When the Unexpected Enters Our Lives

fractured shoulder


I had a blog post drafted up four weeks ago about my upcoming retirement. Instead, I am publishing this blog post — the first thing I’ve written since I fractured my shoulder on October 25.

November was supposed to be my “Month of the Writer!” — a kickstarter to retirement life, where I will not allow myself to use the excuse that I don’t have enough time to write.

The choice of November came about because it is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I had planned to use the NaNoWriMo writing activities and community to re-commit and re-energize my writing. And I was going to try out a local writer’s group.

I also have a writing class on November 17 at the Loft in Minneapolis — the first writing class I’ve taken for years. It’s called “Writing Against the Fairy Tale: the Truth of Women’s Lives.” Steve will have to drive me there and the six hour class will be difficult for me (I usually need an ice pack every two hours), but I’ve waited too long for this class to not at least try to attend it. Would you miss a class with a description like this?

“Fairy tales uphold their culture’s values: within our patriarchal, capitalist, ageist, ableist, racist society, women are brutalized, erased, forgotten, made passive. In this poetry workshop, participants will write against the untrue fairy tale narratives about women’s lives. We will explore the false promises of passivity, beauty, marriage, courtship, and attraction in the age of #metoo, the fight for racial equity, and political lies.”

Okay, not everyone’s idea of a good time, but for me? Hell yeah!


So the abbreviated story here is that finding ways to deal with a shoulder fracture was not a part of my well laid November plans.

Isn’t that the way when something unexpected enters our life? We sideline our plans, goals, activities, and replace those things with things that fit better into our new reality. We fight it of course. We shake our fist at the sky and yell, “Really!? Is this amusing to you?” Or maybe that’s just what I do…

Still, whatever our initial reaction, we have no choice but to adjust.

I’ve broken bones before but this has been more debilitating and painful than what I remember. I feel fortunate if I manage to get more than three hours of sleep a night.

This experience makes me wonder how people with chronic pain  manage to not go completely insane. In the past few weeks, pain has become a physical thing – a monster to do battle with daily. It messes with my ability to think, which is both frustrating and frightening. And the constant “deal with pain,” “try not to think about pain” that I do all day is exhausting.

I’d been looking forward to slowing down and not trying to do so much after retirement, but the level of slow down I’m encountering right now is not what I’d fantasized about.

Healthwise… What Does It Mean?

There’s a question that continues to taunt me…

Was the fracture because of a bad fall on ice that would break anyone’s bone or was the fracture because of my osteoporosis? Another way to say ask that is “Did it happen because I’m old?”

“You’re old” appears to be the favorite diagnosis of every doctor I see for everything I ask about. It’s a very unsatisfying diagnosis because there’s nothing I can do about being old.

My first visit with the orthopedic doctor, he said that the bone I broke wasn’t likely affected by osteoporosis and would have broken anyway. The second visit, he says the fall shouldn’t have broken that bone and I should see someone about my osteoporosis. So now I’m confused and worried as well.

I found an endocrinologist that specializes in both osteoporosis and thyroid disease. Finding her was much more difficult than I thought it would be. That may explain why the soonest I could get an appointment was the end of January.

I’m hoping she will either tell me that I can continue on my path of building my bones with nutrition, weight lifting, and movement that contains a good level of impact (like running or hiking on hilly terrain). Or that she will have information that shows that the medications used for osteoporosis don’t cause more harm than healing.

Better Late Than Never

I know that what I’m doing currently to build better bone is the more lengthy and effort-filled choice, but I consider it better than the quick fix of medications with their side effects.

I regret all the years where popcorn and ice cream were my go to dinner. The years where I dieted, with no regard as to whether I was getting enough nutrition. The years where my priorities were the look of my body rather than its health.

I don’t expect changes I make now to result in overnight miracles, but I also am not willing to give up. I don’t trust quick fixes to problems that have been created over decades.

I’m drinking bone broth daily for the protein and collagen and a Nettle Tea for the calcium. I track my nutrient intake on MyFitnessPal to gear my meals around my nutritional goals. The MyFitnessPal application doesn’t cover all the vitamins important to building bone (like D and K) but it keeps me on track for protein and calcium.

I’m also applying a boneset tincture and comfrey oil to my shoulder area. Comfrey is said to heal bone because it increases cell proliferation. Boneset is more often used to reduce fevers but I attended a lecture where the herbalist also used it to promote the healing of bone fractures and frozen shoulder, which it’s likely I’ll be dealing with once I can start physical therapy.

Note that herbal remedies, just like other prescription medications, should only be used with the recommendation of a fully trained herbalist, so don’t go running out there and trying stuff out without guidance.

Every morning, my first thought upon waking and slowly rolling to an upright seated position, is “Do I feel better or worse today?”

It varies. If I’ve done too much the day before, as I’m prone to do on good days, I’ll feel worse and have to take it easier that day. It’s a daily experiment of seeing how much I can do to move my muscles to prevent them from freezing up and what is too much.

And so it goes  when the unexpected enters our lives and a mind and a life adjust. By Thanksgiving, I’ll have four weeks of mending under my belt and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to give thanks for my bodies hard work at healing.

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  1. I love your writing style. It flows so well that it draws me in and I must keep reading til the end.

    1. I appreciate that Fran. Oddly, although I’d never hope for a fracture, it is teaching me a few things about myself and what I value. It’s not always what we think it is. 🙂

  2. I’m very interested in your nutritional journey of healing Maery. I’ve been experimenting with changing my diet too, for long term health, and I also don’t like taking supplements. I can’t believe your dang luck with this entry into retirement. It’s like the universe is giving you a big slow down sign. I’m glad you’re toughing it out and taking that writing class. Sounds exactly like what you’ve been yearning for. 🙂

    1. Hi Sue. I agree, it does feel like many things that have happened lately are pointing me in a different direction than the one I’d been heading towards or had planned to head towards, which hasn’t been all bad. I just wish the universe would be a little more gentle and restrained in her messaging. 😉

  3. I have one of those docs who sees thyroid function and bone health as interweaved. I didn’t know about that until I found him to treat my thyroid disease.

    Pain is an awful thing that saps your life energy. You are experiencing even more intense pain than most chronic pain sufferers but we do experience the roller coaster of doing too much while feeling good and then paying the price. It’s a hard thing to learn to balance. Hopefully, you won’t have to balance it for too long because you will heal. I am thinking of you as you travel this tough journey.

  4. I can’t even imagine what you’ve been enduring. I was a child when I broke my leg, but I do even to this day recall the pain. Also like you I’m dealing with osteoporosis. I was diagnosed years ago and I’ve been on medication and then go off a while…get another test to see where I stand. The drugs (I take the once a week) are making my hair fall out…at least that’s what I think. I know it could also be stress so I can’t totally blame it on the medication. So I’ve asked my doctor to schedule another bone density as it’s been almost two years since I’ve had one. I’ve increased my calcium and taking it throughout the day instead of all at one time. I have no idea where I’ll stand, but like you..,.I’m not that crazy about taking meds. So we’ll see. Anyway, by now I think you had your writing class and have retired. YEAH! I do hope you are on the mend soon so you can begin enjoying your new life!

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