A box of chocolates. A cute stuffed teddy bear, monkey or elephant. Proclamations of love and sweet poems. Sappy cards or a lovely bouquet of red roses. That’s what some of us might expect to get on Valentine’s Day, am I right? That is, if you subscribe to the whole idea. If you don’t, that’s fine too. You do you. As for me, I certainly wouldn’t mind a nice heart shaped box of chocolates or a sweet, sappy, funny card. I love chocolate and I love cards. I definitely love stuffed teddy bears. I give them names, for crying out loud. Those things are all great fun. Not saying I totally endorse or support Valentine’s Day. Just that it’s always the thought that counts when someone writes me a card or gives me a little gift to show they care. You might be thinking okay, Valentine’s Day, we get it. So what? Well, in my case, Valentine’s Day has taken on a new meaning. Today’s not just Valentine’s Day anymore. It marks an entire year since I had SDR. Definitely a huge milestone. So, I wanted to write down some thoughts and reflect on what I’ve learned this past year.
Going all the way back to the beginning, I remember being so nervous when surgery was fast approaching. Nervous and a hot mess. Was anxious and fearful of a few things, but I was most fearful of the unknown. Not knowing what my walking would be like, what my life would be like. Not knowing how life would change. If I’d have any regrets, big or small.
Now that the surgery is behind me, I wonder why I was so nervous. Of course, everyone knows hindsight is 20/20. But one of the many good things about it being a year later is I can actually answer all those questions I had pre-surgery, maybe even other ones as well. I get anxious when I can’t reasonably predict the future. Probably because I’m such a planner. I like to know what the next step is at all times. So, for me, it’s much more comfortable having the answers to those questions I had than not knowing anything at all. Now, a year later, I know what my walking is like. It’s improved so much! I’m prioritizing exercising and wellness like I never have before and finding joy in it. As for regrets? I have none. I’d happily have this surgery again in a minute. I wish I had it earlier, truthfully.
Yes, SDR is a big commitment. It’s an investment. The idea of it is frightening. The recovery is hard. There’s no denying any of that. Though, I like to think of it like this…both the commitment to the rehab and investment in the journey will likely lead to a better quality of life. Again, it’s hard, but it’s worth it….the hard stuff always is. It certainly was for me. I no longer get as fatigued when I go places. My balance is better. My stamina’s improved. I generally feel better all around. I can walk with a single point cane indoors! That’s a drastic change and if you ask me, a really solid win. They’re all solid wins.
I’m celebrating the smaller victories as well as the big ones. For instance, not only am I working on walking with a cane indoors, but also recently realized that I haven’t gotten a hole on the bottom of my shoe. Before SDR, a hole would always form on the bottom of my shoe near the big toe because of my gait. I check routinely and there’s no hole! Which means there’s been a shift in my gait pattern––for the better! That’s huge! And, I can save money on sneakers since I no longer have to replace them every few months. Another win.
Not only do I think back on how nervous I was, I also try to constantly remind myself of how far I’ve come since very those early post-op days at the hospital, as well as the days that immediately followed. I’ve filmed several videos and kept them safe to log my progress. I’ve even posted some of them on social media, whenever I was in a particularly celebratory mood and felt like sharing with everyone I knew. Although, let me just say that re-watching those videos in private is an experience. I’m consistently shocked with how much I’ve progressed. From using a wheelchair, to a walker and gait belt, to cane and crutches. I remember my first night back in New York, having just arrived from the airport, when I had to somehow climb up my front stoop in complete darkness to get inside the house. It was painful. Physically, I was very weak. It was incredibly difficult. I pushed through, though. Pushing through is important. If I know anything, I know that. Pushing through to get to whatever’s on the other side has served me very well.
As I reflect, I’m choosing to be grateful. Grateful to have met my surgeon, had the surgery, and gone through these hardships to come out a much stronger person. But most of all, I’m beyond grateful to my dear friend, who I met all the way back in freshman year of college, whose unyielding support and encouragement pushed me to even consider SDR in the first place. You have all my gratitude, now and always.