THE ABC’s OF RECOVERY FROM SHOULDER SURGERY

Here I am 3 weeks into the recovery of My right rotator cuff. I’m doing really well and continue to be free of pain. How lucky can a girl get? 

That’s not to say that living in this sling is easy. Needing help to take a shower, get dressed, and fix a meal aren’t things I’m familiar with.  I don’t want to spend the rest of my life depending upon everyone else, but  if that became a necessity I’d have to adjust, and could be a better person for it.

For me the biggest downer has been not being able to use my right hand to communicate. On day three, I attempted to do a crossword puzzle with my left hand. Although I finished the puzzle it was unreadable. But being what some people call stubborn, I decided I had to do something about the out of control pity party I was staging every day.

I decided to pick up every crossword puzzle I could find and even if I couldn’t complete them, I’d use them as a game to teach myself how to write with my left hand. I started printing out the alphabet with both capital and small letters every day with ole lefty. I wish I had saved the early attempts to show you, but I think you can still see the progress that I am making in these photos.  By the time the sling comes off in 3 to 4 weeks, I will be ambidextrous as far as writing is concerned. Will  I continue to use my left hand to write? Maybe, maybe not. If I don’t it will have been one of the challenges that I gave myself to get rid of my stinking thinking during my recovery.

Being a writer with a head full of ideas, typing with one finger isn’t any fun. It abounds with frustration and anger. So I’ve started dictating my thoughts to my computer. That would be great if the computer understood and spelled everything I was saying correctly. But it doesn’t. Therefore I’m learning to pronounce my words very carefully. Still there are lots of corrections to make. So as I dictate I use my left-hand and fingers to delete and correct what I’m writing.

But that is not the only problem. When my shoulder is completely recovered and I can go back to using my right hand I will be back in the flow where ideas flit about like fireflies on hot summer evenings. The flow of words I put down on paper by dictating are choppy and not particularly well written. I am told the reason for this is that these two ways of writing use different parts of the brain.

But you know me. I want to write when I want to write and to get out the words as often as possible. For someone who keeps a daily journal it becomes problematic in that I am not processing my thoughts as freely as I usually do. But I’m doing the best I can and for a little bit everyday try to express myself in a new way without getting too frustrated.

This is my effort for today. My brain is way ahead of where these words are coming from. But what I have written here helps soothe the path to full recovery of both my shoulder and my frustrated ego.

THE THREE Ps PLUS ONE MORE FOR GOOD MEASURE

My Pony Tail Plant never stops growing

This is the time of year when many of us are struggling to keep our New Year’s Resolutions.  Lose 10 pounds.  Workout at the gym 5 times a week. Stop buying books until you’ve gotten through the pile next to your bed.  Be kind to the people you find to be horribly difficult. Etc, etc. 

I’m not one for resolutions. Instead over the years I’ve opted to choose words that I would like to focus on for the coming year. They are words that I hope will help me work on a particular issue I’ve been struggling with which need of bit of extra attention. They’ve been successful most of the time. But occasionally I get caught up in other distractions and high dive into life without thinking much about what my focus is supposed to be.  

I sometimes wonder if I’m wasting my time but keep at it only because 6 to 8 months of working on one issue is better than nothing. Right now I have some burning issues and it’s time for me to get serious about cleaning up my act.  This past December I found three inspiring words that seem to fit together beautifully. My hope is they’ll start me on my way. I expect them to take me through some deep learning and bring me closer to the person I most want to be. I’m calling them The Three Ps.

The first P is for Presence. I no longer want to wander into the past regretting things that I’ve done.   What’s done is done. No amount of going back to see how I could have done something better will help me now. 

I also want to stop worrying about what tomorrow will bring. I simply want to trust that everything will work out, and that I’ll be able to handle whatever comes my way.  I wish to be in the now, working with what is before me in each and every moment. I want to be present with myself, noticing how my brain works.  Am I being as kind to myself as I am to others or am I constantly trashing what I do, giving myself a C or D instead of an A+ for my efforts? 

The second P is for Perspective. Instead of the same old, same old, I want to see and do things in a new way. It’s time for me to be more positive, knowing that I’ll always do the best I can. I hope to quit telling myself stories that are filled with doom, gloom, and all of the nasty things that could go wrong. I deeply believe that every negative experience holds a positive lesson. Why go for the worst when I can take the time to look through the grey clouds and find a patch of blue sky? Oh look, there’s a rainbow beginning to show behind the biggest black cloud of all.

