Leanne, 58, is a real estate agent, which means she is on her feet a lot of the time. She is very athletic. Just before she discovered her hip problems, she had ridden bike from San Francisco to LA for the AIDS Life Cycle. She started running and that is when her hip started hurting. Working out for Leanne is an anti-depressant. She had had a few friends encourage her to have a hip replacement—even from an older woman who had one herself. When she finally saw a doctor he told her that the cartilage in her hip had worn down and she was “bone on bone.” She knew then she needed to have the operation. Six years later Leanne would have her other hip replaced.
LEANNE: I’m Leanne, I’m 58 years old. I’m a real estate agent. I’ve always been on my feet a lot. I’m very athletic and right before I started having hip problems I rode my bike from San Francisco to LA for the AIDS Lifecycle. So I was at the top of my game feeling like I was very healthy and fit.
LEANNE: So I decided that I was so fit that maybe I’d try to do like a mini-triathlon so I started running and that’s when my hip started hurting and I stretched and I stretched and I tried different things and it just kept getting worse.
LEANNE: First started out not being able to work out the way I liked to and honestly I think for me exercise is-is an antidepressant so I wasn’t exercising, I was feeling depressed and then as it progressed getting in and out of the car was really hard. Just, I didn’t have the energy.
Anything that I didn’t absolutely have to do I just wouldn’t do because it hurt. It hurt to do just about everything so I got to the point where I’d do what I had to do for work and even that was fairly uninspiring.
LEANNE: A friend of mine said, “Just get your hip replaced. What are you scared of?” I started seeing this physical therapist who I thought very highly of and we did a lot of stretching and different techniques and it wasn’t really helping and I had a few people say, “You need to go to the doctor. You need to have that looked at.” And I’m like, “Ugh.” But I really did start to get depressed. I couldn’t do the things I loved to do.
LEANNE: I was scared, I’d never had a major surgery before. But I knew when the doctor told me that I had bone on bone that cartilage doesn’t grow back. There was really nothing I could do about it. Really, that friend who had had one. Who just said, “It’s not that big of a deal.” She showed me her scar and she said, “You’ll be up in no time and you’ll be back doing the things that you love to do.” Because she was, um, someone who wasn’t as active as me, who was older than me, and if she said it was no big deal then I believed her.
LEANNE: I committed to my first surgery and then the doctor I went to was supposed to be one of the very best. He worked with the doctor who actually engineered the interior method which is the way that most doctors do it now. So I felt really comfortable with the doctor.
LEANNE: I remember waking up and not being able to move my leg at all and it was really strange. And the anesthesia was a little rough on me. That time I got a little sick but they had me up and walking that day with a walker, I’m pretty sure. The next day I was walking with a cane. And they just kind of prodded me and-and it was amazing.
LEANNE: I went home. I was able to go up and down the stairs albeit very carefully right away. And so I had a little routine when I’d get up because our bed-bedroom is upstairs for the two weeks I was home recovering. I’d gather everything I needed to go downstairs. I’d put it in a little fanny pack and get my cane and down I’d go and I was really very self-sufficient.
LEANNE: I had a physical therapist come. I’d have friends come and bring me lunch but it was pretty easy. I mean, as a surgery goes.
LEANNE: The thing that I have to say about my first hip replacement is I wasn’t in a lot of pain because I was in so much pain before that that was relieved. That bone on bone nerve pain that you feel when you’ve let it go to that point. So I wasn’t taking a lot of pain medication.
LEANNE: I was stir crazy, but I had my exercises and I mean I think it was maybe a week and a half before I could walk around the block which was a big deal. And that’s hard because for someone that just ridden their bike from San Francisco to LA. [LAUGH] Walking around the block and being exhausted feels discouraging but I am the kind of person who if I’m told, you know, you do these exercises and I see that I’m getting better and I see the progress I will stick with it.
LEANNE: Now I have to say if you’re someone who, who just thinks the surgery is going to fix everything. Be warned that you have to put in you’re share of the work and if you want to be back to where you were you’re going to have to work hard at it and-and probably with the help of a physical therapist. Because what happens to your body is you’ve got one leg that’s weak. The one’s that had surgery. The leg that’s strong wants to take over. Anything you do your strong leg just says, “I’ll do that for you.” And so what happens is your whole body gets out of whack and it affects your spine, it affects things that you do so if you don’t really work on that leg that’s had the surgery and do one-legged exercises. So you take your leg that’s weak and you really work on strengthening that one.
LEANNE: If you do, say a squat, and you do it with both legs, your strong leg is going to take over so you need to do your squat one-legged. And it hurts because it’s had surgery and it’s weak and it, you know, breaking out in a little cold sweat. I didn’t always listen to my body and I did try to do too much and my back would tell me [LAUGH] and I would hurt my back because my body was not equally balanced.
LEANNE: So around six years later and I had really gotten myself back in good shape again, back doing the things that I like to do and actually working out really hard. I started feeling the other hip and since my first hip I’d let it go so long, I mean the pain was excruciating. Um, these were just little… kind of reminder kind of pains like, “Ow, don’t do that, that doesn’t feel good.” And it started to dawn on me getting in and out of the car, all those kinds of things were getting really hard. And it started to dawn on me that perhaps the other hip was going the same direction.
LEANNE: I didn’t let it go as long. I went to the doctor. I had my X-Ray which is really all you need for this kind of diagnosis and it was getting close to bone on bone and he said, you know, “You don’t have to do it now, you could wait.” And I thought about it and I thought why would I wait, I’m in great shape now. It’ll be easy, well, I shouldn’t say easy.
