shoulder

Shoulder Status: After 4 Weeks

Hey friends!

It has now been 31 days since my shoulder surgery. Overall I am feeling motivated and also a little overwhelmed.

The Scars

I have some pretty gnarly scar tissue. I guess they did open up my skin in four places and jam a camera all the way into my joint.

My PT has started massaging the scars after I do the exercises and it HURTS. Maybe more than most other things. I don’t know what more I can say about it. The only thing that hurts more is when I get startled and accidentally jerk my shoulder.

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So sexy
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From the back, ooo baby.

The Sling

I still have 11 more days with this thing. While it is a pain, I’ve actually been starting to sleep better on my back and left side. (Remember, my sling has my arm facing straight ahead, not across my body.) When I sleep on my left side, I still need a pillow to support my arm at the right angle. Often my shoulder aches in that position because it’s floating at the top of my body, not totally stable. The most stable way to sleep is on my back, but that can be hard if I want my comforter to cover me all the way. The weight of the blanket presses down on my hand, which stands straight up.

My sling has become pretty much a crumb and pet hair collector. When I’m finished with it I will give it a good vacuum and see if I can send it to be re-purposed.

With my arm this way, I still can’t drive. Even though it could seem like a loss of freedom I don’t think it really has to be. I can walk to the grocery store if I have to. I’m finding a lot of ways to keep busy at home, which brings me to…

My One-Arm Hobbies

Next week is when my school district goes back in session (I know, we have a long winter break!), and therefore my work friends will no longer be available to drive me around and hang out at any given time. No worries, though, I have acquired a few hobbies and activities I can do with one arm.

Blogging has been a nice way to chronicle this experience. As you may have noticed if you’ve perused this site before, I don’t only blog about how sexy my scars are. I like to write about all kinds of things. It’s been fun to explore other blogs and other people’s worlds through this platform.

Reading is the next thing I can do with one arm. I’m currently reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. I’m about halfway through. I also read Wonder by R.J. Palacio – that was a much quicker read. I finished that one in about 3 days. I was thinking about getting a library card. Before I do, I want to read every book I have. This will be part of downsizing – If I read a book and want to read it again, I’ll keep it. If once was enough, I will donate it or maybe sell it on eBay.

Walking my dog has been a nice hobby. I usually give her a walk after my husband leaves for work, and before he comes home. Lately I’ve been trying to go for 5 miles of walking a day.

Not looking at my phone all day has been really helpful for my sleep. I’m trying to develop better habits about that. I go on my phone to communicate. I can go on my Chromebook for social media.

Two days ago, as a step toward my zero waste journey, I went outside with a bag and picked up trash. I walked around my neighborhood and filled the bag, got another, and filled another bag with stuff from a different part of the neighborhood. I don’t know if it’s because I live right by two high schools, by an apartment community, or some combination of those things, but there’s a lot of trash around.

It has been a weirdly meditative process to go around and pick up trash. It feels bad because it’s there – some other human in this world decided that leaving their trash there was okay. But it feels better when I pick it up, and it’s no longer on the ground.

I hung up a poster on my neighborhood bulletin board inviting others to pick up trash with me. It feels nice to take some responsibility for my surroundings. What happens if nobody shows up? There will still be one person going around picking up trash.

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My one-arm artistic facility is minimal. :/

An unexpected side effect of this activity: squatting down to pick something up off the ground has left my gluteus muscles a little sore. Obviously this is how I will be getting my booty muscles back.

Outside of those everyday things, I’ve been doing a lot of little projects around the house: Sending late wedding photos and Christmas presents, turning my husband’s old undershirts into rags, sorting out the piles of stuff in the kitchen, getting rid of magazines I don’t need.

I spent one day making care kits for homeless shelters and people on the street. I reused bags to contain sample snacks I’ve received in the mail, sample soaps and lotions, washcloths, feminine products (I just got reusable ones in the mail yesterday!), socks and gloves, band-aids, plastic silverware, napkins, and cleansing cloths. These are things that I know could be used by someone but I don’t need them in my house anymore. I really hope they end up helping someone.

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Sleepy dog not included

So, that’s about where I am right now. Future projects? I have a photo project in mind for my brass chamber music workshop I will be compiling for soon. I would like to find a use or a project for the wine corks we always accumulate. And I need to figure out how to better organize this blog for new visitors. There is much to be done, but I need to go at my own pace. The most important reason I’m taking this time off from work is to heal myself.

What are some healing activities you like to incorporate into your day?

-Stephy

For the next part in this series, click here.

shoulder

Status: Recovery Day 21

Heyyy.

It’s a little dreary out to walk the dog right now (only 60 degrees, I’ve become such a wimp) so I thought I would update my friends and family on how my shoulder recovery is going.

