Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cautious Optimism

It's been a good week.  Since my "revelation" on Saturday, I've experienced continued progress in my recovery journey, and it has renewed my optimistic outlook. (which I thought I'd lost forever!)  I think I'm going to walk again! (Without a walker or a cane . . . eventually!)

Thanks to an email from a new friend, I started walking with my wheeled walker on the street last Saturday.  It's a pretty slow process, and I'm now walking the length of three houses, plus across the street and back.  It isn't pain free walking, but I'm walking, and it feels good to be going someplace other than the bathroom, even if I just wheel myself down the street and back again!

This week at physical therapy I've been working hard learning new exercises, and coming home with renewed pain, making it challenging to see success at times. The one real measurement of progress is the degrees of bend and straight in my knee that the PT records at each session.  While it seems backwards to my mind, the bending goal is 120 degrees on my new knee (my old knee measurement is 136).  Yesterday, I went from 112 to 115, which completely surprised me.  That is solid progress!

Of course, straight, they want zero degrees (as opposed to 180, as I would think!) and I was at three, which is not so great.  I've actually been at one before, but I seem to be having a harder time straightening than bending lately. I'm told just keep doing the exercises where I rest my heel on a styrofoam cylinder, and gravity then forces my knee to hang straight.  It's another exercise that is painful as I'm supposed to hold that position for five minutes, ten times a day.  I made it to two minutes, four times, last night before I went to bed, where sleep evaded me, as aching overtook the darkness.

It was one of my roughest nights. It seemed I was awake more than I slept and woke eventually not feeling very refreshed at all.  There was no comfortable position, and despite taking a pill, and bringing an ice bag to bed with me, I slept fitfully and poorly. For the first time since surgery, I couldn't force myself to do my "laying down" exercises before I got out of bed this morning.  I hobbled toward the kitchen, fixed tea and a piece of toast, took a pain pill and settled into my recliner with ice on my knee. And here I sit!

As I write, the ice and the pill beginning to take effect, I am trying to gather that transitory optimism back. I know it's there, hovering on the periphery, beckoning me: Be optimistic! It's getting so much better.  You're making strong progress!  Don't let yourself slide back.  Smile!

In all reality, I want to kick that unsinkable Molly Brown person back to bed, at least for the moment.

But then, not really.  If I'm honest with myself, and I try to be, I want to drag myself over to my bike and pump start my day.  I want to work on the exercises, even the ones that hurt, and literally put one foot in front of the other, and walk, maybe going one house further today than I did yesterday.

Four weeks from today I am officially back to work, with an all day inservice, and a two hour "Open House" that evening.  I am optimistic that I will be mostly recovered, and able to perform my job.  Realistically, I know that I will not yet be 100%, and that I will need to recall the lessons learned this summer about taking care of myself.  Some that come to mind are:  acceptance, take it slow, delegate, pay attention, listen, be gentle, be patient, trust, ask for help, be kind, exercise, don't give up, and know my limits.  All of those lessons can be taken into the classroom with me, and will help me be the teacher I want to be for each of my new students.

It hasn't been the sort of summer I would wish for, or want to have.  It's been a crazy hard summer and it isn't over yet, (thank God!) because I'm not ready physically for it to be over yet! But, I am in the place I am meant to be, and I am optimistic that I will one day be glad I had this summer, for all its fears and challenges and misery and lessons.

I'm not quite there yet . . . to that glad place, but I'm cautiously moving in that direction!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Knee Torture Revelations

This morning I experienced a first!  I was laying on the bed, doing the dreaded "Knee Torture" (KT) exercises (sliding my foot toward my rear, and bending my knee as much as possible) and I was determined to do 50 of them before I got up.  I'm not crazy, I didn't do them all at once, but ten here, another exercise, ten again, a different exercise, and so on.  I was in the fifth set of ten when I realized that I really had to pull back to make it hurt.  (The first 10-20 I always feel like my skin is going to split across my knee and it is pure agony.)

I smiled.  I really did!  I smiled during "Knee Torture".  I did not in my wildest dreams ever think that would happen.

Later, after I read a few blogs, my email, which had a lovely surprise or two, had my tea and breakfast, I went back for round two.  I began with 10 minutes on the bike, with slight but acceptable pain, then back to the bed for the second set of laying down exercises.  Once again, after the first few, I was able to complete the KT sets with little pain.  I finished, hollered for Kailyn to bring me my ice and settled in to read my way through that icing period.

I'm about half way through, The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux.  I started it last night, but already, the book has sticky notes sticking out all over the place. One that I had marked last night was this, "When the desire is strong enough, talent shows up, like a day laborer, to help you achieve your goal."

