Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Like Riding A Bike

Everyone's fine. My family and friends are all, to the best of my knowledge, safe and healthy. I wake up every morning beside the most gentle and kind human being I've ever met. My mom flew all the way to Buenos Aires (Richie!) to help me wash my hair and get dressed and ultimately help me preserve a tiny bit of dignity in front of the aforementioned gentle and kind human being (to whom I would still like to appear even remotely attractive). We're staying in a beautiful apartment that belongs to another kind and generous human being, and for the most part, I'm comfortable and pain-free and grateful that this is a known, temporary setback and in six months, give or take, everything will be back to normal.

And still, over the past two weeks, I have felt an overwhelming sense of loss.

At first it was just the loss of the rest of our planned travels. We were on our way to Brazil, to sit on the beach and work on a farm and travel down the Amazon River and, of course, taste myriad new and exotic fruits. But let's face it: After the experiences we've had in the past 10 months, it's hard to feel deprived of these things for very long.

There is, however, a more personal loss. Six years ago I went into surgery with a partially-torn ACL and a bucket-handle tear in the meniscus. I came out of surgery with a reconstructed ACL and a repaired meniscus, which meant that eventually, after a lot of blood, sweat, and yes, tears, in rehab, my knee was even better than it had been before the operation. Apparently so was my ambition, as within a year of surgery I completed an Olympic-distance triathlon and have since run three marathons.

Last week I went into the OR with a ruptured ACL and a bucket-handle tear in the meniscus. I was wheeled out with a reconstructed ACL, but this time the meniscus couldn't be repaired, and part of it was removed. I'm not sure how much, exactly - a third? A half? And really, people walk around all the time with no meniscus at all, so why the fuss?

I'll never run another marathon. In fact, I probably won't do much running at all. There are all sorts of medical reasons why it isn't a great idea to run, especially on pavement, after a partial meniscectomy, and I'm kind of hoping these knees will be around for a while. So there's short-term loss, like right now I can't walk or even get out of bed by myself, which sucks. But then there's the running thing, an activity with which I fell in love just a few years ago, after hating on sports for 30 years. For me, that's the real loss. As I look at the pictures taken during the 2007 NYC Marathon, one of my most favourite days of all time, I am filled with gratitude to have had that amazing experience, and at the same time, so very sad to have lost that potential.

I start physiotherapy on Friday, the exciting and sometimes gruelling rehabilitation period during which I will relearn to walk, run (slowly, and on a treadmill), balance, and climb stairs. Before I know it I'll be riding a bike (as a friend of mine says, cycling is like running with even tighter clothes and cooler gear), and of course I'm already planning my first century ride in 2011, because you know, that's how I roll.

In the meantime I'm reminding myself, as one of my best friends reminded me just the other day, that just as she had to after her ACL reconstruction, I need to "let myself grieve for the things I lost (including the potential things I lost in the future)." And OK, I'm also daydreaming about the shapeliness of my future cycling legs.


montague said...

dear one, it is a loss and it is only fair for you to feel it so keenly. still, your attitude and ability to see the bigger picture - even from your tight spot - is wonderfully inspiring. much love to you during this time of recovery... and thanks for the reminder to keep a close eye on the things that count.

Candace said...

I hadn't realized this would have a permanent effect. Your love of running was inspiring, this really is a terrible loss.

CurlyV said...

Oh G, I really feel for you. I had no idea that this was the case and that running wouldn't be viable in the future. I know how much it meant to you and I wish you lots of love while you grieve this loss. The only way through it is to allow yourself the time to feel all your feelings about it. I know you know this. On the other side of the grief is a whole new set of experiences you may not ever have considered exploring, and THAT is a gift, right?

kajal said...

Aw, Gillian. Wow, I had no idea of the scale. You're going to kick it on the bike though...and it's totally ok to be down about stuff like this. I would be! And you're still an inspiration for this year's marathon!