My body is dancing again!
For the past 11 months, my long-time friend Naomi (we studied ballet together with Haynes Owens and Larry Rhodes at Dennis Wayne's' Dancerschool in the 8O's and had lost touch until I unknowingly fell into her website looking for answers to my questions about hip surgery) has been gently trying to get me to tell 'my story'.
Truthfully, my surgery (total hip replacement) which was almost a year ago (April 1, 2005) was so successful that I was quickly up and about, resuming my more than full time schedule as artistic director and producer of Dancenow/NYC and mom to a family of five very large dogs that I have raised with my husband of 31 years. I have been so 'on the go' enjoying my new bionic body that I have had little time to sit down and write about the greatest gift I ever received - my new left hip.
I share my story with you all of you now, because it is so important to share and pass along truths and fears about hip replacement. I know many of you who are facing this decision and many of you who will face this process at some point.
Like those of you who have had THR or are thinking about it, I tried every means I could (supplements, weekly massage, meditation, ice, heat, etc. etc.) to avoid surgery and was committed to managing the condition for the rest of my life. I did not want a foreign part in my body. I feared the pain of surgery. I had never even been in the hospital before. I feared I would not walk normally. I feared dislocating the replacement joint.
When I first went to see Dr. Douglass Padgett in the spring of 2002 to find out what the problem was in my left hip (I had been dancing in pain for well over a year) he did not even want me to think about surgery until I was 60. Once the diagnosis of advanced osteoarthritis was made I actually started to feel better. I started to really address what was wrong and to learn how to deal with the injury and the issues that caused it. This was a very important pre-surgery lesson that I believe truly helped in my fast recovery.
I began a heavy investment in Pilates after years of taking ballet on a 24/7/365 basis, long rehearsal hours and yoga classes. I owe enormous gratitude to my best friend Susan Moran who directs Power Pilates for dragging me to her studio for a consultation with Howard Sichel, and to my incredible trainer, Juliet Harvey who kept me moving, got me into super strong shape before my surgery and is now (post-surgery) taking me to into a new world full of wonderful discoveries.
In the winter of 2003, I stopped dancing cold turkey. It was not something I had thought about doing, it just happened. Auditioned by George Balanchine and accepted into The School of American Ballet at the young age of 10, I dreamt only of becoming a ballerina. For reasons that I was later very grateful about, my career went off into a different direction and I eventually went on to study liberal arts at Goucher College, only to graduate as the first dance major of this all girls school. Returning to New York in the late 70's, I took jazz class with at The Alvin Ailey School for fun before returning to ballet dancing full time at the very late at the age of 25. For the next 20 plus years, I enjoyed a great career as a dancer, performing work by numerous modern dance choreographers and most passionately in solo and duet work created for me by Zvi Gotheiner. Those who knew me thought that I would dance forever. So did I. I was truly enjoying the experience of dancing at the late age of 51.
I remember the day I left ballet class at City Center in enormous pain and frustration and never returned. For the next year and a half I kept my mind busy with work producing dance all over New York City and I did as much pilates as possible to keep myself in shape. I was sad for a while about not dancing, but that diminished as it was one less thing to worry about and I was now doing whatever I could to be out of pain. Few people were aware of my condition as I did a great job in masking it. It was a heavy burden to carry. Slowly, I began to realize that I was actually letting go of, instead of adding, more things in my life. I could only manage a few blocks around the city and stopped walking the trails at the farm where I live with my husband and family of dogs. I could only manage to wear certain shoes and never heels. I was tired all of the time.
When I fell down a full flight of stairs in December 2004 after my leg just gave out, I decided that I had had enough. I wanted my life back. In February I told Dr. Padgett that I was ready and we set the date for the first week of April, 2005. I spent the next few months getting ready with a huge sense of relief. My thoughts had dramatically shifted from not wanting a foreign object/part in my body to embracing the knowledge that this diseased body part and pain that ruled my life would be gone.
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Out of Pain
My surgery was April 1, 2005 (actually moved up three days at the last moment, giving me little time to really get nervous). From the moment I woke up in my hospital room, post-surgery, I was out of pain. While the meds and Viacadin keep me from feeling anything, I knew immediately that my body was in a different place. Friends who came to see me could not believe the look on my face and in just 24 hours I was up and walking laps around the hospital floor. I started to show off my pilates pelvic tilts on day 2 or 3, amazed that my operated leg was now able to be in a parallel position with my foot, ankle, knee and hip all tracked in one line. I think that I went from the walker to crutches to a cane all in one day. The nurses soon labeled me 'miss independent' as I was getting in and out of bed on my own. I went home to Pennsylvania via an hour and _ drive 4 days after the surgery.
At home just 24 hours, I was trying to figure out what to do with myself. Sitting was the most difficult in those early days, so I buzzed around the house cleaning, dusting and even vacuuming. I had totally cleared my work schedule for the next month plus, as I was told that I would be exhausted and would really need at least a few months to recover. Basically - I was moving along at a rapid speed from the start. After one month I was driving again, climbing stairs several times a day, walking everywhere and doing almost everything I had been doing - with care and caution, of course.
At six weeks, I went back to Power Pilates and each month since I have added something (swimming, stretching, feldenkrais, yoga, floor barre, ballet barre, yoga), exploring new ways to keep my body and spirit dancing again. I have had NO pain since the day of my surgery. I went off the Viacidin after a week and it was only in the very early days of PT that I took any kind of pain killer (Aleve). I was off all restrictions after 3 months. The only thing I have not been cleared to do is 'Mermaid' pose in yoga and I hope that after my first year anniversary that may change. I enjoy full child's pose and am back to doing everything in pilates and actually more than I could do before I started training at Power Pilates.
I have not yet made a decision about 'really dancing' or performing again. I am enjoying this time to learn new things, including training in Feldenkrais and Qi Gong. These past 11 months have been such a great journey. I have a clean slate and want to take my time filling it up with good things. One of the greatest things is that my new 'turbo' hip with its longevity lining has no history. It is full of air and free. The feeling is fantastic! My right hip has carried the weight these past few pain filled years and has some 'wear and tear' (which I am told not to worry about for many many years) and is learning from the freeness of my new hip. It is all very fun.
Two months ago, I found myself (out of the blue) doing 'ronde de jambes' with my operated leg with unbelievable ease. And, they were perfect! Every day, I continue to add and let my body just do what it has always done - dance!
Viva La Dance!
Submitted Febtuary 23, 2006
Artistic Director & Producer, Dancenow/NYC
527 Hudson Street, PO BOX 2OO29 NY, NY 1OO14
917.664.8065 (Tuesday's & Thursday's)
610.346.6625 (PA office - Mon, Wed, Fri between 10am and 5pm)
Dancenow/NYC is focused on the development of an extended relationship with the artist and audience community that it serves, promoting the work of innovative dancemakers by providing them with threshold performance and career opportunities and generating new audiences and interest in dance. Our mission is to provide a broad, multi-generational spectrum of choreographers with challenging, meaningful and year-round performance opportunities and to encourage and nurture the creative process and development of new work. Equally committed to bringing dance to new audiences and advancing the audience for dance, Dancenow/NYC creates fun, accessible and unconventional ways to experience a vast and inspirational spectrum of contemporary dance. Designing performance events for traditional theaters as well as unusual urban sites, Dancenow/NYC informs its audiences about what's now in dance.
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