“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein
11 months ago I embarked on the toughest challenge I’ve ever had to face. Despite the tremendous support that came from family, friends and all of you who have cheered me on through stories of your own struggles with ACL injury, today’s post, the final ACL update of the year and before I hit my anniversary, is meant to be as straightly shot as I can muster.
If you’ve elected to do the surgery, it’s because you value your former quality of life and movement to your current state. For me, it was all about my desire to return to running and sports. Now, 11 months after surgery, and fresh out of what was probably my 50th physiotherapy session, I’m roughly 2 weeks away from breaking my all-time distance running record, but there’s still something …missing from what I consider to be full strength.
The latter part of this year has been filled with wins; with triumphs and with feelings I had forgotten, returning after what feels like an eternity. Through all that though, I have to be honest when I say this: it’s still not the same.
I’m not a professional athlete. My one-year timetable to return to sports was conservative, giving my graft the time it needed to heal properly, when really there was no rush at all. I’m not playing for a division one scholarship, I don’t suit up for a pay cheque, I do it for fun. Waiting patiently on the sidelines is quite possibly the most pain an athlete will feel throughout this whole ordeal.
Doing a mix of rigorous proprioception exercises, my PT estimates now, at 11.5 months, I’m probably somewhere between 80% and 90% of where I was before surgery. He gives it another solid month of hard work before he recommends I lace up and return to sports. This hit home for me, because all this year, I was working towards that one-year mark, as if it would magically make me all better. The timetable means nothing if you don’t put the hard work in.
Life happens. A new job happened for me this year, and with that, a complete change to my schedule. I had to find my groove again. I had to say goodbye to the PT who got me so far, and then find another one who was going to challenge me and bring out the best, especially on my low days. Excuses, excuses. Through it all, I lost a good 6 weeks of progress. Even though I’m back to diligently working hard now, I know that going off-course is ultimately what will make my recovery a little longer than year I aspired to reaching so hungrily.
Injuries happen. For the first three months after surgery, I felt like I was just counting down until 2015 when I could play again. But I had a tremendous year in so many other ways that I almost forgot to appreciate. To be able to jog and then sprint again, for me a distance runner has been nothing short of therapeutic. To cut weight the way I used to and open up my strict diet because I once again have options has brought out the glutton in me at times. To receive text messages from friends, asking if I want to toss the ball or meet at the track gets me to swell up (in the good way), like you couldn’t imagine.
A year ago today, I was having mini-panic attacks, scared about my surgery and what was to come for me. I’d wake up in the night, certain to my core that this operation could be the biggest mistake of my life. Last night, I carried my girlfriend to the car, her feet hurting after we danced the entire night. Nothing can compare to that feeling. When you know someone relies on you to be a protector, a provider. That’s the real reason I had this surgery, and the real reason I’ll work to get back to 100%.
This recovery may have been about sports when I began the journey, but now, it’s about so much more. Thank you for coming along for the ride.
My twelfth and final entry to commemorate the one-year anniversary will be up next month. “The Road to Recovery” ends January 16th, 2015 and I’ll be celebrating it on the other side of the world. I’m travelling to Australia this week and won’t be back until late January. Does this affect the publish date for my final entry? Probably. But I’ve already started work on what I want everyone in the ACLfam to know through it, and I promise to get it up (TWSS) upon my return if not on the trip.