Return

Today I return to the gym. I’m not allowed t go barefoot so my PT is awaiting a call from my doctor to see about getting me back in the pool. But in the meantime I am cleared to try anything I want while wearing shoes. This is extremely intimidating. I am still struggling to walk so I will most likely attempt to bike, last about three minutes and then switch to weight training. I am excited, if by excited you mean afraid of hurting myself again and/or failing.

Wish me luck.

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One hundred thirteen

Tomorrow I will wear a shoe on my left foot for the first time in 113 days.

I have an appointment to pick up my custom orthotics, which I will have to wear in my shoes for the next 6-12 months. Tomorrow begins the process of weaning from the boot, which sounds like, “Great! All better! Done!”, but I think this is actually where the real work begins.

Now I have to actually walk. No more boot, no more crutches, just me and my owie foot, learning to walk and swim and bike and run again. This is the hard part. Lying around hurting is easy. But now I have to work. I have to fight my way back to being able to work out every day, only now it will be harder than it was before. I will struggle for what most people take for granted, a simple one foot in front of the other. And somehow I will get from there to a triathlon in 6 months. I hope you’ll come along for the ride; it’s bound to be interesting.

But for now, I just want to focus on the fact that while I may only tolerate wearing it for a few minutes, ding dang it, tomorrow,I am going to wear a shoe!

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Click!

Something clicked today. It was as though my foot just decided, “ok, we can walk now.” I used my crutches to get to work and then set them in the corner, where they sat unused all day. I kept waiting for all the walking to be enough but I felt alright so I just went with it.

I walked into physical therapy tonight under my own power, without crutches. I left them at home and didn’t miss them one bit. Everyone there was genuinely happy to see me walking. There were high fives and congratulations all around.

I honestly can’t say enough about how wonderful they are. I feel nurtured and supported and it makes all the difference.

I will probably be sore tomorrow but that’s ok, because today I walked.

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My Screw May Be Titanium, but My Seats Are Platinum

I saw the doctor for a follow up this morning and she said some great things and some not-so-great:

Great:

  • I can start sleeping without my boot on. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in three months, so this is very exciting to me.
  • I can get fitted for my orthotic and in about two weeks when it’s ready, I can, in the immortal words of my chart, “wean from boot.”

Not So Much:

  • Sayeth the Doctor: “Oh, didn’t I mention that when you broke your foot a major nerve was pinched between two bones and I had to move it when I put the screw in and now it’s damaged? No? Oh well. No big deal. It’s only going take a year and a half to heal and in the meantime you’re just going to always feel like your foot is asleep and/or twitching. So that’s cool.”
  • No driving yet.
  • I’m not allowed to ice my foot anymore, evidently because of the nerve damage. I’m really not sure I understand the reasoning behind this, and wrapping my foot in ice is my favorite part of the day so if anyone reading this has had a similar experience I’d be curious what you were told about ice and why.

In other news, I took my foot and my husband out for a date last Friday night. I was able to get tickets to the Cavs game from my work because they have a suite and when they’re not using it to entertain customers and other VIPs, they let employees use the tickets. The suite is basically awesome and I think I am spoiled now because I’ve used it a handful of times and pretty much never want to sit with the rabble again.

Somehow on Friday, we managed to get tickets in the “Platinum Suite.” I had no idea what that actually was, but it had Platinum right there in the name, so I knew it was going to be good. I was not incorrect. With assistance we found our suite, which was truly gorgeous but we couldn’t figure out where our seats were to watch the game. Luckily a nice lady came and offered to fix us a drink and said we could take them with us when we went to our seats. So I said, “Yeah, about that. Where are our seats?” She pointed in a direction that led out of the suites area. We got our drinks and headed in that direction and, lo and behold, our seats were COURTSIDE. CENTER COURT. Like, exactly on the line, smack in the front row, sitting on the floor, center court. That center court.

left foot cavs game

My left foot and I, managing to have fun courtside at a Cavs game.

I am not telling you this to brag (well, maybe just a little). My point is actually this: I am not a humongous basketball fan, but I do enjoy a game. This – this was a whole other world. Being so close that we could feel the wind as the players ran by made me see in a new way the athleticism that goes into what they do. I found it to be very inspiring. And I was reminded that somewhere under the lump that I feel I have become over the last three months, there is an athlete. And every day I am closer to finding her again. I expected to have a fun night out with my man, but what I found was inspiration. And that is no small thing.

