Sunday, December 13, 2009

Will Sundays ever be the same?

Thank you to my blog buddies who've either via comments or emails checked in with me or noted my recent lack of posting. It's wonderful to be in a community of folks I've never met who miss me when I'm gone! I miss all of you as well, when various circumstances take you from the blogging connection for a short interval. This blogging community is quite remarkable, because we really do come to know each other, care about each other, and think of each other during our days when we're aren't sitting at our computers. Dare I say it's a support group? Of sorts, anyway. And I'm eternally grateful, because I need it and love it! I'm returning to work this week and expect my blogging will go back to the daily variety, as it's the very best way I've found to goof off at work - smile, smile.

It's funny - I was thinking I had nothing to say today, but now that I've started typing, thoughts are flying in at a blinding pace, and what I thought would be a short entry may turn out to be l-e-e-e-n-g-t-h-y. Big shock, I know. Feel free to speed read through the verbal cabbage.

So - will Sunday's ever be the same? The same as what, you ask??? For one thing, it's raining today - steady, drenching, annoying, seemingly endless, Christmas shopping-preventing rain that is cold and miserable. We are in the middle of having a new roof put on our house which we need desperately as when it rains we have leaks. Several. And every place that leaks is in the half of the roofing job that hasn't been done yet. So it's raining in as well as out. If my camera wasn't entirely jacked up, I'd take pictures of the multitudinous buckets and towels strategically placed throughout the house under said leaks. Suffice to say, it's anti-feng shui. But we've had so much rain this fall that it isn't the object of the post title.

The typical Sundays I've spent over the last years included long walks with friends as the exercise du jour. Since June, I went to the gym daily M-F, after work for cardio and strength training. The weekends were reserved for the aforementioned long walks, sometimes up to 6 or more miles. But for the 5th Sunday in a row, I'm grounded, rather couched - by this F*&%$#@*!ING bum knee, and it's wearing on my last nerve. This is my 2nd post-op Sunday - last Sunday was only day 2 after surgery and I expected to be down for the count with the knee elevated, iced and heavily medicated. But I was sure by this week I'd be nipping at the heels of normal and starting to warm up my sneakers. Alas, not yet.

It was a rough week with the knee. I wrote Wednesday about prematurely going to work, only to find the knee wasn't ready to man up, or woman up. It rebelled loudly; so I pledged prudence and sanity to keep the limb rested and lovingly tended for the rest of my time off from work, which I've mostly done. What followed Wednesday was my post-op visit with the surgeon Thursday. He showed me pictures from the procedure which looked to me like a panorama of the moon in its many phases. Nursing school didn't teach reading arthroscopy photos - but doc explained that while the meniscus repair was successful and the knee nicely cleaned out, I have a LOT of arthritis, rendering the knee mostly bone, as opposed to the kinder and gentler bone and cartilage combo that makes for happy painless (and younger) knees. Translation: Expect a tougher and lengthier rehab. Arthroscopy really aggravates arthritic joints - increasing inflammation. He kept looking at me long and seriously, saying the knee may give me trouble for awhile - and that if after 8 weeks I still had discomfort, to come in and we'd discuss options. 8 WEEKS? OPTIONS?? WTF? I must have looked shocked, because he quickly back-pedalled and said, "Or, you might be fine by then!" Makes me wonder if he left a hemostat in my knee or something.

Long story short, (I know, too late) I left feeling pretty down. I got in the car and burst into catastrophizer (resides in my cerebral cortex) was in high gear writing out a script for my future that included crutches, wheel chairs and walkers, but no walks...or any other physical activities. Definitely went into the poor-me mode again, and felt myself sinking into a depressed state that was facilitated by the increasing discomfort and thickness in the knee. Every episode of standing up brought the question, "Where will it hurt most this time"? Pretty grim and bleak. See why I didn't post?

That afternoon (Thursday) I went to Starbucks with a friend who is having bilateral knee replacements in February and also has serious painful neuropathy in both feet from years of drinking. She's wonderfully sober now but continues to pay the price for past indiscretions. Anyway - she mentioned that she's been seeing an acupuncturist for her arthritis, and that it's helping. It reminded me of an article I'd read that said acupuncture before and after joint surgery can be helpful in the shortening of the healing process, lessening of inflammation, and relief of pain. So...I got the name of the friend's practitioner, and made an appointment for Saturday morning.

By the time I got to the appointment, I was having a great deal of trouble walking, between swelling and discomfort in the knee. It just felt thick, unstable and boggy. The practitioner, Dr. Sheng, asked me a bunch of questions, then had me lie down and looked at the knee. She nodded and started getting her needles ready. I cautiously asked, "Have you ever seen a knee like this?" She turned at me, smiled, and said in a voice heavily accented (Chinese) but totally kind and reassuring, "Everyday."
"Really?", I asked.
She went on to say that people came before surgery - hoping to avoid it, or after, or both...and that usually she was able to help them "at least a little". I felt a rush of quiet relief and knowledge that I would likely feel better when I left.

She inserted about 8 or 10 needles all around the knee (painless), and attached little electrodes to 2 of the needles that were placed where I had the most discomfort. The electrodes are stimulators that delivered little vibrations (very low currents) throughout the duration of the time the needles are in, about 40 minutes. Basically I laid there and "cooked" - the knee got warm, as she said it would. Never hot. It felt a little tingly; not even remotely painful. She left me with a bell in case I needed her, soft music, the needles and my thoughts. She checked in every 10 minutes or so, and put some "Chinese herbal oil" around the needle sites at one point. At first, it was a little unnerving, and I found myself wondering if the electrodes could malfunction and fry me into a crispy critter - but eventually I relaxed and even dozed lightly. I kept sensing I was going to be a lot better when it was over, which I countered with, "don't expect too much". After she removed the needles, she applied herbal patches, a small heat pad, and then a sleeve that fits over the whole knee to stabilize it. It's fabric - firm but not heavy or immobilizing, just cozy and supporting.

