How surgery is like marathon training

First, let me share the news that will shape the next two weeks of my life: I am scheduled to get surgery tomorrow to fix my broken wrist. My doctors last Friday said the bones aren’t setting the way they’d hoped, and said if they stuck my arm in a cast and let it heal, my right wrist would likely be a little unstable forever.

Instead, I will come out of surgery with a sort of bionic wrist reinforced with a metal plate and some pins and/or screws. This ensures I won’t be worrying about my wrist every time I fall skiing (notice I did not say snowboarding, as chances are slim I’ll be giving up a ski day for *that* hooey again) or every time I hoist a heavy pack onto my back while camping. Friends who have had similar surgeries tell me this also means I’ll get to be more active sooner than if I’d just gotten a cast.

I will be laid up for at least one week, probably more like two. Until the wound heals, I am absolutely not allowed to sweat, unless I care to risk infection (I don’t). Given how I felt this week, with my poor broken wrist in a splint, I’m not worried about jumping the gun. The idea of running isn’t even remotely appealing when you can feel your broken bone shift a bit when you’re walking across the room.

I’m getting the surgery done at National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda–probably the best place in the world to have an extremity put back together. It’s outpatient surgery, so I should be home and resting comfortably in time for LOST Tuesday night.

It didn’t take me long to start whipping out the marathon metaphors, and the more I think about it, the more it strikes me that, when you train for something as difficult as a marathon, you’re really just practicing for how you’ll get though greater, real-life difficulties. Here’s how recovering from surgery is a little like training for a marathon:

  • It helps to break down the big challenge into manageable chunks. I caught myself thinking about how uncomfortable my cast would get after six weeks. Then, I realized that was like thinking about how rough you’ll feel at mile 20 when you’ve just crossed the starting line. I’m taking this recovery one day and one week at a time, and vowing to take it slow if that’s what my body needs. Again, judging by how rough my first few stationary-bike rides felt on the arm this week, I’m not going to be in any hurry to return to normal activity.
  • I’m amassing my support squad. You know how you learn pretty quickly during marathon training which friends will offer to ride a bike beside you on long runs and which ones will say thing like, “Did you hear about that guy in Chicago who died during the marathon?” Or: “Aren’t you worried you’re going to hit the wall?” I’m surrounding myself with my positive, low-drama friends and family members and mentally blocking out negative ones.
  • I’m getting a little cheesy. I have a whole new set of motivational quotes taped to the fridge, my bathroom mirror, my nightstand. Luckily, I’d gotten comfortable with this flagrant show of earnesty and sincerity during marathon training, so it doesn’t feel *so* cheesy now. If you have a good quote relating to mental toughness, pass it along. Bonus points if the quote is from an injured athlete!
  • I’m not taking myself too seriously. Runners move pretty quickly from abject disappointment over a bad race to laughter and self-deprecation about it. The more I tell the story of the injury, the more I laugh about things that happened, such as the trifecta of things you don’t want to hear in the ER (all of which I heard): “Wow! Can I take a picture of that?” “Do you usually bleed a lot?” “I’m impressed. And I’ve been an ER nurse for 35 years, so it takes a lot to impress me.”
  • I’m going to view food as medicine–except rather than focusing on muscle recovery after a long run, I’m looking at bone and wound healing. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons lays out the basics here, saying that “protein, calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin D are absolutely necessary to heal broken bones.” According to AARP Magazine, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have reported that a higher intake of omega-3s additionally appears to preserve bone density. And the Cleveland Clinic says the body needs increased amounts of calories, protein, vitamins A and C, and zinc during the healing process. It recommends consuming at least 1 serving a day dark green, leafy vegetables, orange or yellow vegetables and orange fruits for vitamin A; and at least 1 serving a day of citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers or spinach for vitamin C–which sort of sounds like what I eat already. Today’s Dietitian also gives some good advice about wound healing, too.

I’m still aiming to post here about once a week. I’ve finally ordered Mac-compatible speech-to-text software to make typing easier, but for now, I’m hunting and pecking.

Send healing thoughts my way tomorrow!


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22 responses to “How surgery is like marathon training

  1. Ron

    Sorry it had to come down to surgery, nice to see you are keeping your spirits up though! oh and good job typing with one hand ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I am sending healing thoughts and hope that all goes smoothly tomorrow! You have a great attitude and that is key in all types of healing!

  3. Alexis

    What a great positive attitude you have towards everything in life!

    Hopefully, the sun will make its return and you peak your head outside and infuse yourself with rays of Vitamin D.

    I don’t have any motivational quotes to contribute, but I’ll be cheering for you & thinking of you.

  4. The best quote I ever heard from a doctor in the hospital was “Hmm…clearly you have high threshold for pain.”

    You’ll get through this with no trouble I’m sure..

  5. trialsoftraining

    I hope the surgery goes well! Leave it to you to come up with an amazing post witha fresh perspective and an enthusiastic attitude ๐Ÿ˜‰ good stuff, Amy! keep us posted! (seriously, there’s talk-to-text software?! AWESOME)

  6. Kim

    I pray your surgery & recovery go smoothly.

  7. OK – no more snowboarding !
    ; )
    If they offer you a nerve block – take it.
    Please let us know how you’re feeling post-op.

  8. Good luck tomorrow! Sending positive thoughts and quick healing vibes your way!

  9. Mark Zimmerman

    Wishing you a speedy recovery!

  10. Cassie

    Get well soon Amy!

  11. swimmykimy

    Amy, I’m so sorry to hear that you are going under the knife! I hope you get well soon ๐Ÿ™‚ sending lots of good recovery vibes your way!!! Consider all of us a part of your support squad

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  14. You are amazing! Screw whining over the injury or the surgery, you’re already focused on motivation and healing. And when you’re able to run or sweat, I bet it’ll be wonderful. Cheers to you, for your beautiful strength of spirit. I’m sure this positive attitude is the same one that helps you finish a marathon.

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