> The Beesley Buzz: 2020

Our one month isolation milestone

Today, 4th April 2020, marks exactly 1 month since we began our own self-isolation. Roll back to 4th March 2020 and the world, and the UK in particular, was a very different place both in terms of "fact" and "feeling".

At the time the numbers were as follows in the UK (5th March 2020):

115 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK
1 death in the UK from COVID-19

We sat down with our family that evening and discussed our situation. Having watched the figures from around the world and listening to what the WHO were pleading for the world to do, we decided given that 2 of our 3 children were falling into the high risk category that we would start to self-isolate.

Miss T had been off school that day having felt a little under the weather and knowing how hard it is for her to recover from even a basic cold had made us want to err on the side of caution.

Initially we had thought it would be about keeping Miss T off school but the more we thought about it, the more we realised that unless we ALL isolated, there would be little point if the other 2 children were at different schools with around 1,000 children as well as staff etc in each of their schools, the workplace that Richard was based at during that time and the training course that I was on. We knew we would all have to be on board.

Both J and D were surprisingly understanding. We feared the impact on J's GCSE's at the time (remember this was several weeks before schools closed). We feared the reaction of all 3 schools given the pressure that schools are under in terms of attendance figures.

D began his isolation that next day, J was concerned about not having all his revision books with him at home so did 1 extra day at school to collect his school work.

We made contact with friends and family to explain our decision. We knew some people just wouldn't get it because at the time the general "feeling" out there was anyone that was concerned over this was "overreacting" or "scaremongering" but somehow our gut feeling was what we knew we had to go with. We figured that "those who matter won't mind and those who mind, don't matter".

Our close friends and family, knowing Miss T's situation were remarkably supportive. Even all 3 schools were understanding and supportive of our decision.

We had offers of help for shopping from friends but between online grocery orders and the milk delivery service we were ok (although the milk delivery service went totally pear shaped soon after as demand increased beyond their ability to cope - so we've managed without them since getting no-show deliveries time after time).

Initially as much of the world carried on as normal (and seemed to be encouraged to carry on as normal with increased hand washing being seen as the UK's choice of controlling things), we continued to heed advice from the WHO. And we continued to monitor the numbers as they grew. Initially the numbers didn't seem too alarming with that 115 cases increasing to 163 cases the next day, but then it was 206 and then 273. The pattern WAS alarming - the numbers were doubling every few days. And the pattern followed regarding the number of deaths too.

Still schools remained open. How? Why? Couldn't anyone else see what was happening? On the world stage they could. Other countries had been there and regretted not taking action sooner. The WHO pleaded again for the world to take this seriously explaining that this is no dress rehearsal. It wasn't until 20th March that schools closed. And the 23rd March when the official "stay at home" isolation message from the Prime Minister came out. 

So here we are, 1 month later on the 4th April and those 115 cases in the UK are now 41,903.
That death toll of 1 person is now 4,313.

Thankfully the "feel" out there is now very much "Stay at home" but a month earlier we were definitely the odd ones out in choosing to do so.

None of us are safe yet. None of us are out the woods. We all need to do the right thing now. I say this seeing out of my window that people are STILL shaking hands (!!!) and we've even spotted people visiting each other socially.

We owe it to those who are having to work to look after us to do this thing we all need to do. 

The intention of this post was not this. I was going to write all the positives of what we had been up to and to document some of these unique circumstances that we all find ourselves in today. But I guess I needed a rant so the update on what we've been doing will have to wait.


March 2020 unboxing

What a mixed month of emotions in the midst of our global pandemic. We've managed to put together our unboxing video for March. My phone kept running out of space and cutting out so there's a few bits without a full explanation . The final prize is a photo at the end rather than video clip as we ran out of motivation too - Some Frontline flea treatment for our cat via an instagram win. Not the most glamourous prize - but always nice to win an essential item that's handy for a family member - in this case our cat Star.

There are a few wins we are yet awaiting which haven't been mentioned but will hopefully make it into next months unboxing.

Once again many thanks to my fab son Daniel (DanTheDragon) for doing all my editing as I haven't got a clue how to stick the videos together without his help!

