Just over eight months ago, as they pulled my gurney out of the operating room, I remember thinking “half-way there,” then snuggling down into the warm blankets and the miraculous pain-free-ness of my epidural.
Halfway there. On my way. Almost able to see the finish line.
While I don’t actually remember when the pain began, I do remember being one busy, active, independent middle-aged woman. Despite my inability to go to sleep if we don’t have some spare cases of my favorite soda, the fact that my favorite fruit is the strawberry filling inside the dark chocolate Lindt bar and on my puffier days, I share the same dress size as Marilyn Monroe (look it up!), I was unreasonably healthy, with a 115/75 blood pressure—a good number for a 20-year-old—and the ability to breeze—no, dance— through a 50-60 hour work week that included the day job that I love plus at least a few nights or weekend days of consulting.
But somewhere along the way, I stopped being able to stand for any length of time, my knees gradually ached so much that I used to rest a hot cup of Starbucks on them during my commute just to ease the pain and when I got off a chair, it sounded like someone was rattling a bag of broken china. Genetics didn’t help—my father suffered both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, his life ending at 77 due to an immune system destroyed by the meds.
I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t angry. I just wanted to be fixed.
Last December’s left knee replacement was a voyage to the unknown. An adventure. I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t afraid. Just anxious to get it done, get started on the road back to my life. I was shocked that the hardest part wasn’t the pain or the hard physical work to walk again—it was the feeling of stepping away from who I was for months on end. At the end of this month, three days before my favorite long weekend of the year, I’ll be back in the operating room for a replacement on the right side. My sense of adventure isn’t quite as strong as the first time around. But my sense of being in progress of getting back to being me is, for good reason, even stronger than before.
Yes, the pain is going to be pretty rough. For the first couple of weeks anyway. That I know. Walking with a walker is clumsy and frustrating and there will be days when the anger and exhaustion feel like way more than I can handle. But other days will be full of victories. And yes, I’m going to have to work like crazy to get my strength and flexibility and extension back—and I’m probably going to feel the same sense of being cut off from all the things that constitute my normal life.
But in just a handful of months—there will be no stopping me.
I’ll be able to break into a wildly entertaining dance in an empty grocery store aisle when a golden oldie comes on the store PA system.
I’ll be able to reunite with many of my beloved shoes and boots—and of course, my handbags too—not having to give a second thought as to whether I’ll be able to walk or manage to carry the weight. I’m thinking of a new Fossil Emerson satchel in caramel brown—just because I can. Soon.
My rock star walk will be more Stevie Nicks or Grace Slick than Ossy Osborne. That still matters.
I’ll be able to stand in line at a bank. I can go to movies and not worry about fidgeting in the seat. I can go shopping without having to call in every so often to point out that I haven’t been transported to the ER and I can go for walks. Oh walks.
Most of all, I’ll be walking, running, dancing me again. I’ll feel at home in my body again, not like the slow limping stranger who inhabits it now. This is my second chance. And frankly, it’s about time.