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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Checking in

So much has happened. I quit therapy after three years plus. My knees never got all the way straight but I do walk well in spite of that. I have moved to Nevada, where the dry heat often makes my body feel rather good, but it feels good no matter what most of the time.

I am still working on posture. It's a tough one. I am consciously standing taller and pushing my head back more regularly. None of this happens naturally. I am hoping it will eventually.

My knees seem fine almost always. Sometimes I get a little fluid in the left one or it hurts a little, but rarely. I walk the recommended 10000 steps most days - not that 10K is any magic number.

I also walked the Bolder Boulder 10K for the last two years. That run/walk takes place on Memorial Day each year and uses a route through residential neighborhoods. It is like a six-mile-long party! Bands spaced out (all of them good!), goofy games on the side (trampoline, anyone?), so much action all the way that one can almost forget about one's legs. But I do find it challenging, that long a walk. Especially because to get into the stadium at the end you have to average a bit over a 20-minute mile. It's one thing to do this alone, with no distractions, but hey, it's fun to take part in some of the diversions and we also sometimes need the bathroom.

I also was doing a class at my former gym that is a nice whole-body workout. It's called Group Active. Cardio, strength, balance, core, and flexibility. Unfortunately, my new gym doesn't have an equivalent class. So I am back in an Aqua class. Fortunately, a good one. But it feels like regressing in a way.

I am also back in therapy. My left shoulder this time. I'm there three days a week for about an hour each time. No fun but I want to swim and this dang rotator cuff doesn't want me too. The therapists say this is fixable so I'm soldiering on.

Altogether I feel better and stronger than I did in my thirties. Age is just a number, as they say, although honestly thirty-somethings have no idea of the challenges ahead.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Checking in and checking up

It has been way too long since I have written here. Much has happened or changed, even though right now I feel like I'm treading water.

Leading with the hips was good advice. I still follow it. I still have to tell myself, though, consciously. My physical therapist says I am walking much better, my back is straighter, and my knees are "softening". He says they no longer bounce back when he presses down on them. It's been a long time, this straightening. Most people do not have to spend so much time doing this. On the other hand, my therapist told me of another woman who has not put the time in as I have and who is now bent over and whose knees are bent more than before. He compliments me on my persistence.

Hip pain is a distant memory. I never have it any more, either during the day or the night. My experience is much like others who have had this surgery. Easy and done.

My main complaint when I walk is lower back pain. This is largely because I still don't have the best posture, and I know my weight makes it worse as well. Nevertheless, I have walked across the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan two years running - that's five miles across, and last September was cold and windy - and while I did feel back pain it was not enough to deter me or even cause significant discomfort. I felt like I managed it better in 2014 than in 2013. Not as tired, not as hurt, even though I had not done much to get ready for it.

Still in therapy. Still working on getting my knees straight, but also working on my right shoulder. I developed a constant ache in my arm and finally went in to see what was up, got referred to the physical therapist again. Actually, this turned out to be a good thing, because Medicare was no longer paying for my leg therapy. The therapist was "carrying" me. I didn't want that to keep happening so now I go in for rotator cuff damage and the knees get thrown in, so to speak. The tendon is not torn, I am happy to say. At this point much of the pain has gone away. The therapy is working. It's a delicate area, though, and one must be careful not to put too much weight or strain on it too soon. I also am working on elbow damage, different from the rotator cuff.

What with the shoulder, knee, elbow, and hip work I am in the therapy office for 1-3/4 hours each time now, three times a week. I use weights, a roller thing, and eight machines and do a total of 23 different exercises.  I have a rubber band to use for shoulder exercises when I travel. I tell people I am working my way through all my joints. I sure hope that isn't actually true. I look forward to getting out of physical therapy.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lead with your hips

The other day, in physical therapy, one of the assistants happened to watch me walk from one machine to another. She told me that I was walking much better but was still leaning too much, humped over. She said to "lead with your hips".

I am sure that this is advice given to many. Yet this is the first time I had heard it. One of my physical therapists, back in 2011, was intent on helping me walk straighter and I really tried and continue to try literally years after, yet I keep catching myself walking hunched over. When I see myself reflected I try to straighten myself out but clearly I needed another way to approach this. When Carmen said "lead with your hips" I knew she had given me a gift that might make a huge difference in my life.

Remembering this simple bit of advice really has helped. I straighten up naturally when I do this. My whole body, not just my shoulders, for example.

Other news on the home front: my hip feels completely normal now, except that there is a tiny bit of discomfort when I put on my right shoe. Less and less, though. I no longer sleep with a pillow between my legs. My legs rarely are the cause of a sleepless night. I use restless leg medication rarely now. My knees are just the tiniest bit straighter. Still working on that.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Three Months Along

Today marks three months since my hip surgery. I have frequently thought of writing in here since my last post but for some reason did not. I have missed milestones, if they can be called that.

I can sleep on my right side now, without feeling that hard uncomfortable bump in my hip. It's gone, healed. I can put on my right shoe almost without discomfort. I can walk without hip pain most of the time. Every now and then the hip pain resurfaces after I have been walking a while. I can't really explain that. Maybe just because it isn't entirely healed inside yet.

