On Friday, July 28th, following an MRI Arthrogram, I was diagnosed with a SLAP Tear; specifically, “Left superior labral tear extending along the posterior superior quadrant.”
I’m going to need surgery which is going to leave me with one arm for months, unable to drive, work, or support myself in anyway.
Since 2001, I’ve made handcrafted jewelry, with my signature being wire wrapped tree of life pendants. I opened my etsy shop in 2006 and PhoenixFire Designs became my full time job nearly 6 years ago now in 2011.
I also expanded into doing art shows and craft fairs in person as an artist vendor in 2012 and do dozens of physically taxing shows a year.
Making jewelry for a living is an amazing gift. But it’s a lot of repetitive work and it’s not easy on my neck and shoulders. It’s been a struggle to find the balance between creating and not overdoing it.
The Start of Shoulder Pain
Last fall, I started having intense pain in my left arm. No falls, no acute injury, but I couldn’t lift my arm, I had weakness and radiating, burning, pain down the upper arm to my elbow. This went on for a few weeks and gradually got better. Initially, I just thought I overdid it.
But this pain and weakness kept recurring – and got worse and worse until it got to a point where I couldn’t put dishes away or close the hatch of my SUV with that arm. I finally went to see an orthopedic doctor in May 2017.
The initial diagnosis was “rotator cuff tendinitis with shoulder impingement” and I went to do physical therapy 2x/week. I diligently did my pt (including homework) for a month, and saw the ortho again.
He felt we made some progress but wanted me to try another month. So I did, competing 8 weeks of intense work, working on range of motion, strengthening shoulder/back/biceps muscles, and postural awareness.
At the end of 8 weeks however, I still had constant pain and continued weakness so he sent me for an MRI Arthrogram. A 3″ long 22 gauge needle was inserted into my left shoulder and 12ml of contrast was injected ahead of an MRI.
Friday, July 28th I got my diagnosis: “Left superior labral tear extending along the posterior superior quadrant”
As we have already tried cortisone injection and physical therapy and it did not significantly improve my pain and quality of life, surgery to repair it is the next required step.
SLAP Tear Surgery & Recovery Challenges
SLAP tear surgery is a difficult and extremely life altering recovery. I will essentially be one-armed overnight. I will be in a sling 100% immobilized for between 3-6 weeks. It will be a minimum of 3 months (to as much as 6 months) of down time. I won’t be able to drive, I won’t be able to work, I won’t be able to use my arm in any capacity.
The problem is that I work for myself. If I cannot make jewelry or physically participate as a vendor in shows, I have zero income. A minimum of three months without income is impossible for me to survive on my own.
I need to build a nest egg to live off of; supplement to my complete and utter shutdown of wages.
Additionally, there are a lot of things I will need prior to surgery, including purchasing a recliner since apparently it will be the only thing I can sleep in for the first month at least. I will also need to buy things like front closure bras, and other adaptability items to help manage daily life one-armed.
(I have made an amazon surgery wish list compiling items I will need as well.)
Please note that I DO have health insurance. But I am facing:
- Surgery copays
- Doctor visit copays
- Purchasing recliner (mandatory for sleeping in)
- Purchasing supplies to manage recovery limitations
- Paying for Mandatory Post Op Physical Therapy
- Paying for transportation to and from PT (won’t be able to drive)
- General cost of living expenses that don’t go away (rent, power, car payment, food, etc.)
- Any additional unknown/unexpected costs
I am not going to lie. I’m terrified. This sounds like an awful experience and everything I read says it’s going to hurt and be miserable. Relearning how to use my arm again will be hard work. And it’s going to be MONTHS before I have any semblance of normal life again. (Heck, initially, I won’t even be able to dress myself, shower, or anything simple like that!)
Facing the financial panic on top of it is even more terrifying. I need surgery to get better, but I can’t do surgery if it means I can’t pay rent.