And what have I started lately? Actually I have an exciting personal project that I (and a few others) started on Saturday. I’m not ready to share details, but it’s something that, if done well (and it will be), will be a positive influence in my community for generations. And that’s no small thing either.

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In Which I am Cranky but Optimistic

I almost lost it at PT last night. It seems that the better I feel, the crankier I get. PT “Steve” assures me that this is normal, that it’s actually a sign that I am improving because if I felt crummy, I wouldn’t care what I could or could not do. Perhaps that’s the reason that throughout this ordeal I’ve been able (to the outside observer at least – my husband would tell a very different story) to keep my cool for the most part. I felt so awful that I was simply resigned to my fate. But now I absolutely hate the fact that last night I struggled to do an exercise with no weight – just make the correct movement – that I normally* do with weights, and a lot of them.

My nerves are still touchy as heck, and continue to send the occasional shock down my foot or ankle for no apparent reason. I feel like there is an angry electric eel in my boot, which may attack at any moment without provocation.

Swelling remains a problem, as does the fact that apparently healing makes me ravenously hungry. There is no way I am burning all the calories that my left foot evidently thinks it needs. Unless all the uncontrollable twitching counts as exercise.

But – for my therapy I have worked my way up to (with support and still wearing the boot) shifting my weight from foot to foot, and using a Nerf ball as resistance to work on pressing my foot down, as on a gas pedal.

And what did I start today? I started some new responsibilities at my job. For the moment they are interim responsibilities, but I hope to make them permanent as they fit in with my Master Plan quite nicely. Moo. Ah. Ah.

*The fact that I “normally” do any exercise is remarkable enough as it is. Not so long ago, I would have thought that even contemplating running a half marathon was crazy. A year ago I literally could not run the length of my block. Now I not only am bummed that I can’t do a half marathon this year, but I am also optimistic that in another year or so I can be training for a full. And, after having a great conversation yesterday with the Wellness Coach at my office** I have a backup plan. If it turns out that I can’t run because my feet can’t bear the impact, plan B is roller derby and/or inline speed skating. And no, I am not kidding.

**One of the perks I have at work is that we have a Wellness Coach that visits twice a month. She can check your blood pressure and weight but mostly I use her as a therapist. I could not have gotten through last year without her. But more on that later.

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Setting the Wheels in Motion

As a parent with a full time job and a busy personal life, I take any opportunity I can find to have a few minutes’ peace. So during my first PT appointment, when the nice man wrapped my swollen foot in ice and let me lie down for 20 minutes, I took advantage of the chance to be alone with my thoughts. And they went a little something like this…

Woo! Cold! Cold! Cold! Cold!

Ahhhhhh…

Deep breath.

Deep breath.

Deep breath.

So, here I am, lying on this table. Beginning physical therapy at last. I wrote in my first blog entry that the day I got my cast off was Day One of my recovery, but maybe this is really Day One. I mean, I haven’t really been using my foot since I got my cast off because I wanted to start PT first so a professional could tell me what I should and shouldn’t do. So I have still been in a holding pattern until today. So this – this definitely is Day One.

Then again, tomorrow could be Day One for something else. And the next day something else again. Maybe it’s better to look at every day as Day One. What am I going to start today? What new skill will I learn? What will I set in motion? Whose life will I touch, and what will that lead to?

Instead of living every day like it could be my last, why not start living as though every day is my first? When we live like we’re dying, we can be reckless. There are no consequences. But when we live like every day is the beginning, we have to think about the chain reaction that we start with everything we do. We think about how the things we do affect others, and hopefully we strive to make those interactions mean something positive. We live like what we do and say matters.

So this is Day One. And so is tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

While in the thick of things, it’s easy to fret over the fact that today in PT I was “only” able to do a certain wee small exercise and not remotely close to the kind of workout that I am accustomed to, but the fact is that yesterday I couldn’t do even that. And tomorrow will be something else new. Some days you start something big, and some days it’s all you can do to do a little thing like flex your foot. But you never know where that little thing might lead. What is important is the starting.

I ask you, dear reader, what will you start tomorrow?