I can also now reveal that what one of the prizes was from our January unboxing which I couldn't show at the time because it was going to be a present for Daniel...

It was a Harry Potter invisibility cloak!

It was actually an advent comp win from instagram which didn't arrive until January which is why I then decided to keep it hidden away until Daniel's birthday in March.

Let's see what April holds for us all - the best prize of all will of course be for us all to be over the worst of the pandemic by the time the end of April rolls around.


"Once you choose hope, anything is possible"

Quote by Christopher Reeve.
Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash. 

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking many of us are having to choose hope each day right now. To think otherwise is unbearable. 


"But when will it get better?" WORD Day 2020

Wednesday 18th March 2020 is WORD Day which stands for World yOung Rheumatic Diseases day. Rheumatic diseases involve inflammation, most often related to joints but also sometimes tendons, ligaments, muscles and even organs.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) is a rheumatic disease affecting children and young people. Most regular readers of this blog will know that our youngest daughter, Trinity, has had the condition since the age of 2. She's now nearly 8. We wrote a blogpost on WORD Day 2019 last year and regularly write about what life is like for a child with JIA.

This year, I'm going to share something a little bit different for WORD Day. I was recently contacted by a university student, Niamh, who is studying journalism and who herself suffers with JIA. She wanted to write one of her university assignments on this topic to help raise awareness of JIA by sharing the story of a child with the condition. She interviewed me by telephone and wrote the piece in first person narrative, as if I was telling the story. I love how she has written both mine and Trinity's diagnosis stories intertwined, comparing our JIA journeys. With Niamh's permission, I am sharing the powerful piece here:

"But when will it get better?" by Niamh Adams

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) affects one in a thousand children. Unlike the Arthritis that your Nan has, JIA is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the joints causing pain and swelling. This is the story of Rebecca Beesley (42) and her daughter Trinity (7) who are desperately trying to raise awareness for this condition which is not talked about enough.

Naturally, you want to protect your children and when something goes wrong you want to take all their pain away. When my daughter, Trinity, was diagnosed with JIA I first felt relief, we knew what we were fighting but then came an overwhelming sense of guilt - is she in pain because of me?

I was diagnosed with JIA at age 11. My daughter, Trinity was diagnosed at just age two. I never thought or even understood that it could be genetic. 

The days both our conditions came to light weren’t too dissimilar, we were both just children enjoying our childhoods, apparently with severe growing pains: 

The day I couldn’t move, the day I just sat on my school hall floor in agony, the day all my classmates and friends filed out of the harvest assembly metaphorically foreshadowing what was yet to come. At that moment all I could do was cry as my mum rushed towards me. That was my first stay in the hospital for what doctors concluded was just growing pains. 

I was discharged from hospital with my growing pains: barely able to walk, basically housebound and unable to go to school. My mum had to hire a wheelchair for me, it was the worst growing pains ever, a deep twisting pain inside my hip. 

When Trinity was two and a half and was walking, she started saying “Mummy, sore toes” and I remember thinking why do her toes hurt? We took her to see our GP who told us it was growing pains. A similar story to what I was told as a child. 

It was Christmas, my eldest son fell on Trinity’s ankle and it suddenly blew up like a balloon and she was crying in pain. We went straight to A&E however there was no sign of any fracture on her X-ray. Nevertheless, they put her leg in a plaster cast.

While it took me the best part of a few years to get a diagnosis, Trinity, thank goodness managed to get diagnosed fairly quickly:

I had my second hospital stay, now aged eleven, in the following year except this time it was a lot longer. I had all the tests - many of them inflicting horrible pain onto me; my leg was put in traction and I had a hip biopsy. When they had ruled everything else out, I eventually saw a rheumatologist who said, “you have Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.” Three words that changed the whole course of my life. 

The one thing I wanted to know was “when will it get better?” I just wanted my childhood back, I broke down. I thought why me? Why is this happening to me?

I arrived home soon after I got that news and I just burst into tears the ceilings were so low in comparison to the old Victorian hospital that I had stayed in for the past month. My friends no longer came to see me I was out of sight so therefore out of mind. Like they filed out of assembly that very first day they had forgotten about me. 