It seems when I least expect it, perhaps that's always the way it is, something happens that is so earth moving to me it takes my breath away.  Just yesterday, I could not make that darn knee bend without feeling like my skin was going to rip open and I was convinced that this is my lot in life.  The rest of my life my knee would never bend comfortably again.  I was convinced!  I came home from PT with enough pain that I took more Tylenol on top of the pain medication I took before PT.  I laid on the couch the rest of the night, every half hour or so faithfully pulling my knee up, wincing each time.  I was crushed and beaten and when it was time, swallowed another pain pill and willed it to work.  I went to bed, and again tossed and turned, frustrated with discomfort, and read The Journal Keeper until I eventually fell asleep.

It is my belief that the quote above seeped into my brain overnight, as I swear I had no intention of doing 50 of those dreaded KT exercises in one session prior to this morning. The most I had done before was 30 but, my day laborer showed up.  I achieved my goal, a goal I didn't even realize I actually had.

Another little quote I marked in the book was a prayer the author's son told her he prayed, "God, remove my fear and direct my attention toward what You would have me be."  Did I pray that prayer last night when I read it?  I don't recall actually doing so, but I thought about it enough that I shared it with my daughter this morning.  And, toward the end of my time while I was laying with my knee elevated and icing, I got to a good stopping place in the book, and said my own prayer of thanks to God for placing just what I needed in front of me.

One more thing that definitely had an impact on my day was a surprise email from Deb's sister in law, Kerry, who had knee surgery a year ago.  Kerry validated every emotion I've felt (as several of my blogging friends have also done, and I thank you, too!) but she added the reassurance that this process,   the recovery, the lack of control, the giving in, the tears, the frustration, the pain . . . it's all HARD!  When I saw the word HARD, in capitals, after each piece she wrote about, I felt so "OK" with myself. This is HARD, and my last part of my prayer this morning was that I will remember tomorrow morning, when it is HARD to bend that darn knee, (because I know it will be!) that it will get easier as I move myself along this path to recovery.

It is with a most grateful heart that I sit here today, rejoicing that so many are out there, lifting me up and aiding my faltering steps.  Blessings to those who are sharing my journey.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bountiful Blessings

This time yesterday, I was sitting in my chair, feeling like I had a boulder on my lap.  I was weary of making the effort to move, and decided I wouldn't.  I'd just sit here, wishing I didn't have the weight of the world sitting on me.

A little poem started to form, so I went with it.  Not great poetry, but as I wended my way through, and shed a few pity tears, I found that I was able to get up and go about the rest of my day.  I got on the stationary bike, did the other exercises, iced my knee several times, checked out a few blogs, enjoyed a long phone conversation with my oldest daughter, read, and watched "Julie & Julia" with my youngest daughter.  Really, a pretty full day for a person who can't do much except sit around with her knee raised!

Later in the afternoon at physical therapy, Mindy met me with a profuse apology, as between us, we had pushed me a little too hard and I'd had a setback. (I'm back using the walker instead of the cane.)  I appreciated her words, as I had been a wee bit fearful that she would expect me to do some of the weight bearing exercises that had caused me extra stress, but I also assured her it was my going overboard with the new exercises that probably did the worst damage.  I just can't seem to leave well enough alone, as I want to be healed and hiking again, yesterday!

I was actually feeling pretty good, if you didn't count the pain I felt whenever I bent or straightened my knee!

After we returned from PT my husband went out to check the garden.  Over the years, our garden has morphed from two small raised beds into an "L" shape, that takes up most of the backyard, easily a couple hundred square feet, probably more.  He has strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, garlic, onions, carrots, beans, tomatoes and peppers.  Because he loves me, he also plants several varieties of squash and cucumbers, (which he refuses to try) and mini pumpkins (which I always give my students in October). He also is a beekeeper, so we have a few hive boxes on one side of the garden as well.

I haven't been out to look at the garden for nearly four weeks.  To be honest, I'd almost forgotten about it.  The weather has been pretty crummy around here and while we've had strawberries and raspberries for awhile now, and the blueberries are just now getting ripe, I didn't even think about the veggies.

He brought me a perfect little zucchini, just the size I like for stir-fry, and I was so excited!  He said, "There's a patty pan out there too.  Do you want it?"


In comes a sweet little patty pan, again, just perfect for dinner, and he says, "There's a couple crook neck.  I suppose you want those too?"

"Well, if they're the right size, Yes!"

YUM!  Even though it ended up being a bit longer than I'd like for standing, I gleefully chopped and stir fried my bounty from the garden, and loved every bite. A good friend had brought me a vegetarian lasagna on Monday, so I had a lovely meal and it boosted my spirits considerably.

 This morning, I had a medley of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries with my granola and yogurt. Once again, I reveled in the blessings of having a garden in our little suburbia neighborhood.  

I've been counting my bountiful blessings . . . family, friends, produce in my backyard, and a knee that definitely feels better today than yesterday.  It was thrilling to walk down the hall with minimal pain this morning, and while some exercises still cause me to wince, I finally believe I am truly on the road to recovery.

