I’ve decided to do surgery for my leg.
If this was a clickbait post, the title would be something like Shocking Decision You Won’t Believe or She Wouldn’t Give Up Cycling Despite Severe Pain. How Far Will She Go?
Fortunately for all of us, I don’t write this blog for money, I don’t worry about SEO for the site or each post, I don’t track my blog’s Google analytics, and I don’t count visitors. I write for me, and I don’t assume anyone else will read what I put out there.
Now I’ll get to the point: I’ve decided to do surgery for my leg, and I’m doing it at Stanford on November 22. Mom will accompany me.
I didn’t come to this decision easily, and the timing inconveniences a lot of people, most notably Ian and my boss.
When I first started learning about EIAE, Dad and I did research online and found some older articles that made the surgery sound really, really risky and unproven. It seemed like too much risk. Plus, I could keep riding, with some accommodations.
Over the summer, as I trained for the Whistler Gran Fondo, it felt like things boiled over. Yes, I could keep riding, the way that the Little Mermaid in the real story could keep walking: By tolerating the suffering for something I love.
The emotional and mental toll are hard to describe. I know you’re probably thinking, “Why couldn’t she just switch to another sport?” Partly, of course, it’s because lots of other sports involve running, which my leg can’t do so well, either. But also it’s because my heart belongs to cycling.
I’ve never had any other activity that I wanted to do, that I’d willingly sacrifice for, that I’d choose to do even under (by any objective measure) extremely unpleasant circumstances. I love cycling, whether alone or with other people. It’s where I go to be calm, to let go, to find mental peace. It’s more than just exercise. It’s where I find the greatest joy and satisfaction outside of my family.
Having this continual goad of muscle fatigue and, at times, excruciating pain… Yes, I can ride, and if you look at the data and the numbers, you’d reasonably say, “Why would you want to do surgery? You already go plenty fast.” That doesn’t take into account the emotional toll exacted every time. The knowing I’ll be walking that tightrope between manageable discomfort and unmanageable pain; the constant calculus of wanting to try a little harder, but holding back to save my legs so I can finish the ride.
When I first started researching this, I came across a forum where a poster described living with EIAE for 25 years and then having surgery. It literally brought tears of longing to my eyes, wishing I could experience that (without the 25 years of pain. Two and a half years is enough for me).
I don’t think I’m really explaining the experience well, and I don’t know if I can. But I know that when I talked with the surgeons and they offered a safer, more reliable treatment than we’d heard of in our research — when I saw, even if far off, the prospect of living life with two whole, working legs — it felt like this ray of hope shining into my future.
So after months of therapy talking about this, thousands of dollars of diagnostic tests and doctor consultations, hundreds of hours thinking and praying, and dozens of hours getting advice from different people, I’m doing it. It was tough to decide between Dr. Shalhub at the UW and Dr. Lee at Stanford, since they do very similar procedures, but in the end Dr. Lee’s experience tipped the balance. My family and I are moving heaven and earth to get me to Stanford on November 22, and from there it’s in God’s hands.
Impact to Others
Maybe not “heaven and earth” literally, but in our lives, this timing has an enormous impact.
School conferences start on November 21, so school gets out at 12:30 from then though Thanksgiving. I had originally arranged a schedule where my mom and mother-in-law split those days. But with me and my mom gone, we had to do some major reshuffling of the childcare plan. Even the weekend got complicated. My in-laws and my dad have both stepped up to take up some slack, while Ian stares down the prospect of five days of single parenting.
And, of course, it threw a major monkey wrench into our Thanksgiving plan to fly to L.A. That is, now the rest of my family will fly to L.A. and do Thanksgiving with our California relatives while I stay home and… probably watch movies. Maybe go for a gentle walk. Eat… something, but I can guarantee it won’t be turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, and pie. Maybe I’ll Skype with them a bit.
So that’s a huge effort. Then, of course, there’s work.
At work, we have a release on December 12, and the next few weeks are critical, prime writing time. We actually have a substantial new feature coming out, and it’s not actually done yet. So I’m trying to write as much as I can, but that’s tough since I’m using my imagination and what PM, QA, and developers describe as intended functionality, plus whatever working features I can cobble together.
When I leave, my coworker will have to take over for some unknown period of time while I recover. She seems calm, but my boss is making up for it. He’s reasonably concerned that it’s very difficult to take over for someone, especially at this point in the game. He gave us a plan for dealing with it, and my coworker and I are communicating. We’ll all do the best we can.
And, honestly, I may be back to work sooner than we think, although I’m making no promises at work. The doctor’s office said I could take two weeks off if I wanted, but that I could go back whenever I felt ready. It sounds like pain will determine when I resume working, not concern for the arterial patch healing. I don’t know how bad the pain will be, but I’ve had a kid naturally with no anesthetic. And I’ve gotten a tattoo. And I’ve had a really bad cardboard paper cut. We’ll see where this surgery falls in that pain range.
So that’s that. It’s on, and I don’t have to wait and second-guess my choices for long. Next Thursday we fly down and start the pre-op appointments.
Keep me in your prayers.