February goes out with a loud sucking sound

By Mir
February 28, 2015

I started off the week thinking, “Huh. It’s almost March. THE SUCK IS NEARLY OVER.” But I guess I forgot I still had a whole week to get through and that I am me.

This past week included: Taxes, a giant box of ordered-on-the-cheap Christmas candy which turned out to have a short expiration date (and Amazon gave me my money back but now I have 15 pounds to lose and a GIANT FREAKING BOX OF DELICIOUS CANDY ABOUT TO EXPIRE), the disappearance of several key lunch-packing containers (but no one knows anything about that! IT’S DARK MAGIC, they just DISAPPEARED), a snow day completely void of actual snow, a planned teacher dinner for which shopping and cooking had already happened but then, you know, SNOW DAY OF NO SNOW, so things had to be rearranged (and this was not my job because I am not in charge—honestly, who would put me in charge of anything, right? RIGHT—but I had whipped out my crock pot and cooked up several pounds of food no one needed anymore, so that was great), canceled teacher conferences which meant I was receiving emails of “proposed schedule for next year” and sending emails that said things like, “Who put this together? Because I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Monkey didn’t ask to take Zoology, just a thought,” and life in general was giving off a lot of THINGS ARE NOT GOING THE WAY YOU THOUGHT THEY WOULD sorts of vibes. You feel me?

It was a long week, is my point. Also, I am old and feeble and stupid so I injured myself. That wasn’t even this week; it was weeks ago. ANCIENT HISTORY.

But this week it got worse and I made a two-pronged error: I both
1) Googled my symptoms
2) crowd-sourced information.

Rookie moves. In case you’re wondering, I’m probably dying.

Ha. Just kidding! Not dying at all, because whoever died from a rotator cuff problem? Probably no one, or not very many people, anyway. A shoulder injury seems like a really unglamorous way to die (which, I’ll admit, puts it right up my alley!), and probably only happens if you try to fix it yourself with a rusty knife. I’ve certainly considered that approach, but after everyone on the Internet was all ZOMG PHYSICAL THERAPY SURGERY PERMANENT LOSS OF MOTION I decided to go to the doctor, instead.

“How come when I tell you to go to the doctor, you ignore me, but when people on the Internet tell you to go, you do?” asked Otto.

“First of all, you are not NEARLY as scary as people on the Internet,” I told him, lovingly. “Second of all, you told me to go to the doctor weeks ago, and I am lazy. Coincidence, really.”

If I’m being 100% honest, I didn’t go right away because I was both lazy AND embarrassed. Rotator cuff injuries are the domain of athletes, those with physical employment resulting in repetitive stress injuries, and… out of shape, stupid old people like me who pick up something heavy and go, “OW!” I had no desire to explain my current predicament, nor was the idea of physical therapy appealing—I still sometimes have nightmares about the time spent “healing” my borked hand. Also? I was taking a lot of ibuprofen to manage the pain but then—really, who could’ve predicted?—I am pretty sure it started eating a hole in my stomach, so then my shoulder AND my stomach hurt.

But the original injury hurt, then hurt less… then it started waking me up at night whenever I rolled onto the affected shoulder, which was, oh, three or four times a night because that’s the side I like to sleep on. Also it had become sort of annoying that every time I tried to raise my arm higher than my shoulder I wished for a swift death. Details.

So I went to my stupid doctor with her stupid scale and the stupid questions about how I stupidly borked my stupid shoulder. And then she poked me in many ouchie ways and made with a bunch of words about how this sort of injury to the soft tissue doesn’t typically show up on X-ray, you need an MRI for full visualization, but MRIs are so expensive, and SOMETIMES they can see something on the X-ray if the injury is really deforming (that’s a comforting word to use, by the way, just SUPER), and maybe that’s a better first step, and also here’s a referral to physical therapy after the X-ray. And here’s your prescription anti-inflammatory meds that maybe won’t wreck your stomach.


