Day 795/326: Tennis

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Joanne and I are grateful for everybody who has recently joined us online by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and reading our blogs. Whether you have been with us for one day or several years, we thank all of you for being part of our virtual community.

For the new folks, let me get you up to speed on a theme that occasionally pops up in my writing: the three back surgeries I have undergone, including two in the last two years, and my ongoing recovery.

Generally speaking, I am pretty guarded when it comes to talking about my own life because self-disclosure can so easily do more harm than good. However, as I headed into my 2014 operation, I decided to make an exception and document my recovery because it can be helpful for patients to remember that while our specific challenges may differ, we are coping with similar themes:

  • weighing the pros and cons of imperfect treatment options,
  • coming to grips with the reality that health outcomes are never guaranteed and only partially in our hands despite our best efforts,
  • mourning abilities or characteristics once possessed that might be gone for good,
  • accepting our new identity and discovering new ways to thrive,
  • other story lines in human existence to which patients and practitioners alike can relate.

Those of you who have followed my recovery know that my ultimate goal is to play competitive tennis again. After playing for my high school and college teams and then in adult leagues, I have been unable to compete for nearly a decade.

On Sunday, 794 days after my second surgery and 325 days after my third, I took a significant step by returning to the tennis court for the first time in three years. Unsure of what my back could handle, Joanne and I began with gentle mini tennis, just tapping the ball back and forth as we each stood at our respective service lines. No pain, to my surprise, so we backed up a little bit more into no-man’s-land. All systems still a go. Five minutes after we got to the court, we were back at our baselines hammering ground strokes to each other almost as if I never had a layoff.

Muscle memory is a crazy thing, as is modern medicine. While Joanne and I exchanged forehands and backhands, my thoughts were with everybody who contributed to my recovery: my surgeon, Dr. Jean-Valery Charles-Emile Coumans, my outpatient physical therapist, Sue Bloom, the inpatient physical therapy and nursing staff at Massachusetts General Hospital (Sorry again for pooping in my gurney, guys!), my friends, and my family, including and especially my wife.

I cannot thank them enough for helping me to find my way back home.



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