In the fall of 2016, after 60 painful days, my leg was finally doing better and my therapist and I began to talk about how best to train the muscles around the surgery site to properly repair muscle tissue.
But then I ended up with a double stress fracture on my tibia, and it wasn’t long before my therapist suggested that I have the operation again.
As I arrived at the hospital for my first round of surgery, I was told I’d have to wait for a pain-killing injection. The operation had been scheduled for the day after Christmas. But because I hadn’t gotten an injection, doctors said they wouldn’t be able to sew the bone down. It would have to wait until after New Year’s.
I could go down with sepsis, or worse, and lose so much more than just my leg. My mother thought I should focus on rehabbing and trying to resume my normal life as soon as possible.
I had a regular hospital nurse bringing me vital foods, and all my medications from home to the hospital.
I was hoping to go back to work by April, so I could spend some time with my son before it was too late. Instead, I had to go to the orthopedic ward, a place where some of the patients come to die. I couldn’t take my dog, so I thought about changing my plan and bringing him, too. But he wouldn’t leave my side.
After five weeks, doctors recommended I have surgery for my left leg. My big fear was that it would be a complete amputation. But because my leg was so sore, and I was suffering pain so fierce, they told me I could come back.
I was excited to get back to work. I had experienced a lot of anger, even toward the surgeon and the staff who had taken care of me. No longer would I be sick, or in bed all day, so I could spend time with my son. But my hope quickly faded. I realized it would be hard to exercise my leg for long periods of time.
I returned to the hospital a few times each week for physical therapy, on different days of the week. I’d come in with a smile and walk straight out of the hospital and to my job. I’d walk and run but without much effort, and I didn’t do anything walking and running, which is what I’d asked them to help me do. My husband and I always picked up grocery shopping and shopping.
During this process, I kept thinking about the future: What if I’m too ill or infirm to regain the use of my leg? What if I can’t exercise my leg enough to get back to where I’d been before? This didn’t seem possible, especially given that my therapist had talked about not just getting my knee back but my thigh and all of my ankles, too.
Eventually, I couldn’t deny what I was thinking and feeling. It was pretty soon after my surgery that I experienced pain so unbearable I had to take off my pants. This proved to be the beginning of what was to become the first of many painful, heartbreaking months.
The pain was constant and often so severe that I couldn’t move or stand for very long. I had pain in my back, too, as well as in the joints in my chest and stomach. I also had shingles, a painful skin rash that has a sore, red rash on the skin. Every month, it would get worse and worse.
Despite the long nights and interrupted classes, I tried to think of ways to get through my pain. I listened to music, especially sad songs, to get my heart moving and to keep my mind off the pain.
I remember driving home from work one day and seeing my daughter who was 22. She had just got her driver’s license and was looking forward to her first car. I didn’t think about the pain, but I did reflect on the importance of having someone to take care of me.
Each month went by faster than I could go. When I got home one night, my boyfriend called and told me, “I want to take you out and get the salt in your eye.”
I didn’t say anything, but I knew I needed help. For the first time since the surgery, I had to ask for help. My boyfriend drove me