"You need to stop running," the doctor said.
"That ain't happening."
"Then you need to lose weight. You're 210 lbs."
"Doc," I said, "I have 16% body fat."
He shook his head solemnly. "That's right. The weight lifting. You're too...solid."
"So you're saying it'd be better if I was a big fat gooey guy who sat on his ass and watched TV?"
The doctor laughed. "No, it's good that you exercise. But the X-Rays show advancing traumatic arthritis. It's bone on bone. Basically, it's about how much pain you can tolerate."
How much pain can I tolerate? A fucking lot. The one thing I can do better than you is bang my head against a wall longer. It's not exactly the most desirable of skill sets. Sorta the Aqua Man of superpowers.
But you work with what you have. And the fact is, once I stop running, that's it. As in, like, forever. Until the day I die.
Saw my new orthopedist, Dr. Chen, yesterday because my hip has steadily gotten worse. The X-Rays show why it's been hard some night to climb the stairs (and the new house has a lot of stairs). The arthritis, which is essentially decayed cartilage, stripping away all natural joint lubrication, leaving dry bone scraping against dry socket, has pretty much taken over the side of my right acetabulum. Interestingly enough, it has not taken over the top of the ball and socket, which is what is affected most by my running, which doctors have frowned up since my taking it up once I was declared weight barring again.
The truth is, I don't run much anymore. There was a while there where I was running well over 20 miles a week. But I had to stop that shit. I do about 4.5 miles a week now. Most of my cardio is on the bike or hitting the heavy bag. Still, I hate being told I can't do something. Especially when you consider the reality of my stopping running: it's not like I'll be able to start up again. Ever. The beauty of a degenerative condition is that things are as good as they'll ever get right now. And now. Not then. Nope. Not anymore. Now.
Doctors are conservative by nature, I get that, and I've been advised that running probably isn't the best thing for my hip, and I'm not an idiot; I understand why. Running is hard on a hip, violent pounding.
But even Dr. Chen conceded that the most important thing is that I remain active. He just thinks, like my lovely (hippy) wife and everyone in the granola-munching, tree fucking NorCal woods, that I'd be better suited doing...yoga.
Fuck yoga. You ever see me dressed in a sarong, looking like I'm trying to blow myself, I invite you to, please, please kick my ass.
I am a Clifford. Like my asshole father before me. And my two dipshit brothers. We lift heavy things. We curse (and frequently get divorced). We do not wear helmets when we ride our motorcycles. And we don't do yoga.
Dr. Chen says the hip replacement is inevitable. Which I already knew. He couldn't say how soon. Which I also already knew. But certainly within this decade. We talked about doing it now, the benefits and the risks. The problem is, it's a temporary fix. Artificial, these mechanized parts have a shelf life. They'd have to replace my hip about every ten years, each time working with less and less natural bone. Being delusional, I prefer to think of myself more like Steve Austin.
Better. Stronger. Crankier.
Who really gives a shit? It's not that complicated. I had a bad accident. It didn't cost six million to put me back together (last I checked we were around $300K). But they fixed me up pretty good anyway. And who doesn't have pain? My buddy Jimmy is losing his spine. My pal Jon's brain is misfiring. Everyone I know is hurting. I don't know anybody not in pain.
Can't resist a chance to link a clip of Princess Bride. (Rodents of Unusual Size, anyone?)
It's the helpless part that gets to me, this idea that nothing I do, no matter how hard I work (and I push this body hard), can stave off the inevitable. But if you want to get all philosophical and shit, I guess none of us can, right?
'Cause I'm getting on in the world, coming up on 41 years, 41 gray stoney steps toward the grave, y'know, the box, awaits its grisly load. We're all gonna be food for worms...
Sorry. Little clip happy this morning. Issues of mortality will do that to you.
"I told you running was bad for you," my wife says, smugly, as she feeds our son breakfast. "Haven't I been telling you that?"
(Justine is the only wife on earth who actively encourages her husband to exercise less and eat more poorly ["The gym? Again? Here, wouldn't you rather have some nice cake?"] She says she liked my body better before, when we first met, before all the weight lifting. Because I was all soft and spongey, like a Stretch Armstrong left out in the sun.)
So I explained all this to her, again, how sedentary is actually far worse for my hip, how once I give up running, that'll be it. I talked about the powerless feeling of it all, and needing to feel like I can still do the things I used to do. I told her I could really use a little support, because exercising with this damn hip gets harder every day.
She smiled sympathetically, gave an understanding nod.
Then she said what everybody in San Francisco's Bay Area says when you are experiencing issues of mobility.
"But I still say you should really do yoga."