 The third P is for Persistence.  Instead of of giving up when the first thing I try doesn’t work, I’d like to keep going and look for a way to get beyond what I don’t think is possible. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

  Just a few days ago, I added another P, because without it none of the above will work.  That P is for Patience. This work will take time. It will not necessarily be easy.  But I am certain that I can do it if I take my time and forgive myself when I stumble.  Nothing is perfect, especially human beings like me.    

How about you?  Have you a resolution or word you’re grabbing onto to help you through another year?

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NEWS  On January 18th, I will have rotator cuff surgery to repair a number of tears in my right shoulder. I may be unable to type or write for a few weeks, so on January 23rd, I will be featuring a post by my friend, Kathy Pooler, who will share her list of what she’s learned about aging.  Be sure to check out her memoir, Ever Faithful to his Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse, available on Amazon.

Depending on how I’m feeling after the surgery, I may miss a few posts.  I will be in a sling for 6 weeks and I’m not sure how easily I’ll be able to type. But I just learned how to dictate to my computer and I’ll be playing with that feature.  We’ll see how it works!

Decisions, Decisions

You know the drill. 

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin

Some days it’s as simple as deciding which sweater to wear with the new skirt you bought last week. But when it comes to certain other decisions it’s a different ballgame altogether.   I’ve been chewing on one for over a week now and I’m still kind of swinging back and forth.  

Two weeks ago I decided to postpone my rotator cuff surgery set for the 14th of December.  For a number of  reasons the holidays can be a difficult for me and I came to the conclusion that adding another challenge for myself was not in my best interest.  I immediately felt that the boulder I’d been carrying for a couple of months had vanished.   Plus after dealing with Bill’s very successful knee replacement surgery in early November and his ensuing recovery, I was happy to give myself some time to rest and relax before my role as caretaker became one of being the patient. 

Discomfort over having to deal with a long recovery after my surgery was constantly on my mind.   My right arm would be in a sling for six weeks and I’d be unable to drive for three months. That meant that I’d be stuck inside for the colder months with little chance to get out on my own when I need it most. I remember too well the cabin fever I used to suffer through during the winters when I lived in Northern Vermont. I felt trapped and spent the cold months quite depressed. I don’t relish going through that again. 

Discussion with friends around the Thanksgiving dinner table last week was partly about the challenges of failing body parts as one ages. It was pointed out to me by one friend that a study out of Finland found that physical therapy can be as effective as rotator cuff surgery.  He continued that recovery from rotator cuff surgery can take six months to a year. 

Oy, I thought, what have I gotten myself into?  

Over the next few days I’d  decided to cancel my surgery altogether.  But just to be sure I decided to do some research of my own.  I read the piece the Finish study, saying that physical therapy was the way to go. I also read that most small rotator cuff tears are the ones that benefit most from PT.  But other than the three different surgery technics used, there was little other information that was of helpful. And I reminded myself that I shouldn’t believe everything I read on the internet. 

What to do?  

I had a pre-op appointment with my surgeon that I had not yet cancelled and decided to get the expert’s advice. That’s not to say I believe everything that doctors tell me either, but he had done Bill’s very successful shoulder replacement surgery several years ago.  Knowing that his work is good I decided to trust him to help me make the best decision for me.

He reminded me that I do not have a simple small rotator cuff tear.  When he had gone over the results of my MRI back in the early fall he showed me at least seven things that needed repair and told me that if I did nothing it would only get worse. That would mean a much more complicated surgery down the road. He also pointed out that if I only had a year to live, he would not recommend the surgery, but because I’m very healthy and the odds are that I could live at least ten more years, he’d recommend I go ahead.  

Knowing that there is no chrystal ball to help, I came home after the appointment confused and terribly dissapointed that my decision would be to go for the surgery. 

So once again I’m thumbing through the calendar trying to pick a few dates that would work for me.  Then I’ll call my Doc one more time and let him know what I’ve decided, knowing that I may keep wondering what the best thing for me is until I wake up from surgery.  

I hope everyone had a wonderful Turkey Day
and that the rest of the holidays
will be blessed with easy decisions!    

Adventures In Knee Replacement

November 5th, Bill waiting to go into the OR.

Last week I took Bill to Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital for the replacement of his knee.  His right knee was replaced two and half years ago.

Over the past year it became evident that his left knee was ready to be done as well. When we first moved to this new four story town home a year ago tomorrow, we both insisted on using the stairs most of the time rather than the elevator which was one of the features we were looking for if we couldn’t find a one story home. 