Wow!  It's good to feel grateful today!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Wait

I sit with a boulder on my lap
So large, I can't see around it
So heavy, I can't move it

I try to push it aside
My attempts feeble, weak
It doesn't budge

Seconds slip into minutes into hours
I wait, praying for someone - God?
To lift the boulder

A voice whispers
Get up; you can do this
I ignore it and wait

I push again at the boulder
half-heartedly, not really expecting
It to move, so it doesn't

I wait, busying myself with words,
Reading, writing, praying
Wishing for anything but this weight

The teapot is empty, the paper read
The boulder no less, my desire
No greater, I silently beg - please

Tears fall into my empty teacup
Oh God, take this boulder from my lap
And He does

Monday, July 18, 2011

You Gotta Have Friends

My Friend, Deb and I 

I was feeling pretty low yesterday.  I'd been told at Physical Therapy on Friday that I needed to elevate and use more ice, because my swelling had yet to subside since my surgery, three weeks ago, today.  I spent most of the weekend on my back, with my knee up above my heart, with ice, or in the motion machine.  I wasn't a happy camper.  It meant being reduced to either reading, watching TV or sleeping.  I was getting pretty sick of all those activities.  For awhile, I propped my laptop on a pillow on my belly, but it wasn't working out so well.

Sometime Sunday afternoon, I called my friend, Deb, because I needed to hear her voice.  I needed to connect in a more personal way than via email, or blog posts.  The funny thing is, that I didn't know that was what I needed, until she answered the phone and we started talking.

As all good friends do, she commiserated while I told her the latest setbacks on my recovery journey.  She listened.  I thanked her, again, for introducing my blog on her blog last Friday.  We talked about how powerful it was for me to suddenly have all these new avenues to explore, new stories to read, new places to visit.  Every moment I was able to be up over the weekend I reveled in the new experience of making connections through other people's blogs.  I had no idea what I had been missing. And, I came to realize through our conversation that what really had been holding me hostage during the past few weeks has been this crippling sense of isolation.

It's like the old saying, "Be careful what you pray for" because I used to dream of having a few hours all to myself. I've been somebody's wife or mother for most of my adulthood, and time alone has been precious and hard to come by. I yearned to have time to myself.  

Well, I got it- days and more mind-numbing days of it! I've totally lost count of how many books I've read.  I've watched more TV in the past few weeks than I've watched in the last 15 years. I wanted time to myself to do the things I wanted to do, not lay around for weeks waiting for my knee to heal. 

I'm grateful to have my trusty black lab, Nikki, as without her, I would have no one to talk to all day.  Nikki has been my constant companion, never far from my chair.  She did learn quickly that lying under the recliner wasn't the best idea when I needed to get up! Most of the time, she lays on the floor, usually right in the pathway I need to take to get where I'm going.  While I was using the walker, she gave it clear berth.  The cane doesn't faze her, and we're back to the usual comment from me, "Nikki, move please!" as I hobble toward the kitchen or bathroom.  Then she follows me, and plops down to await my next move.

So, I'm isolated, but not on a deserted island.  I have my new blog friends, and other friends I can call when I'm blue.  I have Nikki, bless her little doggy heart. I have my laptop, and eventually, I'll be able to get back to transcribing my great grandfather's letters, a personal goal for this summer.  (Deb had a great suggestion of using a separate keyboard.  My daughter has one she isn't using and has promised she'll dig in her room and find it for me after work!) So, I have a lot to keep me busy.

Did laying around this weekend help?  Not so much, I don't think.  My knee looks as fat as ever to me.  But, I was able to complete the exercises today, and ride my bike (I could, I could!) and while walking doesn't seem to be any easier, it isn't any harder, either.  So, I think I'll just take it a day at a time and be thankful for friends.  

A special thank you to all who have visited my blog and left comments.  I am excited to read your stories and expand my world.  It's good to have friends!

My Nikki Girl - looking kinda sad

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Don't Want To!

I've been awake since 5:30, forced myself to do the required "laying down" exercises, had a pot of tea, read the paper, written in my journal, updated my exercise "log" adding the new ones I've been given this week.

I ache, bone deep it feels like, but the whole entire knee area aches.  I broke down and took a pain pill an hour and a half ago, and finished more of the "new routine", but I am putting off getting on the stationary bike.  I don't want to- I really, really don't want to.  I know it's gonna hurt, so I also took two Tylenol (my only other option for pain) as despite the pain medication taking the edge off, it wasn't enough for me to want to get on the bike.

