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Friday, October 26, 2012

Still Keeping On

Proof of the rack. Here I am, as of last Wednesday (October 24, 2012), on the diabolical stretch machine at the physical therapist's office. Weight on my right knee: 20 lbs; left knee: 25 lbs. I haven't been able to increase the weight for quite a while, but I do feel a slight softening, a little less pain over the 10 minutes I am stretched. I am thinking of adding just a teeny weeny bit next time.

It has been over a year since my second surgery. Being in therapy this long is NOT typical. Most people are out completely within about three months. So please do not take my experience as an example of typical. Further, everything works well except for one thing: the extension. Getting the knee straight is the whole point of my being there. Yes, I also have hip pain but that is a separate situation.

In some ways it seems like I have gone backwards lately. I have had a lot of restless leg issues, in one leg or another and sometimes both, making getting to sleep very difficult. Many nights I am restlessly trying to get some sleep unti as late as three or even four in the morning. No longer the morning person, me. My hip has also made a lot of everyday activities difficult. I give in to it too easily. I start to do something around the house and the pain makes me want to sit down. I sit down. Getting up again isn't fun. I need to turn this around, just get out and do. Get out, get up, get around.

Related to the pain is the eating. Clearly I have been gorging. It is hard to stop. Overeating is the story of my life, nothing new. I have managed to control it at times but am not doing so well right now. Nobody needs to tell me that extra weight puts more strain on the joints. I do know this.

But hey! I have a nice haircut. It makes me feel more "professional", in a way, more "legitimate". I can't quite explain this feeling. But I'll take it. I am also getting out with various groups of photographers more often, always a challenge. There is a lot of walking, standing, and hauling involved in photography, although one pro told our club that he never goes far for a good photo. He finds them not far from his car! Not a bad example for someone like me, who gets a little afraid of doing lengthy hikes to get to the right place. It really helps to be learning, to be working on getting that photo, on doing better this time than the last.

Food: for those of you who have been suggesting various diets or supplements and possible allergic reactions, believe me I have been there. I make no bones of my not being a fan of supplements. Don't get me started on that. But I have also done elimination diets to determine if there are certain foods that increase inflammation. So far I have not found any that made any significant difference. I continue to eat a vegan diet, but unfortunately I do have these long-term issues with food, and unfortunately there are many foods that are vegan and not healthy. At least I am avoiding animal proteins. Give me that.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

One Year

It has been one year since my second knee surgery. It seems hard to believe that I have been in therapy for that long! On the other hand, it really has been getting old. Yet I plug through the routine three times a week, occasionally upping the weights or number of reps.

It is frustrating to me that my hip pain causes me to limp sometimes. Others usually attribute this to my knees, and I feel like a broken record saying "no, not my knees, my hip", and having to explain that yes, I see hip surgery in my future. I bore myself just getting the basic info out.

I was at the gym today for an Aqua class, but the class was canceled because not enough people showed up. It was raining, and rain tends to keep a lot of people away. I went upstairs to the weight machines instead. I did fifteen minutes on the bike, six on the elliptical, and fifteen on the treadmill. I devise my own little intervals on the treadmill, upping the level three or for decimal points for thirty to sixty seconds, then upping it again, and then taking it down twice. I do that a few times during the total fifteen minutes. I felt mild discomfort in my hip when on the treadmill today, but nothing I could call pain. That's an improvement over when I first took to the treadmill some months ago.

After doing the above cardio exercises I did several exercises on machines, strengthening my upper body, core, and back. I think I should head for the gym after physical therapy M,W, and F, to fill out the workout with these upper bod and core exercises. Making for an all-around effort.

At times I do wonder if I will ever see that light at the end of the tunnel. Did I mention in my last post that other clients at physical therapy have told me they suddenly hit the straight leg? That after a long time working on it, their knee finally went straight and there was no more pain? God, I want that so much. Will I be that fortunate?

I continue to take meds for restless leg syndrome and a recurring rash, but nothing else most of the time. Sometimes my leg (usually the right) aches to the degree that I cannot sleep and I end up taking some sort of pain killer, usually tylenol. Just to take the edge off. Sometimes I resort to Tylenol PM when it looks like it's going to be a LONG night. But I don't make a habit of it.

