There is no disputing the fact that this year has been a difficult one for many, myself included. While the threat of COVID-19 has been a consistent challenge for all of us to navigate, I have been managing a different type of health concern that has required much of my focus and attention. After experiencing significant pain and weakness in my right side, medical investigations revealed that nerves in my lower back were being compressed and a couple of days later I was in hospital undergoing major spinal surgery.
It has now been close to six months since my operation and while the surgery has been deemed a success I am still recovering and working hard to regain my muscular strength and physical fitness. The surgery itself involved removing damaged vertebral discs and fusing vertebrae together to limit movement and release the trapped and damaged nerves. Subsequently, with the help of eight screws, three titanium discs and spinal cages, a large part of my lumbar spine is now fixed. As you can imagine having this much hardware in my body meant that movement was initially very limited and painful. However, within days of the surgery I was being encouraged by hospital physiotherapists to stand, then walk and by the time I left hospital I had conquered a small flight of stairs.
During the last few months I have undertaken a home exercise program which largely involves walking, light stretches and hydrotherapy. One tremendous advantage that I have over other patients in a similar situation is that my son-in-law is a qualified physiotherapist with experience in rehabilitation. Needless to say, his expertise and encouragement during this time have been invaluable. Frustrated at not seeing results as fast as I had hoped and doubting that I would ever be able to reach my fitness goals, I recently asked him for advice. His response to my complaint was simple; “if you do the work, you will get the results”. He also challenged me to consider the progress I was making not on a daily basis, which is hard to see, but over longer periods of time such as weeks or months. He encouraged me to recognise that as long as there is a gradual overall improvement I was doing well. Conversely, comparing one day to the next wasn’t helpful because if I had just one bad day, there was a tendency to become discouraged and give up.
With these words of wisdom fixed firmly in my mind I resolved that adopting a long-term approach to my rehabilitation was definitely more favourable and more realistic. Despite this I freely admit that it has not been easy, and each day I am confronted with the choice of whether to keep working towards my goal or give up and accept the status quo. But as I reflect back over the last six months and compare my level of fitness and function from then to now, I can see just how far I have come. When I take the time to do this it brings a renewed sense of hope and pride in how much I have achieved.
Whether it is learning your times tables, trying to improve your essay writing technique or recovering from back surgery, we need to recognise that sometimes our progress is not linear, and that’s okay. We may have a bad day, make mistakes or take a few backward steps every now and then but this is definitely not cause to give up altogether.
This year has been a time when many of us have been confronted by unexpected challenges and the progress that we have made toward our goals for 2020 may not be what we had initially hoped. But can I encourage you to keep moving forward? I continue to find tremendous solace and inspiration by reading God’s word during this season and my prayer is that each member of the Cedars community will also find renewed confidence in this too.
“Here’s what I have learned through it all: Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting – for he will never disappoint you!”
Psalm 27:14 (The Passion Translation)