When I started this blog I wanted to recount my story of coming back from three major surgeries, and still staying active and healthy while aging. What I did not have in mind was recounting the continuing saga of rehabbing from new issues. I’m in my second rehab this year. After bouncing back from my broken collarbone, I have the same arm in a sling, again, because of rotator cuff repair. People, including fellow blogger Joyful Stephanie, have asked me where I get the inner strength to pursue multiple rehabs, and how I stay positive under the circumstances. I decided this was worth a blog post of its own.
Admittedly, I could count this year’s two rehabs as related, because the rotator cuff tear happened in the same bike crash as the collarbone, I just didn’t know it at the time. So I’m now officially doing rehab 1b for 2019, instead of rehab 2 (actually it’s 1c because I just had to do an additional procedure to fix a glitch in the repair). But that’s not what it feels like psychologically, it feels like rehab 2. By April I was pretty much completely recovered, functionally, with the collarbone. I knew by then about the rotator cuff tear, but it seemed minor, like something I could work around. I had to adjust my strength training a bit and would maybe have to learn to adjust my kayaking stroke. But otherwise I could pretty much do all my favorite activities full blast. Then on May 8th I had another freak fall, and landed on my bad shoulder, tearing the rotator cuff worse and now making surgery unavoidable.
So here I am climbing up the rehab mountain again. Very little movement for the right arm is allowed so presumably I’ll lose considerable strength in that arm and shoulder again, strength I’d fought to get back in February and March. There’ll be some discomfort to fight through during rehab. And some of my favorite physical activities have to be curtailed during this period.
The question about “finding inner strength” has a shorter answer. I guess have an athlete’s mentality of always being “in training”. Before my latest setback, my training schedule was about increasing my stamina to achieve certain goals I was pointing towards. During rehab, I’ve simply modified my goal to be: stay fit for health purposes, and optimally heal my shoulder and get back to full strength so I can eventually pursue other things. I made changes as necessary, like doing strength training only with the left arm, and adding any prescribed PT exercises to my routine. I am already in the habit of doing various exercise activities diligently, and I just add the PT to that list. I must say it feels a bit weird to be able to strength train on one side only, I feel like I’m going to be buff on one side and skinny on the other. In reality, I’ll probably just maintain muscle mass on the left side during rehab, and lose a bit on the right, but that will get fixed later.
The answer to the question of how to stay positive about all this has a several aspects.
Perspective– I have to admit other people are a lot worse off than me. I had enough pain post surgery to interfere with sleeping for the first 10 days or so. But other folks have chronic conditions that give them worse pain than mine, long term. Thinking of that makes me want to suck it up and fight through any discomfort.
Control– The most frustrating thing would be to think my crash and fall this year are just because of “bad luck” or “shit happens”. Then later this year, after yet another course of rehab, I might be “waiting for the other shoe to drop” and something else to go wrong. But a lot of this is actually in my control. When I had my crash. I was riding on a poorly maintained country road, but was on a bike with small racing wheels that is better suited for smooth roads. I had neglected to inspect my bike cleats on my shoes, which were at least 15 years old. And on my hiking fall, I was wearing old trail runners with worn out soles. I doubt if I would have slipped had I been wearing my newer hiking boots. Sure there are a lot of things in life that are out of our control. But there’s a lot I can do to minimize risk of future mishaps.
Lessons to be learned– Aside from the obvious ones about doing a better job on safety measures, I always feel that there are deeper lessons from going through incidents like this. So this is a good time to be ponder: is the Universe, or perhaps some wiser part of my subconscious, trying to tell me something? What I came up with in my pondering are some issues that I chronically fail to deal with that I may give lip service to rather than take as seriously as I should. The first is that I consider mental/spiritual development to be of primary importance, which I’ll discuss in a future post. Physical activities for me have the principal purpose of supporting mental growth by being meditation-in-motion, as well as mindfulness training. Other benefits of exercise, like the satisfaction of performing well in competition, or weight loss, are just icing on the cake. But I often get my priorities mixed up. So going through rehab allows me to opportunity to do a “reset” on all this. Having my physical activities constrained is the ideal time to work on non-exercise related things like meditation, mindfulness, and higher quality eating.
Consider the alternative– The alternative to staying positive is moping around feeling sorry for myself. Somehow I have the gut feeling that won’t make me happier. From personal experience I have found mindfulness and a positive attitude to both be helpful when going through challenges. Onward and upward!