With Trinity we went to get her plaster cast taken off, yet her leg was now completely stiff, and she was still in unbelievable pain, pain no toddler should ever have to feel. Therefore, we met with a paediatrician, she said: “I think we are looking at JIA.” Not again I thought. How can my sweet little girl be going through the same thing as I am? She then sent an urgent referral to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

Within a matter of weeks, we were sat in the waiting room of Great Ormond Street Children’s hospital. Sat there, I remember thinking what if this isn’t JIA, then what? Imagine hoping your child has a long-term condition just so you have an answer, no parent should ever have to be in that position. She was officially diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis - three words that will change the course of her entire life. She started on horrible medication that broke my heart, seeing a young child having to take eleven medications a day just so they weren’t in as severe pain, is awful. 

After diagnosis comes physio, medication and lots of hard work to try and get your body to the place it was before Arthritis. While mine revolved around physiotherapy, Trinity had to battle with getting weekly injections: 

I remember getting in the shower, sometime after my diagnosis and staring down at my leg, it was a stick, all the muscle had withered away. There was nothing there but skin and bone. That gave me the wakeup call that I needed to do my physio exercises, I needed to become strong again!

My dad, as he described it, was being "cruel to be kind". He would take my crutches away and tell me “do one step without your crutches.” I would plead with him saying “I can’t, I can’t.” Nevertheless, I would. The next day he would make me do two steps and so on. Until I grew in strength and slowly re-learnt to walk. Those two years passed by and I did get better. I still struggled but it was better.

Trinity was so good with her injections, “Daddy, I am ready for my injection” she would exclaim but after a year she started getting anxiety sickness. It is horrible having to stick a needle into my daughter especially when she hates it so much. I can now relate to my father and his way of being cruel to be kind as horrible and painful as it is, I know the injection will help her in the long run and make her better. 

These days JIA is just part of our lives. Trinity is now seven years old and me 42.
I just get on with my life and don’t let JIA define it. I do things bit by bit, slower than your average person but I have accepted that is just the way it has to be.

Trinity has regular blood tests and is still on medication, but she can live a full life. She attends school and on the whole, she is a very happy and normal seven-year-old girl. I am thankful that JIA doesn’t control her childhood in the way it robbed me of mine. 

I hope she will be able to have a normal life and I hope it will never stop her doing what she wants to do. I hope she comes off all the medication one day and goes into remission. I know Trinity is a strong girl and JIA won’t stop her doing anything she wants to do. Finally, I want to raise awareness, so more research is done, a cure is found, and children don’t ever have to feel isolated with Arthritis.

Please consider sharing this blogpost, or any of the awareness raising images and posts on Juvenile Arthritis Research's social media channels who will be joining in the #WORDday2020 conversation in the UK. Help us get the word out that children and young people get arthritis too!  

February 2020 unboxing

After the great start to 2020 with some fabulous prizes in January, this month has also proved fruitful.

I did go through a strange spell mid-month of worrying about my comping/life balance because I've allowed myself more time for comping this year after having cut back drastically in recent years. Occasionally I go through a strange state of mind wondering whether I will look back on my comping years with regret at having spent too much time on it and how in the overall scheme of things, it's a hobby that doesn't really matter. But isn't that the point of hobbies. 

My aim is to achieve guilt-free comping where I see my comping time as well-earned me-time doing a hobby I enjoy instead of worrying about everything else I need to be doing. Some weeks there will be time for more comps and some weeks less and that's OK. Sometimes I will feel more positive and sometimes less so and that's OK too. 

So here I am with another unboxing video. I really need to learn to smile more on camera - I look so serious and miserable most the time! I also need to figure out exactly where the camera hole is on my phone so that I can look into the camera as I seem to spend most the time avoiding looking at the camera!

I did try to speed up the process of opening parcels and not rambling so much in an attempt to make the overall video shorter. We're at just over 20 minutes this month. But if you want to see something shorter read on to the end of this blogpost. 

Look away now if you don't want any spoilers as the video starts with news of our lovely Sugar Plum Fairy afternoon tea prize which you can read more about here

Once again my son has kindly edited my video for me so he has no doubt snuck in his own quirkiness trying to entice people to subscribe to his own gaming You Tube channel at Dan the Dragon

Dan has also put together a short 35 second clip based on our January unboxing. Cheeky lad!!! It did make me laugh though.

