Wednesday, May 27, 2009

N=1 - What I learned in Germany

European travel - well, any travel - can bring the most amazing surprises. Around a corner, you find a quiet courtyard with a fountain that sparkles in the sun. One of your favorite paintings is larger, or smaller, than you expected it to be. Or, sometimes, if you can stop long enough to think about it, you even learn things about yourself...

I'll resist the urge to write a travelogue here; but it was a great trip. I learned a great deal about German history, and how it affects German culture. And, surprisingly I learned a great deal about my kitchen back in Portland, and about my right knee.

As regular readers of my blog know, my primary worry about my trip involved the 4 flights of stairs to my brother's apartment (and my bed) in Dresden. I'd had a lot of pain in my knee before I left; the psoriatic arthritis seemed to have settled into it.

But unexpectedly, my knee felt fine in Germany. The plane trip made me stiff for a few hours, and my hips really ached after a day walking in Berlin. But my knee was no trouble. Sure, I had a prick of pain here and there, but nothing like at home. In Germany I never once pulled out my little travel heat pack, or asked my sister-in-law for ice.

But... within 12 hours of being home in Oregon, my knee started aching again. By 24 hours, the fire was back. Why was I well in Germany, with all the stairs and walking (not to mention the coffee, chocolate and other auto-immune diet no-nos I was consuming)? Why was I hurting back at home?

Scientist that I am, I started analyzing my behavior in my own house, compared to Germany. At home, I'm mom (and wife), and having come home to a sick husband, I was spending a great deal of time in the kitchen... going from stove to sink to counter to fridge to dishwasher... over and over. The first day back I must have spent 5 hours in the kitchen, cleaning, cooking, making lunches, etc.

What I discovered surprised me. It seems that every time I make a turn in my kitchen, I push off with my right knee, and make a counter-clockwise turn. Before I left for Germany, I was cooking, prepping lunches, packing for myself, turning, turning. Coming home, it was the same. But in Germany, I was only walking straight - no twisting. My German family spoiled me and I didn't do a lot of cooking, and I stood still in their tiny kitchen while I did dishes. I walked for miles, but didn't do a lot of pivot turns.

I had no idea my own kitchen was my own worst enemy. I would never have known, if I hadn't gotten away from it, and come back with a healed knee and a new perspective.

So, here's the moral. If something hurts, don't assume that it is just because your disease is taking over. Take a day, and analyze every move you make, like those students in the movie Fame do in their first year of acting class (just watch the movie - you'll know what I'm talking about).

You may learn something. I'm moving slower now, and turning clockwise instead of counter-clockwise whenever I think about it. My knee is better already.


1 comment:

  1. that's great to hear Jenny.
    Tschüß bis bald Anja