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.