Sunday, September 2nd It's all about the ups and the downs. In real life (because this can't possibly be my actual life) I don't cry. I used to cry ALL. THE. TIME. I was trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship. I spent hours laying in bed, sobbing. I was depressed and laden with anxiety. The person you know, the successful & confident bakery owner...she's just faking it to make it. At home, in front of my family, I was a pool of sorrow.
In 2014, I started running and I stopped crying. I made a conscience decision to shut down my emotions and remain completely unaffected by hurtful words. I built an imaginary glass wall around myself. I didn't let anyone in. Then I met Anne Arthur. We started running together. A few 200 mile months allowed for a lot of conversation. I started to gain more confidence with every step. For the first time in my life, I started making friends.
I've always had friends but I was a loner as a kid. I spent all my time with adults. I keep in touch with exactly one person who went to grade school with me. Every other friend I've had, I've met at work because work is all I do. Angelique was my manager at one of my first restaurant jobs. She called last Friday wanting to know, "GIrl, what the hell were you doing on a bike!"
Rena sat next to me at my marketing research internship in college. She called the night I got out of surgery (and every day since), ready to get on a plane and fly here from Jacksonville, FL to sit by my side.
Since my accident, I've been an emotional mess. I spent hours crying crocodile tears today. I can't tell you why. I'm not sure myself. Maybe I feel sorry for myself. Maybe I can't understand how a community can display so much love for one person. Maybe I feel like I've let my partner down because I can't be the fun, active person I'm supposed to be. Maybe it's because I'm a terrible mother. I haven't spent more than an hour total with my boys since the accident. My 10 year old daughter, who hasn't left my side, has been catapulted into adulthood and she needs to be a kid. Maybe it's because I can't clean up after myself and all the responsibility is on everyone else. Maybe it's because I'm a burden to everyone around me and all I want is a little bit of control.
Monday, September 3rd I smell terrible. It's the smell of not showering for over 2 weeks. It's the smell of a Saturday night party, a 43 mile bike ride, 8 hours of surgery, 8 days in the hospital, 8 more days at home, iodine, bandages, hot sweats, cold sweats, armpits, urine, sani-wipes and dry shampoo. It's the smell of visiting my 88 year old great grandmother in the nursing home.
My mornings at home are becoming routine. I wake up between 2-4am. While still laying on my back, I shimmy my legs to the edge of the bed and let them drop off the side. I tug on the sheets to hoist myself up to sitting. I sit still for 2 minutes to let the dizziness subside. I take a dose of galbapentin, aspirin and anti-nausea meds from the night stand. I tuck my cell phone into the pillow case along with the meds I will need in 2 hours. I grab my crutches and hope I can manage yet another one-legged squat upward on my right foot. I squeeze the pillow & pillowcase in one hand, with the crutch, and hobble to the living room sofa where I toss the pillow so I can use it to sit comfortably when I return. I continue along to the bathroom. I carefully lower myself onto the toilet hoping my stiff legs can bend just a little more. I'm thankful for my tiny bathroom as I stay sitting to brush my teeth, wash my hands and use a soapy cloth to clean as much of my body as I can reach. Another one-legged squat up and I'm hobbling back to the living room. I stop at the fridge to get the can of Stumptown Coffee Brad left on the top shelf so I can reach it. The lower shelves might as well be in Antartica. I move the can to the table and take a step forward. I reach back for the can and move it to the arm of the chair and I take a step forward. This back and forth with the can continues for 10 more steps and surfaces until I can finally sit on the sofa where I left the pillow. I reach for my computer and I write.
One of my bakery customers, Greg, is a local yoga instructor. I love going to his classes post-marathon when I'm supposed to take time off running. I should go more often but it's always difficult to fit into training even when I know it would be the best thing for my body. Greg came to my apartment and taught Brad and I the basics of meditation. It was one of the scariest things I've ever done. Run 26.2 miles? Sure, no problem! Stop my brain from thinking and doing? No fucking way.
I embraced the lesson with open arms. I found the meditation helpful. It allowed me to think past the pain for a moment. It silenced the anxieties of recovery. Greg said thinking about the past will cause depression and thinking about the future will cause anxiety. Live for right now. I am grateful to have such inspirational people in my village.
Although I've mastered my trips to the bathroom and going down the stairs, I'm still exhausted easily and I have little to no range of motion in my left leg. It remains non-weight bearing. I have to lift it to move it off the bed or sofa. It's a giant dead weight. At the end of the day, it's so swollen I start consulting Dr. Google, quickly scrolling past the first account of why this is normal to focus on how many different ways I could die based on these symptoms.