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Balance and Inspiration

I have been trying to find the balance between pushing myself to get better and making things worse.

Every day I try to spend more time going longer distances on one crutch. I started by going just three or four steps at a time and in only a week I have worked my way up to going from my desk to the lunch room at work. I’ve done it a couple of times a day for the last couple of days, and while tired and sore, I lived to tell the tale.

A few nights ago, I even walked* about 5 steps across my kitchen with no crutches at all! I was overjoyed, and then distraught that something so little could feel like such a huge accomplishment.

*And by walked I mean that I did an excellent impersonation of a zombie.

It’s hard to know whether the soreness I am feeling is the good kind. When I work out and push myself to do more reps, run farther, bike faster, I feel that sweet, sweet burn, that ache that tells me with every step that I am Alive and Strong. The soreness reminds me that I have done something Good for Myself.

But now, I don’t know. The lines have become blurred and I can’t tell when it’s enough. I am guessing, feeling my way around blindly. There is no choice but to trust my instincts. When I have a hunch that it’s enough, I stop. I confess I like things to be more scientific than that.

There are two things I don’t do well: uncertainty, patience and math.

As I struggle to find my balance, here is something that has been inspiring to me. I hope you will find Matt’s story to be inspiring as well.

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Perspective

This has been a difficult week. More than one person that I know has experienced the death of a loved one. Another person’s husband had a stroke at the age of 44. There is no reason for any of it. Sometimes you’re here and then the next moment you’re not. Sometimes you can walk and then you suddenly can’t. It’s that uncomplicated.

Riding home from work tonight, my coworker and I passed by the park where I like to go running. I told him I wished he could drop me off, even while it was snowing, so I could go for a run. I understood suddenly why it is that you see those fools out running in any weather: it’s because they can. And I knew in that moment that next winter, you will see me out there. I will be one of those track-suited ladies with a pony tail and ear warming headband thing. And when I run, it will be with a new appreciation for the bones, muscles, nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, brain cells – all the myriad parts that have to be healthy and work in harmony in order for me to be able to do that.

I used to run and now I have to learn to walk. So to those who are struggling to keep their January promises to themselves, or even to define what those promises might be, I say this: quit whining and get up off your butt and do it. You have the time. You have the ability. So do it. Because there are others who would give anything to do what you can do without thinking. It’s that uncomplicated.

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Despair and Catalysis

It has been said that my writing is humorous and honest; however, sometimes honesty isn’t funny.

I’ve really gotten sucked down in it deep the last few days and please, don’t tell me that with hard work and enough time, it will get better. Shoot, I know that.

But here’s the thing: despair has found me anyway.

I try not to let it get to me, really I do. But I worked so hard. So very hard to get to where I was at the end of October. I had lost 30 pounds, finished a triathlon and decided to train for a half marathon (something I never, ever in a million years thought I would do). And then in less than than blink of an eye, it was all gone.

This isn’t the first time my feet have betrayed me. I used to be a dancer. Until, after years of foot problems, the details of which I will spare you, I just couldn’t be anymore. And if I am being honest (and what is the point of all this writing, if not to be honest), my deepest, darkest secret is that what I really want is to get fit enough to put on a leotard and not look like some 30-something fool trying to relive her glory days, but instead just look like a dancer. I don’t want much. My days of dreaming of being in the Nutcracker with Baryshnikov are over. And I’m ok with that. But to be able to dance, just a little bit, would be the whole world.

I guess I just really hoped that with trying some new form of physical activity, my feet would cooperate and maybe I could sneak around the back side and be dancing before my feet knew what hit them.

But my feet are tricksy, and must have known something was up.

So here I sit: the weight piling back on, one seriously atrophied calf and the rest not looking so hot either, and my mojo slowly leaking out through the corners of my eyes.

I kind of just want to lie down.

But –

I’ve been hearing a lot of comments on Facebook, Twitter and even (gasp!) in person from people who say that my year of turning my life around has influenced and even inspired them to make a change of their own. Given that I have been a lump for my entire adult life, this is amazing to me – especially so right now when I literally cannot think past “Ow! Ow! Ow!” and remember that I am an athlete.

