Tag Archives: knee surgery

When “Better” is the Enemy of “Good (enough)”

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When I opened my eyes after my daughter wrecked our car in March, one of my very first thoughts as I struggled to catch my breath and orient to the situation at hand was, “Seven more days. In seven more days, I will feel better (than I do now).” Every seven days for the next couple of months, I moved the bar, trying to give my sidelined self something to reach for, to hope for, and to push back the depression that not being able to exercise brought on.

The more weeks that passed, the further out the goal became, mostly out of necessity. Though my physical progress felt incremental, it was at least fairly steady; I was regaining some strength, some flexibility, some balance, even if the pain had not fully subsided. Still, after seventy days of twice a week physical therapy and copious workouts on my own, the sure knowledge I had (I think I’m a little too in tune with my body sometimes) that the surgery had failed to repair my bum knee made mental progress difficult. Truly, I felt that for all the improvements I could see, it was all for naught if the meniscus was compromised.

On July thirteenth, nearly four months after the wreck, I received MRI confirmation that my meniscus was still torn, that the first surgery had failed, as I suspected, and I cried. A lot. “Why me?” pou0_1187t, pout. “Surgery…again (3rd in a year),” sniff, sniff. “Fine, cut me open again, if it means I can get back on the road!” I was so tired of waiting, tired of sitting life out, and tired of being less active than I was accustomed to being. Nevertheless, in my mind, I started the “X-more-days” thing all over again. And for two weeks after that visit in July, I focused on my surgery day, August eleventh, and went to the gym on a near daily basis, trying to rebuild my atrophied muscles in preparation for more bench time. My head was and has been wrapped around the belief, the Grand Idea, that surgery will make everything “all better.” I’ll be made whole again by my surgeon’s tools. Right?

Well, a funny thing happened at the gym Saturday before last: I started thinking. It got even more funny when I went for a walk that evening because I thought some more. Shortly thereafter, a sentence popped into my head: “ I don’t have to do this.” At that point, I stopped thinking and began reasoning, pondering this idea of surgery as a panacea to my knee problems (of the moment). When I reasoned still more and allowed myself to entertain an option for living that didn’t include surgery right now, this wonderful, spiritually enlightening thing occurred. I ceased worrying so much about surgery, even about being made “whole” (as if at 44 with knees that have bothered me in one way or another since my teen years, my knees have ever been perfect!), and began to concern myself with what I could do now, despite the meniscus tear. After all, I have been getting stronger, walking more, doing more. Despite the pain and the limitations I have in that knee, I am improving. That lightning bolt of wisdom and the peace that ensued was exactly what I needed to shift my paradigm away from an injury mindset to one of contentment and clarity. It was truly, unmistakably a God send that put my mind at ease for the first time in months; and I couldn’t be more grateful or feel more blessed for it.

Come Monday morning, it took all I had not to just call my surgeon’s office and cancel the upcoming surgery without discussion, but  I controlled myself and made an appointment with him instead. In preparation for our visit later in the week, I created a list of questions to ask. At the top of the list was, “Will this surgery really get me back on the road or will it set me back more?” Other questions included, “Can I do a half marathon without a medial meniscus (or with a torn one) and what can I realistically expect from surgery?” During the course of our chat, my surgeon noted two things after I told him of my epiphany the previous weekend: 1) “I was hoping this was the conclusion you would have come to at out last appointment;” and 2) “Better is the enemy of good.” Hmmm, another lightning bolt of wisdom from God’s mind (via my surgeon’s mouth) to my ears.

He was SO cute in 1984! Why didn't he stop then?

He was SO cute in 1984! Why didn’t he stop while he was ahead?

Dr. J expounded on that last statement by observing that he often sees people trying to make things that are good, or good “enough,” better, but far too often they fail to consider the consequences of their actions in the context of their body’s and technology’s limitations. Surgery doesn’t always improve things, it can simply make things a different kind of “not perfect”…like Michael Jackson! Point taken; surgery is on hold. Reconsideration at Thanksgiving.