I have been doing a lot more work with photography in the last many months, partly because I upgraded my camera. But one difficulty I have faced is that photography field trips offered by photo groups in the area tend to involve standing and walking and not much chance to sit. Depending on how my hip is doing this can be quite a problem. I brought a "shooting stick" - also called a seat stick or something like that - to an outing at the Oceano Dunes not long ago. I found it a bit difficult to put the stick in the sand and lean against the seat, though. Other places should not present as much of a problem. Photography is usually a physically demanding activity for those who are really good at it. Well, sigh. I am doing better than I was before surgery. That is the point.

One year down. What will I say next year?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Keeping on Keeping on

It has been a long time since I have written anything here! It isn't that there hasn't been anything to say. I just have a habit of getting out of habits after a while. Writing here was a habit.

It is almost a year since my second surgery, and I am still in therapy. I must emphasize that this does not mean that anything went wrong or that this is any kind of typical experience. Whatever the cause, the muscles in the back of my knees have been resistent to change, particularly to stretching, so that my legs can get straight. My legs do not know what "straight" is. The rest of my body doesn't, either. It has been accommodating this bent person for so long that it doesn't know how to help.

This is not meant to be a tale of woe. I am doing so very well overall. I have a higher energy level (I have always been lazy so it may be hard to tell!), I can walk more, I have many days of almost no pain. The pain I do get is usually in my hips, which is a complicating factor. I still have difficulty at night, although this has not been consistently true through these many months. Mostly I am facing the "restless leg" situation, and it seems to have gotten worse in the last few weeks, after being almost nonexistent for quite a while. I can't make sense of that.

A few weeks ago I went out on the Oceano Dunes to take photographs. It was hard going but I did it, and I was out there for 90 minutes. I can't imagine doing anything like that before surgery. It simply would have been inconceivable. I have done smallish hikes, sometimes finding that any pain in my hip would go away after a while. I really am getting stronger and having less pain overall.

The flex in my knees is great - somewhere around 130 degrees, maybe more. It does not hurt my knees to walk (it often hurts my hip, which is why I don't walk more than I do), but I do tire sooner than I should, because the muscles in my knees never get that moment of rest that they need. When we straighten our knees as we walk, we release the muscles momentarily. I never get this rest. This, at least, is the way my physical therapist explained it, and it makes sense. He says when my legs get straight I will be able to walk much longer and will less discomfort all over.

A couple of other patients at the therapist's office have told me that their legs suddenly went straight. After much time working on them, they suddenly gave in. More, the pain went away. It was no longer painful to have somebody push on those muscles. Lately I have felt greater pain when I stretch on the machine, but less pain when the therapist pushes on my knees. I am taking this as a sign of progress, whether it is or not. A few other patients have told me that I am walking much better, that they see the improvement. It is much harder for me to see, so I am happy that they thought to say so.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sleeping In

I consider myself a "morning person". I tend to get up and moving early, and I seem to think best in the mornings. I am no good in the evenings, and I retire early.

During my work years I learned to get up every day at the same time. I read somewhere that if you do that, then it is not a struggle to wake up on weekday mornings because you've slept in on the weekend. Every day the same. Lately I've broken with the tradition.

Yes, being retired has its advantages. I can choose when to get up unless I have an appointment or class. I do, however, like to get things out of the way. Thus I wake up early enough to get physical therapy out of the way so I can have the rest of the day to myself. And I wake early on Aqua days, even though the class starts at 10:30 am, because I like to have time to myself to get going first.

OF late, though, I have been sleeping in. I wake up and just want to lie there longer, fall asleep again. The pattern that has emerged is that I get up early to feed the cats, bring the wet food for one cat back to my room with me, shut the door on the others (they all want his food), and go back to bed. I then get in another hour's sleep, sometimes even more. Yesterday I didn't get out of bed until after nine. This, for me, is very late. Will it be ten next?

I think one reason I have gotten this way is that for many months after surgery my knee, my calf, some part of my leg would hurt in the morning. Nothing I did would ease it, so there was nothing for it but to get up and get moving. Now, however, I don't feel that pain. Lying in bed is so wonderful! I love it and I want to enjoy it.  So in a way this sleeping in is a good sign. On the other hand, another reason I like lying in is that getting to sleep at night is often very difficult. Sometimes it is my mind, racing around, not willing to stop. Other times it is my body, unable to get comfortable. I think if I can solve this problem I will also solve the other, and will again be greeting the day early and well.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

These Knees aren't made for running, and other stories

A few weeks ago Chuck, my therapist, mentioned that my new knees are not designed for running. Running wears them out. Doubles tennis is okay. Walking is okay (as long as it feels okay). No running. Also no deep knee bends. These are activities I was not engaging in anyway so I'm not missing them.