LEANNE: It was the same method, I did actually go to another doctor just because it was more convenient. The anesthesia didn’t bother me this time. It must of been different. Um, I’m sure they made some advances. The actual surgery and recovery it was a little harder. I don’t know if that was just because I was six years older. You know, you never exactly know how things are going to affect you, whatever the difference is of what’s happening in your life.
LEANNE: I took pain medication this time and I didn’t the time before. I was having trouble sleeping, I was having trouble getting comfortable. After a month I was off the pain medication. I was getting around fine and I don’t know why I had more pain. I don’t like to take pain medication. For me it really messes with my head. I get forgetful and I’m already forgetful enough. [LAUGH]
LEANNE: I probably was a little-little more depressed the second time. You know, it’s hard being stuck in the house, it’s hard not to be hanging out with my buddies at the gym.
LEANNE: I’m pretty sure I started back doing things a little too quickly and I did go back to the doctor and I said, “My leg-my leg’s really hurting.” And he said, “You know, you’re just, you’re really stiff. I would suggest yoga or a lot of stretching, you’re trying to do things that are too difficult.” So I embrace yoga and I was horrible at it but I really learned to like it actually.
LEANNE: Second doctor said that he found that it was better not to do physical therapy right away and I just think looking back on it, maybe I shouldn’t of done it right away but I should have done it. I really notice that even though the problem was the hip and I was having the key pain in the hip that my back was constantly tweaked. I would even say just sometimes sitting didn’t feel good and I maybe that’s when the back-the backside of the hip. But yeah, when you’re out of balance you can pretty much hurt any part of your body.
LEANNE: Muscles get very knotted up when you’re out of balance and you really need to just have someone go in there and work those knots out. I do believe that the problems that I’ve had recovering on this leg are because of not physically doing things correctly. Perhaps if I’d just walked and I didn’t try to do some of the, you know, weightlifting and boxing and things that I like to do I probably wouldn’t of had the problems that I’ve had recovering.
LEANNE: Managing expectations is, mm, the key to life. [LAUGH] And unfortunately I think that it’s something we’re always learning about no matter how old we are. We have to be realistic with ourselves and that’s something that’s hard, it’s hard for me. I don’t want to get old, [LAUGH] I-I still feel like I’m, you know, 18 in my head, not that I would really want to be 18 again but you just… I, you have to be grateful. That’s all I can say. You have to be grateful for what you have. If you can be grateful that’s the first thing. Look around, you look at that person who’s shuffling and you think, “I’m so fortunate. I can-I can walk again, I can get in and out of the car.”
LEANNE: And then perhaps adjust [BREATH] your thinking about, okay, so I love to box, what is it about the boxing that I like so much? What I like about the boxing is just that I’m sweating, and just feel like so much energy has just come out and it’s a high. But I don’t think boxing is good for me [LAUGH] in the future. I’m pretty sure I probably need to let that go.
LEANNE: I also don’t want to live my life with regrets so if I feel like there’s a possibility that I can live my life the way I want to do it I’m going to take the risk. The risk is not that intense for a hip replacement. They’ve really got it down but, you know, you take a risk when you cross the street. [LAUGH] When you ride a bike you take a lot of risk. You probably take more risk riding a bike on the streets of LA than you do going in for a hip surgery.
LEANNE: Was I scared that morning when I was sitting in there? Yeah, [NODS HEAD] I mean I just wanted them to put me under quickly so I don’t have to think about it anymore. [NODS HEAD] But I-I really would urge someone who’s putting it off, who’s in pain, to really think about the quality of your life. Don’t you want your life to be better? It’s worth it, it’s really worth it.
LEANNE: It’s really so… uh, liberating to be out of pain. Just to be able to-to get in and out of the car and not even have to think about it, that’s awesome. [NODS HEAD] [LAUGH] That’s really nice.
LEANNE: But when you commit to having a surgery, you decide to do it, I really believe that your attitude is a good 80 percent of what’s going to bring you a positive outcome. Being negative or being ungrateful is really never going to get you anywhere in with the surgery or in life. You have to work with the professionals, you have to take their advice. You have to put some effort in, you can’t be cured by a surgery and a pill. You know, you have to be the one that gets yourself out of bed, that gets yourself moving, and you can have a professional help you in the beginning but then it’s up to you. And I think we have these surgeries to improve the quality of our lives, that’s why I had mine.
LEANNE: My aha moment on hip number one was I wanted to go on a trip to visit my son who’s living in-in Lebanon. And I wanted to go on a bike trip through Morocco and I said if I don’t do it now, there’s no way I can do this. I won’t be able to sit on the plane. I certainly won’t be able to ride my bike. I’m doing it.
LEANNE: So I had my surgery and I worked really hard. I had it three months before we went on the trip. Uh, I can’t even imagine not going on that trip. It was amazing being sort of shown the history of the Middle East by my son, who was living there. And then the trip to Morocco was beautiful, it was amazing, and I was tired. I didn’t, it was a group cycling trip and I was in the back and I-I did the-the best I could do. I wasn’t out in front trying to be the first person to the end but just to kind of culturally experience that place, um, on a bike was really-really interesting.
LEANNE: So if I hadn’t had my hi-hip replaced that would be an incredible-incredible memory that I wouldn’t have. And that-that would be-have been a huge loss in my life.
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