Foot Surgery

As if a replacement knee wasn’t enough, I had to have foot surgery a year later. Graphic images warning: if you dislike scars and stitches, proceed with caution. Note: the painted toes above are BEFORE surgery – thought a scary pic was not a good opening pic!

There was a bit of a story to it: innocent little me asked the knee surgeon to remove a couple of annoying ganglion cysts on top of the bunions while he had me under for the knee. Seemed logical to me, I was going to be asleep, he’d have a scalpel or two lying around!

He was horrified. Knee guys, I discovered, do not touch feet – at least not at the same time as fiddling with knees. Infection control. Fair enough, keeps me safe! So off I went to see a foot guy.

Engineering comes into play here. The surgeons prefer to go down the leg – so hips, then knees and lastly feet. But yes, my feet needed some surgical intervention. Foot refurbishment was his jocular phrase to my physician. I liked the term, but I’m assured it isn’t actually a medical term.

The plan, therefore, was to wait until I’d had the second knee done. However, the second knee recovered relatively well from the strain of the extra load during recovery from the first knee surgery, while the big toes were not so happy. The ganglion cysts had faded, but would most likely come back if the feet weren’t refurbished. So the decision was made to fix the feet before the second knee (which might last for a couple of years if I’m lucky). At this point I was just having the bunions (on big toes) and bunionettes (on little toes) corrected (which would remove the driver for the ganglion cysts). Unfortunately, I needed to change surgeons prior to the surgery and the new surgeon had a whole different plan of attack.

First step was an MRI of my left foot to confirm his suspicions. Yes, my big toes needed a “fusion of hallux” (fusion of the 1st MTP joint) and there was a cyst drilling a hole in my metatarsal bone. Oh. That needed a bone graft. OH.

It seems that just like my knee, where there had been a cyst dissecting my popliteus muscle, here was another cyst only this time it was attacking my bone. The osteoarthritis and the psoriatic arthritis had found another place in my body to have a party, it seems. Together, they are more destructive than alone, I am learning.

He also wants to replace my ankles, but that is a story for another day. One step at a time!

Preparation was very similar to the knee replacement preparation, so I won’t go through it all again. Had the same physician, Dr M, who is a darling. ECG, bloods, etc etc.

So on May 6, 2021 I arrive at the hospital at 6 am.

Waiting for the action

Just for later comparison, here are my toes before surgery – as you can see there is no gap between my big toe and the second toe. But this is not nearly as misaligned as some photos I have seen.

Before the action

What I woke up to was this view of my feet! The pink stuff is the antiseptic wash they use in theatre and my feet are elevated. For the first two weeks, the feet are elevated 23 hours a day. ONE hour a day “feet down” is permitted for toilet privileges. Shower with the feet bagged. So the pink stuff stays, really. All weight is through the heels when walking, no rolling of the foot at all. No toeing off! No driving. There is never any driving.

After the action – duck feet as protection

This is what I now have in my big toes. There was discussion about these prior to my going into theatre. I wanted to know if they are actually this pretty blue colour. While the surgeon looked at me as if I was from outer space, the surgical Fellow assured me yes, they are. It is an important detail. I refer to these as my toe jewellery. The bone graft to fill the hole drilled by the cyst was synthetic bone – yes, I asked that question too.

Apparently, I also have screws in my little toes now, I only found that out at my six week post-op review.

Of course I had nail polish and lippy on as soon as I was allowed – it was a whole THREE days before I was allowed nail polish! Naturally it matches my PJs – well, that pair, anyway.

The anaesthetist, the physician and the surgeon had all warned me that post operative pain management can be difficult with feet, so I had mentally prepared myself. Although I was sure foot surgery would not cause the glute spasms that the knee surgery had caused, I still watched the clock until the 10 hour mark (that was when the spasms kicked in after the knee surgery) had safely passed. Despite the warnings, which were much appreciated, I was one of the lucky ones. I had a virtually pain-free recovery. I cannot express how grateful I am for the excellent care, although I do understand there may have been some luck involved. The nurses would come around to do obs and ask the “On a scale of 0 to 10, how is your pain” question and I would say zero. Admittedly, the pain medications were kept on schedule, but really, it was a pain-free journey.

The hardest part was no movement. I hated it with a vengeance. I am told the ankle surgery is longer, so I am not in a rush. Psychologically it is really, really difficult for me to do nothing physical: no walking, no swimming, no weights.

I didn’t hire the cushion from the surgeon for elevating my feet in bed at home. My daughter and I elevated the foot of my mattress to achieve the same effect.

At two weeks the stitches came out, steri strips went on and I was FINALLY allowed to get my feet wet!!! This was a wonderful day! I was shocked at how dry my skin was after two weeks of being untouched. I also suspect the antiseptic wash had quite a drying effect. This dryness resolved very quickly, thanks to QV Cream and being able to finally shower (but definitely NOT soak) my feet. I also was given smaller duck feet. The nurse taking the stitches out was quite horrified at the size of the duck feet I had been put in after surgery. Now I could see my toes!

These smaller duck feet were also easier to walk in. The next four weeks were pretty much the same. I started working again, from home, and kept my feet as elevated as I could under the desk. For that my daughter set up an aerobic step platform on two reams of paper. Necessity is the mother of invention. It worked. Swiss balls are excellent for elevating when sitting in a lounge chair.

At six weeks I went back to see the surgeon for the post-op all clear to walk and drive and live a normal life again. He was pretty pleased with my progress, as was I. I had started 500 metre walks on the Saturday prior, so I had cribbed a couple of days. It was my birthday, I could not stand being cooped up on my birthday! All was well. The shot below was taken exactly a month after surgery. Now, nearly three months after surgery, that gap between the toes still stuns me – compare with the top photo with no gap. It is not this dramatic when standing on my feet!

In hospital, during one of the frequent checks, a nurse asked me if I could spread my toes. I looked at her stunned. I didn’t know anyone could spread their toes like we can spread our fingers. Apparently being able to do so is good for our feet and our balance. I also discovered I am not the only one that cannot spread my toes. I can wiggle, I can bend: but no spreading.

I have had to buy a couple of new pairs of runners as my usual runners were just a little snug when I was first allowed out of the duck feet. I also developed blisters on the lateral wounds (little toes). Nurse said that is not unusual as the skin becomes very calloused where there are bunionettes. The blisters weren’t really an issue though, just applied Betadine for a few days.

