Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's 2011. Already! Where does time go?

New years resolutions don't work with me so I rarely make them. This year was simple. I am not even sure it can be called a resolution. Maybe a mission statement would be a better way of putting it. I just want to be happy, healthy, and strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 2010 was a year of changes, mostly dealing with my health and getting better in as many ways as I could. I don't remember when I finally gave in and decided to take the chance on knee replacement. I am the type who reads everything about my health issues that I can find *from reliable sources only* and reading about the knee replacement was both interesting and frightening, especially the complications. Did I say I was scared? Maybe the oddest thing I did at this time once I had the surgery scheduled was to grieve. Grieve? Why? Wasn't this surgery designed to make things better? To put in the new parts the old parts had to be removed...taken away...permanently. The idea that I was going to have part of my bones sawed off to make room for metal and plastic was almost overwhelming to me. Even reading the word "prosthetic" was a bit difficult for me to comprehend. I mean this was going to be "invisible" to the world save for the scar on my knee. But it was a fake part and was, therefore, a prosthetic. And this prosthetic is not a removable part fastened to the outside. It is permanently implanted inside the body where many kinds of infections can go directly to it causing lots of health problems including the need for new surgery. So I grieved the loss of the real bone and made myself mentally ready to accept the newcomer.

When I became disabled in 2007 I was still walking fine. My issues dealt with my heart rhythm mostly, but included several other health issues. Walking was only affected in distance, which is still an issue. But as I was so sick and so in shock at the time I was first going into the issues of disability, including the stress of not having a job and not knowing if I would be approved for disability benefits, that the stress of it all seemed to make me feel even worse physically. Angina was a big problem, especially with any physical effort I tried to make. Even the simplest thing like the almost constant toe-tapping I do to the music in my head or on the stereo made my chest hurt. Depression was bad. The worst part of it was the loss of all the activities in my life in addition to my job. I gained a lot of weight. I've always been heavy and trying to lose weight. Now here I was gradually cutting bad things out of my diet because of health reasons, yet I was still gaining weight instead of losing it. Depression grew worse.

In November 2008 after I ended up with a stress fracture in my right foot (due to inactivity and weakness I am sure) then a bad sprain of my left ankle in February 2009, I ended up permanently on crutches. All through this time my balance was getting worse due to inactivity. I am not sure if I really needed the crutches or not, but I felt better using them than I did using just the cane. (The cane came along sometime in 2008 but not sure when.)

I did get to move to a better home in 2008 and that was a big boost to my spirits. I had a good part time job within the income limits allowed with disability benefits. I had a better home with much nicer landlords. Depression eased. Stress was somewhat decreased. When I made the tough decision in January 2009 to quit the work from home job I had, stress decreased to almost none. Depression improved tremendously although I still have my moments. But I think this was the start of the turning point in my health issues. Life was settling down to an even keel and I was finding that I was happy again.

To say that things have been easy during this time would be a lie. Simpler, yes. But definitely not easy. By the time I had the knee replacement surgery in May I was mentally and emotionally ready for everything involved. What I did not expect was that I would not be going out to even the simplest places such as Walmart the rest of 2010! I thought I would be up and out of the house a lot more than I had been once I felt recovered enough. What happened instead is that by the time I felt ready to go to Walmart again I pretty much was in a routine where I just let things ride as they were. It was just easier. Going up and down the steps leading to my apartment was still painful and I wasn't thrilled with the idea of riding the motorized carts yet with my knee bent so tight the whole time. So I spent June through December at home, only going out for the occasional doctor appointment and sometimes out to eat during the same trip. In December my daughter and I made our one and only shopping trip since I had surgery in May. It was a beautiful, fun day.

I can still remember the day I stopped using my cane! I was going to the dentist. I had taken my cane with me for the steps in and out of the apartment. But I have never used the cane since that day. Somehow that day I decided it was time to test my abilities and my balance. When I got home I had a celebration. My grandson was especially excited seeing me walk without the cane or crutches. He still comments about it once in awhile. He's only three! I can remember the first day he decided he did not need to get his toys out of my way when I walked to the kitchen. He said, "Grandma you can walk over it now." How could I not smile at that?

Sometime around this time, even though I had planned on having my other knee replaced in late winter, I changed my plans. I was feeling so much better that I decided to move the surgery up to as soon after the Christmas holidays as possible. I thought that having it earlier in the year would make recovery come earlier as well and maybe I would have some time getting to go out and do something other than going to the doctor in 2011. Maybe I might even get to go fishing! That would be so wonderful. (Okay friends if you are reading this...who wants to go fishing with me this summer?)

So here I am less than two weeks away from my second knee replacement surgery. I've lost 30 lbs since the first surgery thanks to a total life change in my food choices and the slight increase in activity. I can walk again and it feels so good just to go up and down my front steps as easily as any normal person. True after the surgery I have to go through the entire recovery process all over again. But this time I know what to expect and I can hopefully work through it better than I did the first time around. I am an unusual person so I was told by my physical therapist last time. As much as the therapy hurt, I pushed for more many times instead of wanting to quit. I had realized that the next day was always improved from the day before if I worked hard at the therapy. So this time I am hopefully going to push even harder within reasonable limits that the therapists allow. In fact this time I plan on getting help with the rest of my muscle groups that have been neglected the past four years since I got sick in the first place. The more I can walk the more these other muscles hurt. I also plan on working on my endurance so I can tolerate standing longer and walking longer distances than just a couple hundred feet or so that I can do now.

So this is why I chose this "resolution" for 2011. My health has already improved enough to change my outlook on my future. In 2009 I gave up my car. As hard as that decision was for me, I wasn't driving it. It was sitting out there getting flat tire after flat tire from non-use and causing me stress. So when a friend of mine needed a car for herself and her children, the choice was clear. God had provided that car for me in such an amazing way. How could I not pass it on to someone else who needed it? I had pretty much given up on ever having any kind of life again because of all my health issues. Having my knee replaced and the progress I have made since doing so has changed all that. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel now. I can see a bright future ahead of me. At this point I am not sure what that future holds but I am too young yet to waste the future feeling sorry for myself and moping about my life. The legs work much better. The balance has returned. I have lost some of the weight I gained after getting sick. But I still have major health issues to deal with as well as a lot more weight to lose. I am not looking to become anything more than the most healthy person I can be at this point. But I have been encouraged through all of this. Life is good. Obstacles can be overcome one way or another. I might not be able to do things the same way "normal" people do them, but I will find a way wherever possible to get done what I need to get done. Right now that is to get through this second knee replacement surgery and the long recovery time as positively as I possibly can. My goal after that? Ask God if I can have another car. It's time to get out of the house again and not put so much of a burden on my daughter. It's all still a baby step process, but I am not falling down so much as I re-learn to walk the road of my life.

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