Story by Bryony Owen
I have bad knees. I have multiple knee braces, surgery scars, physical therapists and surgeons to prove it.
For a long time, I’ve let my bad knees define who I am.
I’d walk around with a significant limp or a knee brace with so many components it was frustrating just to get it on and I’d hear, “Oh you poor thing, what happened to you?” While this is a nice sentiment and I appreciate people asking how I’m doing and wishing me well, it’s never been something I’ve liked hearing.
Here’s a history of my knee problems:
I had my first knee surgery in 2005 when I was 14 years old. I had just finished my freshman year of high school.
Things were going fine until my junior year.
I was on a spring break trip in Italy – a trip organized by one of my favourite high school teachers. While I was there I was having the time of my life; what could be better than 10 days visiting Rome, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and the Vatican? Towards the end of the trip we were in a tiny little town full of cobblestone streets. Sounds idyllic, right? My knee didn’t think so.
When we got back from the trip I went to my doctor and was referred to an orthopedic surgeon for some answers. After many tests, scans, and a variety of treatments, I had the second surgery on my left knee in November 2007 to treat synovial plica. I won’t bore you all with the details, but that seemed to solve the problem.
Until it didn’t.
I was a freshman in college when I started getting pain in the same knee again. After a couple of months of hoping it would go away I made an appointment to see my surgeon again.
More tests ensued (x-rays, MRIs, even a body scan). In December of 2009 I had my third surgery to release a ligament in my knee that was preventing my kneecap from tracking correctly.
Apparently my other knee felt left out.
Early summer 2012 I (being the klutz that I am) stepped in a hole. I didn’t think anything of it until later in the day when I had a nagging pain in my knee. An MRI didn’t conclusively show anything so I had some rounds of physical therapy and other treatment. When that didn’t work it was decided I’d have my fourth surgery in January 2013. I was given a 6-9 month recovery time and both my doctor and I were very optimistic.
Three months into physical therapy and I got yet another weird pain in my knee in the same location as before. I went back to my doctor who thought some rest would be the answer.
I tried supports in my shoes, pool therapy, more physical therapy, novocaine and cortisone shots. Absolutely nothing worked.
I was referred to another doctor who looked at everything and he didn’t have any answers either.
I went back to the doctor who performed my surgery and he suggested PRP – a treatment in which they take blood, spin and separate it and inject the plasma into the injured site, regenerating the tissue.
That didn’t work either.
My doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong. The poor man tried so, so hard and he was just as frustrated as I was. Together we came to the conclusion that he had done all he could for me, so I was referred back to the doctor who performed two of the three surgeries on my other knee. After speaking to my other doctor, looking at my MRIs and doing a few other tests, he decided the problem was likely an abundance of scar tissue. I (along with my parents) thought the best course of action would be to remove the scar tissue so January of this year I went in for my fifth surgery where my doctor scraped out the scar tissue and removed the sutures from my previous surgery.
I’m rehabbing now and am hopeful this will be the last surgery I have to have for a long, long time.
Based on that, you can probably understand why I let me bad knees define me. Years and years of doctors appointments, physical therapy and various other treatments led me to a point where I believed my bad knees were one of my defining points.
It wasn’t really until Taylor asked me to write this “I Have, Not I Am” piece that I came to the conclusion that my knees don’t define me.
Yes, I have bad knees but there is so much more to me than that.
Here’s what I am:
a daughter, sister, friend, sports fanatic, baker, cook, food blogger, recipe developer, proud English girl. These are the things that define me; things that when I’m asked to describe myself go deeper than saying “Well, I’m tall, have brown hair/eyes and bad knees.” I might have bad knees, but I’m no longer letting that define me.
I want to be defined by the person that I am, not the physical limitations I currently have.
Come back tomorrow for the next piece of the “I have, not I am” series.
If you would like to share your story of “I have, not I am,” feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org