I left the doctor’s office and headed over to the hospital for my useless X-ray. Once there, I found the radiology waiting room absolutely PACKED, and no one was manning the “sign in here” clipboard, but I signed in, anyway. Then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. And I was being patient, I swear, but then someone walked into the waiting area and a woman behind a check-in desk (far from the sign-in sheet) called out, “Did you sign the check-in sheet? You don’t have to, just come on over here.”

I had signed the check-in sheet and then hidden myself in a corner seat because I don’t like people. It occurred to me at that moment that my stealth may have meant that the Desk Lady had no idea I was there, because in the 30 minutes I’d been waiting, she hadn’t checked that clipboard even once.

So then I had to be That Asshole; I waited until she was done with the person she was checking in, then I went up and politely inquired as to whether signing in at the clipboard had been a mistake. She assured me that that was FINE, she was “getting there.” Oh. Okay, then. But… I went and sat back down and she scurried over to the clipboard. I tried not to be bitter about it. I failed. IN MY DEFENSE, my shoulder really hurt, and also I’m a terrible, petty person.

Eventually I was checked in, and then someone approximately the same age as my daughter came out to get me for my X-ray. She wore a giant STUDENT badge, and that was fine, but then we made it to the Official Room and she asked me if I was pregnant and I laughed and said no, and she said, “We always have to ask,” and I said, “That’s fine, I understand, but I had a full hysterectomy, so no,” and she nodded, and then she strapped a lead apron around my midsection.

“Is this to protect my uterus?” I asked.

“Yep!” she said.

“I don’t have a uterus,” I reminded her.

“Oh,” she said, flummoxed. “Well… it’s just… you have to wear it. For protection.”

“… of my non-existent uterus.”

She chuckled, but it sounded more nervous than amused.

She twisted me this way and that, took some films, and then called for someone to check her work. They conferred in the tiny control room and then came out and made me do some ridiculous contortion that made me see stars for one last film. Because did I mention THAT MY SHOULDER HURTS? Because it does.

I was allowed to get dressed again (did you know the underwires from my bra could interfere with a good visualization of… my shoulder? no? DON’T TELL ME HOW TO WEAR MY BRA, YOU) and as I was leaving, the student tech ran after me to ask about “the nature of my problem.” It was a split-second decision between “my shoulder fucking hurts” and “you seem young enough to be my child and also not terribly bright,” but in the end I managed, “my doctor thinks I have a rotator cuff tear” and she said they’d put that on my chart for the radiologist who would read the films.

I also resisted suggesting they make a note about my phantom uterus. Because I’m a grownup.

By this time—from when I’d left my house for the first appointment to when I walked out of the hospital—about four hours had elapsed, so why go home now? I went to the pharmacy for my new prescription, and my pharmacy is inside the supermarket, so I also bought sushi and booze, because it had been a really long day, okay?

Finally I returned home, cooked dinner for everyone who doesn’t eat sushi (read: everyone in my family but me, weirdos), and resumed hating everyone and everything from the comfort of my couch. I have physical therapy and “determination of orthopedist referral” next week. I have also vowed to lose 15 pounds and stop picking up anything heavier than one of my ridiculous little dogs.

In related news: I am ready for March.


  1. Lucinda

    Snow days can really mess things up. The one year I decided to buy lunch for the teachers during parent conferences, it snowed. Conferences were cancelled and I had a couple rather large deli trays sitting in my neighbor’s refrigerator because she had moved and the refrigerator was empty. Good times.

    I hope your shoulder feels better soon and physical therapy helps.

  2. JennyA

    Me too, sister. Me too. (Ready for March, that is. Bring on Spring. February has been a cavalcade of suck.)

  3. Grace

    Good for finally going. The physical therapy will help a lot. My bro waited too long on his and eventually had to have surgery. Oops. I mean, everything ended up fine for my brother, in the end. Hee.

