It will be a year this weekend since my big break.
At the time, as you know, I just kept going. I was nearly a week in hospital with a broken arm on two hourly morphine until the surgeon with the right skills was available to help me. I knew the bone had delaminated but what I had forgotten was that the ball at the top of the bone, which fits into the socket, had completely sheared off. I was reminded this week because I was sorting out my elderly emails and discovered the photo taken from the hospital computer screen.
Looking at it now I can see why I can still feel (and always will feel) the head of the big screw that goes right down through my shoulder blade, through the ball and locates into the top of the long metal nail which comes up right through the middle of the bone. It has four other screws going sideways through it, which fortunately I cannot feel, these anchor the slices of bone and the net which gathered the bone fragments up to the nail.
No wonder I felt so awful throughout the autumn. I did of course also have cancer at the time, which might be why the bone took so long to heal.
Incredibly it has. I have worked out whenever I could, despite all the other stuff after the surgery in January. A year after the break, in spite of the idiot young doctor who told me I would always be disabled, I am very nearly back to normal. As it is summer I am carrying watering cans in my right hand and lifting them up to water hanging baskets. I have less and less pain, mostly just big twinges in the morning getting moving. I still have difficulty getting my arm up my back, which mainly causes problems dressing and with fastening necklaces and putting curlers in my hair. You’d be amazed at the stuff I can do with my left hand now. That old joke about: I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous, turned out to be true for me.
Samuel Pepys gave thanks each year on the anniversary of the time he was ‘cut for the stone’. I think I shall do the same, I feel lucky to have survived such a big break. I feel lucky that I had polymyalgiarheumatica 17 years ago and was allergic to steroids so had to work out every day for 17 years. Other people in the shoulder class at the hospital found the working out so hard I suspect many of them only did it once a week in the class and consequently did not recover much mobility. It was easier for me, I was used to working out when it hurt and knew how much to push myself and when to rest. I also had the advantage of a home gym. I could never afford to join a proper gym, I just bought a piece of equipment every January when the shopping channels did their New Year New You. I keep it all behind the living room door beside the fireplace. It’s not very Homes and Gardens but it actually gets used each and every day and I have enough stuff not to get bored. For this break, as well as the hospital exercises mostly done with a stick (which is the stick you put in the handle of the paint roller to reach the ceiling), I have a captive ball in a wheel that you spin, a thing like a spinning cylinder on string that you pull to make it whirr, weights, weighted gloves and a vibrating weighted stick. I ring the changes and have found another piece I can make move, or move in a different way, almost every week recently.
I am also incredibly lucky that my next door neighbour is an orthopaedic surgeon who came to my aid and told me which surgeon to wait for and to wait. They tried to cart me off to the theatre to someone else on occasions and despite being off my head on morphine I insisted that I wait because I believe in my next door neighbour.
Recovery from illness and injury, while you are hoping it will happen and working towards it, is an article of faith. I didn’t believe how badly damaged I was, I think I blanked it out to survive, it was the second worst break in the history of the hospital, I do remember several people telling me that. Then again, I might have been despairing and more impatient had I not had all the dreadful business with the cancer, the cancer surgery going wrong, the appalling oncologist, the utter despair following and all that stuff to keep me occupied. That stuff still gives me bad days.
It also does seem incredibly unlucky with hindsight to have had such a bad break followed by cancer, either one would have been quite enough. If I had not had such a tough upbringing and such a difficult mother, I could at any point have caved in and given up. If I had given up on the exercise I would not be strolling round the garden with watering cans now and if that were the case do you know what I would have?
Yup, withered flowers.
I am a little flower and I am still in bloom and thankful for it. And you know what sort of flower I am don’t you?
Self raising (especially the right arm).