Tuesday, 22 December 2015

On the mend...

What a difference a few weeks makes! It feels a long time ago since my last blog and the way I was feeling then!

Actually, after a week of stronger drugs, and less pain, I’m pleased to say at 2 weeks post-op, things were already feeling a lot better than that horrendously low and painful first week. With the pain under control I was able to refind some of my usual positivity, and look at life in a whole different light again.

Scars healing, pain settled, starting to smile again!
Another few weeks on and it’s now 5 weeks since my op. Things are going well for this stage of the recovery. I still can’t do any of the things I really love and miss, namely mountain biking, climbing, skiing and swimming, but I can feel my shoulder getting stronger and more mobile each day, and that’s motivation enough to keep me working hard towards the elusive day when I can finally do all those things again!

Hours of daily stretches and exercises...but they're working!
Of course there are days when I deal with it pretty well and then definitely tough times and moments where I feel frustrated and quite down at the length of time it’s felt like since I’ve had some proper fun, but in general I’m managing to keep myself busy and occupied, and looking towards the future and getting back to work and play.

It’s been weird being so inactive…for a person who is normally outside doing some form of exercise almost every day, often on my bike from 9 in the morning until 6 in the evening during the summer months when I’m working in France, suddenly being forced to take things easier and spend more time sitting (and not on a saddle) is not easy. I’m also not very good at people doing things for me, I like to be independent, but for the first few weeks where I was wearing the sling 24 hours a day, I had to accept help for a lot of things! Being cooked for, driven to appointments, made cups of tea, it took a while to get used to, but I’m very grateful that my mum and dad have been looking after me so well. Even now, whilst I can do a lot more, there are things that require a lot of strength or use of two strong arms that I still can’t do and I don’t like it!

Lots of walks with my Mum and Dad..one of the positive sides of having an injury that forces you to do something different!
Exercise currently has been limited to walking (I tried running for 45 minutes this week and my shoulder has been killing me ever since…), turbo training (but 45 minutes is the limit I can tolerate due to boredom!) and morning and evening physio rehab exercises, which take a good couple of hours out of the day! Excitement comes in the form of being able to see my arm shaking less with certain exercises, moving up to a harder colour of theraband, and finishing sets of exercises without grimacing in pain! Small steps but I’m happy with them! Crazy how your expectations become completely redefined in situations like this!

Spending plenty of time in here!
I’ve had to remove myself from my normal world a little, as I can’t join in with the things I’d normally be doing, and seeing others having fun whilst I’m bored and feeling useless is hard! So I’ve been practising life in the “real world” as some people would call it again. Visiting friends, getting up to date with admin, organising photos, meeting people for coffees or lunch, watching films, cooking, etc etc.  It’s actually been great to have time to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while who’ve been to visit, and I’ve also had time to start planning some little projects for next year, which has certainly given me things to look forward to! I hope my shoulder realises what's in store for it and how strong it needs to get before then...

Sunday walk and pub lunch with Pete, Lana and Jacob
Whilst still in the sling a couple of weeks back, (and on a delicious pain-dulling concoction of the strongest drugs I've ever taken!), I made it up to Kendal for the Mountain Film Festival. It was great to get out, have a change of scenery from the TV screen, and catch up with lots of friends. There were some incredibly motivating films and talks which kind of put things in perspective a bit, and I came back feeling more positive about the coming months of recovery. My arm suffered, just standing and walking more each day for the first time since the op, even though it was in a sling and I was on painkillers, rather than the previous two weeks of sitting/lying and resting, it was pretty uncomfortable. But I even made it up to Stickle Tarn on a walk with Paul, attracting some interesting looks and comments from other walkers.

Paul above a wintery feeling Langdale
 My arm currently has a kind of low level ache to it all the time, made worse each day after the exercises I’m doing to regain strength and movement, but eased by ice and the occasional paracetemol….however, I don’t really mind this kind of pain when I know it's part of my shoulder working towards recovery! Sleep is best left untalked about though…I haven’t had a really good night’s sleep in 11 weeks since I first dislocated my shoulder, and expect it will be a while yet before I do! (I await the raised eyebrows from friends who are new parents...) Frustrating, but until I can sleep on my favourite right hand side it’s just something I’ll have to put up with. I imagine the lack of physical activity compared to normal isn’t helping either, I’m simply not worn out enough to sleep! 

This last week there has been a noticeable improvement in what I can do with my arm, including driving (whoop!), press-ups on my knees (might not sound much but a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t even push myself away from the wall!), and most excitingly….a couple of little bike rides! Nothing too exciting, just easy riding on the road, but I’ve been in a better mood ever since!!

Back on the bike, whoop!
For the first time since the op, I can start to imagine that in a couple of months time, I might eventually have an arm that I can do the things I want to with! It feels amazing just to be using it again and feel like an arm rather than a useless lump attached to the side of your body!

Dreaming of having an arm that is strong enough to carry my bike again  one day! (Photo: James Dalby)
My surgeon and physio have told me I can NOT do anything where I could fall on the arm at this point, or jolt it suddenly….but in my mind that means there are plenty of things I can do, and I intend to fill the next few weeks with them! Time to start having a bit of fun again! Woohoo!!

So all in all, despite some (very!) low points over the last couple of months, I can’t really complain about 2015….it’s been a good year! From incredible travel adventures with my bike in New Zealand, to some wild rugged Scottish exploring, to the hot and dusty summer in the Alps…full of fantastic moments to remember, and good friends both old and new from all over the World who shared the fun times. You know who you all are…let’s hope 2016 can be just as exciting! (Maybe without a frustrating injury though please!)

Wishing friends from wherever you are, a Happy Christmas and a fun-filled 2016!

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