In my last entry I wrote (excessively) about my recent health issues with my foot and the subsequent surgery, but I also wanted to point out – and remember- that there was a lot about this whole situation that was pretty good, all things considered.
I was able to schedule the surgery- and all the necessary pre-op appointments- right away. All in all, I found out I needed the surgery on a Monday, and by Friday afternoon at 4:30pm, I was out of the surgery center and done with everything. That was kind of a blessing, because it could have taken weeks to get it all done. So I am very thankful I didn’t have to wait and agonize over it.
My doctor is amazing, her staff is great, and the staff at the surgery center were incredibly kind. The nurses before surgery and in the recovery room were awesome.
There was one nurse I met during recovery that was really wonder. She usually works with kids, and when she found out I had Spina Bifida, she kept telling me how amazing it was for her to see someone “grown up” with Spina Bifida doing so well. I kind of needed to hear that – I forget sometimes that I am doing okay and I get down on myself for having any health problems at all. It’s easy to be critical towards myself for not being more active (beyond swimming and gardening), not having more energy, not being some super-star world traveler who is involved in every possible activity. The last few years I’ve been in a funk about getting older and worried about changes in my health, etc. Having someone tell me I’m doing really, really well felt so good, especially just having had come out of surgery.
As far as recovery, there were several things about this particular experience that made life much, much better than any other post-surgery experiences I have had.
First of all, my family. The minute I found out I had to have surgery, my parents jumped in and took complete care of Gracie and her schedule (carpool, sports, playdates, parties, after-school stuff, weekend activities, etc.) so that I could just go to all my pre-ops and into surgery with an open schedule and not have to worry about anything. My parents live a few blocks away, and they spend a lot of time with Gracie, so it wasn’t stressful for her at all- she just got to spend a lot more time with Nanny and Papa the week leading up to my surgery and the days after it. That made everything SO much easier for me- I didn’t want this surgery to effect her at all, especially with it being her last week of school.
I think the main thing that made this such a different experience than other emergency/surgery/recoveries was Tom. This was the first time I went through pre-op/surgery/post-op with a partner, and having Tom be there for me was truly, truly significant and made such a huge difference. My parents have ALWAYS been there for every surgery and medical thing I have had, and they are experts at it. But they are still my parents- so it’s always affected them in a way that’s kind of deep. And when you see your parents hurting and worried on your behalf, you want to make it better. When I was young, I had to reassure them that I was going to be okay, just to try and ease their minds a little but.
With Tom, I don’t have to do that. I didn’t have to be brave, or hold back. I was able to joke about things one minute and really complain about stuff and whine about the stupid things the next, and he was on exactly the same page as I was.
Tom got a completely different energy than my family- he’s super mellow. He kept me sane during the days leading up to surgery, and during and after the surgery, he kept me from losing my mind. He reassured me when I needed it. He let me spin out and then brought me back down to earth when I freaked out waiting for the fluid culture.
He took over every household task, including the ones I could have easily have done (folding laundry, feeding the birds, etc.) and the unnecessary ones that I add on because of my OCD and weird habits. He even took amazing care of the garden (which he has been helping me with for months because of the pin coming out of my foot). He skipped karate classes these past two weeks because he didn’t want me stuck home alone.
He never complained about anything, including having to get up with me a hundred times a night because when I first was recovering from the surgery and fully on crutches, just getting into the bathroom was kind of an adventure. He came up with a bunch of great solutions so I could continue to actually function and feel normal these past two weeks- like building a little shelf on the recumbent elliptical machine so I could rest my leg on it and be able to work out a bit.
He’s just a good person, and I love him an awful lot, and I feel very grateful that I got to spend the last 17 years of my life with him, and hopefully many many more. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to spend my life with. It’s really nice when someone just gets you, and has your back unconditionally. He’s my “tribe”.
Grace has also been extraordinarily sweet and kind and caring and patient during this. She’s been incredibly interested in how I’m feeling, and she genuinely feels bad that I have to go through this. I’m being honest with her about it all, because I want her to know if she ever has to go through something stressful, she can do it honestly and express how she feels without worrying about how it will be received. I love that she’s not only my daughter, but someone I really really *like*.
