Yesterday I had a check-up with my surgeon. It’d been one month since x-rays had been taken of my leg and spine. 

Sitting in the little room, staring down at the list of questions on my phone, I kept repeating over and over in my head…

No expectations. 

Glancing over at the computer monitor, I saw my x-rays, taken only moments earlier, illuminated on the screen. Carefully easing myself off of the exam table, I hobbled closer to the screen. Frantically, I pulled up pictures of my scans from the month prior. Surely if there was a change or shift in the hardware, I would notice. Right?

Kristen, stop it. Sit down. Breathe. 

Dalia, one of the med techs walks in to take my temperature and blood pressure. “Girl, you’re warm! You ok?” she asked. “And you’re blood pressure! What’s going on?” My explanation was simple. I was stressed-the-fuck-out. 

She put her hand on my shoulder. “Honey, you’re going to be ok. Everything is ok.”

Good Lord, I hope so. 

Walking out, she leaves me alone with my elevated vital signs and sweaty palms. And then I hear his voice in the hallway getting closer and closer until he is standing in front of me, arms open, ready for a hug. Dr. Feldman knows my rule: no handshakes, only hugs. 

The good news – the hardware in my spine is stable. The unfortunate news – my leg still has not consolidated. 

Refusing to take me back into the operating room anytime soon, the doc and I agree that if it the bones don’t consolidate in two months then we consider taking the proper steps to ensure proper healing at my next follow-up. 

Until then, I do everything in my power to heal. One more hug for the man who saved my ability to walk and I gather my things to go home. 

With one million and a half thoughts swirling around in my head, I go the the place where I heal best: the ocean. Inside, I feel defeated. This phase of healing, the baby steps, are so difficult. It seemed easier when the progress was visible day to day. 

What do you have to show for yourself since your last procedure? No more back brace, one crutch, no job, a new place to call home and a leg that refuses to heal. Big whoop. 

Quickly, I pick up my phone and text a friend to run my internal thought storm by him. In the moment, I need to make sure my feelings are validated. His response is exactly what I needed to hear. 

“Whoa! Defeated? WHY? The hardware is stable, honey. That is good news! The most important part is your back. Your leg will get fixed or heal. The back is what we were concerned about. CELEBRATE!”

I think for a second. In the past, I have had to remind myself that little moments are BIG wins. But the hardware started to come loose five months post-op after my first fusion. It hasn’t even been three. 

“I am too scared to celebrate,” I tell him. 

My phone rings. The conversation that follows is a powerful reminder that my closest friends are actually the people that live the farthest away. 

“Honey, please give yourself permission to celebrate,” he says. 

“Ok,” I say. And then in the most pathetic, uncelebratory tone of voice, I mutter, “Woo Hoo.” 

“Repeat after me,” Tay requests. And in the same pathetic tone, he says, “Woo Hoo.”

I do as I’m asked and repeat after him realizing how lame I sounded. The second time around he added a hint of excitement and I, the same. This went on for a couple minutes until I found myself sitting at a stop light screaming with the utmost shrill of happiness, “Woooooohoooooooo!”

That afternoon, I gave myself permission to celebrate my little bit of progress. I gave myself permission to make it a big win. I gave myself permission to be ok with being so far away from some people I love very much. I gave myself permission to feel and be heard. I gave myself permission to tell fear to GO HOME. 


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