If you are new to this saga of my life, I had labrum repair surgery on December 15th, 21 days ago. I’m at the 3 week mark! I will put links at the bottom of this page if you want the full previous context of my experience.

Last Doctor’s Visit

I went in for my 2-week follow up last week and was disappointed to learn that I am actually supposed to have my sling on for 6 weeks, not the 4 weeks my original work note had said. You guys. I don’t have a regular sling that holds my forearm across my body. I have an immobilizer with a wedge-shaped pillow that keeps my right arm facing straight ahead all day and night.

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LOOK AT IT.

So that was disappointing to find out.

I also got my stitches out. They put steri-strips over the scars, which the assistant said would “come off on their own.” But last night I decided to just peel them off, because it had been 6 days.

Starting PT

With my stitches out I was able to start physical therapy this week. I was visiting this same facility frequently before my surgery, before I was able to get an MRI and was just trying to figure out the source of my pain. They know me there.

I came in Tuesday morning and my therapist said, “So, cartwheels and push-ups today?” Heh heh heh…I wish.

This set of exercises, of course, was very different from what I was doing before the surgery. Before it was a lot of strengthening and stability exercises. Now it’s just getting used to the feeling of using it again – letting it hang, curling my arms, climbing up the finger ladder and using the pulley to reach a little higher.

It felt weird that I could only get my elbow as high as my chin. My shoulder feels so different – like moving it at the wrong angle could dislocate it again. I guess that’s why I have to stay in the sling for so long.

Daily Life

I have relinquished a lot of freedom in my life by only having use of one arm. I can’t drive with my sling. Luckily I have a great husband and good friends who can take me places. My husband just had a lot of days off in the past few weeks, so it’s been nice to spend some extra time with him.

I get approached a lot by people in public now. Many people will ask, “Rotator cuff surgery?” (no) or “Who did your procedure?” or smile and say “I remember those days!” I find that people at check out stands, in making polite conversation, will ask what happened. I promise a lot of people, it looks much worse than it is. (Though maybe it’s just as bad as it looks? I don’t know.)

I wonder if that’s what it’s like to be pregnant.

I’ve been using my Chromebook a lot to write blog entries and read other people’s blogs. I’m liking this routine, peeking into other people’s worlds. I’ve also been reading a few books like I said I would. I’m preparing to go “zero waste” and making plans for how I’m going to live my life when I have my independence back.

I’m still walking my Loon dog once or twice per day. Usually I will walk about 3-5 miles a day total. It’s important to me that I move around as often as I’m able.

I have done two, beginning-level, YouTube spin classes on the exercise bike. Those are challenging and I’m glad to get even more of a lower body workout. I can’t do it all the way because I’m wary of standing up with only one hand to grab the handlebars. Still, it’s a good aerobic workout in a situation where I can only move one arm.

I really, really miss cooking my own meals. Brian is a good cook, but he doesn’t always want to cook. And those days we get take-out, which creates a lot of trash and is expensive. I bought a lot of pre-cut veggies from Trader Joe’s so I can cook some meals with one hand. I know it’s a lot of packaging waste, but I can’t cut or hold something down that’s being cut with my right arm. So for now, it’s take-out, leftovers, smoothies, veggie burgers, and sauteed pre-cut vegetables.

Bathing is getting easier. With my stitches out I can shower like normal, and I have washed my own hair (with one hand) twice. I was starting to get a rash in my armpit area, so I applied hydro-cortisone cream on it for a few days and made sure my arms were completely dry after bathing, before I got dressed. That seemed to help a lot.

I can’t put my hair up at all unless I contort my neck at a crazy angle. Something I didn’t realize – boys do not know how to tie ponytails. I asked my husband to tie my hair up and it felt like a kindergartner was playing with my hair! I know what I will teach my future son.

I am pretty much a pro at buttoning my jeans with one hand now. I got tired of feeling like I was always in pajamas.

Sleeping

It sucks. It sucks. It sucks.

Some nights I’m like, “I will probably sleep really well tonight!” But most nights I do not.

The evening after my first PT session, my 40-pound heeler dog jumped on the couch and practically sat on my bad shoulder. It was so painful I decided to break out one of the hard core painkillers from right after surgery. I slept well that night!

I have taken to occasionally smoking the wacky tobacky before bed. The stuff we have is not particularly strong but it helps a little bit.

I’ve had vivid dreams almost every night since the surgery. It’s like my brain has been processing every possible awkward or uncomfortable situation I could ever have and making me live through it. Last night I dreamed that I was teaching the ukulele to my music teacher colleagues, and we were using ukuleles from my schools. But they were dirty and in cruddy condition. Why did my dream self let those ukuleles look so bad?

Honestly, though, this week I’ve had an easier time sleeping through the night. I think exercising more helps a lot, which is why I was excited to get that bike.

