Sometimes you need to feel the pain

What the cool kids are wearing. Well, the old dog hockey players, anyway.

I have learned to respect pain. I don’t like it but I understand that I should listen to my body when the pain level ramps up.

My wife has a theory that I’m not truly happy unless I’m carrying some kind of injury, because she believes if I’m not hurting from some contact sport mishap, I don’t feel like I’m young/active/alive. She may or may not have a point. What I do know is that there are aches and there is pain. I know the difference. This is not my first rodeo, as they say.

I spent the last month moving office. Clearing out 20 years of memorabilia, junk, paperwork, stuff. It was emotionally and physically challenging. Lugging many boxes down and up a lot of stairs.

I missed development league hockey at Icy O’Briens for two weeks in a row because moving day was looming. I didn’t play footy. The gym was a forgotten thing. My right knee popped and clicked a few times but seemed okay and so I kept lugging.

The big clean-out, at the top of two flights of stairs. Not knee-friendly.

Finally, it was over and Media Giants’ new office was in shape, and so I headed down to a Wednesday night session of the Bang, the crazy footy collective I’m part of, and I found freedom in chasing a Sherrin on a perfect night. Right up until my right knee started to ache, and then seriously ache. Nothing sharp, nothing dramatic. But sore.

I stopped, had a beer, and drove across town from Albert Park to Fitzroy North, by which stage I’d cooled down and found I could barely walk.

Short story: meniscus tear. ‘Bung but not too bung’ as my physio succinctly put it. No surgery, no reconstruction or anything like that; just ridiculously gentle exercises for my hamstrings, core and other parts of my body that can build up to take some strain off a knee carrying a small painful tear deep within the actual padding of the knee joint.

It sucks, but it is what it is. I’ve had to let this term of dev league slide away, and still can’t run, let alone try to kick a footy. I’ve occasionally stopped wearing a crazy huge knee brace with hinges, which means I can walk more freely, but not always. I’m doing the work, repairing my leg so it doesn’t become a major thing. The knee is still a long way from happy, so I’m listening to it, trying not to overwork it until it’s ready. I’m assuming a day will come when I can run again.

All the boxes. Well, some of them. Up another flight of stairs.

It does mean that I feel wildly removed from my usually active life, though. I missed the Anzac Day Bang, which is always a big annual, family-oriented event. The Red Wings are long gone from the NHL Playoffs, which just hit the second round. My team, the Cherokees, are scattered to the winter winds. I haven’t skated for well over a month, maybe six weeks. I’m an ex-athlete.

Hopefully not for long, and it’s enabled me to dive into other projects that needed my time and attention.

It’s allowed me to put some thinking time into fiction I may or may not ever actually manage to write, and it’s allowed me to read, like an amazing story in the latest Wired magazine, about a man in Longview, Washington, who has a rare genetic condition that means he doesn’t feel pain. It sounds fantastic – he breaks a finger and literally doesn’t feel it, just wraps it in duct tape and moves on – but it’s actually pretty terrible. Because his body suffers the damage, whether he feels it or not.

Imagine if I completely ignored that early pain in my knee, and just kept running, kept booting footys, kept playing hockey. The knee’s damage would get worse and worse, yet I wouldn’t feel a thing. The man, Steven Pete, noticed his left arm and back weren’t working so well and went to the doctor, who did an MRI. It turns out he’d broken three vertebrae in a tubing-on-snow accident eight months before. He’s been walking around with a broken back. His brother, with the same condition, took his own life before he was 30 years old because doctors had explained his inadvertently battered body would probably be in a wheelchair sooner rather than later. Even though he hadn’t felt a thing. Starting to sound a lot less fun.

So listen to your body, is the gist of the article. Respect the pain, including the dull aches. Your body is telling you that something’s wrong and usually it’s fixable if you stop, get advice, and do the work.

At least I hope so.

I’m not ready to be an ex hockey player or footy hack just yet.

 

 

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