Monday, February 13, 2012

The Story of My Surgery Part II

The weekend is just about over for most of the world, but the school where I teach has a day off for President's Day tomorrow! (And we get another one next week!) Today was all about errands, another kickass yoga class, and more errands. Tonight, we're celebrating Valentine's day early, and our plans include baked fish, chocolate fondue, and champagne we bought in France. I'll share about our romantic evening tomorrow, but tonight's post will be a continuation of the discussion about my bunion surgery.

In case you missed it, here's The Story of My Surgery Part I. The basic gist: I had bunion pain as long as I could remember, and I got surgery in June 2010. When we left off, I shared that the surgery was successful. 

Warning: This post is long, but I hope it will benefit anyone dealing with major medical issues, broken bones, injuries, or surgery.

The day of the surgery

My dad came down to LA to help me out during the day while Terry was at work. I was on crutches and couldn't put any weight on my right foot, so getting around gave me a challenge. Dad made me lunches and hung out with me while I either napped or watched TV. Bonding aside, the week was extremely painful, difficult, and emotional. Luckily, my dad helped me learn to walk with the crutches and forced me to practice on the stairs. His patience definitely helped me later when I was by myself and needed to get down the stairs on my own.
Giant cast - yes, the other foot in the picture is also mine. 

At my first doctor's appointment, the doctor removed the cast and let me see my "new" foot - and I cried. It looked like a completely different foot! It looked normal. He also cracked my toe, which was the worst pain I've experienced to this point in my life. Two weeks later, they changed the cast again, and my foot still looked the same but my leg was so scrawny. I had lost all muscle in my calf - and let's just say I hadn't been able to shave the lower half of my right leg in five weeks. I believe the doctor said to Terry, "Well, if you still love her after this, I guess you should really get married." 

Switch to a much more stylish blue cast - which I immediately regretted.

The next six weeks included the following post-surgery events:
  • A road trip up to my parents' house at the delta, where I was terrified of getting my cast wet.
  • Terry's family's family reunion, where I had a good time but mostly had to sit on the sidelines.
  • Lots and lots of sleeping in, sitting on the couch, watching TV, reading, and wedding planning via laptop.
    Oh, and eating chocolate-covered strawberries from our friends Winnie and Brian!

  • Going to restaurants and asking for a third chair so I could put my leg up.
  • Sitting in the backseat during most car rides so I could put my leg up.
  • Crying about not being able to make my own food or help around the house.
  • Doing a reading at our friends' wedding. I was still on crutches, and during the rehearsal, my crutches fell over and disrupted the whole thing. Luckily, at the wedding, I managed to avoid completely embarrassing myself.
Unless you consider this embarrassing.
  • I was a bridesmaid in my friend Winnie's wedding, and the coordinator got mad at me for "walking funny" - I was in a boot! And then the photographer thought it would be funny to use my crutch as a prop.
I'm certain Winnie has this photo framed over her mantle. 
  • I took my cheerleaders to cheer camp at UCLA. I tried to walk (on crutches) the quarter of a mile from the dorms to the camp, and I ended up with a ridiculously swollen foot. The rest of camp, I had to take a golf cart around campus.
Walking boot after 7 weeks
Super scrawny leg!
Sexy compression socks for the win.
Still, sometimes my foot swelled up like Violet from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Physical Therapy
By the end of summer, I was thrilled to get put into a walking boot, but it was just as bulky as the cast. This was the point when I started physical therapy. Physical therapy included wiggling my toes, pointing and flexing my foot, and trying to pick up marbles with my big toe (a frustratingly difficult task). It also came with biweekly foot massages, which I loved.

Slowly - so slowly - my foot started to heal. Physical therapy guided me to be able to use my foot. I was able to drive (though I had to switch from my walking boot to a driving shoe and back during every trip), which gave me my independence again. I could slowly move my foot up and down and side to side, and I was able to walk in normal shoes for a whole day by October.

I remember asking my physical therapists when I would be able to work out "for real" again. I also wanted to know if I would be able to wear heals at my July wedding. They literally laughed at me the first few times and suggested that I just focus on walking. In November, they told me that I could stop coming to PT and said I would be ok to run in December. 

Post-Surgery Workouts
I was terrified of gaining weight and getting out of shape. But it was inevitable; being off your feet for 7 weeks will change your body. My mom gave me a set of weights, which ended up being unnecessary, because crutches give you arm tone you've never seen before. My physical therapist friend Heidi showed me some great exercises for glutes that I still use today. I had few opportunities to get any cardio in, except walking long distances on the crutches, but my body was using most of my calories to help heal my foot, so I needn't have worried.

Before my PT cleared me to run, I was able to walk up stairs, but I couldn't walk down. My ankle wasn't able to flex that far yet. Finally, we just joined a gym so I could use the treadmill, Stairmaster, elliptical, and other low-impact machines. But it was a long, slow journey to being able to move normally again. In January, I jogged on the treadmill for one minute. It hurt like hell, but I did it, iced my foot, and did it again the following week.

By March, I was jogging about a mile at a time. I chose jogging because my physical therapist said it was better than most exercise for my foot. I wasn't flexible enough to do a yoga class yet (though I did do at-home videos), and jogging was a steady, straightforward, predictable movement for my foot. By June, I could run four miles at a time, farther than I had ever run in my life! I'll say it again - no excuses for not getting into shape at any point in your life!

A year and a half later, my foot is about 90% healed. What I mean by that is that it's as good as it's going to get, but there are some things I'll never be able to do. For example, in yoga, I can't roll over my toes from up dog to downward facing dog. I also lost a lot of balance in my right foot, but I'm hoping I can work to fix that. Of course, these are minor sacrifices.

Overall, here are the results of my surgery:
  • My foot no longer hurts the way it used to. This one is most important!
  • Sometimes my foot gets sore from too much walking or standing.
  • I can't balance as well as I used to.
  • I'm not supposed to walk around barefoot, even at home.
  • I can run without limit, and I'm training for a half marathon.
  • I can take yoga classes with a few minor modifications.
  • My right foot is still pretty sensitive; if the kitten bites my toes it hurts a lot more on my right than my left.
  • I was able to wear heels at our wedding.
    Sparkly and girly :-)
    But I did switch to my bedazzled shoes for the reception
Here's the big question: Was it worth it? Without any reservations, YES. I would do it all again. If you're in pain and your doctor says surgery it the best option, do it. You will need support and you will need a lot of patience with yourself, but once it's all over you can look back with no regrets!

I want to say a quick thanks to my family and friends who supported me. To my dad for taking care of me during those first few days. To Heidi and Winnie for including me in your weddings even though I was a total gimp. To my co-coach for taking over the cheer team during the summer while I wasn't able to drive out there. And to my incredible husband-then-fiance for cooking all the meals, driving me everywhere, comforting me when it really hurt, and lifting me into the shower five times a week. You guys all rock!

If you're dealing with an injury or upcoming medical procedure, I think the mental part is just as important as the physical. If you're able to keep yourself focused on getting better rather than staying thin or jumping back into your usual routine, you'll be a lot better off. It took me over a year to get back into my normal routine, but it was worth the wait! Also, listen to your doctor or physical therapist. Be honest about how you're feeling so they can help you heal.

What injuries or medical procedures have you dealt with? How did you get back to your usual routine? What advice do they have for others?


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