Wednesday, December 21, 2011

relativity of pain

This was my week of answers. And if you ever doubt that worrying won't make things better, I like to think that my worrying about a worst-case scenario for the shoulder has paid off in a better diagnosis than expected. The wait for the MRI report was mentally excruiating and I promise I won't schedule a Friday test again.

When I saw Dr Mike on Tuesday, he went over the written report with its medical terms like acromiom, subacromial and supraspinatus. A few terms I'd heard before, but I'd have to look them up online to remember what they were. What we were looking for was whether the labrum was torn. We went to the computer to look at the images and he pointed out all the places things were injured, reminding me that most of his earlier diagnoses were confirmed (like the impingement and swollen bursa).

He showed me that I did indeed have the labral tear, albeit a small one. Not as bad as when he tore his a few years ago when he crashed doing 50 mph on his snowmachine. (I love active doctors who get what it's like to be a patient.) He recommended a consult with a surgeon to confirm that it wasn't bad enough for surgery and to start treatment with a cortisone shot - but only when I was ready to commit to his regimen which I'd need to stick with for seven days to get the best result from the shot. Okay, I scheduled it for the next day - today.

At noon today, I let him do the shot into the right shoulder. After the assistant applied my Hello Kitty bandage (nice touch) I moved the arm around and massaged from the area of the injection toward any area where I felt pain for about two or three minutes. Then it was the ice pack for 40 minutes. It was a piece of cake. The worst part was driving home in my manual-transmission car. It fact, that's been one of the most painful things I do, but I can't just switch hands.

Now, my regimen for seven days is this: Contrast therapy (5 min. ice; 15 min heat; repeat) then apply his special "Dr Mike's Sports Cream," followed by 5 or so minutes of neck & shoulder stretches. I must do these four times a day! As I write, I have a heating pad on my shoulder - tip: oversized fashion scarves are great at holding a heating pad in place.

There are a few things I find interesting about this week's experiences. First, after I learned the tear was not as bad as I'd thought, the pain diminished throughout the day so that by evening it was not too bad. I'm fascinated by how involved my brain has been in interpreting my pain. Second, after reading over the MRI report at home, something was missing; I confirmed it with Dr Mike today - the rotator cuff is not torn after all!

I'm newly optimistic about the treatment, hoping that the shot and the PT will help me avoid surgery, hoping I have a faster recovery and am on the bike when the pavement clears. After all, I have places to ride, things to see and do, candles to burn on both ends. Those are some great thoughts for this solstice. I'm on the upswing.

Before I sign out, I want to thank you - my friends, family and followers - for your words of support and encouragement. It really helps to have you share your experiences and kind words. Happy return of the sun; and Happy Holidays! Cheers!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

counting days

This time of year, I count down the days. Not just the days until Christmas or the new year, but the days until that yearly shift when the days stop getting shorter and begin to get longer. We're now just a few days from solstice when we can begin counting as, imperceptibly at first, our daylight returns.

Far North Bicentennial Park, Dec 15, 2011

I'm noticing it even more this year as I turn to the vitamin D and try to get out a little during the daylight (I won't call it sunshine because that's been scarce). Last week's film fest and icy weather made me a little lazy, but this week I've been out three times on the snowshoes, stomping around Baxter Bog with one of my friends, then on my own in Bicentennial Park. But even my anticipation for solstice and the January trip Jon and I are taking has been a little dulled by my injury.

On a follow-up with my doctor on Wednesday, I told him I knew the recovery would be slow but the rest, physical therapy and daily exercises hadn't led to much noticeable change. He had me schedule another test. I almost cried at his office and regretted not having done the MRI right away, feeling I'd lost time in my recovery especially if it does reveal another injury. Surgery, he told me, is the only treatment if the labrum is torn. We scehduled the MRI for Friday.

