It’s Been a Month

Today is exactly one month since my surgery. For the new or only occasional readers of this blog, here is a quick recap of where I am at in terms of recovery. I got out of a cast and into a boot right before three weeks. Just after three weeks, I was allowed to get my incision wet which meant I could finally put my leg in the shower and get in the pool. I’ve been allowed to swim sans kicking with the pull buoy. I’m still completely non weight bearing but I’m hopeful that might change when I go to my follow up on Monday. I have continued to have very little discomfort at all in my heel.

When I was at the one week mark, I wrote about some of my observations from that point in time. Today seems like a good day for a follow up, so here are a few thoughts from the end of the first month.

Expectations are Everything. I have coped mentally and emotionally far better than I thought I would. Others, including Husband, have remarked on this too. I think the single biggest factor in this is that I dreaded this non weight bearing period so much that I have been pleasantly surprised by the reality not being as bad as I had expected. I’m an anxious person by nature and tend to think through the worst case scenarios for everything. I’m often the recipient of that platitude, “There’s no point worrying about things you can’t control,” as if that thought has never occurred to me. It’s perhaps the single most unhelpful and obtuse phrase ever uttered by the non-anxiety prone to the anxiety prone. (If you are a giver of this advice, I urge you to cease and desist. We’re anxious not stupid.) The upside of worrying about future difficulties is that it prepares you for when the worst case scenario happens and delivers a pleasant surprise when it doesn’t.

So, what did I expect this month to be like? I expected to struggle terribly on a mental and emotional level with not being able to maintain my typical daily workouts which average around 10 hours a week. I rely heavily on exercise for mental health and usually workout first thing every morning even if it means getting up at 4:00 a.m. to fit it in. I therefore expected to be an anxiety ridden, distraught mess this last month. Based on past injury episodes, Husband expected this too. Surprisingly though, I’ve managed pretty well on an very reduced exercise program (see below). I thought I would struggle with insomnia as a result of anxiety and reduced exercise as I have in the past. That hasn’t been a problem at all though. I’ve slept like a champ every night. I thought I would become intensely frustrated with not being able to move around like I used to. It has certainly been a little frustrating but my array of mobility devices has gone a long way towards allowing some normalcy. A lower limb injury really is not that bad.

Even a Little Exercise Makes a Difference. In studies on the effect of exercise on health outcomes, the biggest difference is seen between those people doing no exercise at all and those doing just a little. Very modest amounts of activity have a huge effect on the otherwise sedentary population. I’ve found parallels with myself this last month. I actually did just lay on the couch the first day or two after surgery, but then I graduated to 20-40 minute workouts doing core and upper body strength exercises every other day. Since being cleared to get in the pool, I have done an easy swim on most of the other days. That may sound like quite a lot to someone who does not workout regularly but it is a a massive reduction in both intensity and volume for me. When you aren’t engaging the big muscle groups in the lower body, you can only work so hard. I feel like I’m barely elevating my heart rate most days. Yet, even short low intensity activity has a noticeable effect on my mood that lasts for hours and helps me sleep. Also, my right calf may have withered away but my upper body has never looked so good

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My atrophied right lower limb gets to go in the pool now.

You’re Going to Touch People. Literally, you are going to be touching a lot of people in the quest to get around. Almost every time I get in or out of an Uber, I need to hold the driver’s arm or hand. I’ve leaned on multiple strangers’ shoulders to get up and down steps. I’ve been fully lifted up a couple of times (something that comes with being on the smaller side). I’ve always been a touchy sort. I’m big on hugging with friends. I love getting massages and foot rubs. I’m sitting on the couch leaning on Husband as I write this. Physical contact feels like a necessary and natural part of connectedness to others, so getting close to Uber drivers feels normal to me. Some people though are not comfortable with physical contact in general, let alone with strangers. Sometimes that’s for cultural reasons, sometimes due to a personal trauma like sexual assault, and some people just don’t like to be touched. When you can’t walk though, it’s just easier when someone offers you a literal hand if you feel comfortable taking it.

Here’s what’s ahead for the next month. First up, I have a follow up appointment on Monday morning. I’m already very excited about what that might bring. Will I be allowed to do more things? Will I be allowed to start partial weight bearing? I know some people who have had the same procedure are partial weight bearing at four weeks but my doctor has been careful to temper my expectations. Whether it is this week, next week, or beyond, it’s going to happen this month. Sometime in the next few weeks I’m also going to be allowed to start riding my bike on the trainer. Things are going to look quite different a month from now. I can’t wait.

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