So I am home from the hospital after having surgery on my hip. The surgery itself was pretty much a walk in the park, other than the usual crappy feelings when coming out of anesthesia (that uncomfortable place of wanting to wake up and being unable to do so completely, strangely the feeling I also have when watching this year's political debates).
I haven't documented much about my hip pain because it was tedious enough to be living through without having to write about it. My homesteading activities, garden and job were the places I went to avoid the pain. But suffice to say, it's been going on for two years with no less than six doctors attempting to find out what the issue is. And so while I haven't written about it, it's definitely been a constant companion, with me more than even my husband has been. Pain is there when you're in the shower, sleeping, driving and shopping. It really is the bad relative you can't get rid of, because it lives inside you.
Anyway, my first doctor (local orthopedist) took two x-rays, declared me arthritis-free and sent me to five months of physical therapy, which in hindsight was not only unnecessary, but probably made things worse.
My second doctor was heading the physical therapy department; she helped me a LOT with pain management, but unfortunately could do nothing about the original pain, which she termed "sacrolitic dysfunction." This term is what a more recent doctor (Orthopedist #2) angrily called a "magic box," where no real diagnostics happens and people just learn to live with pain they should be seeking the origin of.
So the next doctor was my primary care doc, who really did care, but could not diagnose the problem either (more x-rays though). His solution was a prescription NSAID which helped the pain somewhat, but did nothing to alleviate the origin of it.
And here's the funniest thing: One of the main symptoms ( which to me was the elephant in the room) was a large, moveable knot at the base of one of my "back dimples" that everyone insisted was "just inflammation." More on that next.
By this time a year had gone by, and I was unable to do many things I used to be able to do -- carry a case of wine to a customer's car, hike up any trail with hills (99 percent of trails around here have hills), sleep well, or do any serious gardening tasks, like shoveling. Oh, I'd do them, but I'd pay dearly in terms of pain for the next day (or six).
And so I finally got fed up and drove two and a half-hours to an orthopedist in Fresno I'd seen who had fixed a torn meniscus in my knee about 10 years ago. He took one look at the lump on my back dimple and said, "well this is most likely a benign growth that will need to come off." Not inflammation, not "sacrolitic dysfunction"...a physical growth. A tumor of some kind, pressing on the nerve that runs through your hip and down your leg. That was the ultimate origin of the hip pain.
I had an MRI, then another one, and then was referred to a cohort of my ortho-guy (who, due to his kick-ass expertise and can-do attitude I now look at the way some young girls look at Justin Beiber -- sheer, unadulterated idol worship) to rule out the tumor itself being caused by a spine issue. The spinal surgeon recommended a general surgeon. And so on the appointments went. By this time I was coming up on two years of pain, but at least 1) they knew what it was and 2) there was a plan in the works to fix it.
So my general surgeon operated on me this morning. Already I can tell there is a huge difference. He removed two benign growths (one hiding and not visible to either man or machine), each one the size of a golf ball. For two years, those two tumors had been altering my gait, my mobility, my joy in life, you name it.
I'm home and resting now, two "golf balls" lighter and feeling 100 percent better. It's been a long road in getting here, and I'm incredibly thankful to have finally arrived at a healing point.
But the moral of the story is this: Never be afraid to get a second, or third, or forth opinion if you feel you're possibly being marginalized, your symptoms dismissed, or patronized to based on your age, your sex, or anything else. I will say this without any doubt: Doctor #1 treated me like an old person who has to "learn to live" with a certain amount of pain. Doctor #2 did care, but I sometimes got the impression that he felt some woman-sensitivity might be the cause of my pain, and was therefore not aggressive so much about finding its source, instead attempting to just alleviate the symptoms. Physical Therapy Doc was lovely, but, same problem -- manage the pain, don't worry about the cause.
All three of those doctors are good people who, ultimately might have crippled me by not treating what was actually wrong.
If you live in a small city, find a doctor in a big city who 1) sees more unusual cases, and 2) has medicine as the center of their life. Many of our doctors here on the coast do NOT move here to practice medicine -- they move here to paddle board, sail, wine taste and live the easy life. These are not the doctors you want. You want the ambitious, driven, curious and caring doctors who publish papers, want to establish good practices, and gain respect and importance in their respective medical communities. Occasionally they can be brusque, arrogant and opinionated. But they have a passion for medicine and problem solving, and will not give up until they find what is wrong with you and fix it, whether you are 18 to 88.
From a healing place, I hope you're well. I'm happy to say I am!