My friends and family suggested I start a Go Fund Me to let people provide support and to help raise awareness. Any donations, shares, links, signal boosts are appreciated. Also, anything from my surgery wish list would be amazingly helpful too.
Thank you to everyone who read this far and I truly appreciate all the love and support from all of you.
Yesterday, I had to have an MRI arthrogram on my left shoulder. It was a unique experience and I was really worried about it and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I spent a lot of time trying to google and research MRI arthrogram as well as what it was like and what it would feel like. Since I’ve now been through it, I thought it might be helpful for some others to read my personal experience having a shoulder arthrogram and MRI.
First, a little background
(If you don’t care about my specific history leading up to the procedure, feel free to skip down!)
The damned thing has been problematic for the better part of a year now. Last fall (2016), I woke up one morning thinking I had slept wrong on the arm, because the shoulder hurt, and it ached down my arm to my elbow. It hurt to reach, extend and stretch it, plus it hurt to lift weight with it. This problem went on and off for months, varying in intensity and aggravation until May of this year (2017), I finally made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor to get it looked at.
Initial diagnosis was “rotator cuff tendonitis with shoulder impingement.” Doctor gave me a cortisone shot in the shoulder (which HURT and made it ache REALLY BAD for like 2-3 days after, but which ultimately eliminated the “burning” sensation of pain I was experiencing in my upper arm down to my elbow.)
I went for 4 weeks of physical therapy. Saw some progress, but still had pain and weakness in certain motions. (Notably fully extending it outward and fully outward and to the right. ) Saw the ortho again after a month and he recommended giving it some more pt time, so I did another 4 weeks for eight weeks total.
At 8 weeks, we did see more improvement, but felt like I had hit a plateau and there was still pain and weakness. Ortho recommended I do an MRI, but not just a normal one, but an MRI Arthrogram.
What is an MRI Arthrogram?
So, “Arthrography is the x-ray examination of a joint space. During arthrography, a contrast material is injected to enable the radiologist to study the joint space that appears on the x-ray image. Body sites often studied by the various types of arthrograms include the wrist, ankle, shoulder, and hip.” (source)
And an “MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body.” (source)
Put it together and it’s a two part process where you first get injected with a contrast (in my case, gadolinium) along with fluid directly into the joint (in my case, my left shoulder) in order to better visualize the joint during the MRI so that small tears can be more easily seen by the radiologist.
The entire procedure was about 2 hours in total. I booked the appointment at a local outpatient imaging center. I will note, it was a nearly 3 1/2 week waiting period to get it done because not every place that does MRI does arthrograms. They must have a Doctor of radiology on hand to inject the contrast.
My husband came with me as I was instructed I had to have a driver.
I arrived and checked in and got my lovely wrist id bracelet.
So what does an Arthrogram feel like?
The next step was to go in and remove my shirt and bra and put on a gown so they could access my shoulder completely. They brought me into a room and had me lay down on the table. The doctor sterilized my shoulder and surrounding area. They use fluoroscopy which is a real-time, moving image version of an x-ray to properly position the needle.
The doctor did an injection of a numbing anesthetic first. It pinched a little and there was a small, sharp bite of pain but it quickly went away. Then he slowly filled the joint with the solution of the fluid and the contrast. During this time, I was laying on the bed and they were using the fluroscope to monitor in real time to ensure the fluid went exactly where it was supposed to go.
After the injection was complete, they took a few still x-ray shots as well just in case as a backup in the event the MRI images were not clear.
The arthrogram was uncomfortable but not terribly painful. My shoulder felt “full” and there was pressure in my joint from the fluid but the numbing agent helped.
What does an MRI feel like?
After the arthrogram part was complete, it was time for my MRI. Now, I planned ahead and made sure I wore nothing with any metal. Because MRI involves very powerful magnets, you cannot have ANY metal anywhere in the machine. (This means I also had to remove my glasses during the test.)
