Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

July 27, 2023

A Couple Health Updates.

      The first half of 2023 brought some frustration and uncertainties when it came to my health. Luckily nothing has been serious enough to warrant hospital stays or anything like that, but everything still brought me anxiety.  Not only was there health anxiety, but financial anxiety as well from having not-so-great health insurance and a lot of medical bills in a short amount of time. I am so thankful now that one of the things seems to be on the road to healing, and the other thankfully ended up just being a scare that never turned into anything further. But it was a really tough first half of the year with these things going on, if I'm being honest with you! 

      Writing blog posts of a more personal nature like today's is always cathartic to me and can also help bring a natural sense of closure with life events. I'll give you a heads up that today's post is pretty lengthy! (I'm not offended if you skim since it is lengthy. 😉)


      Let's chat first about my hip issues, which is the health thing that I have given a few periodic updates about on Instagram and my blog! But I'll give you all the details on it today. Until this started, I was a very active person. For most of 2022, I would try to go to fitness classes at my gym 2-3 time a week and would try to practice or play golf 1-2 times a week if weather permitted. I also would really enjoy long walks with Ryan or girlfriends. Basically, I love being active! In every place that I've lived, I've tried to make fitness a big priority in my life. 

      In the middle of January of this year, I started noticing a slight dull pain in my left hip. It was just noticeable enough to be annoying, but it wasn't super intense at first. Unfortunately, I didn't let that pain slow me down from being active for the later weeks of January. I went for a really long walk outside on a nice day with a friend on the last Sunday of January, and the next day on Monday I was in excruciating pain in my left hip. I could barely focus at work that day. Pain kept shooting from my left hip all the way down my left leg and into my foot. The weirdest, most painful sensation. My left hip itself was also extremely sore to the touch. Giving my hip the lightest touch was so painful! The whole hip felt bruised (although there were no bruise marks, and I hadn't fallen or run into anything). I was able to make an appointment with my primary care doctor the next day on Tuesday, but unfortunately at that appointment I was misdiagnosed as having sciatica. She gave me a few medicines to try to help with the pain, and recommended I purchase a portable seat cushion for extra support to take with me to work or anywhere I went that I'd be sitting down. 

     Spoiler alert: I didn't have sciatica, and none of this helped. The medicines I was initially prescribed did nothing for the pain, nor did my new seat cushion. February was a pretty miserable month of hip pain. The worst part was that my pain levels were pretty high during my best friend Ciera's bachelorette trip to Nashville, which I'd been working so hard on planning for most of 2022. I definitely still had fun at points, but it sure put a damper on this special weekend that I'd been planning for so long to be in constant hip pain for all of it (and not being able to drink alcohol on the trip from the medicines I was on, which were also doing nothing for the pain). 

     About a month after the pain had started, it wasn't improving. My primary care doctor recommended I get an MRI and referred me to an orthopedic doctor. I had the MRI in February and met my orthopedic doctor in early March. I really liked the orthopedic doctor! (If you're local to Hampton Roads and need an ortho rec, happy to share with you!) The MRI showed that there were two issues going on in my hip. One was a small partial labral tear, but the bigger issue and the one causing the majority of my hip pain was a nasty case of trochanteric bursitis

      I had never heard of bursitis before being diagnosed with it. Bursitis can hit various joints in the body, and it typically affects older people as it's a joint inflammation problem. It can affect younger adults' bodies from injury or overuse. Trochanteric bursitis is when you have bursitis in your outer hip joint. Bursitis is completely different from sciatica. Although the pains can feel somewhat similar initially, it has nothing to do with the sciatic nerve. 

     The standard treatment plan for trochanteric bursitis is rest, anti-inflammatory pain medicine, and physical therapy. If that doesn't work, cortisone shots can be given in the hip. If nothing at all is working, surgery is an option. My orthopedic doctor encouraged that I start with the first treatment plan: rest from normal physical activity, anti-inflammatory medicine and PT. I had to take medicine to help with the pain and inflammation daily for a few months, and also did 8 weeks of PT (both in-person appointments and daily at-home exercises). PT was both very expensive and time consuming, but despite that I enjoyed it more than I expected to. I found the PT clinic I had appointments at to be a very welcoming and encouraging environment. I enjoyed seeing other patients there working on their own various injuries and health issues and seeing so many people around making physical progress. 

