Life Lessons From My Achilles

My story, like so many others, began with an unexpected pop, a turn of the head to see who had kicked me and a step that felt like there was no earth below me.  I had just joined a woman’s soccer league and was at my first practice. I had never played soccer before but I was in great shape after running my first half marathon and biking in a 150 ride the 2 days before. My 12 year old son assured me he could teach me everything I needed to know about soccer in 5 weeks and we were enjoying the bonding time together during his "training sessions" with me. It would be easy to blame this on soccer; after all, what’s a 44 year old mom thinking, taking up a new sport like soccer? But, when the Achilles popped I was just taking a step-no slide tackling, no hole in the field, no winning goal. It was a step I could have taken in my kitchen or at work.

I had very little physical pain (lucky, I know!) which has given me the luxury of focusing on the emotional impact. In the first few days I had all the classic grieving emotions: denial (probably just a calf tear), anger (why me? Why not the other woman at practice who hadn’t worked out in 5 years?), fear (will I go crazy without the ability to workout for months? Will the pain be awful? ), blame (what did I do wrong?), and sadness (I have lost the ability to do everything I love!) to eventual reluctant acceptance (sort of). I admit that I am still a bit stuck on "Why did this happen?" question. It would be nice to have the answer so I could take steps to prevent this from happening again on the other side in the future. However, as the weeks go by, I am realizing that "letting go of control" is Life Lesson #1 that I am to learn with this injury.  As a health care provider in oncology I know that bad stuff often "just happens", usually out of the blue, even if you take care of your body like you are supposed to. Still, its different when its your own body and your own psyche (and, yes, I am very aware of how minimal this injury is compared to cancer and many other serious health problems). Going into surgery under general anesthesia is certainly the ultimate in letting go of control! There are so many "opportunities" to learn this lesson when you are stuck on the coach with your foot in the air.  I have had to relinquish so many of my Mom-tasks as well as the control and sense of accomplishment and value to my family that comes with it. As  grateful as I am for all my husband and children are doing around the house, it is also hard for me because, well… they don’t do it my way (dare I say, right?). Most things I have learned to let go, but every so often I step in and ask for the task to be done differently and then feel like an ogre for caring about such silly things like how the laundry is folded. Other times it matters a great deal (at least to me) like asking for the stairs to be vacuumed daily so I can inch down on my rear end without getting all full of dog hair.

I am gaining more an more independence (thanks to my Medline knee scooter on loan from my brother-in-law), but early on even the smallest tasks required help; going to the bathroom, getting dressed, getting a drink of water. Of course it is wonderful to have so many friends and family come to help, but after a few days I realized that I much prefer to be on the one helping others rather than being waited on. I feel guilty asking for help and inconveniencing others. Life lesson #2…"learning to be cared for"

I am a doer and a goer so not being able to drive or make plans on the spur of the moment is especially hard. Exercise has been my primary stress management technique so I am adjusting to new strategies such as mediation.  My husband finally had to tell me that sometimes it was better if I would just sit on the coach and read a novel, because every time I try to "get something done" it requires extra work by everyone else! I am getting better and better at afternoon naps and hanging with friends on my back porch doing "nothing" but it still goes against my nature. Life Lesson #3…"learning to slow down and just ‘be’".

My doctor’s protocol was a splint for 10 days followed by a cast for 2 weeks and then another cast (with some stretch to bring foot more to neutral) for another 2 weeks. I just got my 2nd cast. I am a naturally patient person and keep thinking that once I can start PT I’ll feel better since I can finally "do" something and see progress. The NY City Marathon tracker is also nice for people like me!  Enter Life lesson #4….Patience.

I know others (my brother included, who did this 2 years ago!) have a more aggressive protocol. I started researching all the options and thought about getting all sorts of opinions (what I usually do if faced with a problem) but this time I decided I needed to just trust that I had a doctor who was high regarded and that this was one of many ways to fix this problem. As hard as this was, it is also sort of a relief.  Life Lesson #5….Trust.

