Leaving the Door Open to Possibility

When I had my knee infection and revision surgery about 10 years ago, I told everyone my goal for recovery: to stand and walk. It was my fifth joint replacement, as I had my hips and knees replaced when I was a teenager.

No one expressed doubts about my goals to my face, but I could sense them anyway. I chose not to doubt, but to leave the door open to possibility.

Sometimes it's more a window than a door

The recovery from the multiple replacement surgeries I had as a teenager turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated. I had complications and needed an extra surgery to remove scar tissue from my knees, with the hope this would help my motion improve. I worked relentlessly for months to gain strength. While the motion in my hips was improved, my knees were fairly stuck.

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So, when I relearned how to stand and walk in my teens, it was a huge accomplishment. We weren’t sure what would happen, what my body could achieve, how it would adapt. My motion is like no one else's. I have to throw myself up to stand and lurch to walk. But I do it!

When doubt resurfaces

When my knee became infected, I had no choice but to endeavor again. I remember a physical therapist saying they weren’t sure I would stand and walk. And I just replied: I will. I knew that I would keep fighting until I did it because it was my goal. Once I had decided, it would happen.

Now I’m a few months into recovery after a reverse shoulder replacement, and the question has come up: what will my body be able to do? My surgeon and PT are great — they tell me, "We just don’t know, but we’ll keep working on it." I love this answer. I love that they aren’t giving me false promises, but also aren’t discouraging me. They are willing to be on this journey with me and to support me as I continue to work. That is literally all I could ever wish for from my medical team.

Uncertainty also means unlimited opportunity

I don’t know what my shoulder will be able to do. In many ways, it is already doing so much more than before — more than I imagined in certain movements. I can turn my hand out, I can push down without feeling it give way. Perhaps the best thing is just not being in constant pain from that poor old crumbling shoulder I had before.

Every day I work on my exercises and I imagine my goals. I imagine the feeling of lifting my arm straight overhead and then across my body. For most people, these are simple, thoughtless, effortless motions. I see others do them multiple times a day. But I am imagining me; I’m feeling the sensation, the air, the effort of my muscles. And while it is a dream now, it feels possible.

Unlearning doubt and persisting

Outside voices, doubting voices sometimes creep into my brain. I remember the naysayers of surgeries past, the nonbelievers. I think about how many people underestimated my grit and tenacity, that once I decide my mind I never give up. It’s a combination of persisting through the negativity and opening to the unknown. I don’t know the outcome, yet I keep working toward the unknown and achieving the goals my heart and mind has set.

Inch by inch, my motion has improved. I feel the strength returning, I can see the muscles working. I keep thinking I will leave the door open to possibility, to what many would think is impossible for my body. After all, I have achieved the improbable, the impossible several times before. What’s once more?

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