Wednesday, Jan. 14
Back in the States

When I travel, I walk. A lot. It’s the best way to explore new places.

But when I explored by foot in Africa during these last six months, my knee hurt, although I wasn’t sure why. It pained me enough that I gave up running for the duration of my trip, hoping rest would help me recover.

I skipped out on climbing Mount Cameroon, which I had considered one of the highlights of my trip.  And I popped pain pills even for light hikes.

So one of the first things I did when I got home was see a knee doctor. (Looking back, I should have visited the doctor before leaving for Africa, since even then I was suffering from knee pain. I had hoped it was temporary.)

Two visits and an MRI later, I know why I’ve been in such pain: I have a torn meniscus and a cyst. That meniscus, or cartiledge on the inner knee that allows for movement, is pretty necessary for an active 20-something like me.

To fix it, I need minor surgery. I’ve scheduled it for the end of the month.

Of course the idea of surgery is less than thrilling. But to be honest, I feel relieved to find out what’s been ailing me all these months, ever since I ran a series of trail races in Houston in April. If this surgery will help me get back into running again, I’m up for it.

In fact, I even feel lucky. Not lucky to have an injury, but lucky to have the means to fix it. Africa has a way of doing that — making me feel lucky for everything.

Imagine if Africa was my home instead of a place to visit, if I was a villager in any one of the countries I just explored. I’d be in the same pain, probably working out in the fields every day, cultivating crops to feed my family. Yet I’d likely never have the chance to visit a knee doctor or undergo surgery to fix the injury. I’d be forced to live with the pain.

But I’m an American! I’ve got access to a doctor, a surgery and health insurance to pay for most of it. (Thanks to Dad, who forced me to buy health insurance before I left.)

So I’ll gratefully go under the knife. Two months later I should be able to run again.