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A Painful Tale

This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. Pain. What it used to mean to me, and what it means to me now.

Of all the awful bodily conditions in the world, I have to admit, chronic pain is the one that probably frightened me the most. It began when I was 13 and going through my Nirvana phase. I read somewhere that Kurt Cobain suffered from chronic stomach pain and that was one of the reasons why he did drugs and ultimately killed himself.

I’ve always been a healthy person physically. Even when I was overweight and inactive, my body still felt fine. The idea of having to wake up every single day to pain sounded horrifying. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of people who dealt with something like back pain every day. I was a wimp and hated the odd occurrence when I did experience pain. Even DOMS bothered me, and I knew it would eventually go away. How did they deal with it 24/7?

Then, the accident happened. A little over five weeks ago, I fell skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. I shattered my left elbow and everything since has been a new lesson in pain.

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A lot of people ask me if I felt my arm break. The answer to that is yes and no. I had me feet sweep out from underneath me, falling backwards directly on to my elbow. I do remember a *crunch* in my arm. But I couldn’t have predicted just how bad that *crunch* really was. I remember screaming when it happened. But I think it was more out of shock from suddenly being in so much pain, than the fact that I was in so much pain itself. Does that make sense?

I have fallen lots in my life. I’ve banged up every limb, fractured, sprained, and even had stitches in my head. I’m definitely not the kind of person to overreact in these instances. But as I crawled off the ice that day there was only one thought in my head: “I need to get to a hospital, and I need to get there now.”

At that point I was in a residential area. I had skated 7km from the downtown. I had no idea where to go to get to a hospital. I was all by myself in a city I didn’t know well. I tell you this because it was during this time that I experienced a new kind of pain, different from the one that happened when I first hit the ice. For the first time in my life, I was in so much pain and shock that I felt like I was going to throw up. Or pass out. Or both. And I was walking in a strange city with no clue where I needed to go. It was at that point I called a cab. I crouched on the ground until it came praying I wouldn’t black out.

By the time I got set up in the emergency room, things started to calm down. I set up my arm so the pain was at least bearable. My sister arrived and we talked about getting poutine that night once I was done at the hospital. We thought a sling, maybe a cast, then we’d be out of there. However, there were two events that made it very clear I was not getting out of there any time soon.

First, I couldn’t move my elbow whatsoever, but still insisted on not cutting off the two long sleeve technical shirts I was wearing. The ER doctor helped me take them off and I freaked out. Like, totally and utterly freaked out. Crying, screaming, causing a huge scene. I had no control over it, I just knew that no one was coming near my damn arm. The ER doc then returned with a cup full of pills and I happily obliged.

The second instance was getting my first round of x-rays. Not knowing what was wrong with my arm, they asked me to bend it in all directions to get pictures from all angles. There was more hysteria. My sister and everyone in the waiting room outside thought I was being tortured. It was then that we knew there would be no poutine that night. I’ve read about a lot of active people getting injured and about how upset they were not being able to run, etc. But at that point, I didn’t care about what I would no longer be able to do. I just didn’t want to be in pain anymore. A wish that has stuck with me every day since.

After that, I was given a steady stream of pain meds. Every four hours I was asked to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10. I hate this scale. I hate being asked to rate my pain. I hate thinking about my current pain, comparing it to my past pain, and then trying to determine if it’s better or worse.

Anyways, the initial pain of the fall was not the worst pain to come. Turns out I completely shattered my elbow, obliterating the cartilage in the left radial head. I was immediately admitted and operated on the next day. A two hour surgery turned into a five hour one. I learned afterward they had to remove my elbow and reassemble the small shattered pieces on another table using screws and glue.

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The post-op pain was a whole new kind of pain. I was heavily medicated for a week after. But in the times when the meds began to wear off I could begin to feel the 14cm open incision that ran along my arm, or the three metal screws holding my elbow in place. The pain would come in waves. So just as I thought it was getting better, it would come back in full force seconds later. My sister would sit with me as I writhed and moaned in pain, unable to do anything but just live through it.