This morning I wrote in my journal about how hard I'm fighting depression these days.  I really just wish I could go back to bed and sleep through the next few weeks.  I know I've said that before, but I really mean it.  I hate how weak I feel; and how weak I truly am.  Yesterday I had my yearly mammogram appointment.  I'm one of those people who don't mind going for a mammogram.  I was fortunate that a mammogram found my cancer in early stages seven years ago, and I am a believer.  I'd actually forgotten about that summer from hell . . . with three surgeries in attempts to get clear margins, and seven weeks of radiation.  Compared to this summer, it was not such a big deal. But, I do remember it seeming pretty awful at the time.

I decided to just take my cane yesterday, which might on the surface seem brave, but really it's just because using the walker is embarrassing to me!  I truly hate the walker!  Unfortunately, I'm not that great with a cane.  I walk jerkily, and lean heavily, and, despite the fact that it wasn't that long of a walk, I wore myself out. Even the relatively short length of time to stand for the mammogram seemed too long, and by the time I returned home, I was physically exhausted. I read and napped the rest of the afternoon.

Last night again I had achey knee pain and couldn't get comfortable for what seemed like hours.  So, I'm on the slow accent of that roller coaster, and let me tell you, it is dragging it's way up the hill.  It's hard to see the "possibilities" today, but I also know that until I force myself to get on that darn bike, I won't get to the summit, and I won't reap the rewards of what's on the other side.

So, even though I really don't want to, I"m going to go ride that bike. Now.  A picture of the little engine that could just popped into my head.  I think I can . . . I think I can . . .

Thursday, July 14, 2011


About ten years ago, when I first started teaching, I had a coffee cup with the words, "I Love the Word Impossible!" At the time, I thought the sentiment totally fit where I was in that there was nothing that would be impossible to accomplish.  I was very idealistic, as all new teachers are, but that first year my dream of reaching and teaching all students was perhaps, not impossible, but pretty darn challenging.  It was a year of extremes; I had several of the most gifted and brightest stars, and at least as many who could care less, and appeared to be in school with the sole intention of driving the teacher to the brink of insanity. Most days that year, I cried, (mostly after the students had left for the day!) desperately feeling impotent frustration.  My many years of motherhood, work as a staff assistant in various buildings, and student teaching in a 5th grade classroom, had not truly prepared me for managing a classroom of 2nd graders with multiple behavior issues.  Fortunately, I had immense support and we all survived what I often think of as the "impossible year".  

This spring, I received an email from Greg, one of those second graders, (who I also had the pleasure of having as a 5th grader later on) asking if he could complete his work hours with me for his senior project.  Having him join our classroom, talking with him about the students he worked with, and about his learning memories, was a sweet reward for having experienced that year, and a reminder of the possibilities imbedded in each child, and in the relationships we foster with them.

Today I'm thinking about "possibilities" in a very personal way, particularly in regards to what I'm now calling my "summer of recovery".  I've been out of the hospital for two weeks, and I've been swept up into a roller coaster of emotions, pain, and "impotent frustration" very similar to that first year of teaching. I have cried, every day, since surgery.  I've cried from pain,  from frustration trying to walk, and the very real fear that my knee won't be better, and because my husband couldn't read my mind about what I wanted to eat.  I went through several days where I whined about getting the surgery, wasting my summer, garbage on TV, and the impossibility of finding a comfortable position, whether sitting, lying down, or attempting to sleep. I've spent hours questioning whether I will ever recover, and being convinced that I won't. I'm feeling stuck on a perpetual roller coaster.

 Let me just say, I'm not real fond of roller coasters.  I really don't like being scared. It took my family four days at Disneyland to talk me into going on the roller coaster in California Adventures, and, when we got off I was the first to walk right back into the line to go again.  I still don't like roller coasters, but I do like the feeling of success when I've taken a fear and semi-conquered it. (That was about nine years ago . . . I'm not in any hurry to go again. :)

The roller coaster I'm on this summer is excruciatingly slow when chugging up to the top of the hill.  These are the periods where I am forcing myself to do the physical therapy routine, dragging myself through days that feel like they're 48 hours long.  Then, when I least expect it, I reach the peak, and whoosh! I have a moment where I stand and it doesn't hurt, or I walk and almost look normal, or I wake up from four hours of sleep, and I think YES!  But, it doesn't last, and I'm right back in that slow chug to the top, wincing as I push the pedels on the bike, tears streaming as I swear I feel my skin tearing when pulling my foot back towards my rear. Yet, with all this said, I dream of the possibilities. It's more than a dream. I believe in the possibilities. Don't ask me why, because I don't really know!

Yesterday there were long segments of time where I was literally pain free, truly the first time since I had surgery and was loaded up with mega doses of drugs. I found myself able to sit at the table and work on transcribing some letters from my great grandfather to my great grandmother, written in 1899-1900.  I've had these letters for 23 years, and have never found the time to start the project until now.  There is a very real possibility that they may become a book, and I'm exhilarated by that hopeful possibility.  As I transcribe, I'm handing them off to my dad to read, and he is enjoying the chance to read the words his beloved grandpa wrote, over a hundred years ago.

