We’ve all been there or we will eventually experience it…the dreaded injury. Some worse than others but it does a number to not only your physical state but your mental one too. Unfortunately, Katey is on injured reserve this year, but hopefully her story of healing will help others out there as well!
Doctors coined it “overuse”. I called it enjoying life. Years of intense pushing, pulling, lifting, hauling carrying and simply being me had caused irreparable damage to my right shoulder. I had torn this, dislocated that, had arthritis here, bone spurs there. It would crackle happily in its socket daily. My right shoulder had become a can of Alpo encased in skin. I had been in pain for years but sadly no amount of PT, Cortisone shots and pats on the head from doctors could alleviate the pain. It was chronic and it needed to get be fixed. The MRI didn’t lie and my orthopedist agreed it was time. Dear friends and family members rallied around my impromptu decision. I figured I had gone big this season skiing over 40 days. But I paid the price, licking my wounds each evening. I waited until my sister and her son visited to ski with our family and went in for surgery the following week.
I am active. Perhaps a little too active? I have a husband, two kids and own a small business. I thrive on keeping busy and being physically active. It’s my sanity and riding is a huge part of it. It was going to be my first season racing with Naked’s mountain bike team. I was devastated. I hadn’t really raced in 10+ years and was ready to represent. My husband had bought me a new 29er for Christmas and I was ready…I was so ready…dangit.
The first few days after surgery I was in a purple haze of oxycodone. My shoulder size would have made a linebacker jealous. It was encased in gauze, goo and swelling. Medication would make me nod off mid visit with friends. I’d wake up in a pool of drool and pain, but I was still in good spirits. Dear friends took care of my boys, made us dinners, brought me flowers and kind words. One even changed my blood soaked dressings for me. My 88 yr old mother in law whom I call “Nonna”, kept me company, quietly working on her Italian crosswords, making me tea and polenta (the only thing I could keep down), and giving me an insufferable stink eye when I even thought about taking more pain medication early. We watched multiple Judy Dench period pieces – they were wonderful distractions and hugely soporific. (Yawn).
Sleep (or lack thereof) was elusive. Anything less than an upright position was excruciating. I had nested on our large leather couch in the family room. Truth be known, I slid off that couch in the middle of the night when I dozed off. (Ow!) I migrated back to our bed much to my husband’s chagrin because sleeping next to me with all my tossing and turning, “ouching” and expletives was just as painful for him. Without sleep, my kids were too loud and my husband looked sheepish. He skulked around my ever changing mood. My road bike was set up on the trainer in our living room winking at me.
My arm was in a sling….but not just any sling but a bright white 6 in wide harness/girdle of medical madness. It velcroed around my waist and arm to let my shoulder hang naturally. Such a good look. It drove me batty. I am left-handed thankfully so I had my dominant arm available but trying to put on underwear, let alone dress was ridiculous. Forget about a bra – too much effort. Skinny jeans- impossible to put on anyway, let alone button with one hand. That mixer on the top shelf- let it collect dust. Want a salad – buy it pre-chopped cause honey, you and a knife one-handed is just plain stupid. I was underslept, overfed and underexercised. Baggy jeans and button down shirts became my uniform. I couldn’t put my hair in a ponytail because I couldn’t reach behind my back far enough. (My husband still has to clip my hair back every morning.) My husband in the early stages had to fish me out of our tub because I managed to strand myself in it. I had so many little WTF moments; I had to chuckle, and chuckle, laugh, and roar out loud I did. For a woman who is painfully independent, resourceful and stubborn as hell, this has been quite a humbling and amusing experience.
But I haven’t let this stop me. I started riding that trainer in the corner tentatively the first week in my girdle. Yes, it was a little precarious and a little silly, but I did it. During following workouts, I’d shed the girdle mid-spin and rest my arm on the top tube for as long as I could without falling over because I couldn’t reach my drop outs. House of Cards and Scandal characters became my friends. I would spend time spinning prudently with Kerri Washington and Kevin Spacey. I wanted to cut my hair like Robin Wright but then a friend said I’d look like a Q-tip (with a big butt). She’s right and I haven’t cut my hair. I went back to my regular indoor spin class two weeks in. I felt like I was in an episode of Cheers…fellow cyclists cheered my dogged, one-armed nature. It gave me hope, it gave me incentive, it made me proud. I also had to remind myself ‘slow and steady girlfriend’. Slow and steady – which technically is not in my nature.
Fast forward five weeks post op, where I am now. My girdle is long gone…burned with the unbecoming jeans. I can sleep now comfortably, know how to get in and out of a bathtub safely, and continue to chuckle about my limitations and cheer at my small successes. My arm has atrophied significantly but my doc gave me the thumbs up to start PT (along with more rigorous exercise). I started to trail run again but I can’t bike outside just yet. If I crash, it could mean another surgery (although I’ve already hit my deductible for the year so hmmm. Strike that.) I spent the kids spring break in the Caribbean (a surprise trip my husband had booked before he even knew I was having surgery) bobbing in the waves with New Jersey retirees. While my husband and I dreamt of bare boating with the kids this trip, we knew my limits. We will next year. I have to remind myself this is just a blip in time.
While my teammates ride their hearts and lungs out, I wish them luck and podium finishes. And I…well, I will be riding on a bike path… ecstatically! Next season, I will be back. Oh, yes, I will be back.