I can’t believe I made it. To my last physical therapy appointment, I mean. Sure, it’s the end of 2023 as I write this. However, I’m blown away by how far I’ve come in one year with my health.
This time last year — New Year’s Eve to be precise — I was stuck on the toilet with my knee popped out. Gross on multiple levels. Sorry. Did I mention I was also nine months pregnant? Just after my young family’s first bout of COVID-19. Also, after we all had respiratory syncytial virus a few weeks prior. The hits just kept on coming.
Let me rewind some more.
Before I became pregnant, I tweaked my knee while picking up shoes following a game of “shoe shop” with my two older daughters. I blame it on an old lacrosse injury. Numerous episodes where my knee popped out ensued. Helpless, I’d wait for it to painfully work its way back in place. I don’t say this lightly: it’s some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. It would happen while picking up toddler toy tornados or even when I simply stretched. I had a ticking time bomb in my knee ready to go off at any time.
I was terrified of being unable to care for my two young daughters, or the stress it may cause to my unborn daughter. Thankfully, the knee episodes didn’t bring harm to any of my three daughters.
Six months after my youngest daughter was born, I finally went in for a scope surgery. I was undergoing my fourth knee surgery (two previous ACL repairs and one meniscus cleanup). I had a nagging feeling during the 5:00am drive to the hospital that was warranted. The scope did not go as planned. Everyone — including the doctor — hoped and thought it would be a simple cleanup, similar to my other meniscus surgery. I was back on my feet a few days after that one. But this time, the MRI was hiding a bucket handle meniscus tear. This recovery would be the worst at a time when I was needed most.
On my previous three surgeries, I had the benefit of getting to push myself. I was off crutches faster than most, and I was back to my normal routine quickly. This time was the opposite. No matter the time or effort I put in, I’d have to let my body heal. My doctors kept asking if I was trying to rush to get back for a marathon. Nope. Just the marathon of motherhood.
It was a Benjamin Button-type healing experience. A 36-year-old woman trapped in what felt like a 90-year-old’s body. At least that’s how I was treated. I wasn’t allowed to bear weight for six long weeks. I spent most of the summer in bed or on the couch. When I was finally able to bear weight, I had a limp for weeks. Luckily, the Benjamin Button experience took place as I progressed, younger and younger physically each passing week and month.
Pardon the TMI (too much information), but I promise I have a point beyond the fact that this was an extremely difficult year for my family and me. My favorite college professor said, “You’re never stronger than when you’re weakest.” I believe this wholeheartedly to be true.
Anyone suffering or struggling, I encourage you to hang in there. It might not seem like it, but brighter days are ahead. When the clouds finally part, you may experience and appreciate happiness unlike ever before. At least that’s the case for me.
Following this experience, my perspective shifted from “what I have to do” to “what I get to do.” Those three words “I get to” are everything. Carrying my baby, changing diapers, school pickup, the list goes on. Previously, it was easy to feel overwhelmed by the nonstop duties. After many helpless months, not anymore.
In the words of Sir Elton Hercules John and one of my favorite songs, “I’m still standing.” In fact, after nearly two years, I’m finally running again. Putting one foot in front of the other literally and metaphorically. And, who knows? A marathon might be in my future. On second thought? No marathon for me.
Lauren Burke Meyer is a Severna Park native who was inspired to write Lauren’s Law as a humorous play on the well-known Murphy’s Law adage: “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”
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