Double Knee Replacement: 9 weeks out

Finally, a breakthrough!

I could have written that last week, but my superstitious side didn’t want to jinx the progress. And my logical side said to wait to be sure it was lasting.

So far I’m not jinxed and the breakthrough does seem to be lasting.

I’m at nine weeks and a few days after double knee replacement, and I’m much more mobile and seem to gain a bit more strength and balance daily.

I walk with a cane instead of a walker – and I often don’t need the cane when I’m in my house. I have even gone down my stairs only to realize I’ll need my cane. And have to go back upstairs to get it.

I can now sleep on my side instead of having to sleep on my back – and it’s easier each evening to turn over and to get comfortable.

And perhaps most importantly, the pain has lessened. I’m taking Tylenol now during the day and only using fragments of the more high-powered pain pills in the evenings and nights.

That change allows me to drive – and what a difference that makes! I’m no longer dependent on others to get to physical therapy or pick up a meal. I can’t walk very far yet, so I still need grocery help, but if a place has a drive through, it’s on my list!

I know my “problem” has been having expectations. 

I expected to be driving sooner. I expected to be mobile sooner. I expected to be able to do everything for myself much more quickly.

And, on the other hand, this healing journey has been much more like my breast cancer journey than I expected.  And that has brought up some of the same emotions I experienced six years ago. Frustration with the feeling of helplessness and lack of control. Fear of dependency. Fear of loss. Fear of diminishment.

All of these are the things I think we have to go through when we age. Helplessness, lack of control, dependency, loss, diminishment.

We in our society don’t prepare for that.

But if we live long enough, we will experience it.

I think that fear is the source of the discomfort I’ve felt at dusk the past few days. At first I thought it was physical – perhaps a digestive problem, maybe a heart problem? But yesterday I realized I needed to sit with it rather than try to escape it or figure it out.

And I realized the feeling, the discomfort . . . was fear.

I’m closing in on my 59th birthday. And though 60 is the new 40, I am very aware that my life grows shorter and shorter.

I’m experiencing some of the situations that you encounter when you’re elderly – not being mobile, needing a cane for balance, needing to be dropped off at the front door of businesses because you can’t walk far, not able to do yard work or much of your housework, not able to grocery shop for yourself, not able to cook much but having to figure out what to eat, not being able to attend social events (or not for long).

Spending lots of time alone. Seeing the activities all around – but not being a part of them. Feeling sadness for what once was – my health, my social activity, my involvement in the world around me.

I saw this diminishment in my mother as she aged.

She had not prepared for it.

I am preparing now. 

But only because I’m getting a firsthand taste of it.

I realize that I have the hope and expectation of returning to mobility and independence.

But in a few years my diminishment will continue – with no hope of recovery.

That’s sobering.

And I think, “How can I use this knowledge now?

Not to be fearful but to know that diminishment is a natural part of life  – leading to death.

All I have to do is look out my window. The trees are changing colors and letting go. They are becoming bare.

That’s how this world works.

There is the time for youth and energy. And there is the time for diminishment and letting go.

My knee surgery has given me another taste of the latter, just as my cancer journey did six years ago.

I wonder how to be graceful when there is no hope of recovery.

Perhaps that’s what this time in my life is about. Learning the lesson before it’s an absolute necessity.

I find I resist that.

But I’m trying to let go, to discover the beauty in diminishment.

Not to resist.

Or at least not so strongly.

So as I recover, as I become more independent, I also choose to bring with me the lessons of dependence.

As I recover, I choose to bring with me the discomfort of aging, knowing that there is wisdom within it.

As I recover, I choose to notice the beauty in diminishment. To notice that diminishment is always around, in people and in nature. And that it is not “bad” and to be avoided.

I choose to acknowledge the natural process of growth and diminishment – and ultimately death.

And even though I am afraid, I am also comforted.

I am a part of this natural process. And there is great wisdom in it. It is the cycle that was preordained long before this existence of mine. And it will continue long after I am on the other side.

My surgery and recovery are only a tiny blip within the great scheme.

But what I learn can be lasting.

How to let go gracefully. How to accept and breathe into fear. How to love that which is fleeting.

How to be fully human.

Smokies Oct. 2007 015

The mist and leaves on Clingman’s Dome are fleeting, but the mountain itself is not.





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