This week Oprah, 68, announced that she recently had two knees replaced. This caught my attention, and brought me out of a blogging sleep, for a few reasons. First of all, good on her. I’m delighted that she has good care. She has folks and friends to guide her through most of life’s changes. Resourceful, supportive friends and family are as precious as gold in these difficult times.
Thinking about Oprah’s new knees this morning, I want to know more, like HOW long had her knees been hurting before she got the green light for surgery? Did she ever get the silicone injections? My guess is that her knees started to hurt her in her 50s. I’m guessing this because that is what happened to me. I can’t tell you how many limping gray-haired ladies I see at the grocery store now that I joined the club. My heart goes out to every one of them. You see, for the last 18 months, I haven’t been able to walk more than half a block without pain. It feels like something very precious was stolen from me. I used to walk all over town, hiking urban and wood trails. It was my way to meditate and relax after a tough day. To quote Talking Heads, “How did I get here?”
Many people, start to develop arthritis as they age. Arthritis can be a scary word. A doctor might just tell you, “the lining between your bones is depreciating some.” instead of “You have arthritis.” The A-word is such a downer. It’s a downer because there is nothing doctors can do about it. Nothing besides pain control.
Right around age 52, my knees began to hurt but they tricked me. You see, I thought it was due to my bike accident in 2018, and another gym accident in 2021. I held on to the idea that once I regained muscle mass, and lost all my pandemic weight, I would be back to my 2018 pre-accident body. Easy fix right? WRONG.
Last four years life gave me an education about aging. I learned some things that I’d like to share with my 66 readers and any other snoopy person who loves a good train wreck.
Let Auntie Shannon tell you a story… You see I just stumbled into menopause like an innocent kid paying $1 for the haunted house ride at the fair–I had NO IDEA WHAT WAS INSIDE and thought I’ll take it as it comes. I’ll la-de-da my way around it convinced menopause was years away for me. I don’t wish that on you, even though I don’t know you, because I don’t wish for anyone to go through menopause, knee pain, or any other pain alone. So, let’s share in our pain? Well, how about we share experiences and learn from each other.
MENOPAUSE HIDE AND GO SEEK
In 2019 the hot flashes, weight gain, and heavy flows began to disrupt my work. I heard this was typical of the beginnings of menopause, so I visited my doctor. When my blood work came back she shared, my estrogen levels were too high for me to be menopausal and dismissed the other symptoms as related to the weight gain, or some other unknown disease that she began to test me for. Meanwhile, the knee pain began to increase. My doctor was a year away from retirement and it seems stopped giving a shit. All the uncomfortable occurrences going on in my internal traveling circus were dismissed. I’m convinced if I had some friends or was closer to my family, someone would have told me “Fire that doctor and go see one who will listen to you!” ADVICE #1: If you don’t think your doctor listens to you, fire them. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor find another. Doctors are everywhere. Hundreds in every city across America. You can find a new one that will listen to you, respect what you have to share, listen to your concerns, and answer your questions.
Admittedly, I am not a good patient. I get nervous around doctors and generally believe they will “sell” me a procedure that is the best option for their pocketbook. I mean WHAT is their incentive to do otherwise? They are basically a small business. But–sometimes I’m in pain and don’t know why and I’m freaking’ forced to go see them. I listen to my body and recognize when something is not right. Ya, I could just Google the symptoms, but doctors are paid to know ME and give me personalized health care. For example, after I switched doctors in 2022, I asked the new doctor about hormone therapy to help ease the hot flashes and other issues of menopause. After looking over my history including a fresh blood panel she shared that I am not a good candidate for hormone therapy. INSIGHT #2: What’s right for others may not be right for you.
But here is Oprah at 68 saying she got two new knees. Did she flash cash at a doctor and demand new knees? Most likely not.
INSIGHT #3: Except for extreme cases, no surgeon wants to give you new knees while you are in your 50’s. NONE.
In 85% to 90% of people who have a total knee replacement, the knee implants used will last about 15 to 20 years. This means that some patients who have a knee replacement at a younger age may eventually need a second operation to clean the bone surfaces and refixate the implants.
Modern medical technology has not addressed this problem. INSIGHT #4: If you have knee pain in your 50s, you will need to suck it up for about 10 years or more, effin’ limping around until you are about 65. The second operation, if you live that long to get one, is difficult. My 2022 surgeon explained it to me. The scar tissue alone from the first surgery makes it difficult to attach the new knee. You may be a good candidate for a silicone injection that supplements the fluid in your knee to help lubricate and cushion the joint and can provide up to (only) six months of osteoarthritis knee pain relief. The doctor may offer you anti-inflammatory pills or pills to reduce pain. A friend might recommend collagen, vitamin C and/or glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. Shedding pounds, keeping active, and eating well can help—these are your only tools.
I was tricked by menopause, the injury, covid fog, and my own ignorance about aging…but the truth is that arthritis was going to happen regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
I was watching the new Netflix series about the world 55 years from now. People pay large sums of money for computer implants, enhancements, and new body parts. True Cyberpunks are completely robotic except for the head and torso. Apparently, all the leftover fleshy bits are needed for breathing, eating, and making out. There is a scene where the main character gets his first surgery. It takes place in a hidden room, deep in a basement, the surgeon is some kind of Frankenstein madman. I’m watching it, with envy and spite. Guess I was born in the wrong century.