You can see our previous unboxing's as follows:
November 2019 unboxing here
December 2019 unboxing here
January 2020 unboxing here. 

And you can find out more about my comping books, Overcoming the Odds and the popular The Happy Comper Journal here. Further information about the charity that the proceeds go to can be found here.


Saffron, mushroom and carrot pilaf-style rice

Here's a recipe I created to use up an excess of carrots. Just noting it down here so I can remember the ingredients to re-create it again another time.

I've learnt the hard way that with baking, it is crucial to use exact measurements but thankfully for cooking something like this you certainly don't need kitchen scales and can just guesstimate and throw in what feels right.

Ghee (or butter, oil or coconut oil)
Mushrooms (1 pack)
Carrots (around 3 small carrots)
Handful of raisins (soaked briefly in boiled water to hydrate, then drained)
Cinnamon powder
Rose petals
Ground cardamom
Dried parsley
Slices of bread for tah-deeg (optional)

1. Chop and fry the onion in a generous amount of ghee, followed by the mushrooms (cut as thinly or thickly as you wish)
2. Thinly slice the carrots into julienne style strips. I used the grating / julienne blade on my food processor to do this. Add to the pan with the onion and mushroom.
3. Add in the soaked and drained raisins, the cinnamon (around a teaspoon) and some dried parsley (around 1-2 teaspoons).
4. Place the saffron, rose petals and ground cardamom in a small cup and pour on a little boiled water. Place to one side.
5. Part-cook the rice. We used brown rice, and I find that the easiest way to cook rice is in the microwave. Brown rice usually takes around 40 minutes to cook fully so I cooked it in a microwaveable bowl covered with cold water for 20 minutes. Then rinse the rice in cold water in a fine meshed sieve. This helps to keep the grains separated rather than becoming mushy.
6. If you wish to make a tah-deeg at the bottom of your rice (crispy rice at the base of the pan), then heat a little ghee or oil in a saucepan. When hot, place the bread into the pan to cover the base.
7. Add around half the rice on top of the bread. Then add the majority of the mushroom, carrot, onion mixture. Followed by the rest of the rice and the rest of the mushroom, carrot, onion mixture. Pour over the hot water with the spices that you set aside then cover with a lid and cook for around 20 minutes on a low heat.

The crispy tah-deeg from the bottom of the pan - So delicious! 
I've called the recipe a pilaf-style rice as technically a pilaf should be cooked in a broth I believe but the flavours and style of the rice remind me of pilaf rice recipes.

Refined sugar-free carrot cake

Whilst sorting out my paperwork the other day, I came across several dozen scraps of paper with various recipe notes scribbled on them. Presumably recipes I created, experimented with, baked,or planned to bake. None had titles and none had sufficient detail to make sense of.

So I vowed that next time I experimented with a recipe that turned out ok-ish, I would write it up straight away.

Yesterday I made a healthier version of carrot cake with no refined sugar. Using plenty of dried fruit, grated carrot and a little date syrup gave it sufficient sweetness.

The kids weren't convinced to start with but ended up asking for seconds. If you have a very sweet tooth, this probably won't satisfy it but if you're used to alternative baking, then in my opinion, it tastes good.

190g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
50g raisins or sultanas
50g mixed dried fruit
60g walnut pieces
2 tsp mixed spice
200g of eggs (around 3 large eggs or 4 small/medium ones)
100ml olive oil
300g carrots (grated)
60g date syrup

1. Pre-heat oven to 160c. Grease and line an 8 inch loose-bottomed cake tin.
2. In a freestanding mixer mix together the oil, eggs, mixed spice, ground almonds, flour and date syrup.
3. When well combined, add in the raisins and mixed fruit, the walnuts and grated carrot.
4. Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake between 30 to 40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes and bake until a skewer comes out clean.

I'm wondering whether a teaspoon of baking powder would help it rise a little more next time.

If you need to make your own mixed spice - you can find instructions here on our minute-make carrot cake recipe post.

