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Monday, 21 July 2014

ACL Injury Pt 3 - The Aftermath

I woke to text messages from more friends getting the news of my injury. Tears continued to flow, I felt exhausted. People I didn't want to say goodbye to, I had unfinished business and cried at their individual responses. Such generous, genuine people I was so fortunate to call my friends. I had let my emotions run free until the early morning knowing today I needed to start the healing process. I wasn't improving my situation moping around being sad and didn't want to feel like I had the day before. My knee was sore this morning, more so than other days, it may have been the side I slept on. Last night both Allie and Chrisdell snored. I wondered if I snored when I was asleep? I listened to their snores with appreciation and gratitude. Just to be there in the same apartment as them I was thankful for. Every little part of them I wasn't ready to let go of.


 About to go to war, the game day that changed our existence


I had begun to review my diet to optimize my healing. I made 3 basic changes anytime I was injured; 
 
1. Reduce grains. Digesting grains caused tiny perforations in the lining of the stomach. Essentially the more energy your body used repairing those, the less were available to heal the injury
2. Increase water intake. 
3. Increase Fish Oil. The omega-3 fats worked to produce beneficial anti-inflammatory hormones. 

 
Additionally to prepare for surgery I ate plenty of nutrient rich leafy greens like spinach. Also included fats, garlic, turmeric, green tea and pineapples since they were rich in nutrients helpful for combatting inflammation. 

 
Chrisdell sat with me before she left for work, hand on my knee she looked at my weary head, bloodshot eyes curled up in bed and said 'I let coach know how I feel. You've sacrificed your body for us, you changed your whole life to come over here and play for us and spent so much money to get here. You are more of a vocal leader than anybody else who could travel to support and we need you on the sideline on Vegas. It wouldn't be fair if we didn't take you.' 


Wrapped in a blanket stitched from Allies team jerseys collected over her career I played music from her iTunes, Sam Smith, Josh Kaufman. Normally these tracks wouldn't be high on my rotation list, their not in my library at all but I wanted to savour every part of my experience with Dr Bert. My wife, my roommate, we had developed such a bond. A woman that if you ask others they would say she is scary, volatile. But underneath it all she was a big softie, just like me. She had amazed me since meeting her, such a walking, talking contradiction. In her residency as a dentist she famously fixed my chipped tooth after my Costa Rican white water rafting accident with such gentle hands I fell asleep in the chair. Yet watch her locked and loaded on the field coming up making plays like a maniac, or hear her roar viscously at whichever team mate had fucked up their assignment you'd swear it was a different human. Hybrids they called us.


Just being together was all we needed

 
Allie, Deena and I were like three musketeers, we would do everything together. With Deena and I rocking statuesque, visibly intimidating physiques Bert would constantly get called out ' oh do you play football too?' She would respond by screaming something like ' do you want me to fucking choke you?' She was 100% serious too. When we met new groups of guys I would set them up and encourage them to ask her if she played. She took the bait every time, would tear shreds off her victim, even after she saw me giggling in the corner. My dear Dr Bert said it exactly how she saw it, raw and blunt.

 


 
A unique beast, with blonde locks beautifully cascading behind her. By her own admission she would win a loogie competition, hocking from deep in the throat looking a million dollars while she did it. She would pick up chips she dropped on the footpath while still holding a full uneaten pack in hand and quip 'I'm not wasteful you know, waste not want not.' The bridesmaid who would almost break her neck falling off a cliff trying to rail slide. 

Allie literally thought she was invincible


Her and I could sit at a bar and be so totally engrossed in each other's conversation for hours and hours. No fire, disease outbreak or gaggle of men could penetrate the force field around us. We were all each other needed right at that time, both yearning to learn about one another - how did the US beast operate VS queen beast from Oz. I was from a land far far away but aside from some minor operating differences but we were hardwired so damn similarly, she passed my Klokov Expirement.


A team player like no other
 
She was assertive borderline aggressive, comical and precious to me, she amazed me everyday. It didn't surprise me when she came home having concocted a plan to solve my visa issues, we bear a child in a lesbian union, since gay marriage was legal in the state of Illinois. She'd already thought through a response to her parents who would declare it a ridiculous idea. Whatever it took, we'd get the job done. 
 