That is about it for where I am. If you’ll excuse me, I must walk my doggy. Thanks for reading!

Stephy

To read about how I got into this mess, click here.
To read about how I prepared for my surgery and recovery, click here.
To read about my shoulder surgery experience, click here.
To read about my recovery at Day 13, click here. 🙂 Woo!

For the next part in this series, click here.

shoulder

Status: Recovery Day 13

Hola my friends and two followers. It has now been 13 days since my shoulder surgery. Here is where I am today.

Pain

I stopped taking the narcotic painkillers regularly around day 5, and used them to help me fall asleep until around day 7 (when we left for Christmas). I’ve been taking a prescribed anti-inflammatory called nabumetone, just 2 times a day. It didn’t help me at all before the surgery but I think it makes a big difference now.

I’m not feeling a huge amount of pain right now. I didn’t ice my shoulder at all yesterday, and only iced it once today.

Sleep

Sleeping is the worst since I stopped taking the narcotic painkillers. Every night I try to get to sleep upright but it’s very uncomfortable, and my butt slips down and I end up just on my back with my forearm sticking straight up. Last night I slept on my left side, placing a firm pillow under my sling pillow so my arm would stay put. That kind of worked. Then my big fluffball kitty Emmy, with her massive kitten mittens, stepped on my bad shoulder with her full weight on each paw. Not the massage experience I was looking for.

I woke up last night at 3am. After failing to get back to sleep for an hour I looked at food webcomics on Bored Panda for the 4:00 hour. Then attempted to go back to sleep around 5am. At 6:15 I gave up and went downstairs for breakfast. I felt like I’d stayed up late writing a paper for college, but I had nothing to show for it.

This afternoon I napped for 2 hours. I woke up feeling horrible. I hate naps. Tonight I will attempt to either sleep on the couch, or re-construct my pillow fort to be more supportive. I think I may also try consulting with Aunt Mary Jane before bed so I can stay alseep. I keep forgetting that’s an option.

Bathing

Took a bath this morning and shaved my legs thinking it’ll be 74 out today, maybe I’ll wear a skirt. I attempted and failed to shave my armpits. I scrubbed my right armpit 3 times and it still smelled like B.O. Can’t say I didn’t try.

Got a nice hair wash and blow dry. The other client there also had just had surgery. I don’t know what I’m going to do after becoming used to the jetset Fantastic Sams lifestyle!

Exercise

Since getting back from Christmas I have resolved to go on at least one walk a day, if not two, if not three. The person who was feeding my doggy when we were gone overfed her, so she has put on a little bit of holiday weight. (I, being vegan in a sea of non-vegan social functions, actually felt like I didn’t eat enough for much of my trip.) We walked 4.6 miles yesterday, and 4.3 miles today.

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Luna playing ball – before my surgery of course!

My great work friend brought over her exercise bike she never uses, so I’m excited to give that a try. I figure if my arm has to be totally still, I should still be working on my lower body strength. I can get a little more cardio in that way, too.

My only arm exercise right now is to bend and straighten my arm a few times. I do that 2-3 times a day, usually when I change clothes.

Speaking of clothes, I wore a real bra today! And jeans! I’ve missed looking like a grownup.

Mental Health

My mental health has been up and down so far. Christmas took a lot of energy out of me, much more than I wanted it to, with a jam-packed 3 day schedule of event after event after event. I missed the relaxed and low-key way my own family celebrates.

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However, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to decorate my sling like a present!

At home, I’ve been watching a few shows, but I’m trying not to watch TV and look at my phone all day. I’ve been trying to read books. I have a lot of books in my house that are cookbooks or nonfiction “How to do this!” kind of books. Cookbooks are great for when I’m able to drive to the store, purchase ingredients, and use two hands to chop vegetables. But now it just makes me sad that all I can make are leftovers and soup from a can.

I’ve been sloooooowly reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, since I am a musician. It’s good but so long, and I’m not sure reading about music is as exciting for me as actually listening to or participating in making music. After this I think I’d like something lighter and definitely fiction. Reading is actually kind of hard because of what I have to do to hold the book open. But I can make it work.

Walking the dog has helped me break up the day. Luna Loveypants is a great walking dog. We’ve bonded a lot. Plus I’m hoping the sun exposure will help me more to sleep at night.

I’m trying to navigate the cause of my insomnia. I’ve never been great at sleeping. I think it comes down to, even though I have very minimal structure to my days while on disability leave, I’m trying to impose more on myself. I don’t think that’s as good for me as it is for many people. Maybe when I start PT and have more of a routine going, that will change.

So that’s where I’m at. 🙂

Stephy

To read about how I got into this mess, click here.
To read about how I got prepared for my shoulder surgery, click here.
To read about my shoulder surgery experience, click here.
To read about my recovery at Day 21, click here.