A woman walked into a doctor’s office one day. She said, “Doctor, you've got to help me. I hurt everywhere. It hurts when I touch my cheek, and it hurts when I touch my stomach, and it hurts when I touch my knee.” The doctor replied, “Ah hah! I know what your problem is: You have a broken finger.”
Doctors are wonderful people, but I rarely need to see them on a professional basis. I take on average, maybe, one aspirin a year. Donna, the invincible! I needed to see a doctor earlier this month, though, and I didn’t like what I heard. No worries, though, because this story has a happy ending.
Over the course of a week, my right arm started to hurt a little when I moved it, and then it started to hurt a lot. Then it began to hurt a little when I didn’t move it, and then it began to hurt a lot. This thing was progressive, and I didn’t like how it was progressing, so I made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. Then I called and begged to come in a day earlier, because it felt like somebody was sticking a knife in my arm. I couldn’t raise my arm, nor could anyone else without making me scream and threaten to kill the next seven generations of his descendents.
The doctor took x-rays, which showed no broken bones, and then he made a rapid diagnosis: Adhesive Capsulitis, or in plain English, “Frozen shoulder.” “No doctor,” I said. “My arm hurts, not my shoulder.” “Believe me,” he said. “I see this all the time. It’s frozen shoulder.” “What, you mean it’s like Elsa from the Disney movie 'Frozen' came along and tapped me on the shoulder?” He smiled. “We don’t know why it occurs, but it often happens to women in your age group.” Well, I didn’t like that. A reminder that I wasn’t a spring chicken anymore.
I'd been processing two years worth of digital photos from South Korea on my computer, “click, click, clicking” my mouse several times a minute, without giving my arm proper support on my desk. The doctor gave me a shot of cortisone and a prescription for anti-inflammatory medicine, and sent me home.
What do you think was the first thing I did when I got home? I went onto the Internet, using my left arm, properly supporting it on the desk. The Mayo Clinic is an authoritative source, right? So the Mayo Clinic said, “Signs and symptoms typically begin gradually, worsen over time and then resolve, usually within one or two years.” One or two years? “There are three stages: the painful stage, the frozen stage, and the thawing stage, and each stage can last a number of months.”
Did I mention that all our stuff was arriving via ocean freight the next week, and in my condition I couldn’t dream of lifting boxes or hanging pictures on walls? Well, this was unacceptable. So I rested, and iced my shoulder, and did exercises, and unpacked as best I could. I got lucky. Within a week, my shoulder “thawed.” I regained full motion, and the pain is gone, too.
Now “I’m back,” but I’m back with a reminder of my own mortality. And I’m back with a new sense of empathy for people who suffer from chronic pain. For a brief time, I experienced what it’s like to get up every morning and have to ask, “How am I going to manage my pain today?”
And I learned something that helps people with chronic pain get through the day is humor. So if you have a pain, or if you’ve been around someone today who is a pain, I’d like to share with you a philosophy of life from ancient Ireland, called “Why worry?”
In life, there are only two things to worry about,
either you are well, or you are sick.
If you are well, there is nothing to worry about,
but if you are sick, you have two things to worry about;
either you will live, or you will die.
If you live, there is nothing to worry about,
if you die, you have two things to worry about;
either you will go to heaven or to hell.
If you go to heaven, there is nothing to worry about,
but if you go to hell,
you’ll be so darn busy shaking hands with your friends,
you won’t have time to worry!