Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Walk to Remember

Yesterday, as I had done so many times over the last few years, I strapped on my Garmin watch to record by GPS my time and distance. In preparation for marathons, keeping diligent track of each mile served to motivate me for the next one.

This time all I wanted to do was prove that I could walk more than the few feet allowed in and around my house. With Sally by my side--and sometimes in front of me--I did it. Exactly 0.75 miles, time immaterial.

A week after back surgery I have, for the first time in almost two months, walked. That's only a slight exaggeration. Yes, I could walk from my bed to the bathroom, from the parking lot to my office, from outside a doctor's office to the inside, and, finally, to the surgical waiting area. But, for this whole time, exercise of any kind was not an option. In a matter of just a few minutes, time on my feet meant tremendous pain in my left leg, the only relief was sitting or lying down.

I can't believe how amazing it feels not to feel that way anymore.

Each time I've ventured outside over the last few days I have remarked how bright it seems. I think my senses adjusted to indoor environments so thoroughly that everything is more intense outside. Sounds, sights, smells, everything. I missed a whole summer season, but maybe that will make the fall even that much better.

Yes, I'm still pretty stiff and sore, but I'll take it for now. Physical therapy is ahead, and full recovery may not be in sight yet, but I'm gaining some optimism that it's very possible.

I have renewed and immense respect for the elderly and the infirm. So many people, I'm afraid, deal graciously with greater pain than I had to and the world does not accommodate them readily. I won't ever be impatient when someone in front of me is moving slowly. I've been there. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn't move any quicker or farther. Sometimes, too, I hope to offer assistance. It was nice when people did, even when I didn't accept the offer.

Marathoning? Only time will tell how much running I can do again. I always wanted to run a marathon, and I'm glad I did my three when I could, so I have no regrets if I can't do another. I wouldn't mind being able to run a decent 5k at Thanksgiving, but I'll be okay if I don't.

Cycling? Not sure about that either. I'll have to be more aware of my limitations and what positions have the potential to hurt my back. Maybe I'll try a recumbent. That seems safer and maybe a less-harmful position. We'll see.

Living well? You bet. And I have lots of people to thank for getting me back to that starting point.

Of course, I don't know how to thank Sally enough for what she did for me over the last several weeks. She literally had to wait on me hand and foot, but never once complained. I'm serious, and I'm not sure that I could do the same so well, but I'll sure try. Our anniversary came and went two days after surgery, and the flowers I ordered for her dried up quickly, but my gratitude remains.

Anyone who knows my mom knows that she is a gift-giver extraordinaire. She arrived at our house the day after surgery toting more shopping bags of food than a Christmas Eve haul, and each one was filled with thoughtfulness. It wasn't the best day--because that's when the recovery pain set in--but it was as good as it could have been thanks to her.

Carvel Ice Cream used to make "Fudgie the Whale" cakes, and we'd get one for my dad every Father's Day. Inscription: "to a Whale of a Dad." A terrible pun, but one that made us laugh every time. You'd probably have to know all of us to get why we thought that was funny year after year, and my sister re-purposed the joke sending a bouquet of cookies to "a whale of a brother." "Get Whale Soon," I loved it.

Our friend Elaine sat with Sally during surgery even when it was rescheduled at the last minute from 11:30 to 7:30 in the morning. Later, she made two evenings worth of a spaghetti dinner for us. Pidge made chicken and rice and the Coles brought fish tacos for us. At first, I thought the latter wasn't going to be a good recovery meal, but it turned out to be delicious and just right for that night.

Lots of other people did little things once they heard I was sick. The phone calls, eMails, text messages, well, they won't soon be forgotten. I don't kid myself that the road to full recovery is going to be perfect. I have only just begun to test my limits, and I'm going to take it slowly. But, thanks to our friends and family it is off to a good start.

And I won't ever forget that first walk. In a way, I hope I have learned to appreciate each walk I take as a special gift in and of itself.

Walk on.

1 comment:

  1. Chas,
    I had no idea what you were going through. When I was there in June I knew your back was hurting, but definitely not to this extent. I wonder if the world seems brighter because now you can concentrate on something other than the horrible pain you were in. I'm not surprised to hear how great Sally took care of you. . . that is who she is. And I would put money on you doing the exact same for her if needed.
    I wish you a fast recovery. Good luck on your 5k goal at thanksgiving.

    Take care, Joyce