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 … 😀
Wish us luck for Wednesday as we’ll be playing to move onto the Finals!
So having surgery is not something I was hoping for, BUT it did allow for one of my prayers to be answered: to attend my Aunt Diane’s wedding.
Ever since she set her wedding date last year for this March, I have been hoping and wishing and praying (cue music!) that I would be able to attend. Missing those amazing family occasions are kind of part of the job description for athletes overseas, so I knew my chances of going would be slim. As the season went, there was an outside chance that the weekend would be free and I was prepped and ready to pull a crazy 2 1/2 day whirlwind to be there.
But, somebody had other plans. Shortly after my injury and getting my surgery date we realized that the wedding was very possible now! I was planning a minimum 4 week rehab with the National Team, longer if my knee needed more time. I am still shocked that even though it required surgery, I somehow got to go to this wedding. It was seriously meant to be.
Anyways, it was the most amazing time. I ADORE my extended family, and I don’t get to see them nearly enough, so I cherish every moment I get with them. They also seem to be getting cooler every occasion, which ROCKS. (No pressure for next time, everyone).
My Aunt Di officially married my now Uncle Jay and being a part of that made my heart so happy. I have been looking up to Di for basically my entire life. Besides my hopefully future wedding (still single, boys!) this is one of the weddings I have been been most excited for. Ever since I understood weddings I planned to be Di’s Flower Girl. As I hit my teens, I realized I needed to set my sights on bridal party. Mission accomplished.
There were no speeches given at the ceremony, we were all too focused on dancing and laughing and drinking, but I had thought a lot about getting to this wedding because I really love Diane, and since I didn’t share this potential speech there, I thought I’d share it here.
Di, believe it or not, I’ve been looking up to you my entire life- wanting to be like you, wanting to be your best friend. You’re the closest thing to a big sister I’ll ever have and somehow, even being the annoying clingy 12 year younger niece, you showed me nothing but love and laughter and fun. You made me want to be athletic. You made me want to laugh. You made me want to play video games. But you never MADE me want to do anything. Just by being around you made me want to be around you more- because of the love and fun you share with everyone you’re around.
So it’s no surprise that you have so many people here to celebrate with you. It’s no surprise to me that this awesome guy Jay wants to spend the rest of his life with you. And it’s no surprise that he is nearly as funny as you are, adores his family, knows how to party, but has that same infectious fun about him and huge amount of love to share.
I, like the rest of this crowd, am so excited and happy for the two of you and your future together. There undoubtedly will continue to be so much love, fun and laughs from the Sicker’s and that everyone will still be dying to be a part of it. Cheers to you Mr. & Mrs. Jay Sicker!
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.
Seeing the views from the tippy top of Germany was absolutely worth the drive.
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:
Also, 3 flights of stairs at 8,000+ feet will REALLY remind you of what kind of shape you’re in. Woof.
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 🙂
August 2013? Did you exist?
It did, apparently, but it was a whirlwind of volley and traveling! Let me explain. Throughout August we played in a tournament called the World Grand Prix. It’s a 4-5 week marathon tournament where 20 teams are going at it.
The first 3 weeks are each spent in a different country with pools of 4 teams. 12 matches later, the top 6 teams overall qualify for Finals week. So Team USA spent Week 1 in Brazil, Week 2 in Serbia, and Week 3 in Japan. We did well enough to qualify for Finals week so, we had a week ‘off’ (staying in Japan) before heading to a different Japanese city- Sapporo- for the last 5 back-to-back (-to-back-to-back-to-back) matches.
We left for Brazil on July 29 and the team didn’t get back to America until Sept 2!!!
Now you see why August seemed to not exist 🙂
Regardless of the crazy travel schedule, it was a great trip and a really neat experience. I have never been on the road for so long (I actually got to come home for Week 2 while the team went to Serbia) nor have I experienced so much international competition. We were playing against some of the BEST teams in the World- ourselves included.
We ended up finishing 6th overall, not doing as well in Finals week as we had hoped, but the learning that went on for us as a team, as individuals, as people, and as athletes I think was invaluable. We came home with some losses, but a lot of wins; a ton of laughs, as well as some heartbreak; life lessons and memories that will impact us for probably the rest of our lives.
All I know is that this trip was awesome from top to bottom. I am counting my lucky stars for such an opportunity. Battling alongside this group of athletes and with our staff is one of the coolest opportunities ever. We’ve got big goals, a big heart, and big things to come! Stay tuned 🙂