My Journey
Erin Cuomo, owner/operator of Breathe Grace Yoga
Erin Cuomo
January 24, 2020

One year ago, I could not put on my shoes while standing.  I could not tie my shoes while sitting on a chair.  I could not sit on the floor with my toddler, and if I did, I had difficulty getting up.  After some x-rays and an ortho appointment, I learned that I have arthritis of my left hip and right knee, (with the left knee not too far behind).  My ortho told me he recommends physical therapy.  Depending on how I responded to the therapy would determine next steps.  He told me if I did not respond to the physical therapy, I could be looking at a hip replacement in as early as one year.  I was devastated.  I was 44 with a 2 year old, an 11 year old, and a 17 year old.  I had plans.  I had things I wanted to do, both now and in the future.  I imagined I would never hike again, never travel to some of the places on my wish list, never do yoga again.  I imagined having a hip replacement surgery while I still had a very young child at home.  I felt awful.

I chose a physical therapist that I had heard about through my chiropractor.  She told me that he works with athletes and he really figures out what is going on.  I had been to physical therapists before and I had not ever had much luck for long term change.  I made an appointment with Justin Dimitt at South River Rehab & Performance.  At our first appointment he asked me what my goals were.  I told him I would like to be able play on the floor with my daughter and also tie my shoes.  (Can you believe that?)  I also mentioned that I would really like to not have surgery for a long while.  He told me that if I listened to him and did as he instructed, I would not be having surgery in a year or any time soon.  He also told me my hips are uneven, out of alignment.  (I knew this from other physical therapists and I told him that I knew already.)  He said we were going to fix it.  I was confused, because I didn’t think you could fix that.  He assured me that we could fix it.  

I went through physical therapy for about 6 weeks.  I did my homework and followed all of Justin’s instructions.  After the 6 weeks, he told me I did not need therapy anymore, but I should continue coming to the gym for maintenance.  He created a personalized strength and conditioning program for me and he updates it when needed.  I have been continuing with gym maintenance since July, going to the gym 3 times a week. 

The first few months were not all smooth.  I would be going strong for a few weeks, then fall back into pain or stiffness.  We would back off the full workout, modify, and ease back in, adding a few therapeutic stretches into the routine.  While I was making good progress, it was still very frustrating to fall back every few weeks.  However, I reminded myself that I was still tying my shoes.  I was still able to play on the floor with my daughter.  So, I was still ahead of the game.

This past fall, I decided to do some research on nutrition and arthritis.  I found that many foods cause inflammation of the joints.  From my research, a Mediterranean style of eating was worth a try for me and our family.  It seemed to have numerous health benefits, not just for inflammation.  It was heart healthy, whole foods based, and natural.  We made the switch.  Not 100%, but a huge change. 

Within just a couple of weeks of eating this way, combined with my exercise, my pain was gone.  I started losing weight, which wasn’t even my goal.  I realized that for every pound I did lose, that is 4 pounds of pressure off of my knees and 6 pounds of pressure off of my hips.  WOW!  Needless to say, I started feeling stronger, having more energy, and my pain was not cycling back like it had been.  

Then, our family went away for Christmas.  Up to this point, any time we had traveled, I packed hand weights, bands, everything that I would need to do my workouts while I was away.  However, this time, we were going to Disney.  I didn’t want to lug the extra weights and equipment.  I decided I would try yoga.  All I needed was my mat.  If my hip could tolerate it, it would be a glorious full body workout.  Well, it was fantastic!  So much so that I started incorporating it into my at home workouts when we returned.  I was so happy to be back to yoga again!

I am sharing this with you all to show you that you can do anything you set your mind to.  You can move mountains with a tiny bit of faith and a lot of hard work.  If I inspire just one person with this story to try again, to not give up, to state your goals and reach them, then set new ones and reach those, then do it again, then sharing this very personal part of me will be worth it.   

Don’t tell me you can’t do yoga.  Don’t tell me you can’t exercise.  Tell me what’s holding you back and let me help you set your goals and reach them.  You can do anything you set your mind to.  And that hip surgery?  That is on the back burner now for many years. 

Thank you, Justin, for guiding me, pushing me, believing in me, and getting me back on track when I stumbled.  Thank you to my husband, Pat for supporting me, encouraging me, and telling me not to give up.  Also, for reminding me that whatever happens, I will be ok.  

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