Goodbye, Hip.

 

Tomorrow my right hip will be excised, pruned, dismantled, de-commissioned, removed, taken away, discarded, supplanted, to be replaced, implanted.

Something made of living bone which has been with me for all of my life will be replaced with an inert substitute. I know that the hip joint I have now, at 69, is not composed of the same bone cells as the one I had when I was born but it is the same structure being replaced constantly with new cells all my life. It has known what shape it was meant to be and the cells just got on with it.

I’ve never seen it. Like so much of my body it is buried deep, protected and wrapped by muscles and tendons.

My mother tells me that one of my knees had to be dislocated to let me be born. But that knee has always felt fine. Tomorrow my right hip will have to be dislocated after the muscles have been laid bare and drawn aside to allow access to the joint: the anterior approach. The ball at the end of the femur, now arthritic and covered in cysts, will be dislodged from its socket now lacking intact cartilage, and both surfaces exposed to the air and the lights.

I feel tender towards these poor worn out parts of my skeleton. At least the socket will still be in situ after being scraped out and resurfaced. But the femoral head will go. No saving it.

Thank you hip! You served to crawl, walk, run, ride a tricycle and a bike, and drive a car. You played hopscotch, marbles, dodgie, rounders, softball, tennis, netball. You loved being in water, and swam and kicked up and down the Bendigo pool for miles and miles and miles; although you didn’t really like kicking that much. It was the shoulders living above you that pulled you through the water. You were made to ski, reluctantly. You enjoyed dancing at parties and later you went to work at jazz ballet. You never much liked walking and the feet below you hurt until they were equipped with orthotics. Just walking was boring, and you got sore and creaky – until you discovered that you loved walking up mountains on little uneven paths. Somehow this sort of walking suited you. It stopped you being bored and doing the same old steps all the time. Going down was fine, except that the knees had a grumble about that.

When you were fifty you started working a potter’s wheel, which meant sitting with knees either side of a sort of drum enclosing the electric motor that turned the wheel. You had to make the right foot push down to work the power pedal near the floor. After about 14 years of this the muscles supporting you got very tight and made it hard for you to move easily.

By the time you were sixty six you had given up the wheel, but then you climbed up some concrete stairs and started learning tango. This was hard for you. You had to carry a whole body’s weight on your own – hold, balance and swivel around on one foot. The muscles you needed weren’t strong enough to protect your cartilage. Soon you were scraping femoral head against boney socket and irritating muscles and tissues around you. You found it harder and harder to slide smoothly in the socket. You developed cysts. It was no good. X rays showed you had lost all your protection and lubrication. You were scraping bone on bone. You hurt!

It is time to say ‘thank you’ for all the happiness and experiences you have given me, my dear hip joint. I’m sorry you have broken down.

I’m glad I live in a time when I can be anaesthetized, my body cut open, have old damaged parts removed and new parts inserted, sewn up, woken up, pain controlled, infection minimized, and then helped to recover by people whose work it is to do so.

Good bye old hip.

Hello new hip.

 

 

Tango,Arthritis, A Total Hip Replacement and a Return to Tango

 

Who would have thought that just walking backwards around a dance floor would be so fraught with complexity!

The first two years of learning tango had been so full of new ideas, names, people, music and movements such as ochos, the Lady’s Basic and walking, that it was often difficult to recognise that my brain and the body actually had a connection with each other.

By the third year, 2014, I decided to consciously turn my brain off and let my body do what it had been practising and repeating. It seemed to work. I stopped leading, though in class it had felt like ‘anticipating’, and enjoyed just waiting to see what happened. I felt that I was starting to get the feel of the dance and was enjoying the never-ending refinement of the most simple elements-such as the walk!

The lady spends a lot of time balancing and turning on the one leg, and I became aware that my legs and hips were not as strong as they might have been. My right hip was getting sorer and sorer, feeling weak and it was painful to step that leg across my body. I stopped doing the classes, hoping rest would help.

I sit in one of the big armchairs in the darker bar section of Sidewalk Tango watching the brightly lit Intermediate class, with my husband in it, work on the figure for the night. David calls, ‘Change partners,’ and the women move to the next man in the line of dance. My friends are practising their ochos and adornments while I sit and tell myself that it’s quite good to learn by watching. Hah! Who am I kidding? I long to be out there with them.

