Author John Green stated once that "Humans tend to measure time within the framework of important events…The event that we're counting…away from is the defining moment of these people's lives and it reshapes their relationship to the world so completely that it also reshapes their understanding of time." During my "before" I was a dancer; ballet, jazz, and tap. It was everything to me and my dream at the time was to someday dance on Broadway. During one of my classes, while doing battements, it suddenly felt as of my hip had popped out of its socket, causing me to fall to the ground. It didn't hurt at the time, but I still sat out for the rest of the class and went to the doctors the next day. The first trip to the doctors was quite uneventful. I was told that it was probably nothing more than a strained thigh and to just take it easy for two weeks, and if the pain is still there go back to the doctor. That was fine and I did as told, until one day in gym while playing DDR I somehow managed to twist wrong and once again, fell to the floor in pain. I had to be helped to the nurses and went home for the day. I was so scared at that moment. I had never felt pain like that before; shooting pains down my leg, unable to put any weight on it. We immediately made an appointment at CHOP for a couple of days later. That day at CHOP is the most vivid memory I have of the whole first experience.
After being called into the exam room, after waiting for two hours and already haven my x-rays taken, it took another thirty minutes for the doctor to come into the room. Waiting there on the exam table, the paper making my legs itch and the room being about freezing, anxiety started to set in. I didn't know what I was expecting but I was scared nonetheless. When Dr. Smith finally came in, she introduced herself and then started examining my leg, testing the movement and range on motion. I can remember looking up at her and seeing her frown at my leg, that was scary in itself. When she sat back down she brought up my x-ray onto the computer screen to show my mother and me. It definitely was not what we had expected; there was a bone spur on my right femoral head that was causing me the pain. And the words that came out of her mouth next still haunt me today:
"It's called Avascular Necrosis and you're going to have to have surgery to fix it."
I was in shock as well as my mother. Surgery was the last thing we had considered that would need to happen! What was even more heartbreaking than the fact that I needed to have surgery was when Dr. Smith told me that I wouldn't be able to dance again. I cried for hours that night, and couldn't talk to anyone for a long while. My entire world was falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it. Dance was my life; it was the only thing I had that was really mine. Being told that I would never be able to dance again broke me into a million little pieces that even after three years, I'm still trying to put back together.
From February to my surgery in July everything's a blur. I couldn't focus on anything and I honestly didn't even want to think about the surgery. I met my surgeon; Dr. Davidson, whom I really didn't like, got my surgery date; July 29th, and tried to forget about it all. I felt hopeless and heartbroken. I wasn't able to finish my year of ballet and jazz, and would never be able to again. The only saving grace was that I was able to finish out my year of tap, but it didn't make up for the loss of ballet. The whole summer blurs together, even my actual surgery.
I had to be at the hospital by five a.m. to get checked in. From there I was taken into the back waiting rooms with my parents to get prepped. I changed into the hospital gown and then waited on the bed for what seemed like hours. They gave me blankets to keep me warm since the back rooms were freezing, and gave me some medicine to start making me sleepy. I know I tried to fight off the medicine, I wasn't ready. I would never be ready. But eventually the medicine won and I started to drift off. They began to wheel me out of the room and down the hall. The last thing I remember was a solid noise, nothing specific yet I knew people were talking. The nurse was telling me a joke and the lights in the OR were blinding white, and then I was out.
I thought that the surgery would fix everything except my ability to dance, that I knew was gone. But what the surgery really did was ruin my life. I went through a year of physical therapy to end up worse than when I started before the surgery; in constant pain and unable to move some days. Any hope that I had originally was slowly fading and I was left again in despair. No longer was it just the inability to dance, I could barely walk anymore. Multiple days I would miss school each week, or end up in the nurse's office with the heating pad. It seemed as if nothing was going to get better. That was it, I had given up. Trying wasn't even worth it anymore. But my mom started doing some research on AN and found a doctor through a parent chat room that was renowned in AN and AN related surgeries. It wasn't a lot, and I didn't have a lot of faith that anything would come of it, but we decided to go meet him.
As with the first surgery the months leading up to the actual surgery were a blur. I had met Dr. Standard, my new physician, in March and instantly liked him. He walked us through exactly what he was going to do for the procedure and how he planned to go from there. Both my mother and I had more confidence this time. We had more hope than we had in a long while. The surgery was right around the date that the first surgery had taken place, which I found really weird and almost foreboding. I do remember more of that time than the first one. That I was more at ease and I had my best friend there to keep me company. I stayed at the Ronald McDonald house for the first week so I could have my checkup and not have to worry about driving back down to Maryland multiple times. From that point on it was an uphill battle to get better.
I worked my butt off this time around. The physical therapy this time, with my previous physical therapist, Eric, was ten times better. I got results faster with far less pain than before. I didn't end up back where I started and for that I was extremely grateful. The best part was that after fourteen months of PT, what seemed like a ton of doctor visits, and a crap load of tears, I was able to go back to dance. It wasn't ballet, which I still miss, but tap. But when I was told that I was allowed, and even encouraged, to start tap up again I was beyond ecstatic.
Looking back now, being in dance and have come this far, the initial horror of what I had to get done, and the painful recovery of the first surgery seem almost like a dream. I started off in such a bad place, depressed that I was no longer able to dance and that I'd never get to Broadway, and in constant excruciating pain. To end up being able to tap and walk and just move easily is extremely satisfying. I learned a lot about myself through the three years that my life turned upside down. I persevered and came out on top. Even though I let my troubles drag me down in the beginning, there was new light and new hope, and that makes me happy.