Only two weeks after my operation and I am already fed up with being unable to do a lot of things that I was able to do before!
To be honest, it was only a couple of days after the op that I realised: me and this neutral positioned block-sling were not going to get along!
I keep on reaching for things and realise that I cannot move my arm, wanting to pick something up with two hands then finding out that it is impossible and have to ask for help, and wanting to jump and pull my jeans up and not being able to (ladies, you understand me!)
My training has been almost impossible, try leaning forward on a TT bike on the turbo with one arm – gets very tiring and very unstable (hats off to those Paratriathletes who manage it?!) and I have had to resort to walking on an incline on the treadmill as running ‘jolts’ and ‘vibrates’ the 4 metal pins that have been inserted which is something my Consultant has specifically asked me not to do as the bone has to be allowed to grow around the pins.
But also with the weather getting colder and my coat only over my shoulder on the left side, I have had to endure having my coat open (brrrrr), then when the wind gets up it blows it off of my shoulder and Im left struggling and twisting trying to grab the flailing arm of the jacket!
One consolation though, even though Ive been allowed by my work to arrive after rush-hour (they have been brilliant!), I have had several people get up from their seats on the train to allow me to sit down (thankyou so much for that if you have ever done that for someone. Its not like its my legs, but trying to hold myself upright with one arm and not fall over on a jolting train is very difficult and tiring so please think about this when you see someone struggling).
But I think its fair to say, I am SO ready to get out of this sling!
Thankfully, I have a review this weekend with my Consultant to see how it is all going and hopefully I will be able to change to a smaller ‘normal’ internally rotated sling. I may even be able to get back to training! I'm hoping to get back to running soon as I am missing it (obviously tape my arm to my side to keep it from moving) and maybe to take a dip in the pool (again, tape my arm to my side).
My shoulder is already feeling better and is moving easier with help from my left arm, it can hold itself up for a couple of seconds on its own - but I try to avoid that as much as possible - and my stitches are nearly healed (I took the dressings off ages ago as they were irritating my skin so it helped to get the air to them).
So, all going well, I should be more active and be in a different sling by this time next week, then it's onto the rehabilitation stage. I have my first rehabilitation physio appointment this week so I will keep you updated on the progress of that, but I am feeling positive about my recovery and determined to get the strength back into the shoulder that I haven’t had for nearly 2 years!
Thank you so much for all of you kind words and support since this operation. It all helps to keep me motivated.
You never realise what you have until it is gone'. This phrase has never related much to me before, until now, but its going to be a very long 6 weeks without the use of my left arm!
Of course it is only temporary, and I take my hat off to the people who cannot use one or more of their limbs permanently, because I didn't realise how much I rely on my left arm until now! Even typing this blog is a lot harder with just one hand! I can't tie my hair up, cut my own food, get dressed, or even wash my own hair. And have you tried pulling up jeans with one hand!!
But the hardest part is sleeping - as you can see by the photo ** my sling keeps my arm in a neutral position, and as I have to wear it day and night, when I am on my back my arm sticks up in the air and I lose circulation in my hand and fingers. Therefore, I've discovered its easier to sleep in a sitting position so my heart is higher than my arm - consequently, it is a real operation (no pun intended) to get set up ready for bed with about 20 cushions and pillows! But of course, Just when I had gotten into a comfortable position, I had to get up to use the toilet!
If I do my exercises every day and do not use my arm or its muscles then I should be in this sling for 3 weeks rather than the 6 they were threatening and then in a smaller sling for the other 3 weeks. It will then be the long road to recovery and getting my fitness back before the Europeans in July. It will only give me about a two months to get my new swim stroke sorted and some resemblance of fitness back.
I know that's a very tall order considering I haven't swum since September but with the help of my coach Kris - who just so happens to be a great swim coach - it might be possible.
However, for me, the hardest part of it all is going to be not training. I'm finding it impossible to keep still now and its only been 2 days since the operation. I am already driving my parents up the wall, mum says I'm a very 'impatient patient'. I cannot stand being in pain and incapacitated and I know I shall be missing my running and cycling. Although I've discovered I can at least walk at a fast pace with the incline right up on my treadmill today so there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
**The blue sling with the pipe laid over my black arm sling in the photo above is a cryo-ice sling. It is filled with cold water and is placed over my shoulder after exercising/stretching/physio (after being stored in the freezer) and designed to reduce swelling and oedema.
I feel like Cinderella, except instead of a shoe that fits perfectly, I have a saddle that fits perfectly!
After having a bike fit done by Bianca at Fit Your Bike, on my new Trek from Richardsons Cycles, I finally feel ready to get on the road! Of course, it won't be for a few months yet after I have recovered, but with a brand new Cobb seat (that feels like I am sitting on a sofa rather than a bike!) and some amazing (and patient) work by Bianca, I will be ready to race on the roads by Summer!
The reason why I say Bianca is patient is because I do not make things easy for myself! Between my dodgy shoulder (which means I won't be able to rest on the TT bars properly, especially after the op), and my left leg being considerably longer than my right, I do not make for an easy bike fit. But what was the most uncomfortable on my new bike was the saddle comfort level.
However, Bianca knew exactly what to do to fix these problems. By making the pads that I will be leaning on further out means my shoulder doesn't have to rotate inwards as much although it does compromise the aerodynamics more.
She was also extremely patient with choosing the right seat. I am a bit unusual in that I do not like many of the specific bike seats that are available on the market – are you aware that there are seats made specifically for female bits which make a huge difference to the comfort levels when cycling long distances. Apparently the difficultly in the saddle hunt is that no two women are created the same (so because one model is perfect for your friend, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you). That also means that you cannot look at a saddle and say ‘this seat is excellent and will suit you perfectly’, because what works for our nether regions might be very different for others. It also means that you cannot just choose a seat online and expect it to be comfortable - you have to try before you buy.
One women specific brand is Cobb. Founder John Cobb has been active in the industry since 1972 and after years of research (mostly through the use of his wife), he landed on one simple measure that could determine the perfect saddle for a woman: is she an ‘innie’ or an ‘outie’? (And we’re not talking belly buttons!).
There is a physical difference between the two types, and that difference can help tell you what saddle will be the best fit for your body type. And because women’s sexual anatomy is lower in the pelvic region, and cannot be “adjusted” like men’s sexual anatomy, finding comfort can be more difficult on a bike saddle. Cobb have found through research that the “Outies” tend to like the wider nosed saddles such as the Max or Fifty-Five models, while the “Innies” consistently like the Plus and V-Flow and the new Randee’ [narrower nosed] models.
So if you are having trouble with your seat or saddle and struggling to get comfortable then perhaps you need to consider whether you’re an ‘innie’ or an ‘outie’ and try out a suitable saddle for your anatomy.
There are many different makes out there to try but knowing what your body type is may help in deciding on which ones to try out.
Having a seat that feels comfortable is key to a good ride, not only because it saves you from days of chaffing pain, but also it means you can concentrate less on how you are seated on the bike and instead on how well you are cycling.
The Cobb VFlow seat, although it looks uncomfortable, is probably the best seat I have ever had!