I think we weren’t ready to accept the idea that we were aging more quickly than we thought and not as flexible as we used to be. Bill’s replaced knee was doing great and my occasional knee pain wasn’t that bothersome. 

But we were downsizing and planning for the possibility of failing body parts and the need to slow our lives down. We still felt pretty good and for about three months we ignored the growing pain in our knees until it was simply time to give it up and start using the elevator. Accepting the fact that things were changing was not as easy as I thought it would be.

Bill has been hobbling around ever since using his cane. The left knee grew more painful and the cursing grew louder.  His pace slowed to a crawl and his enjoyment of the activities he so loved ebbed as the days passed. Going anywhere was all about how many steps it would take to get him from the car to whatever venue we chose, even if handicapped parking was near by.  

In August he decided to revisit his surgeon. He was nervous about it. He wasn’t sure that she’d take him on. He hadn’t lost much weight, which had been one of her requirements when he’d checked in with her earlier in the year.  But this time she said, “Yes, let’s do it. “   

November 6th, Post-op and going home later in the day!

It’s a week since his visit to the OR and the patient is doing well. He’ll see the Doctor again today.  We had a bit of a scare Monday when we thought he might have a blood clot. We spent a good 4 hours in the ER waiting for his surgeon, who was operating on someone else, to decide what to do.  But thankfully there was no blood clot and things seem to be moving along again.  We’ve had visiting nurses and physical therapists who were great, and he’ll go out for physical therapy starting next week.  

As for my knee, it still is fairly good and I’m doing what I can to keep it healthy.

It’s been a long, patience straining week but we’re getting through it nicely.  Between several bouts of tears and panic attacks on my part, we’ve been laughing a lot, and enjoying the loving kindness of dear friends and family who have brought us delicious things to eat, along with laughter, prayers, and comfort.

Thank you to all of you. 

   

Falling Leaves

There’s a lot going on in the world these days both politically and environmentally.  Most everyone I talk to is struggling with their personal lives, as well as how to live in a country that is being led by a madman who isn’t making life easier for anyone, including himself.

Change is a constant feature of life, leaving many unable to find their way back to where they were, whether it’s because their homes have been swept away by vicious storms, they have lost life-long jobs, or they’re living in fear of the raging fires that  sweep through parts of our country on a regular basis. 

Both my primary care physician and my therapist have said that since the election in 2016, they are working more and more with people trying to come to grips with the politics of our time. I have several acquaintances who are so traumatized that they find it difficult to go out.  It doesn’t help that Charlottesville is frequently mentioned in the evening news.  There are many who are still trying to heal from the damage that was done here in August of 2017.  

I’m feeling particularly grateful that I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, a lovely place to call my own, and that for the moment at least, my mental health is good. But aging has moved into my home. Both Bill and I are trying to stay on track as aches, pains, and increasing forgetfulness become more and more a part of our lives. 

Bill is scheduled to have his left  knee replaced on November 5th,  just days away.  He had his right knee replaced along with a shoulder several years ago and we’re hoping this surgery will be the last.  

I’ll be having my right rotator cuff sewn back together on December 14th.  I’m praying the procedure will cancel out the chronic pain I’ve been living with for over a year. The cuff is apparently torn in a number of places.  Though I’m looking forward to being able to have the pain gone, my arm will be in a sling for 6 weeks and I will not be able to drive for 3 months. YIKES!

I’ve been preparing for a month now. I  practice using my left hand to type, stir pots of delicious chicken soup I’m freezing for later when I can’t cook, and to perform certain sanitary tasks.  I’m gathering clothing that will help me to get dressed and undressed more easily. Getting painful arms into tight sleeves does not feel good.  I’m also gathering a pile of books to read, looking forward to having more reading time than I’ve had in ages. So let it snow, or do whatever it’s going to do. I’ll be fine!

This is where I lead up to tell you about my new writing project.  The working title is, Elder Lessons, and will be a collection of personal essays on aging and about my sometimes fumbled attempts to get through the final chapter(s) of  my own life with grace and humor.  

I’ll be giving you all a taste of what I’m doing, reading, and thinking as I move through the process. I am counting on the writing to keep me moving forward through my own struggles and the slower pace I’ve embraced. 

I’m also hoping to add the voices of others who are dealing with the same issues and how they handle the ups and downs of later life. 

Until next time,
I’ll take time to rest and walk
through the great outdoors,
watching how nature does it.
As autumn leaves fall,
they change from green into the most magnificent colors,
leaving a canopy of cold, dark branches.
But I know they’ll  be back again soon.