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  • Writer's pictureMollie Lombardi

Hard and Dangerous

If you’ve been following my recovery on social media, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been loving my new Peloton bike—so much so that my left knee began hurting a lot. I’m now in physical therapy and will be off the bike for a few weeks.

Five years ago this month, I had back surgery. It was a dark time, about fifteen months after my initial PD diagnosis, and I had ruptured a disc and herniated another. I wound up needing to have emergency surgery, which meant I missed attending my brother’s wedding, which was a major bummer. I then spent most of January and February 2015 learning to walk again, which is hard enough even if you don’t have PD. An entry I wrote in my journal at the time keeps coming back to me. In recovery of any sort, there’s a fine line between what’s hard and what’s dangerous. You need to do what’s hard since it’s where you recover and grow. But if you convince yourself that the things which are hard are somehow dangerous, you’ll never improve. Moreover, if you push yourself through hard territory into dangerous territory, you can set your recovery way back. To anyone who knows me, it will come as no surprise that I always try to push that line.

It’s been eight weeks since the first part of my DBS surgery, and because I’m feeling better, I’ve pushed myself on the Peloton to where I now have an overuse injury to my knee. It’s not really the bike’s fault, of course. You see, for years PD has limited both my energy and range of motion. And due to these limits, I’ve developed “accommodations”—often unconscious work-arounds to counter my fatigue and lack of balance, strength, and range of motion. These little accommodations are really compromises, which, when added up, lead to you becoming compromised. Now that I feel better, I’m trying to do everything from a cold start.

Luckily I’m being seen by a great team of physical therapists, whom I’ve worked with from time to time since my PD was first diagnosed. They’re very familiar with PD, and although I’m their first DBS patient, my current therapist has some knowledge about the procedure. He keeps telling me, “You don’t know your body yet!” And he’s right. He understands where the line is between hard and dangerous, and knows my tendency to cross over it. He’s also called me out about my knee-jerk response (“I’m doing fine!”) when asked how I’m doing, which is sometimes not fine at all. He recently told me the following: “You’re so used to accommodating that we need to help your brain understand precisely what your body is doing again. We’re not going to get you back to how you were before surgery—we’re going to get you back way better than that. You’ve been under-complaining, trying to tell yourself you’re fine. Now that you can do more, you shouldn’t accept compromise anymore.” (I can’t wait to tell my husband I’ve been under-complaining!)

So I”m off the bike for another week or so, but I can see it standing in my living room right next to the Christmas tree, and I can’t wait to get back to it. Meanwhile, I’m busting my ass in PT (they make me sweat!) to improve my gait and balance, and to rehab my knee. Watch out 2020—I intend to come in like a lion, and go out like one too!

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