Decisions, Decisions

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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!    


  1. My husband has had both shoulders done—at different times. He was experiencing great pain prior to both surgeries, and is now pain free and VERY active. The surgery, recovery, and follow-up therapy was not always pleasant, but he will tell you that it was most definitely worth it for him. You will make the decision that is right for you. The answers are not always cut and dried.

  2. Thanks for your reassuring words, Linda. I know deep down that all I have to do is trust that my decision is the best one for me. I look forward to being able to say, “Yes, it was worth it.”

  3. I agree with Linda. Keep listening to your body. Not the fear that may be screaming louder, but your body. You’ve really captured well here, the anguish that ambivalence can brins. Woody had the surgery to good effect. I had PT for mine, also with good effect. We had different RC injuries. Ambivalence is a really uncomfortable place to be. I have some thoughts on how to bring the “should I” and the “shouldn’t I“ together. If you want, Let’s talk.

  4. Joan Rough says:

    Janet, I’d love to talk. I’ll message you to set up a time! It’s really interesting that since I called the surgeons office today to set up the surgery the pain has diminished after several days of severe pain and thinking I wouldn’t do the surgery!

  5. You have already gotten great advice here, so listen to what your doctor says, but go with your gut. (Maybe I should say “shoulder”!) The diminished pain is probably a result of your body relaxing after making the decision. Think how great you’ll feel after you have experienced healing. Besides, you have Bill at your side. Not everyone has that!

    Thank you for sharing your ambivalence here. I’m glad that you’ve gotten beyond the torture of decision. Wishing you all he best, Joan!

    • Thanks for the pep talk, Marian. I’m convinced that I’ve made the right decision for me. The surgery is now planned for January 18th. Now I can rest and enjoy the holidays without extra stress. Another thing to be grateful for in this season of giving and receiving. The best gift is health and good friends like you and the others who have commented here!

  6. Here’s what I needed to know. Rotator cuff surgery. Ouch… I can see how hard it would be to have a choice or almost a choice to delay or avoid surgery. I don’t have a choice. The only sound from my L ear is a roaring tinnitus with zero ability to interpret incoming sound. Is it a human, a dog, static, a voice? Truly completely deaf. I’ve longed for help because the isolation is intense. I’ve also grown used to lots of silence, so I’ll need to desensitize.

    Sounds like your surgery is on. Did you get a date? Or maybe not.

    • Elaine, I can’t imagine what you are going through. I have some hearing issues but it’s minor and only annoying when the batteries in my hearing aids give out. I hope it goes well and I’ll be thinking of you.

      Yes, I rescheduled my surgery for January 18th. It has to done but added to the chaos of the holidays would have made me insane. So I live with the day-to-day pain until the holidays are over and I can wrap my head around being a patient for a while.