Knee Replacement: How was I so unaware?

I’ll give the quick update first.

If you read my post last week, you know I was seeing an orthopedist about my knees, anticipating that he’d say I need replacement of both knees.

And that’s what happened.

I’m scheduled for double knee replacement – that’s right, both at the same time – in the middle of September. This doc has done more than 20,000 joint replacements, two-thirds of which have been knees, so I think he knows what he’s doing!

My sister will come down from New England to take care of me. And I’ll say right now what a comfort that is. I am so very grateful for her. I’m also very grateful that her husband is understanding.  And I’m especially grateful that my parents decided to have another child! I don’t know how I’d handle this without her – and I’m glad I don’t have to find out.

I’m also grateful that a former student-athlete from early in my teaching and coaching time is a physical therapist with this practice. Well, that’s actually why I chose this practice. I trust her judgment and appreciate her insights. She’s helping me with exercises and stretching to prepare for the surgery, to be in good shape when it’s time to get those new knees. She’s already given helpful advice and insights.

But what I’ve been pondering most since my diagnosis is . . . .

How was I SO unaware of how bad both my knees are??

TotalJoint

I stole this image from a page on the website of my orthopedist’s group

Until the first orthopedist told me that both my knees are bone on bone, I thought I just had a little cartilage fragment floating around, pinching sometime.

After the information that I’m bone on bone, however, I’ve realized that this knee deterioration has been going on for a while – and that my body has subconsciously been adjusting to protect my knees.

I’ve wondered why my whole body from the waist down would hurt so much after exercise like yard work, a walk, a workout at the gym.

Now I know . . . it’s because of my knees!

But why didn’t I know my knees were that bad?

Why didn’t I realize that my calves and thighs were working extra hard to keep weight off my knees?

Why didn’t I realize that my hip pain is caused by my turning my left foot slightly out – to adjust pressure from my worst knee?

I wondered back in November and December why I had so much pain.

Now I know.

But why didn’t I realize what was happening?

I do know that partially it’s because it happened gradually, over many years, not all at once. I figured it was just a part of aging to have some pain. I didn’t think there was a specific cause.

I did wonder if I was just a wimp, someone who was weak and not tolerant of pain.

HA! I have discovered that I tolerated the pain a bit too well.

But as someone who tries to be aware, to be present to the now, how did I not know what was going on in my own body??

How could I ignore knee pain and my body’s adjustment to try to lessen that pain?

Is everyone like that?

My guess is not.

My guess is that’s it mostly those of us who were told to be tough, to ignore pain, to push through pain, to be strong. Not to show weakness, not to complain, not to be a burden.

I know that’s not the best way of being.

I know a better way is to listen to my body, to be aware of what it’s saying. Not to ignore it as I have for so much of my life.

When someone says to me, “You’re strong,” or “You’re tough,” I have mixed emotions. I feel pride because part of me thinks that’s a compliment. But I also feel a little ashamed, because I feel not strong or tough enough.

But I also wonder why we think it’s important to be strong and tough. That maybe we should be more accepting of weakness . . . because ultimately, we all are weak at times. And if we live long enough, we’re probably going to be pretty weak in a lot of ways.

What’s wrong with that?

Why is strong “better”?

I have some ideas about that, but I’ll save them for another blog post later.

As for now, I’m trying to be present in my body, to be aware of what I’m doing to avoid pain, to be aware of what I’m doing  . . .  period.

To be more aware, not just of my thoughts, but of how I feel inside this very amazing body, the one that’s been trying to take care of itself surreptitiously while I go through daily activity ignoring it.

I’ve focused on my mind and spirit and soul so much in the past years that I have neglected to listen to my body carefully enough. I have required too much of it without considering what it’s telling me.

But now it has my attention.

I resolve to be more aware of pain and its message.

I resolve to be more kind to my body, this amazing connection of bones and ligaments and muscles and organs and all that work together to keep me alive and functioning, able to be active in this world – and able to enjoy it.

I resolve to be more present to myself in physical form as well as my mental and spiritual form.

Whew, so many lessons in this past decade!

So many opportunities to change.

I’m consciously adding another to my list.

Listen to my body. Check in with how and what I’m feeling on the physical level.

And be grateful for it. Because it has done and is doing an incredible job in keeping me alive and active.

Spring & summer 2007 084

This part of a trail from Bierstadt Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, was daunting back in 2007. My knees were a lot better then! I wouldn’t attempt it now. Maybe next year, though!

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2 thoughts on “Knee Replacement: How was I so unaware?

  1. Some really great insights! As someone on the wimpier end of the spectrum, I have felt weak often…and hated it. But a wise person asked me once, “What if weakness isn’t bad after all?” It does mean I’m in tune with my body and have learned to take care of myself. What if that’s actually strength?

    And what if you’re actually getting stronger in realizing your weakness? I think you believe that, now.

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