Frozen Shoulder? Painful but Delicious
So I’ve had some kind of bone injury to my shoulder and had to see an orthopedic surgeon. He took an x-ray and said that nothing was broken or fractured but that there was swelling in between the bone joints, tendinitis and “frozen shoulder,” which sounded delicious. Kate, my five-year-old, who is a popsicle fiend, will no doubt be delighted at the prospect of eating my should after dinner.
Interestingly, after I had filled out about 462 medical history sheets, noting repeatedly that I had kidney cancer and had had a radical nephrectomy to remove my kidney and various cellular detritus around it, the doctor came in and wrote a prescription for anti-inflammatory pills.
“Uh, doctor, did you know I had my kidney removed?”
He paused, somewhat surprised and clearly agitated. What the hell kind of freak comes in here with only one kidney?
“Well, this is no good then; anti-inflammatories can be hard on the kidneys.” He proceeded to rip up the prescription and then wrote up another prescription for vicodin. “Here then,” he said, “you’re going to need these.”
Which I will admit gave me pause.
“I’m going to send you to a physical therapist who will bend, stretch and pull your shoulder joint back into place. It will hurt. Take your pills. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll bring you in and administer anesthesia and really force the shoulder. That will really hurt.”
So this morning I participated in my first physical therapy session. It was me and an older lady, maybe in her seventies, in the room at first. And I was getting cocky. Not so bad, I thought. Did some stretching. Held a wooden pole over my head and had to bend it back as far as I could, until my arms were trembling but I was able to do it nonetheless, to mentally block the pain, to rise above it like an athlete, and was pretty damn proud of myself. The old lady wasn’t pulling off these kinds of stunts. She was moving slow. I was readying my victory dance around her.
Every once in a while I would glance back at the therapist, a mild Indian woman, and see if she was looking, possibly saying to herself: “My god, this is a strong one. He eats pain like tasty Pez candies.”
She wasn’t looking. But soon this mild-mannered therapist came back and transformed — a living manifestation of one of those political commercials that turn grainy black-and-white with ominous scary music in the background. I discovered what pain really is.
She would lock onto my shoulder with both arms, like a professional wrestler, hunker down so that she got all her weight in her hips for maximum leverage, and bend my shoulder and upper arm in ways that god never intended. I was certain she was trying to cripple me, maybe to show me a lesson for being cocky or perhaps to intimidate the old lady who was stretching pulleys next to me.
“Feel that stretch?” she would ask.
“Ahhggghhhh, kill me!”
“How about now?”
Things inside me are cracking and splitting.
Yes, I tell her. I’m in an Orwellian nightmare. I will tell her anything. I will promise to eat my only remaining kidney if she demands. Anything to stop the pain.
Afterward my “stretching,” she began laying out a schedule for the coming weeks. I informed her that such a tight schedule might not be possible. I explained that I had to go down to the Durham on Monday for my follow up testing for the cancer and that, depending upon what came out of that meeting, I may be out of town and out of commission for a number of weeks.
She was not impressed. She was like a drill sergeant. Cancer? What good will it be to beat cancer if you end up with a weak atrophied arm that looks like a child’s stick figure?
“Okay, then,” she said. “We need to schedule double-time therapy now. You’re to be here every day until you leave. I will snap off your arms like dry twigs and then put them back together like play-doh. I will own you. I will be the guy in prison who makes you his girlfriend.”
I cannot count the days fast enough until I escape to Duke and can undergo less stressful treatments, like more rounds of life-threatening IL-2.