A few weeks back, I snowboarded for the first time in two years. My left ankle was weak and in pain but nothing a few pain killers couldn’t bring to tolerable levels. If you told me that was the best I could ever hope for, I’d probably be done with snowboarding, but after being hobbled for two years, it felt pretty good to move again.

Tomorrow I’m having the surgery that I swore I didn’t want. If all goes well, it could be the last ankle surgery I need. The likelihood of a clinical success is pretty good. That is, the pain will go away. The likelihood of an emotional success, however, is less encouraging. My chances of running and jumping again are slim-to-none. The doctors believe strongly in not amputating, but they aren’t as encouraging about my resulting functionality with a fusion.

As a lifelong athlete, the idea of an ankle fusion feels like accepting defeat. Like a team being down 20 in the 4th quarter and the coach pulls the starters. Only, in that situation, there’s eventually another game. In this case, it feels more like a new, very different chapter of life. The only relief is that I got a good three decades out of it first.

The upside is that if life with a fusion is unbearable, amputation is still an option. Given that I was already prepared to go that route, I doubt I would even be sad.

We’ll see. Here’s to cautious optimism.