For those with a sweeter tooth, you can always whip up a little cream cheese frosting (soft cream cheese plus icing sugar to sweeten or use honey or maple syrup to sweeten it).

It also tasted good with some double cream poured over it.

So less than pretty photos and a rushed write-up but at least it's here in case I wish to bake it again rather than trying to make sense of a scrap of paper with scribbles on!

Sugar Plum Fairy Afternoon Tea at The Waldorf Hilton

Anyone who knows our Miss T, will know that she's not just "T" by name but "tea" by nature as one of her favourite experiences ever is having afternoon tea. From the afternoon teas she's had at the Royal Kensington Hotel when she was younger (which you can read about here and here) to the Winnie-The-Pooh themed afternoon tea she enjoyed last summer at Ashdown Park Hotel, she's definitely a fan of the concept of afternoon tea: a beautiful setting, scrumptious sandwiches and scones and stunning cakes and patisseries.

So in the run up to Christmas we spotted that the Waldorf Hilton were doing a Sugar Plum Fairy themed afternoon tea. And even better they were running a series of weekly competitions on Instagram to win afternoon tea for two. So of course we entered almost every week, having fun with their Sugar Plum Fairy face filter for our entries. Christmas came and went with no luck. I tried to find a date to take Miss T anyway because by this point her heart was REALLY set on going there but with so much else going on it didn't happen.

Anyhow in the very last week of the competition, I heard that I had won! Of course, I was thrilled! We needed a weekend date as Miss T has so much time off school already for her hospital appointments so we managed to book for the very last date of the themed afternoon tea on Sunday 2nd February.

I don't very often treat myself to new clothes but having increased by 2 to 3 dress sizes in the course of the past 18 months (the doctors can't figure out exactly why and how much of it is due to my underactive thyroid and how much of it is age related and hormones changing!) I couldn't fit into any of my existing dresses. Luckily I found a gorgeous purple dress in the sale at Phase 8. Miss T wore her beautiful plum coloured tutu and we were ready!

Upon arriving at the Waldorf Hilton, we realised that we have passed this place literally countless times on our way to Great Ormond Street appointments, always spotting the posh entrance and smart doormen on our way.

So it was especially nice that today we were here in London for a treat and not for any hospital visits.

Our afternoon tea experience began with a cup of pea flower tea that changed colour from blue to purple. That was the first "wow" experience.

We then chose our main teas from a selection on the menu. I opted for Jasmine Pearl tea as I love white tea, Richard chose Organic Masala Chai and Miss T chose Organic Red Velvet; a herbal berry tea.

A beautiful selection of sandwiches arrived next...

Including a vegetarian selection for me...

...along with our next "wow" experience as the glass teapot in the centre of the table was filled with dry ice.

Then it was time for warm scones - plain ones and orange spiced with cream and jams, followed by the stunning section of patisserie items.

This included a pretty iced gingerbread ballerina biscuit from Biscuiteers

We enjoyed the harp being played throughout our afternoon tea. I'm not sure I've ever seen a real-life harp before! Isn't it beautiful!

Finally, passionfruit macarons presented on a dainty musical piano ended our most delightful experience of our Sugar Plum Fairy Afternoon tea at the Waldorf Hilton. 

Although the prize was designed for 2, they very kindly allowed us to book 3 people onto our Afternoon tea and only charged for Miss T as the additional child. Thank you to the Waldorf Hilton for running such a fabulous fun competition with such a fantastic prize.


January 2020 Unboxing video

Well here we are again for the 3rd month in a row of doing an unboxing video! Still dislike being in the videos and my kids still say they are the most boring videos ever but I'm finding it a great way of keeping track of wins as they arrive, used in combination with my prize win spreadsheet.

We've got a couple of extra things that haven't made it into the video so will hopefully feature in February - one is awaiting confirmation of dates/details, another that I only found out about on 31st January, and a couple of things not yet arrived in the post.

So January is off to a good start. I never know whether to include items arriving in January but won in December in my December list on my spreadsheet or in January. So as a general rule of thumb it seems to have worked out that anything I knew about in December that then arrived in January went into the December section on my spreadsheet, but any prizes I found out about in January (but may have been entered in December) into the January section.

