Today marks eight weeks post-stress fracture diagnosis. Over these last two months, I have learned and experienced a lot surrounding health, healing, and growth. Some of it was expected; some of it came as more of a surprise. This post will cover some of the things I wasn't expecting from an injury. This is a long one, so extra credit to those of you who read it in its entirety :-)
Yes, I know this seems obvious but just let me explain. When I was diagnosed, part of the reason I was so surprised it was an actual stress fracture was the lack of pain I was feeling pre-diagnosis. Most people will tell you that a stress fracture is very painful. I had experienced discomfort and some minor pains before I went non-weight bearing for six weeks but nothing major.
Until the boot came off and I started walking again. My feet and legs have hurt more now than they ever have. Seriously, after two days of walking, I felt like I'd run a marathon. I knew there would be some adjustment when I started walking again, but I just didn't think it would be this painful.
My doctor says this is normal and that I should expect intermittent pain in my foot for the next few weeks- even months. Wow. I never realized how long it would actually take for bone to heal and the pain to stop. Now that I'm nine days post-boot, the pain is very minimal. But it's still there.
Fear and Doubt
I'm scared to death to run again. Truly terrified. I thought that once I was able to walk again, I'd be itching to run right out of the gate. If anything, the opposite is true: I'm really worried about starting to run again in the coming weeks.
Will I get another stress fracture?
What if the right foot isn't totally healed? What if I really do damage to it?
What if I hurt something else?
What if my body gives out?
Up until now, I think I fell into the trap that most young people fall into- thinking I'm invincible and healthy and strong and nothing can get to me or slow me down. But that's a fantasy. I am getting older. I am not 18 years old anymore and my body takes longer to recover than it previously did. Knowing this fills me with doubt- will I be able to run again? Can I ever run a half marathon or full marathon again? What if my body simply can't do this anymore?
These are the worries that keep me up at night. It's a sad feeling to not be able to trust your body anymore. I hope that this part of my recovery will fade quickly and I can gain some confidence and strength back soon. I have been cleared to start running in three weeks. At this point, I don't know if I'll be mentally ready or not.
Support and Criticism
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have as much kind, caring, and compassionate support as I have had these last few months. Matthew and my friends and family have been simply amazing: helping me get around with my scooter, picking up extra housework/grocery shopping duties, distracting me with fun things to do, and reassuring me on the nights when I just felt down and out. I can't ever repay the kindness shown to me from the wonderful people in my life. And I have to give a HUGE shout out to all my #runAkron teammates and other BRF (best running friends) that have helped keep me sane- Lauren, Steff, Chelsea, Jeff, Nathan, Amanda, Kelsey, Lauren H., Laura, Jen, Julie, Debbie, Jenn. Seriously, I have the best friends in the world.
Likewise, the support from my online community has been phenomenal. From the sobbing, desperate phone calls to Dani at Weight Off My Shoulders to the beautifully written emails from Matt at Hokeyblog to all of your comments, tweets, and emails- thank you from the bottom of my heart. I never felt like I was alone through any of the tough, painful weeks of recovery-past and know I won't be through the tough, painful weeks of recovery-future.
However, the internet is not all sunshine and rainbows. I know most people don't live in the "Pollyanna" bubble I do, but I was still surprised at a lot of the unsolicited "advice" that I got about my injury and my recovery from various people online. For the record, I follow doctor's orders to the letter and would never do anything to jeopardize my recovery. Never. Anyone that truly knows me knows that this has been a crappy few months- I don't need to repeat this at any point so trust me when I say that I am doing everything in my power to stay injury-free. If my doctor clears me to walk, then I will walk. Period. End of discussion. It may not be what some people might do, but I am trusting my doctor (who is far more knowledgeable about this subject than I) and doing what he says.
You never really miss something until it's gone. Before the injury, I don't think I ever really thought about what it meant to be able-bodied. I totally took for granted that I could walk wherever I wanted, climb up and down stairs, run or jump or skip if I felt like it.
Then all of that was stripped away and for six weeks and I needed a lot of help to get around- I wasn't used to relying on other people. It completely changed my perspective. It took losing the ability to walk to really get a sense of how lucky I am and how grateful I should be on a daily basis for my health. Not everyone has the privileges I have. Before the injury, I used to think that I had a pretty grateful heart- now I know that I've got a long way to go. But I'm getting there, step by step.
Yes, I knew that I wouldn't be able to jump right back into being half marathon ready at a moment's notice post-injury. But I didn't expect that I'd be winded climbing a flight of stairs. Or that trying to get my heart rate above 120 would be really hard to do and maintain. Or that a fast walking pace would now mean 18-20 minute miles.
At the beginning of this little adventure, I thought once the boot came off and I was cleared for normal activity that the worst of it would be behind me and the recovery from this part on would be sparkly and awesome and fun. However, I'm learning that the real recovery is just starting and it's going to be a longer and more challenging road than anticipated. But it's a road filled with important milestones, wonderful and supportive people, and opportunities for mental and physical growth. So let's get moving :-)