I ran across a blog post recently about lessons learned from wearing a leg cast. Since I recently had surgery on my ankle, and wore a cast for several weeks, I thought I would come up with a list of my own.
So, here are my 9 lessons learned while recovering from surgery:
- Learn how to talk about your health. Keith and I were forced to deal with this early in our relationship. You can read about it on this post about health care. But even for us, as we are getting older, we’re reminded that we have to let go of some of the mystery and start openly talking about all aspects of our health.
- Listen to your doctor. What you do during your recovery impacts the rest of your life. I broke my back when I was 23 years old. And now, thirty years later, I’m happy to say that I do not have any back pain. I attribute that to listening to my doctor. When he told me not to lift anything heavier than a glass of water, I did it. It’s tough, especially when you mentally feel fine.
- Plan ways to make your recovery easier. We don’t always get the benefit of planning surgeries in advance. But when you can, make sure you do. We made meals in advance so Keith didn’t have to initially worry about doing those things. As I progressed in my recovery, I was able to help more.
- Think about how to you will do the necessities of life such as bathing, driving, etc. With my knee scooter, there were rooms in our house I couldn’t get into – like the water closet in our master bath. It’s too small. Or the laundry room. Luckily, I was able to get my knee scooter a couple of days prior to surgery, so I could figure out how I was going to bathe and get around the house.
- Get comfortable asking for help. I consider myself a pretty independent person. So, it’s hard for me to ask for assistance to do things around the house. But I have to. I will say that spending $20 on a basket for my knee scooter was money well spent. I was able to carry my iPad around the house. I also used the water bottles from conferences for drinking so I didn’t have to worry about it spilling as I scoot around.
- Be grateful for little things. And let little things slide. You will be amazed at the little things you can and cannot do when you’re recovering. I was non-weight bearing for several weeks so I couldn’t put my foot on the floor. Trust me when I say, doing everything on one foot isn’t easy. It also means that I needed to let Keith do things that I would normally do, his own way. I will admit (and I’m sure Keith would agree), that’s not as easy as it might seem.
- When you look different, people treat you different. And unfortunately, I don’t always mean that in a good way. I found this to be the case when I was 23 and it’s sad to say that it still holds true today. Don’t’ get me wrong, some people are wonderful and helpful when you interact with them. Others assume that, because you have a physical disability, whether it’s temporary or permanent, that you also have an intellectual disability.
- Thank your caregiver. AND, plan a thank you for your caregiver. Keith jokingly told me that he was “paying it forward” for the time that I will be his caregiver. And I’m sure that’s true. But he still deserves to hear the words “thank you.” AND, I’ve promised that I will take him out for dinner or a little staycation once I’m able to do so.
- Don’t expect to be back to “normal” as soon as the problem area heals. At some point, the doctor will give me the go-ahead to start resuming normal activities. When that moment comes, I need to remember that I will not be ready for Pilates or walking on the treadmill or probably a whole bunch of stuff. Pacing myself will be important. Remember #1 – listen to your doctor and your body.
There’s nothing more important than your health. When you have an illness, surgery or injury, take time to properly rest and heal. In the big picture, a few days/weeks/months of recovery, can make a big difference in the way you feel.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby at the Liberty Hotel in Boston, MA