One year anniversary.

March 11, 2018

This weekend marked one year since surgery. What a roller coaster ride it’s been. I’m happy to see that marathon tracker stopped at the finish line over on the right side!

I don’t have much to add to the other anniversary posts, but looking back I thought it might be helpful to note how my recovery fit roughly into quarters:

1st quarter / March-May = shock, depression, the daily grind of getting around on an iWalk or crutches

2nd quarter / June-August = rapid improvement, ditching crutches, PT, driving again, lots of milestones

3rd quarter / September-November = Plateau City. I’m sure there were small improvements but overall I felt stuck.

4th quarter / December-February = another spell of improvement and increased sense of overall ability.

I still have stiffness and reduced mobility in my right ankle, and there’s still a nodule or adhesion or something toward the base of my incision, and that can be painful sometimes. I figure that stuff will improve in the second year as I work on flexibility and strengthening.

Not much more to say these days, thankfully. Good luck to anyone just starting out and I hope some of my past posts are helpful. Thank you, too, to everyone here who helped me out along the way.

11 months post-op.

February 10, 2018

Today marks 11 months since surgery, and it’s also a milestone I picked out the day I got injured. I was Googling recovery timelines while I waited in the ER and decided that I’d shoot for running the annual 5K race held by the nonprofit where my wife works. So, 2/10/18 has been on my mind a lot for nearly a year.

I’m happy to say that I completed the race and managed to come in a little under my goal time. Even more important: I came out of the event pain free and ready to continue training for an 8K race in late March. I have to remind myself that staying injury free is the main goal…it’s easy to get caught up worrying about times.

10 month update.

January 4, 2018

This week marks 10 months since my injury so I thought I’d post another quick update. After what felt like a 2-3 month plateau, I finally made some real progress in December. I attribute that to one particular day early in the month when (I’m totally guessing here) I had scar tissue finally release or an adhesion let go, or something happened that freed up my ankle. I had two flashes of pain that day, once when descending some stairs and once while grocery shopping. The first occurrence was in the lower Achilles area, the second was around mid-Achilles, and both were toward the lateral side of my ankle.

Both times I stopped dead in my tracks - I think I had flashbacks to the actual injury. After the initial fear wore off I realized that my ankle mobility had improved and some nagging tightness and pain on the outside part of the ankle had vanished. For months I’d felt like my foot wasn’t pronating properly, almost as if it was stuck. After this happened (whatever it was) my gait felt normal. It was like night and day, really.

The next day was a scheduled running day and everything felt really good instead of being mildly tolerable with nagging soreness. I’ve continued to progress and now I’m up to 25 minutes of running with no ill effects. I even did a trail run yesterday in some ice and snow, something I wouldn’t have tried a month before due to a fear of ankle instability. (I’m sure I could run for longer intervals but I’m making a conscious effort to slow things down as I’ve been known to add too much time/mileage to my running plans in the past.)

It’s nice to finally have a sustained period of time where I can finally say that my ankle is approaching normal, or a new normal. There’s still stiffness but only occasional pain. I can even walk barefoot around the house without too much discomfort, though I avoid that 99% of the time. I still don’t have a lot of push-off strength and I wouldn’t be particularly quick or explosive around a tennis court, but it’s getting there.

I have no idea what happened in early December. I had been making a concerted effort to massage my Achilles, the scar, and the bump down at the base of my incision. Maybe that helped loosen things up? Who knows? I’m just glad something changed because for most of autumn I was worried about a lack of progress.

It’s another lesson in individual recovery timelines, I guess. I couldn’t help wondering if I was behind or lagging in my recovery, when in reality each recovery is its own beast.

8 month update.

November 3, 2017

Today marks 8 months since my injury, so we’re not quite 8 months post-op but close enough.

It’s been a strange couple of months. For a while I felt behind and got discouraged because I wasn’t comfortable running at the 6 or 7 month marks. I’m not sure why that bothered me so much given how recovery timelines can differ. I guess I thought the random nagging stiffness and pain would let up…and it didn’t. There’s still never a day where I forget about the entire thing and move around normally. That can wear me down sometimes.

About a month ago I had to remind myself that I’m still doing more each week and there’s plenty to be positive about. I can ride my bike, for example, with almost zero issues. That’s probably the activity that feels closest to pre-injury normalcy. So I can ride around with my son in his bike seat and I get 30-60 minutes of exercise 3-4 days a week.

I tried to have a month of positivity based on those rides and doing more in-home exercises like calf raises, single-leg balance games, and stretching, and wouldn’t you know it: my ankle area started feeling better. I don’t know why it never sinks in, but I feel best when I’m sticking with a regular routine of exercise and stretching. If I take two or three days off everything gets tight and sore again.

