The Daily Grind

I’ve had creaky knees since I was a teenager. I worked a lot of construction jobs starting age 11: carrying bricks, climbing ladders, doing shingles and roofing, mixing mud with a spade in a trough and carrying it in 5-gallon plastic buckets up ladders. My knees started popping and groaning by the time I was 18. I was also a cross country and indoor and outfield track athlete in high school, and continued distance running for fitness into my early 40s, when my right knee began to protest more urgently, resulting in a few long lay-offs from cardio work.

Early this past spring, however, I felt fit enough to start running and biking a bit. I was doing very short runs, between 2 and 3 miles at a pop, and it felt good. My knees were fine and supple, and I was doing Tai Chi regularly.

Then, in Prague in July, I walked up to the castle on consecutive days and something in my right knee started grinding together. Awful, unspeakable pain, like a bolt of nauseating yellow green flashing behind my eyes. No biking, no running, no Tai Chi for the last month. I can barely walk up stairs without the possibility that my right knee might buckle and send me gasping against the railing.

So on Friday I had the pleasure of my first MRI scan. I can understand why people have panic attacks in that space-age cylinder–the vibrations, the whirring, the clicks, pops, and snaps, the strange digital display with its string of count-downs, the imperative to stay completely still–all this could try the most stoic of souls. Fortunately I’m even more stoic than the most stoic of souls, but 30 minutes was a long time to endure even for me.

I’ll get the results next week. My GP thinks I have a torn meniscus. I’m hoping it’s something I can get fixed and do a little physical therapy on before the SoWeBo Landmark 5k this October. But I have my doubts.

Unfortunately when I can’t get vigorous cardio 3 or 4 times a week I tend to become morbidly withdrawn and depressed. The past month I’ve been moping around the house listening to the creaking in my joint, and favoring it as I move around is starting to stress the hip and knee in my other leg. Maybe it’s time to switch to some gentle machine, like one of those oscillating bike/step-climber morphs? Ugh. Aging is for the birds!

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