According to my Fitbit I walked 458.57kms in the month of May – along the Portuguese Camino and thereabouts, and then later in France and Hungary.
Why does this make the news?
Or at least this blog?
Because I walked those kms on a knee that doctors told me needs replacement.
As some of you who follow this blog might know, I have bad knee issues. On my first Camino I walked in extreme pain, and only completed the pilgrimage on painkillers.
Later, after an MRI, I was told I was bono-a-bono; that is, bone on bone – and that a knee replacement wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when.
I was told to get an elaborate knee brace, which I then dutifully wore on all my training walks, and on the 2014 Portuguese Camino, then last year’s Via Di Francesco Camino.
Let me be quite clear –
I don’t like doctors.
I don’t like medicines.
I don’t like knee braces.
And I particularly don’t like invasive surgery.
I have the odd and quaint belief that if you listen to your body, and you’re not silly about it, you can heal yourself.
Late last year, on my training walks, I began to walk without the brace. Short distances at first, and slowly. My knee railed against it. I got pain, and swelling. And I thought this would be a short lived experiment.
But I rested the knee, then began again. And gradually the knee settled down. And gradually I increased the distances, and the pace.
In preparation for this year’s Portuguese Camino I increased the intensity of my training so that I ended up doing about 100kms a week at about 6km/hr pace.
And my knee, surprisingly, held up.
So I decided to head off to Portugal without the brace.
It was a risk on my part. I really didn’t know how the knee was going to go. My training had been on relatively flat stretches of road. No hills, no uneven surfaces, no cobblestones. On the rocky and stony climbs of the Camino, would it give way?
As it turned out I only had a few days where my knee spat the dummy and pretended it wasn’t going to play anymore. But once again it settled down, and I think there was only one occasion where I took painkillers to get me through.
According to my surgeon I have no cartilage in my knee joint.
So what happened?
How can I walk these distances then, largely pain free?
I really don’t know. Other than I’ve been determined not to get a knee replacement, which is what the doctors say I should have.
I can’t explain it, in the same way I can’t explain how my eyesight returned after I walked my first Camino. I’d had glasses for fifteen years.
I haven’t worn any since.
It’s so easy to accept what the doctors, the nurses, the western medical professionals tell you. If you walk the Camino and you get a bad blister and you go to a doctor, what are they going to say?
It’s their duty to tell you not to walk. And in some instances they’ll tell you your Camino is over and you should go home. And in some instances that’s exactly what you should do.
But in a lot of cases instead of racing off to a doctor, why not simply rest up, listen to what your body is telling you, and trust in the healing power that’s innate within you.