My Trick Knee

The theme music playing in my head this year. Thank you Marc Rebillet!

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.

Beautiful, wonderful nature–come and get me!

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

Look at that “Causes” lady—she does not care. It’s like she’s saying, Screw it. I’m going to unhealthy habit on myself until I’m a rolling dried-up ball of ear wax and wart skin with smoking lines above whatever becomes of my upper lip,
F-it.”

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.

BEING FLEXIBLE

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.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

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. 



https://www.hss.edu/condition-list_knee-revision.asp#:~:text=In%2085%25%20to%2090%25%20of,surfaces%20and%20refixate%20the%20implants

Day 62: Arguing with Myself

Shower Thoughts from Twitter: If we saw souls instead of bodies, our definition of beauty perfection and our world would be so different.

It’s been a few days.  The days between entries of this Pandemic 2020 Journal have larger spaces between them.  But I am still here, do not worry my five followers, do not worry.

I’m going to break one of the rules I had going into all this–DO NOT EVER appear to be bragging or complaining about work.  OK?  Alright, here we go…  Before going into the shelter in place I was working 56 hours a week, and I still am. (!!) Somehow, the stars lined up and I am in a beautiful Pacific Northwest medium-sized town of 90,000 people, not too dense, not too county, a college town, full of brilliant people of every spectrum; SO brilliant in fact our local labs developed COVID tests, AND BOTH of my jobs are considered essential.  Considering the employment stress I’ve been through the last eight years…well I mean the last twelve years (…well I could go farther back but let’s keep going…)  *clears throat*
Considering all the stress I’ve been through over the last eight years I was relieved.  Relieved is an understatement.  So, I tell you the truth–if both jobs had let me go, and if I had to wait 30 days for my unemployment, I would need the food bank.  I would be next-level-stressed.  In February I had about one month’s worth of bill money and food reserves.  I was working on a savings plan after the holidays. A plan that included saving for a small condo before I’m 60, and a simple vacation for myself this October. It might still happen.  Who knows. A girls gotta dream…

photo credit: bandsintown.com, Firefly, featuring Nels Andrews, 2019

It’s so scary for so many, too many, homes right now, not to mention small businesses.  The Firefly, a popular music bar in town, announced this week on Facebook that they decided to close its doors. Very sad.  Here is my question: will freakin’ big chain companies come in and gobble up the “for sale, foreclosure” retail space in the brick and mortar of cities across the country?  I hope not.  Back in the ’80s, a new law was passed about the gas station’s gas storage tanks.  -true story-  You see there used to be ma and pa gas stations.  Yep.  This new law required an upgrade to those massive underground storage tanks.  However, little if no funding was offered to assist.  This was so expensive to switch out, almost all of the privately-owned gas stations closed and the big names, ARCO, SHELL, CHEVRON, scooped up those ideal corner lots for themselves.  Sons o’ bitches.  I like and support local & small businesses. How will this pandemic change the face of our cities and towns?

CHANGE

I decided to re-pierce the second set of piercings in my ears to mark the change I’ve personally experienced through the pandemic.  I closed them years ago and plan to re-open them at home with a well-sanitized needle.  I’ve already ordered the gold loops.  I never wear gold, but these small loops feel like enough of a sacrifice for my needs.  I NEED a visual reminder of these months.  I feel I must “mark” this change, like how an irregular ring of a tree marks a drought, flood, volcano, or perhaps stunning growth. A scar is demanded!

Crud, it’s a trend! Women Are Leaning In And Loving Their Gray Hair Like Never Before, Huffington Post, April 2020

I’ve changed of course.  My whole body along with a questionable romantic future of any kind.  Most 50-year-old men scoop up the daddy issue filled 35-year-olds that can give them a baby.  50-year-old single men seldom want another 50-year-old woman, so fuck them.  (This attitude will suffice for a few more years so leave me alone…)  Last summer I shaved my head.  It was time to rediscover my natural hair color.  I jumped in, why not.  It’s been six months since my last cut.  Today I have four inches of salt n’ pepper. Then, without warning, menopause snuck in through the cat door.  The hot flashes seem to have stopped, but the hormone imbalance hit me like a ton of bricks, well about 60 pounds of bricks to be exact.  Fuckin’ change.  Life is full of it!

Entering the third month of sheltering in place I am a changed person; physically, spiritually.  Also, I acquired new skills.  (the fun continues) I know how to host a zoom meeting, attend a zoom meeting, how to adjust the lighting in my home for a zoom meeting, and sit with proper posture for two hours to hide a double chin or my loss of interest. I know how to walk a new tenant through a lease signing remotely, how to turn over a family shelter with a turnaround team while social distancing.  I learned I had the computer power to remote into my office platform and create the two weekly and one monthly publications.  I’ve learned how to change the freakin’ battery in a cordless mouse.  I’ve learned to listen to people around me and differentiate between regular panic and pandemic panic.  I give grace and space to both.  I’m on the road about four times a week.  Driving is new.  More bikes, more foggy heads, drivers go too fast, too slow.  A friend use to say, Stay Alert, Stay Alive!  It’s true.  Very true.

**

So here is the new poem I shared this week at Poetry Club: Pandemic Edition.

Can of AIR
by Shannon Laws

The apartment is 500 square feet.
The smells in my 500 square feet are important to me.
I judge my cleanliness which is equal to my humanity by its smells.
It is mid-May, and it is noticeably missing any hint of lavender or vanilla.
Instead, the fragrance of fresh dirt in the newly potted house plants,
and the body oils embedded in the couch fabric touch my nose.
The bathroom smells like soap, shampoo, and Lysol as I want it to.

Does everyone know what air smells like? Good clean fresh air?
No, not everyone, everywhere.
Maybe air has no smell so the perfect canister of “air” should be
filled with nothing.
But that doesn’t work either.

If you buy air you want it to be better air than what you are currently smelling.
New and improved air.
The illusion of a clean, happy, healthy home at your fingertips after a fish dinner.
Few want a can of Dusty Closet.

I purchased this can labeled “Air” and I’m not buying it, but I did buy it
now I can’t throw it away until it’s used up, because then I’m wasting money
and that is much worse than being a person in a smelly house.

**

My current mood expressed by meme.  Stay alert, stay alive. -Shannon


https://www.ewg.org/research/mtbe-knowledge/storage-tanks-were-known-be-leaking-1970s-and-1980s