Than the moment of truth... I sat up, stood up, and took a step. Another. No lie - I felt nothing. The pocket of tense swelling that had accumulated above the knee to one side had dissipated. No pain. Certainly delicate and tender, but entirely different from when I'd walked in. I was stunned. She said I'd benefit by coming a couple of times a week for a couple weeks, to which I readily agreed. It has stayed better since - the boggy sense of thickness and swelling is still gone 30 hours later. I've been staying off it some, but also able to do much more than I had been. This feels like a true miracle. I will go tomorrow after work, and plan to take pictures of the knee in its needled state (if my camera can be wrestled into functioning) which I'll definitely post.

The biggest gift is that this has turned around is my negative thinking. There is restored hope and optimism that I will return to my previous level of functioning, with time and care. I'd had acupuncture twice before from a different practitioner for vague low back pain, and while fine, rendered minimal relief. Perhaps the acute nature of the post op knee made it so receptive to treatment. Whatever - I'm so thankful, not just for feeling better, but for having the resources to seek out a complementary treatment modality like this. I know many folks couldn't afford this or have access to it - it's dumb luck that I can.

This also makes me aware of how reluctant conventional western medical practitioners are to advise or prescribe "alternative methods" of care. I can't wait to tell my orthopedic surgeon about how the acupuncture helped begin to turn this around for me.

Finally, my food has been off, but I haven't binged at all. It's just felt like too much to stay on track this week, which sounds ridiculous. It's true, though. The negative space in my head downgraded my ability to stay enthusiastic and motivated for weight loss while I was having to huff and puff and struggle to just go from the couch to the bathroom. I feel good that I've done no bingeing; also surprised. I haven't felt like bingeing - but I also haven't felt like following my pretty rigid plan. I will get on the scale Monday morning and plan to get back to the clean side of eating. We're going out to dinner tonight with my youngest son who returned from his semester in Buenos Aires last night. Great to see him - and we have 11 days before the other 2 kids get home. Further plan: still aim for the Christmas Challenge goal of hitting 188 by Dec. 26. I suspect I've put the goal out of reach with my less stringent eating this week, but it's worth going for it.

Sorry to go on and on. This is the same thing that happens if I don't share at an AA meeting for a week or so...when I finally start talking, it's hard to stop! Thanks again for the good wishes and thoughts - I feel held up and supported by them and all my friends who, for some reason, continue to hang in there with me!


  1. Hi Leslie. Great that the acupuncture worked so well, both physically and mentally. I'm sure you'll be back on your feet and exercising normally after Christmas. Patience! I know it's difficult. I'm still not recovered from this thing I've had and face another week of convalescence. It's very frustrating because I'm dying to get out there and exercise. To get things moving again and get back in my normal routine. But physically I'm just not up to it.

    I'm sure that being back at work is going to help you feel better. And don't push it with the knee - sit with it up at every opportunity. And don't walk around the place unnecessarily. Be overcautious with it otherwise you might not last the week. (And I'm telling this to a nurse!)

    Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!
    Bearfriend xx

  2. With a leaky roof and a knee that isn't fully recovered, you are doing well to only be off a bit. I hope this week brings you a speedy recovery.

  3. To be honest, Leslie, I would have been surprised if you hadn't felt like this. From the little I know (just friends who have had the same/similar surgeries, 8 weeks was the minimum required for recovery. Very frustrating to me that doctors consistently aren't really forthcoming about the realities of the procedures they do. I mean really, did he not know you had arthritis in that knee BEFORE the procedure??? Just the frustrated nurse coming out in me.

    Conversely, I am really happy to read about the good results you had from the acupuncture. I really do believe there is a lot more to medicine than just our Western tradition.

  4. wonderful leslie, I am so glad that lady was able to help you.
    I think western medicine is so focused on disease ti doesn't have time for health.
    I think i would get a little down if I didn't know for sure what was up with my knee. I am praying for your knee and for increased mobility. I hope going a few times a week can set you on the path to health sooner rather than later.

  5. very glad that this is working for you! and will be interested to see the pictures. I have always thought I would respond well to accup. as I respond very well to pressure points.

    will be interested to see how your friend does with her replacements. everyone that I know that has had them done mess around for years with pain and immobility. Once they get them done - they all say that they wished they had just done it from the beginning. would have done it much sooner if they had known.

  6. I'm so glad the acupuncture has worked so well for you from the first visit. :o) I'm a firm believer in complementary therapies (I will be doing first and second degree Reiki in the New Year). It never ceases to amaze me that the medical profession still seems to regard highly trained people like my chiropractor as 'quacks'!

    I'm delighted you're feeling a little better about your longer-term recovery. :o)

  7. Yea for the acupuncture! I hope your recovery speeds up significantly now. Great job on not bingeing. Even if your food isn't perfect, it sounds like you aren't doing too bad. Glad you are back posting. I missed you, too!

  8. Wow for acupuncture. I have a friend (73 yrs old) who was having all kinds of problem with his thumb joint. He went to an acupuncturist and he fixed it. Never had another problem.

    I'm glad you are feeling more positive!

  9. Sorry I've been away for so long, and sorry you're having so many problems with that knee. My right one seems to want to blow out every other week. I guess some of us are just unlucky, lol.

    I feel like I'm out of the loop, too. Trying to work my way back in....just not fully feeling it yet, ya know? Pray for me girl.