I'm also writing again, daily, and I thank this crazy roller coaster "summer of recovery" for that.  IF I hadn't been forced to slow down (to a dead stop!) I wouldn't have spent this summer writing.  I would have filled it to overflowing with stuff, running around, starting projects, and rarely relaxing, as I typically spend my summers.

This summer I have been given the gift of "possibilities" that far exceed what I would do left to my own devices.  This will likely be the longest summer in memory, and I look forward to new discoveries of what is possible.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, Wisdom to know the difference ~

I'm trying to hang onto a little serenity today.  It isn't easy.

Yesterday I was still soaring from the day before, and decided to push myself a little farther with PT, so I added on ten more repetitons and was feeling pretty proud of myself after my first session. I usually follow up with ice, and I think I did, but maybe not.  When I attempted to do my second session in the early afternoon, I found it quite painful.  I had to quit riding the bike after only two minutes.  When I looked down at my knee, I realized it was swollen, again. I did the responsible thing and put ice on for awhile, but it didn't help.

I hobbled into my PT session at 4:00, still swollen after several sessions with ice.  While Mindy put me through my routine, she also suggested that I build up slowing on adding reps.  We talked about the "no pain, no gain" idea, in that I'll continue to have pain, and will have to work through it, but I need to build up slowly.

Serenity defined is: calm, peaceful, untroubled. Ho boy, not exactly a definition of my state of being lately!  Oh, at the moment, reclined back with an ice pack wrapped around my knee, laptop precariously balanced, pain meds beginning to take effect, I'm feeling a little more peaceful than I was an hour ago.

The Serenity prayer has been an old standby of mine as long as I can remember.  I'm told it was my mom's favorite prayer.  A few years ago at a garage sale, I found a little old fashioned plate from the 50's with the prayer painted on, that hangs on my wall.  I vaguely remember that we had one like it when I was a kid. A reminder of something I have in common with my mom, who died when I was nine. Short and simple, sometimes it's the only form of prayer I can manage, especially when faced with challenges that seem beyond my ability to cope with.

Accepting the things I can't change, with calmness, is incredibly difficult for me.  I'm not a calm person.  I'm a reactor, so I like to skip over the first part of that prayer and jump right into being courageous to change the things I can in pretty much any situation.  I'm a doer, a list maker, a person who wants to make things happen and get things done.  I am not calm, but I'm pretty courageous!

As I wander aimlessly through the desert of this current recovery period, I want to will myself to be calm in the face of setbacks, lost ground, and the occasional distant oasis.  Can I learn to be calm, peaceful, untroubled?  I'm not sure.  It's my goal for today, though.

Today I accept the things I cannot change . . . surgery and the resulting recovery, which includes the physical limitations I sorely chafe against.  This requires that I be patient with myself, and reasonable with my expectations.  It likely requires that I give up on some of my goals for myself, with wisdom and peace, today.  I need to remind myself that my one major goal for this summer is to heal to the best of my ability.  In order to do that, I need to treat my body gently and lovingly, not as my enemy, but as my closest friend.

Calmness requires that I am patient, oh so hard for me to be.  Perhaps, just for today, I can find serenity, or allow serenity to find me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Probably the best thing about being knocked down a peg or two, in my case by knee surgery, are the moments of indescribable glee when I reach a new milestone.  It reminds me, in a weird sort of way, about how excited I'd get when one of the kids smiled (with eye contact!) for the first time, rolled over, first stood up, took their first step, etc.  Important stuff, much of it captured on film. It's no less exciting for me when I reach a "first" as I travel this new-to-me road to recovery. Today, it was showering alone and making complete revolutions on the stationary bike!

Day 13 ~ I once again greeted the morning in frustrated tears.  I woke with as I attempted to slid my foot towards my bottom to bend my knee, wondering how I was going to manage 3 times, let alone 20, which is my minimum goal.  And I make every effort to do this 3-5 times each day, along with the other five exercises given to me at PT for daily use.

This morning I am unbearably stiff, and disheartened beyond belief.   I settle myself in my favorite spot, (no easy task, as I have to drag my water bottle, book, exercise recording chart, pen, miscellaneous pill bottles, phone and cane) ready to hunker down into an all out pity party of one. David brings me my tea and asks what I'd like for breakfast.  "Could I have some scrambled eggs and a piece of toast," I whine.  He busies himself in the kitchen and I cry out, "I'll NEVER be able to walk!  I can BARELY bend my knee!  I'm NOT getting any better!"  And David patiently tells me that I'm expecting too much, too fast.  Tells me that when he had surgery it was months before he walked.  And, basically, without saying the actual words, tells me to quit feeling sorry for myself. (I'm just a little pouty, as I really do want to feel sorry for myself this morning!)