My team mate Heather Furr text me saying she loved me like crazy, had shivers up and down her spine when she heard the news, was so sorry and was there anytime I wanted to talk to her. She told me how much of an impact I'd had on the team in the short time I was there. Heather reminded me of myself back at the Surge, always organizing events, sponsors, networking, making sure we all had the best gear. At the LFL you look after your own. She has devoted her life to the team as I had back home. She was a unique leader one who no matter what the chaos on the sideline had the ability to calm the team and lead them onto the next series in battle. One of those irreplaceable team mates I hold in the highest regard. Happy to admit when she's wrong, no excuses just admission, progress and ultimately success. So sad there would be no more cubs games with Furrball.


 

 
 
My phone rang, I screened calls, I wasn't ready to speak with particular people. Unless they would pull me from where I was I'd speak with them later. I did take Staceys call, I had grown close to him. We met on my very first night out in Chicago. He'd been playing pro basketball in Israel for years so knew what I was going through being away from my blood, I'd spent holidays like Easter with him grateful for someone who took me in as his family. He reminded me about the cousin he'd introduced me to at the gym one day, played for the Bulls. 7 knee surgeries later and he's still dunking vertical. He would get me his rehab strength program to take a look at. Stacey never sugar coated it, always gave it to me blunt, sometimes to a fault, but this time, he soothed & settled me, he knew exactly what to say. It's no simple feat entertaining an alpha woman, whilst there's many loads of positives she's saucy, stubborn and can go from 0-100 in 2 secs flat! If the man says leave your bags, she won't, she's knows she's just as capable of carrying them. The man has to grab the bags first or sensitively but physically remove them from her.  Knowing which moments are healthy to have her assert dominance, and which you need to interject is a damn fine art! I knew he would visit me before I left. He was a genuinely good guy, I would miss him and forever cherish the time I spent with him and his family.
 
 

I reached out to some substantial people in my life in Australia who gave me hope. Little feathers of hope which don't weigh much on their own but joined together can keep you floating until you are ready to come up for air on your own. The kinds of friends you will have forever. The kind who know just what to say in the right moments, they know I rarely yearn for any type of help. Ever. I'm the independent woman who thinks she can do it all on her own. I hit up a few locals in Chicago, who had become close to me and broke the news. Everyone as floored as the next. But I hadn't experienced the summer yet, the looong awaited summer the beautiful folk of Chicago had patiently been calling.



My coach Jason Gaffey at Surge told me to keep my chin up stay positive, something I always reminded him to do. We had build the Surge on positivity, constructive foundations. He admitted he selfishly wanted me back home anyway. There was a little glimmer of light when I thought of being back with my Surge family. Being home with them for some of the pre season I would have otherwise missed. Excited to see my coach Roger Fabri and re create those movement patterns, balance, something I had not sustained in Chicago. He was the expert, I felt a big loss not having him around to push me. 

 



Overnight the NSW Blues had won the 2 of the 3 State of Origin matches. This was HUGE news in Oz to break QLDs 8 yr winning streak, a monumental achievement. I immediately thought of the bro Josh Reynolds, Rugby Leagues nicest guy who had supported every step of my journey in NSW.  He had wished our season was longer so he could support at more games. I smiled at his achievement. Social media was going off but QLDers were very quiet.... 'Despicable elbows and facials by QLD. Thurston is a grub! Hayne is a try saver! Greg Bird what a player. ' Another posted 'Paul Gallen is one of the toughest athletes on the planet, I'm so convinced I'm on a website right now buying GHRP-6.' I laughed. I love Paul Gallen he is the epitome of what I want to be as an athlete. Tough, determined, no bullshit, authentic, a spartan like warrior, no frills, a leader by action. How would he deal with this? I was inspired. My supporter the one who had my image tattooed on her arm, how would she expect me to deal with this? Often I was motivated knowing others looked at me as their mentor. I sat up straight out of my slump and thought to myself, It's time to do what you do best. Go forth and conquer .... be the example. 

 


Ironic where your own motivation can rise from

 

 
The official game recap was released, we had a sloppy game, full of turnovers, a real disappointment to the city of Chicago and ourselves. We were the champs and whole lot better than this BS. But if we could tie the game with that many turnovers it was only up from here. Damn shame I couldn't contribute to it. But I was healing.



