It took 24 years, but it finally happened. I have the official scars inducting me into the surgery club. It’s not exactly a club I want to be in, but there’s some pretty cool people in it so I guess I can manage ;) .
Let me recap:
I tore my meniscus mid February at practice. There wasn’t some crazy fall or accident, but by the end of practice I was hobbling around. It took me one week to be on a flight heading to Anaheim with the US National Team for surgery and rehab. 4 weeks later I was on a flight bringing me back to Germany and here I am, nearly 9 weeks post surgery and back on the court!
I wanted to share some of the what I went through and figured out during my first real surgery. I realized this was also the first time in my career (I’m pretty sure) that I had to sit on the sidelines and watch my team play because I could not, no jersey, no nothin’. THAT was weird. I’m no pro at the injury/surgery/recovery thingamajig but getting my thoughts out help me a lot, so prepare for my ramble…
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL.
Hearing the news that my injury required surgery was pretty traumatic, I honestly did not see that diagnosis coming. My doctor didn’t seem quite so sure on what to do with the crying (nearly sobbing) girl in the office, but we got through it. It took me a couple hours of tears, ‘why me’, ‘this sucks’, and chocolate to calm down and say, “Okay, this has happened, how do I respond now? What’s the next course of action.”
That’s one of the big lessons I’ve learned through college and especially in my last few years overseas that thankfully served me well: Control what you can control. There are so many crazy things that happen in life, and one thing you get to control is how you react, or more so respond, to the cards you get dealt. My initial reaction was a little rough, and I’m okay with that, but I responded well shortly after: by that evening I informed the people that needed to know- my pro team, my family, my National Team staff and doctors, and I was planning the next steps with them regards to surgery, travel, and this process I was about to embark on. Taking control of the controllables helps me feel strong even though I was relatively crushed just before.
SEE THE BIG PICTURE.
The day I got hurt, there were 22 days until my Pro Team played in the German Cup Finals. This Championship match is a big deal here in Germany and it was something the team and I were REALLY looking forward to- we were working towards that goal for the past 3 months. On top of that, my parents were planning to come that week, as well as my Aunt and Uncle! Great timing, right?
I ran through a lot of scenarios before I had to stop myself and re-evaluate. My #1 priority is to get healthy- as best and as quickly as possible. That meant push the Cup Final aside, push the visitors aside and make decisions that get me to a healthy knee as quickly and as perfectly as can be.
Not only that, my long term goal is a big one: helping Team USA win a gold medal in 2016. Keeping the end in mind helps keeps me going and keeps my head on straight.
TRUST THE PROCESS.
I know for sure that I don’t know how to heal my knee from surgery on my own. Luckily I have some great people that do know how and I am putting my trust in them. So even though I want to do more some days, I’ve had to check myself and listen to them.
You have to walk before you can run and, being pretty competitive, I rather skip a couple steps to get to the running part faster. But this has been a baby step process, a day to day process, and there is no cutting corners. Like I said earlier, I want to do it right, and right means not skipping any steps.
The journey through surgical recovery forced me to become more patient than I ever thought I could be. I had the itch to play and to touch that ball, to get back on that court so bad (I might always have that itch). But, I couldn’t. I could, actually, but that would be really stupid. There’s no cutting corners (see above). Do the little things, do them right. And that takes time. The road to recovery is a long, windy, twisty process that requires patience. That’s not easy, but it’s really important.
CELEBRATE LITTLE STEPS.
Literally. I was ecstatic when I could take little steps, and then when I could walk stairs, and then when I could walk stairs normally. When I jumped for the first time a few weeks after surgery I could not wipe the grin off my face. It’s a long journey and celebrating the little successes helped me stay positive one step at a time.
CHECK YOUR EXPECTATIONS.
Oh expectations. I have so much to say about you. I try to remember what Karch Kiraly has said before: Keep your expectations a little lower and your hopes a little higher. We can be awfully critical of ourselves and set some pretty high standards, but imagine if you let yourself succeed a little bit more. That success creates so much more positivity and that in turn is motivation and progress and improvement, and those things can snowball into great things. It’s creating more happiness.
I tried to keep my expectations pretty low with this surgery thing, so I was shocked when I could walk (read: hobble) around my apartment the evening after surgery. And 5 days out I could actually walk pretty normally. Talk about blasting through some expectations. My next 3-4 weeks went crazy good really and I was feeling great. Just when I was excited and expecting to work back onto the court week 6, things took a bit of a hiccup. My knee told me that it wasn’t ready for the running and jumping I was doing at the end of week 5. So I was a little crushed to have to take a few steps back. I let my expectations get ahead of me. I knew that I should have expected some hiccups or setbacks along the way, but I got distracted with the great progress I already had! Staying day to day, one step at a time oriented helps me keep those expectations in check.
I’m no expert on this surgery and rehab thing. This menisectomy is my first surgery and it could have been a WAY worse one (knock on wood). MAJOR props to ALL surgery patients. I’m amazed thinking about a lot of my friends who have had to come back from injuries way worse than mine. But this has reminded me of a lot of great lessons I’ve learned through my life and career, and it’s nice to know I’m still learning: about myself, my body, and how to handle setbacks and different situations. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? And I’m feeling stronger every day.
P.S. I wrote this blog entry a couple weeks ago and to update it, I have been practicing and I even got to play in our semifinal match last week! It didn’t turn out quite how we hoped but just throwing that jersey on lit up my world. And getting back on to the court? Just … :D
Wish us luck for Wednesday as we’ll be playing to move onto the Finals!