Today, 365 days ago, feels a million years ago. It was time for my knee reconstruction surgery. I’d worked through a rollercoaster nine months of shock, pain, disability (having to teach my brain to reconnect with my leg after nine weeks non-weight-bearing), frustration and overwhelm.

But the day had come, my leg was strong and flexible enough, and my surgeon was ready to unleash his scalpel. I remember waking up that morning feeling very nervous as I was not looking forward to the hospital visit itself nor the impending pain from surgery but I was also resolved. I saw the surgery as a signpost to getting into the next phase of recovery with the potential of a stronger knee.

Although I’d been through many ups and downs of injury and accepted the process of change and growth once before I found myself questioning: Could I really do this again?

After I came out of surgery the pain was unbearable. The worst I had ever felt. I was crying with pain. The anaesthetic as well as learning my surgery hadn’t quite gone to plan, had knocked all my energy out of me. When we got home I had to climb our three flights of stairs on my bottom because I didn’t have the energy and was in too much pain to use my crutches.

After surgery with my surgeon beside me. I don’t really remember this photo being taken, even though I requested it… I’m sensitive to strong anaesthetics.

When I ask my now-husband about how I was after surgery he remembers that I didn’t want my chocolate milkshake; that’s how much pain I was in… [anyone who knows me well understands how important chocolate milkshakes are as rewards.]

Two weeks later I got my stitches out and the surgeon said I could start to wean myself off the crutches. It took about seven weeks and I limped for many weeks more.

Now I can reflect on those first months and then the following months. A lot has happened since that surgery. At times I thought I’d never get back to the physical stage I’m at today. It was a milestone and marked a clear transition for me. There are eight themes to the changes in me:

1. Facing fear

Two years ago I was terrified of needles. On surgery day I didn’t faint after the needle and tube went in to my hand. Much of this I put down to my mental preparation; read my ten tips to prepare for surgery. Two weeks later, I could watch the stitches get cut. I’ve gotten so much better with my fear and I see this as a great triumph.

I also tried dry needling (something I’d loathed the idea of) for the first time ever to ward off developing a chronic pain condition and it was amazing! I even managed to organise and go through with a tetanus vaccination booster; I’d dreaded this for a whole decade.


Receiving dry needling around my knee (and also in my foot).

2. Working with pain

I’ve learned a lot about pain and that memories and emotions throughout my life have fed into my psychological relationship with pain. This has resulted in me being more susceptible to pain. I’ve read a lot and talked to people, understanding pain a lot more. And I’m currently writing an in-depth article on pain, which I will post on the website shortly.

3. Pushing my body

Before my knee injury there is no way that I could do a chin-up. I used to train at the gym, sure, and have trained for decades. But I can honestly say I didn’t push myself that much and didn’t get close to my potential.

For many months, I felt like I was inching slowly forward, like a snail over gravel. My physical rehabilitation continued – exhausting rep after exhausting rep – as did the wrestle to feel happy and strong in my body again.

Having to regrow a whole leg’s worth of muscle puts things into perspective.

My knee will probably not be the same (it still feels quite weird, clicks a lot and aches) but I’m stronger elsewhere. I can now do five chin-ups and am aiming for ten at the end of the current Jetts eight-week challenge.


My new gym where I’m training to do chin-ups!

4. Focusing on me

My injury, surgery, recovery is all my journey. It’s been my experience and no-one can understand it like I do. Through talking with many people while working on my Recover from Injury initiative, I realise that a lot of people struggle to focus on themselves enough to help them heal and grow stronger through their recovery.

This is especially the case with women, who often tend to be the ones who give, give, give to everyone around them.

Taking the time to focus on me is a key thing that I now advocate when I talk with coaching clients and others.

5. Building resilience

Being able to bounce back from trauma is a complex set of skills and strengths. Having resilience is something we don’t really cultivate in Australia. There’s a tendency to brush things off with ‘She’ll be right mate!’ attitude. What’s clear is that this isn’t enough.

Building true resilience takes effort and patience and we can all add these assets to our kitty to draw on when life throws us curve balls.

6. Changing my relationship with time and managing expectations

After injury – and again after surgery – I was confronted with needing to accept a different timeline for things. Going from being an active, independent person who could run up and down stairs without thinking and getting in and out of a shower in a flash… to then being an invalid was challenging to say the least. Every movement, every day was an ordeal…

So I reframed what I could get done in an hour and a day. And once I did that, and accepted the change, I could get on with what I could.

When I have days that don’t go to plan (often the case as a self-employed person building businesses), I remind myself that I am lucky I have as much energy as I do and that I can only do what I can do. And tomorrow is a new day!


Learning to take each moment as it comes, including sometimes having to accept that work will be disrupted for a while thanks to this character.

7. Gratitude

I’m more grateful for what I can do now, and daily reflect on what I couldn’t do a few months ago that I now can. And I believe that it’s by being grateful for the little things that contentment can creep back in.

Even a year on, I am grateful for being able to walk on uneven ground and to travel overseas. For being able to get in a car easily. For being able to sit for an hour and not feel stiff and in pain.

8. Relationships and support

I drew on the support networks around me in family and friends. These relationships and the support around me is something I now value even more. I know people have my back and I hope I will be there for them when they need me.

My surgeon and physiotherapist were absolute gold to me and I will be forever grateful for their care. I know, however, that many people do not have great health professionals by their side.

Through major challenges, like injury or surgery, I believe that we uncover the true connections with other people. The love and support I have had from people – some I’ve only ‘met’ through Facebook groups – has been humbling.

This is part of the reason why I’ve built Recover from Injury, which includes coaching and a range of articles and resources online, and am supporting an online community through Facebook so that everyone can help each other through recovery so they can thrive again.


Scrambling among temple ruins in Cambodia.

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