Thursday, August 8, 2013

Embrace Your Challenges

Challenges are something that all people from different walks of life experience. What seems like a small challenge to one person may be a huge challenge for another. One of the great things about being human is you can learn to adapt to these obstacles that are presented to you.

I'm sure I'm like most people who get aggravated when an activity they enjoy doing is "taken away" because they can no longer physically do it anymore. It is a hard bullet to bite. Sometimes those activities we enjoy doing are the ones where you can completely clear your mind and not think about any worries that may be going on. For me, soccer is what got me through the hard days of seeing my mom sick from chemotherapy treatments. Soccer was more than just a game in our house. When I first became injured back in 2005, it was devastating. I was looking forward to my mom coming to my games in the Fall since she was done with treatments. From Sept. 2005-Dec. 2006 getting back in the game of soccer was my motivator. When the realization hit me in 2007 that I would never get back on that field I was lost.

Even though I never got back on a soccer field, I still practiced in the yard. To this day soccer is a part of my life. I had so much passion and love for the game for 12 years that I couldn't completely walk away from it. So, I learned to work that soccer ball with the body that I have. I still mess around on my own in the yard. Learning to shoot the ball after the ankle, knee and hip surgeries was a huge challenge. If that isn't challenging enough I had to learn to shoot without using my arms for balance. That was a huge obstacle. A lot of time, patience and core workouts later and I HAVE learned to shoot with zero use of my arms. In addition, I learned to juggle the soccer ball using my legs without hurting my shoulders because I have them either locked at my side or across my stomach. There is a satisfaction knowing I didn't lose all my soccer skills. I might not be able to run (due to shoulders, not legs) but I can still beat my nieces with footwork :)

Can still juggle with my legs. Yay!

During the years of not being able to play soccer, drawing showed up in my life. Besides getting all sweaty, an adrenalin rush, and a few bumps and bruises along the way, drawing takes on the role of what soccer did for me. When I draw I am completely focused on the task at hand and I am not thinking about anything else. It is a good healthy, stress reliever.

Chimp I drew for one of my nieces
From September 2012-April 2013, I did not have enough use of my right arm to draw. I couldn't even feed myself with my right arm for that matter. I was livid. I felt like I had no outlet whatsoever. So, I gave myself a new challenge: draw a picture with my non-dominant left hand. I found a picture of a snow leopard and went for it. I did not have high expectations. It was very difficult drawing with my left hand. I had to basically train my brain to not draw like a right handed person. Everything is opposite this way. Below is how the snow leopard turned out.

Proportions are a bit off but for attempt #1 at drawing non-dominant lefty I'm pleased

Having hobbies and activities that you like to do "taken away" is hard but to have basic daily tasks taken away is even harder. I think at times it would be easier mentally if I had never been able to do certain things in the first place; this way I wouldn't know the difference and I wouldn't feel the impact of loss. These shoulders and shoulder blades have forever affected my life. Ex: driving, writing, lifting my arms to above my chest, putting a shirt on, reaching in front/across my body to shake someone's hand, reflexing to catch something falling, reaching a food item in the back of the refrigerator or high up, giving someone a hug with two arms wrapped around them, preparing a meal or baking, making a snow angel with big, full angel wings. One of the hardest things is being in a store and having someone ask me to reach something high up on a shelf because they see I'm tall. It's embarrassing to say, "Sorry, I can't. I have shoulder issues." The worst part is getting the questioning look of if I'm telling the truth. If I were physically able, I would definitely help.

People like me who have major limitations because of their shoulders look at everything they go to do with their arms completely different than your average person every single day. I now look at these types of obstacles like a game. What do I have to do to win? Take writing for example. I was in college when I had to write lefty. Before school started at the end of January in 2008, I knew I was going to be having surgery. So, I took one of my nieces "Learning to Write Books" and I would sit at the kitchen table and practice writing the alphabet. I felt silly doing this but in the end it worked. A kitchen chair is one of my best friends because I use it daily to get things off shelves that are high. When I shake someone's hand, I lean my body in so I don't have to extend my arm. I now have come up with creative ways non-traditional ways to accomplish many daily tasks. Lord knows, I've had enough practice over the years.

