Why Surgery Fixed So Much More Than My Leg
After undergoing surgery to repair tears in both my hip and my hamstring, I was humbled beyond anything I might have imagined. I learned about appreciation for the little things, patience beyond compare, and why we should never judge what we observe.
Many people have been following my progress through my social media “journal” of events. I have been documenting many of the ah-ha moments as I have had a lot of time to contemplate many things throughout the past several weeks in my recovery.
When I found out I needed surgery in order to be able to run again, I was a wreck. Not so much because I knew the procedure was predicted to be painful or that the recovery period could exceed 3-4 months, but because I felt so alone in that moment of the news.
My Mom was my person. If my Mom were here, she’d move in with me and I would be taken care of without any question. I knew my friends were going to be amazing and would really help and offer to interrupt their lives to help take care of me, but there was an emptiness in knowing that Mom wasn’t there to support me through the procedure. The reminder that she was gone overwhelmed me. That was my first hesitance. I delayed the procedure until I couldn’t avoid it anymore.
My focus going into surgery was to minimize pain, regain my independence as soon as possible, and to rebuild myself from the inside out. I ordered every gadget you could imagine to make life easier after the procedure. Toilet rails, walker handle cushions, a reacher grabber tool to pick things up that were out of reach, and a padded swivel seat to get myself in & out, up & down. I did pilates up to the day before surgery & invested in 20 days of cryotherapy to minimize any inflammation going in.
Even with all of my preparation, I had no idea how little I was truly prepared for what “8 weeks with no weight bearing” really meant.
Neglecting myself unknowingly is what got me here. I assumed eating right and exercising were the perfect ingredients to health. I failed to recognize the need for rest & recovery. I went full speed, max effort every single day – for years.
I used to think it was cool that I hadn’t taken a day off running in 14 days. I used running as my “stress relief” ignoring the stress that it put on my body. My hip and rear in particular. I carried the emotion of losing my Mom to cancer like a huge potato sack. I harbored painful emotions in my body parts.
I thought constant soreness was a part of being fit. I ignored my body’s screams for me to pay attention to what was happening.
Today, I am grateful to be able to take a shower on my own. I am happy if it takes me 10 minutes instead of 15 to get to the bathroom. When I am hopping on my walker to get something from the kitchen – I see the kitchen in the distance and mentally know it is only a moment away, but I am faced with the fact that it will take me many moments to actually arrive there.
I can’t wait until I can reach my feet again to put lotion on them. I look forward to getting dressed sitting up instead of lying down. I appreciate brushing my hair on the balance of one leg.
I used to time things in my life to the minute. If my GPS said 10 minutes, I would leave 11 minutes open. When I had to be somewhere at 9, I would arrive at 8:59. If I could cram in just one more thing before moving onto the next, I would have been more productive. I filled my jar daily with rocks, peoples, and sand. There were no empty spaces.
The other day, a gentleman saw me slowly hopping towards the sidewalk through a parking lot and he asked if he could help. I said “unfortunately, unless you’d like to pick me up and carry me, this is as fast as it gets”. It was really nice that he offered, but what I learned was people were as uncomfortable with my struggle to move as I was. I stopped trying to make the walker move faster. I just began counting the steps as I got closer to the destination. Taking each step with care and consideration.
I went to the grocery store in a wheelchair the other day. It was strange to see people from the seated view. Looking up at people as they tried to hold the door. I felt as if I was in everyone’s way. Well, I was at Whole Foods – everyone is ALWAYS in everyone’s way. But, it was such an odd experience. Sort of a worm’s eye view.
People looked at me differently. I imagined what it must be like for people to be in a wheelchair permanently. I admired their strength. Physically rolling a wheelchair is a major workout. I felt a sense of freedom in the wheelchair. It rolled and I was MOVING. It reminded me that what I was experiencing was temporary and how blessed I am.
Slowing down was one of the best parts of my recovery. I am still trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B, but I am not rushing to make it happen.
My most recent lesson is that of judgment. Yesterday, I was in the buggy cart at the grocery store. I noticed a woman also in a cart. As I circled past her, I thought “I wonder if she HAS to ride the buggy or if she WANTS to ride the buggy”. Then I thought “you have no idea why she is in that buggy”.
I had no idea I had it inside of me to worry what people would think. I don’t have to wear my leg brace and hog tie to ride that buggy. I will not be able to walk a full grocery store for weeks after I am able to remove my “robocop” gear. Quite frankly, I will likely still opt for the buggy. Regardless of what people are going to think of my ability to get along fine without one.
I used to work in a building that had more handicapped parking spaces than regular spaces out front. But, there were very few people with visible ailments. Everyone used to criticize the people who parked in those spots and proceeded to walk normally to the door.
I thought to myself “who am I to judge? I have no idea the circumstance that put these people in carts or parking spots. It reminded me that just because something looks normal on the outside doesn’t mean that the person is feeling well on the inside.
I am grateful for all of the things I have learned about myself. I am thankful for my experience with slowing down, with releasing control. I am blessed to have revealed some of my own judgments in order to be aware and learn from them.
I am turning a corner in my recovery. While I have a long way to go, I will never forget this time in my life & the lessons I have learned. Sometimes things are not what they seem and everything is designed to teach us something about ourselves or about life. This is the true meaning of finding opportunity through obstacles.