The right foot little toe took a little longer to feel 100% than the left foot, but we can’t expect mirror image healing.

Now there is hardly even a scar to be seen, I’ve healed very well.

I had a great recovery. I will end this with this caveat: not all patients will necessarily be as fortunate as I was, there may be some post-operative pain. Even so, the medical profession are constantly improving pain management. Discuss it with your surgeon.

Flaring

For the uninitiated, flares are what we chronic condition people call the times our condition (or conditions) decides to remind us it exists, usually in no uncertain terms.

Barb, who, like me, is a complex comorbid patient including psoriatic arthritis, sums up flares succinctly!

The unjoys! The phrase “Oh the joys!” is in common usage, the implication being something is not actually so joyful. But I love this new word. For me, it hits a home run.

I had one yesterday. While the experience is fresh in my mind, I’m writing about it. We tend to get used to them, they become just part of our new way of life, while healthy people can find the flares of others confronting.

If you are friend, family or colleague of a chronic condition person, or you are new to this chronic world, hopefully I provide some insight to “what happens”. Everyone is different, what I describe is specific to me, my conditions and my current circumstances, but should give readers a feel for flares generally. Flares can be long or short: once my right wrist flared for about eight hours, then was fine. No rhyme nor reason.

Yesterday’s flare was different. For a start, it was whole body, not just one joint.

I now realise it started on Wednesday. I was driving to the office and my upper arms were sore when dressing and driving. Sore upper arms usually means shoulder inflammation. Nothing too bad, but I did take panadol osteo to see me through the day. Driving home from the office that night I felt nauseous and sleepy and nearly drove through a red light. Not good.

Thursday was a little worse, more areas were sore. I was WFH that day, so I managed. Even my total knee replacement scar felt tight, stretched and tingly. This was a new thing. The joints at the base of my thumbs were sore. My right (unoperated) knee was painful. My right hip was grumpy. You don’t need the whole list!

I woke up Friday morning in a full flare. Not only did I have many sore bits, I had no energy. I had to work, because…. deadlines. At least I was working from home though. No meetings scheduled. I certainly would not have gone into the office, but I felt I could manage the most important tasks in solitude at home. I resorted to panadol osteo and a stronger pain med to get me through the day – I hoped.

Yesterday is the first time ever I have worked in my dressing gown. I am the sort that puts on the lippy and mascara every day, working from home or not. For me to not even get out of my dressing gown is an indication of how crap I was feeling. Healthy people reading this may be horrified at this admission – chronic people will be nodding their heads and thinking, “Oh, yes, know that feeling well.” I did 1,172 steps for the day, between my office and my kitchen mostly.

It is very hard to explain how awful it actually feels. I liken it to possibly feeling as if you have run a marathon – at least that is how I envisage a marathon runner may feel at the finish line. It is only the start of the day, but you feel done already. Like, literally, DONE! That’s before any pain is taken into account. Or maybe the old “run over by a truck” phrase is applicable.

I did manage to get through the work day, almost – I finished slightly early. I doubt my productivity was any way close to normal, but I got some important deadlines met. I will probably work a few hours this weekend to catch up on other tasks. If at all possible DO NOT DO THIS! If you are flaring, REST. I’m setting a bad example here, I know that – but my example also underlines the fact sometimes we are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

After I finished work I sat in an armchair and my lumber spine decided to be excruciating. It had, I’ll admit, been building as the day wore on, now it was awful. No idea why – my lumbar spine hasn’t been a problem since 2017 (except for changing the bed linen, that irritates it). Pain medication was required, most definitely. Then, I got stomach pains. My eyes were dry and irritable. Like, what next?

This morning I woke up feeling absolutely fine! Made myself a lovely cinnamon rolled oats and pink lady apple breakfast, have been for a 1.6 kilometre walk, had a coffee at my local café. After lunch I went to the gym for a strength training session. The only slightly sore bits are the joint at the base of my right little finger and only if I hyperextend it, plus my soon-to-be-operated on toes are a bit off (but that’s understandable). I have energy, I feel perfectly fine.

The flare is over, just like that. Gone.

What causes flares when we are on a stable medication that is working and we are doing all the right things (eating properly and sleeping, hydrating, exercise)?

I will never forget my rheumatologist saying to me in late 2014, “Get the stress out of your life.” Great advice, but easier said than done. While the evidence is pretty conclusive that stress exacerbates many conditions and causes flares, we still have to live life! Earn money to pay the bills.

If I stand back and look at what has been happening in my life during the last few weeks there are several factors that alone may not be a problem, but the culmination of the stress of each has resulted in this flare. If you are flaring more than usual, take a look at everything that is going on in your life in the time period preceding the flare. In my case, right at the moment:

  • Pending surgery, with a late change of surgeon
  • Late change of the actual surgery procedure (extra stuff)
  • Teaching a relief staff member to do my role while still doing my role
  • Usual work deadlines
  • Fitting extra pre-op tests into my schedule
  • Mountain of pre-op paperwork
  • Lack of exercise due to work hours and therefore internal battery depletion
  • 42 minute phone call to Medicare – even things like that add to the stress load
  • I’d let my dietary protein drop while distracted with the above concerns

There is stress related to each of the above. Any one item alone is probably not an issue: add them all up and the body goes “What are you doing to me????”

Realistically we can’t avoid these life stressors. We can’t necessarily spread them out over time to minimise the impact on us, sometimes they just all come together. I haven’t really flared for years. You might ask what about the knee surgery, did I flare then? No, but the list was smaller then. No late change of surgeon, no late change of proposed procedure, I wasn’t working at the time so no work-related pressures. I was getting exercise. Sure, I was unemployed and THAT alone is hugely stressful, but I was able to mentally put that on the top shelf out of sight while I concentrated on the knee. I knew the knee rectification was important in order to be able to get a job – I prioritised.

There is no way I could have avoided the culmination of the above stressors, it is just the way life has played out over the last week. I saw the new surgeon on Thursday, had to digest his unexpected news about what needed to be done, fit in an MRI on the Saturday, phone consult and decision on Tuesday, flare started Wednesday, Friday full conflagration.

Surprised I feel so fantastic today after feeling SO bad yesterday. It really is like getting into a brand new car: today I am driving a brand new car! Yet that is what flares can be like and why it can be hard for healthy people to understand or, worst still, easy for assumptions to be made about “it is all in your mind”. No, it isn’t: it is what happens physically.

