All on their own knees don't go bad overnight. With the exception of serious injury, it is simply a matter of wear and tear. Could I dial back and make different choices, my path of fitness would have been to stick to to swimming and yoga. But while I was a lifelong swimmer and also a daily practitioner of yoga, I also liked more aggressive activities, especially running. To be more specific, road running, and my body could handle it well (or so I thought). A good run lifted up my spirits, my mind, ameliorated stress and had the added benefit of being a load bearing exercise and thus beneficial for the bones. Plus it is how I woke up each day to my own world and also explored new places: cities, towns, rural areas, beaches. I ran in sunshine, rain, snow.
Without running I don't think I could have survived Nathans or written a book. Especially the latter. Whole chapters got formulated as I pounded along the Potomac River.
So with all this physical activity in my adult life it may come as a surprise to learn my knees started to bother me in high school. From ages 16-18 I had knee surgery twice on my right knee and once on my left. My left has a pin in it. This was all due to the rigors of cheerleading--leaping high in the air and, a few times, landing badly, ending up in the hospital, wearing a cast for a weeks. After a course of PT I'd be back, leaping in the air! The medical advice going forward was to give up the leaping and maybe also avoid skiing and tennis. Done, done and done.
The simple truth is time takes a toll. I had my first episode of a torn meniscus in one knee in 2011. A cortisone shot fixed me up for a year or more before I needed another. Then the other knee had the same problem. And so it would go like that for about 6 years. Cortisone shots, spaced widely apart, bought me relief and time. Then they became closer together. In early 2017 a doctor first mentioned that I was a good candidate for knee replacement. I had maxed out on cortisone shots -- you can get only so many before that treatment has to stop.
Then, feeling very good and following the workout of a favorite exercise app, and doing lunges, I hurt both knees. For three weeks I limped. For a few months both knees were swollen. I took Celebrex and had physical therapy. The healing process took a long time.
I started to meet with knee surgeons, arriving with my x-rays and my story. Each, to one degree or another, said the same thing: new knees. I hated to hear that. In the first months, I searched for any medical person who would tell me I did not need to get new knees. I found this, but usually from doctors who weren't in the bone or joint end of the biz. My shrink. My dentist. My gyno. The knee doctors countered logically: I could definitely opt out of knee replacement, but would likely have to accept limited mobility, possibly even disability.
Two friends stand out. Both had both knees done. One, a woman, wanted to play tennis again. She's now playing tennis again. The other, a man, wanted to play golf again. He's now golfing. What I want is to be able to walk, to take long walks, to walk on beaches (with bad knees that becomes a no-no), to walk on errands, to walk when visiting walkable cities, to possibly even revisit the Billy Goat Trail, which is a favorite local Washington hiking path that does demand strong knees. It would also be nice to again wear a feminine shoe with a heel. I know stilettos are in my past, but even a one or two inch heel would be a treat.
I still can't believe I've set a date. My attitude about that date swings from excited anticipation to full on dread. I imagine the best, and the worst. I've been preparing my body and more about that in my next post. I'll write about insurance, too, and short term work disability leave. Choosing my new knees. And so much more ...