Just What I Kneeded

Life on the other side of a tibial plateau fracture, a tibial tubercle osteotomy and a DeNovo NT graft.

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It’s official

I signed up–and paid a non-refundable fee–for a fun little triathlon in October. It’s 6 mi of kayaking, 5.5 mi of running and 18 mi of biking. This was on my list of goals earlier in the year, but I was not at all confident that I would be able to do it. Truthfully, I’m still not confident that I can do it. But I’m going to give it my best shot.

It seems that the theme of this blog for 2015 is how quickly the year is going. The last several posts have all been lamenting about how fast time flies. It’s been a good year, and time is flying because I’m able to do so much more this year. I’m no longer slave to a dysfunctional knee. That’s not true. I’m a slave to it, but I’ve learned how to work around it and live with it. Ice is still my friend, and I do all sorts of things to keep it going (e.g. stretching, rolling, elevating, exercising, etc).

I’m really pleased with the progress I’ve made this year, and I continue to see improvements. I’m excited for what the future holds.

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So much

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

In my last post, I was lamenting the fact that I hadn’t posted in a while. That was in March, and I haven’t posted since. Boo. I’ve just had SO MUCH going on, it’s been nearly impossible to sit down and write. The good news is that the knee–the reason I started this blog–is in pretty good shape for the shape it’s in. In short, it’s gotten me on a plane to the beach, through the spring shearing season and on my first jog of the spring. All good things.

I’m feeling really positive about the knee, and it’s more than the short bursts of positivity I’ve had all along. I’ve been on an upward trajectory since December/January when I finally directly addressed the patellar tendon issues. Lots of give and take, but no more taking one step forward and two steps back.

I passed the five-year mark from initial injury in March… and I didn’t even realize it at the time. I no longer have the knee on the top of my mind. Unless, of course, I’m about to do something physical that I’m uncertain whether the knee can handle. But it’s been responding really well in the last few months. I still have pain/inflammation if I do something like jog 2-3 miles; it hurts when I stop running and will continue to ache for the next 24-48 hours. But since I’ve been assured that I am not damaging the knee with activity and it doesn’t hurt enough in the moment to stop me, I keep doing more and more.

I started doing hack squats with my gym buddy a couple months ago. Amazing. I can do squats. Not half-assed squats through only a portion of the ROM, but real ones through the entire ROM. He also had me try lunges. Those are more difficult. There is enough pain that I don’t always activate the right muscles to do the movement, so I have to do them slowly and deliberately. But I can do them.

I think, perhaps, the best part is that I haven’t seen any health professionals in any capacity since January. No OS. No PT. No chiropractor. No pain doc. It’s been absolutely freeing. I respect and am thankful for all of their work because I wouldn’t be here without each one of them, but I am happy to be completely on my own.

Right now, I feel that there is no one and nothing that will stop me from doing anything that I want to do. That’s why a triathlon is marked on my calendar for October. It’s happening.


Conspicuously absent

I don’t know where the time goes. I don’t know where this year has gone. I don’t know how it’s already March. MARCH. That means one-sixth of 2015 is already in the books. Yikes.

Good news is that my right knee continues to have incremental improvements. I’ve been focused on the patellar tendon exercises for… um… a long time now. Since December 9 when I last met my PT. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing fewer and fewer PT exercises as I add in more diverse strength training. The knee doesn’t seem to mind. I’m pretty happy with the improvements that have happened over the last three months, and I’m excited to see how much more I can get from the knee as I move forward.

One test will be a trip to Florida next week. I have not been on a plane since the surgery in September 2012. I have had trouble even riding in a car for more than an hour, so the thought of trying to sit in a crowded plane for any length of time has been less than appealing (read terrifying). But that’s going to be put to the test in less than a week. My need to see the beach and feel the sand between my toes overrides any lingering fear of pain. I’m sure there will be some, but riding in a car has improved significantly, so I’m not too worried.

