This past Monday marked 4 months post-SDR in my journey and I reached a milestone that felt really special, personally.
To do the moment justice though, I first need to take you back to March 29th, when I was just 7 days post-op in St. Louis. This day was my 2nd therapy session after discharge from hospital, and first of many with the lovely Jolyn....a lady who would come to be so dear to me while in St. Louis. 💜
On the agenda for the morning was a walk on the treadmill (among other tasks). I clearly remember Jolyn getting me onto the treadmill (that was an effort in and of itself, as I couldn't yet step up or stand up on my own; my legs were like blobs of jello, with no strength or stability in them whatsoever!). She secured a gait belt around my waist for extra safety, and literally held me up as I willed my legs to move. In actuality, that "movement" was more just like me flopping my legs forward, while holding onto the handles for dear life, putting as much weight through my arms as I could in order to drag myself along.
30 seconds in to our "walk", I was already 100% done. My arms were shaking, my back burned with a fire-like intensity and my legs though numb, felt like ten-thousand-pound-logs, each filled with concrete. (I'm not exaggerating to tell a good story; this was my 1 week-post op reality!) Important to note, the treadmill was set to the slowest speed of 0.5... with no incline set, either. We were moving at a snail's pace, the treadmill couldn't go any slower...and even still, this speed felt WAY. TOO. FAST!
When Jolyn told me we were aiming for 3 minutes of walking, I thought she was insane and told her as much! 😂 Her reply? "Do your best, we'll get there". She was encouraging yet firm, so I knew that however things panned out, I wasn't getting off this thing til our 3 minutes were up.
The last 30 seconds were a hazy blur. I don't remember getting off but I do recall just sitting in a chair moments later while Jolyn beamed a big smile, saying she was impressed and proud of me. I couldn't fathom why. Nothing about this timed, dead-weight, sloppy drag felt celebratory to me. And yet...here she was telling me in earnest that I had done great. And of course...that we'd do it again tomorrow! LOL
Each day thereafter, that's what we did. The speed stayed the same, but gradually we "walked" for longer and longer periods of time to build endurance during the course of my month in St. Louis. By the end of that month, I had worked up to 12 minutes of movement --some of it walking, but still, most of it, dragging.
In the months since returning home, we've continued plugging away at this in PT. Month by month, the dragging transformed into walking...and then walking with a better heal-toe pattern...and better still, walking with foot clearance, quieter steps, and NO drag at all (except at the very end when I'm wiped!). It's been cool to see progress unfold.
Gradually, we've been able to increase the duration and speed of our walks, bit by bit. With every increase, I'd feel panicked at first as it felt "TOO FAST!" again. Yet by each weeks' end, I'd find that relaxed, comfortable stride one more time....and ultimately "too fast" - to my delight! - would soon become TOO SLOW!
Coming back to this past Monday as I hit the 4 month post-op mark, I reached a big milestone:
- I've now trippled my original walking speed since those first steps in March! 0.5, meet 1.5!
- What was once a panicked and seemingly impossible 3 minutes of walking? Well, this past Monday night I walked that speed for a full THIRTY MINUTES (30 !!). And I walked it all, with an incline, too!
- More astonishing to me still, is that I covered THREE-QUARTERS OF A MILE in that time. All of these markers now represent what my PT's and I deem as just my standard daily WARM UP... before PT even starts!
Monday night, as I saw that treadmill counter surpass 30 minutes... at 1.5 mph... at 3.0 incline...for a distance of 0.79 miles....I teared up, and you couldn't have wiped the smile off of my face if you tried!!! 😁
For those without CP - who run or walk with ease --I get it: 1.5 is mighty slow for you. A half hour walk? No big deal, I bet. And taking 30 minutes to cover 3/4 of a mile? Easy-peasy for you no doubt.
Let me say though: this improvement, in just 4 months...when I've learned to walk all over again...it means EVERYTHING to me. 🎉
There is SO much more behind this than just the numbers...
In the weeks leading up to SDR, I was in so much pain that walking just 10 minutes continuously would leave me in such flared joint pain, that I'd need to NOT walk for 2-3 days afterward...which often meant bed rest. My endurance was decreasing alarmingly fast no matter what we did at physio. Pain halted everything because every part of my body hurt when I would walk. My neck and back would feel like it was on fire, and I could surely count on waking up to a migraine the next day, like clock-work. My cane-hand would go completely numb. My knees and ankles would seize up and ache with a pain that defied description. More often than not, I'd spend those 10 minutes of my twice-weekly-hellish-walk, praying I'd not fall and get hurt. I was beyond frustrated, and so scared of what was happening.
Today? Those fears, those struggles with endurance....they are no more when I'm on the treadmill. 🥳
I haven't had a single migraine since March 22nd, 2019.
I've never been able to walk as fast as I did (let alone with ease!) on Monday night!
My body has never known this type of speed!
Not since I was 12 years old, have I had the stamina to walk 3/4 of a mile, all in one shot!
And never have I been able to do it ALL UPHILL!
It blows my mind that I'm walking this far, this fast each and every day now. And it also astounds me that even as I type this out, the increases keep coming. Yesterday, I said a happy "hello!" to a speed of 1.6 while also increasing the incline yet again, putting another half-hour walk in the books! Surreal!
(Although, keeping it real, 1.6 is currently in the "too fast" category at the moment. Give me a couple of weeks though, and I expect it'll be time for another bump up!)
I have no idea if running will ever be possible for me. But now I'm starting to see how I might just get there one day. These slow yet steady improvements are huge especially when I think back to where I started, learning to walk all over again just 4 months ago. 💪
I've traded in my March-edition concrete-log-legs, for ones that now feel different in every conceivable way. And just as Jolyn was beaming back then...I'm smiling big today, too. 😁
So, the journey continues!
To those of you who still take time to encourage me onward in this marathon, thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm grateful, blessed, and so happy to share these moments with you. What a privilege this continues to be! ❤️🎉