Clearly Life is smarter than I am about what I need and I am trying really hard to be open to these lessons. Glad to have all the others on this blog going through this journey with me!

5 Responses to “Life Lessons From My Achilles”

  1. You have put everything so well. This injury is a great life lesson for those of us who like to be in control and have led a very active and full life. I wouldn’t trade my active life for anything and I have also learned to rely on others instead of doing myself. There will also be an active life after you heal but you will have to live with the risk of doing the other one. For now you will have to concentrate on getting through this and you will have plenty of time to ask questions as to what caused it and what you can do to lesson the risk to the other. The only good thing about doing the other is that you don’t have a third and it is unlikely you will re-rupture a completely healed tendon. In a very short time you will be more mobile and able to contribute accordingly. Another good thing or life lesson is actually one the rest of the family are learning as they take the load.

  2. All true…my kids are all learning to do laundry and cook. My youngest said after a week of carrying her load of my work, “wow, I never knew a Mom’s job was so hard,” sadly, they are also learning that if they find things to do on the other side of the house they won’t be asked to fetch things for me…I think I need to get them all walkie talkies! I have also learned that people really want to help and often it is a great gift to give them opportunities to do so. My knee jerk reaction is to reply “oh, I am fine, I don’t need any help” but I have learned to find things that the other person can do, however small. You never know if helping is just the lift that person needed to get them out of their own downer.

  3. As Stuart said, nicely put and I can totally relate to all your lessons. Patience and asking for help are the tough ones for me.

  4. It was a hard lesson for me in the beginning. Because of the fact I am so used to doing everything myself, it was hard to ask anyone for their help. I am very active and independent so I am used to doing everything myself. I had to realize that my injury was an accident. I did not do anything to make this happen. I run, swim, play volleyball, basketball and crossfit. Playing basketball one day, I came down wrong on a guys foot and it happened. I stretched for like 30 mins before and warmed up as always. I did not play the “whoa is me” or ask “why did this happen to me and what could I have done to prevent it?” If you have a car accident going to work, will you say that you should have stayed home that day? No, because you did not know it was going to happen. I was told by the doctor that I was in great shape but that it was an accident. Take this time to reflect on life, on things you want to accomplish. Finish that book or just enjoy this time resting. Because before you know it, you’ll be back on your feet, just as busy as before. My orthopedic doctor says the chance of re-injury is low (like 5%) as long as you follow the doctor’s instructions, don’t rush your physical therapy and allow your body time to heal before you get back to your normal active lifestyle. Best of luck to you.
    Mr Knox 30

  5. Nice to hear your list of “life lessons”. We in the USA value so much “busy-ness” and “business” that it is almost an un-heard-of treat as a married and employed adult to rest, to think, to relax, to read.

    I did not have the burden of marriage and kids when I got my ATR at 48, but I found not working more of a crucifix than I could have imagined in my 20’s, when I hated working any job. I was really surprised to reflect on the fact that I had come to not only “love my job” but to feel at a complete loss without its structure and aggravations on almost a six-day-a-week basis.

    Something in our culture makes us live the go-go-go, but in the end, on our tombstones, do you really want it said, “She never sat down, she worked hard all her life, and she never sat still” That is hardly the highest praise for any human being. My own Dad lived that way since his impoverished teenhood, in some maniac desperation to always work and earn money, and only when old did he admit it was a dumb way to live, that no one cares when you knock yourself out, and that the kids in particular are better off learning to take care of themselves as soon as possible.

    Then, alas, a few years later, he got Alzheimers and slowly faded away in front of our eyes, at home, dying on the couch.

    If ever that was a thought to consider, it was our full-blast go-go-go Dad dying so slowly, so frustrated.

    Yet did any of us five kids slow down?

    Nope. I’m at it again this summer almost 7 days/week.

    Nuts.

    Especially since now BOTH ANKLES’ TENDONS are hurting!!!

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