I try to tell the negative committee that is meeting in my head to sit down and shut up. But they are noisy, loud and insistent with their demands. I try to pipe them down with positivity but I have only been awake a few minutes and already I know that today is going to be tough.
Like a backpack filled with lead I feel weighed down with anxiety and frustration. Not even Carly Rae Jepsen and my usual pep-up tunes are lifting my spirits.
I’m so tempted just to lay on my bed. It seems like the easiest option today. I don’t think I have the strength to face Chris and the others today. I don’t have the energy to put on a brave face, fasten a smile and pretend that everything is ok. Not today.
But laying on my bed, wallowing, indulging in self-pity, this is not how I do things.
Sometimes it’s ok if all you achieve in a day is to breathe. Today is one of those days.
I choose my best smile, push down the negativity and get my butt down to the gym.
I am doing my upmost to mask that today is tough. It is a struggle but no one seems the wiser.
Not Chris. He is one of the most intuitive people I have ever encountered and sees right through my façade. My mask might have fooled the others but not him.
He has joked before that he can read me like a book. I’m starting to think he really can.
Often it seems like he can see my mind ticking over, he can sense when I am thinking about attempting something I shouldn’t and sees straight through any efforts I make to hide my try thoughts and feelings. His future kids will never be able to get away with anything they are not supposed to. Good luck trying to lie to him or sneak out without him knowing about it.
I confess my anxieties about life back home. We talk through the practicalities and I admit my fears about work.
“I think I am afraid to leave here,” I confess in a quiet voice. Who would have thought I would be nervous to return to the life I was so hesitant to leave.
He tells me this is common for many of the patients here. Rehab, daily gym sessions, it’s a safe environment. Like a bubble really.
He doesn’t want me to give up any of my work.
“I want you to return to as much normalcy as you can,” he tells me.
We discuss talking to work about having flexible hours. Maybe starting later three days a week so I can do my physio appointments and then work through till later.
I just wish I had of known just how huge, long and intensive this process was going to be from the beginning. I still would have done it in an instant but I would have just been better prepared. I guess I will just have to adjust my expectations.
But it’s not my expectations I am most concerned about.
“I’m worried about not living up to my friends and everyone’s expectations,” I say biting my lip.
“I’m anxious about going home on crutches, returning less capable than I left.”
I also haven’t been wearing the leg all day as I can only really tolerate an hour or so with it on at a time. What will that mean for work? I will have to take it off for periods of the day and this terrifies me.
Prior to this surgery I never left the house without my leg. I never even took it off at home in front of my flatmates. Apart from my swimming days there are probably only a handful of my friends who have seen me without my leg on.
To suddenly be so public and visible about it all feels akin to standing on the edge of a cliff and being asked to jump off into a roaring surf below.
He listens thoughtfully and tells me not to worry so much about what people think. I am doing this for me, no one else.
“Let go of what they think and focus on yourself, you’ll be so much happier,” he says wisely.
It’s not until later I realize just how much time I have wasted in my life worrying about what people think.
Since this surgery, with this blog, me being more open and honest, everyone knows about my leg. There is no hiding it now. And really there is no need to hide it; it is a part of me after all.
Sure I am different but my friends, my colleagues, my family, they don’t love me for my body. I am so much more than my body.
And if people find it weird or gross or unsettling then that is their problem.
Yes I have one leg but so what? I’ve just had this amazing surgery and changed my life. I’m not about to let what other people think get in the way of achieving my dreams and living the life I want.
And again Chris is right, sure I want to impress them with my transformation but it is going to be slow to reach my goals. But I don’t have to do it to meet anybody else’s timeframe. It is my journey and I will get there in my time. And when I do, you had better watch out, there will be stopping me.
It strikes me that this whole learning to walk business is quite like the process of losing weight. It took me a year to reach my weight loss and fitness goals but it wasn’t a year of constant struggle and desperation to reach the destination. It was enjoyable along the way and full of triumphs reaching each small goals and there were plenty of other great things happening in my life at the same time. Walking and adjusting to life with this cyborg leg will be similar.
