Monday, 29 February 2016

Knees Up!

As a dancer I have often been told to “work into my knees”, “bend the knees”, “watch your knee alignment” all in an effort to “protect your knees”. Phrases I have also told the dancers I’ve worked with and choreographed. As a dancer you know how important protecting your body is because it is your work. As dancers we watch our alignment, use our calf muscles, bend our knees when we land and work through our feet. Whenever we work in front of mirrors we are watching lines and placements, partly for beauty and partly for safety.

In all the years of battering my body has taken as a dancer and an acrobat I didn’t protect my knees enough somewhere;Well at least my right knee.  Or maybe it was inevitable? Which meant that despite performing and training in a knee guard for the last two years, somewhere between the kilometers I’ve run and the careful stair climbing my knee eventually started becoming very painful. As in I can’t walk around painful. My husband carrying me up the stairs painful.

A trip to a knee surgeon and an MRI scan confirmed that the damage to my cartilage two years ago had worsened. My meniscus, which is essentially the shock absorber in your knee, had also torn and would need to be repaired. Two years ago knee surgery scared the hell out of me. Now…I just wanted to be able to climb the stairs again. I was relieved when I was booked for surgery the week we got back from Europe. I was very optimistic, perhaps because my brother had had a similar surgery and had walked out of the hospital. If all went well I would still be able to make my 1 March musical audition three weeks later.

As I climbed onto the table the surgeon told the team that I was a dancer and they had to get me back on stage.

Before I could be discharged the surgeon came to check on my dressings and to give me feedback on the operation. My knee had been in a far worse condition than they had originally thought. He mercifully only told me about the cyst they had discovered and removed while poking around my knee once they had confirmed that it was benign. It also meant that my recovery would take between six and eight weeks.

“Luckily you’re at home. One of the times it helps to be a freelancer”, the physio said after my first session, referring to the fact that I didn’t need to put extra strain on my leg. I had time to elevate my knee and do my exercises.

My great “luckily” is the fact that I have an amazing husband who can keep me fed with a roof over my head while I spend six to eight weeks recovering unable to work. Not all actors are that lucky. The “luckily” is that I can take the time to allow my knee to recover properly before it has to start earning a living again. Tomorrow is the big '1 March' audition and I’m about as graceful as a T-Rex on the short stretches. I’m able to walk across a safe, level, non-slippery floor. I’m out for tomorrow’s audition, but I’ll be knee-guard free for the next one... for the first time in a long time.

Lastly, a big and public thank you to Melandi Kloppers for staying with me the whole day of my surgery, keeping me company and holding my hand.