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How I Healed Myself

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I have a very cool, albeit slightly double-edged, thing to tell you guys today.

You might already know that I’ve had a lot of knee surgery – three rounds, in fact – to repair them after I had an accident in 2007 that brought on something called patellofemoral dysplasia – in English, that means your kneecaps dislocate for no reason at all.

Well – officially, there’s no reason.

If I’d listened better to what the doctors were telling me at the time, I’d have acted on the fact that my condition would’ve been made a hell of a lot easier to treat if I wasn’t morbidly obese.

Anyway, that means my knees are pretty much made of sticks and glue (or, rather, metal) now. I’ve got bits of hamstring holding together bits of kneecap, and I’ve got a bunch of metal in my shins to keep my knee moving in the right direction. There’s only so long they could guarantee that surgery would last for, given my weight – and before I started my second wave on this programme earlier this year, my kneecap was starting to dislocate again. Meaning more surgery – sooner, to fix the dislocations, and later, when the metalwork eventually wore out and had to be replaced.

Given that this type of metalwork has a shelf life of around 20-30 years, that’d mean at least two or three knee replacement style surgeries on each side, assuming I lived to a ripe old age.

Pretty grim, I’m sure you’ll agree. But I just thought that was one of those things you just have to put up with. Fine.

If you’re following me on Twitter, you might’ve noticed that over the last couple of months, I’ve been complaining of pain in my knee again. I thought it might’ve been bursitis caused by overuse, or just an inevitable side effect of my slightly dodgy knees – but it has definitely been inhibiting me a tad. Mostly in yoga, where I’m fine until I have to kneel – and then it aches. Really aches.

So, I’ve been worrying about it.

I took myself to the GP, and they sent me off to a surgeon who’d be able to take a look at it.

And guess what?

I don’t need my metalwork any more.

In fact, my body outright does not want it in there.

My muscles and bones are now so much stronger through following this programme – what with its healthy, balanced diet and combination of resistance training and low-impact walking – that I no longer need the massive hunks of metal holding my kneecaps in place. They’re fixed.

The fact that the surgeon was amazed at the range of movement, strength, and lack of pain I experienced when he was testing my knee out – or rather, playing what I can only assume is the medical version of Pong with my patella – was awesome for me. He was almost as delighted as I was when I found out pea and mint hoummous is a thing. I’m used to disappointing doctors, and usually I’m braced for bad news because I do seem to have a remarkable ability to injure myself in unexpected ways – so this was a whole new experience.

Alas, this does now mean another surgery to take that metal out – 7th November is D-Day, so you can expect me to be very, very whiny around that time – but I’m sure you’ll agree, that’ll be totally worth it to get rid of the pain that, ironically, the unnecessary metalwork is now causing.

I’m fixed. After tibial tubercle transfers, lateral releases, patellofemoral ligament reconstructions and loads of other things I cannot fathom how to spell, it turns out the thing I needed to do to cure myself was just walk, build muscle, and eat right.

I cannot stress this enough. I was totally in denial about my weight when I had the surgeries before – and I know there are a lot of people out there who need them for reasons other than that – but 6 months ago, I was experiencing dislocations again, even after the ops. Now, I’m practically skipping, because my skeleton and my muscles aren’t doing the equivalent of trying to lift a car using cocktail sticks. Everything is in balance.

So if you’re overweight, and you’re experiencing joint pain, I’d say please, please give this a shot before you go and have surgery. Because I definitely could’ve avoided at least a few of the procedures I’ve had – and having the surgery reversed seems a lot like a pointless exercise knowing I could’ve avoided having it done in the first place.

Because – as I said in this article I wrote for MindBodyGreen – a lot of the time, the reason pain inhibits us so much is because it’s a psychological strain, as much as a physical thing. It’s really, really hard to comprehend that when you’re suffering it – lord knows people told me that when I was struggling to even get out of bed, and I’d want to beat them over the head repeatedly with a crutch.

But the fact that I’ve come so far physically has meant that psychologically, I’m a lot stronger too. I know I can cope with pain, and I know I can do what I have to do to get through it – within reason. I’m not advocating pushing yourself beyond your limits – I haven’t touched a weight in a week because I’ve been resting a slightly strained shoulder – but there’s a strong chance, in every situation, you’re stronger than you think.

I don’t want to sound like a crazy saleswoman again – but I never, ever in my wildest dreams could’ve thought, when I started on this programme two years ago, that I’d be having this metal taken out of my legs and not replaced with something else. It’s amazing to me that something as huge as this can come from something so simple – and that’s why I’m so eager to share it. You can probably tell this has been something of a high-enthusiasm-haven’t-even-stopped-for-breath post – but I am fixed now. I’ve seen improvements on the scales, in my clothes, and in my overall wellbeing – but this is absolute proof of how much of a difference this sort of programme can make to your health in ways you don’t even expect.

