September 14, 2015

This Dancer's Knee Journey, P2

My Knee Surgery Blog, Part 2
Tomorrow I head into the MRI for my right knee. I'm so ready.

I've had a lot of time to reflect since hearing the news that yes, it's time to operate on my knees. More importantly, I've had a lot of time to take notice of that one single knee that's being imaged tomorrow. 

That's new for me. My attention, for almost five years now, has been on some mysterious disease that's attacking every system in my body. As a result, I'm used to looking at my body as a whole, attaching everything wrong with the disease.

But now that the spotlight has been shifted to my right knee, my attention to it as an individual problem has unearthed startling results.

In the last two weeks alone, I've discovered that when I use my cane to walk, which is more often then not these days, it's usually because of my knee, not because of my full body illness. That revelation is still rocking my world.

Now, when I'm finally healthy enough to shop or do chores without a cane, I've always pushed it until collapsing into a wheelchair, finishing up if I can. I've always assumed I've collapsed because my body flared up from all the movement - which is true, it did and does - but! Not to the point of needing a wheelchair.

Instead, these last two weeks have revealed that the illness just slows me down. What puts me in the wheelchair? My knees. My right one swells up and gives out. Bang. Wheelchair time.

These new realizations hit me hard. How long had this been going on? This whole time I assumed it was my illness holding back my mobility, not my knees. I had assumed their health and wellness was a direct result of my illness. That was certainly the case in the first few years. I do know that.

But somewhere along the line, things have changed. The previous damage from dancing may have left the knees more susceptible to inflammation by the disease, but that blinded me from the truth of my mobility today. The knees are a whole separate issue, and very, very much the culprit of almost all my limitations once the disease allows me to get out of bed.

All those years of dancing hard five times a week in everything from flip flops to high heels had not only caught up - but bit back hard with vengeance. So it's truly ironic that what tipped me off that my knees were truly damaged, not inflamed, was my return to the dance floor itself.

This summer I danced more than I have in the past three years combined. It was a huge success. I was so happy. But as each week passed, my knee took to arguing with me more and more loudly. I realize now that it's been arguing with me ever since I started dancing again at the start of this year.

I had taken three years off for my disease, so heck no - I wasn't looking out for my knees. If anything, I'd assumed they'd healed up a bit. I hadn't been dancing! They should have been fine. So I didn't pay attention. But as the stretches between dance outings decreased, the repetition of knee incidents became much more apparent.

Finally, it took two huge CRACKS!!! of the knee giving out - so fast that I nearly hit the floor both times - two weeks in a row to seal the deal of going to the doctor for me. Well, that and I'd started to fall. Hard. And I never fall. I'm hella balanced. And though it took all of this to convince me, looking back I realize just how much more I have missed.

Hindsight's hell. I now realize that every single time we've left the dance floor this year, it's been because of my knees. Oh, other parts hurt like a demon too, but they didn't make me leave the floor. I could have simply slow danced, which is what we always try to do instead of leave.

Leaving the dance floor, because I'm so immobile the rest of the week, requires me to be completely and utterly immobile, or in an amount of pain that brings me to fainting. If I can clutch on to Nick and stay upright, I do it! Moving is so important for those of us who are disabled.

And that's the thing. Now that I'm paying attention, I'm realizing it's the knee that ends it all. Not the disease. The disease wins every single day. I'm immobile 99% of my week. But when I'm finally mobile? For that 1%? My knee is ruining that joyful time completely. And it's almost definitely keeping that 99% going - I can't get more mobile without new knees.

I went to the doctor for my knees because I don't want anything standing in the way of my mobility. Mobility begets mobility. And after five years, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get every moment of mobility available back in my corner.

You know, there's a saying we all used to use back in the day: "We dance because we can." How true. How very, very true. Stick with it, loves, stick with it. There's another saying out in Palm Springs, amongst the dancers who created WCS - "We always dance because we have to." Meaning... if we stop... we stop. And it's true. They dance almost every day of the week.

But I'll never forget hearing them also say, "If so and so doesn't show up to dance, we know we won't be seeing them again." Dance is life. Living. Life begets life and living begets living. So live to the fullest, my friends. And pay attention to your knees more often. Get real with where they're really at. If they make those crazy noises, or cry out in any kind of way - do yourself a favor:

Get them before they get you.

Over & out,
Til next time,

To read Part 1, Click Here.