Recently I read a message from a friend who had started running that day, even though she had a terrible knee injury a couple years ago and doing so is incredibly hard. Later that same day, I read another from a friend who started triathlon training and had his first swimming day. I can’t lie to you – both times I cried. Not heaving, sobbing, uncontrollable tears, but tears all the same.

I cried because I was proud of them. I cried because I was jealous. I cried because I was amazed that I had managed to be an influence. I, who am overweight and eat too much junk food, am somehow a positive influence on the health of others.

I am seeing it begin to spread. Their friends are starting to get up and move and talk about it publicly. When it spreads to their friends, I probably won’t know, but I trust that it will all the same.

So let me have my days of despair. The days when I tire of feeling helpless and useless and want nothing more than to curl up in a ball and Be Left Alone.

Because those that I have touched are now touching me, and it will all come back around in the end.

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In Which We Introduce the Reader to My New Best Friend, Steve Groban

I have an entry rolling around in my brain that contains Genuine Deep Thoughts, but for the moment, a Physical Therapy Update:

On Monday I started physical therapy. My foot and ankle are very weak so there wasn’t much they could do to me yet; I was told that the most important thing I need to do is put more weight on my foot and stop babying it. Apparently my foot is at the point in the healing process where it will go much faster if I actually use the thing. Bummer. I also must continue doing my ABCs, and was given some leg lift type exercises to help regain strength in my legs.

The sheet they gave me has 4 exercises and says to do 1 set of 15 of each, once a day. For someone who, when not afflicted with a crippling injury, works out 4-6 days per week, involving weight training, swimming, biking and running, this does not sound like exercise. I know I don’t look like an athlete (yet), but I most sincerely am one, and I was a little insulted at first that perhaps I wasn’t being taken seriously when I said that the PT’s job was to get me back into triathlon shape by August and that I would do everything he tells me to do in order to make that happen. However, I did my exercises again Tuesday night and while I did manage extra sets, it was harder work than I anticipated. Using a wheelchair* for 2 months does its damage more quickly than I realized. Bummer again.

*The wheelchair was because I needed to keep my foot elevated constantly otherwise my toes would swell and scream in agony. I had crutches but it hurt like the dickens to use them so I avoided it wherever possible. The only places I really had to use them were: 1) To get into the bathroom at work, because even though technically it is accessible, there is no way to get a wheelchair into it. Luckily for my employer there is another one way on the other side of the building that is accessible in fact, as well as in theory. But that didn’t help me much. 2) To get around my house, which is not even remotely wheelchair-friendly. It has narrow hallways, a narrow galley kitchen and is full of crap.

But weaker than expected leg muscles can be dealt with easily enough. My biggest problem right now is swelling. To combat this, my PT put those sticky electrical pads on both sides of my foot and then wrapped my bare foot in ice. But just wrapping it in ice wasn’t enough – first he put the giant ice pack inside of a damp pillow case – his little trick for getting it good and cold. It sounds like torture but I tell you what – that ice pack tiptoed right up to the edge of painful, and then magically stopped at the place where a mystical bubble of pain relief floats around my foot. I didn’t even know that place existed. I wish I had a family crest so I could make a flag and plant it and claim it for my own.

My other big issue is that the top of my foot has become like a giant hypersensitive funny bone. The slightest touch sends shock waves through my whole foot. So tonight my PT* spent some time massaging Important Spots on my leg to find whether a nerve may have been compressed by the hard cast. I think he made a little progress, but I am concerned that I have nerve damage in my foot, a real possibility from what I’ve read. It may go away after a few months, or it may be forever. Only time will tell. So that’s fun.

*I totally heart my PT. He is super nice and actually cares about his patients – not in that fakey way that people who get paid to care about you do, but in a very real and personal way. Also he is adorable. He looks like the love child of Josh Groban and Steve from Blue’s Clues.

He also spent some time tonight stretching and bending my foot, which I thought would be torture, especially since the foot has been really painful since I started walking on it more the last couple of days. The bottom (the bottom!) of my foot is swollen, but the only way to get better is to walk on it. It’s quite a conundrum. And Advil doesn’t do much for conundrums (conundra?). But evidently having my foot stretched by Steve Groban and then encased in ice can solve nearly any problem. I almost feel like I’m not in pain tonight. Almost. There may be hope for me yet.

In closing, I honor My New Best Friend by helping him promote his new album:

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