No, I haven’t fallen off the edge of the earth. And no, I haven’t been too busy playing tennis to blog. Sadly, tennis isn’t in my plans for the near future, and by near future I mean several months. Almost 3 weeks out from my knee surgery, I can say that without crying. I’m not happy about it, but frankly, as bad as my knee was and as hard as the recovery has been, I can’t even imagine playing. I’m glad the US Open coincided with my convalescence; it kept me entertained and still, which is a tall order for this busybody.
I expected recovery to be hard, but I didn’t realize how time-consuming rehab would be. I do physical therapy and a modified workout 5 days a week, with one day of just PT and 20 minutes on the bike and one day of rest & recovery to round out my week. The rest & recovery day is the hardest for me. I love the free time early in the day, but by about 2 p.m. I’m antsy and jonesing for a good sweat.
Been spending more time than I ever have, ever in my whole life, sprawled on the couch in front of the TV, exhausted and spent. After getting my kids off to school, doing PT and the modified workout, running an errand or two and feeding myself, I’m done. All I can manage is to splay out; lifting my arm to point the remote at the TV is a big chore. Such a strange state of being for me. I’m trying to be patient, and of course being so so so tired helps in that pursuit.
The good news is that progress is being made. While the PT is brutal, and forcing my knee to do things it most definitely does not want to do is hard work, I can see real improvement over the previous week. I’m still under strict orders to let the pain be my guide, but I’m pushing myself a bit more every day. Yesterday the big accomplishment was step-ups (stepping up onto a low bench and forcing my knee to bend as if I were going up a flight of stairs). At first, the bending motion was excruciating, but by about the 20th rep it got easier. Today it was a modified squat with the big rubber ball. Real squats, which were a big part of my life pre-surgery, are off the menu for me, forever. Or as long as I have this cartilage-deficient knee. If I choose to get a new knee, I can squat all day long, but with this old clunker, no squats and no lunges. If I linger too long on the fact that I can’t do two of my favorite exercises–in addition to the moratorium on tennis–I’ll get very sad, so I’m zipping right on by those topics. Gonna try and focus on what I can do, and see how far that gets me. For now, the list of things I can do is pretty short, but I’m doing those things with less pain overall, so I’m calling that a win. I have a newfound respect for anyone who lives with chronic pain. Knowing that mine is temporary is comforting (although 3 weeks is a loooong time when you’re in the thick of it!).
Long time, no blog, I know. Thanks to you faithful readers who have inquired about the reason for my silence. Sometimes no news is good news, but once you bare your cancer-laden soul in a blog, silence can be interpreted as a sign of trouble. Not so here; rest assured that if there were new and nasty developments, I’d spew the gory details. That’s how I roll. I’ve been busy with summer stuff: ferrying my favorite girl back & forth to day camp, hounding my video-game-addicted boy to work on his “page a day” algebra packet, devising a piggie-proof lock for the pantry, and keeping my potted plants alive as we alternate between drenching rains and scorching sun. Oh, and wading through the mounds of red tape that ensued after my girl and I were in a pretty bad car crash last weekend. Wet roads, bald tires, and independent rear suspension became a perfect storm that landed us in a ditch with the airbags deployed and the car inoperable 200 miles outside of Houston. Never a dull moment.
In light of all this, the MRI that I had Wednesday was a high point. Thankfully it was not cancer-related, but it brought back a whole lot of cancer-related thoughts. I guess it’s the case of once a cancer patient, always a cancer patient. In fact, it got me thinking — a lot — about May 7, 2010, just days after I’d been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at the tender age of 40. On that day in history, I was enduring “test-a-palooza” in which I spent the entire day at the hospital for an L-DEX, chest x-ray, MRI, and bone scan.
Here’s what I had to say back then about the MRI:
Three vials of blood and a dose of radioactive dye later, I was ready for the MRI. I’ve had an MRI before, and this was not what I expected. Instead of lying on my back and going through the tube, I was face-down on what Mona the tech called a massage table (I noticed real quick there is no massage). Imagine my claustrophobic heart singing when I saw the piped-in oxygen for the tiny little space in which my face was smushed.
Mona asked what kind of music I’d like, to drown out the noise. She said most people choose classical to help relax. I told her I prefer alcohol to help relax, but I’d try the music. She promised me a double martini, extra dirty, when we got done.
The sweet chirping of birds and melodic harps were quickly drowned out entirely by a ruckus that can only be described as a marriage in hell between a jackhammer, nuclear-reactor alarm, and emergency broadcast signal, in a successive repeating pattern. Mona wasn’t kidding when she said a lot of people come out of there with a pounding headache. I decided right then & there that I needed a double on that double martini order.
While it seemed like I was in there forever, it was really only about 40 minutes, and instead of lying there thinking about what an unholy racket and uncomfortable experience it was, I heard my mom whisper in my ear: “Every pounding noise you hear is you gearing up to kick the crap out of the cancer.” Course, she never would have said “crap” because she didn’t like cuss words, and would have said “peewaddle” instead, but I added “crap” for a little color. I had lots of time to think about her and her courage while I was in there, and it worked. Before I knew it, Mona came to get me off that crazy thing.
Wednesday’s MRI was on my knee, which has been barking at me for months and doesn’t always go along with my big ideas. Tennis, working out at the gym, swimming, and climbing stairs seem to be more than this old knee wants to do, and after stretching, foam-rolling, icing, and self-medicating with cold beer, it was time to face the fact that it wasn’t getting any better. My orthopedist says that some knees need to be scoped every 8 to 10 years, and my scope was 7 years ago, so there ya go. I guess 7 years of lunging, squatting, jumping, running, and springing have taken a toll. As per my usual, I refuse to go quietly into the night, and plan to do whatever it takes to get some more use out of these joints.
Conventional wisdom suggests two scenarios to fix my problem: do a PRP injection and see how far that gets me, or do another scope along with the PRP. The PRP alone is the much simpler course, and I’m all for quick recovery and little downtime, but in my heart of hearts I know I need the scope, too, and I learned long ago in my cancer “journey” to always go with my gut.
The PRP represents some pretty cool cutting-edge medical thinking in an emerging field called Orthobiologics, and all the cool pro athletes are doing it so why not me, too? Troy Palamalu and Hines Ward both did it, as did Tiger Woods — repeatedly, and perhaps to correct some of the damage his jilted wife did to him with a golf club. Kobe Bryant got some, and Alex Rodriguez traveled to Germany to get his PRP. He thinks he’s so special.
Here’s how it works: under the beautiful twilight haze of propofol, 30 ml of blood is collected and spun in a centrifuge to separate the plasma from the whole blood. The plasma, which is very concentrated and full of healing goodness, is then injected into the injury site and the magic begins. Because PRP is autologous, it’s a good choice for me: my body is quite the xenophobe and reacts quite strongly to anything foreign like tissue expanders or a port.
I was all geared up for the idea of the scope and the PRP when my awesome orthopedic surgeon called to say there was something unexpected on the MRI. Surprise! A complication! My kneecap is misaligned and has slid to the outside instead of staying in the center groove at the end of the thigh bone as the knee bends. Fantastic. There goes my tennis season. Me and my stupid patellar maltracking. The fix? A lateral release, which is done during the scope and involves cutting the lateral retinaculum, which is the tissue attached to the outside of the kneecap.
If it were just the scope and the PRP, no big deal. A bit of a slow recovery for a go-getter like me, but very manageable. The lateral release doubles the recovery time, and involves a lot of pain and swelling. Sigh. Big sigh. Never a dull moment, indeed.