injury · skiing

Sam survives Tremblant without skiing or fat biking and suffers a mild identity crisis

A picture of the ski village and shops around Mt Tremblant. It’s snowy. It’s late afternoon and getting dark. The photo is looking downhill and you can see shops and restaurants.

This weekend I went on a skiing holiday with a group of friends who meet and rent a large house at Mt Tremblant

I went knowing I couldn’t ski because of my knee. (The good news is that skiing is on the list of activities I can expect to be able to do in the future, unlike running which is forever off the menu.) I thought I’d be able to fat bike but the rental shop was sold out.

Instead, I got out for some walks. I enjoyed the pool and the hot tub. I read some dissertation chapters and had fun visiting with people.

A picture of the Tremblant Living pool and hot tub

Why’d I go with my busted knee?

Partly, I suppose, optimism. I’m relentlessly optimistic. Partly because I’d planned this in the early months of last summer before my knee had even started to bother me.

Also, of the couples that come, not everyone skis. Some people just enjoy the weekend away, the beautiful scenery, the deer, the mountains, etc.

I was okay not skiing. But I was sad that I couldn’t go fat biking. I got some much needed reading done in a great environment. Nothing like thesis reading in front of a roaring fireplace.

But the thing that was the hardest was my self image. Like the elevator I felt the need to constantly explain. Yes, normally I’d be out there. I’m not skiing, or snow shoeing, because of an injury. I’m not one of the non-active partners. Really, I’m not.

Yes, I’m just learning to ski. But normally I cross country ski. I also ride my fat bike in the snow. I snow shoe too. But then there’s this knee.

Lots of people had their stories of bad knees and ankles and hips and shoulders. There was a lot of commiseration

It’s interesting to me how much that matters and how much physical activity is part of who I am. Especially as I’m getting older people think I’m giving up activities because of age. I’m not. I’m not!

Mt Tremblant, I’ll be back.

Here’s me in my pink parka, staying toasty warm in the snow.

aging · Aikido · disability · injury · monthly check in · running

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the February version

I’m very happy to have a plan for my knee. I’ve had my first monovisc injection. Felt weird but it seems to be helping. I’m continuing physio. And I’m getting a custom unloading knee brace, being fitted March 2.

I’m trying to come to terms with the upshot of all this knee news. No Pride Run this year? Okay. No Pride Run ever? I’m bursting into tears. No more Aikido ever? That also makes me super sad. Of course, then I feel like a baby given how much worse others have it. You know this cycle, I’m sure.

It’s okay to have big feelings. It’s okay to be sad. I know.

Just because others have it worse that doesn’t my situation go away. It’s still sad. It’s still real.

What might help take my mind off all the sad things? A cruise! I’m going on a cruise in the South Pacific with my sister-in-law Susan who blogs here from time to time. She has her own big health news to deal with and I’m sure we’ll talk lots. I’m looking forward to that. But we’ll also snorkel, and drink fruity drinks by the poolside, and look at beautiful islands. Why hello Bora Bora!

I’ve never gone south in the winter before except to ride my bike. And Arizona, while a lovely temperature for bike riding, isn’t exactly steamy and warm. I’m excited. With the new big job, I’m ready to get away and relax.

Before the big trip, I’ve got a work trip to Vancouver. I’m going to fundraising school for academic leaders.

The upshot of all this busy travel is that there’ll be no personal training in February though I’m sure there’s a weight room and a swimming pool on the boat. I’m looking forward to giving pool running and maybe aquafit a try.

When I come back my March focus will be selling my house in London and buying one in Guelph.

Bye bye beautiful old London house!

People keep telling me that moving is one of the most stressful events in life, right after the death of a spouse. Turns out though that that’s not true. When it comes to stressful life events buying and selling houses and moving doesn’t even make the top 20. See here. But it is a lot of work.

And then April is the publication of our book and a lot of launch related activity. I’m gearing up.

Check out my Amazon author page!

So much going on!

[Drawing of a purple rabbit on a small brown boat on water. The rabbit says “I will learn to navigate this new part of my life.” in a pink speech bubble.] By EMM, not Emma.

aging · injury · Uncategorized

Sam’s left knee: An update

Note: At some point soon I hope to have things to blog about besides my left knee! Promise.

The surgeon looked at my x-rays and my MRI and said, “Ouch. That must hurt.”

There’s pretty much no cartilage and no meniscus left apparently. I’ve run out and there’s no growing more. I’ve got bone rubbing and grinding on bone and that hurts.

On the treatment side, things have gotten better with physio but there’s still too much pain and I can’t do lots of the things I used to love.

Hence my visit to the knee expert.

I told the doctor I’d given up soccer. I’ve also given up running and Aikido. But I don’t want to give up long hikes, bike rides, skating, skiing etc.

He tells me that I’m an easy candidate for total knee replacement given the amount of damage to my knee but he worries that I’m too young and too active.

Instead, we’re going to try to fend off knee replacement for another ten years, maybe even fifteen.

