Post-Op Update: Bleed for This

Wow. I’m getting really good at barely writing on even a monthly basis. Oh well. I try. To be fair, I did have surgery #10 last month, and recovery has been a living hell slow going at best.

Before surgery, my surgeon and I talked a lot about what he’d be able to do for my knee on the day of. MRI images (especially images without contrast) only tell part of the story, and we knew that he wouldn’t have a complete picture until he got in there. When he got in there things were bad. Bad with a capital B, bad. After surgery he tried to hold that back, but, despite my Fentanyl high, I pressed.

I need a knee replacement. Not tomorrow, but in the next year or two. I’ll be 34 on my next birthday, and ever since the first time I was told I’d eventually need a total knee replacement (TKR), I dreamed of making it until age 40 without one. Forty is by no means ancient, but it feels like an OK time to have a knee replacement – especially if, like me, you had your first joint replaced at age 14.

My knee surgeon is a sports surgeon with insanely impressive credentials that include a fellowship at Harvard and another fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC where he also served as a team physician to the Mets. But despite his badass background and experience, the condition of my knee left him visibly rattled. I knew I was the first athlete with arthritis he’d ever treated, but it was clear that even he was unprepared to find that level of damage in my 33-year-old knee.

In truth, I was unprepared too. I just thought I had more time.

There’s a lot more that can be said about how utterly fucking miserable this recovery has been, but I don’t have the mental energy to unpack any of that. I’ve documented it in all its raw and unfiltered glory on Instagram, and tonight I’m in no mood to look back.

During a post-op movie binge, Vin and I watched the movie Bleed for This with Miles Teller. It’s the story of Vinny Pazienza – the professional boxer out of Cranston, RI (gotta love a semi-local boy) who made an improbable return to the sport after breaking his neck in a car accident and being told he’d never walk again.

As the story goes, Pazienza ignored doctor’s orders and began lifting weights in his basement – while still in a Halo just months after surgery. As I watched this pivotal scene, I had to fight back tears. Have I ever had a Halo screwed into my skull? No. Have I ever held the parallel bars on either side of me as I learned how to walk again? Yes. Have I ever been told I’d never run let alone walk? Yes. Have I ever been told I’d spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair? Yes. At age 11.


The movie closes with Pazienza giving an interview after returning to boxing and notching an improbable win in what is largely considered the greatest comeback in boxing history.

The reporter asks him, “So what would you say the biggest deception was? What was the biggest lie you were told,” and Teller, as Panzienza, responds plainly, “It is not that simple.”

Reporter: Why not?

Pazienza: No, that is the biggest lie I was ever told. “It is not that simple,” and it is a lie they tell you over and over again.

Reporter: What is not simple?

Pazienza: Any of it. All of it. It is how they get you to give up, they say “It is not that simple.”

Reporter: So what is the truth?

Pazienza: That it is. That if you just do the thing that they tell you, “you cannot” then it is done and you realize it is that simple and that it always was.

So I’ll have a knee replacement. And then, when it is done, I will go back to doing everything they told me I could not. And it will be that simple. It always was.

6 Replies to “Post-Op Update: Bleed for This”

  1. Given how bad the knee is, I would be in an early line, but then again I am a wuss about pain.

    1. As I’ve unfortunately learned from my hip replacements, these metal parts don’t last nearly as long as the 25 years they quote you! So I’d like to hold on to my original parts as long as possible!

  2. Brilliant! It’s what we call “I’ll show the bastards” (genetic in my family). And it’s the only way to live with this damn illness.
    Snarl in the face of it!

    1. I always find our phone conversations so soothing, that it’s hard to imagine you literally snarling at anyone lol! That said, you could teach a master class in metaphorically snarling back at chronic illness! XO

  3. Anna, it may also be the difference between being 30 some and 60. Heck 15 years for a new joint sounds like a lifetime. In fact it likely is the rest of my life so I may have tendancy to get in line ealry. I wish you the very best!!!

  4. Anna I stumbled upon your story tonight and feel your frustration and pain. I was diagnosed with RA 41 years ago. It was possibly triggered by the pregnancy of my 5th child. At the time there were limited meds and I took Prednisone over many years which has wreaked havoc on my body. I have in recent years tried Enbrel, Humira and for the past two years I have been having monthly infusions of toxilumibab and for the first time in my life I have no inflammation. I still have chronic pain from my diseased joints. I had 2 knee replacements 17 years ago and they are just starting to get a bit stiff in the morning but they did change my life and enabled me to walk. I also had an ankle replacement about 13 years ago but it was disastrous and I got septicemia and needed skin and tissue grafts. I had the replacement removed about 5 years ago and had an arthrodesis. Unfortunately I had a late diagnosis for prolapsed discs and am now in a wheelchair with cauda equina syndrome. It has affected my life greatly but I do believe it has made me resilient and given me strength and also I believe it has helped me develop a strong sense of empathy and compassion. I also seem to have developed a black sense of humour. Research has come a long way since I was diagnosed in 1979 and I am sure you will have a good life ahead of you. I have always seemed to find a way to deal with my physical challenges. I cared for my grandchildren as little ones and they seemed to have a sense of my limitations and we found lots of ways to do seemingly impossible things I wish you well and hope life is better for you.

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