I am missing walking without pain, consistently. My right hip is bothering me more and more. Sometimes I can do a bit of a hike or walk and feel good but then the next several days I get nothing but hip pain. I am not sure how to work this.

I have joined a photography club. At our monthly meetings we get "assignments" for the next meeting. These assignments are starting to get me out there, on my feet, for brief forays. I am remembering a time, years ago, right after my younger daughter was born. There was a big storm. The day after the storm I went to a park that was flooded to take pictures (with a film camera, of course).  Standing in the tall grasses, feet soaking wet, body starting to shiver, I realized that I was capable of ignoring discomfort when engaged in something I love. This was actually a revelation to me. I am finding it to be true again.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Back to the Coast

photo by joey
Yesterday I did the east-west ranch hike in Cambria again. This time I was with my grandson and it was not foggy, but it was very windy and cold. We did it in one hour, which for me is respectable and, I think, less than the last time. I did not feel the discomfort I felt the last time, although my hip acted up a bit near the end. Gives me hope.

I am a bit stiff today and my right hip is hurting again. It does seem like I pay for these hikes on the following day. Worth it, of course.

Friday, March 30, 2012

On Top of Old Islay

Yesterday I hiked up Islay Hill, a small hill at the southeast end of San Luis Obispo. Not a huge challenge for the average person, and really it wasn't a huge challenge for me but enough of one. My fitbit tells me I hiked 44 "floors", which translates to about 440 feet, a new record for me (since I've had the fitbit, and since I've had knee surgery).

I was surprised at how well I was able to make the climb. I admit I was huffing and puffing a little, and the last portion was a bit of a strain as it is steeper, but with my trusty hiking stick I felt confident. It was only when I started downhill that my body let me know it has had better times. I felt the shock of each step at first, as I descended the steeper portion, and when it flattened more I still felt more discomfort than I'd had climbing up.

When I got home after the hike I found it funny that I did the two-step climbing the few steps into my house, after climbing so many more steps shortly before. Perhaps my joints were cooled off by then, or, likely, there was some swelling in my legs.

This morning I was stiffer than usual and at physical therapy I found some moves to be more painful than usual, particularly the hip machine when I was pushing the weight up with my bent knee.

The picture on the right shows approximately what it looks like. I don't kick my leg up quite that high - but it's something to shoot for.

I don't plan to do this hike again right away. It took me 54 minutes up and 40 minutes down. Quite slow! Others get up there in a half hour or less, and I have seen a number of persons running the trail. Well, good for them! I won't be joining them. I will hike it again, but later, later, when I feel a little stronger. I feel good that I did it, that I felt strong, even though I am paying for it now.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Alternating day hip issues?

The day after I did the stoneridge hike I was in sewing class. My hip hurt the entire time. I limped around the classroom and kitchen. I tried to walk normally but it hurt too much.

I'm wondering if my hip acts up the day after I have given it a challenge like the hike. Yesterday I did a two-mile hike, longer than stoneridge but flatter. The total amount of rise was about 40 feet, stretched over the two miles.

That hike was different in other ways, too. It was next to the coast, in Cambria. I hiked in the fog. It was wide and easy to negotiate the whole way.

The path alternates between boardwalk and decomposed granite

Sea birds on a rock in the ocean
I met several people on the trail, with and without dogs. With and without cell phones.

By the time I turned around, at the end, I was feeling a little done in. I realized that it has been a very long time since walking was completely comfortable, effortless, for me. I felt stiff and my hip pain came and went. It was a strain to walk. So although I made an effort to stride on back I can't say I loved it. I think that when I take on more challenging trails I can be distracted from the discomfort by the rocks and height, by just taking the next step. So in a way the flat hikes are harder.

But back to the question. After a hike do I suffer extended hip pain? It seems yes. Today again I am hurting and it won't go away. I went to an aqua aerobics class, hoping that it would loosen it up, but no. Then I went to Costco to pick up a prescription and partway through thought that perhaps I should have at least taken my cane.

