My handicap tag quietly expired 9 days ago, marking six months since my knee replacement surgery. The last time I hung it on my rear-view mirror was a few weeks ago when I had to make a quick stop at a shop with no parking spaces open nearby except the handicap spot right out front. I tried to look a little crippled when I edged out of the driver’s seat in case anyone was looking, but I’m not handicapped that you could notice. Here is a six-month progress report. Continue reading
Right here, right now, a light dusting of snow brightens the gray day. I am conscious of not having written in forever but I am trying not to let that flummox me. My fingers seem a little stiff, like my knees. Oh my knees. My knee. I have used it as an excuse to slack off everything. I don’t mean to judge myself; that is just the term that comes to mind. Slack. Slacking. Slacker.
This morning I woke at 4:30, restless and uncomfortable. The discomfort grew to the point where I was thinking about getting up and taking a bath, my almost nightly remedy for vague achiness. I was too tired even to do that, let alone get up for the day. I am so focused on my body, which is one big reason I haven’t written a blog since August. It’s been body, body, body.
It started with a little skin cancer on the back of my hand and then a special dental procedure and then all the preparations for knee replacement surgery, including getting rid of an infection, which involved a questionable succession of antibiotics. And then the surgery itself, on September 17, which went well by all accounts, and the rehab, which also went well, but I am still extremely focused on my body and its imperfections and the continuing recovery process. I’m not there yet.
On the one hand it is good that I am retired and don’t have to be fully functional in a day job. On the other hand it might help to have something to distract me from awareness of aches and pains and low energy levels. I do power through when I have something else to focus on. Like lots of family time, starting with a trip we took with the family to a destination six hours north, just two weeks after surgery. But wow, I did suffer some. And then a succession of visits and celebrations including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each time I have been brought up against my limits. Standing and cooking is hard on me. Being with the kids is daunting; much as I enjoy them I can’t handle them alone. I need days of recovery after each experience.
One of the biggest problems has been sleep. I got off pain medication pretty quickly because I didn’t like the side effects and the pain wasn’t bad enough to risk opioid addiction, God forbid. But I’ve been left with vague and sometimes sharp, tingly discomfort that is worse at night. After experimenting the doctors and I found a medication that at a low dose gives me at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep and often more. Getting to sleep is still hard and sometimes, like this morning, I wake up at 3 or 4, all antsy. Then I get up and walk off the jittery discomfort or take a hot bath and then maybe go to sleep for a few more hours. Every night of decent rest seems like a small victory. I would like to get off the medication (gabapentin), which is not addictive, but I am still dependent on it (there’s a difference, I think). I have tried going without it a few times and have had miserable nights.
In these past months I also edited a long memoir for a friend and I have played a role in Advent worship planning and leading. So I haven’t totally been lounging around. I have entertained a number of times, even if it is just making the main dish. I’ve kept the house cleaned and the laundry done and my husband and myself fed. If you go by outward appearances I am fully functional, maybe even back to normal. Other people see me say yes to most invitations, activities, and requests and walking at a normal pace, unassisted. They do not see my hesitation to commit to any activity that might involve walking more than a mile, total, or standing around for half an hour. They don’t see me shun the shopping mall, relying on meal kits to minimize grocery shopping, taking sleep meds, or rationing my trips up and down stairs, turning sideways coming down so it doesn’t hurt so much. Or if they do, or if I complain about these limitations, they may think my expectations, at age 74, three and a half months after knee replacement, are a bit high.
But with this last birthday, a month and a half ago, I was aware of how much older I feel than I did a year ago. This is what the knee injury (last spring) and surgery have precipitated: the inescapable awareness of aging. I feel older. Gravity pulls harder. It takes effort to feign energy and good cheer when I am just tired. Many days it is just too much work to push my physical limits as much as I should, continuing the painful stretches, getting out and walking. Will walking ever again be a joy and not a chore? Fortunately, I guess, sitting for too long is also uncomfortable. So I get up and move. It helps to have a destination, like a local bar called the Hideaway that has a great Moscow Mule.
I have no regrets about the surgery because I really had no choice. The knee wasn’t all that painful but it was unstable, not functioning properly. Now it is stable and functioning better, if not yet perfectly. I trust it will improve but I know that I have to keep working it.
The sun peeked through for a moment. I should get out and walk to the river and back. Maybe after lunch.
After my post about knee pain I got lots of sympathy and encouragement about eventually replacing these achy knees. Everybody knows somebody who has been through the serious surgical ordeal and most have come through it well. But I got a somewhat different story from an orthopedist. Continue reading
Two things have disappointed me greatly since our move into the Pink Lady: my left knee and my right knee.
With the move, I looked forward to walking everywhere. So much is within walking distance. Walking distance used to be easily three miles for me, each way. Three miles from the Pink Lady would take me to the Notre Dame campus and nearby shops and restaurants, a long trail along the St. Joe River, homes of all of my friends who live on the north side, and a number of parks, to say nothing of all the downtown shops and restaurants. Continue reading