Operation Mobilization

This entry is part 16 in the series Victory in the Valley


action-Public DomainOnce 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!


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.


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.

Read on: Next Chapter: Strategies for World War III

These events occurred between the years 1997-2000. I have tried to recreate events and locations as accurately as possible, but in order to maintain their anonymity, in some instances, I have changed the names and identifying characteristics of individuals and places.

Please click here:

8 comments on “Operation Mobilization

  1. It’s amazing how quickly muscles can get “stuck” in place. I once broke my elbow and after having it taped and in a sling for just one week, I needed to go through three months of therapy to get the full range of motion in the arm. Those first few therapy sessions involved a lot of pain (and some tears) as the therapist literally tried to yank my arm straight. It takes a lot of courage Shirley, to do that on your own!

    • I don’t know about a lot of courage. I was petrified of the physiotherapist! I was determined to do it on my own. And you’re right. My arm hadn’t even had surgery, but just being strapped tight for a couple of weeks. Oh my!

  2. Congradulations!!!!. Like my grandmother always said to me there’s nothing name “Can’t” you just have to put your mind to it and believe. As i was reading your article i was cheering for you all the way

Comments are closed.