Thursday, December 17, 2015

Beginning to Heal, Finally

It was raining. And I was running, uphill on a trail I'd run many times before. I was in Corvallis, just a day away from defending my dissertation, and I needed a release. It was the straw that broke the camels back. Through the raindrops I could feel the warm tears running down my face. I was so over this, whatever this even was. I was well enough to run, and running temporarily made the pain go away, but the aftermath that would follow loomed over me. There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than an injury that feels better by the thing that causes it in the first place. That doesn't even make sense....

My mind started churning, and suddenly I just stopped, mid run, and whipped out my phone. I had a moment of clarity. An email was sent, and then I continued on my way, feeling somewhat lighter. A huge weight had just been taken off my chest and there was no where to go but up.

I had just made the decision to start healing. 

Anyone who's been close to me knows over the last 6 months I've been struggling with my left achilles and foot. I've been able to run and race through it, but was pretty unhappy doing so. It's been mentally defeating because not only does it not hurt when I run, but it also feels better. Wtf?! The high, however, is followed by a massive crash hours later pushing me further and further down a dark hole. This low, characterized by pain, stiffness, and frustration, has been haunting me every single day since April. I've been on this emotional roller coaster for far too long. And last week, I decided I needed to take action. Within the span of a couple hours I emailed the doctor, asked Zach if he would go with me, and booked plane tickets to Sweden....leaving 3 days later. Talk about making things happen! 

My travel partner for this adventure!

Sunrise somewhere over the Swiss Alps...
And so here I am, in Umea, Sweden recovering from surgery. But boy is it a good feeling! Not that my foot feels good, because it doesn't, but my soul feels happy. I know deep down that I am starting to heal, finally. For so long I tried to avoid getting surgery, but every time a modality was thrown at my foot and it failed, my outlook became more and more bleak. 

Holidays in Scandinavia
I wasn't going to write about this. I don't like sharing my struggles publicly all that much. But, after some thought, I felt I needed to share. Part of why I am here, on the road to recovery is because others had the courage to share. If they hadn't, then I might still be at home falling further behind and more frustrated by the day. I cannot thank Sandi Nypaver and Lauren Fleshman enough for their encouragement and support as I came to the decision to seek surgery. Both have had achilles injuries, both have come to Sweden to see Dr. Alfredson, and both are happy. Enough said.

So why Sweden? The biggest reason was to see Dr. Alfredson at the Alfredson Tendon Clinic. Dr. Alfredson is the achilles expert; and probably one of the nicest, most knowledgeable docs I have ever met. Within minutes of visiting with him I understood more about my injury than over the entire last year. Instead of some unknown mystery, I really understood why my foot was hurting. 

Post-surgery with Dr. Alfredson
My whole visit to the clinic took place over two days. I arrived on Wednesday morning for my consultation. We talked for a bit, he took ultrasound (on both sides) and showed me the results. It wasn't all bad news, in fact my achilles itself was pretty healthy. But there was a pretty big superficial bursa over my heel and a smaller bursa near my bone. Both were contributing to the pain. In his opinion (and mine after seeing the images) there was no way this was going to get better without surgery. I was ready. 

The surgery was amazing. I was awake and Dr. Alfredson told me what he was doing the entire time. The entire procedure lasted about 30-45 minutes and and during that time two bursa were removed, the bone was smoothed a bit, and my plantaris tendon exicised. Apparently my plantaris tendon was unique in that it wrapped around my achilles and attached to the back of my heel. He kept saying "I've never seen anything like this before!" Hmmm, not exactly what you want to hear when your foot is wide open. He was more amused than concerned though. After the surgery he sent me home with a book of research articles on the 9 different positions of the plantaris tendon. And now we will have to add a 10th article for the position of your tendon! Glad I could provide some amusement :)

The next day I returned for a follow-up and saw the new ultrasound images. Everything looked great and I left the clinic with just one crutch, and was encouraged to walk around with 50% body weight. That to me was impressive!

Walking around Umea, just 24 hrs after surgery
The recovery is going to be long and I'm sure I will struggle at times, but I know I've made progress. There is no where to go but up, and right now that's a great feeling! 

And cheers to being a Dr.!!!


  1. Huge congrats on finishing your PhD! Thanks for writing this- I will be praying for your recovery to be smooth and as quick as can be.

    1. Thanks so much Daniel! It was a tough decision to make, but I'm confident it was the right thing to do :) I appreciate your support for my recovery! I hope you enjoy some down time after a great season! Nice run at TNFEC!

  2. thank you for sharing. Hoping for a speedy recovery

  3. Thanks for sharing! I've been going through something similar.... haven't run since September because of edema/fluid in my femoral head... EVERYTHING feels fine except running which is the ONE thing I want to do... Hope you heal fast! Me too!

  4. Courage. It All takes courage. To run, to not run, to make the decision to go all the way to Sweden to get 'er done!Life. To explore the void without running takes courage. You'll come out on the other side of this and feel better than ever, stronger, and even more courageous than you already are. This time is building a strength in you that you will feel the rewards of miles later down the trail.

  5. Great article! You'll be stronger because of this both physically and mentally. But that is who you are... pick a challenge and conquer it! - Jason