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.)

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21 Responses to Knee-capped

  1. badnessjones says:

    There’s always someone worse off than us, and I admire your zen attitude (I always use that argument when my hubby is upset that we don’t have more money, I have to remind him that people with a beautiful home, 2 cars, 2 healthy kids, who can buy gas and groceries and clothes and not have to worry about how they’re going to pay for it, can’t really cry poor) but still, it doesn’t make an injury suck any less. I think you should learn to love swimming though, my mom has a knee replacement, metal rods in her other leg (from breaking a hip in a car accident in her forties) scoliosis and osteoarthritis, and her doctor has told her that her frequent swimming (4-5 days a week) is probably the only reason she’s still mobile. Maybe you could find a water aerobics class with great music that would be more fun for you than laps?

  2. suzmckooz says:

    Oh wow. Good luck with all of this. I had foot surgery a couple of years ago, and the surgery itself (and recoup time) went a lot better than expected.

    I’ve had a couple of doctors tell me lately that running is not the best for me (recurring foot problems and some, what turned out to be temporary, back pain). For now, I’m ignoring them. I may reassess as time goes on.

    I hope that your recuperation is smooth. Hopefully you can take a zen approach to the 2 weeks of inactivity, storing up all of your body’s work for the physical therapy to follow.

    Got Netflix? ;)

  3. paperdiva says:

    Remember to do what your doctor tells you to. If he says to stay off it for two weeks, stay off it! You will recover much faster if you follow their advice and don’t push it.
    It will be the perfect time to get some fall knitting in :)

  4. Amy McCartney says:

    Chin up, Jennifer! Remember, I am post 2 knee surgeries – both for cartilage damage (from sports not running). Your running may “look” different in the future (track/trail), but you can get your cardio in : ) Rest and rehab per doctor’s orders. On a side note……my 100 miler hubby has also had a past knee surgery : )

  5. Smalltown Me says:

    Nice to have an honest doctor…those bikes can get expen$ive.

  6. Missy says:

    Um, FWP or not, it’s YOUR problem. It’s something that’s bothering you because it may or may not impact something that you really, truly enjoy and which brings your physical and mental health. So bah on your first world problem, lady! It’s a JWP – JenWorld problem – and a big one at that!

    In the meantime, follow the directives of the docs and therapists. Focus on what you CAN do and not what’s being taken away. And who knows, maybe you’ll meet Michael Phelps in the pool!?!?

  7. So sorry to hear this but have good news! My mother had this surgery in both knees and now runs 3 to 4 times a week. She did a race 2 weeks ago and ran 4.1 this weekend. What she does do is yoga and does her PT exercises everyday religiously. even when your done PT you need to continue it to keep everything strong. If you need any help or gave questions, please let me know!! As for diet, if you need ideas for when your going to be resting so you don’t gain weight please please do not hesitate to ask! I need to get back in the pool to so if you need a lap partner I would be more then happy to join!
    It will all turn out good!

  8. bdaiss says:

    Don’t forget that a number of strengthening exercises will draw far beyond your core and may stress your knee. Honestly? 2 weeks is not long; follow your doc’s orders and not push it. I know plenty of folks who felt so much better they went back at it before they should have…and ended up doing much more harm.

    What about throwing an elliptical into the mix? It’d be an inside activity, but much less joint-stress than running. As an added bonus you could always load up the netflix queue and enjoy some “scenery” (like your other husbands).

  9. Oh dear – I am really sorry to hear this. I thought it was going to be a swift recovery and then you’d be back running. I have my fingers crossed for you that things go well with the recovery and you are able to continue. But if not, remember back to a time you couldn’t imagine enjoying running (there must have been that time, right)? I bet you can feel that way about another exercise in the future. OK, maybe not swimming, but something else.
    I hate swimming unless I am on holiday so I have no tune tips either, sorry. In my past I have enjoyed kick-boxing, weight-lifting, hiking, aerobics classes, and yoga. I think all of those would stress your knee out except maybe a modified yoga class – you’d need to find a good teacher and get your Om on, but I have heard it can do great things for folks with knee/back injuries as long as they modify to account for their injury.