Ghostly rocks
There are many fat squirrels out here.
My fitbit says I have taken 1619 steps so far today. My goal is to take 5,000 per day, but if I do not hike I don't usually make that goal. With my hip hurting I am not likely to hike today. I will stay home and clean up, best as I can, in short increments of time. Clean, sit, clean more, sit.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting Out There

Leki hiking pole
Finally, yesterday I went into Mountain Air Sports and bought me the only hiking pole they had, which is pictured on this page. They had several trekking poles, the pairs, but I just wanted a hiking stick. With this I can go to the next level.

And so I did. Yesterday afternoon I ventured out with my new pole to do the Stoneridge trail. This is a shortish trail that I used to do frequently. It is close to my house and not very long but is a bit of a hike up. According to my fitbit I climbed 23 "floors" or approximately 230 feet on this hike.

It was late afternoon. The hike is rocky, almost all rock. I used the pole to help me both going up and going down. On the way I stopped a few times to take pictures, but because of the way the hill is positioned it was mostly in shade. Shady rocky trail, late afternoon, not much chance for dramatic photos.

It had been about three years, maybe more, since I'd done this hike. I remember having to stop to catch my breath and to find my way through the rocks. I did not have to catch my breath so much this time and my knees, while a bit stiff, did not hurt.

California Poppy
Few flowers were out. I grabbed a quick photo of some poppies.

And climbed. In the picture below you can just see a person at the top. She came down with her two dogs, which I greeted. She was the only person I met on the way. While well-traveled, this trail does not get the hoards some other trails in the area do.

Going up went easily with the pole. I usually choose the "back way" down, and this was more challenging. I would have found it more so without the pole. At times, when faced with craggy steps down, where I don't feel stable, I have actually slid down on my butt. I am happy to say I did not feel the need this time.

But it was a bit slower going than I'd like and a few times I had to work my way down very carefully. I was glad there weren't others on the trail, impatiently wanting to get past me.

At the very beginning, which is the remains of an asphalt road, and at the end, on that same road, my hip bothered me. But in between it hardly made a peep. My body prefers the "softer" dirt, even when layered with rock, to asphalt or concrete. According to Chuck, getting my knees straight will make all surfaces friendly to me. I so look forward to that time.

I also look forward to trying a few more challenging trails but I will stick with the shorter ones for now. And by "challenging" I mean trails that some others run on. I don't have anything to prove, except to myself.

Lichen-encrusted rocks testify to the clean air.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Challenges and Comparisons

Recovery has not been a smooth path. When I ask others who have been through knee surgery what it's been like, many of them say the same thing - lots of ups and downs. Some say it was smooth sailing all the way but I suspect they are lying. Maybe not, but either way it's just different for each of us.

Sleep is still a matter of many interruptions. Fewer of those interruptions are from restless leg syndrome, I am happy to report. The amount of sleep I am getting has increased dramatically, even on days when I wake often. Last night's report:

Sleep log for night of March 9-10, 2012

You can see it was a busy night. I was up a lot. Yet the in-betweens were meaningful. I did get sleep and perhaps enough of it. I have not taken any ropinarole since some time in January and my need for it has decreased significantly. I expect to refill my prescription soon (I have been out of it, which is why I stopped taking it) and then will use it judiciously and hoard it. 

I am hiking frequently now. Easy hikes, not much climbing. I still don't have a hiking stick, so some hikes are out of the question no matter what. Usually the lengths are from one to two miles, maybe a little longer. After I did a 2.2-mile hike, my physical therapist said that he was surprised I did well for that long on bent legs. My bent knees put a lot of stress on my legs and that tires them. Yesterday's hike, which was otherwise beautiful, was maybe a mile and a half and I felt tired and aching the entire time. I just couldn't wait to be done with it. Fortunately, this has not been my most common experience with hiking lately. 

I don't usually wake with strong pain in my knee and leg. When my leg is bothering me it is closer to restless leg than outright pain. I consider this an improvement. 

I asked a fellow bent-knee patient, who has finally got his legs straight, when they actually got there and how. He said they went straight on the table about a month ago, suddenly. Out of the blue, when Chuck pushed on them, the backs of his legs touched the table.  I want this for myself. It is taking much longer for me, though. But they are getting "softer" and Chuck can put considerably more pressure on them now.  I am closing in on one year since my first operation. What an eye-opener.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ups and Downs

Sleep continues to elude me in one way or another:

Last night I felt so sleepy, for no reason I can figure, given I had slept well the night before. So I went to bed early and I stayed in bed beyond the time listed here, still feeling a need for rest.

