Guess who’s having knee surgery?
Yep, it’s true. Last week’s MRI showed that I have definitely a meniscus (cartilage) tear in my right knee. I went to the orthopedic surgeon yesterday and my only real option is for him to go in there and clean things up a bit. Surgery is tentatively scheduled for Friday the 30th. Afterward, I have to rest and heal. I won’t be allowed to do any exercise at all for two weeks.
Two weeks, y’all. Fourteen days without exercise.
Sure, I can (and will) do core work and use my dumbbells and whatnot, but I won’t be getting any cardio during that time. Cardio is how I deal with stress and calm my brain, yo, so it’s a pretty important part of my day.
The bigger issue is my future as a runner, which is very much up in the air. The doctor will be removing the damaged part of the meniscus, which will be about one-third of the cartilage in my knee. That’s a lot. Replacing the cartilage isn’t something that’s done — and believe me, I asked the doctor if it was possible — but it is possible that I’ll have to have total knee replacement surgery in 10-20 years. It all depends on how I take care of my knee after surgery.
And no matter what, I’m still going to have some knee problems after surgery because I also have osteoarthritis. Running is very hard on knees anyway, but it’s worse if there’s arthritis and/or missing cartilage.
My doctor told me that officially he’d like for me to give up running and walking and to focus more on biking and swimming. Unofficially, however, he understands my love of running and knows that if someone were to ask him to give up his sport of choice (mountain biking), he would be really unhappy and would probably ignore that directive. And in fact, he has a patient who is about my age, is a runner, and who had the same surgery, and this patient has thus far continued running. (If my doctor were less honest, he would encourage me to run, thereby insuring that I will need a knee replacement, which would then help fund his next mountain bike.)
So, the plan is to get me through surgery and then rehab my knee in physical therapy with an ultimate plan of allowing me to run again. I’ll have to rest fully for the two weeks post-op and then do a good job with physical therapy. After that, we’ll have to see. I should be able to run shorter distances, but I’ll definitely have to cross-train in between and rest my knees as much possible. (So, biking and swimming.) (Gah, swimming is so boring!) (Do any of you folks have suggestions about waterproof music options so that I can have tunes while I lap the pool in a state of ennui?) Whether or not I’ll ever be able to realize my dream of running a half marathon is very much up in the air. It’s possible I could train for one and one only, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
One factor that contributes to all of this is my weight. Being overweight is hard on one’s knees and is definitely part of my particular knee health equation. I have lost some weight, but I still have quite a bit left to lose. Luckily, every 10 pounds I drop will greatly reduce the pressure on my knees and also help with the osteoarthritis. (Perhaps I should post copies of my MRI on the fridge and in the pantry as reminders every time I reach for a snack.)
And yes, I recognize that all this is an FWP. I am fully aware that other people are going through far worse things and that this is really only a minor inconvenience. I’m not actually upset about the surgery or even how this changes my running. It is what it is and I’m not going to fret (too much). (Remind me of this zen-like thinking in a few weeks when I’m rehabbing and cursing furiously over being cooped up at home.)