Tuesday, September 4th I woke up at 4am and immediately started preparing for my first post-op doctor's appointment. I put on a fresh nightshirt. I tossed my pills, notebook with questions, handicap placard request and phone into a tote bag. The 5:30am group run was in full swing. Brad was coaching at the track so I called Carolyn at the bakery and requested her assistance getting down the stairs. I sat on the patio, waiting for 7am to arrive.
Brad drove me, my crutches, my wheelchair, my tote bag and a dozen doughnuts back to the hospital I called home for 8 days. We had to wheel around the entire building before we figured out where the orthopedic doctors were hiding. We arrived with 15 minutes to spare before my 8am appointment. Unfortunately, it would be another hour and 15 minutes before they called me to see the doctor. Sitting in one position for any length of time is very painful.
Once I was in and the nurses had the doughnuts, I forgot about my pain and focused on my nervousness. Did I screw up the bones that time I slipped a little going up the stairs and put weight on my left foot? Is my wound infected because I went outside on one of the super hot days and I was sweating too much?
The nurse came in right away and immediately started removing my bandages. Wait! Those have been on for 16 days, are you sure they can come off? They were put on when I was spread out on the operating table. Those are sacred. Nope, no waiting, just what felt like a trip to the waxing specialist and there it was. For the first time, I was able to see the full length of my incision. I knew it was bad but I thought I'd convinced myself it was so terrible anything I saw under the bandages would pale in comparison to my imagination. I was wrong. It was worse.
In addition to the new hardware, I am now the proud owner of a soon-to-be-scar that stretches from one hip all the way across to the other and three mini scars (holes) on my upper thigh, where the drains were inserted. I couldn't hold back my tears. I sobbed. Brad told me I did it to myself...I really fucked up. Carolyn said I look like Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas. I started rationalizing it, thinking about all the money I spend to get tattoos and this is kinda the same, only I didn't get to pick this one.
The doctor arrived. She checked out my battle wound and was happy with the progress. The stitches could come out. I can start showering. After she said shower, I lost my ability to concentrate on anything else.
She reviewed the before and after X-Rays and CT Scans of my injury. There was one giant crack going down the part of my pelvis that looks like a wing and several smaller cracks all stemming from the ball of my hip joint. It was like a hammer shattered a block of ice. The post-op pics showed how the plates and pins reduced the gaps created by the breaks. They also showed me why my body aches every second of every day.
I learned the swelling, which makes my foot turn into a giant marshmallow every night, is normal. The dull ache in my thigh, where I have virtually no feeling, is also normal. My nerve sensation will return at the rate of one millimeter per day. It could be weeks before all the feeling is restored. The bulge in my belly is normal too. It's trapped air from the surgery and it will go away.
I can use my left leg in any way that I please - full range of motion - so long as it bears no weight. This was great news, not because I can actually move my leg but because I feel more confident that I'm not going to fuck up all the work the surgeons did during my day-to-day activities, like getting out of bed.
I asked about the recovery timeline. If all goes well, I can get in the pool in two weeks (4 weeks post-op) and I'll be back on a bike (stationary) in 4 weeks (6 weeks post-op). This is also when I may or may not, depending on x-rays, start putting weight on my left foot. I won't be able to drive until week 12 which is also when I could potentially be cleared to run. Running is relative, of course.
Once the doctor left, the nurse arrived to remove my stitches. 40 minutes and 30 stitches later, I had a belly full of steri-strips and I was ready to go back home.
Helene was bringing a shower chair for me when she got off work but I couldn't wait. Brad put a small stool in the shower for me as soon as we got home. There I sat for what seemed like minutes but was probably hours. It was the best shower I've ever taken, better than any post-marathon shower! I finally felt clean.
The comfort of the shower was capped off with a little comfort food from Marcella. Her mac & cheese was the perfect ending to this day.
Wednesday, September 5th. I always used shin splints as my excuse for not running. I played tennis in high school. Pounding the courts brought them on. They were always lurking just under the surface. When I ran my first 2.2 miles at the Montclair Bread Co. 4K Fun Run, I knew it wouldn't be long before the shin splints returned. It wasn't. After the fun run, I started to build mileage leading up to my first half marathon. When the shin splints came back in full force, my friend Gina sent me to her Physical Therapist, Dr. Geno Mayes, at Iron PT. I'd never been to PT before but I quickly learned, a few torture sessions with Dr. Mayes was all I needed to run pain free. He helped me with my running form too, which allowed me to get rid of the shin splints once and for all!
A year after my first PT session, I was coming down off a high from running the NYC Marathon. I never let my body recover from the 26.2. I just kept pounding the pavement, putting in the miles. The day after Christmas, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the tibia and I had to wear a boot for 8 weeks. Back to PT!
I didn't learn my lesson from my first marathon. After my BQ performance at the Mohawk Hudson Marathon in 2016, I kept running 40+ mile weeks. My peroneal tendon strain side-lined me for more than 12 weeks and took my spring marathon goal off the table. It was THE WORST, or so I thought at the time. Back to PT!
