Saturday, January 31, 2015

And January is gone...

The day after I wrote my last post, I had my first post-surgery appointment with my physio who specialises in strange scapular issues that nobody knows how to treat, patients nobody knows what to do with.  My surgeon in Kentucky recommended him 6 months after my first surgery and he has been an invaluable resource of information and knowledge for me, and also for my regular physio, as well as a caring professional whose kind and unassuming manner belies the accolades and achievements he holds (I stumbled across his CV online when I was looking for details to send to someone - it's pretty impressive).  He is always honest; I always feel he tells me what he knows and what he thinks; and since I like to know things, and understanding as much as I can about all things shoulder/injury-related is a huge part of how I have coped with this, I appreciate being treated that way.  

In saying all that, my appointment last week was tough!  In every way.  The upshot is that February has to be a month of pushing through.  All the stuff I wrote about gymnastics is going to have to come to the surface again (after 3 years of trying to learn to push it down; to listen to my body; and to understand pain is a way of your body communicating - that's on hold).  I need to get a 30 degree increase of active motion with my arm this month, or there is a good chance my surgery could be classed as a failure; my tissue might not stretch out; I might run the risk of things scarring down again.

That was a hard thing to hear.  Not as hard as the new assisted movements I have to do though.... 

Example - an arm held straight up in the air is 180 degrees; I'm currently aiming to get to about 160 degrees.  At the moment it is taking a lot of 'effort' (i.e. pushing, pulling, leaning) from my physios to get it there, (and possibly a little more effort from me not to wriggle out their grasp and run away) -  attempting it myself at the moment is just pathetic - I have no idea what the number is, I'll just stick with "not even close" and "pathetic"........ and  agony.

And I will now admit that I think I have lost all the stuff I wrote about only a few days ago. Or maybe, the language of gymnastics is just not the same as the language of... 'controlled torture' I think I'll call it. I guess I was never really tortured in the gym - hard work, pushing yourself to your max and working on something over and over and over again while fighting through sore, tired muscles isn't really the same as forcing yourself to lie/ sit still while someone forces your arm into a position where it feels like it will snap if it goes any further - "like rocks crashing into each other..... and you could just crush them"  I described - "that's ok, I'd expect that" he said and pushed a bit harder.  But we weren't finished there.  Once in that absolute maximum position, feeling (honestly) as if he could just snap, crack(le) and pop my bones, he said: "Now reach up. Higher. Harder. Push against me. Resist this. Push down. Push up. Resist. Push with your elbow. Push with your wrist.  Push out the way. Push up again. Don't let me move it."   

Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest. Repeat. Rest.........


The idea (/ necessity) is to get my muscles working again.  Muscles that haven't been able to work properly for 43 months now.  The have to 'relearn' how to fire and how to work properly - and of course they are....... well, weak does't even describe it.  Useless is better.  Sometimes my arm still feels like a stick, hanging at the side of my body, but not properly connected.  It's an odd kind of sensation.  The point of working through the pain, to get the muscles to work goes with the theory that once the muscles work and are actually supporting my arm and balancing movements (i.e. multiple muscles are sharing the workload rather than just one or two muscles trying to compensate different movements), the pain *should* diminish. That's the plan, anyway.....

(It better be!)

And there's also self-inflicted torture - twice daily with my 'pulleys' that are fixed over my closet door, staring at me like an entirely innocuous nemesis. (Give me "sit in the splits while you watch TV" any day!) I can already say - 3 days in, I have not missed an exercise.  I may cry through it, I may feel - again literally, I could draw the lines on my body - the bands of tissue that are pulling on my ribs, and on my scapula and feel like I could pull them right out of position, or until they snap.  But I will never have anyone say to me: it didn't work because you didn't try hard enough; or: it didn't work because you couldn't fight through the pain.  I will never hear someone else say that, and I will never have a voice in my head saying that either.  Because so far, despite all the 'experiments' and failures and different exercises and different exercise programmes; I have done every single thing I have been told to do (this makes me a "compliant patient"), and I'm not going to stop now - something has to work.

Obviously, what I hope for, is to be told the surgery did work; it can be classed as a success.  That removing that scar tissue, and unsticking my humerus from my scapula (i.e. cutting away the scar tissue that was sticking the top of my upper arm bone to my shoulder blade  -  exactly what was happening) has made a difference.  The degree of difference remains to be seen; what pain, possible problems or other issues remain are still major unknowns; but right now, at this moment in time, the focus is on making sure this surgery has not been for nothing; that it will be helpful in some way.  That is what I am working towards, and that is why I will bite my gums or dig my nails into my skin until I bleed; I will grit my teeth, and I will ignore the watery eyes (it really bugs that closing your eyes does not stop tears); it is why I have already told my parents, my physio and his current interns that my eyes will water this month and they will just have to ignore that. And I will just have to ignore it all too.

So.......... February is set to be a tough month. I will need all the mental and physical energy I can muster, and hopefully I will work hard and see some progress.

 In order to have something else to focus on each day, even for 5 minutes, I'm going to try to make February a 'visual' month - just a picture, photo or image of some sort to sum up my day.  If I manage, it might be interesting to look back over it and see if it tells me a story.  Getting things 'out there' can be pretty cathartic, so hopefully with something else to think about, and to reflect on will be helpful. If not, I'll sleep and try again in March!

Looking ahead, this is how I feel:

Definitely 'fingers crossed' kind of a feeling

Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm

 ~ Winston Churchill ~


  1. As someone working through frozen shoulder and stuck scapula after rotator cuff + surgery a year ago, I too told myself that nobody would say I didn't work hard enough at the rehab. Good luck and continue to persevere! I hope your visualization distraction is all you want it to be. Thank you for your blog. I find it incredible all that people can physically get to do and better yet, choosing to be so profoundly courageous in sharing your story. I'll be cheering you on from afar!

  2. Thank you! I hope your hard work is successful too and you manage to get through it and beat the pain it brings.