So here we are; one year since the biggest injury of my life.
A brief bit of history of me for you. I have been running regularly since I was about 9 years old. Wearing vests for clubs in Luton, Ipswich, Northampton, Woodbridge & Suffolk along the way. As a youngster, it was about short and quick, whereas as I got older, it got longer and a bit slower! During pregnancies, I took time out, but was quickly running again after both children.
I have now pretty much gone a whole year without running. I would put money on this being the longest I have gone for without running, since I was old enough to put one foot in front of the other at a quicker pace than walking. To say ‘running has been my life’ would be an understatement.
As I think back to 1st February 2019 at 12:40pm & the pain that I felt, I wasn’t to know just what had happened. On reflection, the therapist in me knew it wasn’t good from the outset, but the optimist in me wanted the therapist in me to be wrong. (Wherever this optimist then went, I would like to know as I’d like her back please!) This is proved by the fact that the one and only photo I took of my knee that day, was when I was sat down at the gym with a glass of wine in the evening. I am guessing a photo of my head would have seen it covered in a great big bucket of sand.
The rest of February went by in a bit of blur; pain, followed by appointments, a bit more pain, discomfort, annoyance, whilst all along, convincing myself that tomorrow I would wake up and it would be ok. There is even video footage of me attempting and failing to ride a static bike at the gym. What was I thinking. The news came that surgery would be required. Most likely keyhole, but should be a straightforward ACL repair with a bit of meniscus (cartilage to the rest of humanity) repair along the way. Not the case. I believe it was 3 hours I was in surgery, and the first words I heard on my awakening where ‘ketamine’. I think it was 45 staples, some horrible cuts and bandaging to keep my knee warm and safe in arctic conditions was my first sight.
“It was like a bomb had gone off in there” – the words of the surgeon when he came to see me the next morning, my 41st birthday in fact. This was not going to be an easy recovery. Two ligaments repaired with a graft and a 3rd, stuck to my new ligament with sticky back plastic and a treasury tag (NB; not true, I’m hoping it was proper stiches!) alongside an attempt to save my cartilage. Crying on my birthday isn’t something I like to make a habit of, but cry I did in front of my family, neighbours and strangers who have since become friends. Once that ketamine had worn off the pain was indescribable, and I honestly thought my knee would explode. A late night dash out for stronger pain relief was made (by Pez obviously!) & we settled in for a disrupted nights sleep but at least it was my own bed.
Stairs – now that was a challenge – maybe I’ll save those stories for another day; along with dressing, bathroom & trying to leave the house!
Time. Patience. Physio. Extension. Squeeze. All words which I then spent the few months having to say quite a lot. I had lots of lovely visitors; my living room hasn’t ever smelt so delicious or looked so colourful; it kept my Mum very busy arranging the flowers, pretty much daily, in order for them to last as long as possible. The visitors were lovely, but I craved to spend time with Pez and the kids. By the second weekend I was home, I just wanted their company, but they have their own lives to lead, their own jobs to do, they needed to also be doing the things that I couldn’t. They didn’t have time to sit with me and watch me keep nodding off! It was really hard; no one really knew what to do with me or to say to me and me to them; it’s not like I had much to say either unless they wanted to know about what had happened in the latest episode of Escape to the Chateau! It upsets me when I think about that weekend.
But move on we did; I eventually went back to work (both jobs!) & was attempting to lead as normal life as possible. But things weren’t going my way. By June it was clear that gaining full leg extension was getting harder, not easier, so come July, I was back in the MRI scanner to be told that I had grown scar tissue and that was blocking my joint; it needed to come out. This was holiday season now, so there was no way this surgery could be done until after our family holiday. Quite possible the least active holiday we’ve ever had, but lovely none-the-less. We deliberately booked a caravan site 500m walk to the beach; but even that was too far & I had to be driven. Marvellous.
Second operation was key hole surgery HOORAAAHHHH. “that scar tissue took me an hour to get out, not the 10 minutes it would usually take me”, were the words of the surgeon when I came round this time. At least there was no ketamine involved!
But there was good news. I was 5 degrees off getting full extension again & this was something to celebrate; my leg was the straightest it had been since 27th February!
September came and went, and I began to realise that we were due to go on a trip of a lifetime in a little over twelve weeks which I knew would involve lots of walking and I was not fit. Not fit AT ALL. So I started Pilates with Helen. 1:1, because this suited me best. I didn’t know what I was capable of & needed to be able to stop without disrupting a whole class. It was October by now, I have an October ‘thing’ that I’ve been doing every year since 2011. Run every day, a minimum of a mile. Well there was no way that was going to happen, so I walked. Every day, for a mile. Some days it was hard, and it hurt, but other days I seemed ok. Walking, alongside the Pilates really built up my strength, so when we went on our trip at the end of December, I had some good fitness and strength coming back. Good job I did as well, because we walked approx. 6 miles a day, every day for 2 weeks!
So now we are in January 2020. Things were going well, but I have developed a crunch and grind. My surgeon called it a “significant mechanical crunch”. He has a way with words! Pain is returning, but I thought that might have been because I was pushing it more. A little 10m (thats meters!) jog here and there, a 30 seconds on the treadmill every so often. Well, its been 7 months since I had a date with the MRI scanner; may as well remind myself of the joys of a noisy lay down!
I have been called by my physio and given the clinical breakdown. Ligament repairs, doing ok, cartilage, meh, bones, meh.
Not being able to run for a year has been tough. Not just physically, but mentally as well; and I am fully aware that its not just me that has been through this. My family and friends have been invaluable and I am forever grateful to them. Mentally 2019 was tough; I am surrounded by sport and not being able to participate in anything other than ‘supporting’ has been quite possibly the worst bit. This morning I was able to walk Kesgrave parkrun with my Dad. A windy but dry January morning is enough energise the best of them!! Can’t deny I don’t get ‘runners envy’; I do; I just know that its not my time to run at the moment, and although the bucket of patience is running very low, I’ll get there, it’s just some wacky version of my own ultra marathon!
To finish, I have an appointment soon with the surgeon to discuss these ‘meh’ MRI results in more detail. So I guess its “watch this space” as the knee saga continues…
I appreciate you reading to the end. Best wishes to you all.. Jen x