Rather like a child learning a tough lesson in delayed gratification, I have finally accepted, even embraced, that I can go much further than seven days, or even seven weeks, before feeling “better.” I can be okay with the wait; I can be patient in this “affliction,” and be productive, too. No need to just bide my time any longer. Unlike after the wreck, today I can appreciate the reality that surgery may or may not improve my knee. Truthfully, it could make things much worse. There are no guarantees either way. I lost sight of that for a while, but I’ve got it now.Happy

So, in the mean time I’m at the gym almost daily, pushing myself a little more at each session. Even if I’m wincing as I go, I’m dragging my muscles out of atrophy and into hypertrophy. And it’s O.K. I’ve even started trying to racewalk on the treadmill, and my knee is tolerating it well. In fact, I just printed off the Couch to 5K program. The long and the short of this post is it’s time to stop pouting and get myself back into form. Hopefully, my meniscus won’t be too much of a hindrance. But if it is, well…that’s a post for another day. Onward and upward, my friends!

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According to the site “The Spirit of Water,” the lotus flower symbolizes harmony, spiritual illumination and unlimited potential. The lotus is a water lily which rises from the sludge of muddy waters. It reinforces the concept of resurrection. Use as a reminder that “this, too, shall pass.” It symbolizes forgiveness, gratitude and compassion and invites a balance between humility and pride.

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Did I mention it has been a rough year for my knee?

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Last August I had knee surgery, a trim that took a third of my right knee’s medial meniscus…and about 10% of my ACL…and smoothed out some of the feathery articular cartilage under the knee cap. The tear was probably caused by poor racewalking form. Yes, racewalking. Yes, there is a correct form. Yes, it 9e31aa0ca2097f85e4fed683b3667e97looks weird anyway, but still, if you do it right you’ve got a lower incidence of injury than runners. Sadly, I can’t run…much. Never have been able to. My lemon knees started manifesting in high school whilst I was “running” the one and two mile (slower than almost everyone else). This attempt at running happened when I was a freshman, and my knees have told me every since, “Um, no. You cannot run. I will hurt you if you do.” And true to form, they have. Every time. Seems my patellar tendons aren’t attached in the correct place, which means my knee cap tracks “off” when I run, causing pain.

Over the years, I have taught aerobics, rock climbed, weight trained, and walked.  Now, I can’t even stroll without some pain. Holy FREAKING cow! I did some church work the other day, work which required me to stand up and sit down a few times more than usual, and what I had hoped would be an hour or two of service work turned into about forty-five minutes. I threw in the towels didn’t even attempt to take the stairs down one flight to the front door. Ugh!

You can go back and look at other posts about my knee, but my most recent issues have been caused by an air bag impact in March, which tore that same meniscus. Based on my fitness level, good health, low weight, and I’m sure the expectation that I would be compliant with physical therapy, my genius surgeon took a risk and tried to repair the torn meniscus, a procedure with a 40% failure rate which is not helped by my “advanced” years (I’m 44!). Well, I was pretty certain the repair had failed early on (ripping, searing, tearing pain while trying to flex my knee on the evening of the first day of physical therapy just didn’t seem O.K.), and the MRI I had last Thursday confirmed it. Four months later and I’m almost back to square one. Yippee. What does this mean for my poor knee? A third surgery; the third on the same knee, for the same meniscus, just two weeks shy of one year since my first surgery.

Sigh.

Despite expecting to hear that news today, it didn’t help keep the flow of tears at bay. I had my cry in the car after leaving the surgeon’s office, then went straight to the gym. I WAS a good, compliant therapy patient. I never intentionally over did it, though the fact that there is still some nerve damage in my knee and my hip has been all jammed up, has served as a constant reminder “take it easy.” At the gym, I do all I can to rebuilt my leg muscles, regain some cardiovascular endurance (bike and elliptical-zzzz…) and strengthen the knee joint. Alas, the odds were just not in my favor.

