Report from the Front

 

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The last 12 days have felt a little like I’ve been struggling my way up from the deep water, and awkwardly paddling toward the light, the air. It’s been a limiting, sometimes frightening, always exhausting experience.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had surgery* of any kind. A long time. And I knew this would be a rough one going in — there is no way to avoid the ‘roughness’ of being almost 70 years old, with a badly injured left foot, dealing with blood thinning medication from a previous event/insult to the body, and being told that there will be no weight-bearing for eight weeks.

No way around it. 

And, to tell you the truth, it’s every bit as difficult as I anticipated. Pain medications kept me foggy and slightly nauseated for ten days, the shots-to-the-belly required to manage blood thinners lasted two full weeks instead of 10 days, and trying to be a ‘good girl,’ obedient to the doctor’s instructions to keep-that-foot-higher-than-your-heart-for-as-many-hours-a-day-as-possible-for-the-first-two-weeks. Well, let’s just say that the word ‘boredom’ has taken on several new layers of meaning.

I thank God for several good gifts in the midst of the crush: my husband’s faithful attendance (much, much more is demanded of him than at any point in the previous 48 years!), my children’s kind visits and assistance, my prayer-group-friends boxes of good cheer which have been arriving with lovely regularity, and my new Kindle Fire, a Mother’s Day gift from our kids.

I have watched six seasons of “Inspector Lewis,” a six-part documentary on “The Celts,” and every Jane Austen film production my Amazon Prime account gives me for free. 

In the last three days, I have found the energy and focus to read again, and that has been delightful. I just began the “Anne” cycle last night for the first time in over 40 years, and am partway through both Emily Wierenga’s new memoir and a fun book sent by a prayer friend called, “Leonardo’s Foot.” Perfect topic, or what?

And then, of course, there is my new best friend.

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This has since been tricked out with a little scooter bling by another of the prayer group friends. Tassels and a small bell.

This handy-dandy little 4-wheeled vehicle is called a knee caddy. A wonderful invention, but not without its flaws. LOUSY turning radius, requiring me to bodily pick the entire front half up off the ground to make a 90 degree turn. Still – it’s worth it. I spent the first three days hopping behind a 2-wheel walker, so this is a vast improvement. Our son-in-law built me a ramp to cover the two steps down from the master bedroom area to the living room/kitchen and I try to carefully maneuver that at least once a day.

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I am both looking and feeling my age and am aware of some pretty deep levels of exhaustion and anxiety. By the grace of God, I am trying to remain open to the graces to be found, even here, even now. Giving up self-reliance is a huge monster of a thing for me. Just an ugly, hard thing. I like being competent and in control, even though I know that any semblance of control is always but a ghost of reality, a trick of the mind.

Because as it happens, there is very little in this life that we can control. Except, perhaps, for our responses to whatever it is life hands us at a given moment in time. I remain grateful that God invites me to partner in this life-course, daily choice business of discipleship. I am not a puppet nor is every detail of my day-to-day life mapped out ahead of time. I still get to choose. There are events, circumstances, illnesses and injuries that are beyond me, beyond any capacity of mine to change. But there are always choices. Always.

I can choose to say thank you to those who help me, who pray for me, who bring twice-weekly meals, who send love in a cardboard box, who pay a visit and offer a sympathetic smile.

I can choose to value my family, to appreciate their encouragement, support, assistance and great good humor.

I can choose to lean into the fear when it rises, to say the Jesus prayer whenever necessary, for as many times as it takes to slow my breathing and return my focus to the goodness of my life. Even here, even now.

I can choose to look for God’s grace and goodness, even when it hurts, even when I’m bored, even when I’m tired, even when I’m confused. 

I can choose to lean and to learn, to seek and to find, to listen and to look, to love and be loved.

I can choose.

And so I will.

