Sitting in a doctor’s office patient room (or a therapist’s couch) and having a medical professional identify the nature of something going in my mind and body based on symptoms is nothing new to me. Chronic migraine, perinatal, and later, actual depression, uterine prolapse (don’t google that one, please, for your sake and mine — thank you, childbirth!), just to name a few recent diagnoses. Each one brings answers and a series of emotions, steps, acceptance, and more.
This morning, I headed to another doctor’s office at the recommendation of my physical therapist (the sacred woman treating me for prolapse). She’d been telling me for months and months and months I needed an MRI of my hips. When navigating our country’s medical/insurance system, you don’t just walk up to a desk and say “hey, I need an MRI”. Between the lack of a general practitioner (more on that in a later post), running this household with two small children, and appointment cancelling and rescheduling from both parties involved, it’s taken close to nine months for me to find myself in an orthopedics office. This guy is a hip expert, focusing on folks with hip issues under the age of 50. Aka, me.
“Something is off” I’ve thought in terms of my hips, primarily my left one, for many years. “I’m not a runner” is what I’ve always said amid eye rolls from actual runners who assume it’s because I wasn’t committed enough or hadn’t tried, really tried, to be a runner. But I have tried. Five miles is the farthest I’ve run (I did so after a bad break up, fueled by anger and hurt) and I remember the run so vividly because it was the only time my left knee didn’t fail me (I’m sure it was held together by heavenly duct tape placed there by a loving Father who knows what we need when we need it).
The first notable incident was hiking the Grand Canyon with my parents. Less than a mile from the top, the inside of my left leg gave out. I’d rolled my own eyes when I heard about the lady who slept on the canyon trail, never making it to our cabins down at the bottom, thinking “how could she not go any further? You go, just go, one foot in front of the other.” I ate my words when my own leg wouldn’t move, would not inch forward no matter how hard I pushed it. Walking sideways and backwards, crying into a bag of pretzels while my mother willed me to get to the top, was the only way I made it out of the canyon on my own two feet. At the time, I knew something was wrong but I thought little of it because I spent 23 miles HIKING THE GRAND CANYON.
Pregnancy, birthing children, living newborn mom life, these caused massive strain on my hips while leaving little time to focus on my own physical health.
With James decently stable as a budding toddler and us permanently planted in our dream home, and having spent years focusing on my mental health, my next step was to focus on my physical body. I’m physically weak, I know that, it was time to work on it.
After a few month lapse in physical therapy, I dove back in with a schedule that was manageable. At appointment number one, she asked if I’d gotten the hip MRI.
UGH, NO Rachele, I have not gotten the MRI.
The general practitioner route had been a total fail so I decided to go straight to the source — the orthopedic clinic we trust thanks to our family’s professional surgery experience (me: wrist in 2016, Lukas: shoulder in 2021). One phone call led me to a helpful receptionist who accepted my laments and concerns about my present situation. I didn’t want someone who treated elderly hips because I knew the approach for my own predicament would be radically different. I need my hips to last me fifty, sixty, possibly even seventy more years, not just a decade or two. Instantly she gave a name and we found an appointment on the calendar — a couple months later. That appointment got cancelled due to an office emergency and today, in August, I sat in my medical grade gym shorts hearing the doctor’s assessment.
He had a gut feeling about my hip injury (a labrum tear, which I expected as well) that would be confirmed by next week’s MRI, and a confident diagnosis of the root cause.
He wrote the diagnosis down at the bottom of his notes, tore it off and handed the piece of paper to me. “Look it up, you’re going to start to think back on your life and things are going to make sense.”
I’m not ready to publicly share the diagnosis, if I was reading this instead of writing it, I’d be super annoyed at myself. The diagnosis is something I’ve had all my life, and something that could greatly affect the future quality of life if not addressed.
By the grace of God (and my privilege of excellent medical access and health insurance), I am learning about this at age thirty four, when I have time to work on it.
Nutrition and exercise to strengthen my body in the areas that are weak will be the focus. I asked the doctor would I get better and he adamantly shook his head up and down. YES! “You will improve, we just don’t know how much you will improve, only time will tell.”
I left encouraged, and yet, in that instant, in those words on the small slip of paper I held in my hand, everything felt like it changed.
Nothing had ACTUALLY changed. I knew something was wrong, I’ve known something was wrong, and I learned this was with me since in my mother’s womb, and yet, everything FELT like it had changed.
After making all the follow up appointments, I climbed into my van in the parking deck and opened the internet and typed in the words from the slip of paper. I was overwhelmed, exactly the way the doctor said I would be, and also felt…numb.
Lukas was currently in the Houston airport and thankfully hadn’t taken off yet. Despite no internet and poor service we were able to process the news together. He’s my safe place and the more we talked, the more I teared up. I was afraid. I’d just learned more about another diagnosis (ADHD, way more on that to come!) the previous day and struggled to see how I was going to be successful in balancing both. He reminded me no matter what, we were going to do it together. He recommending taking off my research hat and focusing on self-care at the moment, which would give him a chance to get home, and for us to learn more, together. Essentially — take a deep breath, we are okay.
And I AM okay. Both ADHD and this newest diagnosis are two things I’ve had all my life. A life that’s been pretty dang full. A life in which I’ve functioned and thrived with both. A life ordained by a God who made me fearfully and wonderfully. Could this affect me longterm? Yes. Am I a little intimidated with the changes I’ll need to make? YES. Do I have hope that in all things He has made me more than a conqueror? HELL YES.
While on bedrest after James’ birth, I was sharing with my dad all the appointments we had when we got back to Atlanta. Lactation consultant, OBGYN, midwife, chiropractor, pediatrician, doula. He said “do you have TOO many experts?”
In this information heavy age, speaking with friends and family, diagnoses see to come extremely frequently. All the info is GREAT and shitty, all at the same time. Talking to mom this morning about the new diagnosis she reminded me “knowledge is power” to which I added “and ignorance is bliss”. There’s a happy medium where I’ve learned to use information and knowledge to my benefit, and have gotten really good at recognizing when I’m spiraling into a pit full of it (can anyone relate to the late night Google search that finds you DEEP somewhere you don’t want to be?!?)
After processing some of the initial feelings with my safest people (mom and Lukas), I fought the urge to bring others in. Even my bestest of friends and my TCC sisters. They will find out, soon enough. My circle will learn and find out what I need. They will be self-care for me, eventually. But right now, I chose self-care in the form of a chicken and waffle (that healing with nutrition thing can be figured out tomorrow!) from the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House.
With my belly stuffed with waffle, I drove the short mile back to my house and chose to hang out in the basement/garage to hide from my kids while I did another self-care thing, writing, telling my story. I’m not the only person that got a diagnosis today, or maybe yours will come next week or next month or next year.
Ever seen the stages of grief model? There are a whole bunch of them out there but this is my favorite:
Receiving today’s diagnosis triggered grief in me — grieving what life could be without it. In the same say I’m no stranger to life defining diagnoses, I’m also extremely familiar with grief. Being able to identify what I’m experiencing as grief helps me. It helps me allow myself to receive grace as this news sets in and brings clarity on how to move forward, one step at a time.