If you are friend, family or colleague of a chronic person, including healthy looking chronic people, please be compassionate. Be supportive. We don’t like these flares, we don’t have them to inconvenience others!

If you are a chronic condition person, please share any advice or your experiences in the comments.

We Need Personalised Numbers!

2,000 calories. 10,000 steps. These numbers float around and almost become related: subconsciously there can be a belief that if we do 10,000 steps a day we’ll be fine eating 2,000 calories a day! Will we?

2,000 calories a day is as much a myth as is the 10,000 steps a day. While there is always the caveat that the 2,000 is an average recommendation for the average person, etc etc, it is the 2,000 number that sticks in people’s minds.

Based on these rather wide, and self-reported, ranges, some pretty loose rounding happened, and the number 2,000 was settled on for a standard. In other words, not only was the calorie standard not derived based on prevalent scientific equations that estimate energy needs based on age, height, weight and physical activity levels, but the levels were not even validated to ensure that the self-reported ranges were actually accurate.

US News
From Samsung Health app

The 10,000 steps originally came from a marketing campaign.

The magic number “10,000” dates back to a marketing campaign conducted shortly before the start of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. A company began selling a pedometer called the Manpo-kei: “man” meaning 10,000, “po” meaning steps and “kei” meaning meter. It was hugely successful and the number seems to have stuck.

BBC .
Garmin Connect app

Readers who know me on social media know I am very big on getting my movement every day. This website originated from my personal dedication to Movement IS Medicine. So am I against pedometers? Not at all, I highly recommend pedometers. Just forget about the 10,000 steps a day.

Let’s look at each of these aspects of our lives separately. First, the calorie conundrum.

2,000 Calories?

My favourite illustration is the car fuel tank versus the human body. My car’s fuel tank capacity is 60 litres. No matter how hard I try, I can’t put more than 60 litres of petrol in that tank. My body? Ohhhh, I can consume as much fuel as I like. I would just keep expanding to store it all!

I have several factors at play:

  • I’m over 65 – age reduces our basal metabolic rate
  • I’m short
  • I have a chronic condition which limits my fuel burn
  • I’m on medications – medications can affect metabolism.

It would take me an hour of weight lifting in the gym on top of my three walks a day and 7,500 total steps to burn slightly over 2,000 calories a day. My usual burn would be 1,800 on a good activity day. On that basis, if I consumed 2,000 calories a day I’d be storing 200 calories a day. A rule of thumb is one kilogram of fat on the body is 7,000 calories, so I’ll let you do the maths on that. Yes, I lift weights and I walk, but not at the intensity required to be building too much lean muscle with that extra 200 calories a day!

In the image above from my Samsung Health app 1,352 calories a day is recommended for me given my age, weight, height and gender. It doesn’t know about my medical conditions or my medications – if it did, it might recommend less! That is 648 calories less that the 2,000 number that gets thrown around with abandon.

My nutritionist recommended 1,400 a day for me, just for comparison.

Everyone is different and we need to tailor our intake for our particular circumstances and output (burn). We also need to be very careful about what we eat as we have less calories to “fit in” the needed nutrients. For example, I aim for 1.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight per day. The extra protein chews into my calorie allowance.

Those of us with chronic conditions that have a boom/bust aspect do not have the luxury of “burning it off tomorrow” either. We can’t “do extra” or we end up with a flat battery. It is all interwoven.

10,000 Steps?

I aim for 7,500 personally, at this time. A pedometer is a good way of measuring how much we are moving. It is not the number itself that is critical, it is the consistency. Not moving leads to de-conditioning which is not what we want as it has negative impacts on our bodies.

de-conditioning

A pedometer is also useful when it comes to calculating our pacing up. It is an indication of what we have done and therefore helps us calculate what our 10% increase target is. It doesn’t matter if the number is 2,000, 3,000 or 8,000. It is the relatively and consistency that matters.

I talk about steps as part of my movement regime because it is what I and many other people use. There are, of course, also many chronic condition patients who use other movement modalities. The underlying premise remains the same.

Tracking and Recording

I track and record because let’s face it, even healthy people forget they had a muffin at morning tea. Add cognitive impairment on top of that and it is easy to forget what we ate during the day. I’d be hopeless if I didn’t keep track. With only 1,400 calories to play with, I need to make sure I don’t accidentally eat 2,000!

The same with activity/movement. It is easy to think we moved more than we have and over time we find we’ve paced down unintentionally instead of UP. Our pain levels may increase as a result of less movement and more weight. Not what we want at all.

Personalised numbers are needed. Know our BMR, know our limits, work out our personal parameters and targets based on our individual circumstances and bodies: age, gender, height, weight, medications, conditions.

Personal Energy Use

Early in my chronic illness life, I wrote an introductory article, Pacing for Beginners. More recently, I wrote about Pacing THRU, Pacing UP, Pacing DOWN.

Pacing, balancing my life, has become even more critical since starting a full-time job. The earlier articles talk about the spoon theory and the battery analogy. Today I’m going to stick with the battery analogy as we all understand what happens when our mobile phone battery dies. That’s it. The screen is dead. You can’t make a call. The only option you have is to recharge the battery.

I find energy difficult to write about. I can’t quantify it like I can quantify calories or steps or weights. Energy seems elusive, hard to pin down. Even though I am using the battery analogy, I don’t have a charge meter on my arm. I can’t tell how much battery I have left at any given point in time. So if it seems like I’m pondering as I write, it is because I am pondering as I write.

Many of us with chronic conditions are a bit like a mobile phone. The battery has a limited capacity. I’ve written about fatigue/lethargy before too, in When was the Last Time You Yawned? Working full-time hours again, I have had to revisit my condition management plan to ensure I avoid the dreaded Boom/Bust Cycle. So far, I’ve managed, although my weight training has taken a bit of a back step, sadly.

The difference between me and my phone is if my phone goes flat, I can plug it into power, turn it on and make a call. If my battery goes flat, that is it. Coffee is not going to help. A sugar hit is not going to help. In fact, either might make the situation worse. Imagine if that phone battery could actually go negative and had to be charged back up to zero before use, even when connected to power. THAT is how we can be (not how we can feel, how we can BE) if we are not careful, if we break the rules.

While I was working part-time, I had everything worked out beautifully for me. I got the exercise I needed, the sleep I needed, I did my job well. I never let myself get a flat battery.

