A new countdown begins.

It was close to four years ago that I got the word from my orthopedic surgeon that there was not much left to do (after ten years of trying) for my hip and knee joints but to get replacements.  The news hit me hard, although I am not sure why since I had been battling arthritis for a long time.  I think it was the thought of having all four joints replaced that scared me.  Sure I know lots of people who have had one or two replaced but I have never meet or even heard of anyone who has had all four replaced.  Still haven’t for that matter, but Dr. L assures me he has other patients with all four joints replaced.

Having to endure four surgeries and four recoveries frightened me enough, but the unknown of what life  would be like after those surgeries scared me more.  How much would I be able to do?  Would I be trading off pain relief for a life of limited mobility?

I started this blog two and half years ago to chronicle my journey through the four surgeries.  At the time I was about three months out from surgery #1 to replace my left hip and I was preparing for surgery #2 to replace my right hip.  You can read about those experiences here and here. Those surgeries went extremely well and left me with so much more mobility that I just wanted to enjoy life for awhile.  I was able to do things I had not done in years, ride my bicycle on trails, get back on the motorcycle with the hubby, go shopping, go site-seeing,etc.

TKG-on-bike

I was able to go about two years before I knew it was time to start on the knees.  My left knee was replaced last April.  Everyone told me the knee replacement was a more difficult surgery to recover from and they were correct.  It took about four months before I stopped thinking about my knee with every step.  It is better all the time but there is still some swelling and occasional pain. I have been told by both my doctor and physical therapist that the healing process for a total knee replacement is about one year.

post-knee-surgery

The interesting thing is that this replaced left knee is now definitely my good knee.   It is funny how that happened without me really thinking about it.  The constant arthritis pain is now only in my right knee.  So in about six weeks, on February 18, I will undergo what I hope will be my final surgery, the total replacement of the right knee.  I am so NOT looking forward to that recovery, it is painful and seems to take forever.  Patience has never been a friend of mine.  I also hate relaying on everyone to take care of me, especially Dave.  He has been through as much as I have, with just a different source of pain :).

However, I am looking forward to the possibilities that the future holds, walks, hikes, bike riding and who knows what else.  The final countdown has begun.  Just one more time!

#10 – Do something you have been afraid to do.

I was uncharacteristically  brave this weekend and completed two things that I have been afraid of doing for literally years.  Here is story number one.

Dave and I use to ride our bicycles frequently.  Dave participated in the MS150 ride for fifteen years and once even rode across the state of Washington with his Dad and brother.

When our oldest daughter was an infant, we were transferred to California for a year and every night after dinner we would get the bikes out, strap Kindra into the bike seat and cycle all over our little town of Tracy.

By the time daughter number two arrived we had moved back to Missouri but continued our biking tradition by getting a second bike carrier.  We usually stayed pretty close to home but frequently took family bike rides.  One day I was riding with Kayla who was about 18 months old and for some reason I was on the sidewalk instead of the street.  I accidentally rode off the sidewalk into the grass where a homeowner had recently edged the lawn.  The wheel of my bike hit the trench and down Kayla and I went.  I was fine but Kayla had a huge lump on her forehead (yes, she had a helmet on).  I am pretty sure I was crying louder than she was.

Since that time I can probably count the number of times I have been back on the bike.  My arthritic knees and hips did not help motivate me and neither did the fact that Dave’s bike has not hit the street since he bought a Harley.  We have been talking about getting back on the bikes for awhile but there was always an excuse.

Well no more excuses.  Last week Dave got the bikes down off of their holding racks and checked the tires and gears.  We rode around the neighborhood for about twenty minutes.  I must say I never really had a fear of falling before my incident with Kayla, but I sure did this week.  I am usually my own worst enemy and let my mind dream up crazy scenarios of things that can go wrong, like falling and dislocating my new hip.

On Sunday of this past weekend it was beautiful morning, about  65 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.  I decided it was time to face my fear.  We loaded the bikes on the car, dressed in our biking gear and drove out to a wonderful biking path very close to our home.

Two hours later we had completed a 11 ½ mile ride with a couple of stops for water.   Although we passed several other bikers and walkers, much of the time we were riding by ourselves listening to the morning sounds coming from the heavily wooded trail.  It was wonderful!!!

