Know Thy Enemy: Knee Update

I posted about how I was sucking it up and making a doctor’s appointment to get my left knee looked at. Today I want to give a little update on how that appointment went – and I also want to share some thoughts, about last week’s post, about my philosophy of life in general.

Knee Update

Due to snow in London (and completely messed up transportation) the appointment that was scheduled for last week Friday happened on Monday.  I have to say, the doctor was completely as I expected he would be – a matter of fact orthopeadic knee specialist with a “no-nonsense no-time for crybabies” manner (aka totally lacking in compassion, which tends to be my experience when I’ve dealt with knee specialists). Although I was slightly put-off by his manner, I was reminded later that when it comes to surgical specialists, they do their best work when we are unconscious. Hm. Fair enough.

I wound up having double MRIs and knee x-rays on Monday.  MRIs on both knees. For those of you who have never had the joy of an MRI, in a non-open MRI system you are slid into a tube, into a very precise location, told not to move, and then for a period of time the magnets move and imaging magic happens and it is done.  When I got my ankle MRIed years ago (on the road to my CMT diagnosis) I did not like the no movement rule.  I worried about every twitch I made. It was tough. When I got my elbow MRIed when I rotationally dislocated it in 2007, my head wound up in the tube too, as a part of the precise location needed to image the elbow. By the end of my elbow imaging I was completely panicked and claustrophobic.  Fast forward to Monday.  I had forgotten about how in 2007 I was a complete wreck from the MRI experience. Without remembering those feelings I agreed to a double MRI (both knees) – meaning 50 minutes of tube time, do-not-move torture time. After my right knee was done I was an emotional wreck – staying completely still is HARD, and I was panicked that I would move, meaning more tube time. Ohmigod it was a mind game. For my left knee I decided to change the music (I chose the Bee Gees for the second round of imaging – some happy music please!), turned up the volume, and just tried to treat it like the end of a yoga session doing shavasana and deep breathing (while listening to the Bee Gees, ‘natch). Marginally better, but nonetheless I still hate the MRI.

I have a CD of the xray and MRI images – but I have not opened it. I do not know how to read the stuff, so why should I speculate as to what it says.  I kind of know my knees are borked, and the doctor already put surgery on the table (two options actually – the first a cleanup and the second a complete realignment reconstruction) and described my injury as “probable” (not possible, but probable, meaning he is pretty convinced I have cartilege damage of my patella WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING at the images).

I was in a crap mood all day on Monday and then on Tuesday.  I cannot believe that just when I am feeling so STRONG my body craps out. I mean, give a girl a break.

Over the past week I have come to realise what I am in the process of:

“Know thy enemy.”

I need to know and understand what is going on in my knees in order to assess the consequences of my choices.  Just because my knees are borked does not mean that I am going to stop what I am doing – but I need that information to make an informed choice.

And then when I make that choice, it needs to be on the following basis:

“To thine own self be true.”

For me, I am pretty sure that my choice is going to be made not based on what may or may not happen tomorrow, but that my choice will be made based on how what I am doing is making me feel today.  And hand over heart I can say that today I feel the strongest I have ever felt. I feel steadier on my legs. And I don’t want an end to feeling strong.


I posted about my knee situation because it is what is happening in my life.  It also snowed on Friday.  And is cold in London.  I went to Paris on Tuesday night and was back in London by 3pm on Wednesday.  That is my life. And although I write about a lot of triathlon related things on this blog – I also try to show all aspects of my life. And my knee, well that is kind of taking up a bit of mental space at the moment!

When setbacks in my life happen, I do what I do – which is to keep on living. I take stake of the situation, sometimes wallow in it for a bit if it is not a situation that makes me happy, and then I move on. I find something positive to focus on – I look for something to appreciate, something good to look forward to.

I firmly believe that we all have a choice about how we live our lives – regardless of the setbacks or adversity or situations in which we find ourselves. We can choose to navel gaze and think about how that particular ache/pain/injury/mean word/argument/failed assignment went wrong, how it made us feel – we can dwell on that feeling, the situation – and by doing so we can stay in that moment… I’ve been there and done that. I spent about two months in 2008 in a very negative and paranoid place, full of anxiety and stress. And then one day I thought: “What if I’m the one making myself feel this way? What I’m the one who is giving myself insomnia – because I’m focusing on all of the negative stuff, all of the uncertainties?  What if my choices are leading me down a horrible rabbit hole?  And what if this rabbit hole is all of my own making, that no one else can see it but me?”  I realised that I had made a choice.  And that my choice was not positive or healthy. 

I learned through that experience that when I am in “that place” that I need to exercise my choice.  I need to choose to focus my attention on something different, something that enhances positivity, something that makes me feel good – things that make me feel like I am moving forward, that I am on a forward upward path. 

* If running needs to be reduced now, let me focus on fixing my swimming. 
* If that meeting didn’t go well, let’s reflect on it and then plan a follow up meeting so we can rectify the situation and move ahead.
* If I feel tired from my CMT, then let me juggle my calendar around so that I can grab an hour or two extra of sleep for a few nights so I feel more rested.

It is EASY to get sucked in and to focus on the negative. And if you don’t mind me saying… I think focusing on the negative is also a cop out – a sell-yourself-short attitude. 

Acknowledge the suck, then focus on something good. Something. Anything. Because the suck sucks, and positivity is so much more energising, for you and those around you.  CHOOSE POSITIVE.

Know thy enemy, but to thine own self be true.

Note: these thoughts are in no way meant to diminish the reality of depression, I have friends who struggle with depression, and I do my best to understand and be supportive. Rather, these thoughts are about how I approach and manage living with a progressive degenerative nerve disease and hypermobility, neither of which has a cure and both of which can lead to some pretty tough life situations.  These thoughts are about how I believe that the choices I make when it comes to my own thoughts can lead to positive or negative states of mind and positive or negative living. Totally based on my own experiences of managing through tough moments. Feel free to share your own tips and insights for living through the tough and unknown.


3 responses to “Know Thy Enemy: Knee Update”

  1. Hi Donna!  I was also shocked about how the MRI spun me out when they imaged my ankle and knee last summer. The clicking of the machine with the immobility about drove me insane. I if ever have to go deeper than my knee (hip or otherwise) I need serious calming medicine smile

    I suppose that’s part of knowing thyself. I find that those of us with chronic challenges learn how to focus past issues, to see humor and opportunity, because otherwise that rabbit-hole goes deep deep down smile. We could teach about perspective and finding joy in storms smile. I hope the news about your knees is not too harsh. Sending good thoughts!

  2. Donna,
    sorry your knees are trouble right now. Fingers crossed that whatever must be done will fix you up for the long term.
    I love your choice to be positive. It’s amazing how freeing it is to realize it IS a choice.
    Wishing you good luck with this!

  3. I completely agree with Kirsten about choices. Our lives are all about the choices we make (not to belittle anyone dealing with depression), but every day we make choices about our attitude, what to eat, whether to exercise, how we interact with others. Realizing that, and embracing it as a positive aspect of our lives is truly empowering.

    It’s no joke, life is short. It’s up to us to make the most of how we live it.

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