I’m 2 1/2 weeks post-surgery, at home, and today took my first walk around the block (twice). It sounds odd to celebrate such an achievement when only 2 1/2 weeks ago I was knocking out 10 milers without reservation, but that is just time, not experience. The experience of what happened to me on August 12th and the days after gives me significant reason to celebrate…and so I will.
Just last year, at this time during my recovery, I was nowhere near walking around the block. At this point, I was still in the hospital, for another week or so I believe. Walking down the hall took incredible effort and involved great pains to breathe, but today I walked around the block twice, stopping only when the pain of using my abdomen started to tense and heighten. I went inside to rest and try again later. I’m getting stronger, slowly, but surely. Very slowly, but very surely.
I’m going to be relying on my pain meds for the foreseeable future, as they give me a greatly needed relief between bouts of stomach spasms and overall discomfort, but I even hope to be done with these sooner than last year. For the time being, however, I need them. I take 2 pills every 4 hours, my last dose at midnight in order to get me to the morning, but without deciding to wake at 4am for another dose, I often wake at 8 with great discomfort. Laying one either side places pressure on internal organs, making it impossible to sleep heavily, while lying on my back gets old and equally as uncomfortable. Come 8 am, I need my pills, but just lifting myself into an upright position takes serious effort and is never comfortable.
None of this is pleasant, but the drive to continue getting stronger is crucial right now as continued passivity is only going to slow my recovery process. The sooner I get past this, the better, but relying on my body to regenerate itself is a restrictive strategy. As the same in running, progression takes effort. You can get better by trying, but you get much better by actually pushing yourself. Within reason, I’m starting to push myself. Last year at this time, just pulling a chair to the porch was all I could muster for the day. Conversations with friends had to be cut short as I quickly ran out of breath and tired quickly. So although I’m not at any point to start putting in serious efforts, the relative nature of my circumstance does compel me to begin getting stronger….slowly, but surely.
Part of getting stronger involves appropriate nutrition and fueling, so having friends prepare meals for me while I struggle through the days has been important and beyond appreciated, unfortunately, my body is not completely ready to take in food or drink without complication. In just 2 1/2 weeks my muscles have atrophied considerably. My quads and calves have shrunk noticeably. My eyes are mildly sunk and cheekbones outlined. I have no abdomen to speak of and an equal amount of body fat. The use it or lose it principle has never been more glaring, so to be unable to consume the appropriate amount of calories or specific foods makes building strength and mass that more difficult. Just eating or drinking liquids is enough to cause pain and discomfort, as Laura can surely attest to as she watches me wince and moan in pain. Rehabilitation is so very difficult, making PREhabilitation so much more important. I don’t want to think where I would be had I not been pushing myself to eat well and run often leading up to surgery. Stay ready and you don’t have to get ready.
Now, however, I’m back to having to get ready, and that’s ok. I’ll get there. It will take some time, but to consider what my physical and emotional state was at this point last year only gives me reason to celebrate and anticipate what is to come. I’ll still be struggling for awhile, but during that period I’ll be pushing as well, getting better, very slowly, but also very surely.
And when I “flip the switch” on my body…look out.