When a doctor recommends surgery most people become fearful and begin to question the necessity. Much like the peaceful skies that erupt with unpredictable bursts of light from fireworks, people contemplating surgery are jolted by the unanticipated news. Many will simply ask, “Should I have surgery?” Others will go through a litany of more specific questions that help them come to terms with their decision.
- “Is this procedure absolutely necessary?
- “Is there anything else that can be done to remedy the problem?”
- “Will my quality of life be improved by the procedure?”
- “Do the advantages outweigh the risks?”
Even though one’s answers may point to the necessity for a surgery, fear oftentimes becomes the overriding force. Instead of acting in one’s best interest, irrational thoughts cloud one’s judgment. Until one is able to come to terms with their negativity and fears, everything associated with the surgery will be blown out of proportion. Excuses will become the focal point.
- I can work through the pain.
- It’s not that bad.
- I don’t have time for the recovery/rehab process.
- It’s too expensive.
- If I wait, there will be a better procedure.
Far too often, the initial problem does not resolve itself. The pain ebbs and flows, but eventually gets worse and in some instances intolerable. Sometimes the extra time causes the initial problem to morph into a more complex medical problem that requires a more complicated procedure. Ultimately, one is forced to face the inevitable surgery and the after thought- “Why did I wait so long?”
This summer, I found myself in this no-win situation.
For two years, I have experienced intermittent shoulder and upper arm pain. When it first occurred, I rested the arm and iced the tender areas. This was a challenge since it prevented me from doing all of the shlepping that was necessary for my empty nester downsizing project. For many weeks, I couldn’t type and edit this blog. I struggled with my day-to-day life. I was pissed off by my limitations.
With no relief in sight, I sought medical attention. The first round of physical therapy offered little relief. In fact, I swore that it was making the situation worse. An MRI revealed nothing spectacular. An injection performed incorrectly by a physician assistant did not bring any noticeable relief. I adjusted my life. Eventually, the pain became more tolerable. I couldn’t turn my back on the fact that I had a problem.
After months of intermittent pain, I sought out another shoulder expert. This time the injection worked. The physical therapy made my arm and shoulder stronger. I returned to my former routines. A few months later, the pain returned.
I went back to the doctor and was given the option of another injection or surgery. I opted for another injection and more physical therapy. I wanted to give it a little more time to correct itself before I consented to a surgical procedure. The orthopedic surgeon stated that if the pain returned, surgery would be my next option. I shuddered at the mere thought. After rehabbing from 5 orthopedic surgeries, 4 C-Sections, and an incisional hernia repair, I was less than thrilled about taking time out to recover from another surgery.
I remained optimistic.
I followed my daily physical therapy routine and gradually reintroduced things that put more stress on my shoulder/arm.
Within a short period of time, the pain and discomfort returned.
- Were these symptoms merely part of being a middle aged woman?
- How much pain would I endure before I returned to the surgeon?
- Did it need to become intolerable or just a limitation on my life?
When the pain awaken me at night, I knew that my options were dwindling. It was unrealistic to think that my pain would magically disappear. While the pain was nowhere as intense as the first occurrence, I cringed whenever I put on a coat. Lifting things above my head felt uncomfortable. Any quirky movements resulted in jolts of pain. Driving for long periods of time created an achy feeling. It was no longer a pleasant experience to swim. In fact, just using a kick board caused an annoying pulling sensation.
Did I want to give up one of my favorite activities- swimming? I had been swimming since I was a young child in Highland Park, Illinois.
Before I could answer the question- “Should I have surgery?”- I had to come face-to-face with my irrational thoughts. One-by-one, I had to convince myself that all of my excuses were detrimental to my overall health and wellbeing. In order to do everything that I wanted and remain physically active, I had to have the full use of my body. It was not acceptable to have limited use of my dominant arm. I did not want to suffer any longer.
I visited the doctor and scheduled surgery.
Stay tuned for a future blog that will highlight the first phase of my recovery process.
I encourage anyone who is procrastinating surgery, to reconsider their options and overcome their fears. While surgery cannot solve all medical issues, in many cases it can relieve chronic pain and improve a person’s quality of life.
About a year after writing this blog, I developed leg pain. If you’re considering medial meniscus surgery, read this more recent story.
Meaningful Anniversary (hip replacement)
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.