Thursday, 3 July 2014

ACL Injury Pt 2 - The Verdict

Corey picked me up and took me to MRI of Arlington Heights Imaging. The last time I'd layed in a similar machine was for CT scans to test whether my melanoma had spread. This reminded me the knee was not going to be an issue. In the grand scheme of life it could be dealt with. We went to Tri Balance Holistic Health and Nutrition where Dr Andrew Hopkins chiropractor gave me an ultrasound to reduce the swelling.  We ate lunch at Whole Foods, I was a first time customer. A gigantic health goods store. A beacon in the night, a savior of souls amongst a country of over indulgence. 



We returned to SkyPoint Medical and waited In Dr Sameer's office for the radiographers reports to come through. Dr Sameer had looked after my GP & prescription needs in Chicago, a genuine professional who made me feel very comfortable around him. We waited and waited until the sun went down and decided the next day would show more. I missed my first practice that night. Allie and ChrisDell came home and hugged me, we genuinely missed each other and had spent less than 24 hrs apart. Some players can be absent from practice and fly under the radar. I didn't want to be one of those players, my team always need me, I need them. 


Waiting results at SkyPoint Medical



My body clock woke me at 7am, I ate my standard breakfast (1/2 cup rolled oats & Vitamin King protein shake), read my emails and caught up on how Dad had handled his knee replacement in Sydney. was anxiously waiting all day to hear from Dr Sameer so turned my phone on loud. I had my last Vicoprofen the day before at 7am, hadn't needed another dose since. So why was I so tired? I fell back asleep until 10am.  There was an eerie weight bearing on me, on the room, on the apartment. Was it the suspense? Perhaps, but for now I just wanted to lay, I dozed back off after lunch for a 1/2 hr nap.


Waiting, wondering, medicated.

I played phone tag with Corey for a bit until I emailed Dr Sameer his lifting session for the night since I couldn't get out to train him at the studio. He called me back immediately and said the radiographer report just came through showing a complete tear of the ACL. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had felt so positive, each day had been less painful, was now moving without crutches and felt so much improvement. In my mind I was already rehabbing for the July 3 Vegas game. My buddy Adam Curley would be in town to cover the UFC double header weekend, he was coming to watch me play, there were other Aussies in town and it was my first trip to the strip! I was devastated, mid food prep cooking chicken breast, trying to remove it from the oven with tears flowing, sobbing like a baby thinking don't burn yourself, keep control, don't drop the tray. With every inch of my being I had thought I was going to be fine. Everything you believe you attract, I get that, I had been envisaging good thoughts and affirmations, hadn't I? Since you attract what you think about most it is easy to see what your dominant thoughts have been on every subject of your life. How had I caused this to happen?



I was completely dejected

I started to over analyze, women are great at that....where had I gone wrong? Your thoughts reverberate throughout the entire universe! Then it dawned on me. A friend had asked me to catch up with him Monday after the game. My response was 'lets see where I'm at, so many things could happen'. The weather forecast was great, we were probably going to drink 'winner piss' (aussie slang for post match team bonding) for a few days before we knuckled down onto our next opponent. It's sacred time we spend with our team mates and I didn't want anything to disrupt that. There was a tiny iota that thought not specifically about injury but more so the body being so sore post game you don't want to have plans except laying in a bath.  Your thoughts create the frequency, they create like pictures on the stage which is our life! I had caused this myself. In my head it was a simple mathematical equations I found my answer. 


I had a call from my friend Lovel Palmer a pro soccer player for Chicago Fire. He was new in town too having moved from playing in Salt Lake City. He had tried to phone me a few times but I hadn't answered, he sensed there was something wrong. He's the kind of guy who's voice alone can calm you, an authentic guy with a positive, glowing attitude to life. His sister a Jamaiican Olympian track star with heart wrenching tales of her own was in the Sydney Olympics, damn they had some athletic genes. He told me of his knee troubles in Jamaica, an MRI report indicated a tear in ACL and tear in meniscus, they performed surgery immediately but after going under the knife discovered the surgery was unnecessary, the ACL was intact. Two lessons here...a) always get a second and third opinion and b) if you sense your friends need you they probably do. We organized to visit the top of the Willis Tower which overlooks Chicago from a completely glass sky deck before I left. 



The thought of leaving was heartbreaking


I reached out to Coach Hac, the man who made all this happen and coach John who had supported me with everything I needed once I arrived. They were shocked, disappointed, said nothing would be the same without me. We didn't expect things to end this way.