The path was relatively flat, for which I was thankful, although there were just enough small hills to allow me to practice shifting.    It felt so great being back on the bike, knowing I am physically capable of doing this, but also because I faced the fear of falling and gained considerable confidence in my biking skills.  I cannot  wait to  tackle a new bike trail next weekend.

Now for story number two, don’t worry this is a short one.  Can you guess what other fear I overcame this weekend?  Here is a hint.

If you guessed that I got back on the Harley and rode with Dave, you are correct!  I had not been on the Harley since before my hip replacements,  when getting on and off was just too hard.  I am definitely not ready for a ride to Sturgis (not sure I want to ever be ready for that) but I think I could actually do this again.

Fear is often a barrier that holds us back from getting and becoming what we really want.  Try something that scares you.  It will be worth the effort.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

#5 Walk for a Cause

Saturday morning with the temperature climbing to 90 degrees and the humidity feeling like 100% (not sure what it really was), TEAM THERESA assembled at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City and participated in the 2012 Arthritis Foundation Walk.  A few months ago I shared with you my goal of walking in this 5K, click here to read that post.

This event raises funds for arthritis research, education and life improvement programs.  As someone who has been living with arthritis for 10  years, I fully understand the value of this organization.  I have often gone to their website to read information on pain relief, prepping for surgery and how exercise can play a role in treatment.

Before the walk began, my great niece and nephews got to take a few spins on a couple of the rides in the Planet Snoopy area.

There was even a little face painting going on….

There were also booths set up with information about arthritis and tables of water, fruits and donuts.

The walk itself was not too bad, although I am pretty sure just walking from the parking lot to the Planet Snoopy area of World’s of Fun was about a 5K in itself.

After the walk I had my picture taken with Ellie Fuson, the 9 year old walk honoree who has juvenile arthritis.  Although we were told that Ellie’s arthritis is under control through medications and keeping active, I have a hard time imaging a young child living with the pain of arthritis everyday.

The event raised over $50,000 dollars for the Arthritis Foundation with Team Theresa winning third place for the most funds raised in the Individual Team Category.  I want to thank everyone who contributed and all those that walked with me on this very hot day!

I am recruiting for next year, whose with me?????

#4 A Positive Attitude

I can usually feel it coming.  It starts with something small but annoying bothering me in the morning, in the afternoon something may go wrong at work, then at dinner a new recipe I was so excited to make is a disaster,  by evening I have  a full case of “feel sorry for Theresa” going on.  I am really good at pouting, complaining and lamenting over “why me.”

Over the years I have come to learn that no matter what situation I find myself in there is ALWAYS someone whose situation is worse than mine.  If I really think about it, my problems, no matter how annoying or inconvenient they seem in my life, often become trivial compared to what others are facing.  Additionally, I have found myself spending way too much energy through worry or complaining about things I cannot change.

Knowing all of this, why then do negative thoughts tend to take over our lives?  I think the answer to that is because we let them.  I now understand we have some control over our attitudes.  We can choose to focus on the negative which will always make us feel worse and generate more negativity.  Or we can choose to concentrate on more positive thoughts which should bring optimism to our lives and help us avoid worry and stress.

I am far from an expert on positive thinking and struggle with the application of this concept all the time, but as I have fought the pain and immobility of arthritis over the past few years, I have come to use a certain technique to try and keep my mind optimistic.  It involves listing the things I am happy about at that time and also the things I am unhappy about.  Nine times out of ten when I do this exercise I come up with many more things that make me happy than things I am unhappy about.  This visual exercise can help put those non-happy thoughts into perspective.

Today I have been fighting the pain of a pinched nerve and I felt myself going down that ugly negative path.  I started making my list:

The things I am not happy about today:

  1.  After three weeks I am still having pain in my neck and arm due to a pinched nerve.  The cervical epidural that I had last week has not diminished the pain by much and it is another week before I get the second procedure.
  2. Tonight I have to work late to produce the financial reports for month end close.  Last week when I worked late I finished at midnight….a 16 ½ hour workday.

The things I am happy about today:

  1.  I walked two miles last night.  A year and one-half ago, before my two hip replacements, I could not even walk around the grocery store.  This is a major accomplishment for me.
  2. Next week I get my first basket of fresh produce from my CSA.  Can’t wait to see what is included.
  3. In six weeks we are going on vacation with all of our kids to Florida.
  4. I am working in my sweats today with no makeup on.  I am lucky to be able to work from home.
  5. Tomorrow I am taking a road trip to Warrensburg to eat dinner with Molly.  As usual she left something at home this weekend that I need to deliver, but it gives me an excuse to hang out with her for while.
  6. This weekend we are starting on our bathroom remodel.
  7. It is a gorgeous, sunny and warm day outside.
  8. My clematis are in full bloom.

