Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One Day Forward, Four Months Back

The good news: on Sunday I finally settled on a roller derby name. I'll henceforth be known as Dirty Bombe. A bombe is a type of ice cream dessert, and as anyone who knows anything knows, I fancy myself an ice cream maker. Hence, the name. Thanks to my derby buddy Mean Streak for coming up with the name.

I settled on a name the same day that I finally felt like I'd more or less completed the beginner level of my roller derby league. I decided I was ready to take the test next Sunday and try to move up to the next level, which would bring hitting and blocking and scrimmaging: real roller derby! I was pumped.

If I sound a little less pumped now, it's because of the bad news.

I fell during derby practice back in March, and it didn't hurt much, at first. But over a period of a few weeks I developed a sharp pain in my left shoulder, and in early May I finally went to see my doctor. She took an x-ray, scribbled down a diagnosis I couldn't quite read, and then referred me out to a physical therapist. I assumed physical therapy would fix whatever it was. 

I was wrong.

I had my consultation with the physical therapist yesterday. She translated the doctor's diagnosis for me: adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder. In essence, the ligaments that surround my shoulder joint and hold it all together have seized up, limiting my range of motion and causing sharp, stabbing pain whenever I try to do a bit too much. It was probably brought on by my fall in March, although doctors don't really seem to know what causes it. 

And that was just the beginning.

According to my physical therapist, they also don't know what really fixes it. Physical therapy generally revolves around pain management (most people with this condition have constant, debilitating pain, while mine only pops up when I move wrong) and improving range of motion (my range of motion is pretty good compared to most people). In short, I have a relatively mild case that physical therapy can't do much for. It should clear up on its own in about 18 months. So far, so good, right?

No. Not good at all.

Another fall on my left side could further damage my shoulder, delaying my healing time even more. Worse yet, a fall on my right side could cause the same condition in that shoulder, leaving me more or less unable to use either arm for anything more than the most basic functions. Then the physical therapist gave her "strong recommendation:" no more skating until the adhesive capsulitis heals itself.

18 months off skates. 

Which was about the time I burst into tears.

She tried to comfort me. She said that she understood that roller derby offered camaraderie, but I could still go to the scrimmages and cheer on my friends! I smiled, but it felt more like a wince. That sounded like as much fun as being told I couldn't have sex anymore, but was still more than welcome to cheer on my friends as they got just as much action as possible. It sounded awful.

She mentioned another option in passing: "manipulation under anesthesia." Essentially, they put me under, wrench my arm into all the positions that are too painful for me to tolerate now, and break up all those adhesions and scar tissue. Follow that with a week of post-op pain and a couple months of intensive physical therapy several times a week, and that might fix the problem. No guarantees, though.

I know I'm not a medical professional, but I'm seriously skeptical. Are these really the only options available to me? Do absolutely nothing and quit an activity I love for a year and a half, or get knocked out and then go through serious rehab? There's no middle ground? No cortisone shots to reduce inflammation in the joint? No taking it easy in skate practice, avoiding hitting and scrimmaging while I wait for my shoulder to heal? Nothing?

I'm frustrated, and I'm angry. This feels unfair. One bad fall and I lose a sport I've come to enjoy so much over the last few months. I've never had a physical activity I enjoyed before, and I was really excited to finally discover one. I found a whole new community I didn't know was out there, and now I feel like it's been snatched away from me. Not to be too melodramatic, but I feel a little robbed.

Anyone who knows me - really knows me - knows two things: 1) I'm tenacious as all hell, and 2) I'm the queen of Google. So I got on the interwebs and read up on the condition, and then I talked to a friend who has a fair amount of experience dealing with doctors and specialists and diagnoses. Eventually she and I wound up on the same page: go back to my primary care, ask for a referral, and get a second opinion. I want to see a doctor who specializes in sports medicine, who's used to dealing with this condition when it's brought on by traumatic injury, and more importantly, who regularly deals with patients who want to get back to activity as soon as possible. 

I made an appointment with my primary care doctor for early next week, and I'm trying not to feel too sorry for myself in the meantime. Until I'm told differently (again), I'm just going to assume that I'll find some middle ground and be able to skate and heal at the same time. In the meantime, I'm going to skate smart: no risky behavior, but no pouting in the stands, either, because I really don't want to lose everything I've gained in the last four months.


zalary said...

that just really sucks :( i hope that there is a second opinion and options with some middle ground. i think that you know your body and what you can handle more than any doctor, so i definitely think your plan is right on. hang in there.

ilovebabyquilts said...

Aww that's too bad. I know how you feel. I worked out with Amber for a solid year and it was the only physical activity I've ever loved, along with the camraderie. That got kicked out from under me last year, as you know, and I have not been active since. It sucks, but both of us need to find a way around. Sounds like you're doing it, at least!

Jess said...

Yikes! Sorry to hear about your shoulder. I've been having pain in mine too. It was diagnosed as shoulder strain but it feels so sensitive whenever I try to get back to working out on it even though I stayed off it as prescribed. Hope your second opinion goes well!

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