Frankly, I’m pretty damn impressed.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Susi 22 September, 2012

    You are so amazing! You should be so so so so proud of yourself, well done. Xx

  • comment avatar Laura 23 September, 2012

    Hello
    I’m setting at home nursing my left leg after having partial knee replacement surgery on it 9/9/12 and was surfing the net and came across your site. I was very fit in 2008 until I dislocated my right ankle and broke both bones in that leg. I have put on 110 lbs in the following years and had to have the knee surgery and the doctor says the right knee needs one too. I had acl repair on the right knee about 15 yrs ago.
    I am now up to 280lbs at 5’9” and 51yrs old and I can’t stand myself. I too have done (or should I say tried) yoga several times only to say it’s too hard or its not working. As soon as I can start walking again without the walker I want to start walking around my apartment complex to start. I’m going to follow your blog in hopes that it will help me, encourage me to continue.
    If you can give me any hints or words of encouragement I would greatly appreciate it. All my family and friends don’t understand how I feel and why I have stopped doing everything. My friends no longer call me to do things because I just say no. It’s hard to enjoy yourself when you can’t breathe and you’re all sweaty just trying to get dressed, no need to wear makeup when it’s all going to sweat off as soon as you walk outside to get to your car. As for camping that’s not happening I can hardly get out of the chair I know I wouldn’t be able to get up out of a sleeping bag, and I will not put on a swimsuit to go floating.
    I read what you have accomplished and it inspired me to not give up and try. If you can recommend a yoga cd that isn’t too hard on the knees please do so. Thank you for sharing you story, I really needed to read it.

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 23 September, 2012

      Hi Laura,

      I can’t tell you how much it moved me to read your comment – purely because when I wrote this post, you were exactly the sort of person I was hoping would read it. The situation you’re in now reminds me so much of my own two years ago, but it’s possible to turn it around – no matter how desperate it might seem right now.

      I’d recommend the Crunch Fat Burning Yoga video as a good starting point (as much as it sounds horrific – it really isn’t!) I’m not sure it’s even available in any format but VHS any more, but someone’s put it on Youtube in four parts here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgVR0Eih9MI

      The absolutely crucial thing is to go at your own pace. Only do the poses that you think you can do – I know even with that video, I was only doing a selection of the poses for a long time. Mostly just the forward folds (with a chair close by, in case I needed to grab hold of something), and downward dogs! Yoga alone didn’t heal my knees, but in combination with other things I was amazed how rapidly I progressed. If you can walk around, even using your walker, it’ll help to increase your cardiovascular fitness – even if you can just do ten minutes at first, and try to add a couple of minutes each day, it’ll make a huge difference.

      I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but one of the main things I found when my knees were bad was that the fear of falling was so great, I’d find myself tensing up whenever I tried to do anything, which would only ever end up making things worse. My balance was totally shot, so I was at a higher risk of falling anyway! If I can give you one tip, it’s to try to relax into it and focus on the fact that you absolutely can do it – because once that ‘clicked’ for me, everything suddenly became a lot easier. Confidence is a big thing when you’re dealing with a mobility issue like that, but if you can overcome the doubts and know that you’re doing something really, really positive – changing your life, in fact – it does get easier. And not just psychologically – it’ll get easier all round the more you do it!

      Hope this helps you, Laura – and please do get in touch if you have any questions I can help with, because I know how hard it is to be in your situation. Best of luck!

  • comment avatar Rebecca 23 September, 2012

    I am very, very happy for you! I have a similiar problem, and have been told I will need a knee replacement. At the moment my knee makes a horrible grinding, crunching sound whne I bend it, its really embarrasing when going up and down stairs! I am changing my lifestyle, and hope this helps my knee amongst other things. I love your blog, truly inspirational and extremely helpful!

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 23 September, 2012

      I know the grinding crunching sound all too well! I still have it from time to time when I’ve been walking less – I’ve had cartilage removed from there a couple of times to try to stop it, but the only thing that’s really made it go has just been walking, and walking, and walking.

      Hopefully a lifestyle change will make as big a difference to your knee, as well as everything else – thank you so much for sharing!

      Katie x

  • comment avatar Melissa 11 October, 2012

    Thank you for all of your great stories and inspiration. I am at the heaviest I have ever been and I’m finding it difficult to stay motivated, but this blog helps.
    Keep up the good work!

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