Comparing the two list I can see that I should be four times as happy as I am unhappy.  It is my choice to decide which list to focus on today.  I think I will choose the HAPPY list!  Granted, this does not make my pain go away or change the fact I have to work late tonight, but hopefully this will at least allow me to cope with those items better.

I would love to know how you deal with a bad day………please share!

Arthritis Foundation Walk

Last May, my friend Gail, the maid of honor in my wedding, my best friend all through junior and senior high school, did a 5K walk sponsored by the National Arthritis Foundation and dedicated her efforts to me.  I was very touched and humbled by this act of kindness.  At the time of the walk I had just finished my second surgery in 5 months that replaced both of my hips.  I remember thinking how much I would like to be able to participate in a walk like that someday.

Guess what people……I am going to walk with her this year!!!!

Not sure I will make it the whole 5K (3.1 miles) because I still have those pesky knees that need to be replaced, but there will also be a 1 mile short course I can do if I need it.

Last spring I could not even have imagined that I would be able to participate in the walk this year.  I am very excited, but also a little scared.  Dave and I have been walking some around the neighborhood but definitely not 3 miles.  Usually when I get home, out comes the Aleve bottle and ice packs for the knees, but it is worth it to me.  I am so happy to have my mobility back after being sidelined with arthritis for so long.

I am thinking of this walk as a celebration!

I would love to have you celebrate with me and help raise funds to fight this disease.  Please consider joining us for the Arthritis Foundation Walk on May 5, 8:00 a.m. at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City.  Here is a link to join Team Theresa.

Bring your family and friends.   I think you can even bring your dog!  The more of us the better!!!  Hope to see you there.

Winter Walk

The weather was so nice today that Dave and I decided to take a quick walk before dinner.  Being the good student I am, I decided to bring my camera along just in case I saw anything picture worthy.  At the end of the block we decided to venture on to one of the several walking trails in our subdivision.  I have been on these trails several times over the fourteen years we have lived here, but not at all in the last two or three years due to my arthritis.   This particular trail is literally one block from our house and is probably my favorite.

This is what we saw as we walked.

I feel so fortunate to live in a subdivision that values nature and is willing to invest in the maintenance and upkeep of these areas.  Even with the starkness of winter, and the absence of color, the surrounding area was so peaceful and calming.

The trail is called Waterfall for a reason, there were no less than 6 places in the creek where the water was cascading over the large shale rock formations.  I wish I would have thought to take a short video so you could hear the rippling of the water.   I tried to take a picture of several of the falls but could not get a good vantage point as you can see in these next pictures.

Maybe when it is warmer outside I will wade into the creek, away from the brush and get a good waterfall picture.   Still a little too cold for that.

Possibly the best part of the outing was just the fact that I was able to go on this hour long walk.  The new hips worked perfectly.   The knees were yelling at me by the time I got home, and I am sure there is Aleve in my immediate future, but it was well worth getting back on the trails and being reminded of the natural beauty that is only a short block from my front door.

Decisions

I have about 30 days to decide if I will have my knee replacement surgeries in the next year or not.  Of course I can always change my mind, but we have to sign up for our 2012 benefits and I need to plan for the medical reimbursement account.

You would think it would be an easy decision considering how great I am doing with my new hips, but I have never made an easy decision in my life.  I over analyze, worry and then analyze some more.  Somebody just tell me what to do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As usual I will go through the list of pros and cons a few thousand times before deciding.

The PRO’s:

The knee pain will eventually be gone.

I will have very few limitations to what I can do.

I can stop defining my life by the surgery I am going to have or recovering from.

 

The CON’s:

I will have to take two 6-8 week time-outs from this new mobile life I am enjoying to recover from surgeries.

I will have to take two 6-8 week time-outs from this new mobile life I am enjoying to recover from surgeries.  (This is such an unpleasant thought it counts for two CON’s!)

Surgery is always risky; blood clots and infection.

What would you do????

