In the process of trying to explain to others what my recovery’s been like, I’ve been thinking a lot about sacrifice and the potential for reward. For example, deciding to have surgery was definitely a huge, impactful decision for me to make. I had a feeling SDR was going to change not only the way I walked, but also the way I viewed my body forever. I was right.
It’s been difficult to express just how monumental the sacrifice really was. My whole life has changed. I like to joke around that my life is basically rehab now, but there’s much truth to that humor. I can’t stress enough how important it has been, and will be, to the operation’s success. At times it honestly does feel like many do not understand that, especially if they haven’t gone through it themselves. All I can say is that I simply cannot make people understand my experience if they are unwilling to keep an open mind and/or listen. Some folks just aren’t gonna get it, and it took me a long time to let that go and say to myself, it’s ok.
Let’s say for a moment that we are not going through a global pandemic and social distancing is not a thing. We see friends and family and hold gatherings as we used to. In this reality and gazing through the lens of surgery, I can’t go after the career I want because I have to dedicate all my time to my intensive rehab. Also I don’t think that I’m honestly well enough to handle a 9-5 job at this point in time. If I’m utterly exhausted after doing exercises, there’s no way I’d last sitting in an office all day. It’s even painful to sit at my desk and type this, at least after being upright for long periods of time. There’s plenty of work I have to do physically before I would feel confident enough and more importantly, safe enough to join the workforce again.
In this same reality without the coronavirus, let’s say I decided to look into getting my Master’s degree. Can’t chase that idea, because I am not at a point where I would be able to endure sitting in a classroom or be able to commute to a campus somewhere in the city. Taking the subway or taking a taxi? Considering the New York City subway is terribly inaccessible in a way that’s deeply problematic and getting into a cab requires a certain pattern of mobility, ie. swinging your legs into the car, all I’m gonna say is no way.
I stopped everything to pursue this surgery…and I mean everything. Jobs would always be there, a career would always be there. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I had to put my health first, and every day I am so glad I did. To put it plainly, I feel so much better physically and mentally.
Speaking generally, anyone considering SDR should know that the rehab is extremely arduous. Whether or not they have to sacrifice something as I did in order to get it done would most probably depend on their situation. Although SDR is definitely not a procedure you can just have and then go along on your merry way by any means. The commitment to the post-op rehab has to be present. The desire, determination, and motivation have to be there. Which is not to say that anyone who for some reason doesn’t consider themselves determined or motivated shouldn’t have the surgery…but it has to be understood that it’s going to take a whole lot of hard work. There’s no arguing against the fact that you as the patient have to do your part.
I just passed my two month post-op mark on April 14th. I’ve made great progress since surgery day. It’s gotten easier to ambulate with a single point cane indoors. I’m less afraid and more confident each time I give it a go. I hold the cane in my right hand, and in the very beginning I was so nervous that my left arm–my free arm–would really tense up and barely move. I’ve always regarded my arms as my built-in defense mechanism. In other words, they’d catch me if I fell pretty much every time. With one arm occupied holding the cane, walking got harder… and scarier! I remember being so afraid of all the open space in front of me the first few times I tried walking with one. But walking with a cane has definitely been one of my biggest rewards so far thanks to the surgery. It feels so freeing and is such a drastic improvement from having to use my Loftstrand crutches everywhere. I’d do SDR over again in a second just for that amazing feeling of freedom.
As I stay home and safe during these scary times, I’ve thought about what it means to put literally everything on the line in the fight and search for something better. Deciding to have the surgery was scary as hell. The possibility existed only in my head for so long….years. I only told my mom and my therapist about it, too worried that telling anyone else would put too much pressure on me….too much pressure to decide, or even too many opinions to consider. To send in an application meant setting off a cascade of life-changing events. If I got a rejection, that signified that I was already living at my very best. To get an acceptance, however, meant so much more than that.
I tried really hard to stay calm and at peace in the days leading up to SDR, but my anxiety got the best of me in those quiet moments where I found myself alone. I worried for life after the operation mostly. I wondered if I really possessed the perseverance to keep up with the rehab. In retrospect, those feelings of nervousness and anxiousness made complete sense. Surgery is a big deal. This surgery is a big deal. Frankly, it would’ve been weird if I wasn’t nervous. Then on the eve of February 14th, all those feelings and emotions faded away. There was nothing left to do but just go and end up alright on the other side. Walking into the hospital, I put on my bravest face, smiled a whole lot, and breathed deeply. I knew I was in the best possible hands.
I can say now that even though sacrifice can be terrifying, sometimes it’s one hundred percent necessary for a better quality of life. Though the process was and is tough, finally taking that plunge and going after the surgery was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself.