You’re only as healthy as your weakest body part.
For years it was my lower back. It could seize up if I so much as leaned the wrong way while shaving.
I blamed our mattress. Everyone blames their mattress. How else could all those mattress stores stay in business?
My suspicion was way off base. My back ached because my “core” was weak. Long-stem roses had stronger cores than I.
Once Cheryl and I began doing home exercises, I toughened up. My back hasn’t screamed in over two years.
In early December my next-most-weakest body part failed me: my left knee.
This knee has had its problems, but I judged this latest flare-up — a tiny pain — to be nothing of consequence. I made the mistake of jogging on it for 10 miles. Suddenly, “nothing” became something.
December, January and February — I did not jog. The knee did not heal. I had what I would call a chronic condition.
I walked tentatively, as if equipped with an artificial limb that I hadn’t yet figured out. During a January low point, I could be seen dragging my left leg down Berkeley’s Fourth Street, in pain, while Cheryl shopped for home furnishings.
Mommy, what’s wrong with that man?
I began taking 1,200 mg of ibuprofen daily. The ibu knocked down the discomfort, but never for long.
To accommodate my nagging pain, I pared back my activities. Giving up jogging was just the beginning. There were no more after-work walks, no more weekend walks, no downtown Napa walks, no Oxbow walks.
I feared this was the end of me. With each passing day I was losing cardiovascular fitness, my muscles were atrophying. If this kept up, soon I would be an old man.
Enough with the ibuprophen, Cheryl said. She recounted having had a sore elbow for an entire year. When she finally got a shot of cortisone, she was instantly cured. Cortisone can do miracles, she said.
In February I relented and made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. Why a surgeon? I wanted to keep my options open. Maybe he’d recommend cortisone. Maybe he’d want to give me an artificial knee.
Seriously, I was prepared for anything.
My knee got X-rayed every which way. Then the doctor laid on hands and twisted and pulled. Feel this? he asked. Feel that?
I feel nothing, doctor.
He pointed to an intimidating wall chart of the human knee and all its parts. It’s probably not this, this or that, he said. Betting it was worn cartilage, he offered cortisone.
I’d planned to say yes, but at the last second I balked. I’d done a little reading about cortisone, a steroid hormone otherwise known as 17α,21-dihydroxypregn-4-ene-3,11,20-trione. It seemed perfectly fine, but ...
Most people would beg for cortisone after three months of knee dysfunction, the doctor said.
I went home with a recommendation to begin taking a “therapeutic dose” of ibuprofen — for my body size, that meant 2,400 mg daily. I popped pills for 12 straight days, even getting up in the middle of the night to stick to my every-six-hours schedule.
The knee discomfort disappeared, but not really. One little test walk and it came back.
My obstinacy crumbled. I went in and got my shot.
In an instant the pain was gone. I mean gone! The next day I jogged a mile. Two days after that a mile and a half. My defective left knee worked perfectly. There was seemingly nothing it couldn’t do.
The cortisone shot helped my knee AND my attitude. Suddenly I was in a state of bliss. Everything seemed sweeter. My job, my wife, the very act of climbing out of bed in the morning. When I resumed walking with Cheryl, I held her hand.
Cortisone, I sing your praise.