The first week after my knee surgery, just three weeks after my double leg surgery, I sat on the couch for most of the day, watching the Olympics in and out of naps, my eyes closing on me during the various events.
I was on heavy opioids to control my pain. My left leg felt almost detached from my body. Except it wasn’t, and I felt everything. The drugs minimized the pain to a constant, deep, intense ache.
When I came out of surgery, I looked down at my knee.
Holy shit, I thought, catching my breath, this is not what I was expecting.
I was in shock. I had never torn my knee before, which is very rare for a ski racer. I have done considerable damage to my body throughout my career, more than most in fact, but there was something in me that was proud of never having torn my ACLs.
I was proud of my strong legs, having the muscle strength around my knees to support them in many close call crashes I had come out of unscathed.
This time, I was damaged…I had been added to that statistic.
There were two gruesome looking eight-inch incisions down both sides of my knee. This isn’t what my teammates knees looked like I thought, deflated and still shocked. My doctor explained that he had drilled six (SIX!) tunnels into my knee to repair all the torn ligaments.
That makes more sense, I conceded, staring down at a huge swollen mess. I was going to be dealing with this every day for the next six months. Acceptance was creeping in.
My strong legs were my pride and joy. They were my money-makers! They had saved me from many near-crashes, and won me an Olympic medal! They were now quite literally… gone. I have lost close to 20 pounds of muscle already. It will be 9 weeks total that I will be on my crutches. I still have 4 more weeks to go.
My doctor advised me to start physio right away to regain my range of motion. So, 3 days after surgery I crutched myself into a car and was driven to physio. As soon as I was on the table, explaining the list of my injuries, I was in tears. I’m not even a crier.
I was thinking to myself, Why am I even crying right now? I didn’t have an answer.
Everything just felt so overwhelming to me in that moment. Crutching the 100 steps into the facility and onto the physio table felt like too much.
It was now time to work my left foot into the pedal and rock back and forth, without fully rotating the pedals. Blood flow promotes healing, so any movement of my knee is helpful. It took me 5 minutes to maneuver my foot into the pedal strap. I had no control of the muscles in my leg, and when I did engage the muscles by accident, the pain shot up my leg.
Here I was on a bike, rocking my left leg a few centimeters. It was frustrating as hell, and painful, but I was smiling. This is crazy, I thought. In a few months I will be pushing hundreds of watts on a bike, and here I am barely even able to get my foot on the pedal, the screen on the bike not even registering my effort I was going so slowly.
What a memory this will be, I thought, adding it to my mental bank. By the time I was done, just 10 minutes later, I was sweating and my arms were killing me from just holding myself up on the bike.
I have so much faith that I will come out of this journey stronger. I will get my leg strength back, and more. I am sure of it. I have accepted my reality. This is where I am, today. I am at some weird kind of peace with it. It takes me 25 minutes to crutch downstairs to the kitchen of my parents’ house to make two smoothies and coffees for my mom,and me.
I’m in pain by the time it’s all done, but I feel a sense of achievement and reward when my mom sees what I’ve made her. And yes, the smoothies are super healthy, with flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, goji berries, and other good stuff I gather as I crutch around the kitchen.
As soon as we recognize our reality is different from what we thought it was going to look like, from what we expected it to look like, the sooner we find a sense of calm and peace, and the sooner we accept our reality.
Once we accept our current situation, we can respond and react to it in whatever ways we want. I have accepted my reality, and I am choosing to respond to it with positivity, healing energy, and a clear vision to my recovery.
This was my reality.
On Day 4 of physio that week I was sitting on a stationary bike, staring down at my left foot. I had pedaled for 10 minutes on my right leg, with my left leg resting on a bench. If you exercise only one side of the body, the brain transfers 20% of the work onto the other side of the body. My physio told me that on our first day together. I held onto that knowledge like it was gold.
Lastly, maybe my emotions are running high, but I think some of the commercials CBC and TSN have done for the Olympics are awesome. If you don’t know who Lauren Wolsencroft is, please look her up. Talk about motivation. This girl was born with no legs and one arm and became an EIGHT time gold medalist.