All the while I eat my breakfast, drink my tea, and read the paper, I am stretching this damn knee, to the best of my ability.  I spend some time massaging it, mostly just the top part, as I can't reach the bottom area.  I discover I can drop it down through this little space, between the chair and the recliner part, that allows me to stretch back with my foot, then, I carefully lift it as high as I can, and repeat. As I'm massaging I'm sending little messages to my knee:  I love you, right knee.  You mean the world to me.  I want what's best for you.  I love you.  You are my friend. I care about you. You are special to me. 

While reading the paper I come across a really neat article about visiting Versailles by bike tour.  After getting pumped up about that possibility next June, (We are visiting France in 2012 with our daughters) I decided to give my stationary bike another shot.  I'd managed on Friday at PT to ride four minutes, forward and back, pain point to pain point.  Then, I went two minutes backwards and another two minutes forwards.

Yesterday, despite repeated attempts to accomplish the same thing at home, I could not.  I could go pain point to pain point, but not all the way around.  It hurt too much to force the issue. But this morning, I went pain point to pain point, and WHOOPS! Backwards for 80 revolutions! I'm not sure how much time that is, as I started counting only planning to go maybe 10, and surprised myself.  Regardless, it was a HUGE moment, that thrilled me more than anything else has since this knee journey began.

I've been frustrated by how hard it is to walk, and felt that the "magic" will be when I can ride the bike at some level of comfort.  It hurt this morning, like crazy, but it wasn't so bad I couldn't manage and it seems like I am walking a little less stiffly since.  I have also been stopping frequently while I trudge along with my walker, like every other step, and stretching my foot back to lengthen my stride, which I think is helping.  On Friday I was told I can practice with a cane at home, but must use the walker in public.  I don't like it, but I also completely understand that falling would be detrimental to my recovery in a big way.  I do NOT want to risk falling!

After my successful bike episode, I decided I wanted to try taking a shower.  Friday I was shaky and had to take frequent rest periods between showering, dressing, drying my hair, brushing my teeth, etc. before I went to PT, so I haven't been too excited to try again.  But, success leads to success!

What unmitigated bliss, to sit in the shower, washing my hair, using my funky sponge on a dowel to scrub my feet and toes.  It's pretty heavenly, just to remove the much hated white knee sox (TEDs), my constant companion for the next four weeks (two weeks done!). I still must make concessions, sit versus standing, nix shaving legs (no need, they're covered for another month!), and sit on a chair while drying my hair.  But, still, I did it, all by myself, and didn't have to take three separate breaks to lay on the bed in-between as I did on Friday.  I've made so much progress!

So, while I'm physically chair bound, earth bound, and house bound for the upcoming weeks, I am delighted that I can "soar" on my magic carpet of small successes.  I can soar as I begin planning one portion of our vacation next year (Fat Tire Bike Tour of Versailles ~ how cool is that?).  

I'm soaring . . .

Thursday, July 7, 2011

True Grit

This morning I woke (yes, I actually woke from almost two continuous hours of sleep!) with a renewed determination. During the night, in which I realized at least two longer stretches of sleep, I also became increasingly aware that the pain mediation really doesn't stop the pain.  It makes me sleepy, so I am able to doze off despite discomfort, but the pain never diminished.  So, between dozing and wakefulness, I used some of the time to work on my stretches, in particular the knee bending stretch. I figured, if I'm in pain anyway, might as well make the best of it, which doesn't make sense, but that's the way it is.

I guess it takes time for my brain to register what is helping and what isn't, as I travel this slow road to recovery.  The knee bending stretches are the worst, pain wise, of the therapy exercises I am required to work on.  The pain is so bad that I really did the minimum for the first week, forcing myself to do it, but gladly stopping with the minimum repetitions.  It occurred to me as I lay in pain last night that these are the ones that will make or break my increased range of motion.  Of course, it's going to be the hard stuff that makes the difference!

So far today, I have extended the stretch every time I have sat, or stood up.  While reading the paper, I pulled my  knee into a bent position over and over, and iced in between. Over the course of the day, I plan to use the stationary bike and surprise Melissa (my PT for tomorrow) with my increased range of motion!

I can sit around this summer, wishing I didn't have to work so hard, hoping that the work I do will be enough, or I can grit my teeth, accept the role of self-healer, and use my inner drive to make this recovery period the best that it can be. Just yesterday I was lamenting the lack of control I have, thinking about all the things I can't do right now.  Realistically, I've never had more control over my personal life than I do at this very moment.  I guess it always comes down to perspective. I may need to look at things from a sitting/laying down perspective today, but my goal is to be standing and walking soon!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Two Steps Forward ~ One Step Back

Lots of tears the past two days, of frustration, irritation and not a little pain.  It sounds funny to say I wake in pain, as I hardly sleep, but regardless, the night in particular is threaded with pain.  It meanders through, seeming to take hold of all waking moments, and it never quite disappears, just kind of falls into a shadowland for a spell.  Those are the moments when I fall asleep, sitting in a chair, and I'm grateful for those brief spaces when the pain isn't my constant companion.

