I wasn’t going to write about my shoulder surgery. Honestly, I didn’t wan’t the additional attention it might bring. But, clearly, I changed my mind. First, as I’ve been spending the past few weeks prepping for the procedure, I realized there aren’t very many resources online for women who are undergoing this kind of surgery. If it wasn’t for Facebook and my new friend Sarah, I would be absolutely and utterly lost (THANK YOU). Second, writing is one of the best ways I deal with emotions I sometimes can’t otherwise articulate, and I’ve learned through this blog that sometimes, my honest writing can help others.
Over a decade ago, I was in a horseback riding accident. I was thrown off my horse — ironically named Romeo — into a tree. My right shoulder took the brunt of the impact and it hasn’t been the same since. Two or three times a year, when I’m minding my own business, doing normal things, my shoulder dislocates. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to pop it back in myself. Typically, it’s a quick “in/out” scenario that leaves me in pain for a few days before returning back to normal. A couple months ago, my shoulder dislocated while putting on a t-shirt. It was out for what felt like an eternity (but was probably only 45 seconds or so), and took over a week to “heal.” Finally, I thought, it’s time to face it and get my shoulder taken care of once and for all.
After x-rays and a terrifying MRI (I’m pretty claustrophobic), it turned out I have a labral tear. According to the Internet, the labrum is a semilunar (crescent-shaped) cartilage structure that runs along the rim of the shoulder socket that provides an added cushion and stability to the shoulder joint. As my doctor described, your shoulder is like a golf ball sitting on a golf tee. The little rim around the tee is your labrum. When there’s a tear in your labrum, and the golf ball is moved in the direction of the tear, it just falls off the tee. Pleasant.
Thursday is the day. I’m told it’s a procedure that takes about an hour and half, and while I’m under general anesthesia, my doctor will arthroscopically repair the tear, tighten up the joint, and secure everything with a few anchors (that will eventually dissolve!).
I’m nervous. I’m nervous about going under anesthesia. I’m nervous about the procedure. I’m nervous about the 4-6 weeks basically immobile in a sling. It’s my right shoulder, and I’m right-handed, so I’m nervous about relying solely on my left arm. I’m nervous about washing my hair, getting dressed, feeding myself, sleeping upright, going through life in a sling. I’m nervous about the physical therapy. I’m nervous because I’ve never been through something like this before and the fear of the unknown is real. Mostly, I’m nervous about being vulnerable and giving up control.
I’ve written about being a control freak before. I’m very independent and the idea of giving up a good chunk of my independence and letting others take care of me is terrifying. I like things done in a certain way. I’ll admit I have my own neurotic tendencies (the bottom sheet must be tucked in all the way before I get into bed, the sink must be wiped down, everything must be in its certain, specific place).
But. I’m doing everything I possibly can to prepare.
I’ve cooked several healthy meals (chili, lasagna, burritos) that will live in the freezer and be ready for warming up. I’ve purchased pillows, hand therapy exercise balls, front-close bras, shampoo/conditioner all-in-one with a pump top, spray deodorant, big baggy t-shirts (thanks, Gabe!), button-up blouses, a jar opener, baby wipes, and a large ColdPac (seriously, thank you, Sarah). I read and re-read the blog of another woman who went through the same surgery.
The best part, and the part that provides me with the most comfort, is knowing I have an incredible support system here in San Francisco. Gabe is going to be a fantastic stay-at-home nurse. His family has offered their nursing services. My friends will help get me out of the house and have already been surrounding me with positive vibes. My family and best friend are just a text message/phone call away. I have the whole week of July 4th off work (thanks, Adobe!), so I only need to take off a few days beforehand. I have a wonderful manager who will let me be flexible working from home post-shutdown if I need to, and a fantastic team who will help me once I’m back in the office. I know Sarah, who has been the most incredible resource (with the same OCD tendencies, I might add), will be there to answer all nine billion more of my silly questions and there’s just comfort in knowing someone has been through this exact same thing and came out on the other side better for it.
Truth is, I know I’ll be okay. I know my stubborn personality will propel me forward and into recovery as soon as humanly possible (I’ve already been practicing my exercises). I know I’ll come out after recovery without the worry of my shoulder dislocating in even more dangerous scenarios than it has in the past. And in the end, that’s what really matters. Five months of inconvenience and pain is well worth a lifetime with a sound mind and a healthy shoulder.
I’m ready. Well, as ready as I’m going to be. Admitting my fear and vulnerability is one of the hardest things I’ve done. I’m generally pretty good at compartmentalizing and putting on a strong front. But, I’m choosing to approach this short chapter of my life a little differently. A little softer. A little more real.
I truly hope this post helps someone who may be going through the same thing (or something similar) and is just as nervous. You are not alone. So, for the next four days and throughout recovery, I’ll be channeling all the positive vibes. Send them my way!