While I was not working in the early part of 2020 my plan was to pace up my exercise to build physical resilience in readiness for a new job. With the success of my new treatment, I could do this. There were some interruptions! A knee put me in hospital, then Covid-19 lockdowns followed by a total knee replacement meant things were a bit stop-start, but I was way ahead of where I had been at, say, the end of 2016.

Working full-time has changed how I can arrange my time and also shone a light on the fact the boom/bust cycle is still very much a risk. There have been times at the end of the work day where I quite simply feel my brain shut down. It goes from 90 miles an hour to a dead stop. Nothing I can do about it. The battery is dead. It isn’t just about physical activity, this battery also runs our brain.

It is challenging for people who have no prior experience of these sorts of conditions to understand what happens. After all, many of us, myself included, LOOK fine! It took my daughter some time to come to grips with it, but she now asks “Do you have enough spoons, Mum?” when suggesting something.

I’ve become better at declining social invitations – no, not on an evening before a work day, or no, not two events on one day.

Every activity we do uses battery power. Showering, drying our hair, driving, working, exercising, cooking. In my experience some things use more battery power depending on the time of day: driving is a classic example. Driving for one hour in the morning is not nearly as tiring as driving for one hour in the evening after a day at work. It is almost as if once the battery gets low, it depletes faster. We have to be aware of all these things. I don’t want to cause a fatal car accident because I lose concentration because I haven’t paid heed to my battery level. Look at the pace column of my walks in the image above. the first walk of the day is the fastest, the last is the slowest. This is a constant pattern.

Early in my journey, I would have been unable to do a weight training session and grocery shopping on the same day. That would have used way too much of my battery. Even now, I shower in the evenings. Why? Because I can do it at a slower pace in the evenings and I am not using up vital battery life I need for the work day.

A good night’s sleep should recharge us, you say? We wish that were true. In many cases it is true – unless we have drained too much – then we end up in that negative charge scenario. Not good. However, disrupted sleep is often a symptom experienced by those with chronic conditions. Imagine trying to charge your flat phone, but the charger plug keeps falling out of the phone overnight. In the morning your phone battery is still at only 50%. That can be us.

Strength can fluctuate as well. I happily did 32 kilogram chest press sets one day with every intention of increasing next visit. Next visit I struggled with 25 kilograms. Why? No idea. By no idea, I mean no rational “healthy” explanation. Just that day my body said, “No, not today”.

Endurance is linked to our battery too. Some days I can walk two kilometres easily in one walk – other days I have to stick to three separate one kilometre walks. I’ll feel exactly the same at the start of any walk – then sometimes the body just says, “No, not today”. Part of this is linked to my not having the time available at the moment to consistently Pace UP. Between work and weather I have been limited to grabbing my walks in a somewhat patchy manner which breaks all the rules of pacing. Consistency is key. I’m not getting consistency. I suspect similar applies to the weights.

It is very hard to explain to people what this whole energy thing is like. How we constantly have to be aware of how much battery we’ve used. Healthy people would not, for example, think of having a shower as using energy, or should I say using any great amount of energy. I can assure you, many of the chronic illness community will attest to having to rest after a shower.

In my last article I raved, quite rightly, about the medication I am on. I also stated it hadn’t completely solved the energy/lethargy/fatigue aspect, or the “brain fog”. Despite my writing about energy today, these aspects are still much improved from where I was three years ago. To give some sense of measurement, three years ago I was working 24 hours a week and Saturday morning would always be a recovery morning – I’d do nothing until at least noon. Now I am working 38 or more hours a week and I’m actively doing something by 10 am on Saturdays. I might be at the gym, grocery shopping, doing laundry: I’m active. So a major improvement. And some quantification, which makes me happy!

However, I’ve had to cut my second weight session a week because the energy required to drive to the gym, do weights, drive back and then shower is more than I can manage at the end of a work day. I rarely write any more because usually by the end of the work day my brain has said, “No, not today”. I started this article on December 31, it is now January 16 and I still feel this is very scrappy writing. On the other hand it is a very scrappy topic: as I said I can’t quantify it very well. My thoughts about it come and go: after all, we learn, over time, to live with it. It becomes our new normal. At the same time we recognise that our healthy friends, family and co-workers can be baffled by something they have no experience of and it is not visible.

When I wake up in the morning, assuming I haven’t overdone it the day before, I feel perfectly “normal” just as I did before I became a chronic condition patient. The main difference is at the end of the day I will NOT feel as I did at the end of a day back then. Furthermore, depending how much “charge” I use during the day, I could hit that flat battery state earlier in the day. Other patients will not be as fortunate as I am, I am aware of that. So readers, just because I say I can do something, DO NOT, please do not, assume your mother, father, sibling, friend or co-worker can. They may be “better” or “worse” that I. I am simply n=1 – I’m not a study, I’m just one example trying to explain what it can be like!

As I write, at the beginning of 2021, I am very concerned for the long haul Covid-19 patients, many of whom cite fatigue as an ongoing issue. While the studies of this phenomenon may shed scientific light on ME/CFS, we will also have more chronic patients. My thoughts on society and chronic conditions are expressed in Society and Chronic Health Conditions. As communities, we have challenges ahead.

18 Months In – Thank You Science!

My clinical trial rocks! No other way to describe it! If you are unfamiliar with the backstory, there is a series of articles, the first of which is A Clinical Trial – Patient Journey – Part I, exploring how I came to be on a clinical trial and the initial phases. In summary, I am on a clinical drug trial for a medication for psoriatic arthritis (PsA), a condition that affects an estimated 24 in 10,000 people (0.24% of the population).

I am now 18 months down the track, so thought it time for an update on progress!

No sore entheses! This is fantastic. The enthesis is the connective tissue between tendons/ligaments and bone. PsA rather likes entheses, unfortunately.

At my last injections I had ONE, let me say that again ONE, toe joint that glowed faintly when all the toe joints were tested. That’s a major improvement from 20!

No sore finger/thumb joints. Not one. The base of my thumbs used to be really painful. I am also no longer splinting my fingers at night on a daily basis to prevent waking up with my hands locked into fists. I find I may have to splint them about a week out from my next injections, but not always.

Left and right index finger splints

My shoulders are fine. Admittedly I do a series of exercises to maintain my shoulders which have helped considerably, but the reduced inflammation is fantastic.

My wrists, which would flare regularly, have not flared for months. I can’t remember the last time.

There has been no progression to other joints. There was no hip or elbow involvement, for example, and there still is no hip or elbow involvement.

