This January, after the holiday bloat subsided, I resolved to become more physically fit (surprise, surprise). I was never a fan of traditional sports or workouts, but over the past few years, I learned to enjoy (and even look forward to) group fitness classes like Zumba and barre. When my favorite Chicago fitness studio closed last December, I decided to start the new year with a ClassPass membership which would allow me to attend unlimited workout classes at dozens of yoga, barre, pilates, and dance studios across the city. I was apprehensive to leave the comfort zone of my home studio and branch out to many new places and classes on my own, but I’ve never been one to shy away from going out of my comfort zone. I set my sights on trying hot yoga, and signed up for my first class at CorePower Yoga in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago. My previous experience with yoga was limited, and I had never found a class or instructor that resonated with me…not until that first class at CorePower.
I filed into the yoga studio alongside the dozens of other “resolutioners” and spread out my unused Lululemon yoga mat (a sure sign I was a newbie). The beginner’s class took us through a series of poses linked to breath. This is called vinyasa, and in my opinion, is what makes the yoga experience incredible, rejuvenating, and meditative. For the first time, I experienced the benefits – both mental and physical – of yoga. From that point on, my fears about trying new types of exercise and going to new studios by myself completely dissipated. The “gymtidation” factor was gone, and I began taking classes 5 days a week at various yoga and barre studios throughout Chicago (thanks, ClassPass, for exposing me to so many new studios and forms of exercise).
I started to see several changes take place. I became physically and mentally stronger. I gained flexibility and greater sense of self-awareness. For the first time ever, I had muscle definition in my arms and legs. I learned about myself. I learn about my body and all of its capabilities. My vision for myself and my life was stronger and more focused than ever before, and I was embracing my new lifestyle changes fully.
On a bright, early morning in June, I was enjoying a sunrise yoga class on my apartment building’s rooftop when I experienced a popping sensation in my right hip. The pain rushed down my leg and pulsated. I knew something was wrong. After a visit to the orthopedic walk-in clinic, the doctor told me I probably strained a muscle. She prescribed physical therapy and told me to follow up with another doctor if the pain persisted. I completed the recommended course of PT, and while I don’t feel the PT sessions were particularly helpful in the long run, the pain in my hip corrected itself. Within a few weeks, I was back to the barre and the yoga mat.
Summer flew by, and in September, life was business as usual. I started the week with barre class on Monday, and on Tuesday, I tried a cycling class at Flywheel for the first time. During this class, I noticed some pain flaring up in my right hip, but pushed on since cycling is lower impact exercise (and since I was in 8th place out of about 50 people on the leaderboard). I felt some pain and discomfort the rest of the evening that Tuesday, but woke up feeling fine the next day. I went to work pain free, but by dinner time, my right hip was throbbing and pain was pulsating down my leg up to my knee. As the hours passed, the pain worsened, and I was unable to walk stand, sit, or lie comfortably. Never one to immediately reach for medicine or go to the doctor, I tried to ignore the pain. I went through my nighttime routine and tried to sleep, but nothing could prevent the tears running down my cheek from my failed attempt to suppress the pain.
Later that evening, I gave in and went to the emergency room at Northwestern Hospital. In an Uber. Because I’m a millennial like that. I spent 3 excruciating, lonely, painful hours in the ER waiting room alongside a crowd of varied characters (#Chicago). Finally, they called my name, took my vitals, X-rayed my hip, and sent me for an ultrasound to check for deep vein thrombosis. All of the tests came back normal. I was diagnosed with muscle strain, given a prescription for 6 Norco pain killers (yes, 6 pills in total) and 600 mg of ibuprofen. Seven hours after arriving at the ER, my friend drove me home (thanks, Rachel!), and I attempted to get some rest. Much to my disappointment, the pain persisted for days. I had no relief. Walking was excruciating, yet the doctor at the ER told me to continue on with my daily activities and to follow-up with a general physician and a sports physician. My primary care doctor prescribed me Lidocain patches and muscle relaxers, but nearly two weeks after the onset of symptoms, my pain was still debilitating despite all of the medications.
I felt defeated – angry with myself that I had somehow pushed my limits to the point of a sports injury. After months of working hard to achieve my best physical shape, I was devastated knowing I had a) hurt myself and b) may not be able to quickly jump back into my fitness routine. Desperate for some answers after 2.5 weeks of pain and being unable to care for myself properly, I finally received a diagnosis from a Northwestern sports physician. I learned that my pain was not caused by a sports injury after all. This month, I was diagnosed with a rare joint disease called Pigmented Villonodular Synovitis (PVNS) – a condition where locally aggressive synovial tumors are growing in my right hip joint.
Because PVNS is so rare – affecting only 2 in 1 million people, I wanted to write about my experience with treatment and subsequent management of PVNS to keep my friends and family up-to-speed, and to help others who may be affected. There aren’t many resources online to help people learn about PVNS, so I hope my experiences can help others. If nothing else, I aim to inform and entertain :). As friends and family can attest, my penchant for blogging began as a tween, and this current bump in the road provides me with an interesting writing topic. In future posts I will describe the diagnostic process, the disease itself, and the prescribed treatment (surgery and physical therapy). PVNS has a high recurrence rate, so it is possible that this will be something I manage throughout my life, but nothing will stop me from pursuing the activities I love.
I miss you yoga, and barre, and running, and biking, and walking properly. But I’m coming back for you!