It isn't debilitating pain, not usually above the "4" (can't do the things I enjoy doing)  rating, but enough that I am weary of it all.  Despite the pain, I'm making good progress on range of motion, and my physical therapist is pleased with my gains.  This morning when I made several complete revolutions on the stationary bike, he told me that it is an "ice cream sundae" day, or in other words, I should reward myself for a job well done.   I am encouraged that my physical strength is returning, slowly but surely. I created a little exercise tracking chart for the week that I'm finding useful.  It pleases me to track my time spent and increased repetitions, a visual reward for investing in my strength training and recovery.  Now that I'm familiar with the routine, I find myself doing "extra" just because!  I am determined to succeed!

At my PT appointment today, we also discussed the fact that I am likely not taking enough pain medication for sleeping, so I will increase it for help during the night.  That is the worst of it, the constant achy painful attempts to find a position even remotely comfortable to fall asleep in.  I don't think I'm sleeping more than 45 minutes at a time, with long wakeful periods in between. Tonight I'll experiment with an extra dose and see if that helps me get more sleep, and in turn, should help me have more energy.

As I've dozed off a number of times during this time of writing, I think I'll post and find myself a more comfortable place to rest.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Post Op - The Agony & the Ecstasy

The Agony ~ This is a drag!  I do not do well with being out of control, and I'm out of control in a major way!  Every movement needs to be thoroughly thought out and planned out, ahead of time.  Going to the bathroom takes ten minutes, and that's the getting myself up part!  I did manage a shower today (it's been a stinking week!) and that was heavenly, but I had to sit and rest for quite awhile after.  I find that 10 minutes up on my feet with my trusty old lady walker is about all I can manage without serious discomfort. Fortunately I have a mesh bag attached to the front of the walker, so I can drag my meds, book, water bottle and other necessities with me where ever I may roam . . . which isn't far.  The highlight of my day is physical therapy, which is ironic as it's also the most agonizing hour of the day.  But, at least I get out of the house!

This morning I was crying, simply from the frustration of it all.  I went to the kitchen to get something, and then when I sat back down, realized I'd forgotten to refill my water bottle.  I got mad at David for not picking up the kitchen rugs fast enough, expecting him to know that he needs to do that.  They have been a problem, but I've only noticed when I was home alone.  I'd forget to mention it to him.  Poor guy has been at my beck and call since Wednesday afternoon, and never once has been impatient with me.  I am an impatient patient.

David set me up with the motion machine to watch tv this afternoon, and I decided to increase the range. I fell asleep repeatedly, so I pretty much missed the main idea of everything we watched.  When I realized after three hours I needed to use the bathroom, David helped me get out of the machine and I found when I took my first step that I had seriously overdosed on the machine.  I could hardly walk.  Now I'm back in my chair, with ice, so that hopefully I can manage my exercises in awhile.

My range of motion is better than it was at my first outpatient physical therapy, but not as great as I would have expected.  Progress is achingly slow.  My leg does not bend well, and of course, that is my goal.  I find myself very frustrated by how excruciatingly difficult it is to even manage a 90 degree angle.
I was more optimistic when I woke this morning than I am now, as it doesn't take any time at all to feel like I've lost all progress I've made.

The Ecstasy ~ I have acquired many new toys that please me greatly!  My most favorite is my grabber.  I have been amazed at all I can pick up with that thing!  I can even grab a couch pillow and drag it over.  It has a magnet on the end as well, although I haven't found anything on the floor to pick up as yet.  Another cool tool is my sock puller.  I hate the white socks, I truly do.  They are just ugly as can be.  However, I wear them faithfully, as they are to provide protection from forming blood clots, due to not moving around as much as normal. The  surprising thing is that they are made of some miracle material because they do not bug me.  I was very worried when I was told I'd have to wear these white knee sox for six weeks, as I knew they would be hot, miserable, make me itch and drive me crazy.  They don't do any of those things.  I don't know why. It is a complete miracle.  And, it's just kind of fun to use the sock puller to put them on.

 My physical therapist at the hospital gave me a wide woven belt sort of thing and taught me how to use it as a "leg lifter" and it is so useful!  Remember that my leg weighs about 100 pounds (or at least feels like it does, as it's totally dead weight!)  I can't make my muscles lift it, so I loop the end of the belt around my foot, pull, and my leg magically lifts so I can get it into bed!  It works in the reverse, too, so that I can control removing my leg from bed without it slamming to the floor.  Trust me, that isn't a pleasant experience!

