“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience. The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Leo Tolstoy
Today is 13th June 2019. Today was meant to be my glorious final day in the saddle. The day when I would cycle my last few miles to the tip of the UK, to John O’Groats, and stand triumphant at the sign for the victory photo. Today was meant to be the culmination of all my months of training, planning and fund-raising. Today was going to see me achieve something I’d dreamed of for years but only now had the time to do.
Instead, I’m into my fifth week of recovery from the dog attack that put all my plans on hold. Yesterday was 4 weeks to the day that I stumbled into A&E clutching my bloody hand, shocking the other calmly waiting patients as I spluttered and wailed for attention. I marked that anniversary with another visit to the physio to check my progress.
My initial optimism and plucky intentions for a quick recovery have been replaced by a grinding monotonous realism that, despite my hourly determined efforts, progress has slowed almost to a standstill. My physio nurse spotted it too. “That looks worse than last week”. She was disappointed. “I’ve been doing my homework! I have witnesses!” I sounded like a scolded schoolgirl and right on cue, my ‘duck quacking’ exercise alarm went off on my phone. “Quaaack! Quaaaack! Quaaaaaaaaack!………Quaaack! Quaaaack! Quaaaaaaaaack!”….. I fumbled to take the phone from deep inside my pocket “See!…thats my exercise alarm.”
She looked at me with a combination of pity and understanding and said “I don’t understand why it’s still so swollen”. She got up to seek advice from a superior and I could hear her talking about me in hushed tones. Call me crazy, but that’s never a good sign is it? Her supervisor came over and took a look. “Ahh yes that was a very nasty injury. Due to the complexity of the surgery, and the fact that the dog had ripped off the sheath that protects the tendon, the tendon has adhered to the scar tissue which is now restricting your movement. I’m afraid this is going to take months, not weeks.”
Months? I don’t have months to wait. While in hospital recovering from the surgery, I had reassured myself by quietly re-arranging my year to do my big Lands End to John O’Groats ride for Yemen, in September. This would give me the summer to recover and write my book, and give me just enough good weather, post holiday season, to ride up country comfortably. This ‘Plan B’ meant training would need to start again in earnest mid July, 8 weeks out from the attack. Simple. But even that now sounded in doubt.
“The splint will come off in two weeks time, right?” I asked, trying to remain optimistic. “Well, 6 weeks is just a marker. We will review in 2 weeks time. But with the broken bone and the swelling as it is and now the adhesion, it’s hard to say yet.” With that, I was sent away to continue the range of motion exercises hourly, plus a massage technique to aggressively target the internal scar tissue, and a silicone compression sleeve to wear overnight.
When I first came home from hospital, I kept expecting to wake up to a miracle each morning. I’d done everything I was told, I’d been a model patient so I should be seeing improvements. I’m learning a tough lesson. That some things just won’t be rushed, and even with the best will and determination, I must trust the process, however long it takes.
I can’t impose arbitrary deadlines on my recovery because my body’s internal healing mechanisms don’t much care about when the roads in the Highlands will be quieter, when the kids go back to school, what the weather is doing, or what else I need to achieve this year.
I just need to be patient and wait…. but as Tolstoy said “not passively”. I need to actively work at my patience, whilst I’m working on breaking down the scar tissue in my finger. This is my new Plan A, B, C and D and I’ll rely on my time and patience warriors to fight alongside me.
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