So, I found myself back at the old familiar medical complex - the place I'd hoped to get a month-long vacation from. I was there for my first physical therapy session in the hopes of restoring movement and reducing pain in my shoulder. I arrived late, because as many times as I'd been there, I couldn't find this particular office.
I'd never experienced physical therapy before and wasn't sure what to expect. The therapist, a pretty, granola-ish California type, did some measuring of my range of motion, or ROM as they say in both the computer and PT business. She moved my arm in certain directions, had me put my arms behind my back and see how high I could reach them up my back. My good arm could scratch between the shoulder blades, my bad arm hovered around my waist. Clearly, it is an under-achiever.
She gave me a free massage, which was much appreciated, and then had me lie down on my back with ice on my shoulder and a tens unit. For those who don't know, a tens unit is an electrical muscle stimulator that is supposed to disrupt the pain pathway on your nerves. She turned it high enough to make my muscles jump and then lowered it just under that threshold, and left me there for 15 minutes.
Long-time readers of my blog will know what happened next. Yes, I fell asleep.
I have finally found my true talent - falling asleep during medical procedures.
A bell woke me up and it was time to go. She felt I had something called impingement syndrome, with a possible rotator cuff tear, although she said there was so much inflammation it was hard to tell. There had been a "hitch" in my movement she thought indicated ripped muscles - and not ripped in the bodybuilding sense. She gave me some very mild stretching exercises to do, and I went home.
A day later, I felt much worse.
First, let me rant a bit about that stupid pain scale that every medical professional uses. "Describe your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain you have ever experienced."
Well, those of us who are Barbie number phobic have a hard time with this. Pain doesn't equal numbers, it equals words. I want to use my own scale:
It doesn't bug me
Okay, it's there but I'll live with it.
Hmmm....maybe I need to soak in a hot tub.
Hi, do you have a spare vicodin?
Hi, do you have two spare vicodin?
Why are you talking to me, can't you see I'm suffering?!
Hey MoFo, give me some oxycontin or I'm going to rip your head off!
Yes, I'm crying, what's it to you?
Oh God, why me?
You #@%&*ing piece of !*^( Get the #$%^& away from me you #&$^%@
I don't handle pain well.
So, my pain had gone from a "hi, do you have two spare vicodins" to "Oh God, why me" in a couple of days. It also feels like it's pulling out of the socket now, and I have the attractive habit of holding my arm on with my other hand.
I went back to PT, and I had a new, yet similarly granola-ey therapist. This one was nice as well although just a teeny bit condescending. When I told her that it had progressed to feeling like it was pulling out of the socket, she told me, "Dear, shoulders don't dislocate that easily." Um, I didn't mean it was ACTUALLY coming out, just that was the feeling. I also told her I'd made an appointment with a doctor to get a cortisone shot and she seemed absolutely shocked that a layman such as myself knew what a cortisone shot was. However, she was very gentle with me physically, and understanding of my discomfort. She was very careful not to hurt me. I suppose it's possible that most of the people she deals with are pretty ignorant of medical terminology and treatments. I wasn't before cancer and certainly am not now.
It was time for the ice and tens, and instead of having me lie down, she left me sitting up, which made it pretty hard to nap.
Hard, but not impossible. Remember, I'm very talented.
Anyway, since the pain is now at swear word levels, and I'm tired of doing everything with my left hand (which makes it really hard to drive and talk on the phone) I decided to give in and see an orthopedic surgeon. I'm requesting a cortisone shot on Monday.
Just by chance, the doctor I'm going to see is an orthopedic oncologist. It was a fluke, since I never mentioned cancer during the request for an appointment. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I know my problem has nothing to do with cancer, except in the peripheral sense, but due to his specialty, he may decide he wants to check for it anyway. I specifically said I don't want any more x-rays as I've had enough radiation for quite a while. On the other hand, he'll be well aware of the complications of breast cancer surgery, which often include shoulder problems.
Considering I only finished herceptin a month ago, and my shoulder injury happened immediately after my last surgery, the chances of it being cancer that metastasized to the shoulder, on a scale of 1 to 10, are: "it doesn't bug me."
This is one time I'm 100% certain it's not a recurrence.
I'm sure he knows that too so maybe I can skip the scans. I'll see him Monday at 3:00.