Over the past 3 weeks I’ve added in some basketball shootarounds at the court next to my son’s favorite playground. I call it working on my Old Man Game, because I move just like the old guys I used to play against when I was young and had not a care in the world. Injuries? What are those?! Shooting, especially actively getting my legs into a shot, along with chasing missed shots turns into a light workout where I can try some semi-explosive movements without going too far.

Today I fired up my Couch to 5K app and went for my first official run. Well, walking/running intervals based on the first week of the C25K program. It felt weird, like I’m running with someone else’s foot attached where mine used to be, but I think I can continue on the plan and gradually increasing the running intervals each week.

So it’s been another one of those up-down-up cycles. Like I wrote earlier, it can wear me down, but I’m glad to be on the upswing again. If I have any advice to offer right now, it’s to work hard at sticking with your exercises. It’s easy to let them slide when you start feeling better and getting back into other daily routines, but there’s still a huge benefit to putting in specific rehab work (as boring as it may be).

Six month update.

September 13, 2017

I’m a few days late with this - September 10 marked six months since my surgery. It’s more difficult to measure progress these days. It takes a bigger event or outing to test my leg because I can get through most day-to-day stuff without too much trouble.

Last week we faced a potential evacuation for Hurricane Irma. I thought we might have to board up our windows, which meant getting big sheets of plywood out of the attic and bringing them downstairs. Moving all of the sheets put a fair amount of stress on my ankle and Achilles. Everything was sore that day and the next. We never put up any plywood because the storm turned enough to spare us the worst parts — it all became a creative workout, and I can’t complain about that. Anything is better than boarding up and leaving town. I was happy to come out of the experience feeling like my leg could hold up to moderate to heavy lifting.

Just yesterday I tried jogging for five or six 30-second intervals in the park. I wasn’t planning on it, but after I walked over there (about 10 minutes at my son’s pace) I felt good so I have it a shot. I can’t say that it felt normal at all, but it was a good outing nonetheless. I probably could have run some more, actually, and there haven’t been any negative effects today. So that was a nice milestone: it was the first time in 6 months that I was able to play outside with my son like I used to.

Of course, my Achilles is still stiff each morning and it takes a round of calf raises to walk halfway normally. There’s still random pain off and on, and my knee aches at random times, presumably from altered gait mechanics. I’ve focused more on eccentric calf raises lately and that seems to have paid off. I miss the sense of springiness and bounce in my leg. Playing a sport like tennis, with a lot of quick movements, might be farther out on the horizon. But seeing some decent improvement over the last two weeks has given me more hope. Plus, I have to remember that back in April I seriously doubted whether I’d be able to run at all this year.

Once again, good luck to everyone else and try to stay positive!

24 weeks post-op.

August 29, 2017

I’ve noticed a little more progress lately so I thought I’d update my blog. After 3-4 weeks of feeling stuck, I noticed last week that I was able to walk farther and do more calf exercises. I even managed my first single-leg calf raises, and now I can do those with enough confidence to add that exercise to my routine. I can’t do very many, and it’s not easy, but it’s getting better day-by-day.

I walked about 5 miles total on the day of the solar eclipse, spread out over 3 separate outings walking around Charleston. That was when I realized something must be getting better - a few weeks earlier that would have been difficult, if not impossible, due to stiffness and soreness in my ankle.

I’ll probably attempt some light jogging this week at the gym. Nothing major, just a test. I still get some odd feelings in my ankle and my knee that have me not wanting to rush things. My ankle gets sore, like bone on bone sore, in the front area (near the top of my foot). My knee gets little twinges and tweaks here and there, and I can only guess that my gait is still off-kilter somehow and that stresses the joint.

All in all, though, it’s nice to see progress - even if I’m only headed for another plateau.

Oh, one other random thing: I have a spot on my heel that’s numb about 90% of the time. I don’t know when that started (most likely when a surgeon sliced into my leg lol), but I finally realized that what I thought was an ill-fitting shoe was actually just a strange feeling at the heel of the shoe because of that numbness.

21 weeks post-op.

August 5, 2017

I guess I’m officially in the “Well, I don’t have much to say at the moment” phase, but I thought I’d post a quick update.

21 weeks since surgery, 22 since the injury, and as others have mentioned recently I think progress is best measured month-to-month at this point. I don’t see much difference if I look back a week…but if I go back 2-3 weeks I can see a lot of changes. The big one for me right now is that my calf raise exercises don’t hurt as much, which allows me to do more strengthening work without getting scared that something is wrong. I had some pain in my ankle tendons and the lowermost part of the Achilles that made me cautious; now, as the entire area gets stronger, it all feels better. I’m not quite to the point of a single leg calf raise, but it feels close. (I’m also not rushing that.)

I spent a week in Colorado and experienced my first extended period of time in an area with inclines/declines. I managed okay. Going down trails, especially with little rocks making it treacherous, was an adventure so I didn’t go crazy with the hiking. Mostly it felt good to walk around and feel my leg working. I still think about almost every step, and my ankle feels stiff and uncooperative more often than not, but there’s a lot more functionality there, if that makes sense.