Allie came home to me slumped in front of the computer screen reading the radiographers MRI report, She knew by my voice something was wrong. Knowing it was bad news she hugged me while I whimpered, told me she loved me and everything would be okay. 'We were brought together for a reason, I don't ever want you to leave me, I don't want to go back to my life without you' I sobbed uncontrollably. Neither did I. Not that life in Sydney was bad by any means, just different. Perhaps Chicago would get old one day and stagnant as my life had in Sydney, would lose the excitement and joy of something sparkling and brand new. But that day was not today.



I skyped my friend UFC Fighter Hector Lombard in Florida, he 
spent part of the call hanging upside down from some stretching machine. He could see I was hurting and made me laugh to take my mind off the situation, generally by being stupid but still made me laugh. He told me he'd pinched a nerve recently in his neck during a car accident. After taking a blow to the same area at training the condition was looking to impact his fight scheduled for August. Surgery was impending until Dana White hooked him up with a specialist who treated footballers. After some treatment he felt cured and was prepping for his fight without going under the knife. He warned me to get some further opinions before securing any plans. It turned out later he had herniated discs and unfortunate had to pull out the fight in the end. 







Corey phoned again and said they were teeing me up with an Orthopedic surgeon who looked after the San Diego Chargers Dr Brian Moss. I needed that piece of mind, I deal who are specialists in my sport, the best. They don't waste time, know their content and treat correctly the first time. Corey could hear by my crackly voice I was still processing the grief 'remember to breathe tonight, breathe deep, let it go and start the healing process when you wake tomorrow.' 



Allie went asked me if she should stay home from her date that night, I told her to go and wondered if it would be as successful as the last one. Chrisdell had heard the news and came over to stay the night. She hugged me and told me to reach out to god, leave it in his hands. I would do that later that night. As I explained my situation, that I felt it was too early to leave her she could see I was hurting. She said 'I look at you like my big sister, you're always strong and sensible, my voice of reason, to see you so hurt is tearing me apart' I couldn't be strong now, I'm always the strong one for everyone, I stand and I deal. I knew tomorrow or the next day I would fine but right now I was a broken woman. I didn't quite know how to deal with this flood of tears, so I let it go. Being a logical human being VS an emotional one had me struggling with these feelings. Together with news of ChrisDell's uncle passing earlier
 it topped off what had been a horrible day for her. I felt selfish.


ChrisDell told me Shari I have a soft spot for you, I can never say no to you


ACL tears are so common in stop start sports. The NBA had blowouts all the time I was reminded of Chicago’s Derrick Rose. Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, New York’s Iman Shumpert, Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio, Oklahoma City’s Eric Maynor, Leandro Barbosa & Rajon Rondo Boston Celtics and Lou Williams Atlanta Hawks guard all went down. Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, New York Giants CB Terrell Thomas suffered the injury during pre-season practice 2012.






The hurt I felt was nothing related to having surgery or rehab, my body was a well oiled machine. I would lose my fitness and strength quickly but it returned even quicker. I'd had surgery pre Australian season. A breast augmentation, then a double groin hernia which revealed an often un diagnosed very dangerous spitzoid melanoma on my calf. Further surgeries to remove lymph nodes in my groin confirmed the cancer hadn't spread but left me completely inactive for 3 months. Not just unable to train, unable to cough, laugh or sneeze without immense pain.

I was hurting because I'd played only one game in US, well one game and a few minutes of another. I'd sacrificed so much to get there and had not reached anywhere near my potential as a middle linebacker. I hadn't satisfied that hunger, it hadn't even touched the sides! Pain is temporary memories are forever. Right now I don't want these as memories, I wanted them in my reality, my existence, my everyday. I'd grown very attached to my new friends in Chicago, the city, the people had done so much for me. That's the part that hurt the most. The unfinished business, the relationships I'd started to build would be cut short. Some I felt a connection with and knew I would be friends with forever. I guess now pen pal friends from a distance. 

It was 2.37am and I was still blogging and researching. I took a vicoprofen hoping it would settle me off and calm my being. Typing slowed becoming more inaccurate as my lids dozed. Before shutting down the computer at 4.06am I came across a Zig Ziglar quote 'How you see your future is much more important than what has happened in the past.' Tomorrows another day and I saw a glimmer of hope.