I had an early morning appointment with my surgeon the day after my procedure (October 6th, 2015) My dear friend Victoria took me. She's the closest thing to perfect that I've ever been near. She's a great person to be around during a time like this because she knows how to flip any situation into something beautiful and she's overflowing with an abundance of knowledge and experience. I'm so lucky she's come into my life (Thank you Teddy Forance for finding and marrying her. I think you may be the luckiest man in the world).
I was really looking forward to this check-up because, as I mentioned in my last post, I don't remember anything I was told in the recovery room and I was very excited and curious to get the dish on what happened inside my knee.
The first thing that happens in my post surgical check-ups is that they take X-rays of my knee. Pretty normal procedure, but what I saw on my X-ray was not at all what I was used to seeing. For the past 4 years every time I had an X-ray done it would show all the screws criss-crossing through my bones. That become my "normal".........after I got over being creeped out the first couple times. But this time what I saw I really didn't expect. For the first time in a long time there was no hardware holding my knee together. It was as if nothing had ever happened to me. It looked like a "brand-new-knee". My eyes started to swell just a bit thinking of all the "what-ifs" and wishing it could stay so perfect and whole forever. Of course, it can't. I have no ACL at all right now and while someone who isn't an athlete can live and function without their ACL....that just won't work for me. I won't give up what I love the most to avoid the pain. Because in the end the feeling of settling for the "easier" road isn't so easy at all......It's much more painful. So I took a mental snapshot and enjoyed seeing my knee so solid and as untouched as it could look at this point. Come January it will see the screws again.
A few minutes later the doctors assistant, Ford, came in the room to cut off my bandages. That's the part that used to really freak me out.......and honestly it took me a long time to get used to seeing my poor knee in this condition. Cut up, bruised and swollen to the size of a small cantaloupe. Before all my surgeries I had a pretty weak stomach and didn't like to see anything like this, especially not on my own body. Now... I find it absolutely fascinating. I find peace in knowing the process and that the swelling WILL go down. The multiple incisions held together by stitching WILL go away. My leg WON'T always be black and blue... with patience and time it will heal and I'll only have the scars both inside and out to remind me of these experiences. So I embrace these moments with my whole heart and try to etch this feeling into myself whether good or bad, hoping I will never -ever have to be here again. Ford, took the rather intimidating scissors and started to cut away revealing the trauma I had endured the day before. It was hideous and so stunning. It made me feel like a freaking warrior to see it and to know how strong I really must be to understand and love it all the same. (You know.... it's okay to love yourself and to recognize your own strength... in fact, call me crazy, but I'm starting to believe that's all the universe put us here to do. To believe in ourselves and learn to love ourselves and most importantly to let that love spill over uncontrollably to others. It's not a perfect practice for me but I'm learning it more everyday). Ford said my knee was looking good and that the Doctor would be in soon to talk to me. This is when the fun part really starts. ;)
The first doctor who came in to see me brought my surgical pictures. These are the photos they take inside of you while you're having the procedure done. They show the healthy parts of my knee and, in contrast, all the damage. It's helpful for the surgeon to have and really educational for me too. It's teaches me a lot about whatever the heck is going on in there at the time. And, as most dancers are, I'm a very visual learner. She talked over the pictures with me, Some pretty gory looking, pointing out what a healthy ligament should look like and what my ACL looks like instead. It had stretched out so far it looked like guitar strings instead of a tight rope. It's also very clear when you see a healthy ligament as opposed to one that looks like loose cotton or puffy clouds (sounds delightful- but its not! haha). That 'puffiness' is all the damage that's been done around the joint. She also showed me where they located the screws and how deep they were. They had to do A LOT of digging to get to them. I'm including the photos for those of you as fascinated by it as I am.
