Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

S is for Surgery

After nine months, I was fully expecting surgery. I went into the MRI hoping that whatever was wrong would be glaringly obvious so we could fix it quickly and I could move on with my life.

For better or for worse, my MRI wasn’t as clear as the doctor had hoped. My trouble spots all showed up with excess fluid and inflammation, but without full tears it’s hard to see what’s really going on.

Peroneal Tendon Surgery

Stress Test

In order to get a better idea of what’s broken, my doctor started testing my ankle. He went after my biggest source of pain first, my peroneal tendon. He injected anesthesia into my tendon sheath, and the pain immediately went away. I can’t describe the relief.

I was then instructed to do activities that normally increase my pain to see if I could bring the pain back. If I could, the problem wasn’t a tendon tear. If the pain stayed away, s-s-surgery.

I ran a glorious half mile on a treadmill. The stale gym air in my hair, feet moving under me – I hadn’t felt so free since I tried to snap my ankle in two playing basketball. I had forgotten what it felt like to run, to relax into my stride and just let my feet move. I wasn’t worried about the outcome or trying to negotiate with the broken parts of me. We just moved.

Before the treadmill of joy, I hadn’t run more than 200 steps at a time. I knew I had done more than enough to make my ankle hurt, but damn was I feeling invincible. I went into the hallway and busted out single leg heal raises like I do them all day.

After resting for an hour I was convinced. This was it.

Peroneal Tendon Surgery

The good news: Unless I twist it again, I can’t make this much worse. I got the sign off to (carefully!) hike and ride a bike (short distances) on my vacation at the end of the month.

Also good news? The week we get back, I’m having surgery. A terrifying prospect when I think too hard about the details.

The unfortunate news: After surgery, I’m on a recovery plan that will take me into 2017 before I’m back to full activity like I was before my injury. The timeline depends heavily on what my damage is. Just a small tendon tear: 3 months. Tendon tear and a bone chip: 3+ months. Tendon tear and cartilage damage: 4-5 months.

If things go well, I’ll be walking in a boot to celebrate the one year mark of my injury at the end of October.

The best news: I have a way forward. I finally have a plan to get back to running and olympic lifting. The path isn’t the one I would have chosen at the beginning, but I feel good about it. I’m so ready to be better. To be back. To be free. To not have constant pain.

When my peroneal tendon was numb, I felt like myself again. After nine months of pain I was so used to it that it was shocking to feel normal. It also made me realize just how much pain I was living with every day. When the anesthesia began to wear off and the pain came creeping back in, it was staggering. I couldn’t believe I was walking around like this every day.

I’m scared, but I’m all in. I’m ready to start chipping away at a full recovery.

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