Here’s the plan:

Step 1: Try Monovisc injections

Basically it’s injecting lube into the joint. They’re $400 and it’s not covered by our provincial health plan but it is covered by my benefits. Again, I’m feeling lucky. No risk. Some people find huge relief this way. Others not so much. We’ll see. I had the first one today. Weirdly not painful but strange feeling.

Step 2: Unloading knee brace

For long walks and other activities that strain the knee, I’m getting a custom knee brace. They are supposed to work well, if you use them. Lots of people don’t. They’re clunky and not that that easy to get used to. On the upside, I don’t need to wear one at work, just walking to and from. Also, I’ll wear it on long dog hikes. Might be a great argument for commuting by bike. Again, thank you benefits.

Image result for unloading knee brace
Photo of an unloading knee brace. This is the Precision Pro brand but they all look like this. There are no “dress” versions.

Step 3: Physio, physio, physio

I’m so lucky to have good benefits.

Step 4: High Tibial Osteotomy

If all this doesn’t work, I’m also a good candidate for another surgery that falls short of knee replacement and buys me some years. It’s recommended for younger, active patients. (I like that description.)

“Osteotomy literally means “cutting of the bone.” In a knee osteotomy, either the tibia (shinbone) or femur (thighbone) is cut and then reshaped to relieve pressure on the knee joint. Knee osteotomy is used when a patient has early-stage osteoarthritis that has damaged just one side of the knee joint.”

See here.

“A high tibial osteotomy is generally considered a method of prolonging the time before a knee replacement is necessary because the benefits typically fade after eight to ten years. This procedure is typically reserved for younger patients with pain resulting from instability and malalignment. An osteotomy may also be performed in conjunction with other joint preservation procedures in order to allow for cartilage repair tissue to grow without being subjected to excessive pressure.”

And here, complete with an animation of the procedure.

In the meantime, I’m thinking strategically about saving my knees, what’s left of them, for the things that I love. No more knee damage for the sake of training. More on that thought later!

Image result for knees
WebMD’s diagram of knee anatomy



Sam’s life: Icing my knee and sitting a lot and also feeling lucky

A picture of Sam’s knee on ice. The photo also includes a large flat screen television perched on top of a piano.
I’m hanging around the house again, watching American Dad with my kids, and icing my knee. I’m alternating that with packing up boxes of stuff and books as we get the house ready to sell.

I ice my knee a lot these days. It won’t make your knee better, the physiotherapist reminds me. Yeah, yeah.

But, she also says, it will make you feel better. It will reduce the pain and swelling and you can keep up with all the exercises.

I’m exercising a lot.

So many exercises: sit to stand, calf raises, clam shells, balancing on one foot, monster walks…

Three times a day. On weekdays, when I’m working, I’m only getting to it twice though.

Being injured is time consuming. I’m feeling lucky to be able to take the time to take care of myself.

When I blogged about injury and recovery my friend Dani wrote,

“I’ve stopped going to the doctors for injuries because they’ll tell me to rest, but I have 12+ horses that rely on me for daily care…so I rely on Tommy Copper clothes, Alleve and topical treatments…oh and Dr.Ho”

I replied, “This is an area of healthcare that’s not well covered by our healthcare system. If you’ve got good benefits it makes a world of difference. Physiotherapy is expensive. So too is all the extra stuff like my snazzy fitted knee specific ice packs I’ve got on in the photo above. I worry about all the people out there without good workplace benefits. And it’s time consuming. Right now I feel like I’m spending most of my day doing physio exercises or resting and icing my knee. Again, I think about those people who are paid on an hourly basis for whom resting up means missing work.

I’ve got an MRI 3 am Monday. I’m meeting with the surgeon two weeks after that. Fingers crossed.

I’m still mostly feeling lucky to have all the help and support that I’ve got.

accessibility · aging · athletes · cane · disability · inclusiveness · injury · Uncategorized

Sam learns a new trick, walking with a cane, and worries about her own ageism and ableism

Wizard with long white hair and beard, stern expression, side view, holding wooden walking staff

I resisted it at first. When the physiotherapist helping me with my injured knee first suggested walking with a cane, I shrugged him off. “It’s not that bad.” But the truth was, it hurt. I just didn’t want to use a cane.

What exactly was I afraid of? Being seen as old, frail, weak? But that’s not what I think when I see other people walking with canes. Or is it?

Clearly I needed to confront some internalized ableism and ageism here!

A week went by. A friend who’s just had hip replacement surgeries, first one, and then the other, offered me her cane. She’s a fitness instructor at GoodLife. We chatted a bit about rehab and recovery and bonded over “being good at it.” We’re both compliant sorts. We do all the exercises, ice all the things. So why not the cane?

I took it to physio and asked for instructions. I already knew the counter intuitive thing. You use it with opposite arm to the injured knee. That makes sense since that arm swings with that leg.

