“Scars show us where we have been, they do not dictate where we are going.”
I've always been an athlete, always. Every weekend and summer were 100% dedicated to travel teams, sports camps, practices, games, and tournaments. I skipped my high school prom and even a Thanksgiving holiday for National tournaments. My edge was my athleticism and that was going to help me go the distance. I had been accepted early to St. Lawrence University and was planning to play field hockey and lacrosse, I was thrilled...
'Call your parents and tell them you've torn your ACL' the athletic trainer told me after I had been carted off the field. Sadly, I was just a freshman on the St. Lawrence field hockey team and it was with one loud crack that the remainder of my freshman field hockey and upcoming lacrosse season were finished.
Despite my injury, I tried my hardest to keep my perception as an athlete. This got me through ACL reconstruction, meniscus repair, and several scope procedures whereby the following fall, I had rehabilitated my knee well enough to play field hockey again. I made it to the last practice of the season when a quick pivot led to a familiar crack and white hot pain. I'd done it again, this time with the other leg; another season over before it had started.
After my second ACL reconstruction, meniscus repair and subsequent scopes, I hung up my field hockey stick for good, and focused on getting back in shape to play lacrosse. Six knee operations later, I played two seasons of lacrosse my junior and senior years. I was so thrilled that I was able to fulfill the dream of playing 2 collegiate sports -- even though my path wasn't as I'd hoped.
I'm now left with 2 knees that have been through hell and back, and have the unsightly scars to prove it. I'm generally one to poke fun at situations that embarrass me - often remarking to people 'I got into a knife fight with a toddler' to mask my insecurity of the lines down my legs. For a while I went so far to put concealer on my scars, and asked my parents to research scar removal procedures.
When my mom stopped rolling her eyes about the scar removal, she said something to me that changed my perception of my ugly knees; she told me that they told a story, that every time I looked down - I shouldn't think about how they look, rather remember the journey they took me on and how far I'd come. Quitting would have been the easy route, but I chose to do the work in order to come back and continue to play.
It took me a while to see it her way, but now I can't imagine my legs without those scars; they are a big part of my story, and I love them for where they've taken me. It wasn't the path that I had initially intended, but it's my path - and through overcoming the physical pain, I've pushed myself to take risks that I would have never taken had I not endured those injuries. I've finally come to appreciate the larger value my scars have had on my life as a whole; as (7) reminders that I overcame something once considered career ending, and just kept going.
Since all my injuries, I've had to work to re-invent myself as a 'non-athlete'. While my legs are incredibly strong, I have residual pain that is a result of already arthritic joints. This precludes me from 'traditional' exercise - I can't go for a jog on pavement, treadmills are considered off-limits, no skiing, nothing high impact.
Though I'm not the athlete I once was, I've become much better about seeking ways to keep active while protecting my knees. Two years ago, I was so lucky to have been introduced to an exercise that I both loved, and worked for me. I've also learned to love hiking - something that I'd never enjoyed previously. Even getting out on a Saturday morning for a long walk at Crissy Field--getting the blood moving-- has been instrumental for my body, but even more - my mind, allowing me to believe that I'm still an athlete, I'll always be - but it's a different kind of athlete.