On the bright side, and I really truly do mean that, this is my silver lining: I have one more month to continue doing the above. Going into surgery on Good Friday, 2015, I was two weeks post car wreck. There was still significant swelling, bruising, and tenderness in the leg. A portion of my difficulty in rehab has to be attributed to some collateral damages from the trauma. Now, most of that has resolved. Swelling is still present, but minimal, and I’d like to think those silly nerves are almost ready to regenerate completely so I can get all of the feeling back in my knee. So, I’ll be even stronger in a month’s time, which will make rehab easier. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be back on the road looking stupid again by Columbus Day!

Absolutely how I feel:

 (language alert)

 

10,000+ Steps Today, but 2 Steps Back: the Knee Saga, part 50

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About 7:15 p.m. C.S.T., while on a rather plodding one mile walk during my youngest’s evening fencing class, my Fitbit buzzed on my wrist, confirming I had reached my daily goal of ten-thousand steps. It was a glorious feeling! I haven’t felt the buzz of my chameleon-like friend in nearly four months, and I have missed it so. The question from here, however, is how many more ten-thousand step days can I rack upfitbit-colors in the remaining days of summer?

Sigh. I suppose I shall find out soon enough. You see, I had my twelve-week post surgery follow-up today, and while things are better than they were on 9 a.m. on March 18th, April 18th, May 18th, and even June 18th, they are still not back to where they were on March 17, when the “only” orthopedic problem I had was a two cm “high-grade” tear of the proximal hamstring tendon (under my butt cheek) in my left leg (at this point, dear reader, I will refer you back to my post of May 18, “A Day in the Life of My Knee,” for the full-story about my surgery). Due to continued pain at the medial joint line and my inability to walk a mile, let me amend that, “stroll” a mile, without pain three months after surgery, my surgeon has ordered a new MRI on my bum wheel.

Once the results come in, he and I will discuss “the future.” What, oh, what will it be? If a “frank” tear, a screaming, blatant, obvious tear is evident in my meniscus, then we will be looking at another surgery, perhaps in the fall. Dear Surgeon, thinking aloud during our tête à tête today, commented that the question would then be whether to attempt another repair or to debride the tissue, leaving me sans a medial meniscus in my right knee. I quickly assured him I was leaning towards removal. I am so sick of being sidelined, that between waiting an additional quarter plus for the outcome of a second procedure that only has 60/40 odds of healing properly and would require another $#@%^!!!! six weeks on crutches or a removal that would have me walking again within days, my answer is, “Get rid of it.”  I know that undergoing a complete menisectomy is starting the clock on a total knee replacement, but that may be ten years dfrustrated-kit-247x300own the line, not my fourth surgery in two years in three to six months if the repair fails again.

Of course, the idea of waiting until the fall if surgery is indicated, gives me time to get stronger, for my very angry hip muscles to relax, for my gait to improve, for the feeling to come back into my knee (nerve damage sucks!), and for me to be in a better frame of mind. All of those things will make recovering much easier on me (and my family), and I could use a little “easier” right now; I could also use a lot of exercise “release.” When you are someone who needs exercise, who craves the outdoors, but you have to put all of those desires upon the shelf for a season, well, I think I finally know what a castrated tom cat feels like now.

Still, through it all, I have tried to maintain a good perspective, even if I have had pockets of sadness and thrown a few pity parties here and there. A dear friend of mine suffers with MS. Her physical decline started in her early 20s, when her children were very small. She is now in her 70s and has been wheel chair bound for the last decade. Before that she progressed from requiring a cane to a needing a walker. I am blessed.

Earlier this year, combat veteran Noah Galloway was on Dancing with the Stars, a show I never watch. Fortunately though, I caught the video of Noah on Facebook several months back. And I was in tears. I feel like such a complete wuss, whining about a little nerve damage and a torn meniscus. This amazing man is nothing short of a walking miracle, and my pain, or my frustration is nothing.