I was allowed to change out of my gown back into my sports bra and tee. (I picked up a seamless one like this specifically for this procedure. It is VITAL that it not have any snaps, clasps, or hooks because all of that can contain metal!)
I also wore a pair of yoga capri pants making sure there were no zippers, buttons, snaps, or metal.) It was much more comfortable to have some semblance of normal clothes during the MRI instead of just being in a gown, so I highly recommend you look for something similar free from metal to wear.
MRI is a very loud, very lengthy process. I laid down on the bed and the tech positioned my arm at my side and propped it up and positioned it in a plastic, curved piece. She then ran straps across my shoulder/arm and waist area, strapping me down to help keep me still. I found a google image of similar configuration (without the straps)
I was also given headphones with music playing and a squeeze bulb in my other (right) hand to press in the event of an emergency.
She left the room, and I slid into the MRI machine. The surface of the machine is only inches from you. It is claustrophobic – even for me who doesn’t really normally suffer from claustrophobia. It’s also EXTREMELY LOUD. I could barely hear the music (which was loud in the quiet room) over the machine. It makes a wide variety of clunking noises in different patterns. I had to lay perfectly still for about 20 minutes. One test had to be redone – another 2.5 minutes – because I guess I was breathing too much. 😉
Second round was harder. I had to lay with my arm up over my head with my hand behind my head. Then, she put this big foam piece over my chest and half my face! Then she strapped THAT down. Miserable. I had to lay still for 10 minutes – all the while, my shoulder was ON FIRE.
Thankfully, she said we got the scan and I was free to go after that.
Post procedure recovery
After the arthrogram and MRI, I got to head home. My arm was sore and felt “full” from the fluid and contrast. I was also tired from the stress and anxiety of the day, so I took a nap when I got home.
When I woke up, my whole shoulder hurt really bad. The numbing anesthesia wore off and the pressure in my shoulder made it felt like the whole shoulder was being stretched too far from the inside making it ache something terrible. It was also swollen. I tried to take a photo but it’s kinda hard to see in the picture. It was definitely puffier than the regular side.
I took ibuprofen and iced the shoulder. It helped a little but really, it was just really uncomfortable. It hurt throughout the entire shoulder, both from the pressure as well as from the positioning in the MRI. The front shoulder, the rear into the shoulder blade and even into my upper arm all just hurt. It was definitely pretty miserable.
(When I had my hysterectomy, they pump your abdomen full of gas. This is true of most abdominal surgeries. It expands the area. They get *most* of the gas out, but some drifts – and it generally gets up into your shoulders. The pain in my shoulders the first few days after surgery was nearly unbearable and hurt worse even than the abdomen. The pressure after the arthrogram was similar to that kind of trapped air/gas pressure pain, though thankfully not as bad. But similar if you’ve experienced it.)
Thankfully, when I woke up today (the day after) the swelling has gone down and the pressure has eased. It’s still sore in the “over did it” sorta way but not as bad as yesterday.
Tips & Tricks
Here’s some personal advice based on my experience to make the process as easy as possible. THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. PLEASE REFER TO SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS BY YOUR DOCTOR.
- If you have anxiety or claustrophobia, it’s perfectly ok to ask for something to help.
I got a 2 pill script for diazepam from my doctor a few days before and I took one valium 30 minutes before the appointment. It really helped take the edge off. Made the process a lot easier. Many places will even give you something there if you arrive and realize it’s overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask. There’s no shame in having anxiety or having a fear or phobia and it will make it a lot easier to deal with.
- Dress comfortably and be mindful of any metal in your clothing.
By planning ahead and wearing comfortable clothing, including something like a seamless sports bra under your shirt instead of underwire bra or a bra with metal clasp, you can leave it on during your MRI. Look for yoga pants or leggings without buttons or metal clasps. It’s always more comfortable to be in clothing vs a gown and psychologically feels better too.
- Get someone to drive you to and from.