For the last six weeks or so, I’ve been working out with a gym buddy who has pushed me more than any personal trainer I’ve had in the past. I feel as if I tell you that he’s ex-Army, that should explain a lot. I meet him at least three days a week right after work, spend an hour on strength training, and then do laps in the pool. This week, we’ve kicked it up to five days. My arms and abs hurt so much at the moment, the knee doesn’t bother me at all.

It’s mostly because of this added workout that I’ve been absent from this blog for a while. I’m too exhausted to type by the time I crawl through my front door in the evening. I’ve also joined a book club (my first book club; I’m so excited!), so my required reading takes up time, too. There is just not enough time in the day to do all the things I want/love to do AND work to support all the things I want/love to do.

I think I need to work on two things in what’s left of 2015. One is better time management. And sleep. So make that three things because the other is weight loss. I gained weight after the initial injury that I never lost. I’ve now spent literally years strengthening my leg and the last six weeks strengthening the rest of me. But I’ve continued to eat like someone who doesn’t need to count cupcakes. That has led me to some internal “discussions” about how I’m putting in all this work and should see the results in the weight loss department–that hasn’t happened because I still justify all the fro yo with various reasons from a good day at work to a bad day at work to a good workout to… you get the point.

I said I don’t make resolutions, but I’m making two now (yes, it’s March). Figure out how to fit in all the STUFF while still getting enough sleep. Then figure out how to gain/enjoy all the benefits of working out in the gym every day. I feel like there are SO many people out there who have the same exact intentions that I figure Google will help me figure this out (I’m sure there are about 1 million web pages devoted to these topics).

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A convo with the nephew

I’ve talked about brunch with my niece and ‘phew before, and I took the kids out for pancakes yesterday when I was in town. I love taking them out to brunch and getting to chat with them one on one. Well, two on one.

This convo with the 5-year-old ‘phew yesterday was too much for me.

Me: What are you up to in school these days?

‘Phew: You do NOT want to go to Mr. Bakle’s (the principal) office.

Me: What? Have you been there lately?

Him: NO! And I do not want to go. If you get turned to blue, you have to go to his office.

Me: What do you mean turned to blue?

Niece (helpfully chiming in): That means you are in trouble (they have a card system for behavior, I deduced later), and you’ll have to go to his office. But you don’t want to go there.

‘Phew: No because he’ll talk in his loud voice! (This was accompanied by hand gestures that are similar to when he roars like a lion.)

Me: Well, maybe you’d just better be on your best behavior so you won’t have to go to his office.

Them (in unison): Yeah!

What makes this hilarious is that their principal is actually a really great guy, from all accounts. He’s one of those hands on principals who are actively involved in the day-to-day with the students and teachers. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him, so I find it hilarious that the ‘phew even brought this up. I have no idea what brought it on.

This reminds me… did you learn to spell the different principal/principle by saying, “The principal is your pal?” So many tricks to learning the English language.

Bear-shaped pancakes.

He got bear-shaped pancakes this time instead of the usual pig. “Aunt Laura! Take a picture, take a picture!”


Shake it off

I was going to title this “Haters gonna hate,” but I was informed no one over the age of 15 uses that phrase, except Taylor Swift. Pfft.

I’ve been at this knee thing for five years now. Almost. It will be five years at the end of March. In the beginning, people in my life were all really positive and spent lots of time cheering me on. I had all the help I needed in the first weeks after the big surgery, and people would go out of their way to be encouraging. I had people asking after me, and I wondered how they even knew about my knee. I was always thankful to have such support, and it was difficult to be anything but positive when so many people surrounded me with optimism.

Then came the last year. Some people in my life, though very well meaning, became downers. I was struggling quite a bit last year, and some people thought the best approach was to begin telling me that maybe I just needed to accept the knee was as good as it was going to get. I understand they were trying to be helpful, and they didn’t want to see me hurt. Except I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, and I didn’t take it so well. It pissed me off.

