The Truth About Recovery

Very often, people ask me if I’ve recovered from my injuries. Just as often, I am genuinely stumped, clueless about how to answer. It’s a question that, unbeknownst to them, but so clearly to me, is plump with meaning.

Like last night, for example, when Frank (an avid running Pack-man) did the asking, catching me unaware, an expectant look in his eye. In an instant, an explosion of answers swarmed through my mind. I finally just said, well I’m working on it as you can see. But what I really wanted to ask him was: what do you really want to know?

Photo: Jose Maria Mellado / Getty Images

If you want to know whether my body is the same that it was pre-accident, then my answer is no; I’ve not yet recovered, and I may never. My spine, back, sacrum, buttocks, pelvis, pubis, left leg, foot and other body parts may never revert back to their original condition. I may never run or dragon-boat race again; and I may never sit or cycle as comfortably as I once did. The toes of my left foot might never curl and flex like they used to, the way that those on my right foot still do. I might always feel pain and tingling up and down my left arm. Regrettably, I might never regain sensation on the left side of my pubic area and part of my tush – which is really disorienting when you know that someone is touching you (darnit!) but you just cannot feel it. And I just might still have to deal with a twinge of anxiety – daytime or night – about falling and deal with other, possibly irrational, fears.

Is recovery in the eye of the beholder? Or is it best described through the eyes and experience of the recoveree?

If recovery entails adjusting to a new normal, where I can walk and swim, drive (briefly) and write, draw, dance a bit (aka the shuffle) and swing my arms from side to side, then I’ll say yes to that. If it means accepting, for now, that the specter and spectrum of pain lingers – shooting, stabbing, tingling, and other variants – then (dammit! but) so be it. If I badly need to lie down or stand up when I’d rather do otherwise, then that’s just my tough luck. My left leg might (or might not) in time, ‘grow’ back to its original length; my sacrum might (or might not) realign itself more closely to how it was before. Where my body leads, I will follow.

From that perspective, then, I’ve fully recovered. In fact, when I reach the summit, I’ll throw you a ball made of titanium (lighter to carry!) with the word YES! etched all over it. Deep inside, I’m convinced that I’ve recovered (or nearly so), because, despite the hurdles and pain, I can once again achieve nearly everything that I did before. And if not now, then soon… yes, really really soon.

Thankfully, I’m done with recovery per se. Or it is done with me. I now gauge everything according to my new normal. Life has handed me a newfangled measuring stick, the lines charitably spaced out a bit more widely. So, without trying to injure myself further, I will get on with it, trying to beat those marks and outdo myself every chance I get.

As for healing, well that is a completely different story…


  1. Yes, that’s the truth about recovery… sometimes we find ourselves in a new reincarnation, and have to learn to accept that new place in the world… and all that goes with it. That doesn’t mean not to hope for better days. But accepting our lives as they are is a very important part of recovery.

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