6 Months Later

It has been 6 months since my knee surgery. I’m not quite at 100%–no running, no Crossfit, no mechanical bulls–but I can take my dog on decently long walks, or spend a night at the bar mingling on my feet instead of being propped up on a stool. I am still a regular at physical therapy and by now an expert of the favorite foods and TV shows of most of the staff. My file is about as thick as a young adult novel. Overall, I feel pretty great.

Back when I was on crutches and miserable, people would often say to me things along the lines of “Before you know it, you’ll be back on your feet and forget how bad it ever was.” I am definitely back on my feet, but I still remember quite vividly how much I hated being stuck at home, feeling broken and helpless like a caged zoo animal. That’s not necessarily a bad thing–in fact, it reminds me to constantly appreciate everything I have and am capable of. While I hopefully never have to go through something like that again, it gave me a new perspective on time and how fleeting it truly is. In another month, I am turning 34 so it’s about time I finally decide what I want to be when I grow up, even if that means going back to school for awhile. I want to go camping every month. Most of all, I am super excited for an upcoming trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where we are renting a cabin with some friends for a long weekend. It’ll be my first vacation since my surgery, and I cannot wait. We plan to try white water rafting, which will be a first for me. Though really, everything with a ‘new’ knee is a first all over again. I like that.

Ink

tat

I’d been craving another tattoo ever since my knee surgery. After dealing with my injury, getting sliced open, and the long recovery process, I felt like I didn’t have any control over what was going on to one of my largest limbs. Getting tattooed was a way to own my body once again.

I crutched my way through the door of Deluxe Tattoo last Monday after work, and had Zach Stuka ink a caribou antler onto the inside of my right arm.

Did you know that female caribou grow antlers, unlike the females of other deer species? I love animal facts. Now I’m in the mood to be home, curled up on the couch watching Planet Earth with a cat purring in my lap.

Transitions

I am slowly working my way off my crutches. It’s taking longer than I expected, which can be frustrating, but at the same time I am noticing progress so I try not to get discouraged. Down to one crutch for most of the day, I can hobble short distances unassisted as long as my baby knee cartilage doesn’t get too painfully sore. Recovery is a long road without an express lane.

Since my surgery back in early September, I’ve been to two funerals and a wedding on crutches. I’ve attended birthday parties, propped up on a chair in the corner of a restaurant with people asking me if I need more drinks. I’ve returned to work and hobbled around the building I once speed-walked through on a daily basis. I’ve gone camping for a night. I’ve spent countless hours in physical therapy. I went to the late-night opening of a goddamn Twilight movie. In other words, life goes on.

Because recovery can be utterly depressing, I do my best to focus on all of the positives, no matter how small. There are countless good samaritans who go out of their way to open a door for you or give up their train seat (this experience has renewed my faith in humanity). I have the best excuse in the world to avoid Black Friday.  And helllooooo, handicapped parking!

I yearn for the day I feel ‘normal’ again, but for now, I must learn to get used to my ‘new normal.’ This version of me can’t bust out a set of squats, do high kicks at the karaoke bar, or tear up the dance floor. On the other hand, my ‘new normal’ self has a reawakened appreciation for all of the little moments of the day where I can find peace and serenity–my dog nuzzling me with kisses, enjoying a beer around a campfire with my best friends on a perfect night, a random “I love you” text on a bad day at work. Life goes on, and so will I.

Sparkle on, you crazy vampires.

 

Feeling Positive

As I get closer to walking again, I am feeling much more upbeat and positive about my knee. It has been a long journey to this point and I’ve ridden a rollercoaster of emotions for the last 7 weeks. There’s still times when I think about how long it will be until I am fully ‘normal’, such as when I ask questions to my physical therapist like “When can I ride a mechanical bull?”

I really, really love riding mechanical bulls.

me on a mechanical bull in New Orleans

But this surgery will hopefully allow me to ride mechanical bulls well into my twilight years, and that is the most important part–that I will live a full and active life once I am recovered.

As someone who has spent such a large part of my life being physical–from roller derby to Crossfit to tearing up a dance floor whenever I get a chance–knee surgery has forced me to round out my life and focus on the smaller, more quiet moments. I won’t go back to hitting girls on skates after this, but I am really looking forward to being well enough to take my dog on long walks in the park. I’ve indulged in my love of curling up next to a sunny window with a good book and a cat purring on my lap.