     I wrapped up PT in mid-May, and I realized that I had seen some notable progress over the past few months. I could now drive fully pain-free and walk about a mile at a time without being in pain. That was huge compared to how bad things were in January/February! But at the same time, the bursitis definitely wasn't gone. My physical therapist encouraged me a couple weeks before finishing PT to try a low impact fitness class at the gym, and it set me into a bad bursitis flare that lasted for a whole week. Anyways, by mid-May when I finished PT, I was still relying on taking high doses of my anti-inflammatory medicine to manage my pain each day. 

      Amazingly, I spent just about the entire month of June magically pain-free from bursitis. My hip pain seemed to disappear the week I left for vacation in the Dominican Republic, and I spent pretty much the whole month of June off of my anti-inflammatory medicine. I had a follow-up with my orthopedic doctor in June, and he was incredibly encouraged! He said I looked pretty much in the clear for not needing cortisone shots. I was feeling really good and thankful it seemed to be going away after months.

    Unfortunately, my bursitis came back pretty full force at the beginning of July, from all of the physical activity with moving apartments. All of the many trips up and down many sets of stairs carrying heavy items day after day really irritated my hip. As I write this post at the end of July, it's starting to calm down again. But I remain nervous that I might have future flare ups. 

     As of now though, the plan is to start easing back into my old gym fitness class routines and resuming golf lessons in mid-August. I am hoping the flare up a few weeks ago was the last big one I'll have. I am so ready to resume normalcy when it comes to physical activity! 

     So that's one thing that has been going on. The other came as a complete shock to me and wasn't something I ever expected to experience in my 20s. I want to give disclaimer on this that if you're a real-life friend of mine reading and had no idea this was going on, please don't take this personally! This was a scary experience for me, and I decided to keep the circle of those who knew about it to just my parents, Ryan, and just a couple very close friends. Sometimes you have to go with your gut instincts on how to best process something going on, and for me at the time it was best to keep the circle that knew very small. 

      At a routine appointment in late March, my gynecologist found a small lump in my left breast. I hadn't noticed this myself before this appointment, so when I say it was a shock, it truly was a shock. She requested that I get imaging to follow up on it, and I was terrified as soon as she said that. My logical brain knows that many women of all ages get recommended to have screenings for breast lumps each year and most aren't cancerous, but I was still petrified of what imaging could discover. All that I wanted to do to process the stress and anxiety was do high intensity workouts or hit golf balls, but thanks to my hip bursitis, I wasn't able to. 😔 I wasn't able to get scheduled for the mammogram and ultrasound for about five weeks, and my anxiety kept morphing in that time. My mom and her mom/my grandmother have never had breast cancer. There is some breast cancer on my dad's side of the family, but since my mom and her mom haven't had it, it's just never been something I've worried about. (Obviously I know that breast cancer isn't always genetic, but just sharing honestly that it was never a concern of mine previously.) 

     My first ultrasound and mammogram were in early May. I only have a couple older friends who have had mammograms, most of my friends my age have not had to do this yet, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I joked to a few friends that for the first time in my life, I didn't feel like a late bloomer (last to get a driver's license, last to have a first kiss, etc), but now I actually felt ahead of the trends! 😂 My first appointment was during the week in May that my mom came to visit. I didn't share this at the time, but the whole reason she chose to visit then was so she could accompany me to the appointment, which truly meant so much. Living away from family my entire adult life means that I'm used to dealing with anything medically related completely alone, so it was nice for this not to have to be. (And I give my mom so much credit for staying kind and positive that day despite my horrible mood and anxiety! I definitely wasn't in the best mood with her or Ryan that day.) 