Indeed, compared to many millions, I am blessed beyond measure. Like us all, I have to remember that I am an eternal soul stuck in a fragile, imperfect, mortal body. I shall run, no, SPRINT, in the eternities, even if on this Earth I have to be content to racewalk. Or even sit on the bench for a while. Since I’m not quite ready to take that final step-off into perfection, I guess I shall await the outcome of my upcoming MRI and continue to bide my time in this telestial sphere. Maybe, just maybe, I can finally get some help for that torn hamstring, too.

Just Some Random Thoughts…

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One of the perks of being off of social media is that I’ve stopped feeling the need to post twenty times a day whenever something “striking” happens to me. Still, I feel the need to journal about some of these things, as a few are dilbert_randomtruly important. Hence, this blog post: a bunch of little things all wrapped up in one little blog bow, not twenty or twenty thousand individual posts. So, here it goes…

  • My husband started a new job at the beginning of the month. He’s in federal law enforcement, and will be for another three years or so. I’m hoping and praying this new agency jump will be his last (and best). In our 23 years together, he’s worked for four different agencies, with a 13 year stint at the FBI being his longest; his time at the Bureau would best be described by Charles Dickens’ opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”My dear hubby wanted to be an FBI agent from the time he was a little boy. Leaving the Bureau was the death of a dream for him, but after September 11, and after Director Mueller got a hold of the reins, it was a dream that needed to die.  He’s been searching for a new “home” every since, a legitimate agency (as opposed to many which have no business even existing!) where he can serve the tax payer by busting the bad guys and serve his better angels by solving the puzzles that the criminals create for my white-collar guy. He’s very, very good at what he does, and he takes seriously his role as a protector of tax payer funds. If only the government itself cared for our funds as much as he does, government spending would be half of what it is now!
  •  My oldest monkey was supposed to take her driving test last week, but alas, we didn’t have all of the paperwork we needed, nor did we have a signature from my husband, her “official” parent-teacher.
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    This magnet is actually on my car

    ..who is out of town until month’s end! Alas, now, it will be mid-July before another appointment at our local DPS is available (unless I can squeeze her in at one 50 miles away in the sticks!). Grrrr!! I am so ready for this child to be driving herself around. Despite my dear daughter’s recent accident and other harrowing experiences teaching her to drive this past year, I can’t fathom parents (or kids) that aren’t chomping at the bit for their sixteen year old to take that leap. Sadly, that seems to be the new norm though…right up there with children living in their parents’ basements until their mid-30s and being on their insurance until the “child” is TWENTY SIX!! Not in my house! 

  • Another milestone for my oldest: she’s got her first job! She’ll be working at a newly remodeled Chick-fil-A near our home. She’s cute in her work uniform and chunky black slip-resistant Skechers. “It’s my pleasure to serve you” is her new mantra. However, her feet are feeling the pain of being on them for six hours at a time. Smart as she is though, she’s decided $8 plus bucks an hour towards greater financial independence is worth a little pain. Kudos to my big kid!
  • I have been having a hard time getting back to normal walking post knee surgery. I was on crutches with zero weight bearing on my right leg for six weeks. Since weaning off of them, beginning on May 18, I’ve had an incessant problem with knots/ trigger points in all the muscles that originate on or around the hip joint. Add to that the difficulty of breaking through the scar tissue around my
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    It feels like it some days

    knee caused by both the surgery and the direct impact of an air bag, and regaining full flexion and extension hasn’t been a cake walk by any stretch.Physical therapy has helped with rebuilding some of my strength and balance, and being in the pool for most of my therapy has been a blessing, but nothing has done for as much for my pain and the issues which I feel are hindering my progress as the massage I had a few weeks ago. My therapist beat the snot out of the knots and scar tissue! Parts of it hurt like mad, at one moment I even came off the table! But in the end I got off the table feeling better than I’ve felt since the wreck on March 18th that started all of this mess! I am proclaiming a miraculous healing. Ok, maybe not, but I’m happy to be able to see some light at the end of this tunnel which has felt kind of dark and endless at times. God bless those that are in truly horrific accidents, military or otherwise, who must completely rebuild themselves. You are my heroes.

