Exactly one year ago, I had surgery on my left knee to address ongoing issues with a tendon that could no longer be managed with Naproxen, acupuncture, ice or rest. I did all of that for almost five years. I was in pain, it was affecting my active lifestyle and I made the decision that anesthesia and cutting me open were the next steps.
I was afraid. I was afraid because I was going under. I was afraid because there was no definitive prognosis that I would be “cured” of the pain I’d been experiencing. I might feel 50% better. I might feel 85% better. Or it might not make a difference at all.
I knew I was making the right decision to go through with it, though, even in the face of my fears and my orthopod’s conservative hypothesizing.
I did my homework about this decision. I went to three different doctors before I found the one I trusted and felt I could work with to develop a solid plan of action.
My nurse practitioner friend Nancy took time out of her Hawaii vacation to talk me through it and she respectfully held space for my hopes and hesitations (and weepiness).
When all was said and done the Friday morning of the surgery, I was armed with a lot of data, percentages and information about the possible medical outcomes and I felt confident.
More than anything, I held the most powerful information about my healing inside of myself. My heart and mind knew what I wanted this surgery to mean: range of motion, strength and freedom. I could close my eyes and see myself dancing in class without a knee sleeve. I could see the calendar turning the page to my 42nd birthday and knowing the job was done. My body had healed.
And here’s what happened in the course of a year:
- I had the surgery and followed doctor’s orders to stay off my feet for a couple of weeks (that’s when Season 1 of Downton Abbey came into my life — and Pinterest).
- I grew restless and impatient and worried I’d gain all of the weight back that I’d lost the year before.
- I got proactive and made going to physical therapy and doing the “homework” they gave me my job for almost three months.
- I started walking in the neighborhood in 15 – 20 minute intervals — some days I felt strong and hopeful, and other days I worried I’d done too much.
- I found a gym with a ton of water aerobics classes, including Aqua Zumba. I put on my swimsuit in October and November and water-danced my way back to strength and flexibility.
- Starting with one class a week, I showed up at my neighborhood studio and got my on-land “Zumba legs” back.
- I cried on the phone with one of my coaching friends who called me out on my post-surgery scale phobia. I weighed myself while she was on the line and cried with the realization that I knew how to treat my body and trust myself. My life was different now. I was only a few pounds up from where I was pre-surgery.
- And one day — maybe it was February or March — I remember having “a moment” in Zumba class in between songs where I realized that I’d healed myself. Last August, I imagined myself with my rehabilitated knee gliding and dancing across the floor with ease and joy. And there I was, doing just that.
- And THEN — oh, and then — I not only got better, I got stronger and more confident. I celebrated by becoming a licensed instructor and my knees and I are front and center, leading the class (see photo).
My faith and belief in myself got me here. I wavered, pouted and cried sometimes, but I still showed up to do the work and embraced my vision of better health.
What are you facing now that feels like an uphill battle? What if your “surgery” involves removing yourself from a relationship or situation that has run its course?
You know what you need to do next, but you’re afraid. What if things don’t turn out the way you’re hoping if you make changes? There’s always a chance that it could be only half-ass better than it is now, and what’s the point in that?
I want to offer you this: What if it’s unbelievably better than you are giving yourself permission to imagine right now?
And, what if you just promise to show up for yourself every day and do the work? Do the work to strengthen those muscles. Let your inspiration and drive carry you a couple of extra steps — rest if it proves to be too much one day. Rejoice when you feel good and want to keep going.
It’s kind of like a football game: I knew that when I was at “4th down” in my recovery journey, I would absolutely be able to kick a field goal and get a solid three points. I also knew that what I really had my eye on was tapping into my own spunk, determination and skill and adding just a dash of “Hail Mary” to sprint into the end zone.
Go for it. It’s worth it.