Working on family photos on Sunday, a minor theme in the otherwise happy day of reminiscing and bringing order to chaos was the discomfort of recent pictures showing me wearing sweaters or jackets that seemed not to fit properly. I started a mental list of items in the closet to give away or at least never wear again. Then we went yesterday to the assessment by Dr. Thoughtful’s physical therapist, and those pictures suddenly made a lot more sense.
The point of the assessment was to provide information to the insurance company about whether more physical therapy is warranted. As it proceeded, it began to dawn on us just how much compensating and curtailing has been going on. Some examples of things no longer done or attempted because of right arm and shoulder “issues”: changing lightbulbs overhead; reaching up for any object; picking up heavy objects, say a gallon of milk, right-handed; pushing a vacuum cleaner forward and backward; carrying anything heavy on the right side; reaching backwards, writing near the top of a blackboard or erasing it, etc. The entire area is tender/sore all the time and it takes very little to trigger numbness and tingling in the hand.
Had we never assimilated the totality of the changes/effects out of denial, or did each of these compensations simply accumulate without fanfare over time? As the list grew, the connection to the family pictures clicked: my posture is terrible, in part because of the residual weakness on the right side. My entire right side droops slightly, from the shoulder on down and my head/neck are almost always slightly canted. Because the back of my head is still tender, the ways I sleep have changed over time. It’s a complicated mix of cause and effect in a complex area of the body: the shoulder, neck, and arm muscles all come together in a tight little area along with a set of nerves, ligaments, etc. In any event, the assessment was thorough and thoughtful and illuminated that indeed while there has been tremendous progress since the arm didn’t work at all after surgery, there’s still more ground to be gained. We’ll see how the insurance company views it.
While we were at his office for the assessment, we saw Dr. Thoughtful, who had the most recent test results: my my cortisol levels are still far too low without the prednisone. A morning, fasting level at the bottom of the desirable range is 18-20, and mine was 11. This is better than the 5 in the first test, but still not close enough to try going without. We’re not detecting side effects from the prednisone other than the desired ones of more energy and clearer thinking, so for now at least, we don’t see a down side to this plan.
Thinking back to what we learned about meningiomas and craniotomies in the whirlwind of activity in the days before the surgery, who could have anticipated that more than eight months later, the issues would be what they are? In addition to my tender head, wonky arm/shoulder and cortisol deficiency, it never even occurred to me to wonder whether I’d still be insurable (life insurance, disability) or how the surgery would be classified. Did I have cancer or “just” a benign tumor, and if the latter, what category does that fall under? Health checklist forms, we’re beginning to notice, generally have a combined line for “cancer/tumors.” There’s not a place to say “it was benign” and as it is without question that it was a tumor, check it we do. Where will this lead in the end? No clue. This adventure has been strange and there’s much to be grateful for, so we work on focusing on those elements, all the while trying to figure out what the rest of it means.
Today brings MORE sorting and recycling at the law school. Some famous stables come to mind. My goal is to finish by the end of the week and remove this cloud from an otherwise lovely (if wet) June. Summer--even wet summer--is so good. Enjoy.