I had my husband drive me. This allowed me to take a valium. And it meant I had someone to keep me company while waiting. It also meant that I didn’t have to try to drive home with one arm sore and limited mobility after.
- Drink plenty of water the day before and after to help flush the contrast from your system.
Your kidneys should filter out the contrast in about 24 hours. But being hydrated the day before and drinking a lot of water after your procedure you can help flush it through your system easier and quicker.
- Take ibuprofen after and use ice pack for pain/swelling.
Ibuprofen and ice can both help with swelling and pain. Get a reusable ice pack you can have stored in the freezer for minor injury on hand. It’s very comforting and can really help distract from the pain.
- Rest. Limit activity that day and take it easy.
They recommended light activity on my left side for 12 hours, with gradual resuming of activity over the next 24-48 hours. Take it easy. Don’t expect to jump 100% back in. You will probably be sore and worn out. If possible, take the day off so you can relax. Get some sleep and give yourself some time to recoup.
I stressed out over the procedure for three weeks. I was scared and I didn’t know what to expect. Overall, it was uncomfortable and claustrophobic, and my shoulder hurt a lot that evening from the pressure of the contrast/fluid, BUT….it wasn’t unbearable. And with some rest and a little Advil you should be feeling better in a day or two.
(Then all you have to do is wait on your results!)
Hopefully, my experience has helped you understand the process a little and makes it a little easier on you.
Since I had to work last November for the Fall 2016 Dapper Day at Epcot, I didn’t want to miss Spring 2017 Dapper Day at Epcot – especially since it was the perfect opportunity to do a Disneybound of my favorite Disney character – Figment!
Two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow
horns of a steer – but a lovable fellow!
From head to tail, he’s royal, purple, pigment.
And then, Voila! You’ve got a Figment!
Though a simple look, my Dapper Day Figment bound was a huge hit! A purple dress, orange petticoat, orange ribbon turned into a belt, and a felt “F” I made in yellow and red (when it was obvious the 94F temp that day meant I couldn’t wear the custom painted sweater I had planned on!) I finished it with a pair of sequin “Mickey Ears” with little orange Figment horns and my rainbow umbrella – which totally stole the show all day! (For the record, it can be purchased here on amazon!)
See more photos in my Dapper Day Spring 2017 Epcot Gallery.
I don’t have the words to adequately describe how disappointed, disgusted and literally scared I feel in this moment as a woman in this country. I knew we were still a country battling bigotry, misogyny, hatred and even anti-intellectualism, but….but. This is something else entirely.
I thought we were better than this. I thought decency would prevail in the face of horror. I thought common sense would override fear-mongering and blind hate; that the “ours” of this nation would come together and overcome the “mine” mentality of this nation.
I fear my country tonight. I fear the millions of people who excused away the sexual attacks and vile commentary repeatedly thrown at my entire gender.
I’m terrified of living in a society that has collectively decided to wage open war on so many groups including women, LGBT, immigrants, people of color, etc., etc.
I am horrified at the welcoming open arms bigots and hate groups have enjoyed to their caveman ideals; that people who should hide their beliefs away in shame are now able to proudly strut those same disgusting views as “valid” or just “telling it like it is.”
I don’t want to live in this kind of world. I don’t want to live in this kind of fear. And I honestly don’t know how to face a future where all of this is just okay now. Because it’s not. And the fact that so many not only feel like it is, but they are forcing us all collectively to walk down this same path is more than I can comprehend.
I don’t have the words to express just how broken the human race truly is if this is the kind of mindset that not only still exists, but flourishes.
I honestly thought we were better than this. And it’s painful to discover I was vastly, deeply wrong in that thought.
Can you do me a quick and easy favor?
15 years ago in 2001 I started making jewelry. It was a hobby at first, but people liked what I did and eventually 10 years ago in 2006, I opened my PhoenixFire Designs etsy shop. I continued to run my business part-time while also managing a normal day job.
