Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Joint Previously Known As Sterno-Clavicular

When Prince took on "The Love Symbol"
in 1992, in lieu of a name that was copyrighted by his record company (Prince) or given by his parents (Prince Rogers Nelson), he called himself, "The Artist Previously Known As Prince" because the symbol was not pronounceable. He embraced his existence, but the identifying label of his given name no longer adequately described who he felt he was. And so it is with my sterno-clavicular joint.

I went to yoga class yesterday morning, and while on my knees and forearms (the rest of the class was on their hands and knees doing a variation of Half Moon Pose), I rotated my upper body to lift my left arm up towards the ceiling and my right clavicle dislocated. It made some awful, dreaded, grinding sounds, followed by a thunderous pop, and I fell over in slow motion like Artie Johnson on a tricycle from an episode of Laugh-In circa 1967. Luckily the floor is nearby when in this position, so the fall didn't worsen my situation. In fetal position, I breathed deeply and did some subtle wave motions with my broken wing (arm folded at the elbow) and popped it back into something you might call "place." 

It actually wasn't too painful. It was more nauseating - that feeling that something is terribly wrong. I remember learning to cope with this feeling during the winter of 1987 while an intern at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn. The ER saw a record number of fractures that icy winter and I was on what seemed like an endless Orthopedics rotation. (U2's song "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" seemed to always be playing on the radio in the ER while I was ransacking the supply closets for the right casting materials, which were chronically in short supply.) When someone is wheeled in with their broken fibula pointing in the wrong direction the doctor can't respond effectively while nauseated. I learned to breathe and reduce fractures. I knew how to cope with this relatively minor emergency.

I sat for a few minutes and finished the class with a lot of modifications. I don't even think the people on either side of me knew what happened. It's a class of mostly "older" women. People lose their balance and stumble frequently in this class, so I didn't stick out. (Oh crap, I just realized that I'm 56 and that's closer to 60 than 50. Even without cancer as an excuse for why I'm slowed down and creaky, I'm one of the "older women"!) Growing older, especially with disability is a lesson in adapting. When healing is not a possibility, the only way Health can express itself is to adapt. Here's an inspiring example: 
The teacher looked over to see if I was ok, but by then I was sitting and gathering my breath and my composure. Class proceeded uninterrupted. I cried a little while in Shivasana (Corpse Pose) and went on with my day. Today, surprisingly, I feel not too bad, like someone punched me in the upper chest. I think I just challenged the wad of scar tissue and bits of tumor that are "The Joint Previously Known As Sterno-Clavicular." Back in 2009, when bone metastases spread from my sternum into my clavicle they destroyed the joint along the way. Up until yesterday the area was sore and full of novel noises, but as long as I avoid things like volleyball and boxing (ha ha), it stayed together pretty well. I guess I have to be more careful when I bear weight on my shoulder girdle and move in novel directions. One more thing to let go of... 

As long as I can get back to Tango I'll be able to handle the loss. Yes, Steve and I are taking Tango classes. Please don't try to picture us; we're not that good. We are, however, having a fabulous time with our brilliant teacher and the sensuous music. 

The longer I go without blogging, the harder it gets to know where to begin. So when I had the humorous thought about my debacle in yoga class, I jumped on the opportunity to jump-start this long over-due entry. Here are the first lines of several recent failed attempts:

1. September 1st was our 1-year anniversary of moving to Vermont, 3 days after it was declared a disaster area from Hurricane Irene, and now we anticipate Sandy's arrival. (We ended up getting nothing at all from Sandy.)

2. I'll just cut to the chase; in the realm of cancer news, it's all good. My August and December CT and bone scans look "stable." No new cancer; nothing has spread or grown. It's all still there (sternum, ribs, clavicle, pelvis) but doesn't seem to be doing anything. I can live with this! 
3. How many blog entries can I get away with that start with an apology for why I haven't blogged?

I don't know the answer to that question, but I've never ended with an apology, so here's #1. I'm sorry I haven't blogged, but it was important for me to be in my life and not be reporting about it. I can't promise anything, but I will be blogging randomly in the future. Stay tuned and please drop me a line if you haven't heard from me and you're wondering.

In the meantime, I've grown fond of Prince's Love Symbol. It looks like a sternum and a clavicle with a spiral of healing vortex. If it weren't copyrighted (it's officially "Love Symbol #2; I have no idea what happened to #1) I'd use it as the new name for my "Joint Previously Known As Sterno-Clavicular."