I am a bit on the obstinate side, so when someone says I can’t do something or won’t be able to do it, my reaction is to prove him wrong. So when the orthopedic doc in Toledo told me the bad news about my rotator cuff and the fact that he was “sorry” to be the one to tell me the bad news that the usual surgery was not an option and that I was too young for the reverse replacement, I got a little testy. Okay, I said, how do I learn to live with this. He shrugged as if to say, “beats me”. What would you do? Look for a second opinion maybe? Yep. The nitwit didn’t even suggest PT might help, so I decided to consult with my nurse practitioner. A runner, he knows how important swimming and running are to me, and gave me some excellent advice. He assured me that I couldn’t make it any worse, so there was no harm in working on it. Building muscle strength in my biceps and triceps would be essential if someday I did have the surgery.
During PT for the pinched nerve in my neck, the PTs helped me work on the shoulder. They advised me on exercises, light weightlifting, and all encouraged me to continue doing whatever I felt comfortable doing.
So when I could no longer ignore the fact that the pool was open and my body and mind weren’t ready to give up swimming, I jumped in. Breaststroking worked well, albeit a gawky stroke, and forced me to stretch the arm and shoulder. After a few weeks of doing a 1/4-1/3 mile at a time, I remembered seeing a paralympic one-armed swimmer. I tried the one-armed crawl and discovered that my right arm wanted to take a stroke after the left. After fighting that for awhile, I decided to let it do whatever it wanted and over went the right arm. My form would definitely not get high marks, but so what! I was so excited I swallowed a gallon of chlorine water as I plowed through one lap. It was exhausting but exhilarating. Just knowing that I can do it even awkwardly makes me feel nearly normal again.
If I can swim, surely I can run again, right? Oddly, the shoulder doesn’t hurt with the bouncing of a run, and the stress fractures seem to have healed. I’m now up to two sets of 4 1/2 minutes during each one-hour walk. Eventually I’ll work that up to a 9-minute (1 mile) run, but since I promised my husband, no more LONG runs.
My goal now is to do the Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell 5k in December. This time it will mean much more than just running, because I now understand what arthritis feels like.