If you know me, you know optimism is not exactly my strong suit. I’m more like an “envision the absolute worst case scenario and prepare for the apocalypse” type of person. That’s why it is weird that I’m feeling pretty optimistic about my recovery.
Let’s rewind. I had my surgery on Thursday, but it did not go as planned. First of all, Dr. V showed up to the hospital at 6 am in full cycling gear because he had ridden his bike to work (it was 36 degrees). Clearly, I had found the right doctor! Although he intended to go in and do a microdiscectomy (removing bulging portions of the discs that were pressing on my nerves and causing pain), he did not do that. Ultimately, when he actually opened up my back, he decided that the pain was not a result of the herniated discs but rather a combination of pain from my degeneration and a very angry set of nerves that were pressing up against the bony channels in my back. When the openings for the nerves are too small (as a result of inflammation of the nerve or some other condition), it’s called spinal stenosis. So instead of removing portions of the disc as he intended, he widened the channels that my nerves go through in hopes of relieving some of the pain.
When I woke up, he was straightforward with me about what that meant. As expected, I will still need a fusion at some point. However, he is optimistic that this will relieve some of the pain in my legs for now. He wanted me to go immediately into physical therapy and said he would try and set up an appointment with the PT that he sends all of his athletes to. I thought there was no way I would get an appointment, but sure enough, I got a phone call from Dr. V at 7:45 on Sunday morning (he couldn’t believe he woke me up) telling me that I would be going sometime on Monday. So today, they called and told me the PT would see me on his lunch break. How nice is that?!
I went into the waiting room and immediately noticed pictures of some of the most famous triathletes in the world on his wall along with their signed singlets. One of them was Chrissie Wellington, a four time Ironman World Champion who is undefeated at the Ironman distance. Oh, and did I mention she’s my personal hero? She goes to the same physical therapist as me. I died.
The physical therapist asked me a lot of very pointed questions about my running history, why I run in the first place, how I got injured, and what I expect my recovery to look like. It kind of felt like an interrogation, and I oddly found myself getting nervous. I said that my goal is to run in a healthy way again, but in my dreams that looks like probably 4 full marathons a year with some other distances in between. He didn’t respond to that, which I took as a positive sign. At least he didn’t laugh.
He had me do a few exercises just to get started, and I’ll be heading back to his office tomorrow, where he’ll be squeezing me in again, after my post-op appointment and before my flight home. He’ll remain my physical therapist while I’m home and we’ll communicate online, which is ideal for me. I’ll go back out to Boulder for my 6 week checkup, at which time he should clear me to start running again! I do have a secret goal race in mind, but I’m not spilling the beans until I know it is realistic.
Both he and my neurosurgeon have no doubt I will run again. I have to be honest – I have had my doubts during this process, no matter what kind of sunshine and rainbows I puke onto this blog. As much as I’ve liked the idea of running again, it hasn’t always seemed possible. Now, it feels entirely within my reach, which is funny given that I can’t even bend over enough currently to tie my shoes. I know that what my training and race schedules look like will change, but I’m ok with that as long as I stay healthy and put off my fusion for awhile. This is the first time in months that I have felt truly optimistic about my health. I’m grateful for a wonderful team of doctors and of course, my awesome parents (especially my mom) for nursing me back to health and putting up with my grumpiness. This will probably only last a few days, so enjoy this non-macabre blog post while it lasts!