  4. RuthWells

    I’m sorry everything sucks, but Imma put a big PSA here: taking too many NSAIDs can not only mess up your stomach, it can also cause permanent KIDNEY AND LIVER DAMAGE. So, yeah, physical therapy is better than that. Feel better, toots.

  5. Kristi

    been suffering for a year with significant shoulder pain. I can tell you it doesn’t just heal on its own. Finally went to the doc. X-ray (showed some osteoarthritis. YAY getting old!), PT for a month (hasn’t helped but electric stim feels awesome while it’s being done) and now scheduled for an MRI in late March. I’m thinking of just chewing the whole damn arm off before then. Let me know if you’d like to come over for a joint butchering party. I’ll serve wine and Percocet. 😜

  6. Kristie

    I had a torn rotator cuff a couple of years ago. Putting on a jacket was a new experience in pain! I went to the doctor and had a month or so of physical therapy. It cured it completely. I am a preschool teacher and have no problem picking up the two-year-olds. Good luck!

  7. Brigitte

    Ooh, I’m bitter with you on the sign-in sheet thing! Your injury is much more painful than mine, but a couple years ago I managed to bork my lower back muscles enough to have to go get meds for them . . . during an aquacise class with a bunch of seniors. Embarrassing!
    And hubby tore his meniscus and ACL from just walking. I guess us older folk break easily! Hope your meds kick in/you feel better soon.

  8. Nelson's Mama

    Sounds like frozen shoulder to me. Don’t ask me how I know…

  9. Anne

    I borked up my shoulder up about a month ago at work….so add workman’s comp to what you’ve done and you’ll know how MY Feb has gone. I still get to go to work (yah!) but am on such light duty I spend most of my day sitting at a table doing nothing…NOTHING! AUGH! That’s one way to drive away all of my brain cells and make me go slowly insane.

    Good news – I’m off to the orthopedic surgeon next week

    Bad news – the regular doc said treatment could be cotizone shots (aka – shove a big ass needle in your shoulder) or surgery (shove a big ass scalpel in your shoulder) or BOTH!


    • Becky

      Ask LOTS of questions before getting a cortizone shot in your shoulder–I had that done and it only lasted 1 day!! And then the pain REALLY got bad (because it felt great for that 1 day and I used it like it was fixed)

      Because of having the cortizone shot, I had to delay the inevitable surgery for 3 months to get it out of my system. It was SO NOT WORTH IT!!

      • Anne

        Oh lordy! Thank you for the information! I’ll make sure to grill that doc.

  10. Becky

    Glad you went to the Dr. I had my 2nd shoulder surgery in October (same shoulder)–just more shit wrong this time as I also had a torn/disconnected bicep. 2 months of my arm in a sling and having someone else do ROM exercises on it. Finally worked my way up to lifting weight with my arm–started at 4 oz. and am currently up to 3#.

    If you do end up having surgery, when I “just” had the torn rotator cuff the surgery and recovery were a piece of cake. I was back to doing everything within 2 months.

    Hope you are getting some relief with your meds:)

  11. Leslie

    currently walking around in a boot ( for 6 weeks) due to a stress fracture in foot ” consistent with a running injury”. HAHAHAHAHAHA! The only time you would catch me running is if a very large carnivore was chasing me. Boot wasn’t exciting enough so husband left on 9 day business trip 16 times zones away. Pipes burst and flooding ensued on bottom two floors of my house. Good times! So happy for February to be ( almost) over!!!!!

    • Anne

      I thought my Feb sucks. Nope – you win!

  12. bonuela

    not to sound unsympathetic, because i’m not. i have managed to get tennis elbow for the second time in a year and i don’t do sports, BUT the x-ray student? that’s nothing compared to the time i won the lottery with an ob-gyn student. she COULDN’T GET MR. QUACKY TO WORK!! (isn’t that what everyone calls that duck billed thing they use to get a better view?)

