11 January 2016

Surgery Update | 20 Weeks Post Op

I haven't posted a surgery recovery update in forever so I felt it was about time to let you know how I have been getting on. 

The last time I posted here I had just started my physiotherapy in our local swimming pool and was feeling pretty confident about everything. Well it's been 12 weeks since I started working hard on rebuilding muscle and slowly teaching myself to walk correctly again. While I feel I still have a long way to go, I am now walking crutch free with a barely noticeable limp and at least a 70% improvement in pain. 

I finally felt confident enough to ditch the crutches 10 weeks post op and let me tell you - it was so strange to walk around independently after relying on them for so long! I had no idea what to be doing with my left arm! Haha! Is it suppose to just hang there? What did I do with it before? Do I swing them when I walk? Oh the things that go on inside my head!

I would need to use my crutch for another 4 weeks, but September 24th marked the first time in two years I could finally wear normal shoes again.

Around 12 post weeks post op - I decided to try my first long distance walk - which ended up being a mere 5km. I have mentioned here before that I love walking and love the outdoors. I popped on my rain jacket and hiking boots and took a leisurely stroll to one of my favourite walking spots - Carton demesne, just on the outskirts of Maynooth. During this walk I ended up having to stop several times for a rest - but with such an amazing views to keep me company - I wasn't complaining. 

While I was exhausted as I made my way around the trail, and began to feel my muscles seizing and aching - I was so happy to not have noticed any major pains in my foot. I got a little cocky I will admit, and decided to take on the dreaded hilltop summit which I love so much. I had told my husband time and time again that my goal following surgery was to make it up that hill, and so I began my ascent - slowly but determined. 

Reaching the top of the hill was an incredibly emotional moment for me. Two years since I had been here and every single thing exactly as it was when I left it last. It wasn't until I began the incline into the forrest that I felt a sharp pain in my forefoot as I descended the hill. It threw me and turned my stomach, so I took a moment to rest before continuing on my journey home. Reaching home, I was tired, swollen and sore. It took me 3 days to recover from the walk, but I was still in the very early stages of recovery at that point. I have yet to return due to our wonderfully Irish weather and a particularily bad series of storms we have been having these past few months, but I am really looking forward to getting back out there come Spring. 

As for my physio - I feel like it has been going well. I have been continuing with a similar range of excercises which I mentioned in my 8 weeks post op update and in general I do feel like my body is responding and getting stronger. I still have good and bad days, but no pain no gain right?

As well as the physio exercises I have also rediscovered my love of swimming. While the pool initially was a way for me to exercise without putting too much pressure on my foot, each week I feel myself getting stonger and pushing myself to try and swim while I am there.  For the few weeks I could manage a lap of the pool doing the breast stroke which I gradually increased as the weeks went by. Last week I managed 8 laps of the pool while doing the front crawl which was a massive milestone for me. I don't even think I had the strength to that before this all started. Of course, I have been enjoying the added perks of signing up to a leisure centre and they steam room and jacuzzi have been working wonders on my aching joints too. 

In terms of gym work, that has pretty much stopped for the moment. I have been compensating for not using our gym by walking. I think this is mainly because every time I go to our gym I end up queuing for 30 minutes or more to use machines which I find incredibly frustrating! As well as that, I have never understood the appeal for walking on a treadmill. I would much rather walk to somewhere like Carton where I know there are just as many challenges and inclines that will help me burn calories - plus it's much more beautiful and fulfilling for me to be out and about in nature than chilling out in a sweaty stinky gym. The only machine I have really been using and not even that much is the exercise bike since my foot is still not quite ready for any sort of high intensity impact yet such as jogging. 

So I had my three month checkup on the 30th of November and you can call me weird, I won't be offended, but I was so excited to see my X-rays! This was the first time I would be able to see what was done to my foot since having the surgery. I met one of my surgeons doctors who showed me my X-rays and basically went through a series of little tests with me. He was pretty happy with the outcome but I was a little surprised when he told me he would see me in February to discuss arranging my next surgery.

Initially I was due to have an osteotomy (shortening of the metatarsal) on all three of my center metatarsals. My third metatarsal was the one most affected by Friebergs disease, and on the X-ray was significantly shorter than my other two. The concern is that while it looks okay now, over time it will eventually put pressure on metatarsals 2 and 4 which could bring on some complications. The reason they decided to just perform the osteotomy and debriment of my third metatarsal was because I had healthy cartilage underneath when they went in there and they felt that the longer they could salvage my healthy bone the better. Basically I have been told that in addition to having surgery every few years to remove excess bone growth - I will eventually probably need metatarsal implants. All in all, I am very accepting of that. I feel like if I have been able to stay positive and come through everything I have so far, I can do it again - especially if it means no more pain.

My scar at 20 weeks post - op
In terms of footwear, high heels are definitely a no no. I won't pretend I'm not gutted just a small bit, but it's a small price to pay for happy healthy bones. 

November and December were probably the toughest months in my recovery so far as I struggled to combat the cold weather. Thankfully I found an amazing solution by combining my hot water bottle and snuggly socks. With a little rest and heated inserts in my shoes, I started to get used to the combination of things I will need to do to ensure I have minimal aches and pains.

This is what normality feels like! Finally able to join my besties for celebrations without feeling deflated and tired!!
When I visited my surgeons clinic in November - I told him I felt that things were progressing on a scale of  60/40. 60% good and 40% pains and aches, which is a far cry from how I felt before I had this surgery.

Now I can honestly say I feel 80/20. I still have pains, I know now I will never quite hit that 100%, but at 80% I'm feeling pretty good about myself. I have talked to my doctor about finally getting back to work and for the first time in two years I feel like I can move on with  my life and start thinking about embarking on new adventures. 
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