While the tendon strain healed, I was sitting on the table as Dr. Mayes did his thing with the crazy metal tools, digging into my muscles to break up the tight spots. I started feeling sorry for myself. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. Dr. Mayes didn't comfort me or wipe away my tears. He scolded me. "No more crying! You need to be good at one other thing, you can't just run. Get in the pool. Do NOT come to my table and cry when you are capable of achieving more."
I was terrified of the pool. I signed up for swim lessons at the YMCA. Twice a week, I felt like a 5 year old as my instructor taught me how to kick. We progressed to breathing and a couple weeks later, I learned to stroke. It wasn't pretty but it was something for my brain to focus on until I was cleared to run again.
Dr. Mayes is also an athlete. He does whatever he can to get his patients back up and running. When I was in the ER, I texted him. "Had a bike accident. In the hospital. Fractured Pelvis. Who should I see." At this point I was A: Convinced I was in the wrong hospital and B: Convinced this fracture was NBD...just like my stress fracture that healed in less than 8 weeks.
Having just completed the West Point Triathlon and en route to the Midland Mile, Dr. Mayes responded, "They'll give you crutches and tell you to take it easy on the bad side. Let me know who you're seeing and I'll help you accordingly."
A few X-Rays and CT scans later, "It's shattered. I need surgery." Dr. Mayes assured me I was in the right place for the reconstructive surgery and he insisted I keep him posted through the ordeal. He sent daily messages during my hospital stay reminding me to keep my spirits high.
When the ortho doc told me I could go to out-patient PT, I called Dr. Mayes before I left the exam room. Sure, I could barely walk to the bathroom but I was determined to find the light at the end of the tunnel and I knew Dr. Mayes could help.
My appointment was nothing like I've been to in the past. He didn't dig into my muscles with the Graston tools or make me stand on a wobble board, with one foot, while playing catch. Dr. Mayes, very gently, conducted a full evaluation to determine the limits to my range of motion. He gave me a couple "exercises" to practice at home that will help me restore my left ankle & knee to full functionality while my hip continues to heal.
I thought PT was as much fun as I could have in one day but, when I got home, I was met by Rebecca, with a brand new table so I can create a proper work station from my sofa without hunching over my computer on my lap. I don't think she intended 'work station.' I'm probably supposed to be reading inspirational books and writing my inner thoughts in journals.
The day continued with positive excitement when my favorite ladies from Lululemon came over with clothes for me to try on. They heard about my injury and they knew my wardrobe did not contain the proper pants to fit loosely over my wounds. As I write this, I am sitting very comfortably in my oversized, On The Fly pants. It's incredible how much getting dressed in 'real' clothes improves ones dignity.
I am very grateful for the huge displays of love I experienced today. Not only PT, new tables & Lululemon but also the box of peanut brittle I devoured from Yana and the delicious shrimp pad thai from Colleen & Ben.
Thursday, September 6th. Sometimes I experience a pain-free moment and I forget that I'm injured. I almost stand unassisted before remembering. Seeing pictures of myself from the days leading up to the accident is one of the hardest things to swallow. I continue to have moments of deep sadness when I think about how quickly life changed.
I went back to PT. It's hard to adjust to this new way of life. Last month, a tough workout was biking up and down snake hill 10 times. Now, a tough workout is bending my left leg at the knee (with assistance), 10 times. Accomplishment takes on a new meaning.
I was happy to have the support of our village today. Wendy picked me up from my PT appointment and helped me up the stairs to my apartment. Anne & Levon came to visit for a while and Hillary, Charlie & Tessa brought dinner.
I spent the afternoon with my daughter, Josie, or I guess she spent it with me. She sat next to me sewing while I feigned interest in work-related productivity for hours. She made a plate for me and brought me my dinner. We watched a bad rom com. I'm not sure what I would do without my 10 year old granny. I'm so proud of her for how much weight she's carrying and with such grace. I'm so sorry for putting her in a position where she has to shoulder this tremendous responsibility.
Friday, September 7th The plan was to leave in the morning. Brad & I would get to Lake Placid early afternoon-ish and have the rest of the day to settle in. I've never been to Lake Placid. I picked the Iron Man 70.3 because it appears on just about every one of the "triathlons to do before you die" and "world's most beautiful triathlons" lists. It's a hilly bike course. Angela and Barbara were coaching me on biking the hills for weeks. Angela is one of the strongest cyclists I know. She taught me how to descend. I practiced every Wednesday morning as we went up and down Garrett Mountain together. My goal each week was to brake less. Barbara taught me how to climb, sitting up tall, making more breathing room in my torso, and staying light on my peddles. Yana and I went on long rides with similar elevation to the Lake Placid course. I rode in every weather condition to prepare for every potential obstacle on race day.
