38 Steps

View of the mountains
View from my my apartment, Rocky Mountains, Boulder County

One evening  I was hosting book club at my place. My friend, Joy, arrives,  wine in hand and a bright smile on her face that can lift the darkest of moods.  While I am acquainted and am friends with many people in this area (thanks to work), I have a handful of close friends. Joy is one of them, and I take her advice seriously.

“I counted your stairs. You have 38 steps to climb. You should consider moving before your surgery,” she advises.

With a big heavy sigh (I find myself doing that a lot lately), I reply, “I know. We need to talk about it.”

Our lease is up January 23, 2014. My surgery in CA is March 6.  Plenty of time to decide. Many conversations occur. Debates, borderline arguments.  The fact is, the rental market is very tight in Boulder County, and was made even tighter due to the Boulder Flood in September and having thousands of people be displaced from their homes.  I live in a suburb about 10 miles east of Boulder.  We moved here in 2011, the 3rd story apartment was brand new, nicest place I have ever lived. Surrounded by open space, my home office where I spend most of my time, has a southern exposure window (read: lots of natural sunlight) and the living room, a west view of the Rocky Mountains.  We have a good deal on rent, considering the location.  We even have a year-round lap pool and a very nice gym, the perfect place to rehab after surgery!

One evening during one of our regular debates about moving, Shawn rebutted, “What you need to do is borrow some crutches and practice the stairs. When I broke my [lower] leg, I climbed 3 flights for 12 weeks on crutches and I was fine…”

Big heavy sigh, “OK, I will try it.” I am beginning to sound like Eeyore from Winnie the Poo.

I pick up some crutches from Joy. Wooden crutches with screws to adjust the height. Little did I know these are a bit antiquated. Upon seeing them, Shawn exclaims, “Oh, these are heavy! Surely the aluminum ones will be lighter. And they have buttons to adjust the height!”  Great, something to look forward to: crutch technology. What has my life come to? I used to be interested about new carbon fiber frames in road bikes or the newest shaped skis that will let me carve in powder, now I am dreaming of the newest Mobileg Ultra crutches for sale on Amazon.

While the wooden crutches lean against the living room wall for a few weeks, we spend time looking at first floor apartments. The one we like is about $400 more a month. Location not as great, and not as sunny. I can’t procrastinate any longer, we need to decide as we had to give 60 days notice if we were not to renew the lease.  I reluctantly try the stairs.

“So you do it like this and then lift your leg up and then repeat. See? Its easy!” Shawn instructs enthusiastically, planting both crutch legs on the step, then gracefully lifting his strong leg. Now, he is very sure-footed. Me: not so much.

“I hear using the railing is easier,” I reply.

“I never did that.  Try it this way first,” he instructs.

I am very hesitant. I have never been on crutches. Grace is certainly not my middle name. In fact, I was teased as a kid, the bullies at school called me “Un-coord” for “Uncoordinated.”  I have also been told I am just “not aware of of my body in space”, hence the klutziness.  Maybe that is why I was so driven athletically, to prove to myself and others that I can be accomplished in physical sport.  It was like a big “F.U.” to the bullies. Anyway, I place the crutch legs on the first step, left leg slightly lifted to simulate the injury. I try to activate my gluteus muscle and hip flexor of my right hip to get my right leg up to the step. I can’t get it to move! WTF? “Move already, dammit, you piece of shit leg!” I am screaming silently at my “good” hip and leg.

“Move the right leg up the step,” I hear.

“I can’t,” I reply.

“What do you mean you can’t? Just do it!”

“I CAN’T!” my eyes well up with tears, my voice quivers.  I cheat a bit by putting the left toe down so that I can get the right leg up. “Let me try the rail.”

I try the rail and that goes better, I can lean a lot of my body weight on the rail.  Apparently my right hip is not that much better than my left hip.  I do about 3 steps. I am incredibly frustrated.  “I am done for now.” By this time, I am crying in the middle of the stairwell, all for my neighbors to hear.

“Ok, you just need to practice,” Shawn says as he follows me back up the stairs.

I bee-line to my office, sit in my chair, bury my hands in my face and sob. And sob. And sob. I haven’t cried like that for several months. “What’s wrong?” Shawn asks.

“Nothing. Everything,” I manage.  It wasn’t so much the stairs. It was realizing my physical limitations. I found myself grieving for my loss of my physical capability.  While this is not a disability that will not last forever, it will be about a solid 18-20 months (1 year on each side, 6 months in between)  before I am “normal” again. And that is if all goes well.

Despite all this, I have a lot going for me. I have a lovely jewelry artist business that allows me to work from home and nourish my creative spirit. I have discovered metal-smithing, the newest love in my life. I have a handful of personal training clients that I still train and it keeps me in touch with the fitness industry. I have another business that I am trying to exit successfully for myself and my investors, and I have a great support network of friends and family to help me see me through this ordeal. And other than what I call “stupid hip dysplasia” (insert Homer Simpson voice) I am otherwise very healthy.

In conclusion, we decided to renew our lease. Any extra money while recovering from surgery will be used for bills.  Me crutch-walking stairs is my newest physical conquest, my new athletic sport. I better get to my training session!

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