The end of the year is nearly here, and it’s now that I normally take reflections on the past year to know what I want to do going forward.
But not this time. This time, it’s already been a year of reflecting, and I already know the direction I’m heading in 2018. The goals are solid, achievable and already laid out. It has been an amazing year that I’m happy to bid farewell to, and look forward next year with excitement.
But not without one last, final achievement that I never excepted.
I know I’ve mentioned my knee before – but for those who don’t know the story…. here’s a run down.
(And for those who do know it and just want the big news, scroll down)
In 2009 I badly broke my left knee, requiring surgery and more hardware than a toaster oven and 6 weeks of non-weight bearing before I was able to rest my toe on the ground. I was on crutches for three or four months and wasn’t able to drive. Something wasn’t right with it, though, and there has been constant, debilitating pain ever since. I had the hardware removed in 2010 which helped a little, but there was still something that felt “stuck”. It collapsed randomly, seized daily, hurt always and has been a constant reminder of the active life I used to lead. The pain extended not only physically, but mentally as well, and I’ve experienced many physical and emotional highs and lows.
My doctors would tell me that I was fine and just to lose weight, which was a struggle when any kind of exercise caused more pain, and pain medications weren’t helping. I was stuck, I was frustrated and entirely discouraged. I was waking up every morning crying in agony and not wanting to move – but not moving made everything hurt even more. Because I was favoring one knee, the other knee suffered for it. As well as my hips, my back, my shoulders, and eventually my neck, which led to chronic headaches and occasional migraines. Everything is connected, and everything was trying to tell me that something was wrong.
I couldn’t help but hear my body screaming in pain, but I didn’t know what else to do about it. My family doctors at the time failed me hugely in that regard. I had specifically asked for a referral to an orthopedic specialist but was denied by three separate physicians because in their opinion, I was “fine”. “All” I had to do was lose weight. I tried, but the pain always won. They had no other suggestions or help to offer. No nutritional counselling, no pain reductions recommendations, no referrals to other specialists.
There was no denying that I had gained a lot of weight. The physical and mental burden of that didn’t help, either.
Massage, acupuncture and chiropractic care helped, but the pain has always persisted through everything.
I finally had enough last year. The pain had reached new levels that I just couldn’t tolerate anymore, and it was when I realized that I was taking handfuls of OTC pain meds several times a day that I knew this wasn’t right. No one should bee taking that much pain relieving medication of any kind just to be able to get out of bed in the morning. I was angry at my physicians for have absolutely no suggestions to help me move forward and decided to prove them wrong. It was the determination I needed to make a change.
I started eating better. I started practicing yoga much more. It wasn’t enough, but it was a start. I set my mind on finding a solution. Late last year I visited Natural Health Services and they offered me a prescription. Yes, I have been a daily weed user since then. I’m not ashamed of this – and why would I be? I’m not high everyday, despite what the common belief is. There are options that don’t give any high, and this is what I use most of all. It is because of medical marijuana that I was able to move past the pain and start a regular exercise regime. My spirits lifted, my determination doubled and I started working on the weight I had piled on for the past seven years. There was a learning curve to be sure, but it was the only thing that helped reduce that relentless pain enough for me to move more. I delved into courses regarding nutrition and fitness in order to help me help myself, since no one else seemed willing to point me in the right direction. I bought a Fitbit. I started logging meals, exercise, weight and body measurements. Sure enough, I started losing weight. It was a lot of work to get into new habits and routines, but these habits and routines are simply part of my daily life now.
The pain was still there, though. Reduced, but always present. I ignored it the best I could, accepted it as part of who I was and didn’t allow it be an excuse anymore.
Early in 2017 I had reached out to a new clinic in Leduc, whose post card came to me in the mail. Despite my deep-seated fear that I would be told the same thing (“I was fine, just lose weight”) I went anyways. I knew I needed a GP, but my anxiety towards visiting them had grown ridiculously high. I wasn’t in the appointment for more than five minutes before I was crying from that anxiety. It was embarrassing, but the physician was the kindest I had ever met and understood that I was struggling and was legitimately looking for help. She gave me the referral I was wanting to the Glen Sather Clinic at the University of Alberta.
It took much less time to see a specialist than I had anticipated, and she had looked over my history and x-rays and agreed with the general physicians that everything “looked” fine, but she knew that there’s always more to the story than what can be seen on x-rays. After the assessment, she agreed with me that everything was “not” fine. There was scar tissue and muscle weakness, and she suspected that this was part of what was causing my problems and sent me to the physiotherapy clinic to strengthen and balance those muscles out.
