Go ahead, roll your eyes. That would be my initial reaction too: “Oh no, here comes the maudlin essay on how suffering through pain strengthened his character, gave him courage and made him a better person blah blah blah.”
That’s not where this is going. Rather, I have more rational reasons for making that headline statement. My experience with knee pain taught me some excellent lessons:
* Doctors aren’t always right.
I had never thought of getting a second opinion before. Now I always consider it, especially if I have a difficult-to-diagnose problem that a doctor could easily get wrong.
* Surgery is often the best option when it’s the last option.
If not for my knee pain saga, I probably would’ve had surgery on my foot a couple of years ago. I had a problem misdiagnosed as Morton’s neuroma. I’m now convinced surgery would have been the wrong thing to do (as it would have been for my knees). Sometimes you need to be patient.
* I learned how to read clinical studies.
This is important. There are many good studies out there, some of which conflict with prevailing thinking in the medical profession. Read them. Figure out what they mean. You'll be glad you did.
* I learned to be skeptical of the “things just wear out” reasoning.
As patients age, doctors tend to be more likely to say, “Oh, that just comes with age.” Sure, some unpleasant changes in your body do come with getting older. But many can be delayed (if not prevented completely) if you take good care of your body.
* You need to be a smart patient because the problems will keep coming, especially as you age.
I’m on the wrong side of fifty now. In the past few years, I’ve had an issue with my foot, with my shoulder, and I expect more parts of my body will ache and complain in the years to come. I need to be smart about evaluating the doctors who evaluate me because there’ll be plenty more.
These are a few reasons why having knee pain was a good thing for me. I still wish I hadn’t gone through it. But it did make me better equipped to go through the rest of my life.