I woke up this morning really sore from Physical Therapy yesterday. It’s weird. It doesn’t seem like the exercises are anything, but they are a lot and it’s an hour of them. I also woke up disheartened by the whole thing. Apparently, over the years, the damage happened to my hip and other factors also added their own unique components to the mess I’m in now. The last few years before I moved here were necessarily, and unfortunately, comparatively sedentary — I was teaching 7 writing classes and driving at least 45 minutes to and from school every day. What that amounts to is not much time to do anything other than sit — sit grading papers, sit working on the online interface with students, sit constructing slide lectures, sit driving the car. Most of the time, my daily exercise was just walking to and from my car on the way to classes. It wasn’t a life I liked, but I needed the money.
When I came back to Colorado almost 4 years ago, I could barely walk two blocks, and I could barely lift my leg to get into the bathtub for a shower. And, without my noticing it, my body had kind of frozen in a sitting position resulting in the shortening of my thigh muscles and tendons. Add to this a bad knee and a hip heading south, it wasn’t good. In addition to the sitting position (bent over) my body had also learned to protect me from the pain caused by deteriorating joints.
There’s no way to say to your body, “Body, dude, here’s the deal. I HAVE to sit all the time if YOU’RE going to have a roof over your head and food on your plate, OK? I’m sorry, but since that’s what I have to do, I’d really appreciate it if you’d just stay in decent physial condition until things change.” It doesn’t work that way.
My body was trying to say stuff to me, too, like, “Martha, dude, I’m having a pretty hard time here. The bones in your left leg are grinding on each other at the joints. I don’t know what you plan to do about this, and I’ll try to keep you moving. Still, I think all this really deserves your attention, like NOW!”
I got the idea yesterday from my therapist that I have a long road ahead of me, longer than I thought. “I don’t know if we can do this,” he said, “it’s a lot of stuff to work on.”
I just answered, “Well, maybe that’s why Dr. S mentioned surgery in three months.”
“That makes sense,” said the PT.
I have to keep at it. I have to think about what I’ve accomplished already and not what’s left to accomplish (maybe).
Along with me at physical therapy yesterday were some really messed up people, so messed up that I thought I had no business being there at all. It hit me really hard how lucky I am to be up and walking. My little walks with my beautiful dogs would be impossible for the people sharing the space with me yesterday afternoon. They probably don’t even DREAM of a mile walk on a flat trail in the sunshine along the Rio Grande.
In the face of all that, the therapists have to remain optimistic and upbeat even with patients whose problems result from self-destructive behavior, with frightened patients who have had serious strokes or very radical surgery that takes a long time to heal.
I’m the lucky one. If NOTHING happens and I DON’T get surgery, then I could be in pretty bad shape in a few years (or dead from not wanting to live like that). But NOW I’m strong, ambulatory, motivated and have every chance of succeeding in this enterprise, even though it will probably, ultimately, result in two joint replacements. I have the best doctor, I live in a beautiful place that makes my heart sing and where rehab will be a joy, I have friends who love me (and whom I love), a PT I trust and like, I have good insurance and I know it doesn’t matter materially if I’m disheartened today. What matters is that I go do what I have to do. My stability ball is pumped, even if I’m not. 😉