Usually Summer approaches with expectations of spending endless days in the warm sun (which relieves my Fibromyalgia), relaxing by the pool as kids play and splash in cool waters to their heart's delight. I said that's the "expectation", not what really happens. Still those hopes were dashed in early March as I sat in my orthopedist's office. He had just told me that I had a rare stress fracture in my femur, probably from running too hard with a calcium deficiency.
But this wasn't a typical fracture. It had cut off the blood supply to the bone resulting in osteonecrosis. If I didn't stop putting weight on my leg immediately, I was risked a complete collapse of the bone and could face a knee replacement. His prescription was 3 months of no weight bearing on crutches and 5 months in a leg brace, along with therapeutic doses of Vitamin D and Calcium. The first words out of my mouth were "You're kidding, right!?!" The look on his face wasn't reassuring. When you see your doctor grimace and groan as he looks over your MRI pictures, you know it's not gonna be good.
The next two months were very painful. Going no weight bearing on crutches caused my Fibromyalgia to flare up. My muscles seemed to fight back every time I got on crutches. Medications suddenly became ineffective against what felt like my body breaking down. Some days I just sat in my recliner and didn't go anywhere. It was uncomfortable but better than the pain induced by actual motion. I watched helplessly out the window as Spring turned into a what looked like a Summer of perpetual let downs and setbacks.
Adding to my growing sense of failure, I lost all momentum on my so-called journey to health. In the past year I had logged almost 200 miles running and felt healthier than I had in years. I reconnected with my body and felt, dare I say, "almost normal". I was running my third 5k race when I fractured my leg. I had earned my new found wellness, how dare this happen to me now?
"I don't know how you did it, but you're fracture is healing better than expected," said my doctor at the end of May. It was a miracle. I had beaten the odds. Not because of anything I did, I just tried my best not to move much at all. I ditched the crutches but still faced a Summer of limited activity with a leg brace and my Fibromyalgia in full flare mode.
I set my sights on a trip I had planned in June with my teenage son and his youth group to float down the Green River in Southern Utah. I hadn't planned on going, but I figured spending 5 days floating down a river and sitting around a campfire couldn't make things any worse. It was a wise decision. There's something about Nature's desert cliffs and endless red rock sunsets that heals a broken spirit. They healed mine. Making memories in the desert heat and cool river waters with my 15 year old son, who won't be home too many more Summers, was priceless. If your heart ever needs healing, find a place like this.
By the end of July, my leg had healed enough to be free of the brace. I was unsteady and 15 pounds heavier than I'd been 5 months earlier. I also faced the daunting challenge of starting over and getting in shape again. It's harder the second time around, probably because I know how hard it was the first time.
A few weeks later I was released as a counselor in my church congregation. My church has a lay (unpaid) ministry and my position was akin to being an assistant pastor. I'd spent 5 and a half years working with friends, neighbors, and members of my church and community, sometimes up to 20 hours per week on evenings and weekends. It was the most rewarding spiritual experience of my life and also one of the most challenging. Tears of both relief and sorrow streamed down my face when my release was announced. But mostly I felt grateful for the perspective that God had given me to forget myself and just love and serve others.
Summer has come to an end and snow now caps the Fall mountains out my window. It won't be long before the white stuff drops into the valley. When it does it will coat Summer memories of pain, hope, healing, renewal, and love. Some of them will be buried in the drifts, while others will occasionally rise above the surface. I told you I was nostalgic.