I admit it – I’m the worst patient in the world. I’ve never, ever been one to sit still. I can’t stand the feeling of not moving forward, whether it be metaphorically or physically so you can imagine how the past two months have torn at my very core and left me frantically searching for something to fill the days until I could get back on my feet and back to moving.
In theory, that shouldn’t have happened until this Wednesday at the earliest. I’d been taken out of the hard cast by my surgeon just over three weeks ago and started wearing that fun little boot, the one that I was supposed to have for a month but was lucky to get an appointment for re-evaluation in three weeks (which hasn’t yet passed).
I set out walking in that boot like there was no tomorrow. I did the mobility exercises prescribed by my doctor with faithful precision, three times a day. I stopped using my crutches within two days of getting the boot.
I’ll admit, there were times during those first few days when I didn’t think I would ever walk again. My leg was weak, I couldn’t curl my toes, and my range of motion was very limited. My right hip, glute, and quad screamed in pain as the uneven gait of the boot threw everything out of whack.
But I kept at it, and it seemed like I saw rapid improvement in the second week. So much so that I started researching what recovery should look like, and I came upon a just-released study about weight bearing versus non weight bearing recovery for severe ankle fractures repaired with Open Reduction Internal Fixation (ORIF) surgery of the type I had.
The study found better results in patients who were allowed to dictate their own recovery in terms of bearing weight. Those patients lasted only about 2.6 weeks before being able to bear weight and were back to full range of motion very soon thereafter – much sooner than those who spent extended time non-weight bearing.
Having read that, I pondered a bit. I eyed my boot. It was heavy and cumbersome, and I’d come to loathe it but I’d been told it was necessary any time I put my foot on the ground.
But was it?
Slowly, I inched toward the edge of the seat. I put my foot down. I stood.
And then…I walked. Just a few steps that first time, but I slowly worked my way up to a hitching gait that propelled me around my room. It was enough at first.
Something was different when I woke up this morning. I wasn’t feeling the tightness I’d come to expect of my ankle and right leg. I knew the past few days of modified stretching had helped, but then I realized that I’d not been awakened by muscle spasms in my glute last night.
I felt…almost normal.
Too close to normal to be broken.
I walked around my room a little, feeling the stretch in my calf and liking the way my foot was flexing. I thought about how pretty the day looked through my window, and how much I envied friends who were out running.
I think my subconscious had already decided what I intended to do, but let’s pretend it hadn’t.
I sat on the edge of my bathtub and noticed my running shoes all neatly arranged in their boxes on my closet shelf. I looked down at my feet, neither of which appeared swollen or mis-shapen, and the idea fully formed.
I headed to the sock drawer and selected a pair of compression socks that came up higher on my ankle than my usual, “no-show” running socks. To my great pleasure, I noticed the socks covered one scar completely and the other almost entirely. The tight socks felt great on my feet. I was wearing socks for the first time in two months.
Excited by the prospect of even looking like I was healed, I grabbed a pair of running shorts and then my favorite “Moms Run This Town” tank. The tank is symbolic to me, as it represents the group of women who have supported and inspired me through thick and thin. While most of them were out running and I was on my own, I knew I was not “alone” as long as I had my MRTT family with me in spirit.
I eyeballed the shoes again. I’d recently read a blog by an ORIF “survivor” who found she could no longer wear her favorite running shoes as they came up too high on her ankle and rubbed on her plate.
Would I find that to be true?
I headed into the closet, bypassed my Kayano 22s in favor of my trusty ol’ 21s, and sat down with the box. They had been my favorites and felt better than any shoes I’d ever put on my feet, so I trusted them not to let me down.
But would my foot fit inside?
Cautiously, I separated the laces as wide as they would allow. I pointed my toe (in itself a huge win) and slid my right foot in.
It fit. No tightness, no rubbing, no discomfort.
On went the other shoe and with light speed (or something a bit less than that), I descended the stairs and headed out the front door.
Then I turned right around and went back inside, because I’d forgotten my visor and someone with cancer on their face should always wear protective gear.
NOW I went back outside. I set my Garmin to “walk” mode, took two deep breaths, and headed down the driveway.
I was stiff and my right leg had the strength of a wet noodle, but I didn’t quit.
I hobbled around the sidewalk in my court, telling myself I’d go half a mile just to see what would happen.
At exactly one quarter of a mile, the arch of my foot began to tingle, like it was asleep and blood flow was returning. Next came pins and needles, followed by what I can only describe as the feeling of having your arch set over burning coals.
It burned like nothing I’d ever felt before. My entire foot was on fire, but to me, it was alive.
I’d not been able to feel much in my right foot for two months. This odd, not pain-ish feeling meant it was alive.
I spent so much time focused on that feeling that I reached the half mile point before I knew it and decided to keep moving. Other than the nerve issues (for that’s what they were, I’d learned about them from reading), I felt great.
I kept my head down, focused my eyes on the path in front of me to avoid falling on cracks or debris, and I plugged along.
Before I knew it, my watch told me I’d reached a mile. It had taken me almost half an hour.
But I’d done it.
I stopped and took a selfie (yeah, I know, but I wanted to document it) and had a chat with a neighbor who noticed me out. He commented that he used to see me running and asked if I was hurt. I briefly explained that I was actually rehabbing from injury, and he commended me on my determination.
Three others did the same later in the walk. I have great neighbors, for the most part.
I started walking again, not toward home as I’d intended but further along the route that used to be my go-to evening 5k. The burning in my foot completely ceased and the only abnormal sensations I felt were the stiff pulls when my foot flexed, pulls that came courtesy of muscles unused to that range of motion.
They too disappeared soon, and I picked up my pace.
At the 1.5 mile mark, I turned toward home. I felt great, was only slightly hitching, and was moving along faster than I’d moved in the first mile.
I finished the second mile in 21 minutes. I was proud of myself, even if that is more than double what it used to take me to run it. It was still faster than that first mile, and that was saying something.
At that point I felt better than I had in weeks. My head was up, I no longer focused on my feet, and I was moving along at a decent walking pace. I found myself pushing…and pushing…and more than once I nearly broke into a slow trot.
But at mile 2.5, my calf muscles informed me that trotting was out of the question.
The right calf, unused for so long, began to cramp. It protested every step I took and tried talking the left into complying as well. It complained loud and long, but it didn’t slow me down.
I finished mile 3 in 18 minutes.
I was home at mile 3.1.
I came in the house, headed for the fridge, and grabbed my favorite recovery drink – chocolate milk.I know this wasn’t a run, but it was the best I had in me, so sue me for the indulgence.
Shortly, I headed upstairs and stretched my muscles a bit. They feel now like they used to feel after a five or six mile run, but I suspect that will go away quickly as I build back up my muscle tone and flexibility.
And what about my ankle, you may ask? It feels great. No swelling, no pain, no discoloration.
And about that boot? Well…I’ll wear it to work and whenever I’m up and down from my chair, but beyond that (and after I go for x-rays tomorrow), I suspect its days are numbered.
I’m back on my feet, now it’s time to get back in shape.