First Published, 1st May, 2015
A short phase of my life that has felt like it’s lasted a lifetime has come to an end. It’s been seven weeks since I broke my foot. But finally I am walking out the other side.
Three weeks ago my cast came off and my foot was a swollen purple and green mess. The range of motion in my ankle had reduced to barely being able to move my foot up and down. My brain was able to command two out of five toes to squeeze shut and open. Movement through the middle of my foot? Zero. And my right leg had noticeably atrophied. It’s been like having an alien limb attached to me, which I have no control over. I can’t tell it what to do because I can’t connect to it. It doesn’t listen.
I started rehab. Rehab hasn’t been comfortable or fun. Apart from when I had to pick up marbles with my toes… but even that was painful. I remember when I first touched the skin on my foot after my cast came off, it felt like burning and then I thought I would vomit. I had to mobilise, move and massage as often as possible, but still no walking. Still hopping, still using crutches, still crawling around the gym on my knees to carry cups of coffee.
I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time in hospital. Each week ends and begins on Friday afternoon when I go to hospital. Every time I have been X-rayed and every time I’ve been told my foot was healing well and there was no bone displacement. Every hospital visit has been one step closer to walking. One week further away from when things broke.
When I was allowed to start putting weight onto my foot (with the assistance of crutches) my first thought was what if I hurt myself again? Trying to figure out the difference between pain because it’s having to work and heal, and pain because something is wrong has been challenging. Trusting myself that I can do what my body needs has been more so, since it was my fault I injured it in the first place.
It’s been a really strange experience breaking a bone and then feeling my body healing itself. My first injury that has felt like it was never going to get better. Despite never experiencing pain like a broken bone before, I think it’s been more painful mentally than physically. The loss of independence, the inability to demonstrate when teaching, anything taking twice as long to do, the exhaustion and the isolation it created. So much frustration when I have to try and be patient.
The irony is that the stronger we try and make ourselves physically, the more vulnerable we become to injury. This is why listening to your body is so important. I have said this so many times to myself and still ignored it. But now I’ve seen how even just a broken bone can affect so much and I can’t afford to let that happen again. If a muscle or a joint starts screaming at me to stop then it’s time to stop. I am still training, but at a far slower pace. It’s simple and unimpressive, but nothing is hurting.
Now I can walk and now my rehab really begins. I can’t run or jump or tumble but it doesn’t matter because I can walk. And I am forever grateful for both of my feet.