That’s about it! A long road, and a long way to go. Good luck to everyone who’s in the early stages. Well, any stage, for that matter.

18 weeks post-op.

July 18, 2017

A little late with this update, mainly because I seem to have arrived at a plateau and don’t have much to add to last week’s note. I’ll admit to slacking off a bit with my exercises earlier in the week - it’s easy for me to do when my leg feels ok - not great, but ok - and I can go about my daily activities reasonably well. Sometimes I want to ignore the entire recovery process and pretend nothing ever happened. Hey, my ankle’s a little stiff! No big deal.

This week’s plan is to update a weekly exercise spreadsheet I used to print out to track my progress. Something as simple as having a piece of paper taped to the refrigerator does wonders for my workout consistency.

What I noticed over the last few days of reduced exercising: My ankle and calf actually end up feeling worse each morning, even with the rest. The stiffness and soreness are more pronounced. I guess it pays to continually work and stretch each day after all. :)

I think that’s the tough part of this stage for me. The first three months provided me with plenty of milestones and achievements. Now in the fifth month post-op each week has become basically the same. I do notice more strength in my calf muscle, but that development is happening a lot slower than the earlier progress.

Random details for week 18: I’ve almost retired the compression sock. I still wear it on occasion, and my foot swells without it, but it doesn’t feel necessary now. I’m walking fairly well most of the time. I do get some stiffness and pain (the pain near the heel, or sometimes in the peroneal tendons), so I still end up limping on occasion if I’m on my feet a lot. My ankle is super-stiff in the morning. I do a round of Theraband exercises as a morning warm-up before I even put my feet on the floor. Then I do a set of gentle calf raises, and then I feel like I can walk around.

We have a trip to Colorado coming up soon. That should break up the rehab monotony a bit. I’ll be interested to see how any sort of incline/elevation affects me. Here at sea level I enjoy a nice blanket of oxygen and not a hill in sight!

17 weeks post-op.

July 8, 2017

This week I learned how much is too much when I spent Tuesday working on some long-neglected beds and shrubs around the house. I dragged a tarp full of leaves, mulch, and dirt (and my son) from the back of the house to the front, and that required a lot of pushing off with my legs. I managed to do the work okay, but was quickly reminded that my right leg doesn’t have much power and the lack of strength puts stress on different areas of my leg. At first my right knee hurt below the kneecap, and then my ankle and Achilles hurt. My limp definitely returned in full force.

Nothing about the soreness felt particularly bad…more like a warning. It did take about 3 days for everything to settle down, though. Perfect timing for more yard work this weekend. :)

I treated myself to a pair of Vionic sandals for my birthday. They’re expensive, but they’re pretty nice. I hate wearing socks and shoes all the time - I was always barefoot or in sandals before the injury - so it’s nice to have comfortable sandals. And what better way to celebrate turning 42 than getting orthotic sandals and walking around slowly.

I’ve started one-leg calf raises in the pool. I can do those at about 4.5 feet of water. Any closer to 4 and it gets too tough. Also doing light jogging, jumping side to side in 4 to 5 feet of water. It’s a nice way to ease into those motions.

Out of the pool, I’m putting most of my weight on my right leg when I lower from a two-leg calf raise. I haven’t been as dedicated as I should be with the calf raises. After the yard work issues I decided to make it an easy week.

Aside from the temporary return of the limp, walking has been okay lately. Sometimes I feel a pinch on my Achilles when I push off, sometimes it’s all swollen and stiff, sometimes it’s fine. In a way every day is the same, and every day is different. It’s slow progress and each day the stiffness or achiness moves around.

I hope to get in some more exercise this week. It’s easy to get complacent once things start feeling better.

16 weeks post-op.

June 30, 2017

Sixteen weeks. Wow. Four months since surgery, a little over that since the injury. That feels extra crazy today for some reason.

Steady progress at the gym, with some random soreness as I add weight to seated single-leg calf raises, increase reps of standing calf raises (still 2 legs), and extend my time on the exercise bike. Also have some leg press and leg extension work to tease my right leg back into shape. They have one of those bumpy/knobby foam rollers there so I use that to torture myself. I have one of the smooth rollers at home. Those bumps make a big difference.

I stepped on one of my son’s mini-basketballs with my repaired foot when I stood up from the dinner table a few nights ago. A consequence of my “No playing basketball in the house…unless your mommy’s not here and then we can do it” flexible rule style. Stepping on a ball or toy was a huge fear of mine early on, so when I almost fell I had the fleeting thought - “this is it! re-rupture time!” - but I twisted my ankle a bit and nothing bad happened. Good to get a slip like that out of the way. Everything feels so much stronger around the ankle these days.

On to month number five!