Over the last 5 1/2 weeks, it seems my worst fear has come true. I’ve learned to live with chronic pain. Generally, it has gotten a little better each and every day. But a whole new kind of pain has begun with physiotherapy. Unlike the pain of the initial fall, or the pain right after surgery, the pain of physio is self inflicted. My joint is actually able to move, it’s the pain that’s keeping me from moving it. The muscles along the upper left side of my body have completely seized up in efforts to protect my arm. That stiffness has only contributed to the pain.

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Now when I get asked where my pain is on a 1 to 10 scale, my perception of it is totally different. I have experienced a lot of 10s. So while my elbow still hurts with every waking and sleeping moment, it’s bearable knowing that it’s nowhere close to the pain I once felt.

Learning to manage chronic pain has turned into a huge life lesson for me. It’s humbled me. It’s made me more sympathetic. Of everything that’s happened over the course of these last several weeks, dealing with the pain has by far been the trickiest part. I can live with the use of one arm, but it’s hard to live when you feel crippled by pain.

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The other thing I’ve learned is that I shouldn’t be stubborn and make myself suffer. My instinct is to be tough and try to get through this without pain medication. But my physiotherapist has instructed me to take painkillers to get through our exercises. I can’t very well do much when I’m breaking down into tears on the the physio table. Meanwhile, Tylenol has just become a part of my daily routine.

Overall, I’d say yes, living with pain everyday really does suck. It doesn’t get any easier or feel any less painful because it’s constant. But I’ve learned to manage it. I’ve learned to continue on despite the knives constantly twisting into my arm. Being in pain is actually quite exhausting. But the only thing I can do is just deal with it and take it as it comes. Because, what other choice do I have?

Brutally Honest

You know those “confessions” posts that bloggers often do? Well this is me being brutally honest. I’ve been jarring them up for too long. My intent is never to insult anybody. This is not a mean-spirited attempt at being entertaining. But I’m also tired of being cutesy ;)

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1. I don’t care for blog giveaways. I do sometimes host them on my blog because it’s a fun way to give back to readers with prizes I actually like. But in general I don’t read or participate in the giveaways of others because I already own enough crap I don’t use. I think it takes away from what could otherwise be quality content on blogs. Especially when they happen weekly. It’s irritating. If I liked hearing about people winning things, I’d get the Game Show Network.

2. I get a little irked when people say “You’ll be better in no time!” about my arm injury. Don’t worry if you’ve said this, I’m certainly not mad at you. I understand those who say it are coming from a good place and I really appreciate the intention.

But I feel like assuming my injury will heal up fast minimizes what I’m going through. This has been the longest month of my life, and saying “no time” reminds me I still have many months of healing ahead of me.  I’m not a drama queen. I know the specifics of my own injury, and I’m trying not to fool myself about it.

3. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Ever notice that men are really good at staying in a job for 20 years, but women change jobs every 2 years? What’s up with that? What’s wrong with us?

4. I feel like a giant loser for moving back home. Despite the fact that it’s what I reallyreally want to do.

5. As a follow up, my family is kind of in shambles right now. This only fuels my need to be home with them as soon as possible. Not just for them, but for me too.

6. I think a lot of health conscious people are too obsessive and take it to an extreme where it is no longer healthy. Most people have inherent obsessive tendencies, and it’s obvious a lot of people channel that towards healthy eating and exercise.

Unfortunately, it’s often ignored. Or worse, praised because it’s disguised as a good thing. It’s not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen or heard of a person freaking out about eating white bread. Freaking out about ingesting 1/4 cup white flour is NOT healthy.

7. I used to play a lot of music, namely guitar, piano and singing. But I gave it up because I thought I wasn’t good enough. Even though I was constantly encouraged by others to continue, my own self doubts are what made me stop. Playing music makes me feel inadequate.

8. I can’t read books with one hand. I drop it every time I try to turn the page. I’ve been dying to do a book review on here, but I haven’t been able to get through it.

9. I’m really, really messy. Not dirty per se, as I’m scared of getting smelly things, bugs or mold. But you know how some people look at a mess and get really bothered to the point where they have to clean it up? Well, I’m the opposite.

My brain quickly becomes accustomed to things being out of place until I no longer notice them. Say I emptied the contents of my purse on the middle of the living room floor. I could easily learn to live around that within a couple days until having junk in the centre of the room became the norm for me. Just like having a coffee table there. It’s weird.

10. I can wholeheartedly recommend Adora calcium chocolates.

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The company offered me a couple bags to feature on the blog. I first tried these at the Healthy Living Summit and already knew I liked them.