Rest, Pilates and the Physio seemed to be getting me nowhere so towards the end of October, I took myself off to the GP. My hip movement was restricted enough for her to write two referrals, one for an Xray and the other for an orthopaedic surgeon. She was certain that I had osteo-arthritis and would probably need a hip replacement.

I was shocked but she was absolutely right. By November, I’m sitting in the rooms of the surgeon and holding a surprisingly heavy ceramic and titanium replacement hip joint as he explains how it works. Up on the screen, my right hip joint showed as an amorphous, grey shadowy mass.

‘It’s bone on bone,’ he said. ‘I’m surprised I haven’t seen you sooner.’

I had been surprised too. Up to that point I had had no direct pain in the hip but a lot of what I now realize was referred pain in my hip flexor and glutes.

I was almost too afraid to ask if I’d be able to return to the balancing, turning and twisting of tango, but did. Yes, I will. The physiotherapy will get me there. I can’t wait!

The surgeon has a really good website,which has an animation of the Anterior Total Hip Replacement operation. After the incision in the front of the hip, the muscles are drawn aside in turn, getting ever deeper and deeper to reveal at last, the star of the show, the arthritic hip joint, whitely gleaming. I’m reminded of the series of curtains being drawn at the cinema before the screen appears with the promise of real action. Here, the action continues with the hip being dislocated, the top of the femur sawn off and the replacement inserted into a hole drilled into the femur. A new socket is cemented into the old one, and the replacement ball placed into it. The muscles are released to return to their tight overlapping pattern, enfolding and protecting my new hip.

All this looks deceptively simple on the computer screen, with no blood or real body parts. This is where the huge, exciting leap happens as the surgeon’s skill, experience and expertise translate this cool, schematic plan into reality in the flesh and blood of my body. On my part, this is where real trust is needed.

By the end of November, I had a date for my surgery – January 13, 2015.

There’s now the prospect of returning to normal life. I’ve been living in limbo for months. I can’t tango. I can’t walk. I can’t sleep. I can’t think clearly. I’ve been holding pain at bay with pain killers and anti-inflammatories. My strength and agility have gone. I feel off-colour a lot of the time. I’m increasingly irritable and hard to live with.

But now I wait. By January I was in real pain within the hip and finding walking any distance at all extremely painful. There are two days to go.

I’ll keep you informed.

 

 

 

 

Tango, Arthritis, A Hip Replacement and a Return to Tango .

Who would have thought that just walking backwards around a dance floor would be so fraught with complexity!

The first two years of learning tango had been so full of new ideas, names, people, music and movements such as ochos, the Lady’s Basic and walking, that it was often difficult to recognise that my brain and the body actually had a connection with each other.

By the third year, 2014, I decided to consciously turn my brain off and let my body do what it had been practising and repeating. It seemed to work. I stopped leading, though in class it had felt like ‘anticipating’, and enjoyed just waiting to see what happened. I felt that I was starting to get the feel of the dance and was enjoying the never-ending refinement of the most simple elements-such as the walk!

The lady spends a lot of time balancing and turning on the one leg, and I became aware that my legs and hips were not as strong as they might have been. My right hip was getting sorer and sorer, feeling weak and it was painful to step that leg across my body. I stopped doing the classes, hoping rest would help.

I sit in one of the big armchairs in the darker bar section of Sidewalk Tango watching the brightly lit Intermediate class, with my husband in it, work on the figure for the night. David calls, ‘Change partners,’ and the women move to the next man in the line of dance. My friends are practising their ochos and adornments while I sit and tell myself that it’s quite good to learn by watching. Hah! Who am I kidding? I long to be out there with them.

Rest, Pilates and the Physio seemed to be getting me nowhere so towards the end of October, I took myself off to the GP. My hip movement was restricted enough for her to write two referrals, one for an Xray and the other for an orthopaedic surgeon. She was certain that I had osteo-arthritis and would probably need a hip replacement.

I was shocked but she was absolutely right. By November, I’m sitting in the rooms of the surgeon and holding a surprisingly heavy ceramic and titanium replacement hip joint as he explains how it works. Up on the screen, my right hip joint showed as an amorphous, grey shadowy mass.

‘It’s bone on bone,’ he said. ‘I’m surprised I haven’t seen you sooner.’

I had been surprised too. Up to that point I had had no direct pain in the hip but a lot of what I now realize was referred pain in my hip flexor and glutes.

I was almost too afraid to ask if I’d be able to return to the balancing, turning and twisting of tango, but did. Yes, I will. The physiotherapy will get me there. I can’t wait!