I woke again and again, as you can see. Some of the time it was my left leg feeling uncomfortable. I have had fewer and lighter episodes of restless leg syndrome lately, but had a bit of it with my left leg. When I get uncomfortable now I simply sit up on the side of the bed. Usually this helps. As I sat there last night I looked at my right leg and realized that it was not bothering me at all. Just the left.  In addition to the left leg issue my mind was whirling. Thoughts turning into dreams, dreams going beyond sleep time. Parts of the television program Being Human intersected with thoughts about what I should be doing and am not. It is often hard to turn off my mind.

Since my last post I have taken two more little hikes. The second was into the Irish Hills at the end of Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo. I was almost stopped at the beginning: the start is fairly steep and the soil is clayey and therefore slippery. I was afraid of falling. But I grabbed some shrubs on the side of the path for a bit for more stability and made it up that part. From there on there were no too-slippery parts. I went only twenty minutes in, to the second bridge, and then turned around.

Somewhere in the middle of the hike in Irish Hills

Yesterday, my third little hike, was the world's shortest hike: Terrace Hill here in SLO. From the sidewalk on a street not far from where I live the trail climbs rather steeply up to a terraced top, from which one can see all of San Luis Obispo, 360 degrees. The short steep climb did get my heart rate up if briefly.

My near-constant companion is the fitbit. This little guy tells me that I climbed 19 floors during the Irish Hills hike and 11 for Terrace Hill. According to the fitbit website, each floor is equal to about ten feet in elevation gain, so I climbed 190 feet on the Irish Hills trail and 110 on Terrace Hill.  Having this gadget on me really does motivate me to take more steps or climb more stairs or hills. I come back to my base (my iMac) to sync up and eagerly look at what I've done.

There is a clear difference in surfaces for me. I was in Palm Springs from the 19th to the the 24th and walked on the sidewalks every day. And every day I felt enough hip pain to make the walk uncomfortable. When I hiked, however, the hip pain disappeared almost immediately. Clearly hiking is a better activity for me right now, given that without the pain I can walk more consistently, more correctly. It continues to be difficult to walk without a limp much of the time (I am not using my cane these days, yet at times perhaps I should be).

In sum: I am having fewer and shorter incidences of both RLS and intense leg pain. My hip continues to bother me but not all the time. I am walking more and starting to hike. My legs are still not straight (sigh).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I did it!

Today another milestone. I did my first hike since the first knee surgery last April. In fact, it was probably well before April when I last hiked. I was hurting so much that hikes were far from appealing at the time I first went under the knife.

I chose the Elfin Forest in Los Osos for my first foray. The walk is almost entirely boardwalk, with many benches, and is only 4/5 mile long. It is not flat but the ascent is not steep, as it is very near the bay. Next to it, in fact. The picture above shows how it got its name. It really looks magical inside the tree cover. A separate little boardwalk enters the forest in specific locations so we can look but not touch. You could walk the whole way on the boardwalk and not know the wonders inside. But there is much to enjoy outside of the forest itself, in the views of Morro Rock and several of the "Seven Sisters" - ancient volcanos that line up, marching from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo and actually into a part of San Luis Obispo.

But I digress. I went without a cane. I remember the last time I visited this little walk. It was well before my knee surgery. I grabbed at almost every chance to sit on one of the benches, to relieve the pain. This time I did not sit down once. I did not feel I had to. I did feel a bit of a strain toward the end but it seemed mostly because my body is not used to walking any more, not because of pain. My left knee did get a bit sensitive but it recovered all right. For a bit I thought I might need to ice my knees when I got home but I was fine by then, and am still fine now.

I could feel the pressure I was putting on my knees. It was a bit uncomfortable but not painful. I feel like I pushed them as far as they want to go right now, but I could go a bit farther next time out. I did not experience any hip pain.

This post does not reflect well how great I felt when I finished. Just yesterday I was making my way around Costco and finding it quite uncomfortable, both inside and out. I did not see how I could do a hike comfortably. Now I know that I can, and it's exhilarating.

Time Flies

Time doesn't really fly for me. Not at night, anyway.