Well all that changed five years ago in 2011 when I wound up in the ER. Long story short, I had nearly 3lbs of tumors in my uterus and after months of treatments, I had a hysterectomy at age 34. During this time on medical leave, my day job laid me off. (Nice, right?)
So with the support of my husband and a TON of fear and uncertainty, I decided to try and run my business for real as my only job. It’s been a ton of hard work but it’s been so rewarding. After over a year of recovery, I’m back to good health and I’m happy.
Here’s the favor part. I got nominated for “Best Handcrafted Jewelry” in Tampa Bay. I would LOVE to win, especially given this year marks 10 years of my etsy shop and 5 years since my medical crisis. So can I get a vote? It’s just an email address (they don’t email you anything) and selecting “PhoenixFire Designs” under the “Best Handcrafted Jewelry” category. One vote per EMAIL address (not necessarily per person.) No prize money or anything but it would be an amazing honor to be able to say I won.
Thank you for your support!
The victims and families of the mass shooting in Orlando last night don’t want your prayers or your thoughts. They want your OUTRAGE that a small percent of gun nuts have successfully lobbied against passing ANY common sense gun laws and have put their profits over the lives of human beings.
RAGE to your elected officials that they won’t stand up to terrorist organizations like the NRA who not only allow these mass shootings but who PROFIT from this fear and horror and death.
RAGE to your elected officials that they won’t listen to the overwhelming majority of the US population that WANTS common sense gun law reform.
And VOTE to change the broken system and elect officials who WILL stand up and do the right thing and work towards a SAFER future for all of us.
This year, we had even higher stakes as none other than Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd was going to be there!!
I bought us tickets for Saturday, bought a 1:30pm photo op with Christopher Lloyd and dusted off the old Marty cosplay outfit. I was psyched!!
A little after 7am early Saturday morning, the alarm went off after about 4.5 hours of sleep. I wanted to make sure we got an early start so we could get there close to the 10am opening of the convention. We got ready and headed out, leaving a little later than I had wanted at around 9am, but given it was only a 90 minute drive, I figured that would still get us there by about 10:30am and probably in the building around 11am.
We set off on I-4 from Tampa to Orlando. Made great time until….we came to a screeching halt somewhere around Auburndale. It was just an absolute mass of cars, literally crawling forward an inch at a time, stopping, then moving forward a tiny bit more. Repeat until you go insane. (We came to a near dead stop somewhere around mile marker 50 or so and had until exit 72 for our exit. All of which was just jammed.)
What should have been an hour and a half turned into over THREE HOURS of absolute maddening traffic. We didn’t even get to the convention center until noon. Where we then further got stuck in a never-ending line to the toll booth trying to park.
As we sat there the time just kept ticking by. I had a 1:30pm photo op that was booked and paid for! By the time it was nearly 12:30, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. I actually threw the car in park, grabbed my stuff and left Love to park the car.
I took off, running in 95F heat through acres of parking lot, past other concourses of the convention center trying just to get to the building. After literally over MILE of run/walking (I measured it on google maps later), I ran smack into a line extending the entire length of the West Concourse, OUTSIDE stretching back just to get in the door!!
About 15 more minutes of this line, I finally made it in the building. Only to be faced with ANOTHER LINE that literally WRAPPED around the entire perimeter of the massive room within the convention center! I had prepaid for my ticket but I needed my wristband and the line to get it was several thousand deep! I knew they were expecting over 100,000 people for the weekend but I never expected they would ALL be ahead of me in line!!
At this point, it was 1:15pm. That was the time I was supposed to line up for the photo op and I didn’t even have my wristband yet! I got out of line, found a person who worked there who directed me to a manager. Another guy came up at the same time who ALSO had the same 1:30pm photo op and she escorted us both all the way up front, direct to the ticket taker and got us our wristbands. Success!
Except the photo ops were on the entire other side of the convention center. And it’s a MASSIVE space that was FULL of people. The guy and I (never caught his name) stuck together, weaving in and out of people, dashing like mad fools trying to make our way to the photo section. We arrived literally right at 1:30pm. We were able to get in line and thankfully, Christopher Lloyd was running a few minutes behind.