And like I said at the beginning of this journey, I believe that everything happens for a reason and today it strikes me just how true this is.
Had my surgery not been delayed in the first place I wouldn’t have been in the hospital at the same time as Ali, Dan and Jaime. I wouldn’t have met my fellow cyborgs. Then if my visit to rehab hadn’t been delayed due to my bone needing more time to strengthen then I wouldn’t have been in here with both of them and they have been of invaluable support during my time here.
On top of that, if my surgery hadn’t of been delayed and at the original hospital that was planned I would have completed my rehab at a different centre and I wouldn’t have worked with Chris. And I really don’t think I would have been as successful or have made so many revelations about myself if this was the case.
At times things seem frustrating but you just have to trust in the process. It will all work out. There is a reason why my progress is slow. I just have to trust.
Later that day a nurse stops by my room to take my blood pressure and tells me she feels sorry for me.
I am confused. Because of my leg?
Oh hunny, don’t feel sorry for me. I have just had a day of revelations and I’m about to head off to live the life I have always envisaged.
Stefan is back for take two of fitting my new knee. I am excited to get my chance on the fancy laser machine.
It is tight fit to get the leg on and I worry about getting it off but I soon forget in the excitement of walking.
Walking up and down the corridor both Stefan and Chris seem very happy with the progress I have made. Looking back at the videos from last Friday and earlier in the week I can see the difference. I feel triumphant. Progress at last! You don’t notice it each session or day after day but looking back I can really see the change and the improvement.
But then disaster strikes.
Back in my room after the session I unscrew the bolt with the allen key and attempt to pull the leg off.
It won’t budge. It is stuck. I pull and pull but it is no use.
With a pounding heart I head back to the physio room.
Chris is surprised to see me again so soon.
“Umm I have a little problem,” I say tentatively.
“I can’t take it off.”
He gets me to lay on the bed and he puts his full force into trying to pull it off. I can see the muscles in his arm straining but it is no use.
There is not a slither of movement.
Oh god. I am a permanent cyborg.
I have to keep it on for the rest of the day. Sitting in a chair is uncomfortable after a while with the weight of the leg pulling on the bone. My leg is aching.
Chris has a plan to get the leg off. Armed with a screwdriver he fiddles with some of the bolts and manages to prise the leg off.
Once it is off he fixes me with a grave look.
“I know this is the last thing you want to hear but I think we need to put it back on so we can see if we can get it off again.”
I nod reluctantly.
Putting it back on again slams the metal against my implant and sends a searing shot of pain up my bone. It’s a sledge hammer to the bone.
“Fuuuuuck,” I scream.
“Sorry about that language,” I apologies to Chris as I try not to pass out.
I feel faint and light headed and I have to lie down for a second.
Chris calls Stefan who talks to Dr Al Muderis.
He returns to deliver the bad news.
“It’s the wrong size part. This hasn’t happened before. The surgeon will have to come out and change it.”
I gulp. This explains why the stump loaders originally didn’t fit.
I am a faulty cyborg.
Since I can’t get the leg on and off without a side of searing pain I am not to wear the leg until my part is fixed.
Of course this had to happen on Friday afternoon ahead of a long weekend.
I worry about missing too many sessions on the weekend.
But luckily Dr Al Muderis will be out at some stage tomorrow to fix it.
Chris tells me to try and not be angry or frustrated.
Surprisingly I am not. While it is annoying this whole process has been filled with hiccups. I can’t help but laugh. It’s funny really.
Of course I would be the one to be a faulty cyborg.
Chris is going away for four days and he sternly tells me he doesn’t want to return next week to find I overdid it and was 10 out of 10 in pain and then rubbish when he gets back.
I promise to go easy.
He tells me I can go crazy with the weights, the sit-ups, whatever else I want as long as I go easy with the leg. This is a first.
Since he will be away he has organized for a cardio session in the other gym with Nicole. He looks after me.
Later I plug in the USB he has given me with a few more episodes of the shows I had been watching. I laugh with excitement when I discover he has surprised me with a couple of episodes of shows I had mentioned I was dying to see.
Who knew there were people this good in the world?