A Five Inch Scar and a Thankful Heart

On May 8, 2013, I journaled my pre-surgery thoughts. Anxious. Weird that this is the last time my knee will ever look like this. Nervous. Feeling sick to my stomach. Anticipation-- of a new hospital, unfamiliar place and people, having to stay overnight. Afraid. Alone. Overwhelmed by another road to recovery ahead.

It was the night before my fourth knee surgery in four years. This one was a biggie-- they were cutting my knee all the way open and doing a whole new technique that would require weeks of no mobility, crutches, physical therapy, pain.

My journal entry included a passage from that day's reading in Jesus Calling"Begin each day anticipating problems, asking me to equip you for whatever difficulties you will encounter. The best equipping is My living Presence, My hand that never lets go of Yours.  Discuss everything with Me. Take a lighthearted view of trouble, seeing it all as a challenge that you and I together panhandle. Remember that I am on your side and I have overcome the world."

I had the big surgery. I had a rough, drugged up, uncomfortable night in the hospital. I couldn't move, couldn't get up to go to the bathroom (major shout out to my parents for helping me with that whole deal...not a pretty sight). It was a tangible kind of scary, it was agonizing, it was identity-stripping. Everything became a monstrous chore. Just trying to sit up when my leg was trapped in three kinds of machines and strapped down and locked in a metal brace from hip to ankle was nearly impossible and enough to bring me to tears. The medicines made me sick like they always did, so the doctors resorted to prescribing me high doses of Ibuprofen that never came close to dulling the pain. I felt everything. I could do nothing. I was stuck in a body that didn't work right, and all I wanted to do was crawl out of my own skin and run (literally run) away from it all.

It took me weeks before this whole upright, standing, crutching around thing happened.

One week post-surgery, my journal said this: Thankful. Encouraged. Proud of the progress I've made. So grateful for Mom and all of her constant and selfless love and serving me. Feeling confident. Ready to start PT and start moving. Stoked I can sort of shower now! 

Seeing my knee unwrapped and naked for the first time since my surgery made me giddy. I couldn't wait to see the scar, see the proof of what had really happened, see what it looked like. Swollen, covered in iodine dye, a long and oozing scar held together by what looked like floss, but it was so exciting to me.

Two weeks later, a page is just full of big, bold words. Thankful. Sustained. Restored. Filled. Created. Hopeful. Confident.

That transformation still blows my mind. I've never seen a clearer picture of feeling dead to coming alive, feeling destroyed and counted out to hope and confidence. At my absolute lowest, what I felt was thankfulness. In the midst of the most agonizing pain, I felt sustained.

May 25, 2013: Abba, my circumstances are shaky and unsure, but Lord, my confidence is in You and You alone. Thank you for who you are, for how you constantly refuel and restore me and give me new strength every morning. Thank you for showing me abundant love and grace when I don't deserve it. Thank you for calling me daughter, beloved, Yours. You are so good.

A year later, my scar looks a little worse than it did at first. The new technique my surgeon tried on my stitches wasn't very successful, and it looks more gnarly now. The warmer weather means my knee isn't hidden under pants anymore. People notice it. People ask me about it, almost daily. 

It's a story. It's my story. It's a five inch ugly scar, but I'm proud of it. I'm proud of what it means for me, the lowest points, the hardest battles, the sweetest little victories, the endless, grueling process of progress. I'll probably never be a marathon runner, but I walked a 5k recently. That's a victory. I'll probably have more surgeries in my future, probably have to go back to physical therapy for more rounds of treatment, probably will see more surgeons and get second opinions, but for now, I'm maintaining and strengthening all on my own. That's a victory. I used to be so dependent on any painkillers I could stomach, used to cry and yell in frustration when I had to try to bend my knee a few more degrees, used to need my mom's help to try to shower with my leg sticking out the side of the tub and have her help bathe me as I tried to hold steady and not slip...but now I'm me again. I'm moving, working out, walking, showering (biggest success, honestly), being normal again. What a sweet, sweet victory.

Yes, I am thankful. I wouldn't wish this whole journey on my worst enemy, but it's my journey, and the Lord is good and constant and faithful through every step (with crutches or without). Here's to hoping this next year is surgery-free!

If you have no idea what this whole “Friday Freewrite” deal is, read this post. And then come back here, and read on. If you want, you can even join in on your own blog, too. Happy Friday!