January often starts out well because of any advent / Christmas prizes arriving so it gets the comping year off to a good start.

I've had to plead with my son to edit the video clips together again (as I really don't have any video editing skills!) So thank you Daniel.

There were a couple of things that arrived that aren't strictly prizes but Mumsnet product tests - so one of them made it into the unboxing. We used to get selected for their product tests quite a lot but as the kids have grown older, we hadn't been selected for quite a while so it's nice to get a couple of things to try out again.

Despite my efforts to make a short unboxing - it is proving impossible! Well at least it feels like it was a bit of a bumper month for wins. You can see what we made with some of our Northern Dough Company pizza dough on my Instagram highlights - it was a great prize and we had lots of fun pizza-making.

Hope January has been good to you too!

You can see our November 2019 unboxing here and our December 2019 unboxing here.

Christmas 2019

Uh oh! We're nearly into February and I haven't got our Christmas 2019 blogpost up yet! I seem to remember a similar thing happening last year when it took me until February to write up Christmas 2018.

We had another low key Christmas which is just the way I like it. But we started the day a bit differently to normal.

Miss T woke up early as usual and came into our bedroom to open stockings...
But then we headed off to Whitstable for J to take part in a Christmas day Parkrun. You can read more about how J got into ParkRun here. He's desperate to one day do the Bushy Christmas day ParkRun because that is where it all began but we thought that would be a bit too much travelling so we stuck to Whiststable which is just over an hour away from us.

Many of the Park Runs that are more local to us have been suffering from recent flooding so we felt confident that Whitstable wouldn't get cancelled being on the beach promenade rather than flooded muddy fields.

I thought it was a great way to start the day as we got to see the sunrise over the motorway on Christmas morning. Having grown up by the sea I love seeing the sea so that was fab for me to visit the coast on Christmas day.  

Then we headed home and had a late breakfast / brunch of those pain au chocolats that you pop open and bake. Followed by Christmas lunch. We'd prepped a lot of the veg on Christmas eve so it was easier than usual.

We staggered present opening throughout the day...

This Christmas ornament was a charity shop find - just £1 and it has Bath written on it which is where me and Richard first met all those years ago at Uni.

Miss T was thrilled with her beautiful letter T from M&H designs boutique. This was a prize I won on Instagram a few months back so I hid it away for Christmas and I just knew Miss T would love it.
 D was really delighted with his canvas print of our cat Star.
And Miss T has been asking for Safari Pug since last Christmas after receiving the other 2 books in the series previously.

Granny and Grandad came to visit in the afternoon. 

And as for my present, I always tell my family that all I want for Christmas is to get one family photo of us all together and it always proves a lot tougher than it sounds. But we just about managed it!


How to prepare for a hip replacement operation - 10 things you need to know.

This January is the second anniversary of my hip replacement. 23rd January to be precise.

This time two years ago I was filled with fear of what was coming...the unknown. After all, I'd lived with my deformed hip joint for 3 decades so despite the pain, discomfort and limited mobility at least I knew where I stood with it. But at the relatively young age of 40, I now needed a hip replacement. 
BEFORE: Joint damage of left hip caused by JIA (left hip shown on Right side of this image)

I wish I could say all was plain sailing and a huge success, and from the point of view of the surgeon and how the surgery went, it was considered a success. The surgery went as planned. The recovery went smoothly overall. The scar is neat and healed well with no complications. 

But here are some things I wish I had known...

However brave you are and whatever you have been through in life, you may feel terrified beforehand
I remember shaking with fear on the way down to the operating theatre. I was terrified throughout the surgery as they did mine under sedation and spinal rather than general anaesthetic and I could hear everything and feel the sensations of being pulled and movement but not pain. 

You may feel rubbish for a while after surgery
Initially I felt fine in myself immediately after surgery. I was surprised at how 'good' I felt. But then my blood pressure dropped suddenly and nausea kicked in which wasn't pleasant. It left me feeling wiped out and exhausted. 

