Friday, October 3, 2008


One year ago today, I had major shoulder surgery. I woke up far too early, didn't have coffee, and had the best surgical experience of my life (n=9 or 10) in terms of care, anesthesia, and analgesia.

I thought I was prepared. My surgeon had given me guidelines; my husband and I had had lots of conversations about how, when, where, what. I knew that it would be 2 months before I was allowed to run; 3 months before I could bike. My surgery was not a typical one -- no rotator cuff, biceps tendon, or labral repairs for me. No, I had to have the rare one, a capsular shift and HAGL repair -- which involved cutting open my otherwise healthy rotator cuff to reach the problem areas.

I didn't really understand just how much of an impact it would be on my life. Losing the use of your dominant arm for 6 weeks? Extremely frustrating. For the first week, things were measured in invisible increments. On day 2, I walked to the corner. on day 3, the corner + 1 block. On day 8, I was allowed to shower, although it was a scary experience. Dressing required help. Eating was messy and one-handed. My meals were cut up for me like I was 5 (which I am, internally).

On day 27, I went back to work. Early. And sooner than I ought to have, but I was going stir-crazy at home, seeing all the things I could/should do and not being able to do them.

Three months in, I took my first bike ride. Slow and tentative. Witha mild stomach flu, but I damn well wasn't going to postpone it.
Four months in, I was allowed in the pool.

It was roughly 6 months before I got clearance to hang from my arms. A simple hang, not anything complicated.

The surgery threatened my sense of autonomy, and my sense of identity.

I fell in love with trapeze after I started in 2003. The endorphins, the focus, the strength. Being an arealist, albeit an amateur one, was one of my defining traits. The shoulder surgery changed that. It took trapeze out of my vocabulary. It made me dependent on El Bandito for simple things like tying my damn shoes. I could do a pullup before I could easily put on a sports bra. I couldn't imagine not doing trapeze again, but I dreaded the steps involved in returning. And before that, I needed help doing such simple things.

It hasn't been easy. I'm back in class this session, but at a much lower level than previously. Good for not taxing my shoulder, and for not learning bad habits. Bad in that it's frustrating me. I end up demonstrating tricks and trying things I once knew how to do, not learning new things at this point.

I'm running to get my endorphin high. It helps, but it isn't the satisfaction of learning a new trick. It's a different focus, a different meditation.

It's been a hard year. A very good one in some respects, but a hard one. I'm lucky to have had an incredibly supportive spouse through it all. El Bandito has been terrific. A few friends stuck through, but it's also amazing how much people don't realize that a simple phone call or email expressing interest helps.

Tonight, I might skip my shoulder PT for the first time in a year. The exercises have changed, of course, but I haven't missed a single day. Part discipline, part fear, part need to control as much of the outcome as possible.

Rambling. Tonight I did intervals on the treadmill. Fast, furious sprints, interspersed with calm walking. I breathed in and out, feeling the swing of my arm with the cadence of my feet. It was enough, in the moment. Then I came home and put on my favorite boots (and my pants which have become too big somehow) and El Bandito took me out for a fabulous dinner. So WTF am I complaining about?

1 comment:

Juls said...

Congratulations on finding your misplaced "sense of competence and ability and 'ballsy attitude'"