll aim for later October, before the holidays and after camping season. I don’t want to miss another summer and I’m good enough to get out there now! So, onwards and outwards into the world!

I will continue to do at least a monthly post for the next year, so my hip readers can see how things evolve over time.

Hip #2, 5-Week Anniversary

Big highlight of the week: I was able to walk about 2/3 of a mile in the forest at Lake Tahoe! I didn’t think I could make it that far, but it was not a problem and I was just sore afterwards. Nothing a couple of ibuprofen couldn’t take care of. I am so stoked! Yesterday, I went down to Idlewild Park and walked along the Truckee River. This is one of my favorite places to walk. I haven’t been there in a year. I was able to say hi to the huge Cottonwood tree who feels like a long-lost, old friend. Again, I was able to go 2/3 of a mile. This is as far as I’ve been able to go without dying for the last year. I’ll bet I can make a mile next week and just keep slowly increasing it from there. It feels so good to walk again!

I realize that walking is an important part of the way I connect with myself and nature, and I’ve missed it more than I knew. I can’t wait to get back into the forest and be able to do hikes again. I’m content for them to be shorter and less strenuous than they once were. I booked our first summer camping trip in July, which is very exciting! We will go out in our cute little teardrop, Pearl. I’ll add a new category to the blog and start chronicling our fun adventures in her.

Pearl in the Redwoods, May, 2017

I also returned to my meditation cushion for morning practice:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After my last post I was able to shave my legs and do a pedicure. Oh, the simple things in life that make all the difference!

This is the point where the hip settles in to my body and the muscles begin to loosen up and strengthen. I can bend down and reach the floor now. I no longer have anxiety about dislocating the implant. However, I continue to move slowly and mindfully and to be very careful not to overdo it. That, my friends, is the golden trick. I have to thank my right hip for all the instruction it gave me on that subject!

This morning, I decided it was time to take all the PT props out of the guest bedroom now that I can get on my yoga mat on the floor in the back room. That is always a big moment, signaling a return to normal. It’s all happening so fast, I’m having a little trouble keeping up. But, I’m not complaining!

This afternoon, I returned to the pool again for the first time in 5 weeks. It was glorious to be back in the water! I oozed into it and stayed until I was pruney. I was able to do about 13 laps, so about 650 meters, which isn’t bad for my first day back! I also did 2 laps of walking front and sideways. Again, I am amazed at the difference between the hips, how much easier this one is than the last. I was so unsteady when I first started going to the pool last time, and I didn’t do that until 3 1/2 months after the surgery! I spent time in the warm water therapy pool, lollynoodling around luxuriously. (Lollynoodling is my word for when I float aimlessly around the pool, whirling and swirling, suspended on a noodle.)

Special Note: I made a video of my favorite stretches after a hip replacement (posterior approach) and added it to Rhonda’s Hip Adventure Videos. If you are one of my hip readers, you might want to check that out.

One month left hip; Nine months right hip

I’ve been doing well with not overdoing things for the last week. No major setbacks. I can walk about 1/2 mile now, with a couple of stops along the way. I do this about every other day. I’m still doing morning Qigong and Tai Chi. In the afternoons I add some strengthening exercises from physical therapy and also do yoga on my mat on the floor, now that I can get up and down off the floor safely.

I’m able to drive, go to the store and manage carts and grocery bags. I can stand long enough to prepare meals, clean up and do some light chores around the house. I can shower without the grab bar and long-handled brush, since I can easily reach my feet now. I think I’ll try a pedicure this week and see how it goes–shave my hairy legs! The raised toilet seat came off this morning.

I’m off the Celebrex and using ibuprofen occasionally for pain. Some days I don’t use anything but the ice/compression machine and stretching. I do continue to use the CBD salve and sublingual oil at night and I’m happy to say that I’m sleeping like a baby!

I’ve massaging vitamin E oil into my scar morning and night. It is laying down nicely and closing up now. It is important to work with scar tissue starting in the third week so it doesn’t set in. Use gentle circular motions. When it is healed enough, you can hold the center of the scar with one finger and then use a finger on the opposite hand to gently stroke and pull the scar out towards the ends. This is a helpful technique for smoothing out scar tissue.

I graduated from physical therapy yesterday. Last time that didn’t happen until week 7. Lori said she had never graduated someone this quickly, “But, I can’t give you anything that you don’t already have and that you can’t do for yourself.” And I know this is true. It is up to me now to work out my own therapy and healing process, staying in that precious Goldilocks Zone.

I came home from the appointment and cried. I am relieved that this rehab is so easy compared to the last one. But I also feel disoriented. Suddenly, so much is behind me already! I’m trying to catch up to that emotionally. I also realize fully how hard it was for me last time–frustrating and disappointing. I struggled so hard to get better (just like I did all those years I had pain and thought it was a soft tissue injury/problem). This is an old pattern of mine. Beating my head against a brick wall, because somehow that is going to get me where I want to go. I hope that I have learned from this experience to stop when I catch myself doing that and examine what I’m trying to force. I’m learning that acceptance and surrender, while working persistently and gently at one’s edge, is a much better approach!

Hopefully, I can remember this wisdom as I move into the summer and all the things I want to do that I haven’t been able to for so long. Pacing and patience, Rhonda. Be gentle and kind with yourself. (I think that message is for all of us.)