By Mary Holtrop


One of my passions is walking.

While I walk I am able to enjoy one of my other passions which is reading (via audio books). But for the past five years I was not able to enjoy what brings me peace, time to meditate, enjoy sunshine, get vitamin D and of course, listen to books.  It was March 9, 2015 and it was beginning to show signs of spring in Northwest Illinois.  The trees were starting to bud and the snow and ice were melting. I rushed home from work to get in my first real outside walk since November.  Mind you, I do walk in the winter. But mostly it is a shuffle which includes avoiding patches of ice.  This walk, would have been a real walk. I was so happy and excited when I stepped outside, started my walk and suddenly I was experiencing intense knee pain.  I was not going to be defeated. Anyone who knows me, knows that throw me a brick wall and I will climb it.

I walked 3 miles that day.

But, I also stopped about ten times to rub my knees and wonder ‘what the heck is going on’? To clarify, I exercise almost daily. I had been exercising in my basement all winter long. I was sure I “did something.” I didn’t. My left knee, which had been a bother since 2010 decided it was done. I was not going to walk again until I did something about this. So I visited an orthopedic who went through the cortisone treatment and the gel injection treatments and though the cortisone worked the gel injections didn’t. This knee was done.

Then I moved about 40 minutes further west, closer to my work.  In fact I work four blocks from where I live. And ignoring all the signs and pain I started walking again. But after two good walks, my knee spoke to me. Another two years passed and I finally contacted a local orthopedic in my area. This doctor put me through the same cortisone and gel treatments. They are obligated to take the necessary steps to treat patients in the least evasive method as possible. After my cortisone shot I literally danced I was so happy. I was so happy I could walk, I almost ran. But insurance was going to baulk at some point. These quarterly cortisone shots were going to start costing me money. So there I am, facing knee replacement.  It was February 14, 2019 when I had my surgery. One of the worst winters for ice and cold in Illinois history. But more on that another time.

This is about my walking. How I now get to walk anytime and all the time. Until we had our first snow storm in October.  I immediately got depressed. This cannot be happening so soon. As I tell my son who lives in Denver, “you might get 12” of snow but the next day the sun is shining and the snow is melting.” When it snows in northern Illinois, it sticks around for at least 4 months.  I am a member of our local Park District gym and there are treadmills but it is not the same. I will use the treadmill if I have to, but I am not a fan. I need to be outside. I need fresh air and sunshine. Well that October snow did melt but there was more to come. And it did.

After a brutal storm of ice and slush I was walking to work one morning. Ok, it was more of a shuffle with me mumbling to myself “ice, watch for the ice….you don’t want to fall…” when two separate runners passed me by. Here I am shuffling, staring at the pavement, stressing and worry and they just run on this ice like it is not there. In fact they climb those little curb hills that develop where people don’t shovel and the plows pile the snow high. And they just run. No worries. And then I notice two boys standing outside my work waiting for their parents to pick them up and there it was again, ice, snow all my fears and they just run to the car, climb that snow bank like it doesn’t exist.  So there was my question. ‘When did I stop just being and start fearing?’  I then remember my mother saying “I don’t mind the snow, it’s the ice.” And there I am, my moment, I am my mother and I fear the ice.

I offer no morals to this story. There is no advise, suggestions, or recommendations.  At least not yet. But I am going to work on figuring this out. I don’t want to walk in fear. I just want to be. Walking in fear takes the joy out of my walks. It takes the bounce out of my step. I paid a lot of money for that new knee, that piece of hardware as I refer to it that I am going to find a way to make sure I bring to me, that peace and joy that I get in my walks, all winter long.