Next, my surgeon came in and greeted me with a huge hug. Not only have I been told by pretty much everyone I've met that he's the "best knee surgeon in the world" but he is also so gentle and kind. He makes me feel like he really cares about me in every way. Which I believe is a really important aspect when choosing any type of doctor. He told me about the problems he ran into with the old screws leaving too big of holes in my bones and why he made the decision to give me a bone graft and wait on the ACL replacement. I reassured him that I was happy with his decision and (though my heart sinks thinking about it) that the extra 3 months of recovery time is absolutely worth it to me. I proceeded to ask the Doc a list of questions- What kind of graft would he be using for my ligament replacements? (Cadaver graft for both- achilles tendon for my ALL and patellar tendon for my ACL -being that I already used part of my hamstring the for the first replacement I can't do that again) Should I be bending and straightening my knee right now? (Yes!) How long until I can start trying to walk again? (10 days then slowly I can gradually start putting weight on it) Where did you take the bone from for my bone graft? (It conveniently came with my prepared ACL graft- which is pretty normal apparently) Is my meniscus damaged at all? ( NO! Which is the best news ever because I already had part of my medial meniscus removed and there is no replacement option for meniscus at this time. Meaning, if mine were damaged and needed to be removed I would develop arthritis in the very near future- This news alone is a HUGE blessing to me) When can I schedule my next surgery for? (Early January-I'm aiming for the 2nd. haha) Should I be wearing a stability brace? (No! This answer surprised me but I'm happier without it.) Should I be doing PT? (No, not yet) and of course.... Can I be cleared to go on tour with Shaping Sound in 2 weeks? (YESS!!!! He cleared me to go as long as I was traveling by bus!) I got all the answers I was looking for and felt extremely satisfied with my visit. Once the Dr. was done talking to me Ford came back to put on fresh bandages and a new wrap. After I was taken care of I hurried to get out of that sterile room. I still don't love being at a doctors office, even after all this time. Why don't they ever pick a nice paint color for these places? A lollipop? A sticker? A treat of any kind just for showing up? Or maybe a Doterra diffuser (thanks to Chelsea and Mary Kay Thedinga for teaching me your ways) to warm up the room and take the edge off? I mean really.......People are going through it here. The white walls and skeleton photos aren't helping. haha
Regardless of the lackluster environment, I left with good news and in great spirits that day. I was even surprised at myself and how I managed to not experience any anxiety when he confirmed the tacked on 3 extra months to my recovery process.
....but thats just the thing. When I look around at whats happening in my life and try to see the purpose in it I see so many ways I have already grown just in these first few days of being injured, let alone this year (which has thrown me around and torn me to pieces. Ha, that's a whole other story). It has forced me to accept the things I can not change. And that there's no good in fighting it. I now choose to put all the energy I used to put into being angry at life's punches into observing and healing my life. It's shown me the capability I have in controlling my happiness despite what my circumstance is. It's taught me that my self worth is NOT based upon what I'm doing, what I look like, or who chooses to love me. Each of these 3 surgeries continues to teach me new and different things about my anatomy far beyond anything you can learn from a book. The knowledge I have is directly connected to experience and to the flow of emotions and psychological states I've entered while enduring all this. I truly believe that our emotions and psyche are a BIG part of the way our bodies respond to us. We must learn to take care of them equally if not even more than our physical form. Not everyones expereince will be the same but everyone will ride a wild ride regardless of our different tracks. The key, for me, is to find peace when peace itself is buried under reaction, anxiety, and fear. It is there. It's always there waiting for us to find it. And in the moments when I find my most authentic sense of peace I also find myself. Not the 'me' that is recognized by my flesh (that is ever changing and finite) but the 'me' that will never change or die. The purest version of our selves. The one full of only love and divinity. Our souls. They are waiting for us to recognize ourselves and all the glorious energy we are. We were not put here to suffer. We are here to find our beautiful selves in the midst of all the chaos. That is the ultimate challenge. The journey is truly the destination....
FOLLOW MY JOURNEY.....
I want to encourage everyone that reads this to take whatever it is that's challenging you and to send that obstacle love and gratitude. I promise that whatever it is you are strong enough to take it on. And you will only get stronger because of your courage to face it. You- your soul- is a powerful electricity in this world and without you there would be darkness in places where God wanted light.
Warning: The following photos are graphic! My apologies to anyone with a sensitive stomach!