My downtime from surgery would be lengthy. However, it only got worse after the first few weeks. I ended up breaking a toe right next to the incision while trying to walk some. From there, a stress fracture to the sesamoid bone on the same foot. It just spiraled down for me. Having to constantly go back to the surgeon, only to hear more bad news was heartbreaking. Realistically, I should have been healed by the end of the year. But life doesn't always go as planned. I was still in a walking boot in mid January and feeling a lot of pain. I still remember sitting in my doctor's office and hearing my surgeon say, "You will never be able to run again." To this day, a year and a week later, that still stings deep.
I spent months rotating between a wheelchair, crutches, and a walking boot. Depression set in as I watched people run along the roads. Or by posting on social media. A grown man who was once active having to use a walker while at home was a lot to hold in mentally. Finally, after a few months of some healing came physical therapy. I wish I could say that went great, but I can't. I ended up contracting a very serious skin cancer on my forehead and needed surgery as soon as they could schedule me. All physical therapy would be postponed until I recover from my second surgery.
Ahhhhh...the beauty of not even being 45 years of age and losing almost half of your forehead close to a quarter inch deep is NOT a good feeling. Especially when you are still limping from a surgery six months prior. I will save you all of the grotesque photos. Mainly because I hate seeing myself like that. But having your friends say that it looks like you could be a Walking Dead extra. Or saying it looks like someone blew the front part of your head off. Comments like that will always stay with me. It would take two months of daily cleaning by my wife. It would also take weekly visits and work from my plastic surgeon for it to finally close up. And while this was happening, I would do months of extensive physical therapy on my foot. No long walks. No running. No bike riding. Just twice a week visits to get better.
That puts us to the months of July/August. My physical therapy was extended for another month. My foot was getting better, but still had some pain around the ankle. I kept wearing my Altra running shoes because of the natural foot shaped toebox. I also wore Injinji toesocks. The combination of the two, along with very slow walks, helped to strengthen my foot even more. They also helped because my toes weren't being jammed and squeezed into a tight toebox. They were allowed to sit naturally inside and splay out. It was like slipping my feet into a protective cover. I kept at the slow walking, and from time to time, a very short jog of ten to twenty feet.
In mid August I was lucky enough to even get some miles in with the current Appalachian Trail Speed Record Holder, Karl Meltzer. In fact, I was able to get in 15 miles that day. One thing stood out from that adventure. My foot did not hurt as bad as before. Feeling somewhat confident, I ran my first legit race in mid September. Although I only covered a little over 21 miles in eight hours, it was a giant leap for me. The trail was rocky, up and down, and had roots. And it was a loop course so I hit it four loops in a row. Again, there was foot pain, but that was not due to anything surgery wise. It was due to being out of trail shape. Fast forward until today, October, 23rd. It's been slightly over a year since my foot surgery. There have been many setbacks, an added surgery, and many worries.
However, all of that is in the past. I am currently skin cancer free and thinking positive for the future. And I am running! Not fast, and that's the plan. I'm working on getting there in my own time. My foot/feet are getting stronger. I am wearing the right shoes finally. Shoes that I will wear until my days are done. I have put close to 7,000 feet of climbing on my legs and feet on 100 plus miles without a hint of pain. For the record...I am an ambassador for Altra Running shoes now. I am sure some of you may be saying that I am just advertising their brand. You would be correct. But I am advertising their brand because I believe in their shoes. And while they may not work for some people, they have helped me to run and walk pain free. If I were just an everyday runner/walker that had no association with the brand, I would still promote what they have done. They are feet savers! I was even able to hike up a very tough Maryland Heights trail, and then run down the gnarliest, steepest section.
Even more thrilling to me was that last night, I ran my fastest three miles in over a year. On my third mile, even with some timed walk breaks, I ran a 10:55. One month ago, I believe I was over 15 minutes per mile. Baby steps are getting me back to big boy steps. Those haunting words from my surgeon, "You will never be able to run again." He was wrong. Never underestimate a person that wears the right shoes and socks on his feet. And also finds that "never give up" attitude that was hidden deep with them. They will be unstoppable.