august 14/REST

Knee injury.

Day Ten

3 days until my doctor’s appointment.

This morning, I memorized two more of Mary Oliver’s poems: “Swimming, One Day in August” and “Invitation.” I’m currently enamored with Oliver and her focus on attention and the natural world. Both of these poems come from her collection, Red Bird, which I love.

I’m hoping to do more resting and less walking today, especially stairs. I wonder, could this help me to heal faster? It’s so hard. How does one sit still and not go crazy?

Right now, I have too much
Sitting still is so hard. I
Twitch my
Left leg, the non-injured one, repeatedly.
Every part of my body wants to move. I want to jump out of my
Skin! Who can just
Sit in a chair without moving?

This last acrostic poem is brought to you by restless legs, a little bit of anxiety and a lot of coffee. Maybe I would be less restless if I didn’t drink coffee in the morning?

I’m trying not to walk too much today. Finally am forcing the kids to walk the dog. Spent the morning on the couch with my leg straight. Reading Sophie Hannah’s Agatha Christie murder mystery, Closed Casket. Now, it’s the afternoon and I’ve moved upstairs. Sitting on the bed, with the computer on my lap. Writing and then reading. I hope this helps, because it’s no fun.

Knee status: still a bit stiff, doesn’t hurt at all. Continuing to walk slowly. Failed the straight leg raise again.

Treatment: more RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevate), with an emphasis on the rest.

august 13/DNF

Knee injury.

Day Nine

Today is the triathlon, the one that Rosie and I were supposed to do together. The one that would have started a tradition of racing and training together. We’re not racing, mainly because of my injury but also because we hadn’t trained enough. I am less disappointed and more resigned to the inevitability of our failure. If we attempt to do this again next year, we will need to train earlier.

Memorized two poems this morning: Emily Dickinson’s “Nobody” and Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese.” Now I want to experiment with putting them together into a found poem:

You only have to Love.
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you— Nobody—too?
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
tell me about the mountains and the rivers,
the clean blue air, the livelong June, an admiring Bog.

Whoever you are, no matter how good,
the world goes on, harsh and exciting.
Announcing despair, over and over, it calls to you.
How dreary! Don’t tell!

You do not have to advertise.
You only have to love the world
as it offers itself to your imagination:
the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain,
the landscapes and the deep trees.

You only have to love the family of things:
a Frog, the wild geese,
the soft animal of your body,

Walked around the block with Scott and Delia, the dog. So slow, but less limp-y. Discovered that uneven ground is difficult. Why is that? Tried to walk more than a block but my knee felt like it might give out, so we turned around.

As of noon, still can’t raise my straight leg. I’m invested in this test as a marker of progress, but is it? I wonder what the doctor will tell me on Thursday?

Tried biking, but it seemed like a bad idea, so I stopped.

Knee status: most likely not a quad tendon rupture, still sore and stiff, occasionally gives out, can walk very slowly, still can’t do the straight leg raise.

Treatment: RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), don’t try to do too much walking even when the dog looks at me with her big eyes, hoping that I’ll chase her around the house. Keep reading, crafting and memorizing poetry.

august 12/Relief

Knee injury.

Day Eight

Fluctuating mood. Fear and resignation, then optimism. It’s a rupture. It’s a tear. No, it’s neither. Something worse? Something better?

Memorized Shel Silverstein’s poem, Sick. So fun! I’m surprised at how much it has improved my mood and my energy level. I think I should memorize a new one every day.

Scott is running his 18 miles this morning. He’s almost done. I know this because I’m tracking him on my phone and because he’s been posting pictures to Instagram every time he stops to walk. I love his pictures. I’m slightly jealous, but only slightly. Those really long runs were never fun for me. Always a struggle. I’m a little relieved that I don’t have to run one this weekend or next weekend or until…? I’m also relieved that I can just appreciate and celebrate his effort and not worry about how my runs compare to his.

Walking feels scary. Like every step could do irreversible damage. Could it or is that just my overactive imagination? Thanks google and all of your “helpful” search results. Is there a word or a phrase for the hypochondria that is fueled by looking up conditions on google? Why yes, there is: cyberchondria. Wikipedia defines it as: “the unfounded escalation of concerns about common symptomology based on review of search results and literature online.”

