Monday, August 6, 2012
Tape and Boobs
Five weeks into my four-to-six-week recovery I'm on a bike most days of the week.
Last Tuesday I started physical therapy. Courtesy of Eva at Cornell Physical Therapy, I have a yellow rubber stretchy band for doing my homework. For the first week I do three exercises, one set of ten twice a day. This involves looping the rubber band around a doorknob and pulling on it in ways that teach the smaller muscles in and around my left shoulder how to work again so that my pectoral muscle stops trying to take over. If I don't rehabilitate all those little muscles enough to force my pec to mind its own business, it will pull the shoulder out of alignment and cause rotator cuff problems down the long-term road. With luck I can progress to three sets of ten twice a day before my next PT appointment.
I'm learning to use tape. I'm already proficient in Scotch and Duct but Athletic is new to me. Eva gave an instructional demo because she said the tape works more directly and effectively than my gladiator brace. Her tape job and the concept both held true on my road ride later that night, and I'll keep using it. Just maybe not the brand Eva had. When peeled off later that night it removed the top layer of skin from my shoulder. So I'm upgrading to Kinesiotape: high-tech tape intelligently designed and manufactured for JOCKS. Waterproof tape you can wear three to four days at a time. Tape you display on your body in bright aggressive colors that say "I'm a jock!" Wearing this makes me feel:
b) Less damaged.
c) Colorful (though hidden by a jersey).
d) Relieved to have the support. It lessens the pain!
Road riding continues to become easier. Last Saturday I put in nearly three road bike hours with minimal pain but still couldn't pull on the handlebars when sprinting or climbing out of the saddle. Eva pointed out road riding may not be a heavy load for the shoulder but is still prolonged load-bearing activity, so "listen to your pain level." PT exercises should take priority over long road rides if I want to get back to full strength sooner rather than later. I asked if I should continue icing after every ride. Emphatic yes.
As of Saturday morning my shoulder felt stronger. Bob felt a bit under the weather but still helped tape me up. I increased to two sets of ten on the PT exercises, then took the road bike out for a roundabout country-road loop to Watkins Glen and back. I couldn't remember my last LONG ride and exactly a month ago couldn't even get on a bike. I didn't plan to stay out four hours but the shoulder held up well and I really needed to just get out and spin my wheels. Yes, I know what I just said a paragraph ago-about PT exercises taking priority. But at times you have to clear your head. And I had to quit thinking about boobs for a while.
Yes. I said boobs. Very recently I concluded my left breast had grown and my right hadn't. I found a big tender lump. Shortly after getting rid of my sling I tried on some bras while shopping. So much for bilateral symmetry. The left-hand one filled a larger cup than the right.
My primary care doctor found the lump all too easily. She thought a fluid-filled cyst would be the most likely explanation, but it needed investigation. So the day after starting PT I had an ultrasound. A doctor came in afterward to tell me the lump was not fluid-filled or a cyst but solid and very likely a benign tumor called a fibroadenoma. Given its size and continued growth he recommended surgically removing all of it and precautionary biopsy after removal. He called my doctor, she called me, and I will meet with a surgeon in a week and a half.
The key fact to mention is this: the chances of a malignant fibroadenoma are fewer than one in a hundred. Until I have it cut out, biopsed and know for sure I'll keep that in mind. Not many people want to have surgery but even fewer would want to leave that in there to grow.
So by the time 'cross season comes I'll still be a shoulder ligament short as well as cut, stitched up and taped together. But I can resume occasionally browsing the ladies' lingerie rack at TJ Maxx-and know I can find a symmetrical fit for a change.
It could be MUCH, MUCH worse. Right?