One of my friends says we should impose a rule on how long we can discuss health issues when we talk. The older I get, the more I see the wisdom of such a rule. No one really likes to hear another person drone on and on about their aches and pains. So, when I catch myself doing this, I’m reminded uncomfortably of my grandmother’s neighbor, Mrs. Oglesby, and I try to change the subject.
My grandmother, Meme, insisted I visit Mrs. Oglesby regularly. “How are you doing?” I’d ask.
“Not well. Not well at all.” And she’d launch into a litany of complaints. As I listened and commiserated, I’d vow never to become so negative.
This past year was particularly challenging. It all started one day at the beach when I was boogie boarding like a kid instead of the past-middle-age citizen I am. My right knee began to trouble me, but the waves were so enticing, I ignored the pain, assuming it would be gone on the morrow.
It was not. When I visited the sports doctor, he predicted a torn meniscus and ordered an MRI. When the torn meniscus turned out to be on the opposite side from the pain, I should have been wary. Instead I followed his recommendation to see a surgeon, who suggested a surgery called a partial meniscectomy.
“A chance to cut is a chance to cure,” my husband, a retired veterinarian, always jokes. “That’s the surgeon’s motto.” He did a lot of surgeries himself, and I know he didn’t abide by this motto, not when he thought another approach worked well.
I’m writing about this largely because I’d like to caution anyone considering this surgery to think more carefully than I did before leaping in. While I was recovering from the surgery, I made my second mistake. I became overly zealous with the exercises recommended by my physical therapist and strained my opposite hip. With pain in both my right knee and my left hip, walking and exercising became challenging in a totally new and not very pleasant way.
Now for mistake three. We were scheduled for a tour of Costa Rica, but had not purchased travel insurance. Because the pain was pretty severe and I knew the trip involved a fair amount of hiking, I looked into the cancellation options. They were not appealing, so we decided to go ahead with the trip.
During the hikes, the pain in my left hip was so intense, I shifted far too much weight to my still-recovering right leg. Result? Now the other meniscus in my right knee has indeed torn. Another surgery? I don’t think so. Not unless it’s a total knee replacement, but am I ready for that? By the way, Costa Rica is beautiful, but that’s a subject for another blog.
The surgeon who performed my partial meniscectomy told me he saw very little osteoarthritis in my right knee at that time. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of a partial meniscectomy is an increased risk of osteoarthritis in the future. But so soon? It had only been a few months.
At this point I decided rest was my best friend. The less I exercised, walked, or climbed stairs, the better both my hip and knee felt. I’ve lost count…is this mistake number four or five? My fit bit informed me that some days my step count didn’t even reach one thousand, and my exercise minutes were often zero. But my hip and knee were feeling better.
Next problem? After my annual physical, my primary physician ordered blood work, and we discovered my “bad” cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides had increased significantly. Could this be due to a lack of exercise? We still don’t know, but it’s been about a year now since that lovely day on the beach when the boogie boarding waves proved irresistible.
Because I’m back at the beach this week, longing to be on my boogie board once more, the year’s events have come flooding back. But I’m realizing I’ve done what my friend advised against. I’ve spent way too much time and space discussing health issues. So, I’ll stop whining for now. Take-away message? Count your blessings on your good days, exercise even if it hurts a little, and think twice before getting a partial meniscectomy on your knee.
One of the most beloved characters in my fiction is the grandmother in The Ticket, who always puts a positive face on the bleakest of circumstances. As the apostle Paul challenged, “Rejoice always… in everything give thanks.” Let’s not allow a little discomfort to spoil the joys of life—like children, grandchildren, beaches, reading, and, yes, if you feel so inclined, even boogie boarding.