The nurse enters the room where Chad and I are sitting and takes the seat across from us. She looks through her paperwork before looking back toward me.
Okay, she says, have you used crutches before? Chad and I look at each other and laugh and I do everything I can to keep my eyes from rolling to the back of my head. This was a ‘required’ appointment, they told me during a phone conversation four days prior. If you don’t go through the Crutches Training, we can’t move forward.
I look at the nurse and she repeats her question, Have you used crutches before?
I think back to the months I spent navigating my way through life on crutches. Six months ago, those metal sticks were my constant companions, never out of reach. My mind flashes to the wedding we photographed while I crutched my way through the first look, the portraits, the ceremony, the reception. I think about the walks I took with the kids and with Chad while talking over the loud clink, clink, clink, of the crutches. ‘Have you used crutches before?’ seems like such a silly question. I consider telling her about the tricks I can do on the crutches. I want to tell her how I’d almost mastered a back flip on them when I was finally able to put them aside and walk again.
It’s the final month of 2018 and as I flip the calendar page my heart skips a beat. Excitement had been bubbling under the surface for a couple of months, but the turn to December makes it real.
My training plan is selected. Warm clothes, waiting. New running shoes, purchased. The goal, set. While most turned their calendar and counted down the advent calendar, I counted down my training days and looked toward the goal of running the Boston Marathon.
On December 10th, 2018 my training plan began and for 18 weeks that plan became a 6th member of our family. For 18 weeks, the plan dictated daily schedules, sleep, food choices and travel schedules. For 18 weeks, my family came beside me and supported, encouraged, and raced with me toward a goal that might seem silly to some, but was real to us.
Last December, we couldn’t have known that April 15th would be anything but the dream we had worked toward. Last December we couldn’t have anticipated that with a snapping sound in my hip at mile 10, a dream would become a bit of a nightmare. We couldn’t have anticipated a fractured femur, a torn labrum and a hobbling through the final 16 miles of the marathon. I certainly couldn’t have anticipated two angel runners holding me up the final meters of the race, assisting me across the finish line.
Have you used crutches before? the nurse asks and waits for my answer. I decide to bypass my sarcastic response and answer simply, yes, I’ve used them before.
Oh good, she responds, this won’t take long at all.
Chad and I sit across from her and listen as she reviews procedure, rehab, medications, and the very important ‘Crutches Training’. (Which I pass with flying colors, thank-you-very-much.) After a few more details, she informs us that we will arrive early Monday morning and I will be the first surgery of the day.
What a difference a year can make.
Exactly one year after my Boston training began, I stand on a different starting kind of starting line. On Monday morning, I will put my body and, hopefully, my running future into the hands of a surgeon who will repair the damage I did earlier this year. After months of rest, strength-training, tearful prayers, and more than a few attempts to run again, we learned that my leg is simply not going to heal on its own. Just as I’d learned on April 15th of last year, there are some things that an act of will or stubborn pride cannot overcome.
There is no day-by day training plan this year. Unlike last year, this will be a
one-step-at-a-time one-crutch-at-time, one-day-at-a-time, unfolding journey for which I cannot plan.
I would like to report that I’ve been a model of Patience over the last eight months of waiting. I’d like to report that I’ve completely trusted the process and journeyed through with the grace and wisdom matching that of Maya Angelou. I’d like to report that each time I saw a runner I didn’t say with a deep, sad, sigh, remember when I used to be a runner?
I would like to report these things, but I can’t. In reality, I’ve missed running and even though I’m not a party kind of girl, I’ve attended the occasional Pity Party, party of One.
Being sidelined took a piece of me away–the part of me that finds peace on the open roads, clarity in the sound of feet pounding the pavement, and joy in the solitude of a good run. In reality, I’m better when I’m running. And I’m not just talking about what running does for my heart and my lungs–these things are good. For me, running touches my head and my soul in a ways that are difficult to describe.
I’ve wanted to find the lessons buried in this season, the wisdom to be gained while watching from the sidelines, an answer to the “why” of all of this and instead, I’ve just survived.
As I sit here the day before surgery–a day I’ve anticipated for months–I feel something like an exhale.
Like I’ve been holding my breath for eight months.
Like my fists have been clenched for eight months.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. . . to feel like myself again.
Tomorrow, when my eyes open in recovery, groggy and sleepy from the anesthesia, I might feel a little bit of pain, but there will be more. Just under the surface, I suspect I will feel my heart skip a beat, excitement bubbling, anticipation brewing. In that moment it will be real. . . I will be standing on another starting line, crutches in hand, working toward the goal I’ve been waiting for. . . the goal to run again.