In two days, we return to the surgeon. Hopefully the cast will come off, the stitches will come out and there will be early evidence of the bone beginning to heal, the tendon attachments beginning to take hold. Then I’ll go into a removable boot for the remaining six weeks, which I hope-and-pray will mean the ability to shower without a huge plastic cover-up over my left calf.

I’ll report again after that appointment.

*For those who do not know what this surgery was about – a brief synopsis Last summer, I injured my left achilles tendon while taking an early morning walk when we were vacationing in Hawaii. I began physical therapy when we returned home, with very good results. Near the end of those sessions, I had a firm massage from the therapist in which the outside of that foot was pressed against the edge of the massage table and I was instructed to resist that movement. In doing so, I somehow managed to rupture the pereoneus brevis tendon, which comes down from the back bone of the lower leg and wraps around the ankle before heading to the outside of the foot and attaching to the little toe. It runs adjacent to the peroneus longus, which takes a turn at the ankle, going under the foot and over to the big toe. After trying three different appliances from three different doctors in an effort to avoid this surgery, the orthopedic surgeon took an additional series of x-rays which revealed a congenital malformation of the heel bone, likely contributing greatly to the tendon rupture in the first place. So. In two different incisions, which I have yet to see, he went in and broke the heel bone, straightening it and pinning it upright with screws and he cleaned up the torn tendon and reattached it to the neighboring one. And  yes, it hurts about as much it sounds like it would.

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Comments

  1. Gwen Acres says:

    So good to hear from you, brave heart! I trust and pray that all goes well when the cast comes off.
    Glad you are feeling well enough to write and share your progress. On my heart, Gwen

  2. “Short term pain for long term gain,” or so I’ve heard it said when someone is advocating corrective surgery. But I’m sure about now you’re not thinking it’s such a short term. I hope there is good news at your appointment, and your healing will continue to progress well. I know you’ll continue ‘choosing joy’ and being thankful for whatever good things God brings your way.

  3. You’re right, it’s not feeling particularly ‘short term’ just now. Hopefully, about six months from now – after these weeks of healing and knitting and then another 8 weeks of physical therapy, it will feel a whole lot shorter! Thanks for your encouragement, Carol.

  4. “. . . even though I know that any semblance of control is always but a ghost of reality, a trick of the mind.”

    True that.

    Thinking of an praying for you every day. Love you big.

  5. I had no idea what an intricate surgery you had to have. How frustrating to be down so long, but I think you look great in your photo! Praying for a full and speedy healing.

  6. Thankyou for the update, Diana. :)

  7. I’m so sorry that this has been such a tough road. I love your honesty about the pain and the way your heart is turned, still, toward hope. This line got me: “Because as it happens, there is very little in this life that we can control. Except, perhaps, for our responses to whatever it is life hands us at a given moment in time.” Praying right now for glimpses of glory in the midst of all this recovery business.

  8. I like that picture of you standing and just a glimpse of the bling. You’re gonna make it, girl!

  9. So glad for the update and the selfie! You are strong and courageous and determined, even when it’s not easy.

  10. Oh, dearest Diana – I think of you often and remember you in my prayers. My own surgeries and recovery are still fresh in my mind – I am, in fact, still recovering, but it does get better. You are so right and wise to focus on your choices. I recently read an article that listed the top regrets of those near death and one of them was that they wished they’d chosen to be happy more often – that they’d wasted so much time being unhappy about things they couldn’t change. I do hope you get good news today – that you get those stitches out and can take a good, long shower. Much love to you, dear friend.

    • I have thought of you and your bravery, Patricia, quite a lot during these 12 days. Thank you so much for your kind words, your encouragement, your prayers.

  11. Sandy Hay says:

    Oh Diana, I’m sighing and laughing and cringing and crying . My surgeries have only left me incapacitate for a few days so I can’t completely relate but still…for us independent women with lots of energy. Only prayer can do that. The Jesus prayer is my default prayer too. I can focus and focus and EVENTUALLY relax or sleep or at least change focus. Wish I could bring you a meal ;)

    • this has been a first (and I sincerely hope ONLY) such experience for me. Love that Jesus prayer – as you say, it can help me focus, calm down and then move into sleep or rest. Thanks for the good thoughts, friend.