  • Being the mom of teen-aged girls, even homeschooled teen-aged girls is so hard. My mom raised three girls and two boys, and I have no doubt the girls were the hardest. Like my girls today, I was a “good kid.” I didn’t smoke, drink, party, carouse, do drugs, sleep around, or engage in various and sundry stupid teen behaviours (though I was a bit of a crazy driver (still am)), but I was difficult.I was mouthy, self-centered, mean, emotional, angry, and most of all: lonely. Due largely to a few divorces, sudden remarriages to unpleasant peeople (all of which I had zero say in), and other family issues, my teen years were not fun. Still, my mom tried. At forty-four with two girls of my own and a very stable marriage, I know that now. Hind-sight is an amazing thing.My mom passed away suddenly the day after some pretty routine surgery thirteen years ago, threw a blood clot. I never got to say good-bye. For the most part, we had a strained relationship. I loved her and she loved me, but we were both quite crummy at demonstrating that love in meaningful ways, meaningful to the other, that is. As a protective measure, I have closed the doors on relationships with several family members, and am fully at peace with those decisions (even if some family members take issue with my decisions). The only regret I have, however, is that mom and I couldn’t have had more time to work things out. I wish now, now that I’ve got two teen girls driving me to the highest highs and the lowest lows on alternating days of the week (minutes of the day), I would love to talk to her again, to commiserate, to tell her I’m sorry for…being a self-centered monster of a teen girl, and to thank her for not taking me out of this world just about every other day for driving her crazy and adding to her problems!
  • Speaking of girl issues, I was taken aback by the activity my twelve year old’s class did this past Wednesday at church. Unbeknownst to me, this activity, which was centered around a discussion on real beauty, internal beauty, the beauty that matters, was to culminate in a make-application lesson. No, not just skin care, or “wash-your-face-so-you-don’t-get-zits-or-look-like-you’ve-rubbed-bacon-grease-on-your-face.” No, it was an actual make-up how-to. Granted, it was of the “How not to look like a tramp” variety, but it still hit me like I’d just been told the leaders were teaching a sex-ed lesson with a banana!
    Walking past the room in which the event was occurring, I was struck dumb seeing my precious, beastly little twelve year old, with whom, thanks in part to a big sister who could care less about looking girly, I’ve yet to discuss when she gets to wear make-up, being made up. I was not a happy mama. I was shocked, and saddened, truthfully. Our girls are innocent for such a small moment of time, pure, precious, and unadulterated. The world is constantly pushing them to grow up younger and younger. Girls in my own conservative faith are not immune to that influence. Plenty of the female children in my congregation have

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    Yeah….NO.

    parents markedly less concerned than I am with letting their young ladies look “older.” Whoopee. Good for them. Matters not a whit to me. As one who wears cosmetics sparingly (Seriously, my daily routine entails curling my straight eyelashes and brushing on a bit of mineral powder to counter appearances of skin damage. On really big days (or for the week after I get my hair trimmed shortly), I’ll run a line of grey eyeliner over my top lids. If it’s a really big deal, I’ll wear some mascara, too.), my immediate reaction was to calmly tell my dear child afterwards, “You can wash that stuff off at home.”Unfortunately, the explanation I gave for my opinion of her newly made up face did little to assuage her hurt feelings. She’d had fun. She’d wanted me to tell her she was beautiful and I’d ruined it! Tears ensued. Epic fail, mom. To be sure, I could have handled things better. But still… my opinion stands. Make-up will be discussed closer to fourteen, and don’t even ask about wearing heels until you’re staring down the barrel of junior prom! You’ll be “older” soon enough, dear child. And don’t even try the “But So & So’s mom lets her” argument. Society and culture have always had various “Rites of Passage.” Certainly, playing in the make-up is one of those rites. I just strongly object to having the timing of those rites get pushed further and further back with each generation, or having that timing altered by someone else. In other words, “As for me and my house, we will not cross that line before it’s time!”

    P.S. For all the crying and squalling that occurred at home Wednesday evening, I’m grateful that not a word about make-up has been breathed since!

    Thoughts? Feel free to post!