Sarah Bowen Shea: Being a Good Patient Pays Off
Starting at the age of two, I had to wear glasses to correct a cross-eye or, as most folks say more gently now, a “lazy” eye. An ophthalmologist I’d end up seeing a great deal over the coming years, Dr. Ostriker, prescribed glasses as well as a regimen of eye drops, patches, and exercises to strengthen my weak right eye. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of doing sewing cards while wearing a flesh-colored adhesive patch over my good eye, and playing pirate on the days my mom would let me wear a black, fabric-and-elastic eye patch instead.
While the patches and drops were only temporary measures, eyeglasses were my constant companion from before I even started preschool. I didn’t question wearing them, despite being able to see perfectly well. I’d say I wore them as surely as I brushed my hair and teeth, but I was more diligent about wearing my glasses than using a comb or a toothbrush.
Then, on a sunny June day after sixth grade, I went in for yet-another exam with Dr. Ostriker. She delivered news I hadn’t seen coming: I didn’t have to wear glasses anymore. My eyes were cured, she said, because of my dedication to donning my glasses. It wasn’t until she said, “If you hadn’t worn your glasses so faithfully, this day would have never come,” did it dawn on me I could have opted to not wear them.
Being a diligent, rule-following patient works equally well with running injuries as eye problems. In my Another Mother Runner duties, I often meet women who tell me they’ve been suffering from plantar fasciitis for years, yet they are running a half-marathon the following day. Or they have terrific IT pain during every run, yet they just ran their 10th 10K of the year.
It’s no fun to foam roll, walk in a swimming pool instead of run, do acupuncture, or even be inactive for weeks on end, but sometimes that’s what the doctor orders to recover from an injury. I know: I’m coming off two months of no exercise because of multiple fractures in my ankle. I’m currently swimming, riding a stationary bike, and taking a barre-style class. All approved by my orthopedic surgeon.
I’m also seeing a physical therapist twice a week—and religiously doing the exercises and stretches she prescribed for me. It means I set my alarm 20 minutes earlier than I’d like, but the results are paying off: I’m gaining more flexibility and stability in my ankle than any of my health professionals expected to see less than three months after major ankle surgery.
Bottom line: Listen to your body—then listen to your healthcare provider. The better you are at following the steps they prescribe, the sooner you’ll return to taking running steps.