A Tale of Two Summers

One of my last ambulatory days of 2011
One of my last ambulatory days of 2011

I’ve been enjoying myself quite a lot lately. Other than the breathless busy-ness that is the inevitable outcome of trying to DO ALL THE THINGS, we’ve been having a lot of fun. This past weekend we spent at the beach, my children increasingly fearlessly ducking through waves. We’ve been hiking and camping and beaching and farmer’s marketing. I walked through London.

I was thinking, the other day, how much more pleasant this summer seemed than last. Of course there’s a lot that goes into that. I’m in a different job, which plays a role. My sons are 6 and 3 instead of 5 and 2, which also plays a role. But one of the most critical factors to my family’s happiness has to be the condition of my left knee.

As you all well remember, last May I epically blew it out. Or rather, I prosaically finished a long slow decade of disintigration with two major tears of my meniscus, precipitated by the fact that I had no ACL to protect those secondary tissues. I spent last summer in physical therapy, in my doctor’s office and in constant pain and fear. Pain obviously, but fear that I would step wrong or it would hurt worse. Fear that was, I should say, regularly reinforced by coming true.

Camping ended up being brutal. The shifting sands and rolling rocks of a beach, plus the fear that my then two year old would attempt to swim his way to France, meant that we entirely avoided the beach the entire summer. Last summer vacation, right after the MRI revealed the massive extent of the internal damage, I spent my summer vacation processing the reality that I would need my first ever major surgery. Mt. Rainier’s shoulders went unmolested by my feet – except for the tamest trails. I did PT in the hotel room and packed a large bottle of extra strength Ibuprofen. I planned ahead for my next “vacation”, quickly exhausting my paid time off and attempting to work through the sheer exhaustion of a healing body and pain-ridden system.

It’s amazing how much more fun it is to be out of pain and relatively healthy.

That’s where this post was intended to end two weeks ago, when I first thought it up. (What can I say, I’ve been too busy having fun to actually write about it!) My knee had finally reach all better, about the time I went to London. Look ma! I can kneel!

And then something went oogly. I’m kind of so used to limited motion and pain that it took me a bit to notice my knee hurt and I was favoring it again – limping a bit. I know it’s not the ACL, but I have to wonder if there’s still a tear in the mensicus, or even a new one. I think the way I was sitting might have “caught” it.Or maybe it’s the new normal – I have very little cushioning my knee now, with the meniscal tears removed. Maybe running for a bus one day is an action I pay for over the course of the next few weeks. I realize that the right thing to do is to call my dear Orthopedist and ask to be reviewed.

The idea of initiating anything like that is appalling. So instead I’m ignoring it for now. If it is a really remote meniscal tear that only gets activated when I sit a particular way, well. I can learn not to sit that way.

My husband and I were commisserating the other day. He was going through his extensive nightly ritual of caring for his hands and feet. When not attended to with slavish devotion, the skin on both tends to crack and not heal, which is just as painful as it sounds. This accumulation of familiar aches and chronic (minor) issues is almost like a rite of passage itself. It marks – as if our increasingly gigantic and independent children did not – our transition from the flower of youth to the fruit of middle age. You notice you’re walking with a limp – after 26 sessions of PT and two hours of surgery – and you kind of wonder if you will ever spend a full year in which you do not limp, and what it might mean to be the Mom that Limps a Little. (Of course, putting it that way almost resolves me to call my orthopedist. After vacation.)

What about you? What aches and pains have you accumulated, that have become as familiar as your own face in the mirror? Or tell me about ones you have resigned yourself to, only to be unexpectedly and permanently freed from them.

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3 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Summers

  1. My tendinitis issues are not going away anytime soon, alas. And I have to accept the fact that my right elbow is never going to be the same after that stress fracture. It’s quite functional for all my regular activities, including serious piano playing, but I think I’m always going to have to pamper it with ice packs and PT exercises from now on.
    Luckily, birth control pills have freed me from the increasingly horrible symptoms of pain and heavy bleeding that I’d had for my entire adulthood. And I’ve managed to get the IBS down to a minor annoyance.

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  2. When I began chiropractic adjustments about 10 years ago, every chronic ailment except my eczema (corn syrup related) went away. When I went to the doctor to ask about having children, worried that my faulty hip joint would cause problems, I was told that the problem magically corrected itself sometime after my last x-ray at age 20. I am no longer banned from running a mile. When I became pregnant, I completely cleaned my diet, and my stomach and general health have never been better. Additionally, upon becoming pregnant, my self image was the best ever and remains, more or less, the same to this day. I’d never viewed myself as beautiful before. I even shied from mirrors in my 20s. I can feel that I’m a far cry removed from my college days, incapable of the binge drinking and harsh exercise without unpleasant repercussions, but overall my 30s have been good to me.

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  3. Ah, aches and pains. Where to begin? Most of my life I thought I was Superman, above all common infirmaties. I was fit, I actually ran up hills. I was getting ready to take my test for Blue belt in Tang Soo Do(equivalant of a Black Belt, our founder, in his old age, decided midnight blue was the color to go with) when I had a funny pain in my back. Well, a week in the hospital revealed I had a degenerative disk disease, that would never go away,and my back would pain me the rest of my life. I took it hard, real hard. I gained 80 pounds from comfort eating. Of course, getting back in the groove was painful, but you have to do it- part of the therapy. It still hurst every day. On the plus side, the pain that sent me to the hospital twenty years ago I ignore, take some over the counter pain pills, and go to work. But the adjustment was bitter. It felt really unfair,like the universe was out to get me!
    I have struggled to get back to that kind of fitness, but I know it is not realistic. Recently, I have had bouts with arthritis, the kind where you can’t get up because all of your joints are swollen. Another hurdle, but I know I can do it funciton despite the pain!
    Lessons I learned? Don’t dispair! Keep on Keeping on, because it’s the only way I know to get somewhere!!!!!

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