Steps Forward

I took walking in general for granted until late September 2021. I’d have an occasional ache, and kneeling was not particularly comfortable, but nothing long term. I’m not an overly ambitious person when it comes to physical activity, but I’d been enjoying a neighborhood walk about 3 times a week on days off for a couple of years in an effort to control blood sugars and remain active. I enjoyed taking a picture here and there, noticing changes in nature – and even picking up litter as I walked. Then there was the day when a noticeable shift happened. No fall, no acute injury, no twisting – but I’d walked a couple of miles and my right knee was hurting more than usual – so I finished off the walk (another mile). It took me a few days to realize I would apparently need to consult an orthopedic doctor to see why it was this painful and swollen.

My job requires walking, so by the time I got to the orthopedic doctor about 3 weeks later, I was ingesting NSAIDS regularly to keep mobile, and even driving home at the end of the day was painful and achy. I was mentioning it often to my empathetic husband and coworkers. Ultimately, in the past 15 months, I’ve had two 8 week rounds of physical therapy about six months apart, two different orthopedic doctors were consulted, three cortisone shots administered, an MRI last January, a couple of sets of x-rays and the conclusion was – yes, there was a small meniscal tear noted a year ago – but there was also significant arthritis in the joint. At this point, bone is touching bone. Touching sounds so benign, so it’s probably more like bone grinding against bone without the cushion that should be there in between. In my Google research, I learned that arthritis can be accelerated due to an injury or impact – and a few years ago, I did fall and hit my right knee on a sidewalk. The left knee feels quite normal – for now – thankfully.

Neighborhood Pond

Since there is nothing but surgery to improve the situation, I made the decision to move forward. I was in denial for months that a knee joint replacement was in my future, but after many more months of limping and compensating in my walk, I have a date with a surgeon on 1/17. I have watched the surgery on Youtube which looks more scary when it’s going to be ME. But I’ve talked to my many friends who have had this surgery and most state that they waited too long. A random stranger at a blood drive sitting at our post donation snack table interrupted my discussion with a friend and strongly encouraged me to proceed since it helped her so much. Knee patients have strong feelings about this and I’m grateful to live in a time when this is possible as a fix. I’m thankful for insurance, for short term disability, and for family support as I go through the weeks of recovery and physical therapy in the months post surgery.

Some of the less obvious impacts of this past year are discouragement, fatigue, mentally feeling older, and facing a decision on working full-time vs. part-time vs. retiring sooner than I’d planned. Anxiety over what’s ahead is hard to avoid, but when a surgeon does 200 of these procedures a year, and visiting a friend 2 weeks post op and watching her get around well helps – (and it’s knee #2 for her).

I hope to be enjoying my neighborhood walks next year once again.

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