I also have this long pole with various hooks and things that is good for retrieving items dropped, or just moving things around.  I haven't used it a lot yet,  but I can already imagine places where it will come in handy.  There is a nice back scrubber brush, and a super long shoehorn, and two pair of elastic shoelaces in my little bag of tricks. I must admit though, that my most appreciated item (on loan from our neighbors) is a raised toilet seat with grabber handles.  Several inches of height makes all the difference in the world when using the facilities, with confidence I will be able to arise on my own!

Once the words quit spinning around on the page, and I was able to stay awake longer than two minutes at a time, reading became my greatest non-guilty pleasure.  I am free to read to my hearts content. As I have no time constraints, with the exception of physical therapy appointments, I can read as late as I want, as early as I want, and all day if I want.

Computer work is still a problem, as I have physical constraints that I haven't managed to devise a clear plan yet to work around.  I asked David this morning to make me a simple lap desk with legs that I can use as a table while in one of the chairs.  I will need to keep my knee elevated until all swelling is gone, and I don't have a clue when that will be.  I can't put weight or pressure on my knee for obvious reasons, so my beanbag type lapdesk doesn't work.  Putting a board over the arms of the chair doesn't quite clear my knee. So, writing is in bits and pieces.  I have an interim plan to move my tea cart over between my chairs, as it has drop-leaf sides that I can pull up to create a table area.  I'll try that for tomorrow.

It's taken several hours to write what I have so far, and I can barely sit here to finish.  My knee is throbbing. I don't think I did any permanent damage by using the motion machine, but it sure made what muscle I have, really tight and hard to move.  I need to be done with this post for today. 

My physical goal for this summer is to heal well.  I have been a bit saddened to learn that it won't be as easy as I had expected, nor will it be as quick as I anticipated.  Major joint surgery is a pretty big deal. I have always bounced back pretty quickly from other procedures, but this isn't one that allows for that. I was shocked to be told last Friday that I can't walk any distance for a few weeks yet!  After today, I think I know why!  It sounds crazy, but I am determined to look forward to this adventure.  It isn't even remotely the type of adventure I would choose, yet it is mine.  As I heal, I want to be ever aware of what is going on, and immerse myself in the experience.   It isn't what I'd like to be doing, but it is necessary for me to get to that place where I am able to return to doing the things I like to be doing. 

Last night Kailyn and I were chatting and she was teasing me about having my personal attendants (her and her dad).  We laughed about it, but I am truly appreciative.  Kailyn and David have never once made me feel like I am demanding, or imposing, or that even the most wimpy request is too petty.  Every morning David makes me my little pot of green tea, brings me breakfast, and I feel pampered and loved. Kailyn has prepared some wonderful meals, and been helpful beyond my expectations.  I know that I will miss them both tomorrow when they return to work.  Part of the learning process this summer is going to be realizing what my priorities, limitations and potential is and/or will be.  I don't have to necessarily like what I'll be learning, but I owe it to myself to pay attention. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Post Op - The First 24 hours

It's been nearly six days since my knee replacement.  I've attempted to write several times, but find it challenging to do the most mundane things, such as balance my laptop without putting unwanted pressure on the wound.  While I have discovered that one chair in the house is mostly comfortable, my body is contorted and typing isn't very much fun.

Nothing has been what I expected.  The first 24 hours I had minimal pain, unless I attempted to move my right leg, which felt like it weighed about 100 pounds. Sleeping was practically non-existent the first night, not from pain so much as simply not being able to move myself and get comfortable.  The nurses were outstanding, and made every attempt to help me cope, but it seemed that a comfortable position for sleeping wasn't going to happen for me.  I am not a back sleeper, and that was my only option! When my doctor visited early on Tuesday morning, he reminded me that I didn't have much pain because of the  anesthetic being combined with a long term pain mediation, and that I would be experiencing some soon.  He said, "This is the honeymoon stage, and it isn't going to last."

An hour or so later, I was sitting up in a chair, (getting there was an exercise in determination, and took an unbelievable long time!) digging into some surprisingly healthy looking breakfast, when I was hit with a wave of nausea so strong, I barely had time to hit the call button and request a bin!  I was so darn hungry!  The nurse put anti nausea meds into my IV, and also gave me meds for that the rest of the time I was in the hospital, but I wasn't ever able to eat.  It was pretty miserable.  The hospital offered some appetizing meals, and the few bites I was able to keep down were very good.

I knew the honeymoon was over when the physical therapist arrived mid morning Tuesday.  Holy Cow! While I still wasn't characterizing my pain level as much above a 3 (on the scale of 1-10) I was distressed to find that I couldn't make my right leg do a thing.  I could wiggle my toes, and move my foot (while lying down) but I couldn't force that darn leg to lift, or bend, or anything else!

This post is going to have to be in stages, as I can't sit here writing for another minute!