Are my concerns unfounded? No, but they could be a bit exaggerated due to the number of times I’ve read over and over again that not being able to raise your straight leg while sitting on the ground is really, really bad news, which is something that I absolutely cannot do right now.

Decided to text my good friend, who happens to be a doctor, and get her opinion on my knee. She doesn’t think it’s a quad tendon rupture. Very relieved. Could be something with the patella tendon, which is not great, but doesn’t seem as bad as a quad rupture. She did not tell me to drop everything and get to the emergency room, which is all I care about right now. My doctor’s appointment is for this Thursday. I’m fine waiting to see a doctor until then. I feel instantly better knowing that it most likely is not a quad rupture.

Straight Leg Raise

  • rise starlight age
  • arise, great slight!
  • large tight raises
  • I light a grass tree
  • I get light as tears
  • eight large stairs
  • sigh, great art lies.

Knee status: most likely not a quad tendon rupture, still sore and stiff, occasionally gives out, can walk very slowly, still can’t do the straight leg raise.

Treatment: Chill knee with ice. Chill anxiety with bad television. Avoid Dr. Google. Keep reading, crafting and memorizing poetry.

august 11/Rupture?

Knee injury.

Day Seven

To race or not to race, that is the question.

Uh oh. I googled “knee injury can’t lift leg straight” and not being able to do this seems to be a bad sign. Fractured patella? Quadricep Tendon Rupture? I’m trying not to panic, but both of these usually require surgery.

I’m not experiencing much pain, so I think it’s doubtful that I have anything too severe. Other than the first few moments on Saturday night, I haven’t had much pain at all. Just stiffness and soreness. Even so, it’s stressing me out.

The big problem: my quad muscle isn’t working at all, or not firing, which is how they phrase it in injury-speak. It’s kind of freaky to test it out and to see how I can’t get it to contract at all.

Biked 3.5 miles with daughter to drop her off for her camp, then biked back. No pain. Except for when I had to unexpectedly stop and land on my bad leg. Not excruciating pain, but pain. I think I’ll spend a lot more time with the bike on the stand. It feels good to bike.

To race or not to race, that is not the question. To pick up my race packet even though I’m not racing, or not to pick up my race packet, that is the question.

Okay quad. 
Fire when ready.

Just requested a doctor’s appointment to make sure that I didn’t do anything really bad to my knee.

I don’t
Need this right now.
Just leave me alone, you
Unnecessary derailment. You
Repugnant spectre.
You destroyer of dreams.

I might be overreacting. Stirring up
Needless worry.
Judging every twinge of pain or limp as if it signaled my
Undoing, which it doesn’t. Not
Really. I’ll run again or swim or something.
Years from now this will make a good story.

When I hear rupture I think of spleens not quad tendons. 
Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself here. 
Who says I have a quad tendon rupture? 
No one. Yet. Or maybe never.

rupture: 1. open hostility or war, 2. tearing apart of a tissue, 3. sudden split, burst, complete break. Open hostility between mind and body. A battle between fear of what might be and a desire to stay calm and not worry until I actually need to. A ripping and shredding of the tendon and the possibility that I can race the triathlon with my daughter on Sunday. A bursting of a marathon bubble?

Knee status: until doctor’s appointment, unknown. My assessment is too distorted by fear and anxiety over whether or not I have a rupture and will need surgery and will be recovering for 6-9 months. If I hadn’t learned about this possibility, I’d probably say I was doing okay. Stiff, sore, not much pain. Walking without crutches.

Treatment: Remind yourself several times a day that it is very unlikely that you have a rupture and that you shouldn’t assume the worse until you meet with the doctor. Take lots of deep breaths. Distract yourself. Write, read and memorize more poetry.

august 10/BRRRR

Knee injury.

Day Six

My movement continues to improve. Still stiff and walking awkwardly, but not as much as yesterday. Feeling better, happier.