We all know not all challenges we face are easy. There are certain things that we do not have control over and we can't manipulate. This is why I like to take the ones I think I can manipulate and make it a game. You never know what kind of crazy, creative thing you might come up with to get a task done.
With my niece Emily on a boat ride at an amusement park. I
came off of the ride soaking wet because I couldn't defend
myself from the other people squirting me with the water cannons
because I couldn't reach out far enough to manipulate the water cannon.
It was still fun nonetheless. 

A fundraising page was created to help with medical expenses. If you would like to donate follow the link below. Thank you!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Easier Said than Done 2013

"Try to make the most out of whatever life throws you." Good advice, right? I know I oftentimes repeat this piece of advice in my blog posts but that is because I firmly believe in it and it is my own daily reminder. Making the most out of whatever life throws you is not as easy as it sounds and it can be incredibly challenging. Being positive is all well and good but sometimes the reality of your situation is not a positive one. You have to acknowledge what your circumstances are because if you don't acknowledge it, then you aren't being true to yourself. Once you acknowledge things then the hard part starts: acceptance and moving forward.

I did not think 2 weeks after having the first bogus EMG test I would still be experiencing rather extreme symptoms. I do not know if my symptoms are from the high humidity in Illinois, lack of manual physical therapy or my nerves being hypersensitive causing my muscles to spasm. It is so hard to accept and wrap my head around the condition of my shoulders when they were completely different just a few short weeks ago. I can't even begin to describe what it is like to wake up every day and see your shoulder progress move backward instead of forward. The 2 months of hard work and progress in Colorado feels like it never happened. My main fear when I left Colorado was that my shoulder would fall apart. This fear seems and feels like it is becoming a reality.

One of the good things over the past couple of days is I finally think my shoulders have plateaued with how bad they want to get...for now. The hard part about waking up everyday now is moving my arms and seeing my pre EMG motion is yet to come back. I wake up with muscle spasms over both shoulders and shoulder blades which causes upper back and neck pain. The cherry on top is having my right shoulder subluxate. This is a huge bummer because that is the shoulder that had the graft put in, in November 2012 to stabilize my joint. To try to help my symptoms I have tried several things. I've used the heating pad, gone in the hot tub, tried gentle range of motion exercise in the hot tub, taken muscle relaxants to calm my crazy muscle spasms down, and have taken pain medication. My symptoms don't go away but they do become more tolerable.

Right shoulder now subluxates when I move my arm by
my side. If you look at the back of my shoulder, you 
can see the ball move back into the socket.
 It did not do this before my EMG on July 16th
so I don't know why it is doing it now.

I was told to work on what are called quadruped
exercises. It is when you are on your hands and
knees and you are supporting your body weight.
Sounds simple but it is very challenging for me.
Yesterday I woke up with my left scapula in a
freak-out. The faint line that starts at the top of my
scapula, extends down to the bottom of my scapula
and then goes in towards my spine shouldn't be there.
I'm praying that my muscle didn't detach. If it doesn't
get better, then further evaluation will be needed.

Amongst all the medical craziness, I've been trying to stay busy and do as much as I can continue to incorporate fun into my life. Some days I have felt absolutely awful have had to lay down throughout the day to take breaks because my muscles get so darn tight. It's not that I need to lay down for hours at a time. Laying down for even a half hour can make a difference and help me get through the rest of the day. I try to do what I can when my body is physically able.

Waiting for a Bon Jovi concert to start. I went with my mom
and it was definitely a great memory.  

Hanging out with my nephew. He is a funny little guy and can
always put a smile on my face.  

 Hanging out with my nephew. It's nice being able to hold him
while he is still tiny and not trying to squirm off my lap.  

It was a beautiful day at the racetrack with my nieces.

Once again, I know that  making the most out of whatever life gives you isn't easy. I recently was accepted into Northeastern Illinois University but my shoulders are giving me so many issues right now that by not knowing what comes next from a medical standpoint, it is very hard to commit to anything because I don't know what the future brings. It is very difficult to make any sort of personal plans and pursue what I want because I don't know how my body will react. My plan of action as of yesterday, is to return back to Colorado. I will fly out on August 27, 2013 with my mom, have another EMG test done on the 28th and meet with Dr. M on the 29th. I'll also meet with my physical therapist so he can hopefully calm these evil shoulders down. Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.

A fundraising page was created to help with medical expenses. If you would like to donate follow the link below. Thank you!!