  10. Patience says:

    I’m sure there are water-exercise/group swim classes out there that might be more fun than just swimming laps. ( I hate swimming for exercise too.) You could also try rowing (on a machine if you don’t actually want to get into a boat.) It is a FABULOUS total body workout. You need decent range of motion in your knees, but at least it’s non-weightbearing, and much more fun than swimming.
    My dad has a congenital malformation of the meniscus–his is half-moon shaped and only goes around half the knee–but this didn’t stop him from running cross country in college. He did develop severe pain and swelling and fluid in his knees later, but it got better and now he’s 70 and can bike 30 miles a day.

  11. There are a lot of women at my gym who swim laps and I have noticed some headphones under swim caps – I ask one of them about the music situation.

    I am paying more than I can afford to go to a gym that has certain equipment I prefer, so I do understand the desire to continue with the exercise you love. I hope the recovery is speedy and that you can continue to enjoy running.

  12. melissawest says:

    I am so sorry you have to have this done. I bet the worst part (aside from staying STILL) is the way this interrupts your stride. Maybe you can find a water polo team? I don’t see you much for doing laps or water aerobics… Your chin is up–you’re tough with a good attitude–I bet your doctor is thankful YOU are his patient.

  13. jen_alluisi says:

    When it’s not swim meet season, there’s a pretty good water aerobics class twice a week at Crow Pool. If I recall, you might be able to participate for most of October and part of November before they have to go on hiatus until February or March to make way for the swim kids. If you don’t want to go alone, I might be persuaded to go again as well…

  14. Barb Hutchinson says:

    My mother had knee replacement at MJH 3 weeks ago. It’s a hard surgery but her new knee is doing very well. 2 observations: avoid the knee replacement if at all possible (I have osteoarthritis & overweight & absolutely committed now to saving my knees!) and ACAC is wonderful for knee PT. My mother finished in-home PT last week and now outpatient at ACAC and absolutely in love with them.

  15. I would have to be crawling on the floor before I get a knee replacement. I took care of Mom both times and it was brutal.
    After my foot surgery I couldn’t even walk outside for 10 months. I found a facility with a therapy pool that was only 4 feet deep and walked laps for half an hour/ 3X a week.

  16. jen_alluisi says:

    I take it back – I see that all water aerobics are now at Smith and they are year-round now – hooray! No class times listed on the website or in the brochure that I can see, though, which is annoying. You have to call to find out current class times. DUMB.

    On knee replacement – my mom has had one, it sucked but not as bad as she thought it was going to. She needs the other done, though, and she’s REALLY not looking forward to doing it again…

  17. Renee says:

    I agree with Melissa that breaking your stride might be the hardest part –I’m such a creature of habit, but once that habit is broken I have to work really hard to get back into it.

    You could move to northern Canada and replace running with cross-country skiing. :-) A few polar bears can’t be worse than earthquakes and hurricanes, huh?

  18. Kelloggsville says:

    I ran against doctors advice and ended up in a much worse position. This time I am 6 weeks exercise free (except daily walks of 2 to 5k and I am starting to heal. But only starting. Give your body time to mend. A few weeks now will be easier than a few months later. After a while I got used to not running and I’m planning a couch to 5k way back into it when I can finally start again. Seriously don’t push your body til it breaks because fixing t isn’t fun. Good luck.

  19. Caroline says:

    I am mad at your knee. HUFF. But I am glad that they can fix it. Maybe while you are incapacitated, I will visit you. WON’T THAT MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER?

  20. Kirstin says:

    So sorry to hear this!!!! I guess Bubbles is the only one who’s happy with this news?

  21. Clare says:

    I second the thought of rowing. I did it at uni and loved it – it is the sport for the unsporty (me) and really good for weghtloss and toning as well as being non-weight bearing.
    Sorry to hear about the surgery but do make sure you rest up and then do all the PT you can. In the mean time I’ve found this which might answer your “swimming is boring” woes. (I agree but as i now swim at school where they have a speaker system I can’t complain!)
    Take care x

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