My dear foodie peeps,
You never know what the next turn is on the road of living. Yes, life can throw you curveballs. There’s no dodging or ducking. You have to do something when you know that curveball is coming your way. I’ll be taking a major detour and hiatus from Ally’s Kitchen for a few weeks because of a big curveball! I thought it was important that you know what’s happening in my world. So hopefully, you’ll read this rather lengthy missive explaining what’s going on. Plus, I’m hoping that maybe my experiences might help someone else, maybe you, a friend of yours, a family member. We know that we’re all in this life together, and there’s nothing stronger than learning from each other.
After wrestling with whether to share this upcoming big thing in my life, I decided you’d probably notice my time off! And, quite frankly, I think that it’s important to let you know what’s coming up because, as I said, maybe it might help someone else.
In just a few days, I’m gonna go under the knife and have total reverse shoulder replacement surgery. Hey, believe me I’ve not made this decision quickly. In fact, I probably should have done it sooner, but who wants to have nearly a year of recovery and lots of interruptions to their life. Only when we reach a point of no return do we bite the bullet. xoxo ~ally
A Little History
About ten years ago, I noticed that my left shoulder was having some problems, small things, but nonetheless, some issues. I attributed it to maybe pulled or strained muscles from yoga, yes, my hot intense yoga years, or maybe pulling something because I’d lifted something too heavy.
After about seven years of dealing with this ‘problem’ and it not getting any better, I decided it was time, well, time to MAKE TIME, to see an orthopedist. I know I know, you’re thinking I should have done it sooner. And, hind sight is always 20/20. Yes, I should have. But, there wasn’t really chronic significant pain. Nothing interrupting my ‘wonder woman’ pace of life. There wasn’t anything that was really inhibiting or affecting my sleep. I still had the energy I needed to run fast and jump high. In other words, this bum shoulder was just a blip on my radar screen and an inconvenience. Besides I’d grown up with a super strong mother who impressed upon me to just be strong and forge on.
Nonetheless, I came to my senses and knew after 7 years, yeah, there was something going on. And, that there was more to what was happening with my shoulder. Based upon my MRI, Xrays and evaluation, the doc diagnosed adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder. I was really actually relieved thinking, hey, this can be healed and rehabbed and I’ll be good to go in maybe 6-9 months.
My worst nightmare was the thought of having my bones sawed on and being in intensive surgery. I mean I’ve never had a broken bone in my life, so the thought of doing anything surgically gave me the heeebeeejeeebees! And, I was hell bent on avoiding it at all costs. Sharing this with some friends and family, I learned that others had that problem and I surmised that in no time at all I’d be healed. As long as I was still able to do my beloved yoga, I was happy!
For the next almost two years I vigilantly adhered to a variety of non-invasive treatments, even when my health insurance wouldn’t cover it. Repeated physical therapy, exhausting my insurance coverage limits yearly, home exercises, taping, dry needling, ultrasound, cortisone shots. I even tried the controversial treatment, PRP or platelet replacement plasma, which was super painful.
My yoga routine was altered, more gentle yoga, restorative yoga classes, wall yoga, chair yoga. I started babying this left arm and shoulder. Putting my heavy Nikon camera and 100mm on a tripod. See I have mixed dominance. I’m right-handed and left eyed. So, for years I’d scrunch my shoulders, hold that heavy camera/lens and take thousands of food photos. I eventually started taking more food photos with my cell phone, which helped alleviate some of the shoulder inflammation and pain. And, every time a new version of my Samsung cell phone came out, I upgraded, even if it was less than a year. Thank goodness the cameras on cell phones were being vastly improved. And, using the small cell phone greatly alleviated stress on my left shoulder. Besides I could easily hold the cell phone in my right hand if I needed to.
The Big Pop
In October 2019, I had another setback with my shoulder arm while traveling. My bicep tendon popped. Hey, I wasn’t doing anything strenuous or crazy. Just pulling up my yoga pants after a potty stop! I felt it immediately, and, I’m telling you, it was excruciating pain. With almost every movement I made there was usually a sharp dagger like pain. Even put my left arm in a sling just to make sure I didn’t move it. I made an appointment a few days later with my orthopedist. Come to find out that it was a partial tear.
Treatments were things like ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, rest (ha ha, that’s a joke!) and working with my physical therapist more. When asked about ‘pain’, it was hard for me to describe. My ‘pain’ threshold is high meaning I can stand a lot. This pain was chronic. But, it wasn’t a sharp shooting pain, it was a constant throbbing hurt in my entire left shoulder front and back. My sleep was now being compromised. And, you know what that means over time, I was losing some of my energy because I was tired. The way I described the ‘pain’ was that it was like a perpetual throb, as if I’d been hit in the front and back of my left shoulder with a baseball bat. It was now tender to the touch. Pains would radiate down the arm and into the fingers. My neck experienced more and more hurt and throb.
By this time, as you can imagine, I’m making some big adjustments to my everyday life. I started checking my luggage on flights. Yeah, this might sound crazy, but I always carried on because of the chance of my luggage being delayed or lost. I invested in a high end very expensive ergonomic backpack. Sleeping meant I couldn’t lay on my left side, hurt too much, waking me throughout the night. When putting on clothing with sleeves, be it a coat or shirt, that left arm went in first because I just couldn’t stretch back and grab it if I put the right arm through first. When I’d get in the car and buckle my seatbelt, I’d pull with my right arm versus my left. Lots of other little things, which told me, I now had a pretty big problem.
