Living With A Chronic Injury

 

I have no idea why, but whilst I was lying in bed feeling sorry for myself (thanks to the flu), I felt an overwhelming need to write this blog post. I love it when that happens, the need to write, to be creative, it’s not even like I’m thinking it, it’s like I’m just a tool to write it all down, whatever the reason, it’s necessary that right this second, I put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) and get these words down.

You may already know this, but my name is Hannah Cluley and I have a chronic knee injury. What does that mean? In my particular case, it means that the tear to my meniscus (or tears pl. should I say) won’t heal, ever. At least not fully anyway, I won’t ever have a normal and healthy meniscus again. If you’re sciencey, this is an article that addresses degenerative menisci (what I have though, is usually found in people of 60+, so mine is early onset). Anyway, the general consensus is, for the time being, after two surgeries (the first to repair my meniscus, which failed), the second to remove half of it and repair the rest (probably won’t work but worth a shot!), is that my mensical health will never be what it should be. What does this mean? I am pretty lucky at the moment, at 8 months post partial meniscectomy and meniscal repair, I have very little pain in my day-to-day life, apart from the degenerative meniscus (my lateral meniscus in my right knee for anyone curious), my knee is in good health, has full range and mobility, and I can do everyday things pretty unscathed.

I used to be a runner (100m and 200m sprinter) and netballer at school. I loved netball, like genuinely loved it! I was never going to get to a super league, or be a professional in either sport, but I really enjoyed both. Naturally I’d say I was pretty athletic growing up, perhaps a bit lazy, but I carried on playing netball until 2015 before my first surgery, and whilst I didn’t carry on with the running, I liked to go for a jog every now and then. In 2015 I started training and going to the gym fairly regularly, and after my first knee operation and post-op recovery, I did plyometric circuit training regularly. However since knee op number 2, and the evidence that my meniscus probably isn’t going to heal, I’ve been warned by my surgeon not to run or do high impact training, so sayonara netball! I tend to play it down, but the premise of not being able to play netball again, not being able to run and catch that ball ever again, is very very shit. I think a fair few people in my position would probably ignore the doctor’s orders and carry on, people do that all the time. But I feel like I can’t fuck about with my knee. Like… it’s my KNEE. It carries me everywhere, it’s a madly complicated joint and it is so integral to just living a regular human life. In 40 years, I assume (God willing) I’ll still be here, and I might have grandchildren or maybe even just a dog who deserves for me to be able to walk, play around, be mobile. I also really like to dance, and knees are pretty integral to dancing. So yes, whilst it is rather shite that netball, a sport I love and feel so amazing playing, is off the table, the bigger picture is more important to me. That’s one of the worst things about a chronic injury, not being able to do something you love ever again.

Another sucky thing, is people thinking that you did this to yourself. The first question people ask is, ‘how did you do it?’ Aka ‘What did YOU do to YOURSELF’, actually pal… I didn’t do anything! I was born with mensical cartilage that was degenerative… the word ‘injury’ here is deceptive. I have injured myself before, loads, and I take full responsibility for not warming up properly or wearing inappropriate shoes in those cases, but just being born a certain way, and having to explain that to people, when they ask about an injury that they already have a preconceived idea about, is very irritating, to the point where sometimes I actually just say ‘netball’, which is totally counter intuitive but whatever! My favourite comment on Instagram to date, was someone saying ‘maybe you wouldn’t have been injured if you didn’t workout so much ;)’ as you can imagine, they got a proper telling off!

Being chronically injured, and spending a good portion of the past two years with a knee that’s healing from surgery, learning how to walk again (twice), and being temporarily disabled (if this is any way offensive or politically incorrect I apologise but I can’t think of a better way to say it), you become hyper aware of your body and what it does on a day to day basis. Running up stairs to get something you forgot, taking a big step off a train, jumping up and down when you’re excited or something random… all of these things, you become very aware of and I am always analysing how my various joints and muscles are feeling. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, but, sometimes it does make me anxious. Some kid was aimlessly cycling on the pavement the other day, and I genuinely felt anxious, what if he crashes into me? In reality I probably would have been fine, but had it been 3 months ago? He could have ruined my knee (even more). In case you’re wondering I had a few words with him and he was an arrogant little punk and it confirmed to me that I will one day be that retired person shouting at ‘youths’.

So so far I have listed the negatives. There are other negatives, like when I lock my knee randomly and I get excruciating pain for about 10 seconds, or the fact that I may need a knee replacement fairly soon, but I think I’ve touched on that enough. Let’s get to some positives, because let’s face it, you probably didn’t come here to read about me moaning. I’m not sure if you noticed, but in the second paragraph of this, I used the words ‘I am pretty lucky’, now to some, the words ‘luck’ and ‘chronic knee injury’ might not seem to go together, but I really think they do, for me at least. Having a knee injury has not only made me aware of how incredibly my body is, in terms of healing and coping physically with an imbalance, but also that it could be much, much worse. I still have a leg, I can still walk for an extended period of time, I don’t need a crutch or a stick, I don’t have a limp, I still get to workout every day and stay active. When you’ve been through not walking, and being in pain every time you move your leg a certain way, that is invaluable. I honestly feel like my body is amazing, it can do so much, and it supports me every single second, which we often don’t even think about, but it’s truly a miracle!

Through my knee injury and not being able to workout in the way that I previously would have, I started practicing yoga, and have since fallen in love with it, and am now planning on doing my yoga teacher training starting in a few weeks. I am also currently doing a Personal Trainer course and will be qualified very soon. So despite all of the above bad things, my life has actually changed so much and I think a lot of it has to do with my mental attitude and how it’s evolved because of my injury. I am not sure I would be the person I am right this second if I hadn’t gone through what I have gone through, and that makes all the negatives seem really minute and unimportant. The chronic injury has already been a catalyst to so many amazing things, and it has also made me more aware of time, it’s made me more spontaneous, I rely a lot less on what the future holds because I genuinely have no clue what will happen in one year’s time, as because I have no clue and also zero control, I am just going with the flow and not being scared of taking leaps of faith that I may never have done before. I also like to this with both this blog and my Instagram account @hannahrosefit, I have been able to help others in a way I never would have been able to. Other people with injuries or who are having surgery can see that hey! this random girl in London is still staying fit, active and healthy despite having a messed up knee… maybe my knee/hip/ankle/shoulder injury isn’t so bad after all, if she can… I can too! And that is above all one of the best things to have come from my injury, helping others see that an injury isn’t a life sentence, it’s just something we learn to live with and actually may grow to appreciate! And how bloody marvellous is that?!

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