My parents enrolled me in dance when I was just two years old. Thirteen years, three studios, and hundreds of sequins later, I started my freshman year of high school, and I was consumed by dance.
That year was my “un”success. Within two months I fell three different times, and my left knee became swollen and achy. My parents finally decided that I should go see an orthopedic doctor. After having multiple X-rays and an MRI, I was diagnosed with a torn ACL and medial meniscus, just as I had feared. We scheduled surgery for the next Monday.
When the nurse called me in the room to change and prepare for the operation, reality sunk in like a boulder, and I realized what was about to happen to me. I began to tear up. As silent tears streamed down my cheek, I looked to my mother for support. I wasn’t ready for this. I had never injured myself before, besides the normal cuts and bruises that mark an energetic life, and now I was getting ready to have major surgery. I wasn’t sure how to handle it.
When I woke up, my leg was completely numb and I was encased in a huge black brace that extended the entire length of my leg. I would be on crutches for about a month. That Wednesday, I had my first physical therapy appointment. That was the start of my nightmare.
I established a weekly routine. Three times a week I would be stuck in that torture chamber for an hour and a half. My progress was slow, and it made me mad. I tried to stay positive, but it was hard. I cried frequently. I doubted that I would ever heal enough to become active again. I regretted my decision to have surgery. It was six months before I was released.
Having an ACL reconstruction and arthroscopic surgery made me realize that my life would not be the peaceful ‘walk in the park’ I thought it would be. It was, and still is, a journey that takes me to places that I never thought I would go. I had the determination to work hard during physical therapy, even though I made slow progress. And now, I’m back to being a teenager. I might not be able to do all the things I used to, but I’m hopeful for the future.
It upsets me that, even a year later, I still have trouble doing normal activities. I can’t kneel, I can’t sit with my leg tucked under me, I can’t run without being in pain, and I also can’t do anything more strenuous than walking without my brace on.
I know my knee will never reach one hundred percent. I know that I will get arthritis at a young age. I know that it will continue to bother me. I know I’ll never be as good an athlete as I used to be. But, I also know that with the right amount of determination, drive, and confidence in myself, I can be successful, in a new, special way.