Shoulder surgery (and some big life lessons) WARNING this is a long one
Wow, it’s been 13 weeks since I had shoulder surgery and the life lessons are still coming my way. A little history is in order so you understand why I am sharing this experience with you.
I have had really poor behind the back mobility for years following a fall where I landed on my outstretched left hand. It hasn’t hindered me and I have been able to Crossfit, carry mulch and do everything I normally do except reach my behind my back and sleep without some discomfort here and there.
Fast forward to one day opening a box of coffee that was super glued shut and hearing a tear and searing pain in my shoulder. Three days later I was at the orthopedic doc. Dr. Holmes did an x-ray and ultrasound and said there were arthritic changes but an MRI was really the only thing that was going to tell us the whole story. I did the MRI that day and the next day (day before Thanksgiving) he called with results. He basically said “Well, I don’t even know where to begin to explain clinically where the pain is coming from because there is so much going on in there.” Diagnosis: Torn rotator cuff, frayed tendons, bone on bone arthritis over entire head of shoulder (literally no cartilage left), fluid in the joint, compression in some other area, bone spurs and the strangest thing was loose floating piece of cartilage that had rolled itself into a 1” long mass and was freely moving around in there lodging itself in every nook and cranny causing major pain. UGH!
He said, “Lets see if it can calm down and don’t do ANYthing with it for a few days. I meant it Carmen (he knows me well).” Four days later I was back at their office with a surgeon (Dr. Jones) crying and begging for surgery. Not only was the pain excruciating but we had a trip to Costa Rica planned January 5th so the timing was terrible for this to happen. Here I was about 8 weeks out from an international adventure and having to undergo surgery. I was in surgery the very next morning.
Dr. Jones was super clear about the steps he was going to take to relieve everything and told me I would have a nerve block in my neck prior to surgery to help with pain after the process. Did I mention I am deathly afraid of needles? ALL needles? The ones that could paralyze my nerves for life are especially concerning, but we did it anyway.
Surgery went well, he was blown away by how much stuff I had going on in there for a 44 year old woman and has never seen arthritis like mine at my age. That’s comforting (insert sarcasm).
Anyway, they told me the nerve block would wear off after 12-24 hours so make sure to “get ahead of the pain” and wear the sling with the giant pillow wedge for the next 4-5 weeks.
Now mind you, I have had hernia surgery, a C section and a hysterectomy. I am NO stranger to surgery and I have always recovered like superwoman but this? This was different.
The next couple of days went like this:
Nerve block was the worst part and I nearly had a panic attack when I couldn’t feel my hand or my arm although it was attached, I couldn’t move. It was like being paralyzed or buried alive. I couldn’t WAIT for the nerve block to wear off.
- Until it did. My. Gosh.
- The pain medication didn’t even being to TOUCH the pain and it kept me awake and made me feel crazy. I hate medication anyway but this took the cake.
- I called in for different pain meds two days later because I couldn’t take it anymore. Found out you can’t call them in and need to drive up to pick up a script now (Thank you pill abusers for making life harder for us).
- New pain meds didn’t work either and I was crying constantly from pain. Side note: I went through 16 hours of natural labor with NO epidural and that was a party compared to this pain. Kidding.
- Aleve works better than any drug and didn’t keep me up or make me feel nuts. FINALLY I slept two hours straight by day 6. Yes. Two hours was a luxury.
Then came the new normal for the next 6 weeks:
- Walk carefully
- Don’t bump arm
- Pray no one else bumps arm
- Try to control crying so kid stops feeling sorry for his mama
- Get recliner, sleep sitting up
- Have kid and husband pull hair up (get used to looking like Pippy long stocking with a sideways pony tail) or wear a hat.
- Learn how to swipe at armpit with a razor carefully to control the “growth” of unused arm hair
- Watch post op arm get smaller and smaller and start resembling old person arm (if you know me this is a nightmare)
Let’s get to the lessons part because ANY time something changes in my life I try to see a lesson instead of wallowing in the misery for too long. A little wallowing is normal but this was cause for bringing out the big guns and really figuring out what I was supposed to take away from this awful experience. So here is what I learned.
- Friends rock and we need them! One friend Shawna, made every meal for my family for EIGHT days and walked my three dogs DAILY. I can’t even imagine my life without her then and even more now as she has become such a huge part of my life. God sent her here for me. I am sure of it!
- Physical therapists are part angel and part devil. I don’t think I left therapy once for the first 5 weeks without crying from pain. BUT, if they hadn’t pushed me I would not be using my shoulder like I should be even with more weeks left of therapy. Oh…and High Pointe Physical Therapy staff rocks. Every therapist there goes above and beyond. Don’t even ask me about the front desk girl who makes life SO much happier and easier right down to opening my water and kombucha when I couldn’t grip a bottle. p.s. there is NO cleaner facility thanks to Amanda. Just use them for therapy and see for yourself.
- It’s ok to NOT be superwoman and let others help you. We ordered Paleoworx for meals for the next couple months and it saved us. I was intent on eating the way we do no matter if it took me four hours to make an egg….and they provided everything we needed to eat grass-fed, humane and organic food. Check them out!
- Dog hair won’t kill you. Yes…I have chilled on cleaning my floors just a little. Which meant I had to give up perfection in my home and it hasn’t been ALL that terrible. Releasing expectations of yourself is a good thing in some areas of our lives.
- What you eat is the biggest part of what happens to your body. While I don’t believe in weighing yourself daily, weekly or that often it can be helpful.
Eight months ago my scale broke and I never bought another one…until last week. I stepped on and quickly stepped off. I went downstairs to get a dumbbell immediately (tip…if you want to make sure your scale is right put a 20 pd dumbbell on it, does it say 20 pds? It’s right). Our brand new scale right out of the package was 1.4 pounds over. Trust me when I tell you strength means more to me than a scale (or I would have bought one 8 months ago when ours broke). I had lost 11 pounds. Eleven pounds of muscle. Why is this important? So many people tell me what they want to “weight” and how the scale depresses them. How “if I could just get to 135 pounds I would be happy” and so on. I am here to tell you if you want to get your body to look a certain way focus on food first then add in some safe movement. Stop killing yourself at the gym while eating low fat and boxed foods.
At a higher weight:
- I could do 15 strict push ups
- sit ups faster than you can shake a stick at
- 100 squats with 35 pd Kettlebell
- Row many, many meters without wearing out
- hold a 3 minute plank
- 100 lunges uphill
At a lower weight:
- I can only do counter top push ups (20 is my max)
- 100 lunges keeps me from sitting on the potty without assistance the next day bc I am so sore
- V-sit ups make me shake like a baby
- I just got back to a minute plank this week.
This is torture for me as I am still a minimum of 4 weeks away from real exercise which I miss terribly. So a couple important pieces here: Most of what happens with your weight is because of what you put in your mouth. Being strong is more important than being thin.
Endorphins from exercise can change the way you feel and look at life. Want to lose weight? Change what you put into your mouth and start moving your body in a safe way. Period.