My skin in 100% clear. Yes, 100%, clinically assessed.

My finger nails are back to being perfect, although two toe nails persist in having white spots and and the tell-tale ridges across the nails. But they no longer crumble off.

No dactylitis (sausage fingers/toes) this year.

I have lost the 20 kilograms I’d gained with all the various medication changes prior to starting the trial.

Energy levels are much improved. I won’t say back to normal, but much better than previously. This is evidenced by the that fact I am back working full-time. No, I did not take on a senior management role, that would have been too much, but I’m working.

The dreaded brain fog is also much improved, as I have noted before. I don’t like the term brain fog, as readers may already know, but everyone is familiar with the term.

No adverse side effects! After my previous experiences, this is yet another fantastic aspect for me personally.

At my latest appointment, one of the staff commented, correctly, I was lucky I don’t have any joint deformities, especially of the hands. I put this down to early medical intervention – I was lucky to be diagnosed early in my journey.

I’m not cured. I am as close to being cured as I probably ever will be and that is a great thing. The medication, risankizumab, isn’t the only weapon in this war though. I am, as is well known, I firm advocate of Movement is Medicine. I keep my muscles strong. I still wear my “special” shoes to help my back. I had a total knee replacement this year, osteoarthritis – not something risankizumab can fix. Overall, I am very happy with progress.

Are You Moving Less While Working From Home?

Working from home is with many of us, perhaps for longer that we may have initially envisaged. It is very important for all of us, but most especially those with arthritic and other chronic conditions where movement is beneficial, to ensure we don’t fall into the trap of becoming more sedentary! Most of us working from home are sedentary enough already, bound to our desks and laptops as we tend to be.

The good aspect is we now have the opportunity to put the commuting time to better use – we just have to make sure that IS what we do!

I am now balancing being back in an accounting role with my medical need to keep movement levels up plus the continuation of post-surgery knee rehabilitation exercises. What have I learnt already? I let my rehab exercises slip a couple of days, I ate at my desk twice and one morning I sat for WAY too long without getting up! Not good. For some inexplicable reason I found myself drinking more coffee and less water, so I’m being more aware of that now.

My daily physical activity commitments currently are:

  • 40 to 45 minutes of formal walking
  • achieve a total of 7,500 steps a day (limited due to post-surgery)
  • 40 minutes of rehab exercises

Swimming and weight training aren’t in the list as the gyms and pools are still closed in Melbourne due to Covid-19.

There is the need to avoid that dreaded boom/bust cycle and pace all of the above accordingly with working hours. These are not necessarily considerations for people without underlying health conditions: even so, worth bearing in mind!

Although the rehab routine is not tiring, the walking can be; especially if one has worked all day. Fatigue IS a symptom many of us live with. Mine is now minimal (thank you risankizumab), but I remember the days when I suffered quite badly from the fatigue. So rest time is important, it has to be part of the routine we establish.

I’m still at the stage of developing a daily routine. Finding what works for me. For a WFH day, I eat breakfast, walk for 25 minutes, then get ready for work (do my hair, pop on the lippy etc – all those video meetings!). Watch out for those back-to-back meeting days! The sitting time can easily extend to three hours. If you don’t have a sit/stand desk (mine is arriving soon!) this can be a trap. Watch your calendar: suggest different times for meetings if you have too many one after the other. Remember to take regular breaks from your desk.

Make sure to take a lunch break. This is important: move your body, stretch, sit in a different chair, break the mental exertion too. Do not eat at your desk.

I’m still working out the best time to do my rehab routine. If I do it in the morning, I need to get up earlier. If I do it after work, I’m becoming fatigued and I still have another 15 to 20 minutes walking to do. I’m thinking lunchtime might actually work best and will try that this coming week. The second walk is important because the one thing we lose while WFH is incidental exercise. No campus to walk around, no walking to and from the car park or tram stop. Those activities all add to our step count for the day. But we do have that extra time from the commute we no longer do, as mentioned earlier. It is finding the right balance.

Catching up on activity on the weekend is usually not an option for those with chronic conditions. Catching up just initiates a boom/bust event and none of us need that. So consistency is our friend. It is finding the right routine for each individual that is critical. What works, what doesn’t work?

Consistency is our friend

Weather can also throw all our plans completely out the window. I walk in the rain and in the cold – I can’t manage the heat. The heat intolerance that came with the hyperactive thyroid does seem to be finally abating: I found it much less troublesome last summer. I hope that persists! For others, the cold could be an issue. Weather is not related to WFH specifically, but working does mean we have less flexibility to juggle our physical activities around the weather.

Walking in the Rain

On days I physically go into the office (few and far between) I know I will get more incidental steps walking around the campus, to and from the car park, etc, therefore I don’t worry about a second formal walk on those days as long as I hit the 7,500 step count.

It is important to keep moving, get outdoors (mask up!) and not become glued to our desk and laptop. And on that note, I am now going to move, because it is Saturday and writing this is enough sitting for today!

An Announcement

I have made the decision to no longer offer personal training services. I will still write and share chronic condition experience, research and information. I am available to participate in applicable research projects and very open to speaking engagements.

I’ve made this decision slowly over the last 12 months. The primary factor that drove my decision was my responsibility to clients. Personal trainers are required to maintain current first aid and CPR certifications. The last time I did my CPR certification I struggled maintaining the position required due to my knees and my back. Now I’ve had a total knee replacement kneeling is challenging (not impossible, just challenging).

I don’t want to paint a bad picture – my operated knee is fantastic and my back rarely bothers me except for certain positions, giving CPR being one of them. I am well aware that were I struggling to maintain a CPR rhythm due to my physical limitations, that could be disastrous.

In addition, recently I have found my physical strength is not what it used to be. Partly this is due to the limited strength training I have been doing myself, partly it is due to the simple fact I’m not getting any younger. I find loading a 20 kilogram weight onto the leg press a challenge and as a working personal trainer I should be able to do that for clients.

While I am a firm advocate of Movement is Medicine and exercise has done absolute wonders for me and my condition, I don’t feel I am strong enough myself to provide the level of service to which I aspire!

It is spring, the blossoms are out, time for new opportunities!

Keep MOVING! I will be!

Thirteen Weeks! (Knee Arthroplasty)

It seems like months ago, yet really it is no time at all! Thirteen weeks have flown by.

