The eve of Halloween 10 years ago I was trail running through the beautiful Surrey hills on a crisp, sunny morning. I was training hard, running fast uphill but my heart was breaking. The views were lovely, the air was clear and the mist enchanting, but my head was filled with questions that were so frightening I could barely breathe through the tears “Will I ever again feel so well as I do in this moment or is it downhill all the way? Will I ever run again, will skiing be out of bounds, will I ever get to a peak without a cable car? Where will I find the courage to face the pain and challenges ahead? Will my partner and omnipresent mountain companion disappear if I am permanently damaged?”
When I got back from the run, and showered, I immediately went onto the Internet to ask a very similar question to the one you posed. I wanted more certainty… about my prognosis, the op, the after effects, how quickly I would be back etc etc. I was facing what at the time I believed to be the removal of an ovary with a cyst, but turned out to be a total hysterectomy with 2 lots of surgery within 10 days to remove both ovaries, my womb, appendix, omentum, tumours on the bladder etc. etc. The details are not so important except to say that the debunking surgery was major, even though I was lucky enough to have keyhole surgery, so not a direct parallel to you. Your post reminds me of the despair that I tried to suppress and control at that time and I had to reach out.
Roll forward 10 years…. the reason I was even on UA website is because, in order to show my gratitude for 10 years of wonderful mountain living post surgery, I am contemplating training for a glacier marathon this summer at the age of 60. Since my surgeries, I have climbed, walked, ski toured, attempted a mountain marathon (more of that in a while). My partner and I came to understand like never before just how precious life is, and we gave up work, sold our house in England and moved to the Austrian Alps. So, yes, I have a great deal to be grateful for.
So, I can answer part of your question: in my experience, you CAN get it back. The much trickier part to answer is how long you will be out of action. Let me share a bit of a cautionary tale. I did my first slow, flat jog along the canal near us less than a month after surgery. I had been encouraged to walk but thought, a bit of jogging will do me no harm. I almost collapsed about 100m from home and luckily my partner was home for lunch, saw me sitting on a log, drove me back and helped me in. I had started to bleed again. I was back doing spinning classes within 6 weeks, tried to match my earlier pace, and almost passed out. I also restarted my yoga classes at that time and found that I had no core strength left at all… but a vigilant and caring instructor made sure I took the time needed to rebuilt strength. This lack of core strength remains one of my greatest challenges. I was skiing again (with the agreement of my oncology surgeon) around Christmas and even snuck in some short bouts of skiing through the deep snow. Swimming, surprisingly, took longer to get back… maybe because of the core issues. I came 3rd in a bouldering competition about 3 months post op (third out of 3 vet competitors….)
In order to raise money for womens cancer research, I started training for a mountain marathon (the Arlberg Bergmarathon) taking place 6 months after surgery. My surgeon did not outright forbid me from doing this, although, in hindsight I believe he recognised the desperate need I felt to prove nothing had changed. I trained and whenever the going got tough, I trained harder. The result was that I developed scar tissue on both my achilles, was plagued with niggling injuries, could not lose weight due to my vicious surgical menopause, and eventually had to opt for a 30km walk on the same course rather than the complete marathon. my ever faithful partner accompanied me to give me moral support. I have done very little running since then.
So, why share this? Simply to say, please give yourself time to recover. Take the long view and listen to your body. I believed that grit and determination (the kind that gets you up a mountain) could be recruited to speed up recovery (or should that read to deny the reality and seriousness of the illness and surgery?). I believe that I would have got back a lot quicker had I been more gentle with myself. I have had to face an HRT free early menopause which has been the main cause of my performance decline due to strength loss, something you will not be faced with. So, the question should not be how long will I be out of action, but how am I recovering? In the long term, the time you take to recover is much more important than the training you have missed.
I will leave you with a thought that came from a conversation with my surgeon. After the op, I asked him what I could do to help myself recover. He told me that I had already done the work… all the training I had done before the op had made me so fit and healthy I had the best possible chance of recovery and all that remained to do was for me to trust my body. I wish I had heeded his wise words more carefully and simply given myself time… He also cautioned me not to seek answers online because most people with bad outcomes posted, whereas those with good outcomes got in with life. Again, he was right, my outcomes were far more favourable than the prognoses I had found online.
So, best of luck for the surgery, and a not too speedy 🙂 recovery…