by Philo Hagen
When the second revolution of hooping began more than a decade ago, I don’t think any of us were very interested in the health benefits. Okay, Betty was, but the rest of us were too busy spinning it up and having a blast. Hooping was about having fun, dancing, performance art; losing weight and getting in shape were some of the last things on our minds. But people did start losing weight and looking great and when others wanted to know the big secret the only answer was hooping. I personally dropped pounds as well and spun off some mental and emotional baggage along the way, and a few years into it I was surprised to find that I was probably in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in my life – all thanks to this wacky plastic circle. Hooping became my primary go to for staying in shape, play, not to mention a beautiful way to relieve stress and center myself whenever I needed it.
This summer, however, I’ve developed a health condition known as an inguinal hernia. What is that exactly? Good question. First off a hernia is just a fancy word for a tear or hole in an internal tissue that prevents part of your body from going someplace it ain’t supposed to. A herniated back disc, for example, occurs when a spinal disc ventures through a tear to bulge out. My hernia is abdominal, on my lower right side, and it’s a very strange feeling to have your abdominal-cavity contents searching for an escape route when you stand up. For those who are really curious I can tell you mine looks a lot like this Wikipedia example, only just about double the size. Now lest you get too concerned I can tell you that inguinal hernias are pretty common. One in four men will actually get one during their lifetime, and while most need not go under the knife to repair them, mine has progressed to the point that surgery is my only alternative.
So what does this have to do with hooping? A couple of things in that I can reluctantly inform you that the health benefits of hooping don’t last if for some reason you find you have to stop, and the hooping community is made up of some of the most amazingly wonderful people you will ever have the joy of knowing online and off, so if you haven’t already availed yourself of knowing us/them better I sincerely invite you to do so.
One of the hazards of leaving my “real job” to become a full time hoop entrepreneur six years ago is that while I truly love what I do and love celebrating all of you on the site along with the freedom and creativity that comes with doing this hooping.org thing, it really doesn’t connect the financial dots anywhere close to what is needed, a fact I’ve only recently been able to fully allow myself to acknowledge. Not having health insurance really isn’t that big of a deal, unless of course you find yourself really needing health insurance and recently, after two months of jumping through proverbial hoops, I kind of got signed up with Healthy Way LA, which is an Obamacare program, but unfortunately my meager hooping income does me put a step above the poverty line so I’m not eligible for free health care. I was, however, able to see a doctor for the first time in seven years for a $60 copay and she took one look at my hernia and insisted I go directly to the emergency room upon leaving her office. While I thought she was being rather dramatic having lived with this thing for awhile now, given that I’m not a medical professional I got a few things in order quickly and my friend Mary and I arrived at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital around 9pm.
The following morning I was ultimately discharged without treatment. What did they tell me? This is where it gets interesting. On one hand I was told I not only don’t have a hernia, but that nothing is wrong with me, and it was rather mind boggling that they could actually say that with a straight face. On the other I was given a prescription for Vicodin, which is pretty heavy duty in the narcotics department considering, and I was also handed a referral list of other places I should go and she circled a couple that have surgeons who operate on a sliding scale. So essentially they passed the buck and handed me a $3800 bill on my way out the door.
My doctor and I don’t really know where the hernia came from, though we’re both quite clear it’s very much a reality and a quite obvious one at that. My friends who aren’t hoopers keep insisting that it must have something to do with all that spinning, but I highly doubt that. While I reluctantly acquiesce that the modern hooping movement is still relatively new and the long term effects of spinning a larger hoop around your body are essentially unknown, there are a myriad of other possibilities that could have brought this on. And I can’t say I’m honestly that excited about having surgery anyway – something to do with knives and my groin being sliced open. It’s not really my idea of a good time, not to mention 3 to 6 weeks of recovery, the risk of post herniorraphy pain syndrome and the possibility I may never really be able to hoop and dance again the way I’ve been able to, but I really don’t have any other choice.
What’s next? I don’t really know. I have good days where it’s not as bad and I’m actually up and hobbling my way around the world, at times even relatively well. I also have bad days, like last week, where laying on my back seems to be the only way to get relief and I’m grateful to the Hooping.org team for keeping things going in my absence. In the meantime I’m waiting for a surgery referral through the public hospital that my doctor says will likely take weeks, possibly months, and it’s the kind of situation I’d really love to hoop over, but it’s not really an option right now and sadly the health benefits of my hooping life are wearing off. I’ve gained ten pounds in recent weeks in spite of trying to ward off the inevitable, which is depressing, while being reminded of just how much I have relied upon my hoop for my mental health. I don’t think I’ve been fully aware of that until now. Lately I’ve felt pretty discouraged, to say the least, but it’s hard to stay down with so many of you sending love and light and prayers and healing. I really think it makes a difference and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
In response to a call out to the community instigated and made by beautiful hooping friends I adore too numerous to name, I came back online this weekend to find myself flooded with support. The emails and wishes have been amazing and have proven to be a most soothing balm on a difficult situation. While I can’t begin to respond to all of the comments on Facebook and emails, please know that I’m so humbled by the wonder of all of you – and that was before the discovery that more than $2000 had just shown up in my Paypal account and how do you even begin to thank people for something like that. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to, but just know that I will do what I can to try.
That’s why I said earlier that if you’re not actively a part of the hooping community, get inside the circle more. I’ve always said that hoopers are the most amazing group of people you could ever hope to meet. We’re just inclined to have fun and value joy and share the love with one another much more freely that most in this world, and I’m so grateful for each every one of you. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so incredibly blessed to be a part of such a wonderful group of people. While hooping for my health seems to be on hold for awhile, the health of this vibrant community is powerful indeed so thank you. Thanks everybody. There’s a big smile on my face and tears in my eyes and I don’t know that anyone has ever been so blessed and lucky.
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.