A hip replacement is not a miracle cure
Having heard so many positive success stories of hip replacements and my surgeon telling me I'd be able to do things I'd never been able to do before, like skiing for example, I had hoped that I would notice a significant difference after the surgery. Sadly, two years on and it turns out that my case was different. Having had my hip damage for so many years before surgery means that everything surrounding the hip doesn't work properly and so replacing the hip joint itself has only helped to a limited extent. I don't have a massively improved range of motion. I can't do things like most exercise and certainly not skiing. It hasn't helped my back pain as anticipated. I still can't put my socks on the normal way. 

It is a major operation
Hip replacements seem so commonplace these days that it's easy to forget that it is still major surgery that you are undergoing. Whilst the surgeon may be doing these operations every day, for the patient it is only going to be happening maybe once or twice or possibly three times in their entire lifetimes. So it is OK to realise that it is a big deal and ask as many questions as you need to. Keep yourself as well as possible beforehand. So I tried to avoid places which were likely to be germ-filled and kept contact with others to a minimum in the run up to the operation as I didn't want an illness to result in having to cancel the operation. 

You must plan ahead for aftercare
I would recommend to anyone having hip replacement surgery to ensure they have some live-in help at least for the early days after the operation. If you have a husband/wife/partner then it is a good idea for them to make sure they are around for the days following surgery. If you live alone then think about whether you have a close friend or family member who is happy to stay with you for a while. However independent you are, this is not a time to be stubborn. Ask for and accept all the help you can get! Remember that in the very early days after surgery you will struggle to even get yourself a glass of water. 

Once you get to the stage of walking with one crutch (for me it was at the 2 week mark for around the house) then life becomes easier as you will have one hand free to carry things if you need to. 

Get your house ready! 
The early weeks following surgery are not the time for taking any risks. There is a reason why there are rules in place about not bending beyond 90 degrees and so on because it is the time that the risk of dislocating the new hip is at its highest. 

So before you go into hospital, think about what changes you can make around the home to help. Can you move any food and kitchen items you regularly need onto accessible cupboard shelves rather than low cupboards? 

The physio team should ensure that you are confident with steps before you head home but perhaps you can find a small lightweight bag with a long strap that you can use to hang around your neck for carrying small items up and down the stairs with you. I used a small bag to make sure I had my phone with me at all times in case I needed to call for help urgently. 

Check the height of your chairs and sofa. To avoid bending beyond 90 degrees or risk getting stuck on your low sofa you might want to think about whether you can raise the level of the seat using cushions or pillows. Or perhaps someone can lend you an armchair with a higher seat on it. Having the armrests to push down upon to stand up is really important. 

In terms of other equipment you may need, I was given a grabber by the hospital to help if I dropped something on the floor and needed to pick up without bending over. They also provided a raise for the toilet seat.

We borrowed a loo frame to have support for getting onto and up from the loo and we borrowed a shower chair. The shower chair proved particularly useful as I wasn't comfortable in bed and I wasn't comfortable on my armchair so the shower chair was also used in the living room at times for me to be able to sit and watch TV for short periods of time when I was in too much discomfort to sit anywhere else!

I also invested in a leg pillow. I believe this was the one I ordered and although it seems pricey, it was worth every penny. Some people can cope with a regular pillow to stop their legs from crossing over in those crucial first 6 weeks where risk of dislocation is highest but I really valued that this was full length and had the waist strap too. 

I used a lot of other pillows and cushions all around me to stop me accidentally rolling over in the night too. You'll need to wear compression stockings for up to 6 weeks too - so you'll need someone to help you change those. Mine were provided by the hospital and they gave me several pairs to keep me going. 

You need to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally
Rather naively I had planned a load of reading, deskwork and other low-movement activities to keep me busy during the recovery period. What I hadn't bargained for was brain fog... and a lot of it! 

As romantic as it sounds to be forced to spend time relaxing in bed and reading a stack of your favourite books and magazines, the reality was very different. My brain couldn't focus on anything for a while. Even my favourite pastimes and hobbies. I couldn't even bring myself to watch TV for any length of time. The brain fog and restlessness and not being able to get comfortable was awful. The first week post surgery was the worst. Things do improve. 

At night, panic attacks became a regular feature and the lack of sleep went on for a long time, waking hour by hour through the night. 