  13. StephLove

    I am sorry for the pain and hassle. My wife once had rotator cuff pain and it was no fun.

    I had an awful week last week, too: 2-hour delay, one day cancelled entirely and an early dismissal, and like you I work at home. I also had a funeral to attend, not for someone I knew well, but it was for a 44-year old women with 4 school-age children… so very, very sad.

  14. ladybug

    Not that we haven’t enjoyed our time off school, but my kids have gone to school for 1 & 1/2 days in the last two weeks. And the preschooler, not at all. Because here we wait for the frozen stuff to melt! It’s been amazing how much more time I have in my day without having to drive carpool. It’s almost worth the furnace that apparently requires someone (not me) to crawl under the house & reset it every time the power goes off, which was the only bad part.

    Good luck with your PT & I hope you feel better soon. Pretty soon it will be spring & everything will be covered in sweet gum dust, and you will have a good excuse not to sweep/rake/dust/vacuum.

  15. Chris

    Oh I am very sorry about February. Would it make you feel any better (less worse?) to be up here in the north where you could have your shoulder injury and not be able to shovel the umpteeth freaky snowstorm with another 6 inches when we have absolutely no place left to put it and the snow blower has broken. I think my husband may have wrenched his back/shoulder trying to throw the snow over the neighbors 5 foot fence (and yes she is not happy when she catches us doing that but it is 6+ feet in all the other directions)

    PT with the right person really helped my shoulder (not 100% but not waking me up at night) but you need to advocate for yourself. The electric stim did nothing but zap me and waste my time – turns out there is no scientific proof of it working – they just try it and see if it gets any better (although it may work for you)

    Mine misplaced gloves (again), soccer ball (again) and a TI 84 graphing calculator which is required for exams next week. Eldest thinks it is really lost so I bought another since I thought if I made her buy it with her own money, she might be too cheap to get it and do badly on her math test.

    And I woke up sick today when I am supposed to go to Germany for a work trip. Sigh

    On the plus side, got kiddo points for making muffins and brown sugar bacon as part of exam week breakfast treats and have pushed off my trip at least a day so hopefully can recover.

  16. Angela

    My grandmother had to have rotator cuff surgery when she was bout 85. She said it was…um…no fun. But she did the PT like she was supposed to and it did get all better. I actually strained a ligament in my back about 6 months ago from SITTING ON THE FLOOR. Just sitting there, and I kinda leaned over a bit, and i hear a POP. That was the ligament giving way. The next day the muscles around it had seized up, so I could barely walk. I haven’t been the same since! I’m only 39! But the chiropracter said since I’d just had a baby (15 months before that) that helped everything to stretch out and not be stable, so that’s why it happened. And since having a baby, who has time to work out and make everything stronger and MORE stable? Not me! Therefore, it still hurts but it’s slowly getting better. Hope your shoulder gets better quickly!

  17. Lindsay

    Right there with you on the end-of-winter suckage– and it looks like we have another ice storm headed our way tonight here in Tennessee, which mean SNOW DAYS #9 and 10 ARE ON THE WAY! OH JOY.

    But! The reason I’m commenting is to add to the rotator cuff crowd sourcing cluster! My husband has had the same issues as you for about 1 1/2 years now and has tirelessly researched what to do about it. He is really hesitant to have the surgery because of all the horror stories he’s heard about painful recovery and about it not always being effective. Right now, he’s taking Meloxicam as needed, which has really helped, and if it gets worse, we’re going to try something called Prolotherapy. A very trustworthy woman I know jacked up her joints doing martial arts, to the point where she couldn’t sit, ‘criss-cross-applesauce’ style on the floor. She went in for Prolotherapy, got the injections (apparently, an irritant-relief something is injected into the joint space), and could IMMEDIATELY move normally again. She said a lot of people use Prolotherapy for rotator cuff injuries in order to avoid surgery. Injections are scary, but not as scary as surgery, right? I’ll let you know if he tries it and it works. :)

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