I kept up the rehab exercises every single day for twelve weeks. With the approval of my surgeon, I have now dropped to every second day but I have increased my walking. I was aiming for my first four kilometre walk today, but missed it by 120 metres – slight miscalculation on my part! It is important to keep up mobility work on your knee, so I do.

With the encouragement of my trusty physiotherapist, I’ve even managed to do single leg glute bridges. I was doing 30 glute bridges a day, now I’m doing 30 every second day. Unless I get super bored by Covid-19 lockdown and then I might still do sequential days.

What can I say? I. LOVE. MY. NEW. KNEE.

I think at thirteen weeks it is safe to say that! I’ve even knelt on it – not too often and not for too long as yes, kneeling on it does feel very odd. I don’t think I’d be out kneeling for long periods weeding a flower garden, for example. Plus the risk of kneeling on something sharp and not feeling it is always a possibility – to be avoided at all costs.

I can now walk down stairs normally, rather than the bringing the two feet together on one step method employed initially. My flexion was last measured (about week 10) at 145 degrees: I was very happy about that!

My right (the still natural knee) decided to be nasty almost a month ago. My physiotherapist said in her experience this is not unusual and should settle with some love and care. It seems to be settling down this week, possibly a load issue due to the operated knee not doing its fair share for a few weeks.

The only remaining issue I had at 12 weeks was a bit of pain around the kneecap getting on and off the toilet. However, even that seems to have resolved. I had adjusted one of the rehab exercises to strengthen the muscles used in that action and it seems to have worked. Plus the glute bridges, of course!

I recognise I’ve had a very successful knee operation. My surgeon is great, my physiotherapist is great and yes, I was dedicated to doing my rehab consistently and effectively. Between us we got a great result.

A word about rehab exercises. I used the word effectively in the paragraph above. From my experience, that is critical. It can be tempting to “back off” if an exercise causes a little discomfort (most don’t). Especially I found the stretches can really feel as if you are stretching! I’m not suggesting suffering pain, but at the same time don’t back off at the first twinge of discomfort either. Check with your physiotherapist if you are unsure.

One of the extra exercises my physio gave me was to lie prone (face-down) across the bed with a weight on my ankle and let my leg be stretched that way. Let me tell you, trying to take a photo of yourself lying face-down in this position is not easy, so I’ve drawn a little stick figure to give you the idea. CHECK WITH YOUR PHYSIO FIRST before trying this at home. Everyone is different!

I’m using this exercise to illustrate the discomfort factor. I started with one kilogram for 30 seconds. I can now do two kilograms for over a minute. Yes, it does hurt a bit this one. Not the actual knee, but the muscles. In my specific case we have been working on getting those muscles working properly again. I persevered. No, I didn’t let myself get into a really painful place (a martyr I am not), but I didn’t stop as soon as I felt a twinge either. The physio did warn me it would hurt a bit. The benefit is I have 145 degrees of flexion!!

We are all different, we all have different pain tolerances. Even so, we should feel as if our exercises are doing something.

The flip side of that coin, of course, is not to go to the other extreme and overdo things. When I was leaving rehab, I asked the physio how far was I allowed to walk, one kilometre, two? She looked at me and in a stern voice said, “I was thinking the end of the street”. One of her colleagues, who had worked with me on some days I was there, piped up from the other side of the rehab gym, “Just make sure she doesn’t live on Dandenong Road!” For those with no knowledge of Melbourne, Dandenong Road is very long, a major arterial road. I got the message.

I was splitting my walks, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. However with Melbourne in lockdown, where we are only allowed to leave the house once a day for exercise, I’m increasing the single walk.

I miss the gym, swimming and hydrotherapy pool. I was hoping to be back on the leg press by now! All in good time.

Oh, did I mention? I. LOVE. MY. NEW. KNEE. 

Previous:

My Total Knee Replacement
Home: Now the Willpower Kicks In

The Gods Brought to Their Knees by the Invisible

Humans are Earth’s chronic condition. We destroy at will. We see our species as the pre-eminent beings on the planet. Although many believe in a God or Gods in the heavens, here on Earth the human species is all-powerful.

This year the God-like species has been brought to its knees by something it cannot see. A tiny, minuscule, virus. So insignificant, it is not considered to be living. Yet this unalive molecule coated in protein has shut businesses, grounded air traffic, overloaded the health systems of several cities and killed nearly 700,000 people (at the time of writing). We wear masks, socially distance and in Melbourne we are now under a curfew. Many work from home, many are not working at all. The human worship of the great God Economy has been called into question most dramatically by the state of our aged care homes.

Despite great advances in science and technology, humans are losing the battle. The front-line defence, healthcare workers, are dying.

Some leaders are performing brilliantly trying to save and protect their constituents. Local leaders Dan Andrews of Victoria and Mark McGowan of Western Australia spring to mind. The New Zealand Prime Minister has achieved what many deemed impossible. Others are intent on using the virus as an excuse to denigrate these leaders and undermine their efforts. Tim Smith and Tim Wilson are two examples in Australia.

I am the beneficiary of advances in medical science. I have a prosthetic knee and I’m on a clinical trial. If I was living 200 years ago it is possible I’d be severely immobile, yet in 2020 I am lucky enough not to be. While I recognise the wonderful things we, as a species, are capable of, I also recognise how damn stupid we can be.

I don’t need to provide links, nor do I want to, highlighting the ridiculous conspiracy theories and “my rights” people. The inability of some to accept the existence of something they can’t see is one problem. The selfishness of the “it is my right to go maskless” brigade is another. The lack of numerical literacy, where people cannot comprehend growth rates and infection rates, is a problem.

At the moment there is much talk of vaccines. I hope as much as anyone that a vaccine is developed: I am also aware it will be the first coronavirus vaccine. To date we have not developed one, partly because coronaviruses have not previously been so contagious and deadly/damaging. Then there is the question of availability. Will only the rich be able to afford any vaccine, or will a vaccine be made available to all? The great economy, you see, would not like a free vaccine.

The human species has been brought to its knees. Not by aliens, not by flood or fire (yet, that’s coming) but by an unseen molecule. Humans are reminded despite our belief in our own pre-eminence, that we are vulnerable. Humans can, indeed, be on the receiving end of the same brutality humans dish out to other creatures on this planet. We steal and destroy their habitats, we shoot them for sport, we really don’t care if other species become extinct through our actions. Now we know how it feels. We’ve lost the freedoms we took for granted: the freedom to crowd supermarkets, to fly to the other side of the world on a whim, to get a haircut when we feel like it.

