None of this is what I hoped to be writing just 2 weeks before Windermere but sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you hoped.
It doesn’t seem possible that I had a pretty major surgery less than a fortnight ago, it was slow progress when in hospital but as soon as I was home at my parents I have recovered remarkably well. Having major surgery so close to a huge event is never great but having surgery just before such a huge physically and emotionally fuelled challenge felt like a disaster. When I was in hospital Windermere was not mentioned, I refused to talk about or even mention it, it wasn’t until I was getting ready to be discharged that I started to mention it and talk about it properly. I have struggled with what is going to happen with my Two Way Windermere Swim, I have had so many differing opinions and thoughts from people whom I am sure mean well but that have not been helpful. Although I refused to talk about it, when I was in hospital I felt like I still HAD to swim Lake Windermere Two Way, no matter my health or how poorly it may make me, I had to do it. I was being harsh on myself, very rigid and frankly after such an awful couple of weeks, I was simply being horrible towards myself.
Before going into hospital for the second time I had planned a few Sports Psychology sessions with Helen from Think.Believe.Perform. I decided to do this in the lead up to my Windermere 2 Way swim as open water marathon swimming is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one but I had to cancel my first session with her because of being in hospital. Thankfully we managed to get a session in just after I came0 out of hospital. We discussed my feelings, my fears, and concerns and what it is I want to achieve and after talking and trying to go through different scenarios one word in particular stood out and came from the session – Flexibility.
The big question I kept and keep being asked and was asking myself constantly was if my Two Way Windermere swim is going ahead. But how could I possibly answer; “are you going to swim Windemere or not?” when I, myself have absolutely no clue and don’t have enough information to be able to make a decision. Helen helped me realise that I simply don’t have enough information to make an informed decision yet. The feelings I had/have were:
I want to swim Windermere; I feel like I need to do the swim and I feel like if I don’t do the swim I fail. Helen made me look at it differently and made me focus on the language that I use – I would really like to swim Windermere; I don’t have to do the swim and I am not failing anyone; I have had a big surgery and been fighting a bad infection and I need to remember that.
It can be difficult for me to think that way, its never been in my nature to think that way, I have always been extremely self-conscious and self-critical so trying to completely change the way I think and the language I use is tough, but I am trying!
After the first session with Helen, I realised that throughout the past year I have been flexible in my training and it has worked better than I imagined. Instead of being rigid in my training programme with what swim I would do when and where I gave myself more flexibility in my training, the only things I had rigidly planned was a certain length long swim and a certain distance to cover each week. It didn’t matter how I covered the distance, if it was in many short swims or even only a couple of longer ones, just as long as I covered the planned distance for that week. Training this way helped me, it allowed me to work around my chronic health issues and reduced the number of flare ups I had. It also took the pressure off me, if I didn’t feel up to swimming one day but another day felt great then I could just swim a bit further on the day I felt great. So, if I could allow myself to be flexible physically, maybe being flexible mentally would help me too and I feel it already has.
Recovery From Surgery
Each day I have been home after my surgery I feel I am getting a little stronger. I decided to set myself a couple of small goals and things to achieve each day, partly to help me see how I was recovering but also to give me something other than Windermere to focus on because constantly thinking about swimming 21 miles feels impossible when you can’t get yourself out of bed without a significant amount of pain.
My first full day at home was Tuesday and my extremely simple goals for the day were being able to get up and down from the sofa unaided. In the evening reducing my Oramorph that I had been given from 15ml down to 10ml and instead of using Oramorph during the night I would take paracetamol. I also worked out my goals for the next day, the biggest one being getting in and out of bed unaided and without having to pull myself up using the headboard.
However, I actually ended up achieving my goal for Wednesday on Tuesday night but not in the way I had hoped. I had finally got into bed and got comfortable when a spider ran across the bed and over my chest, at which point I sat up and got up quicker than I think I ever have in my life – goal achieved! Wednesday was also the first day I managed to get up, showered and dressed independently for the first time since surgery. From then on my small goals included reducing the Oramorph to not needing it at all and building up to playing in the garden with Reggie to taking him for a walk on my own.
Saturday was the next big day for me – stitches out!
I have 3 wounds with stitches and 2 without and the District nurse came round to check them all and remove the stitches. She was really pleased with how my wounds were healing and removed my stitches but the 2 drain sites were still holes and should ideally have had a stitch put in them to pull it together, as a result she put Steri-strips on them to help them close and told me to get them re-checked on Monday. I feared that this would delay me getting back into the water. Thankfully I was finally up to taking Reggie out for a nice long walk and run on the Sunday to try and refocus my head and think things through a bit.
I managed to get an appointment with the nurse at my doctors on Monday to have my wounds checked and everything was looking good and she cleared to go swimming!
Naturally, on Tuesday, I went for my first post surgery (very gentle) swim!