After the visit, I ran an errand at New Sagaya's. While wandering among the saki sets and tea pots thinking about the ache in my shoulder, a song came on the sound system: 2000 Miles, by the Pretenders. What combination of tempo, melody and lyrics, I wonder, could make me feel so sad and reminiscent as this song did at that moment? I tried to not think about what the upcoming test might reveal, tried to not feel sorry for myself but swallowed the lump in my throat and headed for the nearest cashier. Save the tears for in the car or at home.

On Friday, I went in for the MRI. I tried not to think about the results as I lay inside the cylinder while buzzers went off and I closed my eyes, imagining 3-D slices cutting through my right shoulder. I focused on the different sounds the machine made, then stayed calm as the technician announced the next test over the intercom. Before and after the test, we chatted a little about bikes and biking, but I didn't feel so much enthusiasm as I felt reminiscent. Not really wanting to think of my favorite rides from last winter either on snow or ice. Knowing that one of the things I love about winter is out of my reach this year. I even miss skiing.

I'm hoping for the best, but trying to be realistic about what the next few months might look like. Whatever the MRI reveals, I won't be doing much dancing around a fire this solstice. There will be no midnight bike rides for the new year. I'm already trying to prepare myself for a different kind of Hawaii trip this time. One that involves less time in the water snorkeling & swimming and more time visiting cultural sites & resting with a book in my lap. We leave a month from today. Now I'll start counting the days and make sure I'm in shape for hiking.

Feb 2010 Waimea River, Kauai

Friday, December 2, 2011

side effects

Injuries are not all bad. Since I began my shoulder rehabilitation, it has been much easier to glue my butt to my favorite chair and write for several hours at a time. Some days I don't write as much, but I'm seeing progress on a longer piece I'm working on. Is it a novel or novella? Time and a little guidance will tell.

I'm reminded of a novel I read while on my trip in October. The premise was great but I often felt the author was drawing out the story through needless repetition. Sometimes repetition works, but to me it bogged the story down. At the end of the book was a Q&A where the author explained that the novel had originally been a short story upon which he elaborated. Aha! I felt kind of cheated, like I should have been reading a series of short stories instead of a novel that didn't keep me awake in my tent.

So I'm trying to be careful with my story so that it keeps moving along. While I'd shared the premise of the story with Jon, I hadn't yet shown it to anyone. Then I had an unusual opportunity to edit a story for a friend. My friend Mika lives in Japan and travels the world as a journalist, including trips to the Middle East and other Asian regions. Her stories are published only in Japanese-language publications. This fall she made a trip to London to research a story about a male belly dancer of Turkish descent who had grown up on the island of Cyprus.

The dancer, named Ozgen, wanted to read her story, however Mika doesn't typically write in English so she asked if I would edit her translation. I read over her story trying at first to not think about what I would change, but just to get the sense of it. Despite instances where the word order was complicated and a few cases of missing pronouns and articles, I could usually understand what she was saying. In some cases, even though her word order didn't follow typical construct for English, I liked her descriptions better than any 'correction' I could have made. It seemed that changing it too much would have taken away her voice and her unique way of seeing things. I made my edits and emailed the revision along with a few questions I still had.

After she cleared up my questions and sent the story to Ozgen, she told me he'll be posting it on his website. I haven't seen it there yet, but you can find some pretty cool videos of him dancing!

Now, about the 'time and guidance' I mentioned earlier. I asked Mika if she could provide some advice to me on the story I'm writing. The one that may be a novel. Because some of the characters are in Japan, and because it deals with historical & contemporary issues, I've asked if she can confirm some of the elements of the story. I'm concerned about the sense of place and how I represent the characters. While I'm trying to decide when to schedule a visit, my research has been limited to the internet and the Loussac library. Both are helpful, but there's nothing like being there.

With a commitment made, I spent the early part of this week cleaning up a draft of the first section of the book before I emailed it (along with a list of my intentions and concerns) to Mika on Thursday. This is the farthest I've gotten in creating a work of fiction longer than my many unresolved short stories. But, now I feel compelled to finish it. Mika has promised to help, telling me most eloquently: "It is important to have readers as an escort runner to finish the book." I await her edits.