The fragility of nature

We ignored the beauty and fragility of our world because we did not feel fragile. We redefined beauty to be tall skyscrapers, fast cars and electric lights.

Human’s biggest enemy has always been other humans. Wars. Killing each other. Now humans have a new enemy. It isn’t the first and according to science, this will not be the last.

I wonder if this is the wake-up call we need. Time to re-evaluate our way of life. Re-evaluate our disrespect for the flora and fauna with which we share this planet. Re-evaluate our worship of the God Economy.

Managing the economic and social costs of the survivors suffering chronic illness is going to be a challenge. As I have written before, as a society we do not cope well with chronic conditions, I worry that many are going to suffer greatly in the years ahead.

How we cope with the aftermath of this pandemic is going to be a major test of the humanity of the human species.

 

Home: Now the Willpower Kicks In (Knee Arthroplasty)

While in hospital and/or rehab, others drive the recovery process. Essentially all I had to do was follow instructions. Food was provided, bed was made for me, physiotherapists ensured I did my rehab exercises, nurses delivered ice packs and heat packs as required at the press of a button. Medications were administered on schedule. If you are catching up, the hospitalisation part of this journey is found at My Total Knee Replacement.

Once home though, I’m the one in charge. I have to do all that stuff. While I write from the perspective of living alone, I am aware that partners are not always good at enforcing encouraging patients to do what needs to be done. While partners may cook and make the bed, when it comes to the exercises, these the partner cannot do for the patient!

There isn’t anything I’ve struggled with or been unable to do since arriving home. Having said that, remember I did spend time in rehab, I did not come straight home on Day 5. The physical action of getting out of bed is easier now that it was before surgery.

Full rehabilitation takes about six months according to the experts. I’m one month down the track today. It is my bionic knee one month anniversary!

Here’s a list of my tips topics, I speak about each in more detail below. Warning, there is a scar photo at the end – avoid if squeamish!

  1. DO. THE. EXERCISES. Every day. Just DO THEM!
  2. Continue seeing a physiotherapist or outpatient rehab.
  3. Sleeping, napping, coffee.
  4. Eat nutritious meals, you’re healing.
  5. Ice!
  6. Skin care.
  7. Establish a relatively normal routine, enables better rest and movement.
  8. Protect the knee (from falls, twists, etc). Get the shoe horn!
  9. Follow your medical team’s post-op instructions to the letter!
  10. Take a walking stick on public transport.
  11. Equipment.

Exercises

Whether you went to a rehab hospital as I did after the surgical hospital stay, or go to outpatient rehab, there are a set of exercises to do to get the best out of the new knee long term. I have a list of 10 exercises and some stretches. My physio keeps adding new stretches. My programme takes about 30 minutes, not a big chunk of the day.

In my experience it is easier to be inspired to do the exercises in the early days: the excitement levels are still high! By week three post-surgery I did find I had to push myself some days. Boredom: “Do I HAVE to do the SAME things AGAIN?”. Yes, I do. Tiredness: sleeping can be quite disrupted for a while – at one point I was exhausted from lack of decent sleep. Still DO THOSE EXERCISES.

While the rehab physio said I could do half in the morning and half in the afternoon if I wanted to, I have found doing them in the morning as part of a regular daily routine easier. I can’t guarantee I won’t feel tired later in the day, so best to do them when I’m fresh.

I started walking in rehab – I did laps of the ward. Small, regular walks are recommended by the experts and I’ve certainly followed that advice. I’ve increased in the same way I would for anything else, monitoring how I feel afterwards and the next day.

Here is my last week and you can see I dropped steps on June 16 – that was also the day I went to the physiotherapist, so a reasonable amount of activity already. I’m not pushing myself to get the 3,000 steps a day target I had set myself for this week, as I was warned (very strongly) not to overdo it!

The biggest issue I have found with the rehab exercises is not the actual joint itself, but the skin! The skin initially feels SO tight I was actually scared I might pop the wound open with one of the exercises (one where I lift my heel towards my bottom). When you are home alone and not allowed to drive, this is actually quite a scary feeling. Even now, one month post-surgery, the skin is still tight, but improving daily. Plus I’ve got used to the feeling.

Do any of the exercises cause pain? Everyone is different so there is no easy answer. In my case, one of the exercises causes muscular discomfort if I hold the position too long. This is an exercise to improve the straightening of my knee. I couldn’t straighten my knee properly before surgery, so I am undoing old issues, that’s why the discomfort. The only exercise that sometimes causes any pain is standing up from a dining chair. Some days I can do it without using my hands at all, other days I still need a little support from my hands. Essentially, the exercises are painless to do. Initially, of course, pain medications helped! I’ve not been on pain medications since June 9 and the only discomfort I have is as described above.

Continuing Physio

While I felt I was fine with the actual knee exercises on my own by the time I came home, those darn glutes were still giving me grief periodically. Six days after I came home I was off to see my physio for some glute help. In my case I was super lucky, as my physio also happens to do shifts at the rehab hospital I had been in, so she was already conversant with my case! I am seeing her weekly, although after this coming week we hope to reduce the frequency. This has been invaluable for me. Extra stretches to get the hamstrings and calf muscles (both very tight) back into good condition as well. Essentially these sessions are about working on the muscles involved with the knee to get them back into the condition they were before my knee troubles began.

As an added bonus she measures my flexion and extension so I can see I am progressing. I like to have those progress measurements as motivation to keep improving my flexibility.

Sleeping, Napping, Coffee

Sleep can be disrupted. According to the information provided pre-surgery, the length of time and the severity can vary considerably from person to person. I’ve had trouble getting a decent night’s sleep and I’m not even sure why. In the early days the knee did tend to ache at night – this wasn’t pain as such, just an annoying ache. If we sleep too much during the day, then it can be even harder to sleep properly at night. While a short nap maybe helpful, don’t sleep the day away!

For me, this is easy as I’ve never been able to sleep during the day at the best of times (unless I’ve got the ‘flu or similar).

If you do have a partner, my suggestion would be to plan a separate sleeping location for your partner before you leave to have the operation. I would not have wanted any poor person to try to get a decent night’s sleep with me of late!

I’ve made sure I don’t drink coffee after 3 pm. Like the napping, coffee can affect one’s sleep and that’s the last thing I need.

Nutrition

Have a good supply of eggs! If all else fails they are quick and easy to cook.