  12. Ellen Painter Dollar says:

    I’m glad to see you upright, at least for a time. I know the trials of orthopedic surgery well (and my dad had one of those knee caddy things when he broke his leg a couple of years ago….a wonderful contraption, but unwieldy at times!). I trust that the progress will come more quickly in the days to come. Best of luck with the doctor visit!

    • I thought of you a lot through this ordeal, Ellen. Bones are strange and wonderful things, but man, they hurt when they break. Thanks so much for reading and commenting – great to see you here.

  13. I’m so glad you’ve written this for those of us who love you from afar … but (if I may say so) I’m even more glad for the photo of yourself you included. I love to see your glorious, smiling face. Even if it’s a smile through the fog of the pain meds. :)

    Hugs to you, dear Diana. And prayers for your continued recovery.

  14. So glad for this update Diana. I have thought of you so often. And have been and will continue praying for all that goes w this. Loving you from afar.

    • Thank you, Carol, for these sweet words. How are you doing by now on this grief journey you’re on? Did you know we lost my husband’s mom? I think you did. Like you, it was awaited but unexpected at the same time. It was also time. And I think that’s true for you, as well.

      • Yes it was time. I have had my share of feeling bad that this was so hard for me. But I am told almost everyone has those kinds of feelings.

        I have been relieved. Then sad. Then relieved. This week we had the second memorial service back in PA where my dad grew up. A lot of cousins on both sides were there.

        It was more meaningful for me than I had anticipated. To be enveloped by cousins who showed me such love and honored my dad with their presence. We moved away when I was 5 but my parents made sure we saw them every year. For many years I list contact,then Facebook started connecting us. And a couple reunions happened.

        When you live apart from family, you can think it doesn’t really matter. But family is a big deal. And worth figuring out how to connect even across the distance. It’s getting harder as my son is moving the 4 Grandboys to Portland Oregon. It’s part of life as we know it today as our kids follow their callings,but it’s hard. I havE told them I am sad but will support them. We are here in PA now helping the w kids while they are getting ready to move. Love these kids, big and little.

        Well this is longer than I anticipated but here it is.

        • I am so glad you had that time of reunion, Carol. And sorry with you that your family will be moving away. One tiny blessed sliver in there is that you will now be more flexible and able to visit/help out than you ever could have when you were caring for your dad. I look at the timing of my MIL’s death and marvel – she died BEFORE this surgery – I could put together the service, create the bulletins, order the food for an immediate family dinner together (with niece and nephew traveling in from New York and Montana), and get everything ready beforehand. I could have done NONE of that if she had died two weeks later. Slowly, I am learning to trust God’s timing in these things – but some days that’s easier to do than others, isn’t it? Your grief journey will be uniquely yours, my friend. There is no right or wrong way to do it – some days you will weep and feel sad. Some days you will rejoice. That’s the way of life, right?

  15. Donna C says:

    I’m glad for some improvement… and have been constantly thinking of you through all this, particularly now as we have our own broken bones and plaster casts and associated issues (my 9yr old son broke his arm rather dramatically last week) to deal with! We are praying for quick, strong and straight healing… and will include your foot in these prayers!
    It’s lovely to see your face back on the interwebs :)

    • Oh, ouch, Donna! So sorry for your boy. And for you with your tender mama heart worried and tired by it all. Thanks so much for your prayers, my friend. It’s good to be seen. :-)

  16. This is a beautiful picture of grace, Diana. Your sweet grace in making those good choices and the grace of your husband and those who have ministered to you – and, of course, His grace. I know how difficult it is to be the one in need.The Lord brings you to mind, and I’ve been praying. Love and hugs.

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