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They sent me the milk chocolate and dark chocolate flavours. The milk is my favourite! Creamier and sweeter. I’ve always been a milk chocolate gal.

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Each chocolate is 30 calories and offers 500mg calcium, 250 IU vitamin D and 40mg of magnesium. That’s half of the recommended daily dosage of calcium, 62% of your vitamin D and 10% magnesium.

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Now, be warned the texture is a little “chalky.” Nothing over the top, but not quite “melt in your mouth” like the high end stuff. But in my opinion, the cost-benefit is 100% worth it. They make for the perfect after lunch dessert!!

I have to admit, Adora also offered me a giveaway, but I declined because it wouldn’t be open to Canadians. As #1 states, I’m picky about my giveaways, including having those that are open to my countrymen! If you’re in the States, I definitely recommend checking them out. If not, you can always order online.

Phew. Feels good to get all that off my chest. Sometimes we just gotta be brutally honest, ya know?

Question of the Day: What’s one thing you’re dying to get off your chest?

Move It Monday – Pipes Challenge

Happy Mondaaaay! Today’s Move It Monday is extra special. Instead of me talking at you, I want to motivate you to get moving with me!

It’s all inspired by my friend Morgan and her new 6 Week Pipes Challenge.

It’s all about whipping those girly arms of ours into shape. You know what I’m talking about. Those of us who do a few tricep dips after a run and call it a day. Upper body strength is SO much more important than that!

Alright, and let’s face it, it won’t hurt for looking good come tank-top season ;)

Now this challenge can take on many forms and I encourage you to pick a goal that suits you. Morgan will be following the 100 push up plan. Some other great ideas are doing your first arm balance pose in yoga…

Or how about doing a full tricep dip?

Now, you may be wondering why a girl who just spent a month in a full arm-cast is yammering about getting ripped pipes.

Clearly, I am not going to spend the six weeks doing bicep curls (OUCH). But I have set a unique goal for myself.

By the end of the challenge I want to be able to almost fully flex and extend my left arm. As most of you know, I shattered my elbow a month ago in a skating accident. I just got my cast off and started physiotherapy tonight!!

I took “before” pictures so you get an idea of what I’m working with.

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My bad arm, flexed toward my body as far as it will go. Mind the chipping nail polish and pyjamas – I’m currently unemployed.

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My bad arm extended as far as it currently goes. I also can’t hold it up on it’s own.

For comparison’s sake, here’s the same movements with my good arm!

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Flexion. What’s up.

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Extension. Hiya!

My doc says those two movements should come back quickly, so it’s a very reasonable goal for me right now. Although, chances are I’ll fall an inch or so short of where I used to be able to move it. Nothing too noticeable.

The more difficult, and more long-term goal, will be to get rotation back in my wrist.

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This is it pronated, which is actually pretty good. Because of the location of my injury, this direction is easier than it should be.

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On the flipside, that means supination is more difficult than it should be. Normal arms can rotate the palm to face the ceiling. Mine just stops dead right there.

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Or on my good arm, I can do it 360 degrees when straightened ;)

Meeting with a physiotherapist tonight was very interesting. She was able to work my arm into moving much more than this. Although, I am still hindered a lot by pain. She instructed me to take my percocet before our next session so we can work it a little better.

What I didn’t realize is just how tense the left side of my upper body is. My left bicep is essentially in constant contraction to keep in the 90 degree position and elbow protected. Hard as a rock. My left shoulder is also super tense and really hard to loosen up.

I’ve been instructed on how to start moving my elbow and wrist properly several times a day, as well as massaging out my left bicep and loosening up that shoulder. Despite the pain, I plan to work diligently at it to get my elbow moving back and forth with relative ease when the challenge is over!

The challenge officially starts next Monday. You can find posts at Life After Bagels every week for support over the six weeks (and maybe some guest posts from me!). We’ll also be chatting about it on her Facebook page and on Twitter under the hashtag #6weekpipes.

If your looking for more info on building up those pipes, check out these old posts of mine!

The Perfect Push Up
The Perfect Tricep Dip
Ripped Arms: A How To Guide 

So now my question to you is – will you be participating? What’s your goal to get those pipes in shape?

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