The New Normal
I finished my 65th and final half-marathon on October 19. Three days later, I was on the operating table for a planned bunion surgery. Recovery from this procedure takes about 8-10 weeks. For the first two weeks, I had to remain in a lying position with my foot elevated for 90% of the day. I was cleared to do non-weight-bearing exercises from this position, so I did some leg raises and knee-in crunches. These were normal movements that I usually did without impunity.
The next day my knee was swollen, very painful, and I was barely able to move it. Since I was already resting with my foot elevated, I added some over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and icing to my treatment regimen. Seven days later, my condition did not improve, so I saw my orthopedist who took an x-ray and confirmed that I have osteoarthritis in my knee that will eventually require a knee replacement. He gave me a cortisone shot and sent me on my way. Normally, the effects of a cortisone shot last about three months.
Seven days later, I was cleared to go to the gym and do some non-weight bearing exercises. I did some knee extensions with 20 pounds of resistance which is less than what I normally lift. A few hours later, my knee swelled, the pain returned, and I had a limited range-of-motion. I had overdone it, and I was paying the price for it.
I returned to the orthopedist, who gave me a viscosupplement lubricant injection. This time I was very cautious about my movements. However, three days later the swelling, pain and restricted movement returned with a vengeance. The orthopedist determined that I was experiencing an adverse reaction to the injection, so he aspired the fluid and gave me a second cortisone shot.
That did the trick, and I am recovering well. However, I have come to realize, that I can’t return to all my previous activities without the risk of re-injuring my knee, so I had to give up teaching and participating in a couple of the higher intensity exercise classes. As a result, I have become much more sensitive and compassionate toward people who experience physical pain and movement restrictions.
But things could be worse.
My friend Jamie Whitmore was a world-class Xterra (off-road) pro triathlete. She excelled in this sport having won six national titles and a world title. Jamie won 37 overall championships, more than any other male or female at that time. In 2008 in the prime of her athletic career, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that left her paralyzed in her lower left leg. She went from being a world-class athlete to one who had to relearn how to walk.
After her recovery, she went on to compete in cycling events for the U.S. in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games where she brought home one gold medal and a silver medal. Jamie is also a recipient of an ESPY award for “Best Female Athlete with a Disability.” She is still very active as an athlete, coach, and motivational speaker.
But things could be worse yet.
Joni Eareckson Tada lived an extremely busy life as an athletic teenager. She broke her neck in a diving accident in 1967 when she was 17 that severed her spinal cord, resulting in permanent paralysis from the shoulders down. After a period of struggle, she accepted her new normal and became a world-renowned author, motivational speaker and advocate for people with disabilities.
And things could be even worse.
We all face struggles and setbacks in life. Whether it is a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, physical, financial or emotional challenges. Whatever the misfortune, God is there to cushion the blow, give us hope and lead us into what is our new normal.