Listening to: Sex Bob-Omb – Threshold – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

I have a knee condition called patella alta.  In the picture on the right, A is normal and B is me.  A good bit of the

cartilage in my knees are gone.  This causes some awkwardness when I walk.  Due to this, my hips and ankles hurt quite a bit as well.

I gradually dropped a lot of my normal activities over the years.  I took a desk job that I hated.  Sitting at a desk for most of a decade allowed my legs to get even worse over time until I was having cortisone shots in my left hip and taking hydrocodone about once or twice a month when some twist on a step or a long shift at my desk caused a flare-up.

For the last year and a half, I have been back at school completing my teaching degree.  This has required a lot of walking, which has gradually started loosening me up and, according to the doctor, smoothing out the jagged spots in my knee.  It seems that low-impact movement performed for extended periods of time (i.e. stationary bike, treadmill, and light walking) can be beneficial for my condition.

I can’t grow the cartilage back, but the rubbing of the patella (knee cap) against the leg bones essentially sands the troublesome jagged bits down.  Not a pleasant visual, I’ll grant you, but the upshot is that I have more mobility than I have had in ages.

So, I decided to put it to the test last Saturday.  My son and daughter did something that I have not attempted in about 15 years.  We hiked the 1 mile trail up Kennesaw Mountain.  My daughter is nine, so I don’t think she fully understands my problems since I don’t talk about it much.  She ran ahead on the trail and sat down at each rest point to wait for her old dad.  Mocking little imp.  My son kept pace with me. He is fourteen and has understood about my condition for a long time.

We set out and made it .2 miles up before I had to sit down for a pain pill.  I limited myself to one so that I would not get swimmy in the head.  I wanted to have my wits about me.  The experience was worth a small amount of suffering.  I slowed pace a bit on a straight to explain what we were doing on the mountain.

“Remember what I always tell you?  Never tell me that you can’t do something.  You can do anything you set your mind to.  Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.  I have not been up this mountain since before either of you were born.  I am going to walk the whole mile.  It will be one of the most difficult things I have accomplished in recent years, but it will be worth it if it proves my point to you.”

With those words, I had sealed my doom.  I couldn’t back out or my words would be s hollow as my fool head.  That, of course, was half the point of the speech.  It was half for them and half for me.  I used my cane pretty much the entire way and we rested a lot.  Water was imbibed, small boulder climbing was done (by the kids), and much fun was had.

We eventually reached the Georgia Overlook and gun embankment.  I sat down for a while and smiled.  I had accomplished something.  It might not have been grandiose, but it was a start.  My legs hurt, but there was more muscle burn than joint pain.  The pain was there, but it was not as prevalent as normal.

Our spirits did not drop when we realized that there was not transportation back down.  We simply walked back down the mountain road, which is a much easier way than the hiking trail.  On the way down we made note of especially beautiful flowers and berry bushes.  On the road ahead were a doe and her fawn.  We slowed and approached in a non-threatening posture.  The mother spotted us and leapt up the hill.  Her child tagged along behind.  At the top, the mother continued on into the woods, but the baby stayed.

We stood at the base of the embankment looking up at the fawn, who munched the occasional leaf and peered backward over his shoulder as if to say, “Hey.  ‘Sup?”  My daughter edged right up the edge, where I told her to stop, not just for her safety from the steepish climb and the deer’s hooves, but from the poison ivy on the embankment.  The baby played its little game (bite, tug, glance, “‘Sup?”, much) for about two or three minutes.  Finally it realized mom was gone and ambled along after her, still chewing on that last leaf the whole way.  It was the perfect end to the excursion.

We went back home and met up with some friends.  We worked our characters for the Dresden Files RPG that a friend is about to start.  Much fun was had then and the next day when a friend dropped by unexpectedly from out-of-town to drop off a food container we had let him borrow.  He stayed for supper and we played The Pillars of the Earth and Small World. A pleasant surprise, as he is one of our favorite gaming people.

This week was stressful.  I am taking five classes this semester.  A fairly hefty load, at least for me.  I have taken three or four at most before this, but I am trying to graduate Spring 2012.  It has been a good, but worrisome couple of weeks as I try to figure out my due dates and the work I am going to have to put in to get my customary A’s and B’s.

There is an Amtgard group, Shire of Iron Springs, that meets several times a week on the campus green to beat the crap out of each other with boffer swords, polearms, daggers, etc.  While many LARP (Live Action Role-Play) activities are “lightest touch,” these guys go for the gusto, which I appreciate.  Besides, check the pic from the site.  Any LARPer who wears a Green Lantern t-shirt is all right in my book.

So, in the spirit of getting back in shape and trying my legs out, I joined in today.  I played for about 45 minutes before class and about an hour afterward.  It was fun and exhausting, but just what I needed.  I was amazed that my legs were not giving me any trouble.  Some pinches, but nothing too serious.

Then I drove home.  I tried to get out of the car when my knees and hips registered a complaint.  I could almost hear them shout, “Sit back DOWN!”  I, not having any desire to crack my skull on the car frame by falling back into the driver’s seat, spread my arms and stopped my backward descent.  I asserted my inner stubborn mule, which my mother passed onto me, and pushed myself up with my arms.

I have to say, it hurt.  It hurt a lot.  I walked to the front door like I needed a walker.  I was glad it was dark, because I looked sad and pathetic.  I came in, stripped out of my sweaty clothes, and flopped down on the bed.  I refused any pain pills.  I don’t like to take them and I avoid it except in cases, like the Kennesaw Mountain ascent, where they are absolutely necessary.

All in all, I am glad I have taken these steps toward better health.  Sitting here in the bed, I am pretty sure that 75% of the aches and pains are the direct result of muscle tissue damage of the sort I expect after a workout, and boffer fighting is a workout just as much as basketball or soccer.  The other 25% is mostly in my hip.

I am guessing that sitting in the bed with a laptop in my lap isn’t the best thing to do, but I had to get this down.  I am well over 50% joyful for the first time in a while.  I might even hazard a guess that I am hovering a bit over 85-90% joy, as measured on the Snoopy Index.  As a note of interest, I have found that at 100%, I tend to do the Snoopy Dance of Joy™, which is a sight to behold, indeed.

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When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you ’till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.”

~ Mr. Avery – Old Town Folks by Harriet Beecher Stowe

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