recently, there has been a slew of questions about my total knee replacement surgery last April. how was the surgery? what preparations were made? what was recovery like? what tips can i share? so i thought i would repost the original blog post from April 2020, where i spoke in-depth about total knee replacement surgery after 50.
the story starts about eighteen months ago after opens in a new windowmr. style was diagnosed with liver cancer. he had just finished two rounds of radiation to slow its progress. it was a challenging summer with lots of trips to Atlanta to see the specialists, have the treatments, recuperate, and give mr. style a bit of tlc. but above all, we tried to live our lives as normally as possible because we knew every day was precious. honestly, when you’re going through a trial, you’re just putting one foot in front of the other each day, so you don’t even realize the stress you’re going through.
but one very ordinary day after the radiation treatments were behind us, i stepped out of the shower and noticed my ankle was swollen. had i twisted it? banged it on a chair? it was definitely swollen like a balloon, but i couldn’t remember doing anything out of the ordinary to injure it. odd and perplexing, to say the least.
a trip to the Orthopedist was soon schedule but turned up nothing. the x-rays from both knees and ankles came back perfectly normal. so the Dr. turned me over to a Rheumatologist for more tests. mr. style and i knew the Rheumatologist well as he had been treating mr. style for psoriatic arthritis since our arrival in Athens. needless to say, i was in good hands.
a battery of blood tests came back with negative results for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and a string of auto-immune diseases. are inconclusive tests good? bad? they’re somewhat frustrating. but one thing was clear. the tests showed my inflammation was off the charts. and though my swollen ankle finally subsided, the joint pain had just begun to creep into every bone of my body. there came a time when the pain was so severe i could barely get out of bed. all i could think about was that i needed to take care of mr. style, not the other way around. there had to be something i could do to help myself.
modern medicine intervened, along with a comprehensive medical plan from my Rheumatologist. soon i was taking daily doses of prednisone with a weekly dose of methotrexate. hallelujah! the pain slowly subsided, and i was able to resume normal activities again. but the doctor privately shared how worried he had been because my inflammation levels had been so very, very high.
so how and why was my body turning against itself? because that’s exactly what happens with inflammation. your body is getting mixed signals and begins to attack itself. i was already on my fitness journey in 2018 with opens in a new windowFaster Way to Fat Loss and had started to learn more and change my nutrition habits. i can’t emphasize enough how fitness begins with food. how food and nutrients keep our bodies strong. how it acts like medicine. how nutrients that come from spinach, broccoli, salmon, eggs feed our bodies and keep us healthy. and so on and so forth. i devoured books about inflammation and how your diet can impact it. i learned the importance of supplements that fill in the gaps that food alone can’t fill. but above all, i listened to my gut – the microbiome that keeps our body and mind humming in tip-top shape. it’s an entire community of immune system cells living in your gut that are the gatekeepers fighting off harmful bacterias and viruses from penetrating your gut wall.
when 2018 turned into 2019, i was ready. ready to slowly wean me from the medication prescribed by my Rheumatologist. the prednisone was first. followed by methotrexate several months later. but i still relied on tylenol or ibuprofen to ease the pain. my plan was working. nutrition was working and the supplements too. i had the energy and the resources to take care of mr. style, which had been my prayer all along.
total knee replacement after 50
so that’s a bit of backstory. but how and why did i need a total knee replacement? well, by mid-2019, my right knee began to deteriorate. i had trouble taking oscar for his daily walks, stairs became a challenge, and i couldn’t get up and down from a chair without the aid of my hands. very troubling for a woman who had been active and exercising her entire life. the symptoms crept in slowly then picked up speed. during this time, i suffered another trauma that put my health on the backburner. in July of 2019, mr. style lost his battle with liver cancer. now there were other priorities to take care of besides a deteriorating knee. my mental health and that of my children were of utmost importance. the knee could wait. and it did, although it continued to deteriorate.
fast forward to January 2, 2020, when i headed back to the Orthopedist for a check-up. guess what? the x-rays came back and revealed that my right knee that had been perfectly normal in August 2018, was now bone-on-bone. no wonder i couldn’t go up and down the stairs, had to forego Orange Theory workouts, and a Peloton ride consisted of rotating my legs, not working them to the max.
needless to say, my doctor encouraged me to consider a total knee replacement. i was definitely on the road of no return. once the damage has been done to a joint, the damage is done. after a few weeks of contemplation, i was on board. let’s schedule the surgery to coincide with my schedule. there were three conferences i would be attending in the next few months (all of which were canceled), so we finally coordinated a date to pencil in on my calendar.
icing your knee several times a day for the first two weeks is key to your recovery. along with the at-home exercises your physical therapist gives you. there are two things you have to remember after knee replacement surgery: straighten the knee and bend the knee. sounds simple right? oh, how i wish it were.
off to visit the physical therapist with my walker. don’t wean yourself off the walker too soon as it helps you keep an even gait. if you transition to a cane too early in the recovery process, it’s far too easy to develop a limp. rotating between the walker and cane should do the trick.
recovery after total knee replacement after 50
here i am post-surgery, sharing my tale with you that a health setback can be challenging, but there’s hope. it takes a lot of hard work, lots of research, listening to medical advice, but always knowing that you are your own best advocate in any scenario that you’re given in life. the good news is that i’m now on the road to recovery. and i’ll be sharing lots more of my meal plans, workouts, and health tips that i incorporate to live a healthy and vibrant life. and i want to encourage those who have had similar health setbacks that there’s hope. but it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. and i’m lucky that there was a solution to my dilemma thanks to advances in our healthcare.
three days after surgery. the first glimpse of my knee.
a few of the machines my physical therapist uses to
torture rehabilitate me.
so far, the bike has been my biggest challenge. that first full rotation is a mental and physical victory!
waiting at the Dr.’s office to get my staples out.
on the road to recovery. two weeks post-surgery, and the staples are gone for good.
what’s next after total knee replacement after 50
as i said, there’s work to be done from here on out to regain the vibrant life i once had. but i’m ready to hit my home gym, lift those weights, hop on the Peloton for a sweaty spin class, and top it all off with Pilates when they reopen. i’ll check in with you from time-to-time to share my progress, workouts, and a few healthy meals as i’m truly back on course for a healthy and happy life. let me know in the comments how you lead an active life. we can all learn from each other during the good times and the bad. right?! knowledge is power.
update one year later
i can remember my Orthopedist and physical therapist telling me that a full recovery from total knee replacement surgery takes a full year to eighteen months! but it’s true. while you will be feeling great six weeks out from surgery, there are still milestones to achieve. my first walk with oscar took place three months after surgery. and i wore a pair of heels about a month or so after that. now that i’m back in the gym full time, i can do lunges and squats again, but i still have a ways to go with my flexibility. after surgery, my gait was off due to compensating for my bad knee prior to surgery. now that i have two working knees, i have worked hard to regain my posture and gait with the help of Pilates and a Chiropractor session to realign my spine. now, i’m now exploring Rolfing, which reorganizes your fascia or connective tissue. it’s all about freeing the body from pain, stiffness, and restrictions by addressing long-term holding patterns and fundamental problems that you may not even be aware of, bringing balance and ease back to the body. it’s pretty a-ma-zing!
this is what my knee looks like March 2021. what a beautiful scar!
for those of you heading off to total knee replacement surgery after 50 this year, good luck! it will be the best thing you have done for yourself. your vibrant life will be waiting for you after surgery. mine was.