Having been in a non-weight bearing leg cast for almost six weeks, I have some advice for you, my dear, precious, wounded friend. First of all, I feel your pain, I know your misery, and I understand everything that you are going through. Hang on sister, let me help you through it, okay?
I have compiled ten tips to help you manage this treacherous road a bit easier. There will be nuggets of skills you will acquire that I won’t mention here, because you will naturally learn what’s best for you. I could tell you that you will spend more time on the floor than a crawling baby. I could tell you to not reach for things too far and that the walls and doorknobs will be your best friends. I could go on and on about the very details of those moments, but you will soon find those things out on your own. These tips are about managing the big stuff that all those little things create. Allow me to lead you through this tiring trail, with hopes to help and inspire you to make it through.
1. There is no hurry, no longer.
Oh sweetie, long gone are the days when you would jump out of bed and make it to the bathroom to relinquish that everlovin’ urine that had been storing all night to wake you. You will find new meaning in the “Let It Go” anthem that still rings around the world. Running late? You can do NOTHING about it. Nothing. Pace yourself, or you will fall. Promise. Those days before your cast, that fast paced life you lived? Gone baby. “Let. It. Go.” You must be very deliberate with your moves, and pace yourself through each attempt at getting somewhere- anywhere. Slow and steady hun. SLOW and STEADY.
2. Crutches or Scooter?
I am blessed with both, but have learned very quickly on, that the crutches will mangle your arms and shoulders to no return. Did you know how hard it is to balance on those things? It’s amazing how much stuff lives on the ground of this world. Steering clear of it all, and navigating the glorious unpredictable wavering levels of turf, leaves you constantly on alert. Do not. I REPEAT do NOT try to go down or up stairs! Simply drop to the floor (like that’s easy?) and scoot up or down those forbidden steps. Your crutches come in handy, yes. But they can wreak havoc if you need to go far, and cause even more pain than you are already in, so use them sparingly.
The scooter is a blessing from God. It will save your arms, but kill your knee. Using a scooter is a bit like a bumper car running with one leg. Actually, it’s EXACTLY like that. It saves your arms, but it eats at your working leg little by little as you push and pull and steer over and over again to make a turn, then lift and twist around to go a different direction. As for the resting knee, make sure you put padding on the seat. The weight on your knee should at least have a soft landing.
Be well aware of your working leg. With all the hopping and straining and bending, it can only take so much, and you have a long time to depend on it. I will warn you; this poor over-used leg will be in more pain than your casted leg after weeks of compromise. Try to rest your healthy leg just as much as your wounded leg. Before too long, you can anticipate struggling to use them both.
3. Patience owns you.
Yes, you may have thought you were a patient person before this lovely cast prison, but oh no sweet soldier… you are in for a new peeling of layers upon layers of control that will beg and plead for mercy. This is a New Patience: A torturing type that does NOT relent. It will beat you down until you surrender, thereby giving in to any tantrum brewing or screams stifled inside. Don’t try to fight this beast. The battle has already been won. Surrender. You have no choice.
Each day, every hour and precious minute, you must relinquish time, duties, expectations, desires, needs, and daily rituals- you will slowly die to patience. It will take you. Breathe through each moment you sacrifice to the pain, the limitations, and the dire need for more than what you have and what you can do. Exhale the anxiety of dirty dishes and laundry piles and the smelly clothes you may ferment in for days. Allow yourself to inhale the burning dinner and muffle the screams and whines of children as you relinquish all power over your world. Don’t worry, it gets easier to give in. You become weaker with every fight.
4. Don’t wait to pee or eat.
Seriously. Just don’t. Remember the first tip. You just can’t hurry at ALL. So if you wait- You WILL pay for it. On that note, don’t wait until you are starving to head to the kitchen to get something to eat. Just don’t. Your rule of life is this: Everything you do, will take a total of 20-30 minutes. If you wait for these two life-saving missions, you will surely fail or die. Don’t test it. You’d be a fool to, like me. When “Hurry” stepped out, “Patience” crawled in. Learn fast this sacred rule. Honor it. And your bladder and stomach will thank you.
5. Bathing is a necessary heavenly hell.
Stripping your murky clothes off and tying a garbage bag around your leg and hoisting yourself into the bath is not for the weak, especially after you have pulled yourself up the stairs step by step and crawled your way to the bathroom. You will surely need a helper with this task. You will have to hang your leg outside of the tub, and after you balance your body in the tub while scooting this way and that- you will undoubtedly start to feel it in your back/hip/leg/neck. It’s not natural to sit like that!