The surgeon has a really good website,which has an animation of the Anterior Total Hip Replacement operation. After the incision in the front of the hip, the muscles are drawn aside in turn, getting ever deeper and deeper to reveal at last, the star of the show, the arthritic hip joint, whitely gleaming. I’m reminded of the series of curtains being drawn at the cinema before the screen appears with the promise of real action. Here, the action continues with the hip being dislocated, the top of the femur sawn off and the replacement inserted into a hole drilled into the femur. A new socket is cemented into the old one, and the replacement ball placed into it. The muscles are released to return to their tight overlapping pattern, enfolding and protecting my new hip.

All this looks deceptively simple on the computer screen, with no blood or real body parts. This is where the huge, exciting leap happens as the surgeon’s skill, experience and expertise translate this cool, schematic plan into reality in the flesh and blood of my body. On my part, this is where real trust is needed.

By the end of November, I had a date for my surgery – January 13, 2015.

There’s now the prospect of returning to normal life. I’ve been living in limbo for months. I can’t tango. I can’t walk. I can’t sleep. I can’t think clearly. I’ve been holding pain at bay with pain killers and anti-inflammatories. My strength and agility have gone. I feel off-colour a lot of the time. I’m increasingly irritable and hard to live with.

But now I wait. By January I was in real pain within the hip and finding walking any distance at all extremely painful. There are two days to go.

I’ll keep you informed.

 

 

 

 

My Place, Sidewalk Tango

MY  PLACE. AN UPSTAIRS TANGO CLUB IN RICHMOND.

Published  in The Sunday Age, 2.3.2014

I step through the door between the chefs’ clothing supplies and the bolt warehouse in Swan Street, and climb the steep concrete stairs. Music becomes louder as we rise. We pay at the retro bar and sit down to change into our dance shoes.

People appear at the top of the stairs, pay and join us on the vinyl couches and chairs to chat and get ready for class. The piles of shoe bags accumulate. David and Di, the teachers, are moving around, checking the music, greeting us, putting out trays of water jugs and glasses. Evening light filters through the bamboo blinds and unlined red curtains across the dance floor to where we sit and wait at the back. The roar of trams competes with the background music.

A bit after seven, David gathers us onto the floor and the tango lesson begins. We stand in a line facing the mirrors on the opposite wall. We’re a varied lot, ranging from very tall to very short, from quite large to tiny. We could be aged twenty or seventy and could have been learning for years or be joining our first lesson.

The class accommodates each of us, rigorously and courteously. We move from partner to partner, gradually developing the steps for the night as the Golden Age tango music swirls around us. Our brains and bodies work really hard. After an hour, those water jugs and glasses are very important.

I love Sidewalk Tango.

www.sidewalktango.com.au

Tango,the Mountain and the Entrega.

image.

Picking my way along narrow, steep mountain paths in the French Alps, I found that I was being accompanied by tango music from our Melbourne Sidewalk Tango classes running through my head. The beat gave a rhythm to my steps which were often up and down and around awkwardly placed rocks. My peripheral vision was of an ongoing rock garden filled with Alpine flowers or snowy peaks or the valley below.

However, my attention was always on my feet and the path they were about to walk on – too much scope for accidents otherwise. So I’d stop and stand still if I wanted to look up from the path.image.

It came to me gradually that I was dancing a sort of tango with the mountain as my partner. I embraced the mountain leaning slightly forward, feet placed firmly and cleanly. Grasping the walking poles , I took care to plant them one at a time in a steady balancing position. There is a direct contact with the mountain. The gaze varies according to the difficulty of the path.

In the Open Embrace, when the walking is fairly straightforward with the poles used quite lightly, the gaze is centred in a widish circle slightly ahead of the feet and monitoring where to step.image.

The Close Embrace is used when the path is steep and rocky. Here the gaze becomes intent on the actual area of the feet and path and the pole grip is firmer and closer to the body. It’s intense and focused.image.

I realized that when I was lifting my foot and leg cleanly and neatly over and around rocks so as not to trip, I was actually doing Decorations.

There’s a closeness between me and the mountain path where I have to be attentive to its every configuration and follow its lead. Sometimes it leads me in a steady, smooth walk, sometimes it will ask me to step over a rock, or, with more complexity, ask me to choose a series of short, safe foot places in a short rock climb.

My body and mind are totally engaged in this tango with the mountain.

You’ll note the dress code is very different for mountain tango.