Easy Meal!

Have a supply of healthy frozen meals in the freezer. I also had long-life milk in the cupboard and preserved fruit, just in case.

There are times when cooking just doesn’t seem like something to be bothered about, but marmalade on toast is not really a nutritious meal, especially when the body is healing. Having a healthy frozen meal is a good option.

Hydration is very important. No-one wants a dehydration headache on top of a healing surgical site.

Ice

Continuing the hospital/rehab practice, I still ice daily at some point when I feel it necessary. After my exercises perhaps, or after walking. The knee swelling and heat hangs around for quite a while, so ice is my friend!

I ice the top of the knee first, then I later ice the underneath part of the knee.

This is my preferred ice-pack, but there are many on the market.

Skin Care

As mentioned above, the skin feels so tight and this is an area you bend! Bend constantly! Nothing much can be done re moisturising or Vitamin E oil/cream until the wound is healed and permission is granted, but once moisturising can happen – oh, the relief!

Quite a large area on the outer (lateral) side of the knee is numb. This is usual, but a bit disconcerting at first. The area reduces in size over time, I’m told – I am yet to experience that myself, but it will come!

Routine

Establish a routine. Get up at the normal time, eat at normal mealtimes, go to bed at a normal time. I hear stories of patients spending way too much time in bed. Not good. It was recommended to me to lie down for up to an hour, twice a day, to let the muscles stretch out. This I do.

A routine makes it easier to meet exercise needs, take any medications at the right times, eat appropriately and fit in rest breaks.

Healing is actually tiring. Add to that disturbed sleep. On June 12, which was Day 23 post-surgery, friends kindly took me to lunch. I was really quite tired after my outing and visitors. On top of the aforementioned lying flat on the bed, rests in an armchair/recliner after rehab exercises and walks are sensible. Each person recovers differently: listen to your body, don’t push it. If the vacuuming doesn’t get done today, it really doesn’t matter.

My routine is (flexible) as follows:

  • 6:30 – 7 am get up
  • Prepare/eat breakfast
  • Morning ablutions
  • 9 am “flat” rest
  • 10 am (thereabouts) rehab exercises (and COFFEE!)
  • 11 am walk
  • Noon – lunch
  • 2 pm walk
  • 3:30 pm second “flat” rest
  • 5:30 pm dinner
  • 10:30 pm SLEEP

In between I have little rests, ice the knee, do some laundry, the typical other living type stuff we have to do!

Walking to a local coffee shop and rewarding oneself with a coffee and a treat is highly recommended once that distance is achievable, plus that provides a little mid-walk rest!

A treat is allowed every now and then.

Protect the Knee

That may sound like an odd tip but I’ve learnt the (almost) hard way. The pavements in my area could do with some tender loving care in a few places and twice in my early first walks I almost tripped – that would not have been good. I keep my eye on the terrain now.

It is important not to twist the knee, yet it is surprising how much we twist the knee in normal day-to-day activity. Once my knee started to feel pretty normal, I found myself almost (caught myself in time) twisting the knee just doing simple things like getting stuff out of the fridge or a cupboard.

Don’t cross the legs. O. M. G. That is SO HARD for a veteran leg-crosser. I’m better now, but two weeks ago I’d have to uncross my legs every time I sat down.

Stairs. I live in a downstairs apartment (selected very deliberately because of Lennie, the bung old knee). I would not have liked to try to tackle stairs if I had come home on Day 5 after surgery. Stairs and crutches or walking stick are certainly workable, rehab teach patients the correct approach. I was already proficient from my time on mobility aids with Lennie. I would have been happier about the prospect of stairs, I think, if I did not live alone. The thought of possibly falling with crutches on Day 6 post surgery, alone, is not an appealing thought. I’m sure I’d have managed if I had needed to deal with stairs.

Now, one month after surgery I can climb stairs normally holding onto the handrail, but descending is still an “operated (left) leg down one step, right leg to same step” affair.

Follow the Medical Team’s Instructions

Do I really need to say that? I don’t, do I?

I haven’t detailed too many specifics because each surgeon and rehab team, although all quite similar, will have slight variations on the theme. Different surgeons use different components – there are lots of variations. Also again, each patient is different. The rehab physio crossed out one exercise on the sheet for me, saying, “Not yet, for you”.

They’ve done this hundreds of times, they are constantly updating themselves with research in the field. Follow the instructions for the best result. Even when that means not driving for six weeks.

If you are told to wear TED stockings, wear them! Yes, they are ugly, uncomfortable and annoying. Wear them.

Take a Walking Stick on Public Transport

I’m still taking a walking stick with me when I go on public transport. For two reasons.

First, many of our trams are not that easy to get on and off. Deep steps for one thing. The little extra support getting off and on the tram/train/bus is comforting.

Secondly, the walking stick is a badge. Without it, I look perfectly normal, yet I still need extra time and space to get on and off transport. I also don’t want to get pushed or knocked over. The walking stick encourages people to give me that bit of extra space, even on the pavement.

Equipment

The exercises prescribed for rehab do not require equipment, however it can be helpful to have some. I have foam rollers and they are easier than using two rolled up towels. I also have ankle weights which have proven very handy for one of the extra stretches I’ve been given. I rather wish I had a half foam roller.

Get the long handled shoe horn. I cannot stress this enough. Most important piece of equipment ever! Absolutely fantastic! I still cannot get my runner on the foot of the operated leg without the shoe horn.

I haven’t needed rails in the shower, but the raised toilet seat is definitely needed (and can be used as a seat in the shower if needed). I was VERY careful getting in and out of the shower the first time! I did get a non-slip mat for the shower, then realised it already has non-slip tiles.

Status

This was my knee a week ago. As you can see, the left leg is still swollen at this stage, but I’m walking around normally, just not as far as usual – yet!

You can see the shin bone on the right leg, not yet on the left. The knee is still larger. But it is much less swollen that the pre-surgery knee shown in the previous article!

The scar looks to be healing really well. I’m happy. Let’s see how I am feeling when the six months is up!

June 13

The worst part about being home is the boredom! Honestly, for me, that’s the hardest part. Not allowed to drive yet, so can’t go to the gym (for upper body), don’t have clearance to swim yet either. I hope the surgeon isn’t so strict the next time around!

One unexpected added bonus is my posture seems to have improved. I’m naturally standing straighter than before. I’ll see if that continues to be the case, but a positive plus.