Pen and Moon

from the writing nook of Theresa Jarosz Alberti

Recovery, and Life’s Little Circles

Greetings from Day 10 after my knee replacement! I’m learning that recovery after a surgery like this is not for the faint of heart. I knew going in that it was going to be hard and take time, but now that I’m actually in it, I’m understanding it in a much deeper way. The new knee itself hurts, and yet you HAVE TO use it, walk on it, do your PT, if you want it to get better and have a good range of movement. So suck it up, Buttercup; it will pay off before you know it.

Then there is the ever-present achiness and discomfort. There is a lot of just being uncomfortable all the time, changing positions, getting uncomfortable again. Everyone assures me to be patient (I am a patient, after all), that this will get better. I’m holding onto that hope!

The pain meds help some, but my experience of oxycodone is that I feel groggy, nauseous, overall bleah, and words blur together when I read. It’s like having the flu, but with the bonus leg pain.

Yet, in all this, there are moments of grace and humor, like the story behind the chair photo. I’ve been having lower back pain all summer — when I lie on my back, I get burning nerve pain down the sides of my thighs. I tried to get some help for it before surgery, but not much has changed. So sleeping has been an issue for me, especially after surgery when I have to keep my leg straight all night. After a few miserable nights in our bed, I switched to this old blue recliner we have in the living room. That at least allowed me to be in a position that didn’t hurt my back, and I could have a heating pad on it too.

And yet, I had a hard time getting out of our old chair on my own. When Nurse Bob was home last week, he helped me, but this week he’s back at work and I was afraid to be in the chair and get stuck there… but it was hard for me to be comfortable anywhere else. Luckily, my friend Ann offered me a mechanical recliner that had belonged to her parents. The chair was just sitting in her garage and she wanted to clear it out. This chair has a remote and it can recline you back and lift you to a standing position. I happily took her up on the offer, and it has been a lifesaver to me. I can be more comfortable AND get out of it on my own. Yay!

The funny thing is that a few years ago, I had been a PCA (Personal Care Assistant) for her mom in her parents’ home. I had helped her mom in and out of this very chair many times… of course not knowing that one day I would be using it myself. Oh, how Life circles around. As a writer, I can appreciate what a sweet plot point and turn of events this is!

There are all kinds of lessons to learn in this Recovery for me, like practicing lowering my expectations of what I can do. I have a To-Do list addiction, so it’s a challenge to accep that my to-do list right now is pretty much rest, PT exercises, ice, hydrate, meals and pain meds. (Blogging is extra!)

I also am getting lots of practice in asking for help all the time (especially of my tireless Nurse Bob). Another challenge — asking is HARD! I feel like I’m a bother, a nuisance, and couldn’t I just do it myself?  It is vulnerable to ask for help. And yet, I know that I like to help others, and how good it makes me feel. So I’m just swallowing my pride and fear, and asking, asking, asking.

I’m also trying to accept the pain and discomfort, not fight it. It’s a practice to relax into it, and not let my crazy thoughts escalate. No, it won’t ALWAYS hurt. No, something isn’t terribly wrong. Shhh, it will be okay. Relax.

And then there’s gratitude. There’s so much for me to be grateful for. All the help and support I’m getting. A meal some friends dropped off for us. Visitors to connect with and take my mind off things. That I got to have this surgery at all, after being denied it a year and a half ago. Encouraging messages and emails. The chair, the Internet, the beautiful day outside my window. And more!

For now, I’m just taking it one day at a time, and taking it easy, even though it’s not easy. That’s okay. My friend Serena brilliantly compared it to climbing a mountain, how it’s hard and you stop and cry along the way and keep on going. But eventually you make it to the peak, see the breathtaking view, and it was all so worth it.

Lastly, when the words aren’t blurring together, I’m reading my friend Mary’s new book, The Cutter’s Widow. Wow, I’m loving it! This lovely work of fiction is set in St Paul, Minnesota, in the early 1900s, involving a young Irish immigrant woman trying to survive after her husband dies, and one of the first female police officers in the city. It’s very suspenseful, and Mary has such a way of writing description that is just delicious. I highly recommend it, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

Now back to my minimal Recovery To-Do list!

7 Comments

  1. Among your talents is an ability to see the ‘Good News/Bad News’ of your situation.

  2. I’m so glad that the chair is helpful. It was meant to be!

    I also know how hard it is to ask for help. Remember that it’s all a cycle; you helped me by being a wonderful care giver to my mom, now it’s your turn to receive.

    • Thank you so much for mentioning that you had it, so then I was able to ask you for it when I was problem solving ways to get comfortable! And yes, learning how to be the recipient is goof for me to practice, to be a part of the cycle of give and receive.

  3. Trust Serena to have the best way of looking at something! She’s certainly had experience with climbing various mountains.
    I am so impressed with the grace with which you are handling this. You remember to be present, to accept, to be vulnerable, to be aware of the journey. That’s excellent — a real inspiration for those of us who do NOT stop to think enough while on the journey!
    I know from my shoulder/bicep surgery, the pain at first is excruciating and it seemed physically impossible to me that I would ever be able to lift my right arm above my head. It took months, but now that arm feels stronger than ever. The body, and modern medicine, are amazing.
    Hang in there, dearie!

    • Thanks, dear Sherri, and that’s very hopeful to hear about your shoulder surgery and recovery– I’ve heard that is such a long process to heal from. How great that it feels stronger than ever!

  4. I’m honored to be quoted! The main thing I’ve learned about responding / recovering from an insult to the body – like surgery or an illness – is that one’s to-do list is pretty much this: ” Be uncomfortable. Cope with being uncomfortable (including periodic crying jags). Be uncomfortable Cope with being uncomfortable.” And so on. Eating and sleeping and bathing are subcategories of “Coping.” Remembering this is hard, though. Just sayin’. You’re doing great!!

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