It was relieving to finally get that validation of the problems I had been faced with for so long. There’s not much more discouraging than doctors trying to peg you as a narcotic user and abusing the health care system when you’re trying to reach out for help. The health care system failed me in so many ways. I hoped this was the break I had been looking so hard for, though. (I wasn’t disappointed.)
My life has changed significantly over the last year. I’ve lost 50 pounds (and am still losing), my muscle toning has increased, I eat healthy as a habit instead of going on diets, I still log my daily food and activities. I practice yoga asanas daily and start yoga teacher-training in a few weeks. I am at the gym every weekday for cardio and twice a week for strength training, plus physio every day. My husband and I have taken up martial arts training once a week, which we try to practice at least a few minutes every day. I use CBD oil daily as a preventative, but I find my need for THC for pain relief has greatly reduced. My energy levels are higher than they have ever been. I’m retaining knowledge from my studies better than ever, my productivity and self-esteem have skyrocketed, as well as my confidence in all areas of my life. I sleep amazingly well, my mood has improved and I can legitimately say that I have never been happier.
And then something happened last week, that has changed my entire world around again.
The Latest Update
After I walk for awhile, or sit or stand for an extended period of time, I normally have to stretch and bend that knee to relax a specific muscle that always feels like needles are digging deeply behind my knee all the way down my calf. That’s been my normal life for the past 8 years. Last week I decided I was going to start some light jogging again. Nothing huge – just a minute a day, and increase by a minute every week. The rest of my cardio was just walking at different speeds and angle increments. After my cardio I’d need to stretch and go on the bike for a few minutes in order to get my knee to bend properly again, since it would seize up.
During one of my yoga poses on Wednesday, something in my knee slid. I can’t describe it any other way. I have done this pose many times, but it was always modified because I have been unable to do the textbook version due to knee limitations. But this time was different. Something gave, and my knee just slid into place where it was supposed to be.
I thought it odd and decided to keep an eye on it without much further thought.
After my cardio at the gym I was doing my normal stretches… except I didn’t need to. The pain wasn’t there. It was just gone. And I cried, and cried some more, because that relief was the most amazing thing that I ever could have felt.
On Friday I wanted to really test this new feeling out. Smart? Maybe not, but I can’t possibly convey how hard it was to not just go running. It felt so good and that’s all I wanted to do. On Friday I kept bumping the speed up more and more until I didn’t think I could run any faster…. and then bumped it up a little more…
I wasn’t just jogging. I was RUNNING. For the first time since I broke my knee, I was running as fast I my legs could pump. And it felt amazing. No pain, no instability, no grinding joints…..
And I pulled a groin muscle in the process. And it was 100% worth it. That muscle is already fine, and I am elated. I can jump. I can bend in ways I couldn’t before. I can do so many more things I wasn’t able to do before, because either my knee just wouldn’t bend enough or it hurt too much to do.
Even if the rest of the year hadn’t already been so amazing, this development would have made it the best year I’ve ever experienced. As it stands, it HAS been an amazing year, and I feel like I’ve won the lottery with this latest gift. If there is anything I ever could have wanted for myself, it would be this – to be pain free. Of course, I didn’t ask for it, because it’s not something anyone could really give me. Nor is it something I ever thought I’d get.
There is still one muscle that gives me pain, and I’m working on that. It’s the lesser of evils, however, and I don’t know that I will ever feel as full of gratitude as I do right now.
I thought my life was already full of amazement, but I was wrong. Something had to give – and it finally did. I have never been in such amazing health before, and that will only improve.
By doing the research and work needed, I was determined not to let myself make excuses anymore. I found every excuse to be successful instead of allow myself to fail. Finding that mindset was hard, and admitting my to my own setbacks and sabotaging was harder…. but worth facing.
I don’t believe there’s any one thing that encouraged this more than any other, but a combination of everything from complementary therapies, strength training, adjustments, mindsets and so much more. This is my shoutout to all of the caregivers that had a hand in making this happen, and I hope I didn’t miss anything or anyone! I am so, so thankful for all of you!
(And don’t worry – I won’t always run so hard that I hurt myself again. I’ll take it easy. I just really wanted to feel what it was like to really RUN again!!)
Vanessa Groshong (Acupuncture)
Amy Phelps (Massage)
Cure MD (Dr Sam O, Dr Lynzie Hawman, and the entire staff)
Pipestone Creek Pain and Health Center (Dr Dave Hewko and entire staff)
Natural Health Services (Dr Ferrari)
Glen Sather Sport Health Center (Dr. Olesia Markevych, Jessie Gill)
All my love, always. Merry Christmas!