I still wasn’t entirely at peace with it. I posted on Facebook that I probably chose a bad month to let more of my grey and silver hair show! The cane and the silver seem a bit much. I’m still struggling a bit with self-image here.

I’m channeling Marion whose birthday it would have been last week. She called her cane “nuisance.” Mostly she used it to direct people around and point at things. Could I work at being a bossy cane user? Probably not.

But the thing is it, it helps. I can walk further without knee pain. I’m slowly healing. Also, people are super helpful when they see the cane. I was worried that strangers would start engaging me in conversation about my injured knee but so far, people have just been super smiley and helpful.

The other day I even did a search for stylish canes! The two sets of cane imagery that resonate with me are wizards and their staffs (see above) as well as top hats and canes (see below)

How about you? Have you had experience walking with a cane? Love it or hate it?

A model, front view, on the runway. She's wearing a black suit with turtleneck and a top hat. Posing with hand in pocket holding a silver cane

aging · injury · Uncategorized

Oh, how the mighty have fallen: Step counting with a busted knee

This summer during the workplace step counting challenge I was averaging about 18,000 steps a day. Woohoo!

That was partly a matter of rising to the challenge but largely a matter of living in a very big house and owning a dog that needs walking.

These days though my goals are much, much smaller. I’ve injured my knee and it’s been painful to walk. Stairs are the worst but even flat surfaces take their toll.

I’m not supposed to do anything that irritates my knee so that means no stairs. As a result I’ve been hunting down elevators in all the buildings I work in. It’s been eye opening.

My Garmin sets a step goal for me based on what I’ve actually been walking. The idea is that it’s a challenge but not too big a challenge to be dispiriting. I laughed today though when I met my step goal at 3,998 steps.

Further, I met the goal while walking around a large suburban shopping mall on the Southwest side of Chicago.

My knee is getting better. I’ve seen the doctor. I’ve had an x-ray. Physio starts Tuesday. And in waiting for an MRI. Injury is part of an athletic lifestyle and I’m taking care of myself. Who am I kidding? Injuries are part of life, part of aging. The physio clinic says that inactivity and sedentary lifestyles are worse for arthiritic knees than movement.

And look, while mall walking I bought this new leather jacket. I love the faux fur collar. Life isn’t all bad.


Falling apart… (Guest post)

This summer is turning out to be a bummer for exercise. On July 9, I fell on my left knee at the end of a 7km run. I was about to cross an intersection and rather than watch where I was stepping, I was looking at incoming traffic to see if it was safe to cross. I stumbled on an uneven sidewalk surface and off I went flying. This was a running group outing and I had taken a different last stretch than the group.

My return to the pub where we start and finish was bloody and painful (I stupidly ran the last stretch, an extra 500m). I made quite the impression with the dirty bloody knees. My right knee was a little scratched too but nothing really bad, it was my left knee that took the big hit. Since I bike to run club, I also had to bike back with my busted knee. It was an experience. But eh! I am a trooper! I can do this, no? Who cares about pain? That was stupid.

I went back to running rather quickly, namely after only 6 days. I did that despite the discomfort because I like running and because I need to exercise. Whenever I don’t, even if it is to nurse an injury, I feel lazy. I also miss the movement. I am not good with sitting on my bum all day. I went running a few times and complained about how my knee was still uncomfortable. That was stupid.

Now, on August 1, I went out for dinner and was cycling back home. The main street I usually take home was under construction and I took a side street to be safer. That did not go too well. A train track crosses that street at a weird angle. My front wheel got stuck between the track and the asphalt, bringing me down and falling on my right knee this time. I guess I like to live a balanced life and since I had busted my left knee, I needed to bust the right one. A little girl who was playing nearby came over and asked if I was ok and said with a sorry voice that it happened to her “a few times.” So cute.

Now this injury put a clear stop to the running and I have not gone out since then. I have only cycled a little bit and went for a walk or two. I did get the whole thing x-ray’d as well as my left thumb which has been severely sprained but, thankfully, not broken. My wrists are also ok. This is from the jerk to my handle bar when the front wheel got stuck.

Now I have said above that some of my actions were stupid. I certainly did not take enough time to heal my left knee and thanks to my second fall, it will now heal properly or one can hope. I had an ultra sound done to check if I had a clot or something because my lower left leg has felt funny (swollen sometimes, tingly, painful, constricted) since just before taking my second fall. Good news: no clot in sight. But perhaps something else is pinched and causing this.

The most annoying of all this is that it restricts my movements. I am left with some weightlifting and no impact exercising. The weightlifting is a challenge with my sprained thumb but I am told the best physio for it is to keep using it. Ok. I am not sure how long it will take me to be able to go back to running. I really do like running and I really miss it. I find it meditative in a way that cycling or other exercise is not. But I will have to be patient (not my forte) if I want to be able to go back to it and if I want to not fall apart for real.

Wish me luck with this but mostly, wish me patience. Lots of it!

Cleaned but ruised knee after bike fall
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