“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.”
"This in not at all what I expected."
You’ve undoubtedly heard someone use the term “managing expectations,” right?
Have you heard your health care provider use that term? If you have, fantastic!
Keep moving forward... explore options, and MANAGE EXPECTATIONS.
Understand what their role, your role and the outcome of your situation is meant to be.
How long is your injury or ailment expected to take to heal? How much pain can you expect to be in? What costs can you expect to incur? Let’s stop right there….
I’m going to generalize a bit here, using “we” as the American community at large… “We” more often then not, worry about the cost of our healthcare.
“We” know our out of pocket co-pays by heart, we (for the most part) understand our benefit structures pretty well, and we know it’s in our best financial interest to choose a provider in our networks.
But do we know about managing our care from the perspective of healing and pain, and the toll that takes on us mentally? Is that a discussion we routinely have with our physician?
Are those expectations being managed?
In my experiences, no. We're asking questions about coverage and bills... but not about our personal and emotional outcomes. Not about what to expect down the road during recovery.
Far too many of us are finding ourselves saying, “How did I get here?” “What just happened to me?” “Why am I in so much pain?” “How much longer until I feel like myself again?”
Especially when it comes to joint replacement, recovery can be a long, painful road.
Does this mean the procedure should not be done? Absolutely not.
A few weeks, or potentially months of acute pain, that WILL in fact go away, are a small price to pay for a future without chronic, debilitating pain.
Sadly, many folks are shocked and overwhelmed post-operatively with what they are experiencing… why? I believe it was because their expectations were not properly managed.
Ok, great, you say- we’ve identified this problem- now what?
Unless you have a healthcare team like I mentioned earlier, that is managing your expectations, you need to advocate for yourself.
Read a lot.
But do not trust everything you read.
Be sure your sources are credible, bring the information back to your healthcare team and ask them about what you read. See if it aligns with their care philosophy.
Look for support groups, but enter with care! Keep in mind many of these, especially those on social media are run by lay-persons, they are purely entertainment. They can be incredibly helpful- BUT do NOT compare your progress with others- do not compare your chapter one with someone else's chapter twenty! Take what you find in these groups as a grain of salt, as just another opinion to consider. Everyone- every single human body is different. We all have disease in a different way, our surgeries- even if performed by the same surgeon, are done differently, and we will heal differently. Just because one person is at one milestone or marker at a certain point in time does not mean you should be. You heal and improve and feel pain on your body's terms.
Find someone who has gone through what you have gone through (someone you actually can see or speak with in person). Talking and seeing (or hearing) about another's experience firsthand can be incredibly soothing, and enables you to ask questions directly, as they come to mind. Being able to see how they move and function now, after they have fully healed is helpful in seeing the "big picture."
Despite all the planning and managing, you still may find yourself completely overwhelmed with the task of healing.
It’s no joke.
Remind yourself why you are choosing to have joint replacement surgery.
Remember how great the improvement your quality of life will be once you have completed the acute phase of healing.
I spoke with two folks this week- the first, a gentleman, 82 years young. He learned at 62 that it was time to have one of his knees replaced. He declined, fearing the recovery. Finally at age 82, (twenty years later!) he decided to undergo the surgery. At just a few weeks post-op, he is doing absolutely amazing. He admits he’s not pain free yet- but that’s the key right there, YET. He’s getting there! And he’s moving so well! He admitted already (and he’s not even fully healed!), he wish he had done it sooner….
The other person I spoke with, a young woman, 45- soon to be undergoing bilateral total knee replacements. We spoke about what to expect, and the experience of navigating through the surgery, being a bit younger than the “usual” patient having this procedure. A conversation that began laced with fear and uncertainty ended on note of inspiration and hope. She is motivated to move forward with her surgery, to make the best of her situation, to do her best to heal and go on to live her best life. She plans to participate fully in as much as she can, no more spectating from the sidelines, as so many of us with illnesses that cause chronic pain, like osteoarthritis are forced to do. Entering the operating room with an approach like that is no doubt a recipe for success!
What do these two have in common? Their amazing attitudes and their ability to manage expectations. Expectations of fear, pain, pleasure, and what the future holds for them.
Difficult roads, do indeed, often lead to beautiful destinations!