I saw an X-ray of my right knee recently, and the poor cartilage-free joint has so many bone spurs, it needs to go galloping off into the sunset, wearing a jaunty cowboy hat for embellishment. I’ve an old woman’s arthritis, and now, I am walking less and exclaiming in pain more, so guess what?
I’ve scheduled knee-replacement surgery for August, yet another in my collection of unique San Francisco life adventures. Good thing this city has some of the finest physicians in the world, including knee and hip guys, known all over for their work on painful patellae and hobbled hips.
For years, I thought it was because I had strained mine at the gym, injured them on stage, walked too many miles through the concrete caverns of New York — and it may have indeed been the result of all those activities over a period of many decades — but the bottom line is my knees have hurt for a long time.
Especially the right one.
When I moved to this wondrous, walking-centric city six years ago, sure, I had trouble going up and down the steep hills, but figured it would be only a matter of time before my body would get with the program, and I’d be sailing smoothly along the cityscape as easily as I traversed Manhattan for decades.
And I was a gym rat, so any pain I felt, I chalked up to something I pulled at the gym in my rigorous attempts to get in shape. It was bewildering that walking continued to get more difficult as time went on. The pains were minor at first, and I gamely tagged along with friends, never giving a thought to anything going further wrong.
But in the past months, I’ve walked slower and slower, finally annoying my faster walking pals. Stairs have become mountains. And suddenly, my right knee, no matter how much I warm up, is aching all the time. Walking up the Haight is a breathtaking affair. I now want to drive to mail a letter two blocks away. And I come from a long line of walkers. So this is not acceptable.
I took myself, finally, to my sports doctor who’s been taking care of other minor injuries. I thought a few sessions of physiotherapy would mend the problem. But what I saw in the above-mentioned X-rays showed me I’m fighting a losing battle.
This knee isn’t going to fix itself.
So I went to Dr. Peter Callander last week, not knowing what to expect.
Callander had been recommended to me, and studying up on him, I discovered all five-star reviews from extremely satisfied patients.
It was a pleasure to do business with him, this compact, rather elfin looking man who is Peter Callander. Bright eyes, curly hair, a nice smile. Cute. A cute man.
He sort of looked like a bumble bee. Without the stripes.
And speaking of bees, when something is “the bee’s knees,” it means it’s the best thing around. The tops. A shining example of how that thing should be.
A nice, old, sweet expression, to be sure, but wondering how it came into usage, and also trying to imagine if bees even have knees, I researched. Some say it comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (“the be all and the end all of everything,” thus the B’s and E’s); some say it derives from where the flower pollen lies most heavily on the insect’s body.
But one thing I suspect: Those bees don’t get arthritis in their mythical knees — not that I’m an expert on bee ailments. Arthritis is painful and degenerative, and definitely not the bee’s knees.
But back to my new honey of a doctor. As I asked Dr. Callander many questions, he answered all my concerns, but he also cracked wry jokes, like “Well, I usually only replace left knees, but I’ll study on how to do a right knee for your operation.” He also quipped he’d only put one knee on backward in his entire career. He had me laughing; he almost made it sound fun.
So for now, I go to the gym, strengthen the supporting muscles that will help my rather lengthy recovery go as well as it can. I’m also continuing the “mermaid” aqua fitness classes I wrote about months ago. I’m a mermaid with an aching fin, but it feels so much better in the water.
If any of you loyal readers have any experience with knee replacement, I’d love to hear from you. Send me your ideas, suggestions, stories — make me laugh, make me cry with relief, make me glad I made this decision. If you do take the time to entertain me with your tales of knees gone bad, I will think you are just … O.K., I’ll go there … the bee’s knees!