Sunday, November 2, 2008

Life Is All About Choices

The news from the surgery was not too good. On the way home, sitting in the back seat of the car with my leg up I asked my wife what the doctor had said about my return to running.

“Well I was wondering how long it would take you to ask,” Holly said, “it was not too good.”

“Really? I knew it would not be great, but how bad?” I asked.

“When he told me, my jaw dropped. I told him that he would have to tell you the full story when you see him Monday. I can’t.”

I could not let it go at that, so I pressed her, “OK, but in general what did he find?”

“He said the inside of the knee was pristine, but he found more arthritis on the outside than he had thought.”

So all through the weekend I wondered how bad it really was. I knew that my marathon running would be coming to an end, but how much would I be able to do? After all, I had just ran seven miles the day before without pain. How bad could it be?

Monday morning, Holly drove me into the doctor’s office at 9am for my follow-up appointment. My doctor is a very tall, big, athletic man, who could be very imposing if he wished to be. Fortunately he is very humble and always takes the time to explain what is going on and answer all my questions. He is use to treating athletes, including some pro teams, which is the reason I choose to start seeing him. He knows what it means to me to run and be active, so the news he had to deliver must not have been easy for him, but he handled it with his usual skill and frankness.

He explained that he had found more damage to the meniscus and, even more troubling, he found more arthritis than he had expected from the MRI.

“So what does this all mean” I said “I have a race in April you know.”

“Well, if you keep running you will need a knee replacement in 5 years; if you don’t run you may have 15 to 20 years. You can still cycle, swim use an elliptical machine, but I would not recommend running.”

Given that I said that I would still like to run Boston in April, and then I would be good with giving up running and I could start to cycle and swim.

“I’m not sure you will be able to even run this April” he told me.

So there you have it. Talk about a choice. Keep running and use up my knee and maybe have to be much less active in 5 years, or give it up and move on to more low impact activities. Do you continue to do what you love for as long as you can, or do you conserve your body and take a measured approach?

It is a week after the surgery and I have full range of motion in my knee, though it can get sore and stiff if I am on my feet too much. The swelling is almost all gone and I have been doing my therapy of stretching and strengthening every day.

In three to four weeks I will start back to running with the hope of being able to train enough to at least finish Boston. I will use the FIRST method and incorporate cycling into my workout regime. I will use up some of my knee to realize the dream of running Boston. If I was a younger man, or if I had run Boston before it might be different, but at 47 this will be my last chance. One more race, one more marathon and after that, I hit the bike path with no regrets.


Drusy said...

Knowing nothing about knees, but a little about doctors (they're just humans with their own biases) - have you asked for a second opinion? Good luck!

running in the dark said...

A second opinion is a very good idea. I like and trust my doc, but like you said they are only human. I do have to admit that the pictures of the knee do not look good, but at this point what do I have to lose?

Thanks again.