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My hip-hop anonymous story

Hi, everyone. My name is Cassie, and I’m a dysplastic.

First, a shout out to the hilarious movie “Big Daddy,” which inspired the title of this blog. Second, a little about me and why I’ve put this journal together.

I was diagnosed with bilateral hip dysplasia in July 2006 at the age of 27 at the Orthopaedic Center of the Rockies in Fort Collins, Colo. by Dr. Stephen Yemm. I’d had problems in my left hip since I was about 18 years old, but the older I got, the more often and more fiercely the pain would show up. One summer day about a month before I was diagnosed, I decided to walk five blocks to return a movie I had rented. As I walked, in pain, I saw my reflection in the storefront windows: a bent-over, hobbling version of myself.

I looked ridiculous.

This was not the same person I was proud to be (a weight-lifter, volleyball player, basketball player, dancer, rollerblader, hiker, jogger … in short, a strong and athletic woman). It was then that I decided to make an appointment to find out what was wrong and fix it.

I sat in the office that July day after taking X-rays and waited for the doctor to come in. I texted my sister that I was “bored, so bored.” As a joke, my sister — a veterinary technician — texted back: “You have hip dysplasia?” Ha ha, funny, that’s what dogs get! Ten minutes later, after asking me some questions and moving my legs in variety of vogue-esque poses, Dr. Yemm flipped the light onto my X-rays. My diagnosis — unlike the slow, difficult deterioration of my hips — came quickly and easily. “Ohhh, this makes sense. You have dysplastic hips.”

“I have what,” I thought, more a statement than a question. “What does that mean, and how do we fix it?”

Jump forward two years and five months later, and I finally have my answer. I’m scheduled for a periacetabular osteotomy (PAO) on my left hip on April 16, 2008, with the right hip to follow. Though I’m extremely relieved to be at this point, getting here has been a struggle physically and emotionally. In my I-have-to-know-everything-about-everything mind-set, I became frustrated by the lack of information about "human" dysplasia and PAO surgery. I hope this blog will help other women who are dealing with the same issues I am.

Before I knew about PAOs

As I sat in the doctor’s office, bewildered by the words he had spoken to me, I asked him what my options were.

Surgery was out because I was too young for a total hip replacement.

Traditional arthritis medication was not an option because I feared the effects it would have on my body long-term. (My choice, not the doctor’s). I did take a prescription, Limbrel, for a couple of months but didn’t notice that it helped any.

I was told to reduce my activity level, start a physical therapy regimen and load up on over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen. Realistically, I was simply biding my time until the pain was no longer bearable and I was forced to get a total hip replacement. Though reluctant to do so (what other choice did I have?), that was the action plan for about two years.

Problem is, the only activity I actually reduced was jogging; the only time I took the ibuprofen was when I got really sore; and I only went to physical therapy a few times before I realized it wasn’t helping. I'm not proud that I haven't followed orders as I should have, but I'm only 29, and my life revolves around being active. Reducing and/or giving up activities may lessen the physical problems, but it causes more emotional heartache than I can handle.

Two pivotal moments have happened between then and now:

1) While shopping with my mom in Costco (I’ve come to hate big stores), my hips became so sore I could hardly walk. I was trying to hide the pain like I normally do, and my mom didn’t know how bad it was. At one point, she asked me to head over to the bakery and pick up some rolls. Easy enough, right? But I knew I couldn’t do it. I just looked at her as tears filled my eyes, and she understood. I then watched as my 50-something mom had to do the extra walking that her young, fit daughter should have been doing for her. I felt like a failure.

2) A couple of friends and I headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park late this summer to see the fall colors and do some hiking. Three-quarters of the way to Bear Lake, I knew I had gone too far. Though I urged my friends to go on ahead, they would not. We started back on what became the most painful experience I’d had to date. It started on the inside of my hip, like normal, shot down to my knee and then ended up on the backside near my sciatic nerve. I had to stop and rest every six or seven minutes, in the pouring rain, mind you. I felt guilty that I’d kept my friends from reaching the scenic point, angry that I couldn’t make it myself, and depressed that my hiking days seemed to be over.

Those incidents sent me back to the computer, where I researched as much as I could. I found a great support group for women with hip dysplasia and discovered PAOs. Taking my health into my own hands, I spent hours upon hours on the Internet, made many phone calls and scheduled another doctor’s appointment. A few months later, I had my surgery date.

Inspiring blogs everywhere


BettyShocktopus said…
OMG I could have literally written this post myself. It's exactly how I feel. I too am 27 and just found out I have hip dysplasia. So much of this post rings so true with me. Thank you so much :)
Cass said…
Hi Betty! I somehow missed your comment from ages ago but just wanted to say that I'm glad you found my blog helpful, and I hope you are doing well. -Cassie

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Questions for surgeon pre-op

Below is my list of questions to ask Dr. Mayo pre-op.

About pre-op care and my dysplasia How many degrees is my dysplasia?How’s the other hip? When will I need surgery on it?What are my chances for a successful surgery?Should I be following any special diet or medication restrictions?
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If there's one blanket statement I could make about having a periacetabular osteotomy, I would say this:

It's a long recovery.

When friends, family, co-workers and strangers have comments or questions about the surgery, it's usually something like: "That sounds awful!" or "Was it really painful?" or "Scary."

Truth is, while it was awful, painful and scary at times, this whole time, it simply has been long. At four months post-op, I still feel remnants of surgery in my hip. I still can't lie on my op side for longer than an hour or two without discomfort, and I still have to help my leg in and out of the car on occasion. My hip is still tender to the touch, and of course, that tailbone ...

Don't get me wrong. I have SO much to celebrate, and I can't imagine myself happier with my left hip. I have recovered smoothly and quickly. I'm not asking for anything more. That being said, I have made the following progress in the past two …

3 years post-op LPAO

A surgery can change your body. Two surgeries can change everything.

Today, on the third anniversary of my LPAO, I inevitably think back to my first operation and the years leading up to that day.

Everything has changed.

I am an outdoors enthusiast and exercise nut. I can stay on my feet all day. My new body has freed my soul, and my heart responds in kind.

The breakdown is exactly the same as it was at two years post-op: zero pain with a couple of exceptions, great range of motion, same tingly patch and itching. The one difference is that my tailbone pain has waned considerably, which gives me much, much relief.

I'm a different person today than I was on April 23, 2008, and I'll be forever thankful.