Progress!? Went swimming again with daughter. My knee felt weird and stiff and it hurt, a bit. What was wrong? Was it that I couldn’t bend my knee to do a kick? Or was it hard to have my knee extended while horizontal in the water? Not sure, but I mostly swam with my arms and, occasionally my left leg. I might have been upset about this but I wasn’t because when I got out of the lake, my knee felt much better than before I got in. I was able to walk over 1/2 mile with my daughter. I’m hoping to go swimming again this evening.

Maybe I’m feeling better because I had a good morning. Inspired by two separate online essays, I memorized a poem: Gerard Manly Hopkin’s “Spring and Fall.” I remember first reading this poem in high school and loving it. So fun to memorize. Trying to find a poem about injury/illness, I came across Shel Silerstein’s “Sick”: “I cannot go to school today/said little Peggy Ann McKay….” I think I need to memorize it next.

Today’s poetry challenge: Rondeau
15 lines: 1 quintet, 1 quatrain, 1 sestet
8-10 syllables
refrain (r): first few words or full first line of quintet
rhyme scheme: aabba aabr aabbar

A Morning Swim, After the Rain

The water is too cold today.
No sun to warm it, not a ray.
A drop of water hits me and
makes me long for warm, dry land.

Yet, knowing that I have no say,
that I must swim, I must obey,
I bravely enter as I’d planned.
But the water is too cold.

Just feet from shore, I feel dismay.
My googles fog, the world looks gray.
My hurt knee cries out a demand
of pain that is too much to stand.
That’s it! I leave without delay.
Besides, this water is too cold!

Swam again in the afternoon. This time, 440 yards. Knee still hurts to swim. Not sure why. Decided it was too risky to do a loop. What if my knee popped out in the middle of the lake? It was tough not to swim.

Discovered while sitting on the ground with my legs extended that I can easily lift my straightened left leg, but my right one refuses. It will not lift. And when I grab my right foot to raise it, it hurts. Is this a bad sign or just the last of the injury?

Knee status: continued improvement, still walking slowly, swimming is difficult.

Treatment: ice once for 10 minutes, no ibuprofen, loosening up leg in cold water.

august 9/Stiff

Knee injury.

Day Five

My knee felt a little sore in the night, but it seems okay in the morning. Mostly stiff, a bit swollen and occasionally weak. I feel like walking is easier and that I should try to stretch out my legs and work on walking normally, but is this a bad idea? Is it too soon?

Last night, walking all the way from the parking lot to the beach was challenging. I had to walk so slow! Or was everyone else walking too fast?

There once was a girl who felt free,
she could run, she could fly, she could be
then her knee she did hurt
shortly after dessert
now she’s stuck to the ground like a tree.

The theme for today is: stiff. I’m tired of using that word, over and over and over again. What are some other words I could use?

is too stiff, 
and boring and tedious, 
why not try other words instead:

So many of these fit, but today, I think graceless works best. A lack of grace. Awkward. Clumsy. Forced. Inelegant. Rough. Ungainly. Today, my walk is graceless.

I googled “ways to describe knees sore legs,” hoping I might find some creative inspiration. Most of the top search results were about how to describe knee pain to your doctor. I should probably read through these articles because I’m always explaining things wrong. Or too oddly. I get strange looks from doctors and not too many answers. There’s a problem here: I like strange descriptions that are weird and wonderful and imaginative. And some part of me is stubbornly attached to this strangeness, making it hard to express myself clearly or simply. But, it would be nice to be understood, at least sometimes.

Walked with Ro and the dog to Ro’s old school and back, which is 1 1/2 blocks each way. 3 blocks in total. 3 graceless blocks that I’m very grateful for.

In gratitude:
today I walked 3 blocks.
3 graceless blocks.
that’s about 2 more blocks,
than I could walk yesterday
and 2 3/4 more blocks
than the day before that
and the day before that,
the day when my knee firmly decided
that walking was not happening?
3 more blocks than that day.
oh, these simple accomplishments!
so satisfying when noticed,
so taken for granted when ignored.
today, I noticed.
how could I not?

