I’ve always believed that aging is a mindset, and that attitude keeps us healthy regardless of biological age. This is obviously not the case with serious or chronic illnesses, accidents, etc. but absent those, how we choose to live determines our strength, our vitality, our tenacity, and perseverance. That’s what I believe. I’ve been extremely lucky. Aside from two broken wrists and shattered cartilage under my right knee that have each taken me down for 3 months plus healing time, I view myself as healthy. That view has been challenged a bit this past week.
Not only did I partially detach my left retina, but my knee has gotten progressively worse over the last week. Last month, I held my first in-person workshop at a girl scout camp in southern Illinois. It went incredibly well. But the day before, my logistics partner, who arranged the marketing and location, broke her foot. That meant I tried to keep her from schlepping things throughout the weekend. She didn’t ask me to do this. I just didn’t want her to hurt her foot worse. We had great help from participants, but at first, it was just the two of us in the camp. So, I carried stuff I probably shouldn’t have carried. I didn’t notice much during the workshop, but after I got off the plane back home, I felt a twinge in my right knee. I dealt with it as I always do, a hot bath, Advil, and a slathering of full-specturm CBD roll-on. I was stiff the next morning but decided to walk it out. It seemed to work. The pain was minimal, and I was fully flexible. The next morning it took a little longer to loosen up and there was more pain. This went on… and on… and on until the day I went to the ER for my vision issue. What I had been doing was powering through the pain. As the day went on, that got harder and harder. By the end of my time at the ER for my eye, the doctor (He’d noticed how my gait had changed throughout the day, from smooth to my having a pronounced limp) called for an ultrasound to make sure I didn’t have a blood clot. I didn’t.
That night, walking from the car to the elevator at our condo was excruciating. I told Andrew there was no way I could walk like this the next day to see the surgeon. He assured me I could lean on him. “No. Seriously. I can’t put any weight on it.” He agreed to run out (at 11 pm) and grab me crutches and a knee brace. When he got to Walgreen’s he facetimed me to tell me that they didn’t have crutches after all (He’d called to check in advance.), to let me pick out the brace I wanted, and to show me a walker he had found that he thought would work.
I have to be honest. I burst into tears. A WALKER! Not for the first time, I played with the idea of losing capacity. And I didn’t like it. “I’m sorry. I can’t make that decision”, I said. “I need to get off here before I really start bawling. You do what you think is best.” And I hung up. I am lucky that Andrew is such a patient person. He came home, brought me the knee brace, and helped me put it on. My knee felt immediately better, but I still couldn’t walk on it. “Hey”, he said. “You have hiking poles. Do you know where they are?” “The front closet”, I replied. When he brought those to me, we immediately knew they wouldn’t work as they had sharp metal points on the tips. Bless his heart, he let me say it out loud. “These aren’t going to work either.”, I said. He nodded. “So, just try this”, he said as he brought out the walker. It was cool, collapsible, lightweight with wheels on the front ends. Then he made a joke about me practicing for when I’m 90. “Too soon”, I said and I burst into tears again.
I’ve now been using the walker around the condo for 4 days and on limited trips outside. My knee is feeling better. I’ll have to wait until I’m approved by my PCP to see a doctor about my knee and I’ll definitely wait until after my eye surgery, but in the meantime, I’m using my brace and my walker, and I’m grateful. I’ve become a poster child for the Walgreen’s Space Saver walker. At doctor’s appointment and on the street, people using more traditional walkers stop me and ask me about it. I let them try it out, see how lightweight it is and how easy to collapse.
I know my using a walker is temporary, at least this time. My attitude has again shifted and I view my walker as a tool and my knee pain as slowing me down to protect my eye prior to surgery. I’m also viewing my knee pain as a reminder that I should not be schlepping too much, just as my wrist pain reminded me of that during our recent move. My body is strong and resilient, but she has limits, limits I need to respect.