No, this is not about the political left, although you might find it to still be political. It is more about finding hope in the recovery process regarding the left side of my body, specifically my left foot.
If you’ve been a follower of my blog over the past few years, you know that I acquired foot drop due to what I call my “life explosion” in January 2015. I continue to work on my recovery and refuse to believe that I will stop making progress. And, I do continue to make progress…just a few weeks ago I was able to complete five wall squats in which my left knee was level with my right knee. This was quite exciting! For months, due to weakness in my left hip, my left knee would turn in toward my right essentially allowing my right leg to do all of the work. So, my PT started, and continues, to engage me in a wide variety of hip strengthening exercises. One of which left me with inner thigh pain during spring break (major bummer) and all of which I’ve made progress in doing. This is great news!
Still, I walk around with what is affectionately referred to as “stroke walk” and I still work to walk 4,000 steps a day. I have moved to using a handmade wooden cane (and yes, I try to be very Dr. “House”-like with it).
I even managed to do most of the yard work this spring on my own, with shoveling being the greatest challenge. I created a work around, though, and would use the small gardening shovel which only required more time.
Yesterday, though…yesterday frustrated me quite a bit. First, I’ve been experiencing the pains of an in-grown toenail. (If you are not a foot person, I apologize…and please know I am not a foot person either, but have become more comfortable with everything ‘body’ since my time in the hospital.). This issue has been going on for a few months, however it wasn’t until recently that I went to the doctor about it. I’m waiting to go to another doctor about it in the near future. In the meanwhile, I soak my foot each night and use my Bioness to help keep pressure off my left foot. Upon doing my own research and talking to the doctor, in-grown toenails are common amongst those with gait issues. Lovely.
Second, it was raining outside. This issue isn’t as bad as the first one, due to the fact that it is making it so that I don’t have to water the plants in the yard. At the same time, however, it is both challenging to get all of my steps in and then walk inside a building without a carpet nearby (or a carpet that actually soaks up water) safely. Essentially, I just need to get used to the squishy shoe sound and doing my best to drag my foot on any mat available in an attempt to wipe off the water.
Finally, I am so excited about the cognitive gains that I’ve made, especially this past spring. Sort of similar to my wall squats, I’ve improved to the point where I actually have energy throughout the day and it’s wonderful! Please don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t extend to unfamiliar environments; in those environments, I still lose energy quite quickly. For example, attending a conference was quite a challenge this past spring.
However, I keep pushing myself. Everyone I speak too (e.g. doctors, nurses, therapists, etc.) encourages me to keep going, reminding me that it is possible to regain abilities even years later. Just this week, I found this hopeful quote inside a book I’m reading for a book club,
Neural plasticity is the field of research into how, when, and why the brain develops (Stiles, 2000). The findings of that field go against the prevailing cultural narrative of fixed intelligence. Rather than reaching our intellectual potential in our mid-20s and simply staying there, our brains continue to develop in the areas that correspond to the skills we practice (Fuchs & Fluegge, 2014; Stiles, 2000) (p. 170).
So, here’s to continuing to practice walking “non-stroke-style”!