If day four is tedious, day five is dangerous. Feeling a little better, I could try to do too much. Feeling a little more hopeful, I could move beyond the is to the as, turning my actual feelings of pain, swelling, injury into simile or metaphor or life lesson. It would be easy to reduce my injury to a valuable and necessary reminder that I have limits and that I should always pay attention to my body and how I move it in the world. As Foucault says in one of my favorite lines of his: this shift to metaphor isn’t good or bad, it’s dangerous. Metaphor produces distance. A sense of removal. They offer a space to reflect and assess but can also signal a refusal to dwell in the discomfort and to, as Marie Howe explains in her interview with Krista Tippet, “actually endure the thing itself.”

Walked from the car to the studio at a pace that felt slower than a snail. Thinking about the super sprint triathlon I’m supposed to do with Rosie on Sunday. How will I be able to run—or even walk—a mile by then?

Did 15 minutes on the bike in the front room. Watched Alma Ayana, the Olympic champion, dominate the other runners in the 10000 meters at the World Championships. Wow! She lapped about half the field and finished almost a minute ahead of the next racer. My knee was okay. Actually, I enjoyed biking, except for the last few seconds when I felt a sharp pain. Was it my knee letting me know I was done biking?

Knee status: stiff, slight improvement in mobility, walking, but snail slow or sloth slow. A few incidents of my knee buckling without warning. For one of them, I (only slightly) hurt my shoulder and wrist as I braced against the oven to avoid falling. Increasing optimism.

Treatment: Ice knee 3 times for 20 minutes. No ibuprofen, extra beer instead. Try to not take out frustration on others. Watch and sing along to High School Musical 2 with daughter.

august 8/UGH

Knee Injury.

Day Four

Still stiff. Still sore. Still hard to walk. Still using crutches. Well, just one crutch and hardly at all. Am I using a crutch or it, as a crutch?

Not being able to walk that well is getting old. This is the part of an injury that is tedious. The first day, you’re in shock and you don’t care about anything but getting rid of the pain and the feeling that something is in the wrong place. The second day, you’re a bit elated because the pain is gone and everything seems to be in the right place and it looks like you probably won’t have to go to the doctor—at least not yet—and there’s a glimmer of hope that you might not have to spend months recovering. The third day, you can walk, just a few steps, without crutches and even put a little bit of weight on your right leg. You marvel at far you’ve come in just 2 and a half days! But, the fourth day, that’s when the newness and the shock of the injury wear off. You’re improving, but not fast enough. And it’s hard to gauge how much. You’re tired of icing your knee and getting up very carefully and sitting on the couch or the bed or a chair all the time. You want to walk the dog. To not have to drive the 2 blocks for your son’s appointment. To enjoy the summer day. You worry that you’ve misjudged this injury, that it’s serious and that you’re doing more harm than good. You feel restless and lazy.

Ugh, day four, you’re such a bore!

I’d like to craft a ghazal about my injury, but it’s hard to do a ghazal without sounding forced or too cheesy. Not sure I succeeded, but I tried:

The injury happened on Saturday, so it’s only been four days
but even prior to the traumatic event, there had been lots of sore days.

My knee had felt weird, or slipped out of place, or just not right,
but it still worked. That was then, in the before days.

The days before Saturday, when my knee decided it was fed up with marathon training.
Getting up from a chair too quickly, I felt less shocked, more dazed.

I knew that something was wrong, something wasn’t fitting back into place.
I couldn’t stand up straight. And I wouldn’t be able to for days.

Now, it’s Tuesday and I’m recovering. Slowly. Mostly patiently, but it’s hard.
I ask myself, Sara, how long will this last: months or weeks or days?

Went to open swim. Swam only a few strokes but I knew: bad idea. My knee didn’t want to bend and I was worried that I would be in the middle of the lake and get a terrible calf cramp. No thanks. So, I turned around and got out. I can try again on Thursday.

Knee status: still limping. still stiff, but much better. My optimism continues to grow.

Treatment: Continue to get up out of chairs very slowly. To walk slowly. To move slowly. To be slowly.

august 7/Maybe?

Knee Injury.

Day Three

Another day of trying to not do much of anything. So hard not to be active. Luckily, or is it unluckily, I have nowhere to go today. No excuse to mess my knee up more.