It also motivated me. I wanted to prove them wrong. I wasn’t ready to believe that I wouldn’t be able to do simple things (like sweep my floor or go up/down stairs) without eliciting pain. I also still didn’t want to believe that I wouldn’t compete again, but that was no longer as worrisome as not being able to live everyday without pain.

One of the naysayers was my primary OS. He told me in June that he didn’t think there was anything else to do for the knee and that I needed to consider that this was maybe as good as the knee was going to get. I appreciate that he’d run out of ideas and was being honest with me about that, but I took it as a challenge. And I proved him wrong over the course of the next six months. Even if I get no better from here on out, I’m definitely better than I was last June.

I’m not writing this to be all “in your face!” (I like my primary OS, and I certainly wouldn’t be here without all the good work he’s done.) I’m writing this for the folks who might be reading and who have their own naysayers. Don’t listen to your critics. Well, you can listen to them, but prove them wrong. Whatever is going on right now, it’s your journey. You can let people help guide you along the way, but it’s ultimately your decision how you move through life. Make your life about you and not about what other people think, especially when they’re loudly whispering in your ear that you can’t do something.

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Goals are generally good

I frequently overestimate my ability to do anything that requires two healthy knees. It’s like, if my surgeon or PT gives me a glimmer of hope or a confirmation of a small progression, I’ll take that small thing and turn it into a giant RAINBOW OF OPTIMISM. I don’t necessarily know that it’s a bad thing. Sure, I’ve overdone it before with PT exercises or physical activity because I don’t always pay attention to my own limits, but on the other hand, this optimism is largely what’s kept me going.

Now that I’ve had three weeks of positive progress, I can’t help but begin to think about all the possibilities. I’m trying to temper that with what’s realistic, but it’s so hard. Because rock climbing and snow skiing. And biking and competition.

I’m setting goals to have something meaningful to work toward. Below are some of the ideas rolling around in my head. I’ve no clue whether any of these are possible because I have a hard time visualizing my progress past the week in front of me. Meaning that I don’t exactly know what it’s going to take to reach any of these goals. I also haven’t breathed a word of these to anyone on my healthcare team because I suspect most of them are unrealistic. Nevertheless, I’m spending my time making grand plans.

Physical Therapy/Rehab Goals

Not completely sure what I can accomplish here, but I’ve been told from the get go that strength is the key to successfully rehabbing my knee. It follows, then, that the rehab goals are largely strength related.

1. Single leg press 180 lbs. Why? Because that’s the number I tested at when I did the machine test, but there’s no way that I can do that without pain right now. I’m working on just the eccentric single leg press, and I’m only at 105 lbs.

2. Single leg extension with 70 lbs. Again, that’s the test number, but I can’t get there without pain. My goal on these first two is to be able to do the full movement (full ROM) with no pain at the level I tested at in early September.

3. Use the elliptical for 30 consecutive minutes. Right now, I’ll use the elliptical for about 10 minutes to warm up, but no more. If I fully engage my quad, I’ll get a nasty spike of pain right through the middle of my knee, so I’m still compensating with my left leg. I want to be able to increase my time on the elliptical and be able to use it without pain.

4. Do 3 sets of 10 full squats. I could do these now, if I simply used my left leg. The goal is to be able to do them with my body weight equally settled through both legs. Squats are an important exercise, and one that I’ve struggled with for a long time.

5. Do a Bulgarian split squat. Just because.

6. Find some more rehab goals. These don’t seem like all that much…

Cycling Goals

I’ve admittedly not been on the bike in months. While I’m still willfully ignoring that my absence from the bike might play into improving on the rehab, I’ve made some goals for this next year.

Tour de Lou (Louisville, KY; in conjunction with Kentucky Derby) on April 26; choice of 20- or 35-mile routes
April might be a little ambitious for much more than simply getting out on my bike. But… one can hope.

