I Thought I Was Doing What I Was Supposed to be Doing

“That’s the problem,” he said. I looked down at my legs. I was sitting on a physical therapy table with my legs outstretched on the tabletop. I couldn’t see what he could see. He pointed to the concave shape of my inner thigh. “Your leg has atrophied.”

What?!? Atrophy might describe an old lady … maybe someone who’s in her late 80’s and immobile.  Not me! When I thought that I could speak without crying, I interrupted him with questions. “Is my other leg atrophied?” Yes, he said. Later that evening I would sob with Jody.

How could that be? Exercise has been a priority for me and after getting my knees replaced, I continued to exercise at least 5 days a week, whether it be aqua pool jogging, biking, or Pilates reformer. During my workday I piled on steps from walking the plant floor.

Over a month ago, I had graduated from physical therapy following my last knee replacement. What brought me back to the doctor was a constant pain where my IT band ended near the knee. My knees were terrific, but this new pain was causing me to limp.

What I learned is that all the exercising that I was doing was great, but my quads needed strengthening. If my quads were stronger, then the IT band wouldn’t have to work so hard. I needed to get my quads to fire.

I was introduced to Blood Flow Restriction Therapy. The physical therapist put a band similar to a blood pressure cuff on my upper thigh and pumped it up. This stopped the blood from flowing into my leg. I then did straight leg raises, quads over roll, and knee extensions. What this did was engage my quad muscles.

After two sessions with blood flow restriction therapy I was no longer feeling any pain.

I recently graduated from physical therapy again. I purchased a blood flow restriction band to continue the exercises at home. My goal is to climb Mount Fuji on our Japan trip this summer. No atrophy allowed.

Thinking Retirement

I have a date in mind. September 26, 2021. My 63rd birthday.

“Dream about what you want to do after high school,” I tell Juan and Crystel. Jody and I have offered our children many options. Gap year. College. Work. Travel. Imagine it all. Don’t put any restrictions on your visions.

I’m doing the same with retirement. Sometimes, I’ll have thoughts of staying in the workforce longer. I have a job I enjoy and leave satisfied, most days. After planning a trip to Japan for three weeks, I thought, well … maybe if I arrange a few more of these three-week vacations I could work longer. Then winter came.

The first time I stepped into the bone chilling Minnesota cold at 5:30 am to go to the YMCA and then on to work, I changed my mind. There is a difference between having to leave your home for work and leaving home when you want. For one if I were retired, I’d let the air warm up.

On numerous occasions, I’ve told Jody that I’m going to retire at 63. Just in case she forgets. Or thinks I’ve changed my mind. Since she is four years younger than me and has her own relationship with money, she will most likely work longer. I love her for that.

The kids graduate June of 2021. You would think that I’d want to work longer to help them pay for college. Jody and I have already come up with the amount of financial help we’ll give them. The rest is ours.

Some people add on to their house after their children leave high school, while others downsize.

Jody and I won’t downsize. We are going to keep the house as much for Juan and Crystel as for any reason. I always liked the idea of selling the house and traveling until Juan told Crystel one day that Mama Beth and Mama Jody were going to kick them out and sell the house after they graduated high school. After my OMG moment, I realized that he was saying that he needed a home to come home to. I always thought they could travel wherever we are.

The more Jody and I discussed retirement the more I realized that it didn’t make sense to be such involved parents and then when Juan and Crystel launch for college to no longer be present. In dreaming of their options maybe one of theirs is to live at home. Another OMG moment.

Now when I think of retirement I’m counting the winters left. One more winter. The Groundhog said it will be an early spring. Juan and Crystel will be starting their senior year September of 2020. I’ll be starting my last year of work. The days will go fast.

I’ve always said to people – get out of the workforce while you are still alive. Not everyone does. My parents and several siblings died young. This doesn’t mean that I will, but it lurks in my mind like a dirty swimming pool. I want many days of sitting in a chair with my eyes closed and my face to the sun. Our swimming pool sparkling.

Beth Does Yoga sortof

One-Legged downward facing dog

I’m a shadow of my former self is my first thought. I correct myself. No, Beth. You’ve never been graceful, subtle or smoothly moving. You are more of a lumbering sort, moving in a slow, heavy awkward way.

Class members are in an Eagle pose. Instead

of looking like the king of the birds, I have my hand reaching out to the beam support to keep my posture upright and my foot touching the ground, so I won’t fall over. Even with that help I am in danger of tipping.

Balance and Flex Together at the YMCA incorporates Yoga, Pilates and athletic training for balance, mobility, flexibility and core.

Sunday morning and I’m here with a mix of men and women. By the end of class, many will wonder why I’m here. I’m doing them a service as it will become clear that I’m the worst in the class.

My goal is to make it 55 minutes to the end part where we lay on our mat and meditate.

The class moves to a lotus pose. I stretch my legs straight. I’m not able to sit cross-legged due to my inflexibility. Class members don’t know that I’ve have had both of my knees replaced. The only hint is my yoga pants with Twin City Orthopedics stitched to the front. Who knew that you would get swag with a knee replacement?

Maybe class members think that I just don’t like following directions. That’s true too. But, once on the floor it will take me some time to figure how to get back up and it will not be graceful.

The class moves to a cat pose. Since this entails being on your knees, I move to the dolphin plank pose instead. Fluidly the group shifts from one pose to another. I alternate between the plank and downward-facing dog. Eventually, the class will meet me there.

I’m a lesson to others that they don’t have to follow along with the instructor and that they can make this class into anything they want. Indeed, it will at times look like I’m in a totally different class than them.

I’m also an example of how not to be embarrassed but a demonstration of positive thinking that anyone can strive to develop harmony in the body and mind.