I’m also very grateful for little things like:
– being able to take a shower every day. Thank goodness for shower benches, hand-held shower heads, and waterproof cast covers When I was a kid, after surgery was all about hanging my foot out of the bathtub or taking sponge baths (ugh), so complete showers during recovery feel like a big indulgence. I’m a big shower person in general (I love taking a how shoer after a long swim) so it was nice to feel refreshed whenever I wanted to during these last few weeks.
– being able to work out while recovering. We have a recumbent elliptical machine (like the ones they have in physical therapy) that we got last year so that I could work on strengthening my leg muscles, and Tom built a little shelf that I could prop my leg up on while I used it. Being able to really move my body every day while I can’t swim really made a huge difference in my well being. I will admit that my back is REALLY hurting (I’m so ready to get in the pool and stretch it out, but have to wait for the doctor to give the okay…) but I feel strong and not like a big blob. Usually after surgery I feel like my health problems have taken over my entire existence, so being able to get on the elliptical every day and get my heart pumping and my blood flowing made a huge difference in my well being these past two weeks.
– being able to put pressure on my foot during recovery. Because the incision was on the side of my foot (near my arch), and the doctor didn’t have to cut into bone, it wasn’t crucial to healing that I stay off my foot after surgery. HOLY CRAP. I have NEVER had foot surgery that didn’t require me to be totally on crutches for weeks after. My foot has been bandaged with surgical gauze and layers of ace bandage on top, and a surgical shoe on top of that, so it’s well protected. It took me a few days to be able to step on my foot after the surgery because the place where the incision/stitches are did pinch a bit, but now I am able to move around the house pretty well with either just one crutch or no crutches at all. This has made recovery so much easier, I can’t tell you. I still kind of get scared that I am *walking* on my foot after years of being told “stay off your foot!”
– Chester, who is one of my kitties. He’s stuck to me like glue the past few weeks. He sleeps next to me all night, and hovers around wherever I am during the day. He’s a very calm and reassuring kind of cat, so having him be there all the time has been a comfort for me.
– “Bloodline” and “Parks & Recreation” on Netflix. Tom and I spent the last two weeks binge-watching Bloodline (both seasons) and Parks and Recreation on TV. It definitely kept my mind off my foot. We started watching “Bloodline” the night after my surgery, and every day I looked forward to sitting down with lunch/dinner and watching another episode. “Parks and Recreation” is one of my favorite shows ever, so re-watching it from the first episode has been so much fun. Gracie loves it, too. (Our basic TV rule is if it’s something she can see in syndication, she can watch it.) I also watched a lot of YouTube watercolor videos while at my desk and on the elliptical.
– watercolor. In the weeks before I found out I needed surgery, I started getting very interested in watercolor painting again. I took a few online classes, and invested in a set of the Mijello Mission Golds, which are wonderful. My interest in watercolor just kept growing all spring.
For Mother’s Day and my birthday (which was the day before my surgery) I got a bunch of gift certificates, so I splurged on a bunch of watercolors and kept ordering a few more tubes every few days so I would have something to keep looking forward to these past few weeks. Every time I get a new tube of paint, it’s like Christmas- I get to pour it out, swatch it, figure out where it fits in my palette, and experiment with how it mixes with all the other colors. It’s definitely kept me going these past few weeks. I’m excited to spend the summer painting with them.
I also promised myself when I got through this, I would allow myself to go ahead and get a set of Sennelier watercolors I have wanted for a long time. It’s a definite indulgence, but screw it. I can’t buy myself a fancy pair of new shoes (I’ll be happy to be back in my Nikes, to be honest) or go on a vacation to mark the end of this experience, so getting a fancy set of watercolors seems like a pretty good way to motivate myself to get through this. If all goes as expected, they will arrive today (but not the pans to put them in- those are on their way from Europe and will hopefully get here very very soon!)
So it’s not all stress and pain, not at all. I’m still cautious- I have a few more doctor’s appointments left and I just had the surgery two weeks ago, and there was that whole fluid culture thing that came up, so I’m scared that I’m not quite out of the woods yet. My focus is just on getting through each day.
I *have* started to think about what comes next- I have been struggling with this particular health issue for almost a year, and it really has consumed a lot of my energy, time, and mind the last few months. It’s almost a little scary to think “what comes next?” But one step at a time, you know? Right now my focus is getting through today and seeing what happens.
Thanks, again, for reading these posts and spending some time with me.