Former Triathlete on Quest for Adventure After Knee Replacements
Sep 17, 2018 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Climbing a flight of stairs or riding her bike normally wouldn't be considered a challenge for Jacqueline Stanford, who spent eight years of her life as a professional triathlete.
She can boast doing both immediately after her second knee replacement: The afternoon following her surgery, she was tackling the stairs. The next day, after her overnight hospital stay, she rode her bike around her neighborhood. A couple months later, she climbed Machu Picchu, the famed citadel topping an Andes Mountains ridge in Peru.
"When I knew I was going to need a knee replacement at some point in time, I took things under my own control."
"I was able to start my exercise regimen again with no restrictions," says Stanford, 61, a veteran of professional athletics and knee replacements. "Here's why I think I was so successful: I didn't put my surgery off. I probably could have lasted longer with the pain, but I would have had to give up a lot of my fitness."
Stanford has traveled, lived and competed all over the world. She sailed yachts in Tahiti and taught windsurfing in the Tuamotu Islands. When she landed in Los Angeles, she decided to bike home. Home was in Calgary—more than 1,500 miles away. She'd never biked more than a few miles before, but she was a strong athlete. This began her love of cycling, which led to triathlons: a 2.5-mile swim, cycling for 110 miles, then running a marathon.
She's competed in more than 100 of the demanding events, and has cycled both coasts of the U.S.
"I've always been involved in athletics, so I might have worn my knees out," she said.
Before her first surgery to address her knee troubles, she'd cut back her bike rides to just once every two weeks. The soft tissue in her knees had deteriorated to the point that bone was grinding painfully against bone. She had her first knee replacement in 2010, and her second in 2014—both with Robert Klapper, MD, director of the Hip & Knee Replacement Program at Cedars-Sinai.
"People sometimes want to put off surgery until the pain becomes unbearable," Klapper says. "What they lose is doing what they love in their lives. Our goal is to address the problems early—either with physical therapy or, if needed, surgery, so our patients can keep doing what they love."
One of the things Stanford loves is athletics. She may be the owner of a pottery studio as well as a real estate agent, but it's the ability to share the joy of athletics with other women that drove her to join the leadership of Women's Quest. It's an organization that offers a variety of adventurous retreats for women in exotic, beautiful locales scattered around the globe.
With all that on her plate, there was no way she was going to let her joints slow her down.
"When I knew I was going to need a knee replacement at some point in time, I took things under my own control," she says. "And within a month, I was cross-country skiing in Vail, Colorado. Within two months, I was on a Women's Quest and climbed Machu Piccu."
By addressing her knee problems while she was still able to maintain her mobility and stay in shape, Stanford says her recovery was easier. Now, she can still climb on her bike—or climb a mountain—when she wants to.