Once the clips were out, I no longer had an excuse for avoiding the prescribed exercises. I had attempted to do them in the past, but the sling made them almost impossible. I pumped my stress ball almost continuously, shrugged my shoulder up and down, and twisted my hand back and forwards. But that had been the limit to my workout. It was time for Operation Mobilization.
“You only need to wear the sling at night or when traveling in the car,” Dr. Prinsloo had said. “Start to mobilize your arm now. You cannot start radiotherapy until you can lift your hand above your head.”
Until this point, I had told everyone how relatively easy this operation had been. “Sure, it’s a bit painful,” I would say. “But it’s really nothing like I had expected.”
Now the picture changed. I soon realized why the Physiotherapist in the hospital had been so negative about the sling. Because of my incredibly good cosmetic result, I do not, to this day, regret wearing it, but the pain of trying to use my arm again was unbelievable. It seemed to be anchored to my chest, and the slightest effort to move it was torture.
“The best exercise of all,” assured everyone in the know, including my physiotherapist, my surgeon, and Beulah from the Cancer Association, “is to stand close to a door, and allow your fingers to ‘walk up and down the door.’ Just push yourself a little further each time and in no time at all, you will be back to normal.”
It sounded simple. It probably was—if I could reach the door. My arm stayed frozen in position as I desperately tried to force it away from my body.
“I will never be able to move this arm!” I moaned at Rob, tears streaming down my cheeks. “And until I can move my arm over my head I can’t have radiotherapy. I don’t know what to do.” I returned to my efforts with gritted teeth.
The words from that television show floated back into my mind. Time to get back on the beam!
INVENTING NEW EXERCISES:
After a few days of battling to move my arm, I started to panic. It was taking too long. That is when I remembered what I’d read. Make your own decisions where possible. If the prescribed exercises were not going to work, I would have to invent my own.
I found if I lay flat on my back and totally relaxed my left arm, I could grip my wrist with my right hand. Then I could slowly move the stiff arm away from my body. Because I wasn’t using my muscles, it didn’t hurt as much. I soon devised a number of exercises, which I called ‘passive exercises.’ Every hour I spent ten minutes working on my arm in this way. Within a few days, I could reach the door.
Then started the agonizing process of trying to move my fingers a little higher, a little lower. I did this exercise against a polished wooden sliding door which had knots in the grain. Each day I would strive to go one mark higher. My goal, the top of the door, seemed way out of reach, but every excruciating little step was a battle won.
“I can do this,” I would mutter regularly, through clenched teeth, often with tears streaming down my cheeks.
CHOOSING AN ONCOLOGIST:
The time had come to choose the man who would control my life for the next year or two. The city where I lived boasted many well-known oncologists, but no one seemed to have heard of the man my sister-in-law recommended. How we prayed the Lord would lead us to the right person. Should I go to the one I had told my surgeon I wanted to see? Was he the one who would give me God’s choice of treatment? After much prayer, we made an appointment with Dr. Kurt Meiring, Denise’s recommendation.