I recently purchased a fitbit. A fitbit is a movement monitor, intended to track steps especially, but movement in general. It is small and wireless and uploads information automatically when it is near my computer. One of the special things it does is monitor sleep! Last night I set it to start monitoring and the above chart shows what it learned. Notice that I was in bed over ten hours and slept over seven. This was a good night, too. Over time I will have other examples, especially of the restless, impossible nights. Note, though, that on a good night I was awakened 47 times.

Sleep, then, is something I still have difficulty with. I still have episodes of restless leg syndrome (RLS), which accounts for some of the sleep interruptions, and I still frequently wake with a lot of pain in my knee specifically and sometimes down my leg to my foot. I do think the RLS is decreasing just a bit. I have been off the RLS meds for over a week now and not every night has been horrible. I don't know if I want to stay off those meds yet, however. 

In other news,  I am still spending time at the physical therapist's office. The above is one view of the office. It takes over an hour for me to go through everything, even when I don't have to wait for equipment. Last friday the therapist did some extra pushing on my knee. It's getting there. It's damned slow but I keep plugging.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stretching It

The focus of my work in physical therapy is stretching my leg so it will get straight and stay straight. I now sit on the modern version of the rack for ten minutes, while it stretches both legs. It's as much as I can take. When I am home I also work on stretching by placing a five-pound weight on my knee while it is resting on a low stool, straight.

The other day I did the ten minutes and later the weights at home. When I went to bed that night I had a bad time with spasms -  restless-legs. It went on and on and made a hell out of the night.

My theory is that the stretching brings on the spasms later. It makes sense, particularly because the leg that is pushed the hardest - the right- is the one usually going into the spasms. If this is so, then there should come a time when my legs are straight and the spasms slow down and even stop. I hope this is the case.

In general, I am walking better. I have been going without my cane some of the time now and I am starting to walk down stairs alternating legs, rather than stepping down with my right leg and then bringing my left down to meet it. I think I'm making real progress.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Adding Weight

At the end of my physical therapy session today, the therapist asked if I were stretching my knee at home. I said I used some weights but they are light, I need heavier weight. He went to another table and grabbed a heavy weight, asked me to lie back down on the table, and he attached the weight to my knee. Said to take it home, borrow it, put it on when I am sitting with my leg on a short stool, keep it on for several minutes.

I have put it on several times today and intend to use it several times a day. Hoping it helps. Certainly can't hurt.

I think I'm walking a bit better in general. I wonder if the leg-straightening is part of the reason.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Good Day

It didn't start out with a lot of promise. As usual, I caned my way to the kitchen to feed the cats early this morning, bent over and feeling pressure and pain in my right leg. Each time I got up I had to grab the cane. Finally it got close to time to get ready for Aqua.

I changed into my swim suit and swim shirt, added jeans, socks, and shoes, and packed my gym bag. I grabbed my cane and made my way to the car.

At that point I thought maybe things were going a little better. I used my cane to help myself down the steps but it was not arduous, it was pretty easy. By the time I got to the gym and out of the car I knew it was a good day.

I walked in, flashed my tag, walked to the locker room without limping. I did not take my cane in with me. Once ready, I walked out onto the cold concrete deck, swearing yet again that I would get some kind of deck shoes for these cold winter months, and headed to pick up the bouys and noodles, then for the water. So nice. No pain. Pressure, stiffness, but no pain. Another classmate noticed and commented on it. She assumed this was a permanent change but I know better. Still...maybe it's a sign? Yesterday, after all, Chuck, the therapist, said, "Good!" in a way that was different, after pushing my knees down. Straighter, is what he meant. We are getting there.

I went to the dollar store after class. My right hip pain kicked in and made that not the best experience but I could recognize that it was the hip, not the knee.

Another sign that it's a pretty good day: I have been cleaning up spots on the carpet, washing and sorting clothes. Doing a little vacuuming. When my legs feel better I have more energy.

That's Stretch behind me in the pic.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


It seems like I am stuck. Suspended. No change, or change for the worse. I recall feeling less pain a week after surgery than I do now. Of course I was taking painkillers at the time and not feeling it all. But the memory haunts me, makes me wonder what I've done wrong.

There is no percentage to thinking like this. No gain to be had from dwelling on my disappointments.

But there might be a gain from listing them here. Listing them may help me free myself from them, from dwelling, and of course it will help down the line to see where I was at this point. Useful information.

