My Personal Practice of Resilience

Most times when I discuss practicing on this blog/site, it’ll be regarding music. Today, I’ll write on my own practice of resilience – a seemingly constant struggle to maintain sanity and keep forging ahead, despite my circumstances.

I’m a relatively healthy person who’s happened upon a series of unfortunate events, so to speak. I’ve been in and out of the hospital for the last several years, for various surgeries and procedures. It’s actually been a while (almost two years!) since my last surgery.

Just when I thought that stretch was over, I’ve found I’ve got one more big surgery to go through, coming up this May. It will be my most long-term hospital stay.


  • In 2016 horn playing gave me a hernia* (did you know that can happen?!). The CT scan which showed that also showed that I had this other unusual problem, Nutcracker Syndrome (NCS).
  • The hernia repair surgery didn’t take away all the pain I was experiencing, so a vein transposition surgery was recommended – for the NCS. It was a major surgery, and was successful for a short time. Within months, however, I was back in the hospital for angioplasty of the vein, ultimately a stent and smaller vein embolizations, etc. There were many complications that occurred, many additional hospital visits, and much more pain.
  • After a lot of diagnostic pain management treatments were done, I also found out I had a totally unrelated labral tear in my left hip (until 2016 I’d been doing a lot of running – even a couple marathons – a likely cause). More surgery. This was the last one, in the summer of 2017.
  • Most of 2018 was spent in physical therapy.
  • A couple months ago, I was in for a routine physical with my doctor. I’d been noticing my abdominal area had not been feeling right, so I asked about it. It’s an incisional hernia, from the big vein transposition surgery. Recent imaging shows it’s pretty large. As a horn player, this is tough to deal with. It’s been quite painful and nauseating some days. Playing horn seems to make it worse. I’m heading in for an open surgery, to repair the hernia, in May. Can’t be done laparoscopically due to the size and complexity of other issues in the area. I’m told to prepare to spend about five days in the hospital.

It’s been immensely frustrating, to say the least… I’ve been making some good progress as a hornist, and then all the sudden – yet again – I’m disabled from playing for months at a time… turning down [paying] gigs, potentially becoming known as unreliable, etc.

I was also very physically active until all of this happened. I keep signing myself up for runs and organized bike rides, to give myself something to look forward to and train toward again – only to be told I’ve got another hospital stay coming my way (this happened yet again, with the UPAF Ride for the Arts – I’m registered for the long route,  but there’s no way I’ll be able to ride at all now).

I’m very grateful to the orchestra and conductor of the Menomonee Falls Symphony Orchestra, Mike Kamenski. I was supposed to play in a concert with them this weekend, and was thinking I could last through it all. But no, it’s not tolerable. So he’s allowed me to turn this into a musical education moment for one of my very promising horn students, who is subbing for me.

I’m also very grateful for the staff at Mt. Olive, where I’m Assistant Director of Church & School Music, for always figuring things out for me while I’m working through this perpetual mess. And I am extremely appreciative of the patience shown by those families I work with in private lessons, who have had to deal with my cancellations. I hate doing that, but sometimes there is no choice.

Special thanks to my husband, Nick. He’s had to adjust so much of his work and life to take care of me. I guess that’s what you sign up for when you marry someone, but man… he had no idea what he was getting into! He’s constantly been nothing but supportive and helpful.

So, I will try to keep my head above water here, and hope and pray that this is the very last surgery for quite some time, now. I’m trying VERY hard to live by my own teaching principles, here… BE RESILIENT.

While I’ll need to take some time off from the more physically demanding things I do, I’m going to keep on keeping on with everything else as best I can. There is no room for complacency in my life – and I do hope that my friends and colleagues will keep me accountable, no matter my situation.

Thankfully, piano playing is not affected by this problem too much… and it is, really, a fantastically therapeutic instrument. 😉

*Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time reworking embouchure. For instance, I now practice regularly while sitting on an exercise ball – so I know I’m supporting properly. 


  1. Darcy B Hamlin

    Has it really been almost 2 years since your last surgery? It seems more recent than that. I am so sorry you’re going through this. Wishing you a successful surgery and a restful, thorough recovery!!! <3

  2. Kim Oien

    Oh Allison, I’m so sorry you have to go through this again! But you are truly so resilient and upbeat, and I know you will recover and triumph yet again! I’ll be praying for you.

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