Sunday, August 29, 2010


Your knees will never get better.

I remember the moment the orthopedic doctor said that. It was after I had dropped into a squat from a standing position, as if I were sitting in an invisible chair, and both of my knees produced the loud, wet, crunching noise of significant cartilage damage. It was after I had told him, with passionate earnestness, that I was prepared to do anything to get better -- anything.

And he told me, flat out, that there wasn't anything I could do.

I know what he was probably doing. This was my second visit to him, separated by many months, and there I was, complaining of the same knee pain as before. I had seen a physical therapist for months, to no avail. I had tried glucosamine sulfate; it didn't work. I had tried, it seems, everything I could -- but nothing helped. My knees still hurt much of the time.

Faced with this set of facts, he probably put on what he thought was his truthteller hat. He probably saw me as not so much determined, but rather stubborn and deluded. When I dropped into that squatting position, and he heard the awful noise my joints made, he didn't say anything. But he was probably thinking: Those knees are beyond saving. They won't get better.

So he said as much.

I can remember how depressing that felt, to be told there was no hope. Luckily, I didn't accept his verdict. I decided to wage this fight on my own, and after a couple of years, I emerged the winner, with a pair of knees that now feel as normal as before.

But being robbed of hope, even if only briefly ... that's something I'll never forget. I realize there is a time for a good medical doctor to disabuse a patient of his or her unrealistic expectations. But having bad knees isn't like having a body overrun with terminal cancer. Bad knees can be coaxed back to good health.

Hope is powerful medicine. I won't say that hope healed me. I had a program of action, and I cleaved to it as if my life depended on it (and maybe it did). But having hope, the promise that next month would be better, and the month after that better still -- that was what sustained me through some gloomy times.

A real, lasting recovery is not fast. It is slow, slow, slow. But on that long journey, you'll need your hope, shining bright, to help you see the way.

1 comment:

  1. I'm guessing you inspire more than you know.