I am walking more. In this last week I have walked over 10,000 steps a day most days. I have some dogs to thank for that: I agreed to watch my daughter and son-in-law's animals while they went on a vacation with their son. Because it is super-hot here in Las Vegas (where they live), I had to get out of bed early to take them for walks, and I waited until cool later evening to take them on evening walks. I got to thinking my life was between dog walks. But it did get me walking more than I was used to doing. I think I am stronger for it, and I hope I can make myself get out there more from now on.

It is discouraging to me when my daughter Mary says I seem no better than I was before surgery. I feel much better, I believe I am doing very much better. I walk up and down stairs one foot at a time, instead of stepping with the left, then pulling the right even with the left. I have even gone downstairs without touching the railing, holding something. I could not do these things prior to these surgeries. I notice them. It makes me sad that others may not.

I am still in therapy. The therapist says my right knee is starting to loosen a little, getting a wee bit straighter. If so I cannot tell it. I don't know if I will ever get there. What this means is that it is hard for me to walk straight, to avoid back pain, to walk without tension. I would love to feel the way I did years ago - able to walk forever, seemingly, effortlessly. Will that time ever come again?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cane-free but not yet Pain-free

A few days ago I left my cane behind. Not literally. It's still in my kitchen, getting in my way. But I decided to try walking around without it. My leg notices but I think I walk pretty well without it. I don't need to limp. As always, my concern is with my posture.

During the day I experience pain in little ways. When I put on my right sock and shoe (diminishing pain, happy to say). When I pull my leg into my car (just a little). Mostly I feel that tension that never goes away when I am on my feet. The therapist says we're gaining on it, on the straightness. I'm not sure; I think he may be delusional.

At night is where the pain rubber hits the road. I have trouble with restless leg - just the right leg - and often I awake with pain in my right knee. Sometimes it creeps down to my foot, sometimes the pain is more on the right side of the knee, sometimes the pain goes up the thigh. It is all the same, though, pain that is impossible to ignore. Oddly, if I sit on the edge of my bed for a few minutes, with my legs hanging over, the discomfort tends to go away. It doesn't usually stay away. If I get up and walk around that tends to help a lot. I just never feel like getting up and walking around. All I want is to get back to sleep. My resistance to what I know works knows no bounds.

In therapy I am still not entirely up to the former levels I used on the machines, but getting closer. I'm happy to wait. More often I find I have no pain on the hip machine, which is a really big deal to me.

Today's challenge is going to wear me out. I am going to Santa Barbara on a train with a bunch of other Aqua class members and friends. Once there we will walk around, do whatever we want, until the train leaves late in the afternoon. Many will shop. I see little shopping in my itinerary. The challenge for me will be to get through it. Finding enough places to sit down, making my way on the sidewalks to where I want to be. I am so often reminded that most of the things that are enjoyable to so many involve walking and standing. I admit I feel impatience that after three surgeries I am not there yet. I think back to the years when I could walk and walk forever. I want to do that again, to enjoy it, every step.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Life after

On March 26 I had my right hip replaced. I had heard so many glowing accounts from patients of hip surgery that I practically expected to walk out of the hospital with no pain at all. That may happen to some but it didn't happen to me.

I used a walker for most of the first week. Then I moved to the cane, which I am still using. I am hoping to set it aside in another week, but my therapist says not to rush. Take what time I need. It's a nuisance to use a cane all the time. It's like being one-handed.

But back to the last few weeks. I left the hospital on March 28, morning. I might have left the day before but the surgeon was out of town until that night, and I don't think that hospitals enjoy releasing patients at night. Hospitals are so intrusive and such rest-suckers. It was hard enough getting to sleep on that bed with my leg not comfortable, but then I'd be wakened for some blood pressure check or something else. Fortunately I was disconnected from the IV soon, and then the catheter, and finally the drain. When the hospital physical therapist came around I was ready ready ready. I was hardly pain-free but I wanted out so I hit the ground almost running.

I started outpatient therapy the following Monday, April Fool's Day. My friend Maryann had gotten me to and from the hospital, and on Friday we had driven together to pick up my daughter Elaine and grandson Elliott at the airport. So Elaine drove me to physical therapy.  After I did a limited number of activities there, the therapist had me on the table, where he tested my hip. He said I was doing very well, that all the time I had spent there working on my knees had paid off in strength, and that I was "about three weeks ahead of schedule". Of course that's an exaggeration, but one I was delighted to hear.

I have now completed three weeks of therapy. I have tried driving and found that I can do it. I am not yet pain-free. I am not yet healed inside, although the wound on my leg is completely closed and I am cleared for dipping in the pool again. The swelling on my hip has gone down some and is clearly not the issue swelling was for my knees. A hopeful result: the therapist says my knee is starting to get straighter! That my bad hip may have interfered with that. I remain hopeful that one day both legs will be straight and I will no longer feel tension in my legs when I walk or stand.