The Recovery Begins

Home makes everything better.  I returned home from the hospital on Friday afternoon and spent a very quiet weekend starting my recovery.  I remembered that the first week after surgery was difficult, but I had forgotten just how much effort it requires to do the smallest things.  My biggest complaint right now is that I am just exhausted.

The surgery went great with no bones fractured,  just large bone spurs removed.  Bone spurs are just extra bone formation the body creates to try and heal the diseased bone.  Most everyone with OA has bone spurs, some get so large they began to impede on the action of the joint.  According to Dr. L, this is what was happening with my right hip.

The day after surgery I was standing up with the walker, weight on both hips.  Discounting the narcotics that were being pumped into my body, there was virtually no pain.  Walking was another matter.  That first day I was only able to take about three steps and those were with the PT moving my right leg forward.  The right foot just did not want to move.  According to the PT this is very common after surgeries because the nerves just are not firing.  It takes a while to get those muscles to remember how to move. 

By the second day after surgery, I was walking across my room and out into the hall.  On the third day after surgery I was going up and down three stairs.

I did find out that I am highly allergic to the adhesive on the bandages they used after surgery.   We first noticed large blisters on my back, then, before they took the bandage off the incision, the nurse noticed blisters around that bandage.  My incision looks great but I have a few open blisters that are still trying to heal.  Only gauge and paper tape bandages for me in the future.

After getting home on Friday, I was once again dreading the long climb of stairs up to my bedroom.  I remember in December when I did this,  that once I got to the top I thought Dave was going to have to bring me a chair to sit in for a while before I actually walked into my room.   However, this time, I walked to the top, walked into the room, walked into the bathroom, and then walked over to my chair.  Already feeling like this recovery will go faster…I am definitely stronger.

 I am really glad to be on this side of surgery #2

New Hip and Airport Security

For Easter we will be traveling to Houston to visit Kindra, DL and granddog Percy.  I am very excited to see them and their newly renovated home and am so looking forward to some sunshine and temperatures in the 80’s.  I am getting VERY weary of the cloudy, 50 degree days we had here for what seems like months.  I thought this was spring.

 I am a little worried (a sport in which I excel) about the flying aspect of our travels.  I have never been a fan of flying.  I have flown many times, including at least 12 times to Europe, so you would think flying would not bother me.  I am not sure if my brother the research biologist has made me anxious over the germs that circulate in the air of the plane or if my control issues are to blame, probably some of both. 

 An added worry for this trip is going through security for the first time with my new hip and the cane I currently use to help me walk. 

This strange and somewhat creepy x-ray shows the ceramic ball of my new hip, but most importantly, it shows the 8 inch metal spike that was shoved gently hammered into my femur to stabilize the joint.  It also shows the metal band that was placed around the bone when it cracked while they were shoving gently hammering the spike into the femur.  Now don’t tell me this mess of metal won’t be setting off bells and whistles.

 I have no idea what to expect.  Will they take my cane away and make me wobble through the metal detector?  

Will everyone turn and look at me when my new hip passes through the detector and major sirens sound? 

What if they want to pat me down…..they better not even try to touch the area of my incision….it is still hyper sensitive and I do not even like my own clothes touching it. 

Worry, worry, worry.

It’s all relative…

When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. 

When you are sitting on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour.

  That is relativity.  Albert Einstein.

Last week the physical therapist put weights on my ankles and made me get in the water.  I was thinking she was trying to drowned me.  My physical therapy has moved to a new level which is not terribly difficult when I am doing it, but I am definitely feeling it that night and the next day.  The good news is that this means my muscles are getting stronger and working harder than they have for a long time.  The bad news is that I am usually sore and very tired after the physical therapy, so much so that I have actually started dreading the days that I have therapy.

Today I met a woman who was just starting therapy after having her right  hip replaced.   She had the biggest smile on her face and just looked full of life.  She said she had her left hip replaced in 1988.  I started asking her questions thinking I would hear how much better her life is now.  She mentioned that she has had five surgeries on her right hip and this is actually the third replacement of that joint because it keeps dislocating. 

I wanted her to stop talking right that minute.  

She went on to say that she had to delay this last surgery for several months because she fell last fall and broke her pelvis in two places.  She said she was so excited to be starting physical therapy again.

Time for me to regroup….I had a successful hip replacement with no complications.  My left hip is virtually pain-free for the first time in several years.  My muscles are getting so strong that I have to use weights to keep improving their function.  Being tired after physical therapy means I am working hard.  What is there to complain about?