I planned for the recovery of my knee surgery pretty much the way I approach every task—armed with a numbered and prioritized list of tasks and some clear cut goals. I love lists. I have lists of lists. I shudder to think what portion of my income gets spend on bright white neatly lined index cards and for the important, more long term lists, piles of Moleskine notebooks and calendars, in a range of sizes and colours. I am a fool for that creamy eggshell satiny Moleskine paper, beloved by writers for decades.
I tend to be a determined sort, so it’s not surprising that the only person who dared to suggest that I just might not be up to rearranging my office or finally filing all my writing samples or even dusting off a thriller I started writing a couple of years ago, was my boss. We tend to be brutally honest with each other.
Turns out she was right. It’s been six weeks since the surgery, I’m halfway through my (thankfully!) paid short-term disability period and my master list remains unchanged by a single check mark or cross off.
Truth is, I had no idea what was to come. I expected a few painful days in the hospital (which weren’t thanks to modern chemistry and residual effects from my spiral block that kept the worst at bay) followed by gradually better, more active weeks ahead. I wasn’t even close. Here are 10 things I didn’t know.
- I didn’t know I’d develop some problems with food. I opted for a spiral block and “cocktail” because I didn’t want to deal with the affects of anesthetic—including the loss of appetite. Nope. While I get odd food cravings at strange times—and try to eat one decent meal a day, generally dinner because I know I’m being watched—I could pretty much live on homemade smoothies and toast. As long as the world doesn’t run out of frozen strawberries and pineapple, I will survive.
- I didn’t expect to be an intellectual dullard. The other reason I didn’t want a general anesthetic was I knew how cloudy it could make one’s mind. None of that for me. I didn’t know that post surgery pain generally makes one temporarily confused and mentally slow. So much for the list of books I wanted to read (which were all professional development-type tomes) and pieces I wanted to write. Lately making of sense of a reality TV show is more like getting through a Ted Talk. On science.
- I didn’t know I’d be so tired. I take naps in the morning just to soften my entry into the day. I have to rest after exercising twice a day. A 15-minute walk, as prescribed at this point in my recovery demands an hour of lay-down afterwards. It’s ridiculous.
- I didn’t know the pain would bloom to its worst three days after I got home. I was drugged pretty well throughout my hospital stay. The nerve numbing qualities of the spinal lasted longer than I had expected. I was so gleeful at just being home the weekend I was released, the happy endorphins floated me on. And then Monday came—with a throbbing pain that felt like someone was smashing my knee with a hammer. Good thing that lessened a little each day.
- I didn’t know that for quite some time, just about everything would feel overwhelming.
- I didn’t know there would be setbacks. Days of gradual linear progress felled by one bleak depressing day where nothing went right, my knee wouldn’t bend and I was struck with the fact that I might never walk normally again. But I also didn’t know I’d be able to let them pass, accepting them as inevitable, then finding the strength and determination to start pushing forward the next day.
- I didn’t know physio was going to hurt so damn much. There, I said it.
- I didn’t know that so many people would be checking in, texting, writing, calling, supporting me, cheering me. That’s been a pretty wonderful discovery.
- I didn’t know that I would feel so proud of myself for doing a load of laundry, making a simple meal, showering without a spotter outside the door or being able to walk by myself for a whole 15 minutes. I tend to beam these days whenever I can do anything that makes me feel like me.
- I didn’t know that now, when the pain is more often discomfort, that I would realize how much I now appreciate simple gifts like comfy blankets and fresh sheets and pjs, the pain-easing chill of a frozen bag of peas, my favourite take-out sub—the little, but massively important parts of being cared for by someone who loves you.
Now I know. I’ll be better prepared the next time.