On Monday, I will take my lumbering self to a Pilates reformer class. Overall strength, flexibility, coordination and balance are my goals. As well as not hurting myself.

Gracefulness is not on the list.

 

When Your Kids’ Bucket List Becomes Yours

Nihongo wa hanasemasen (I don’t speak Japanese).

Japan was not on my bucket list. It wasn’t a longing. If someone would have said to me, “Are you ever going to travel to Japan?” I probably would have responded with, “Why would I do that?”

Now that plane tickets have been purchased and dates marked off our calendar, Juan and Crystel argue about who brought up the idea of traveling to Japan first.

Regardless of who did, Crystel gets the credit for selling the idea. She used a PowerPoint presentation to further promote her position. Crystel titled her demo, “What to Do on Our Japan Trip,” as if we had already bought the goods. She meticulously moved through each of her 29 slides, and many had links for further description. Such as, the pros and cons of staying in a Capsule hotel, hostel, or Ryokan. She could be a tour guide, I thought, as she described how she separated Japan into four destinations: city side, country side, Juan’s animé side, and beach side.

Japan is an island country that is seventy percent mountainous. Mountains and valleys split the land. It was her photos of Japan’s stunning coastal scenery and untouched countryside landscapes that began to sway me. She was easily making Japan an attractive destination. A hankering began to flicker.

It wasn’t long before Crystel and I were on the couch, side by side, researching the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. She would plan our day to day activities, and I would secure the lodgings. You might think that I would be scared about letting a teen plan our pursuits. I admit to some trepidation. My unease fell away after I saw her ensuing PowerPoint presentation: an itinerary for Tokyo, Mount Fuji, and Gero. She had our schedule mapped from place to place. Each locale more beautiful than the last. She even planned an alternate choice for Jody and me while she and Juan visited Akihabara, the center of gaming, manga and animé culture in Tokyo.

Our three-week trip to Japan will close with seven days in the tiny fishing village of Asobi on the Tango peninsula. The peninsula is located on the Japan sea coast, allowing us to take day trips to Kyoto and the surrounding area. Crystel will enjoy planning trips to beaches, hot springs, and Kyoto. I’ve already downloaded the paperwork for an international driver’s license as Tango is most easily explored by car.

Crystel said she wanted to visit Japan because of the culture, Juan because of animé, and Jody because she didn’t want to be left at home. That’s not the all of it, she enjoys adventure as I do, and I stack them up when I plan our exploits. Now we have a daughter who is eager to explore as well.

Traveling together, enjoying new experiences together, that’s the best kind of bucket list.

Being Heard

It wasn’t until I emailed a friend that I put the pieces together – I was afraid the doctor wouldn’t find anything wrong with my left knee.

I couldn’t stand for five minutes before I started feeling the burning pain. I contemplated going up or down the staircase before taking my first step. When my partner, Jody, asked me to walk our dogs with her, I groaned. Still, what if the doctor didn’t find any damage to my knee?

Finally, I had had it. I was in the back yard pulling weeds from our garden. My excruciating left knee pain had me sitting right back in the lawn chair. I can’t live like this, I thought. I grabbed my cell phone and sent a message to the doctor. I know an x-ray won’t show anything. Can’t we do an MRI? I am icing all the time. I can’t stand or walk without pain.

In April 2019, I had a full right knee replacement. That was going wonderfully. I had no pain. My flexion was back to normal, and I was soon to be released from physical therapy.

I’d had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee a few months prior to the right knee replacement. Next a cortisone shot in the same knee, but the pain remained. My left knee had always been more painful than my right knee, but it was the right knee that showed bone on bone.

What if the doctor didn’t find any injury to my left knee? Even to me, it seemed like with the medical care that I was receiving, I shouldn’t be experiencing this pain.

When I emailed my friend, my thoughts took me back to the sexual abuse I endured as a child. I was nine years old when I told my mother. She punished me. I’ll never tell you again, I said to myself. No matter how bad it gets. I didn’t say anything until I was eighteen and afraid for my younger sisters who were still at home. I went to the police knowing my parents wouldn’t or couldn’t protect my sisters.

The sexual abuse that I endured in my family and the results of that abuse were not validated by my parents or siblings. I wasn’t seen. I wasn’t heard.

I made an appointment to see the doctor. An MRI was ordered. Even though I knew there was pain, I found myself standing and walking to prove to myself that the pain was still there. The pain hadn’t disappeared. Still, I had doubts. What if I was the only one to know how painful my knee was? Prior x-rays showed nothing. I knew the pain wasn’t in my head. I knew the pain was real. What if I was the only one who would recognize the pain? The idea of not being believed haunted me the same as when I wasn’t believed as a child and the same as when my family shunned me for telling the truth when I was an adult.

Jody accompanied me to doctor appointments. I found it comforting to have her with me. Her caring touched me. Some people might think, of course your spouse would support you. I didn’t think like that. It was more normal for me to go it alone and authenticate my own truth. That was what I grew up with. It was in the waiting room that I told Jody that I made a connection between not being validated about the sexual abuse and my fear of the MRI not showing anything.

The doctor discussed the MRI results line by line. Postoperative changes of prior partial medial meniscectomy with increased tearing of the body. High-grade chondral loss. Increased bone marrow edema with a suspected new fracture. Moderate to large joint effusion.

In short, my left knee was a mess. A knee replacement was scheduled.

I had one final question for my doctor. “I don’t want to be a complainer,” I said. “How bad should it hurt before I call you?” Without hesitation she said to call her anytime.

A little piece of me healed. My knees will heal, cells will rejuvenate, same as my soul.

Jody and our son and daughter are traveling to Japan next summer. We will climb Mount Fuji. I imagine, even now, reaching out to the heavens in thanks for the blessings around me and within me.