Bear through it, to feel the hot water on your face and the dirt sliding off of your skin. Allow that heat to penetrate your sore muscles, before you have to hoist your body out of the bath and go about the feat of drying and dressing on one leg. It’s a work out. But the soothing water and soapy cleanse is sure to invigorate you enough to get you back down the stairs one step at a time and hop on your scooter to steer toward your couch home.
6. Healing hurts.
No matter how you ended up in your cast, I’m guessing you have a mighty fine mess underneath it. Broken bones, torn ligaments, scrapped joints, twisted tendons… you name it. PAIN. And healing. Is. Painful. Those jolts that shake you awake, the thundering aches that never let up, the twinges that erupt randomly and zings of electricity that zap your nerves over and over again are healing signs. Then there is the added fiery blaze underneath the cast and the liquid acid that melts your skin, sensations that are all NORMAL. Take meds. Breathe. Hold on. Healing hurts.
7. It gets old.
This pain thing, this hopping and scooting and pulling and hoisting and no hurrying and patience thing gets old. Very old. After the first day. But after 40 days, it gets very, very old. Somewhere this existence starts to weigh on you and the gravity of the burden gets heavier and your mind starts to become vulnerable. It’s usually the pain that does it… but sometimes the very act of being ‘stuck’ strips you of all that you are and beckons you to that slippery bridge toward despair. DON’T GO! This is when you need to use all the strength you’ve got to hold on and find your HAPPY PLACE within. What brings you joy? Find beauty in this mess. It’s there- FIND IT. Despair does no good. If you need to let it out, by all means cry, swear and then pray. Go there. But only for a short time. No use in staying there. The one thing you DO have control over is your mind, and that dictates your heart. Those two things are so much more important than your physical body. Don’t ever forget that.
8. Dive into your loves, somehow.
Although you are in a captive state, you still can choose to embrace those things that are within your reach. Drench yourself in them. Are you crafty? Artsy? An avid reader? Writer? Movie critic? TV junkie? Prayer warrior? Meditation guru? Knitter? Work from home if you need to, it will be a fantastic distraction to the pain. Do SOMETHING. The moment you stop and focus on every detail of your pain, the downfall begins. Have an agenda everyday that is reasonable, and then pour your heart into it. Make this time count for something! Give it purpose.
9. Receive receive receive…
Are you a giver? Not very comfortable with people serving you and lavishing you with their time and effort, are you? You are a woman, which means you do it all. ALL. Well sister, that is gonna change. This time you will be doing very very little. If someone offers you anything, say “Oh yes, thank you so very much!” It is my prayer that you have a community around you that is willing and ready to take on caring for you and your family. If people reach out to help, you simply must allow them to do this. It feels wrong to you, because you think of so many others that so desperately need help more than you do. You feel guilty that they are interrupting their lives for the sake of serving you. Let it go. Be comforted in the caring. Your family is struggling just as much as you, because they are unable to fill your role and that leaves them stressed and exhausted. This is a new level of living, my dear broken friend. Acceptance is key. If someone asks “What can I do for you?” Pick one thing, and tell them. It’s one less thing your family has to do. Be grateful for any help you can get. Your friends are a blessing you cannot deny. Be grateful you have them.
10. Reality check yourself constantly.
This is hard. Every day, you wake up to more pain and patience in new and resounding ways. Each day, while your wounded leg slowly eases it’s furry, the rest of your body has taken the hit. It’s okay to hate it, be angry and start your day with fitful tears. It’s okay to wrestle with why the hell your wrists are so bruised and yell at your working leg to WORK. It’s okay to throw out pleas for mercy and feel the defeat of the long fought battle.
There has not been a day that I don’t thank my Heavenly Father for my two legs. This business of living on one leg? Countless warriors spend their entire LIVES like this. I think about it all the time. I suggest you do too. It changes things. While you might be slipping off into the depths of despair, adjust your lens and change your perspective. This season of struggling is just that. It is not a lifetime sentence. Can you imagine?
Oh my friend, as sure as time flies, this agonizingly slow season will be a fast faded memory. A ‘remember when’ on the timeline of your life. It will speak to your character and reveal a new-found strength. Both of which will be invaluable tools to plunge deeper into gratitude and living. Remind yourself often, of this very truth. Think of those who rise to the call of a life like this one you are living. Realize how blessed you truly are.
*****For more encouragement with post-surgery life, you can read these additional posts*****