My mom was restless too. When her cancer came back, she would pace around the house. Walking in circles for hours. When she started using a walker, one of us would follow behind her, making sure she didn’t fall. When she couldn’t walk anymore, when she couldn’t really move, she would chew gum. Lots of gum.

Can walk without crutches. Still limping. Still awkward. Seems like good progress.

A stiff knee. A restless spirit. A hopeful soul. A stalled imagination.

Limits. Restraints. Reminders. Recalibrations. Adjustments. Accomodations. A rethinking of goals, expectations, demands.

I get it.
Must be careful not to
Injure myself

Yesterday, I didn’t care. Then I believed it was over. Today, I’m not so sure.

Put my bike on the stand and biked for about 12 minutes. Moving the legs feels good. My legs get so still and sore and tight and bored, just like the rest of me.

Gee knee, it’s NOT swell to see you.

After a day of walking around the house and up and down the stairs, both knees are stiff and sore.

Knee status: Stiff, swollen, less painful, awkward, improving. Can bike and walk. Stairs are getting easier. Also can straighten my knee while sitting in bed or on the couch.

Treatment: slow biking, ibuprofen, careful walking, rest, apply ice to reduce swelling, ingest ice cream to reduce swearing, avoid doctor, introduce a measured optimism, sit outside in the sun and watch the latest episode of So You Think You Can Dance live with daughter.

august 6/OH WELL

Knee Injury.

Day Two

Certain immediately. Something wrong. Really wrong. At first, shock. But never denial. Or despair. Just shock. Now, recovery. And adjusting expectations. And acceptance.

Do I move to acceptance too fast? Am I giving up too soon? Will I be able to race with my daughter next Sunday? Will I have to go for another expensive doctor’s appointment? Or physical therapy? Will I be able to run again, even just a 5k at a time?

Confronting the possibility of stopping enables the doubts to creep in. They never enter as enemies, but as friends, bearing gifts: reasonable explanations and justifications for why running a marathon was always a bad idea. Too much time. Too much stress. Too much for my body.

Scott picked up some crutches for me at the store this morning. I’m 43 and I’ve never used crutches before. Never had a broken leg or foot or sprained knee. Lucky.

A crutch is defined in 2 main ways: 1. as a literal object that you brace under your armpit to help you walk and 2. as a metaphor for an unhealthy dependence on something you use to deal with a problem. What’s wrong with a crutch? Why is the metaphorical meaning so negative? Does it reflect a disdain for vulnerability and an over-emphasis on self-reliance?

It’s funny how an injury likes this bothers me more because I can’t walk, then run. Walking is much more essential to my life than running.

Oh, to walk again!

Told daughter I might not be able to race in the triathlon with her next weekend. She asked if she still could. Something clicked. Why not try to do as much of the race as I could? I should be able to swim and bike. Maybe I could walk instead of run? And, maybe I could do that with the marathon too? Walk a lot of it? Have I re-entered denial? Decided that I gave up too soon?

Knee status: stiff and swollen, but without pain.

Treatment: It’s hard to put any weight on it, so I’m using crutches. Icing the knee and taking some Ibuprofen. Getting up slowly. Swearing, if necessary. Avoiding stairs, if possible. Watching a marathon of So You Think You Can Dance with daughter.

august 5/UH OH

Knee Injury.

Day One

Well, it happened. My right knee decided that it had had enough. After days of registering its complaints, it went on strike. Tonight, when I tried to get up from a chair, I couldn’t straighten my knee or put any weight on it. Pain. Not overwhelming, but still. Pain. Was it because I stood up too quickly, not giving it a chance to slowly pop back into place? Is it another bone spur? The same bone spur?

Will I be able to run a marathon? Unlikely, I think. But, maybe. Who cares? All I want is to able to walk again. And to not have another moment when I’m googling how to pop your knee back into place and seriously considering doing it. Or a moment when I have to tell Scott to shut up because he’s just said that “something looks like it’s sticking out wrong.”

Knee status: pain when I try to straighten it and the unsettling feeling that something is not in the right place.

Treatment: google possible problems, then stop because googling problems is almost always a bad idea. Try to calm down. Don’t move. Go to bed early.