In these early months following SDR, it's easy to constantly be thinking "forward" - in the sense that friends and family, as well as my PTs and I...we all wonder what new skill or micromovement I'll pick up next as a building block to progress.
While those new experiences continue to come in surprising and subtle ways (and they never get old to celebrate!)....today, I was reminded that it's also really important to simply look at what I'm gaining BACK following surgery.
Yesterday, I had the joy of visiting with friends who came down from up north, to spend the day golfing at Rockway Vineyards here in Niagara. This time last year, NHRC ran a raffle fundraiser for me, to help us get to St. Louis...which many of you supported! Rockway was among the 6 groups of local businesses who so kindly donated prizes for us to raffle off...and by happy coincidence, my friend and her husband were the lucky winners of the Rockway package. Nearly a year to the day after the draw was held, they were able to enjoy their afternoon in Niagara.
The timing was perfect.
While the guys golfed, Nonna and I enjoyed the wine tasting portion of the gift at this beautiful vineyard. Before long, and after another happy coincidence, I had the opportunity to meet and thank the sweet soul in person who donated that prize to our fundraiser. It was meaningful for me to do that, especially now being on the other side of the surgery we worked so hard make happen....and it was special for her to know too, that her kindness and generosity truly made an impact for someone who until then was a total stranger. We all teared up a bit as I thanked her for what she did, and shared a tiny bit of background about the journey so far.
It was a fitting place to raise a glass of wine (or several generous samples! Hah!) in celebration of something that has come full circle. There, with that sweet soul and her staff... with my dear friend, her husband and his family who I had the opportunity to meet...and with some of the guests at the winery who overheard our brief chat....I was reminded of my blessings in this community, in my friendships, ...and in the privilege that it is to share my story so that it brightens someone else's day too.
With extra joy in my heart, (and perhaps a brief lil sway in my step -- because....WINE!!...and I'm little...and I still have SDR jello legs! 😂) while the guys golfed, Nonna and I spent the afternoon around St. Catharines visiting some of our favourite spots. It's only been about 3 weeks since I even started used my cane outdoors for the first time since surgery....but this weekend....I felt that much closer to having my pre-SDR walking ability back outdoors. There was grass to contend with, a few inclines and slopes to navigate, a higher vehicle to step up into than what I've been used to since I came home, crowds of people to make my way around, and the just a bit (err...a lot!) of internal anxiety to quell as I wondered if I could manage --and not fall.
I didn't fall. (Ok, keeping it real, the long grass grabbed my feet once for a tense moment and we had a close call...but still... 😂 )
I didn't catch my toes walking in sandals like I would with every step before SDR.
I hopped up in that SUV without a second thought...only to realize a moment later that...whoa....I HOPPED UP IN THAT SUV WITHOUT A SECOND THOUGHT, and... without having to use my arms to pull my legs up onto the running board, like before.
I didn't need Nonna's hand for support throughout the day, although it was closeby just in case.
I walked through a store without pushing a cart for support, and I was confident that I could handle the distance.
Such little things for most people. But they were enormously significant for me.
My walking --yup, it still looks the exact same as before surgery. But it isn't lost on me that the mechanism of HOW I'm walking now is entirely different. Pre-SDR, I wasn't using real muscular strength to move. I relied on spasticity and tightness to hold me up and propel me forward. It was exhausting and painful and was no longer enjoyable to walk.
Now? My muscles...all of those wee lil baby ones that have been waking up over the last 3 months to get stronger...they're actually doing the work....and it's working!
This all feels amazing. Not quite light nor free (yet! More to come on that soon!) but it's liberating and reassuring to see that after 3 months and a bit, right on schedule, I'm getting back to the baseline of where I'm supposed to be with walking, just as Dr. Park predicted I would. I'm still wobbly and not quite there, but I'm closer, and that's awesome.
I guess you could say that this phase since March has been the "pre-race" that I needed to run, before I could actually start running the real one, to see where my potential lies. I wish I had understood this all along - that there was work to do before we could REALLY do the work - but now with that knowledge in mind, it all makes sense, and I feel much less stressed about where we're at.
It's exciting to imagine what I might experience and achieve in the coming months with my mobility. But for today though, I don't need to think about what's next. I just need to remember that I'm OK. That I've got this. That at 35+ I learned how to walk all over again in a brand new way (in just 3.5 months), in order to come full circle to get back to where I needed to be. And that that's worth celebrating, too.💪❤️