Road To Recovery

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.

react

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.

What you want most

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.

closer

PATIENCE.
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.

patience

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.

get up

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 … 😀

Wish us luck for Wednesday as we’ll be playing to move onto the Finals!

High Point in Germany

One Sunday, a friend Carsen Chun came down to Vilsbiburg for a little visit and we decided to get the heck out of my tiny town. We drove a couple hours south to the Zugspietz- the highest point of Germany! Now, remember Germany is just above Austria and Switzerland which has the big kahunas- The Alps. So this mountain wasn’t record breaking or anything, but boy, it doesn’t make it any less incredible.

Zugspitze!

Zugspitze!

Seeing the views from the tippy top of Germany was absolutely worth the drive.

Heading up the gondola

Heading up the gondola

average.

average.

We tried to wait around and catch the sun starting to set, but the last gondola rides back to normal elevation weren’t gonna wait for us. Last shot we could get:

Touching the Sky

Touching the Sky

Check it!

Check it!

Also, 3 flights of stairs at 8,000+ feet will REALLY remind you of what kind of shape you’re in. Woof.

Carsen and I at Zugspitz

Carsen and I at Zugspitz

This was an awesome little excursion! There’s also a lot of skiing and sledding to be done if you’re into that sort of thing, but not for me thanks. I’ll take care of the picture taking and warm drinks 🙂

Beach Party in January?

Beach Party!

What is this? A beach party in Germany in the heart of winter? Yup!

In our tiny town of Vilsbiburg, every January they turn the town hall into a sand filled, heat cranked party! I asked my teammate what I should be wearing to this and she said, “Summer clothes!” I was skeptical but threw on my Lulu tank top, some shorts and flip flops- under my big winter jacket and sweat pants of course. Low and behold, the beach party was Hot! The floor was covered in sand, there was a band rocking out, and bars in all the corners of the venue. It was a fun evening but now I just can’t wait to get that REAL sand in between my toes this summer 🙂

Meeting in Munich

I LOVE when I get a chance to see friends in Europe. So when Kawika Shoji’s team was playing just outside of Munich it was a great opportunity to see him and make a little day out of it with the American’s in Innsbruck. I drove down, they drove up and we met in the middle of Munich for lunch and to see the match.

We checked out the Hofbrauhaus and cruised around the city a bit. Then met up with the Hein’s and some of their Innsbruck teammates for lunch at a Mexican restaurant 🙂

Dining Room at Hofbrauhaus

Dining Room at Hofbrauhaus

Beautiful day in Munich

Beautiful day in Munich

IMG_5351

It was an exciting match to watch in a packed house and Kawika came away as the MVP! All due to our cheering of course.

Paul Carroll, Andy Hein, Scott Touzinsky, Kawika Shoji, Kate Hein, me, Sydney Yogi, and Erik Shoji

Paul Carroll, Andy Hein, Scott Touzinsky, Kawika Shoji, Kate Hein, me, Sydney Yogi, and Erik Shoji

They had to catch a flight back up to Berlin shortly after the match, but Erik, Syd and I went back to the Hofbrauhaus for some food and drinks before heading out separate ways.

For you?

For you?

New Years Eve in Innsbruck!

New Years Eve is always an interesting holiday for me. Every once in a while it’s really fun. Some times it’s been horrendous (ask my comrade Brittnee Cooper about our New Years FIASCO 2 years ago), and many times it’s been rather boring or underwhelming.

As is also standard, I was scrambling to figure out some plans a couple days before. Luckily my dear friends in Innsbruck- Kate & Andy Hein and Erik Shoji (along with his girlfriend Sydney Yogi)- let me come crash their festivities!

Talking to Kate the night of the 30th about our plans, she noted that her and Syd are running a 5k through the city around 5pm on New Year Eve. Now, I’m no long distance runner, but getting some exercise in before throwing all caution to the wind that evening sounded like a decent idea so I said, “Count me in!” 3 minutes later I thought to myself, “What did I just get myself into.”

Downtown Innsbruck

Downtown Innsbruck

Anyways, I drove down to Innsbruck the morning of the 31st and met up with the Hein’s in the afternoon to do some errand running and grocery shopping for the evening. The race came around awfully quickly! We went into Old Town and met up with another couple we know- recently married Emilie (Stewart) and Stefan Menghin. The 5(.6k I later found out) was one of the COOLEST things I’ve ever done. First of all, I didn’t do half bad and didn’t die. Step 1, complete. But the race really was through the heart of Innsbruck, so we’re running past all the gorgeous buildings and then we run along the lightly lit water, and not to mention there’s mountains with some small, sporadic fireworks all around us. So neat, and something I’m going to remember for a long time.

Pre-race with the crew

Pre-race with the crew

We finished just over 35 minutes not too shabby for people that have not at all prepared for it! And then we proceeded to pop the first bottle of bubbly right away 🙂

We made it!

We made it!

Cheers to 2014!

Cheers to 2014!

We regrouped and began a wonderful feast/celebration at the Hein’s. I made some Skyline dip 😀 we had salad, apples and dip, and awesome homemade pizzas courtesy of Chef Andy. Around 11, we made our way through the crowds towards Old Town and the water for the countdown (we counted quite loudly in English) and watched a nice fireworks show. We then proceeded to have our own dance party away from the big stage and we sure did start 2014 rocking out.

Innsbruck

Innsbruck

Crazy  but fun out on the streets

Crazy but fun out on the streets

I stayed with Erik and Syd and we had a great lazy start to the new year. In fact the highlight of the day was starting a 1000 piece puzzle. Well, the puzzle was second to meeting up with Emilie and Stefan for some delicious coffees and cronuts! (That’s a cross between a croissant and doughnut, and they are unreal scrumptious).

We don't need someone to take the picture for us. Stefan can do it all (check the reflection)

We don’t need someone to take the picture for us. Stefan can do it all (check the reflection)

All in all, NYE 2013 turned out to be a ton of fun and totally exceeded my expectations 🙂 Here’s to a great 2014 filled with exceeding expectations!