Factors That I Think Significantly Contributed to my Bum Shoulder
I’ve thought a lot about this issue. And, hopefully, it can help others, especially younger women. What has caused this severe osteoarthritic degeneration of my left shoulder. Well, no one knows your body better than you, and here are my theories. And, this is pretty good speculation:
- One, for decades I carried a heavy purse, baby bags, backpacks and more on my left shoulder. Lots of wear and tear.
- Two, for nearly seven years, I hand held daily and sometimes for hours my heavy Nikon camera/lens. More shoulder stress.
- Three, several years ago I had a skiing fall, tore the ACL in my left knee. Nothing noted on left shoulder, but I do believe this fall trauma on my shoulder also contributed to where I am now.
- Four, just life and living. Our joints may surely wear out, especially if we live long enough.
Doing my Homework
In 2020, I decided this was the year I had to address this issue. I’ve been so blessed with amazing health and the ability to do whatever I want despite being at level seven of life. So I’m not complaining. And, I knew I wasn’t going to live out the rest of my days with about 25 to 30% less energy each day. I’m totally not a whiner and I don’t like to be slowed down. Time to bite the bullet and see what’s happening with that shoulder.
First thing was to find the best shoulder surgeon I could. Dang, if someone’s sawing off my ball and joint, slice me open, I want the best. I decided to explore the Steadman Clinic that is world renowned for its orthopedics and treating athletes, Olympic and professional.
But before I contacted anyone there, I had to check to see if this facility was in my insurance network. Miraculously, it was!
Next, finding the shoulder specialists. There were several at Steadman Clinic. I made my decision very ‘scientifically’. One doc’s first name was Matthew. My oldest son’s name. Google is amazing. I learned so much about this amazing doctor by reading, researching, reading and researching. I called to make an appointment with Dr. Matthew Provencher. Like Trip Advisor, doctors get reviews, I read all of his on Healthgrades. Plus, I read with great interest 43 reviews at his website. Yep, I was impressed because the common thread was that he was the best, and he has this compassionate caring bedside manner.
Next step, was to make an appointment with Dr. Provencher. Called myself. No problem. I was quickly scheduled.
Ben and I went together to this appointment. I needed a second set of eyes and ears. Sometimes things like this can be overwhelming, so you have to have your advocate with you.
The streamline efficiency and detailed concern of various people that we saw from check in to PAs and more was ultra-impressive. And, yes, Dr. Provencher has this kind gentle, yet very through, professional and precise, Mr. Rogers-like demeanor and personality. Within 36 hours I had a new MRI, CT scan and all my pre-op work completed.
Bottom line, my shoulder is bone on bone, my rotator cuff a mess and AC joint is also compromised. I’m scheduled for reverse shoulder surgery March 10th. Believe me, I’ve already watched several You Tube videos (Warning: Very graphic, so if you have a queasy stomach, don’t watch. We’re all different. For me, I arm myself with as much knowledge as I can.) trying to better understand what will be happening to my body. Again, my opinion is that this is absolutely essential, I think, with any kind of healthcare. YOU have to be your own best advocate.
Recovery and rehab will be a long-committed process. My arm will be in a sling for a while. Probably will affect my cooking to some degree during this time. This recovery will be tough on my mind because once I’m feeling better, you know me, I want to run fast and jump high. Gonna be like harnessing a wild pony. But, I know I HAVE to be patient with myself, the months of rehab and all that’s involved will lead to a more healthy speedy recovery.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been getting ready for D-Day. Planning and organizing for things like where and how I’m gonna sleep. Extra help that I’ll need, well, besides Ben. Getting my supplies ready. Buying some new pieces of clothing that are oversized for me, yes, even undies, making dressing easier. Assessing the house where I’ll be navigating and potential hazard(s). Cooking and freezing healthy soups and more. Really you just can’t be too careful with your planning. Readying myself spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Getting ready also has meant lining up recipes that are drafts on my website and scheduling them for sharing with you. I’ve spent hours and hours doing this over the past weeks. Hey, there are some amazing things coming your way, so be sure you’re signed up for the newsletter and to get every post!
I even got my hair cut about four inches because, for the life of me, I couldn’t teach Ben how to pull my long hair up into my signature pony tail on top of my head. I figured he’d not be real adept at putting on my doo rags either! Hey, with just one arm and hand, I can’t do that for a while. We practiced and practiced, but he just couldn’t master the scrunchies!
With the coronavirus situation as of writing this post, I’ve been extra vigilant about germs and not getting in crowds. And, I’m trying to stay active and limber with my gentle yoga, stretching and hiking/walking. Since I’m not doing yoga classes (avoiding people and germs), I’ve found new friends on PBS (early morning shows!) with yoga, Wei Lang, Gentle Chair Yoga, Brain Function Exercises, Comeback Yoga (really cool and focuses on veterans).
The Good Things
On a great note as I go into this surgery, my doc says I have great muscle tone, strength and range of motion. Guess all the yoga, PT and exercise work has paid off. My dear foodie friend, Merry of A Merry Recipe, is coming to stay with me shortly after the surgery. You bet I’ll be eating quite well, plus Merry’s gonna keep me laughing! And, yes, watching a lot of Netflix, so leave me your recommendations!
I feel in my bones that I have the best doctor out there. He’s recognized as one of the 28 best shoulder surgeons in the nation. Hey, he repaired Tom Brady’s shoulder, so I reckon I’m in really good hands! And, the joints of many athletes and regular everyday folks have graced the Steadman Clinic, so that gives me great confidence.
Most importantly, I have YOU, all my foodie peeps that care about me and will send up great juju energy and prayers for my surgery and recovery.
Hey, in not time at all, I’ll be bionic! We have a lot more cooking to do, things to accomplish in life and adventures on our boho magic carpet! I love you all!! xoxo ~ally