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Second Time's a Charm?

Dear Friends,

Back in July 2017 I broke my left shoulder in four places in a bike accident. The experience was both traumatizing and fascinating, though more of the former than the latter for most of that year. I had never experienced 24/7 pain in my life (labor being the closest comparison, but that was just a few hours with beautiful results!).

Somewhere in the dim recesses of that experience, I remember my surgeon saying that with such a break (not only 4 complete breaks but 15 fractures), necrosis could set in over time — meaning the head of my humerus could start dying.

Fast forward to last winter when I thought I'd re-injured my shoulder while skiing but didn't think I'd need surgery. Because I have a rebuilt shoulder that doesn't look normal I requested my PCP hook me up with the best shoulder surgeon in Portland. Little did I know that my "injury" was quite inconsequential compared to what the x-ray images revealed about my nearly gone humerus head. The faces of the MD and PA were more than grim! They couldn't figure out how I could ski, bike, hike, paddle, let alone lift something heavy. I guess it was all being held up by my muscles alone!

So, tomorrow morning I'll have a full reverse shoulder replacement.

And, despite the incredible medical and therapy teams we've put together, it's hard to believe things won't be as bad for me as last time. Though we're keeping all fingers and toes crossed that this will be different.

Last week as I was wrapping up pre-surgical visits, I met the physical therapist who I'll be working with post-surgery. He did lots of measurements so we know our starting point.

And guess what he prescribed??!!

1) STAND-UP COMEDY!! "Of, I said, for my mood?"

"That, yes", he replied, "but really it's that in laughing your shoulders go up and down in ways that improve blood flow to the recovering joint while not exercising the joint itself" (see why it's all so fascinating!). First evidence he's a great PT.

And then, he said:

2) "AND Meg (my PCP) told me you're a writer, so when you're out of your sling and do your pendulum exercises three times a day, I want you to use your keyboard. Call it your cool down."

He had me at stand up; but he sealed the deal with keyboarding. And really isn't that what world class service is about - someone actually knows you and knows what you're trying to get back to and uses that as part of the work.

The shoulder is the most complex and amazing joint we have, our Grand Central Station of nerves, muscles, blood vessels, tendons, and the like. So now I'm thinking of it as my latest VERY COMPLEX PROBLEM to solve and instead of being pissed off at it, I'm going to treat it like my new full-time job!

Mostly, I'm keeping in mind what my PCP said when I was anguishing about having to do another surgery on my shoulder: "Let's think of this replacement as a productive pause, an investment in you being able to stay as active as you want for as long as you want in the coming years."

So, this holiday season and through the new year, I'll be "investing" in recovery and rebuilding so I can get back to my bikes, skis, hiking poles, and paddles -- and keyboard and get on with book # 3.

All we want for the holidays this year is peace right here in Portland and everywhere around the world.


From My Stack

Melanie Brooks

A Hard Silence: One Daughter Remaps Family, Grief, and Faith when HIV/AIDS Changes It All

Melanie Brooks' first book Writing Hard Stories was one of my bibles while writing Poetic License. And she generously blurbed my memoir. I knew that at that time she was working on her own and the result is this beautiful volume called A Hard Silence. Like many memoirists, Brooks' life entailed keeping secrets, this one the big secret in 1980s Canada that her father had become HIV positive after a blood transfusion. With a fundamentalist religious bent, the family chose this secrecy but of course, as secrets do, this became harder and harder for Melanie and it wasn't for many years that she was ready to tell her story. The result is an unforgettable story (as Monica Wood put it) and an intimate glimpse into that secret making it even harder to mourn her father when he later died of AIDS.

Lauren Groff

The Vaster Wilds

Author of the terrific Fates and Furies, Groff's new book is compelling in such important ways while also leaving me a little mixed on its length. The story is about "the girl" (never named), a servant in a colonial settlement, who escapes from her tough life only to find the vaster wild around her full of obstacles and demons. It's both an adventure story of how this girl fends for herself in the wild, adapts to her new environment, while sharing dreams and terrors along the way. I was enthralled for half of it, and again for the last quarter, and it had to be tough to come up with new ways to show the girl in yet one more dark forest or in one more deep cave. Still it's a parable of a young child you'll fall in love with and cheer on all the way through.


"What if today we are grateful for everything!"

Charlie Brown

May goodness and light surround you through the rest of the year and beyond.

Gretchen signature


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