The days after walking the Illinois Marathon 10k reminded me that I may have pushed myself too hard and needed to back off until my body recovered. I continued to walk and go to physical therapy although my energy levels that week were not at their best and leg soreness forced me to cut back on the distance I was walking. In physical therapy the main focus was regaining strength and flexibility in my right leg/foot and working on my balance, which like my walking were not that great the week after the race. In just thirty days (Not that I was counting) I would out find out if my spine was healing and starting to fuse giving me a better idea on when running would become a reality. My improvements that month were not dramatic, but even a slight weight increase in my legs extensions (2 lbs to 5 lbs woohoo!) I took as a victory although knowing I still had a long way to go. When the day of my six month follow-up appointment finally came with Dr. Harms, I had to go in early to have an X-ray taken of my back before the appointment. (Too bad I don’t get frequent flyers miles for all the X-rays and MRI’s I’ve had in the last twelve months.) While sitting in the waiting room after the X-ray I couldn’t help but notice the other patients getting X-rays and waiting for the results. Some walked with limps and others moved a little smoother and I appeared to be the youngest of the group there that day. When my name was finally called I was taken to one of Dr. Harms offices decorated with Star Wars collectibles from floor to ceiling.
While waiting I thought about what I had been through in the past six months and soon I would find out how my fusion was healing and when I would be released to start running again and I even started counting how many Star Wars characters were on the wall. I guess we will never know the number because a few minutes later Dr. Harms entered the room. He asked me how things were going and went over my records and then pulled up my X-ray’s on the computer to show me the results.
He informed me that the fusion was healing well with the donor bone starting to grow together and the rods and screws were still nice and solid. I was also told that I only needed to wear the brace for strenuous activities for the next three weeks and I could start to add a little running to my routine but to be very gradual and listen to my body. Before I left I was asked to answer a few questions on a post-op six month survey and when I was finished I was given a spine institute travel coffee mug which I have renamed “The $80,000 coffee mug”, the amount that my surgery has cost so far.
The next day I was back at physical therapy and could start adding core strength exercises to my routine. I discussed with my PT. Heather that Dr.Harms had released me to start running again and she suggested I wait until my core, leg and foot strength improves which I agreed was probably a good idea. After three more weeks of PT including more difficult exercises, Heather brought up the idea of having me run that weekend and doing 4 x 30 sec runs with 5 min of walking between each run. That weekend I would be traveling to Colorado Springs, Colorado visiting family which meant I would be doing my first run in almost sixteen months at an Elevation of 6,035 feet above sea level. I would also be attempting to walk up the incline at Pikes Peak with the restrictions that I would have to wear my brace, use hiking poles and only go half way up.
To be continued……..