Tour de Cure (Indianapolis, IN) on June 20; choice of 50k, 75k or a century
While 50k translates into only 31.0686 miles, it falls well within what I used to be able to do without even thinking about it. But I’m no longer at that level, so we’ll see. The end of June seems more realistic than the end of April. Plus, I have friends who have done this ride, and that makes me more inclined to join them.

Tour de Upland (Nashville, IN) on August 14-16; choice of 50- or 100-mile relays
This has the best description. “30 hours of cycling (road and mountain bike routes), beer, camping, and music in Nashville, IN. Plus the toughest Century in Indiana.” This one is a relay, so I could crap out and still have fun because beer.

Little Miami Triathlon (Cincinnati, OH) on October 4; 6 mi of kayaking, 5.5 mi of running and 18 mi of cycling
The running here might be the issue. Plus, the biking is mostly hills, and I don’t know how well I’ll be able to handle those. But the kayaking? I can do that! I’ve done this “triathlon” before, so I think I can do it again.

Hilly Hundred (Ellettsville, IN) on October 9-11; two days of riding approximately 50 miles each day
The description makes me nervous: “The challenging terrain is a wonderful mix of gently rolling country roads and breathtaking hills (literally).” Again, it’s the hills that might mean I can’t do this, but I should certainly be able to pedal 100 miles in a weekend by October.

Life Goals

Indoor rock climbing
Apparently, indoor rock climbing is a thing. I knew that there were places where you could go and climb walls, but I don’t think I ever realized that there are places dedicated to indoor rock climbing. A friend of mine told me about Climb Time Indy where you can get private lessons and day passes. My real goal is to go climbing “out west,” but I think this is the best first step.

Hiking at Red River Gorge
I love this place. I must go back.

Finisher’s medal
Basically, I just want to do something to earn a finisher’s medal. I’m all about the competition, but for now, I just want to finish something. I’m going to try to do this as part of a relay for the Muncie Ironman 70.3. I found two willing teammates (a swimmer and a runner) last year, but we’re kind of waiting to register until I figure out if I can actually ride. I guess this could go under the cycling goals, too.

I don’t want to set any goals that pertain to riding because I’ll be brutally disappointed if I don’t make those. I think I need to be happy with whatever I’m able to do with the horses.

That’s about it. I’ll need to work on those PT/rehab goals in order to make the others happen, but I’m very much looking forward to 2015. This year is nothing but possibility right now.

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Holy shit

I sent my PT a progress report last week, and I told her that I really wanted to put “holy shit” in the subject line of the email. I didn’t because I thought it might get flagged as inappropriate, and the email was important. But this is my blog, so I get to title this post whatever I want to title it.

But why the title? Why the email? I’ll tell you why! Because I’ve never made such significant progress in such a short amount of time… ever. I don’t even know that I should be sharing this progress out loud in case it’s a blip or something, but I’m too damn happy to keep it to myself any longer.

The eccentric exercises and the Graston-like (but done with the handle of a reflex hammer and by myself) work that I’ve been doing for the last two-ish months seems to be helping. Like a lot. Over the past two weeks, I’ve been able to do the eccentric phase of the single leg press with 105 lbs with minimal pain. And the eccentric single leg extension with 35 lbs through the ENTIRE ROM with minimal pain. Can we just take a minute to appreciate that last sentence? Not the part about the weight–that’s kind of lame yet–but the part where I’m suddenly able to do a single leg extension through the entire ROM. I have not been able to do that since the initial injury nearly five years ago (five years in March). In fact, I would elicit pain just straightening my leg when in a seated position. It’s not entirely pain free, but it’s a huge improvement.

I do the exercises after I’ve been in the pool, so I completely warmed up. I’m still having lots of trouble on the stairs, but I think it might be because I do those cold. I’m hoping that the improvements in the gym carry over to real life.

So, yeah, 2015 is just full of possibility at this point.


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