I've only been cycling for a year. Scratch that, I recently reconnected with cycling a year ago. In college, I biked everywhere. It was my only form of transportation. One day, I was going to class and someone walked in front of my bike. My handlebar caught on her shirt sleeve and I went face first over the front of the bike, slamming down onto the pavement. I looked like I'd been in a bar fight. My front two teeth were completely knocked out, there was a hole through my bottom lip and the rest of my face was covered in road rash. The thought of getting back on a bike after this accident made my palms sweat.
Last year after I started swim lessons, I decided 2017 was the year to conquer my fears. I made an appointment to get the root canal I'd been putting off and I bought a bike. There was absolutely no way I was going to get clipless pedals....who in their right mind would attach themselves to a bike?!? A week after my bike purchase, I returned for an upgrade, including a clipless pedal system and proper bike shoes. I toddled around Montclair for a few weeks before I was comfortable enough to go on longer rides. I liked being on the bike ALMOST as much as I liked running.
For now, Lake Placid will remain unchecked on my bucket list. Someone asked if I was more disappointed about missing out on the 70.3 Iron Man race or the NYC Marathon, my two fall goals. I'm more disappointed I can't get dressed by myself. I can't cook myself a meal. I can't leave my apartment unless someone is by my side, down every step. I'm more disappointed I can't be there to cheer for my friends who have put so many hours into training for this day.
The second my body hit the ground, I knew this season was over. I stopped thinking about races and I started thinking about basic human needs. I thought about the people I love and how close I came to leaving them. I continue to think about progress. This is just temporary.
My win for the day was leaving the house to get a haircut. I had to cancel an appointment with my favorite stylist during this ordeal. When he heard, he offered to come to my house to do the job, knowing it was make me feel a little more human. After sitting in the hospital waiting room for hours on Tuesday, I knew I would be okay in his salon. Last month, I would have crammed 176 appointments and meetings into a single day. Now, I'm thrilled to have one single destination requiring me to change settings.
After my appointment, I was treated to lunch by the Montclair Police Department. The officers also hand delivered my handicap permit. Over the years of hosting races in town, we've developed a close working relationship. It was a thoughtful surprise and I am very grateful for their care and concern. We are lucky to have such a kind family of officers to look over us.
Dinner was served by Mary Rose & Tim. I got to cuddle with baby Katrina. Perhaps we should start a trend of therapy babies instead of therapy dogs. I've enjoyed the distraction this week.
Saturday, September 8th Before this accident, Brad and I were still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship. Aside from an occasional running-related ingrown hair or nasty toenail, we kept our gross bodily functions to ourselves. Since we are both long past the desire to have more babies, I thought I could keep up the ruse for years.
Although he never had to wipe my ass, he's been catapulted into a caregiver role that has forced him to do just about everything but (or butt?). I knew the fun was over when we both stopped closing the door to pee. I couldn't physically finagle the door with the crutches; he just didn't give any more fucks.
Every day, my body becomes less and less recognizable. My left leg is so swollen, each toe like a tiny balloon. It is almost as if it doesn't belong to the rest of me. Before I can leave the house, I have to put on a compression sock to help reduce the swelling and prevent life-threatening blood clots. I WISH my new sock was anything like the fun, cute calf sleeves everyone wears on runs. Nope, mine goes all the way up my thigh and it is tighter than any Spanx I've ever squeezed into. In fact, it takes Brad 30 minutes to help me get the single sock on. 30 minutes includes at least 2 mental sanity breaks to avoid either a huge fight or something that ends in me sobbing in pain or both. Neither baby powder or olive oil make it any easier. We've tried. If anyone would like to attempt stuffing my sausage leg into the casing, be my guest! It may save my relationship.
In addition to the swelling in my leg, my stomach is bloated and distended from the surgery. I wish I drank the amount of beer it would take to get this way, in real life. I'm still covered in black residue from the sticky bandages. I get a little more funk off every time I shower. There's so much more I can't see or reach. I'm covered in white steri-strips along my 14" incision and covering the 3 holes in my leg in which I still have no sensation from my knee up.
I'm starting to gain weight. I knew it would happen given my inactivity, all the medications and all the comfort food. It doesn't make it any easier to endure. I have a slight allergy to ibuprofen which causes painful sores in my mouth. Each time I take it, I think this will be the time it doesn't affect me. After a week of alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen, in an effort to avoid taking narcotics, my mouth is full of sores. This will certainly help with the food consumption portion of the weight gain.
I woke up this morning to a message from United Airlines. In consideration of my current state, they provided a full refund for our missed flights to San Francisco...not a credit, an actual refund. I guess there is a little humanity left in the airline industry. Unfortunately, endurance athletics, specifically the Iron Man complex, do not feel the same way.