Walking. I usually feel a tension, a tightness, in both legs, when I walk, and a part of that is a kind of pain in my right leg. I often now have more pain in my right hip and in my right foot than in my right knee. Seems like I might have expected that, given that I broke my foot in 12th grade, so it is a natural place for arthritis to thrive, and the arthritis in my right hip is well established. So I still walk in pain or in discomfort if not pain, but maybe the pain of my knee is the least of it.

Stiffness. I am very much aware of the stiffness in both knees when I do Aqua classes at the gym. We do a lot of exercises that call for raising my legs, kicking them, marching type moves, and more, and when we stretch at the end I can never grab my ankle when I bend my knee back. Either ankle.

The cane. I hate that I am so dependent on my cane. I thought I'd be tossing that thing out within a few weeks of the operation. But it hurts too much to go without it, most of the time.

Getting up. Still there is discomfort when I get up from sleeping or from sitting for a little while. I want so much to be able to jump out of bed without considering ahead of time how I am going to avoid pain.

Restless legs. Seems to be getting worse, happening during the day as well as night. It is mostly my right leg, though, which suggests that this condition might lessen as I get better, as the knee heels completely.

Getting in and out of the car. It still hurts. I can usually drive all right, without pain. Just getting in and out is hard.

My body is a cage. Let my body free. Let my spirit free.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Waiting to Sleep

I went to bed at about nine, with a book. I took a hydroxyzine tablet (for the recurring hives) and a ropinirole tab (aka Requip) for my right very restless leg. It would not quiet down. I took another a while later, and then took a shower, tried relaxation techniques, then took a third ropinirole tablet. And here I am, almost two hours later, my leg just as uncomfortable as it was at the start.

Fortunately, this does not happen every night. I wish I could figure out if there is a trigger or something that I do to either set it off or prevent it happening. I have not been able to come up with connections yet.

Perhaps I will scan some medical bills, write a book review...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Inauspicious Beginning

Like many others, I like to do something symbolic around New Year's Day to suggest a change for the better. Today I did not do much of anything, and certainly nothing symbolic. I tried to talk myself into going to the gym but did not get there. In my defense, I am still recovering from a cold and I have three cold sores on my lips, which does not make me persona grata anywhere I can think of.

But here it is, January 2012 and I need to take a look at myself. Look back at 2011, see where I've been and where I am headed.

Not a great pic but it's current, taken today. You can see that my legs are straight, meaning no longer knock-kneed. In April of 2011 my left knee was replaced. In October my right knee was replaced. So it was the Year of the Knees. My focus for the whole year was on my knees. Not much else got done, frankly. And I am still at it.

Some signs of progress: It doesn't hurt to drive any more. It still hurts to get in and out of a car. My left knee generally does not hurt. Every now and then there is a bit of pain at night but mostly it is just stiff. Very nice. I feel discomfort when I have to stand for any length of time. My legs both feel a kind of tension, and uncomfortable tension, and often my right knee or my right hip will hurt as well.

I do time in physical therapy three days a week. I bike fifteen minutes, isokinetic. Then step (on a sitting-step machine) fifteen minutes, at level four. Then leg press: four sets of twelve with both legs, then four sets of twelve with one leg, 3.5 lbs for both, 2 lbs for one leg. Then the isokinetic leg kicks, 8 sets of ten, followed by curls- four sets of twelve, then extensions, four sets of twelve, and finally a seven minute stretch of both knees, all at 12.5lbs. Finally I land on the table, where Chuck, the therapist, pushes and pushes both knees. We're gradually softening the muscle, working to get the legs to zero extension. What a dream! Will this spring be the time it happens??

When I am not sick, I also go to Aqua classes three days a week. I am considering doing more work in the gym either on the Aqua days or the therapy days, focusing on arms and aerobic activity for now.

I am no longer taking pain meds. I was taking one vicodin per night but when I ran out the PA at the surgeon's office left a message that they don't normally continue addictive substances longer than I've been on it, that I should go to OTC NSAIDs. Never mind that I can't take NSAIDs. I get tired of having to remind them of that little detail. So I'm off all pain meds unless I take a bit of tylenol now and then. I am still waking up with my right leg in pain for hours, but not every night. Fortunately. I seem to be sleeping more hours between wakeups.

Not much of a report but I think it will be helpful to review later, when some of the remaining issues have been resolved.