Back in 2006, my rotator cuffs, which I’d been nursing along damaged for years, became critical, resulting in two surgeries – the left, which was by far the most painfully urgent, in March and the right in December.
Jude, all whopping 8+ pounds of him, was born between the two surgeries, on June 28. Liz was constantly flitting about trying to protect me from myself as I held that precious boy.
Lately they’re not doing so well, much to my frustration. They hurt, the right one to the point that I’ve had to pull out my sling, and almost to the point that they feel in need of further repair – though my intrepid and talented surgeon, Larry Nguyen, told me there really wasn’t enough healthy cuff left for more surgery. I was quite a mess, he said, with one shoulder having multiple tears and the other a large hole.
Dr. Nguyen was pretty amazed that I have full range of motion, something he told me not to count on – including a somewhat pitiful reverse namasté. But I never lost range of motion, so I was atypical in that.
I’m not happy about this one bit. I’ve got babies to hold, projects to finish and about the filthiest house you can imagine. (We live in a construction project, remember?) Repetitive motion is the worst thing (dusting, mopping, painting, etc.), and what set them off this week was cleaning three door shelves in our refrigerator. Go figure.
OK, and large grand babies. But holding them is non-negotiable. Housework –meh.
What started the problem was extreme weight lifting in my 30s and early 40s followed by over-exuberant yoga in my later 40s. Since I had such little shoulders – my bones are pretty petite – they were my favorite body part to work in the gym, and, boy, did they respond. In very layman’s terms, the muscles got too large for the space allotted, so they became impinged.
That alone hurts like hell. Over time, bone spurs from arthritis started to rub on the impinged/pinched areas and caused some tearing. I’d do PT until they felt better and get a cortisone shot here and there, but I’d be damned if I was going to have surgery. Nope, not me.
They were so bad in 2003 that I had emergency steroid shots to get me through the Yoga Journal Conference I was lucky enough to get to cover for the DemGaz when I was a health and fitness columnist. Then I rested them for a bit and went right back to workout status quo.
But what finished them off – and made surgery unavoidable – happened after a returned to teaching. In my journalism classroom at Central High School in late January 2006, one of my students (a girl about my size) had a grand mal seizure, and after holding her desk still, then catching her to lower her to the ground – she’s was unconscious and dead weight – all I could think about was her condition. I’d been living with shoulder pain for years and didn’t give the twinges a thought.
Until a few nights later, when I got in bed, that is. The pain in my shoulders was so intense that it nauseated me and made my body shake. I had to get up and sleep as best I could sitting up on the window seat. Pain meds and sleeping pills got me through a few weeks so I could postpone surgery to coincide with spring break in March.
Newspaper or yearbook sponsors don’t miss work. I returned with my arm in a sling and took a group of kids to a conference in San Francisco in April – in my sling. The kids loved it when the metal rings made the airport detector go off and I had to get wanded. I remember them laughing, and I think they took pictures.
The second surgery was just before Christmas break, and I returned from that with a sling, too.
Not too long after healing, maybe a year, I started back to the gym with John and, well, I shouldn’t have. Dr. Nguyen told me after I went shamefacedly to see him that I was banned from gyms for life because I can’t be trusted not to overdo. So all these years, I’ve made do with my baby weights and high reps. (Don’t scold – I’m actually supposed to do that for therapy.)
Except right now, I can’t. I’m recuperating from cleaning my fridge.
At least I’m still fairly ambidextrous – and typing doesn’t hurt as much today, so maybe I’m on the mend.
What’s extremely frustrating about my shoulders going out now (in addition to being useless and in pain) is that I’d just started to get my mojo back after losing it since Bill died and Mother turned from the cutest young mom on the block to a little old lady. She’s starting to bounce back a bit but things will never be the same.
Broken hearts take a toll.
I didn’t realize how undone I’d come until I started pulling back together a bit. I hide things well, but I’m still fighting anger over how Bill was allowed to suffer. Part of my shoulder issue may be from carrying that psychic weight, so I’m working on being more aware, as well as being more careful physically.
But, again, I have grand babies to hold – and German shepherds to walk and weights to lift and rooms to paint and very little patience for healing.
I’ll try to be good. But no promises.