New Accoutrements

My Facebook Memories has reminded me that it’s now been a year since the cortisone shots stopped working for my knees. This began a long trip down the rabbit hole to a kind of year I didn’t know was in store for me. Instead of getting my freelance writing gig going or finding a job, I started dealing with Pain–  stabbing, burning, achingly sore, white-knuckling-it, limping my way through my days. Bone-on-bone arthritic knees end up throwing off the whole body, and the pain over here can lead to pain over there. And sleep, which should be a rest and a respite, gets mucked up by Pain, and leads to a night of tossing and turning with soreness.

My, that sounds fun, doesn’t it?

My new job became trying to figure out how to get some help with my Pain. First it was seeing surgeons for possible knee replacements, only to be denied surgery because of my weight. I went to physical therapy to strengthen up, then to water physical therapy (loved it). I heard about a procedure called Cooled Radiofrequency Ablation which could give relief through freezing the nerve endings in the knees. It seemed hopeful. I spent months calling my insurance company and other clinics to see if I could have it– I even had appointments scheduled for Mayo Clinic until my insurance company told me they would not cover “cooled” RF but they would cover “warm” RF procedure. WTF?

In the end, after 4 pain clinics, various pain meds, a cane, a handicapped tag… I finally had my RF Ablation on my right knee last week. It can take a few weeks to know the outcome of the procedure, but so far I am getting a lot of Pain relief. It feels miraculous, just being able to do more than I could. I will have the left knee done in a month. I have hopes for being able to go on walks this summer, maybe even without a cane.

I have learned so much in this year of chronic Pain. Yeah, it sucks.  On so many levels. It not only just physically hurts, but it’s dehumanizing– I felt like less than half a person, outside of “normal” life. Nobody can really understand what you’re going through, even loved ones who see you every day. It sucks for them too–  seeing you suffer, wanting to fix it, feeling helpless.

And Pain is boring. Let’s face it–  nobody likes to hear about it. People care, but it’s hard to hear about it or understand, especially when it’s chronic Pain with no end in sight. Pain stories are long stories and often there are no good words to describe what one is actually going through. I try to keep mine short, but as you can see from my paragraphs above, that’s not easy to do!

Some of the most helpful things I’ve learned this year are these:

  • Learn to breathe deeply (yoga breathing helps).
  • Focus on relaxing around the pain. Being tense makes it worse.
  • Be careful to not overdo it– be realistic about activities (shopping, exercise, etc.) so you don’t pay for it later. (I’m bad at this– I tend to push myself too much.)
  • Learn to live in the present moment. I cannot worry about what my Pain or my body will be like in 6 months or 2 years. I have no clue, and if I worry I will drive myself crazy about something that may not happen. All I know is today. As my former yoga teacher says, “the body of the day.”
  • Find things to be grateful for in your life, even small ones. It can help shift despair.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People like to be helpful (in most cases).
  • Keep fighting for your medical care– research your own solutions, find doctors and clinics that will help you, fight the insurance company. It’s a lot of work but you are worth the effort.

For now, I am enjoying my Pain relief and hopeful about the future. I will keep plodding forward, with a cane or without, someday with new knees. But today is good, and I’m grateful for all the support and cheers I’ve gotten along the way.

Here is an excellent book on the topic, chock full of excellent resources. I’ve found it so helpful. Check it out, if you or a loved one is dealing with this shit.  Thanks for reading! 🙂