I have so much gratitude for all of the amazing people in my life who have boosted my spirits with visits, loaned books and DVDs, positive emails, massages, haircuts, meals, puzzles, dog walks, and being a sounding board for all of my emotions. I may not be able to walk YET, but I am still a very lucky girl.

Things I Learned While Recovering From Surgery

  • Buy an iPad beforehand. I didn’t and I now hate myself.
  • Animals are great company. They are also terrible seat-stealers when you leave the couch to crutch yourself to the bathroom.
  • If you can’t carry your food to the table because of said crutches, place your meal on a plastic tray and kick it across the room with your foot. For best results, wait until the dog is out of the room.
  • Netflix, iPhone games, thick books, and the internet will save your life. Try to avoid daytime TV because it will break your spirit over its knee.
  • Don’t feel bad about asking for help. Also, don’t feel bad about requesting ice cream, tabloid magazines, seasonal pies, and shoulder massages. You’re pitiful right now, so milk it!
  •  Plant yourself next to a window so you can stare longingly out of it all day like a sad orphan child. This will make people feel even more sorry for you and bring more magazines.
  • You can make the internet bring anything you want to your door. Peapod drivers are much less grouchy about hauling your groceries up three flights of stairs when they find in your sad window-side orphan seat.
  • Do not read online forums about your particular type of surgery after you’ve had it. This will put you on the express train to Crazy Town and make you think of all the things that could possibly go wrong.  Immediately spend the next 3 hours on Pinterest to remove all thoughts from your brain.
  • Showers are a huge pain in the ass and should probably be avoided.

The Invalid Diaries

I’ve been trapped in my apartment for the last three weeks, recovering from knee surgery. I have three more weeks to go in my immobilizer brace and daily 6 to 8-hours sessions in a CPM machine. During normal times, I am a pretty active person–I’ve played roller derby, done CrossFit, and I own an elliptical machine. My boyfriend Kurt has a kayak and we are avid campers and travelers. So this period of rehabilitation is pretty much my waking nightmare. My apartment has become my prison, the CPM my torture device (even though it doesn’t really hurt, it’s just tedious as hell). Our dog and two cats are my cellmates, staring at me with glazed-over eyes and hating me for not being able to play or go on walks. The Kardashians, Kelly & Michael, WGN morning news team and everyone else on daytime TV are my jailers, taunting me on their healthy legs from soundstages and Malibu mansions. I want OUT.

my CPM machine, a.k.a. torture device

When I try to be logical, I know this is just a few months out of my life. At 33, I’ve lived through many, many months and hopefully I have hundreds more to look forward to. But it’s hard to give up time. There is never going to be a ‘good time’ for a major surgery or illness. Who wants to take time off from LIFE (taking time off work, on the other hand, is rather nice)? Each year becomes more precious to me as my calendar fills with obligations and the weekends fly by. There’s so much left in life I want to DO. When do I fit in that trip to the Rock of Gibraltar to fulfill my dream of visiting “the loot” from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? I haven’t created human life, or learned the Beyonce “Single Ladies” dance. I still want to take my boyfriend to Europe, teach our dog to down-stay, and try a seasonal job as a haunted house actor. Spending two months on crutches (and waiting 8 months to return to activities like running and dancing) doesn’t help me achieve my goals. Unless my goal is watching E! until I give myself a splitting headache–in which case, Achievement Unlocked!

I need to learn to look at this time as a gift to my brain. My body is out of commission, but my brain is healthy and primed for stimulation. I can’t go running with my dog, but maybe this is a good time to pick up the ukulele I haven’t practiced in months. Or write that novel I’ve always wanted to put on paper. These are all much more worthwhile activities than lying around like a lump feeling sorry for myself. I think I’ll finally put together those scrapbooks I’ve always talked about, and get to those books on my ever-growing reading list. I’ll talk to friends I haven’t had time to reach out to in years. I’ll be an overachiever at my physical therapy homework. I’ll blog!

First, I’m just going to see what’s on TV really quick…