A Hitch in My Giddy-Up

I’ve been counting a lot lately. It’s proven to be challenging. Very challenging.

On June 20th, I got a hitch in my giddy-up. I was on the treadmill watching my hero walking the next row over and listening to the chatting and heavy breathing going on around me. I had the treadmill cranked up a notch so I was jogging for forty-five seconds – as timed by the clock on the treadmill. When I decreased the speed to return to a brisk walk, my right hip popped, and the gait of my pace changed to brisk limping.

Figuring it was just a pulled muscle that needed to heal, I stayed off the treadmill and rested my body for a few days. Then a couple weeks. July 20th came and went as did August 20th. The come-and-go pain came and stayed after hiking waterfalls in western Massachusetts on August 19th. The physical pain had also become a mental pain. Was this cancer in my hip?

The week after the boys were back in school, I went to my doctor and told her I was there for two reasons: to take care of the physical pain and, more immediately, to confirm that it wasn’t originating from something more complicated. I’m impressed by the medical practitioners out here. My doctors treat mental and physical symptoms equally. Three days later, I was lying on a table at an orthopedic clinic having my hips x-rayed.

After taking the x-rays, the lab tech took me to an exam room and said she’d get the pictures up on the screen for the doctor. My hip bones popped up on the screen, and she left the room – leaving me to look at them. Up close. Eyeing every shade of gray, light gray, dark gray. And, on that right bone were a couple spots of random gray that were not on the left side. In the ten minutes that I sat waiting for the ortho doc to come in, I had cancer all over again. A self-diagnosis. It let a wild animal loose inside my body, running around in a cage unable to escape.

With crazed eyes, I met my bow-tie-wearing ortho doc. He sat facing me, with his back to the screen, and asked me to explain what was going on. I only wanted him to turn around and look at my hip x-ray. After my introductory remarks spoken succinctly and with a bit of a shaky voice, I told him my history of cancer and that first I just needed to know if that’s what this pain was from.

Nope. None. My bones look great. No arthritis either. I was cured of that ten-minute bout of self-diagnosed, make-believe cancer. I felt like a rag doll. That same feeling that tailed me so often during cancer treatment in ’09 and ’10: anxiety, calm, anxiety, calm.

I never thought being diagnosed with bursitis in my hip would feel so amazing! I chose physical therapy over cortisone shots. Which brings me back to the issue with counting: I have ten leg and hip exercises to do twice daily at home. My physical therapist started with just 30 reps on each leg the first week. Now, I’m up to three sets of 30.

The pain is easing over time – despite my inability to count to 30 in my head. This is the slowest task I’ve had to complete in many moons. My brain wants to solve other issues while I’m stretching a muscle. It’s behaving like a child hyped-up on sugar on Halloween night.

The nimbleness of brain movement is like walking on a non-stop treadmill where each step is a new idea, a new task. Something that I don’t want to forget. Something that I forgot but now again remember. And don’t want to forget again.

Honestly, shouldn’t I have absolute control to stop this pace so that I can simply count to 30, thirty times in fifteen minutes, as I stretch? I’ve resorted to physical cues of lifting a finger to signify each set of ten. Three fingers up equal the last set of ten. Assuming I remember to lift a finger at the appropriate time.

So, can you hold one nice stretch and count to 30 in your head, release it, and do that two more times in a row? I’m guessing your brain will take you on quite a ride with this monotonous, silent task. It will surely find something more exciting to do than count non-stop to 30.

A cortisone shot might have been easier. However, the exercise is probably just as good for my brain as it is for my hip.