Floyd Landis, the winner of this year's Tour de France has osteonecrosis of the hip, the very same miserable little malady that's laid me low for all this time.
Before my operation, I was in Stage Two of the disease, meaning that the ball of my femur hadn't collapsed yet. Floyd's in Stage Four.
In Stage Two, for 24 hours a day it felt like somebody was slamming roofing nails into my hip with a nail gun. I can't even begin to conceive of the pain that Landis overcame, ignored, cycled through. He can't even take the anti-inflammatories I was on to reduce the agony.
A couple weeks ago, Commenter Mike linked to this IHT article about Landis' (to me) insane drivenness that prevented him from submitting to a hip replacement, to preserve his career as a professional cyclist. As I read it I cringed with a combination of sympathy and incredulity that someone would voluntarily endure the agony of osteonecrosis for something as trivial as the ability to push a bicycle faster than everybody else.
The article presents this horripilating picture:
Landis's most useful adaptation, however, came in the form of an idea. It was planted in his head by Kay, who, as fate would have it, suffered osteonecrosis of the shoulder from a college car accident and had gone on to complete six Ironman triathlons. Kay's idea was that it might be possible, through repetition, to wear a useful groove in the bone and cartilage of his damaged joint. "Floyd really liked the groove idea," Kay says. "He never wanted to look at the hip or any X-rays or even talk about the clinical part of things, but he kind of fixated on that idea."Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! My nuts want to creep up into my thoracic cavity, reading that. Landis is due for a new hip very shortly, and I sincerely hope it will relieve his agony. Whether he'll have a viable career as a world-class cyclist remains to be seen, but at least we won't be subjected to the idea of somebody obsessively compelled to exercise a new groove into his destroyed bone.
Landis explains: "When the hip does something weird and it hurts, I always imagine that it's cutting a better path in the joint. [GAAAAAA! -- ed.] I'm probably fooling myself, but I may as well imagine something good is happening, since it definitely doesn't help to think that it's getting worse."...
Conversation eventually turned back to the groove theory, specifically to whether this groove might actually exist. Chao, a brisk and cheerful surgeon who trained at Harvard and Northwestern, smiled knowingly and reached for Landis's X-ray. As we leaned in, Chao pointed to a cloudy, half-moon-shaped blur on the rim of the femoral head, just beneath the pelvis. It was 1.5 centimeters long and a centimeter deep; it looked like a tiny pearlescent goblet.
"There's your groove," Chao said, tapping the film with a pen. "It's soft, and the pelvis is pushing down on it. It's a dent." Landis looked at the X-ray intently, faintly pleased at this revelation but distinctly unsurprised.
When I ask him about it later, Landis said: "It was good to see, but it also makes sense to me. There's a lot of friction, a lot of pressure. Logically, that pressure has to go somewhere."
Pain will do that to you.
(Neddie Update: I walked all the way around the outside of the building in which I work this morning -- brisk, purposeful steps, no rests. Bare trace of a limp. Doesn't sound like much, but it proves to me, I'm damned nearly All the Way Back, baby! Where de wimmin at?)
(Later Edit: Aw, shit. He may have been hopped up. Thanks to Helmut for the heads-up.)