Perhaps this was just me but I wasn't prepared for it. I hated feeling helpless and useless and although I kept telling myself the first few weeks of recovery are the toughest and things would soon improve, when your going through it, those few weeks really drag on. 

It was during this tough time that little messages coming through on social media kept me going. Whether it was from people who understood (social media is great for finding others in a similar situation or who have been through what you are going through) or friends sending me messages of hope and support, it was all much needed and appreciated at that time. There are times that we all need a cheer-leading squad to keep us going when we don't feel we have the strength within ourselves to do so. 

Get inspired but don't compare
On that note of social media, I found it incredibly inspirational to find others who were ahead of me in the hip replacement timeline and were onto doing amazing things. It gave me hope of continued improvement day by day. BUT I never got to where they are at so remember that no two cases are going to be exactly the same so there is no point in directly comparing. After all, I STILL can't put my left sock on! 

I didn't come across many relevant blogposts on the topic of hip replacements but one sticks in my mind as being particularly helpful. I read the series on the SAGA website, written diary style and the section entitled Day 23: Doing my dirty laundry helped me have a shift in my thinking. Rather than thinking how useless I was because I couldn't do things I would usually do, I started to focus on what I could do rather than what I couldn't. I remember deciding one day that I too would do the laundry (or at least part of it) however long it takes so I did the flinging each item down the stairs technique. It literally took hours in all but it was satisfying knowing I had achieved something simply by shifting my mindset from I can't to I can - but recognising that I would have to be patient and do things differently. It's a technique I've kept in mind ever since whenever my back pain flares up - I try to be kind and patient with myself and work out different ways to enable me to still do what I need to do. 

Recovery timescales are just a guide
Whilst most people may well be OK to drive 6 weeks after surgery, this won't be the case for everyone. I had 6 weeks as a magic milestone in my mind where I imagined life being back to normal...Walking and driving and doing many more things than I could ever do before. How wrong I was. Having said that though, the fact I stopped regularly blogging about my recovery beyond week 7 means that life did return to enough normality to not warrant documenting it further apart from a 5 month update

You'll be celebrating the little wins
The first time you brush your teeth by yourself post surgery. The first shower (albeit with a lot of help). The first outing (for me that was a tiny walk outside on crutches at 2 weeks post op). Being able to / allowed to sleep on your side again. The first steps with one crutch, then no crutches. These are all little wins you'll be celebrating. 

Here are the links to the blogposts that I wrote at the time of surgery following my recovery journey. I realise that a lot of it makes for miserable reading because the early days were tough but it IS a good news story overall: 
AFTER: My new hip 



New year green smoothie recipe

I've had so many recipe requests for my green smoothie and I can never remember exactly what I have thrown into it, so I thought I'd do a quick write up today whilst it is fresh in my mind.

I don't measure or weigh any of the ingredients so it's all done with a bit of guesswork.

A handful of oats
A spoonful of chia seeds
1 apple
1 small banana
A big handful of spinach
A small chunk of root ginger
A glass of water
The juice of half a lemon or orange

You need to use a blender that can handle blending up harder fruits like apples.

First I add the oats and chia seeds and blitz until they are fairly fine.

Then I add the water, followed by chopped apple and banana and blend.

Then in goes the ginger, spinach and finally the juice from the orange or lemon.

The exact order of ingredients doesn't really matter but I tend to blend as I add the ingredients in this sort of order.

If I'm making this in the morning for breakfast, I tend to include the oats and seeds to make it more filling and smoothie-like. If I'm making it later in the day, I don't include the oats so it's less creamy and more like a juice. Sometimes I will increase the apple and spinach content to make it more juice-like.

Having had a bad experience with green juice before (I once juiced kale on its own and it tasted foul!), I needed this to not taste "green" and thankfully it doesn't but if you need it sweeter just increase the banana content and/or apple content.

Remember that chunks of banana, ginger and lemon juice can all be kept in the freezer ready for when you need them!

Depending on how much water, apple and banana you've used, you may find that you have enough for 2 glasses of smoothie. In which case, I would store the second glassful by filling a jar, popping the lid on and keeping it in the fridge overnight ready to have the next morning for breakfast.