      Since I'm under 40 and the purpose of the imaging was to get a closer look at a lump, I was given a diagnostic mammogram and not a regular screening mammogram. Diagnostic ones take longer as there are a lot more images taken. I didn't find the process itself to be very painful, but both of my breasts were a bit sore in the days after. It did take longer than I expected though since I didn't know they'd be doing a diagnostic one. I then had an ultrasound after. Since younger women in their 20s and 30s are more likely to have very dense breast tissue, I was told that sometimes mammograms aren't as fully accurate for younger women. (Think the difference in accuracy between taking a rapid Covid test vs a PCR test in terms of accuracy.) Ultrasounds help provide additional imaging and information, especially in younger dense breast tissue.

     I was thankful to hear that nothing dire was found in the imaging results. I didn't need an immediate biopsy or anything like that. However, they wanted me to get a second round of imaging 8 weeks later to follow up on the lump, and also on the fact that I had swollen lymph nodes in my left armpit and left breast (the one with the lump). The thing about swollen lymph nodes is that they can mean so many things. It often means something as harmless as allergies or a small infection that your body is fighting off, or it can mean something a lot more serious. It surprised me to hear that I had swollen lymph nodes, as I hadn't experienced any armpit or breast pain. 

     I tried to put the second round of imaging out of my brain for the rest of May and June, and I think I did a fairly good job with that. I stayed very busy with work events, preparing to move apartments, and took a brief vacation to the Dominican Republic with my dad. But a few days before my second round of breast imaging, the anxiety came back full force. The week that I had my second screening appointment was also a killer week for me at work, and I was stressed to the max. 

     The good news is that there was officially no more lump by the second screening! I'm guessing that means it was just a cyst? Or just something very small and benign that went away on its own. And the good news continued, no more swollen lymph nodes either!! Praise God!!! I started crying when I got the phone call that everything was all good. It seems likely that the swollen lymph nodes were caused by the fact that I had two separate vaccines in my left arm couple weeks before the first mammogram. 

     I truly cannot even put into words how thankful I am that I didn't need a biopsy or additional screenings. This whole experience truly taught me so much, especially going through this at the same time as my hip bursitis. A couple takeaways: 1) Good health is a GIFT!!! And something to be thankful for EVERY DAY! I have definitely taken my health for granted in the past and hope to never do so again. 2) It is so important to have a well-funded emergency fund for unexpected medical expenses. Even if you have an HSA or FSA account through work, it's still important to have that well-funded emergency fund. My health insurance through work isn't great- it's expensive monthly and high deductible. Between my hip and breast issues, I hit my deductible for the year in May. 😵 That means that between January-May I had a lot of medical bills that my insurance wasn't covering yet. Insurance also completely denied my hip MRI bill (even after an appeal), so that gigantic bill didn't even count towards my deductible (and despite that one not counting, I still hit my deductible in May!). I assumed my first round of breast imaging would be covered 100% financially and considered preventative by insurance, but learned the hard way that some insurances don't consider breast imaging preventative if you're under age 40 like me. It's safe to say that with all of these bills, I blew through my HSA money very quickly. I am so thankful that I had a well-funded and easily accessible emergency savings fund, and that I've been able to handle all of the large bills this year without going into any credit card debt. 

    Finally- I want to acknowledge a huge thank you to Ryan. 2023 hasn't been the easiest year for both of us. Ryan tragically lost his beloved dog (at just 5 years old) to a brain tumor in January, and then my hip bursitis started right after that. He has been nothing but patient, positive, and supportive while I've dealt with both health issues. Seeing how well he loved me through these challenges just further solidified for me the decision to move in together this summer. I feel lucky that we've both experienced some really tough things in our personal lives in the first year of our relationship, I know that will only make us stronger together as the years go on. 


     I'm amazed if anyone made it to the end of this novel! Thank you always for reading, and for your support!

     God Bless,

      xoxo Annaliese 


1 comment

  1. I'm so sorry you've had such a tough year Annaliese! If it's one thing I've seen in the last few years is just how many people our age are dealing with serious health issues. It's happening younger and younger, and I wish screenings weren't just for when you hit a certain age. Anyway, it was so nice to hear that you have such a great support system. I'm sure that made the whole experience much more bearable! I'm very grateful you shared this, because my sister is on her way to my house to drop off her kids for me to babysit while she gets a mysterious pain checked out. She's also been dealing with it for months, and I'm going to ask her if she's heard of bursitis. It sounds very familiar!


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