I was DRENCHED in sweat at that point despite not even having my jacket or vest on and fighting to stop panting from the non-stop running I had done for the past hour. Remember, I bailed out of the car around 12:25pm and it was now 1:30pm and it took that long just to get from the parking lot to the line!
Again, thankfully, the photo op was running behind so I had time to cool off enough to put the rest of my costume on, touch up my makeup and reapply my lipstick. By around 2pm I got in and got my pic with Christopher Lloyd:
Mission accomplished!! 😀
Today is my 39th birthday. (Woah, I know!) I spent the day going to see Captain America: Civil War (#TeamCap!) and generally had a low-key but fun day. Here’s an obligatory birthday day selfie:
Saturday, April 16, 2016 was Dapper Day at Walt Disney World. This time, it was a Spring Fling in Magic Kingdom! Dapper Day, for those who might not know (such as most of the “regular” park guests for the day, all of whom felt I looked friendly enough to ask LOL) is a day to dress to impress. When Disneyland first opened in 1955, people wore their Sunday best; men in suits and women in dresses, hats, gloves. So Dapper Day is a twice-a-year event dedicated to bringing a little style and class back into the parks. It’s not about being “vintage” specifically nor does it require a certain time period (though many do chose to embrace a mid-century 50’s or 60’s style.)
I went last year for the first time to the Fall Soiree held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That day, I opted for a “provincial town” blue dress Belle Dapper Disneybound. (A Disneybound is when you dress inspired by a character, movie, attraction, etc. without going for a full, 100% accurate cosplay.)
This year, a few months ago I got the idea to do something with one of my favorite attractions, The Haunted Mansion. I found a perfectly Dapper green and black dress which reminded me of the “Maids” and “Butlers” that work the attraction. From there, I spent a lot of time finding and modifying various aspects to complete the look. (Including making a Bat Stanchion Necklace) I’m happy to report it was a total success!
Feel free to check out my entire album including more group shots and other shots with fellow Dapper Darlings here on my facebook page.
I handmade the Haunted Mansion “bat stanchion” necklace I’m wearing for the day and had so many people inquire about it that I will be doing a limited run of them for sale. Follow PhoenixFire Designs to be updated when they will become available. I need to get additional supplies and materials plus get more cast and painted. Update: Pre-orders for my Haunted Mansion Bat Stanchion Black Lace Choker Necklace Here!
Trigger Warning: abusive father bullshit ahead
This one is dark and heavy. There’s also lots of cursing head. Fair warning.
It seems that I only write a post once every four years these days. Regardless if that’s accurate or not, I just had to post something today to have a date stamp of February 29th on the blog. 😉
Happy Mathematical Construct Day everyone! See you again in four years. 😀
I know I should probably find it “cute” or something, but I just can’t. Every single day, I am “treated” to the…let’s be generous and call it “singing” of the small child in the apartment below me. He (?) sings as loud as he can, shrill and screechy and ungodly out of tune over and over and over again. All day long.
Yesterday I was woken up around 8:30am to the dulcet sounds of For the First Time In Forever from Frozen. It was a living nightmare.
The approximation of the sounds that come out of this kid’s mouth is something like WHAAAAAAAAAA aaaah wwawawawa MmmmAAAAWWWWW and about as in-tune as bagpipes in a garbage disposal.
The “singing” is of a volume and frequency that it travels through the floors and walls from his apartment to mine. I will sit, listening to this Hell for 10 or 15 minutes until I can’t take it any longer and play the I have over 5,000 songs on my pc and speakers louder than you game.
This morning we discovered that Imagine Dragons > his punk ass.
I just love apartment living.
Marty: All right, Doc, what’s goin’ on, huh? Where are we? “When” are we?
Doc Brown: We’re descending towards Hill Valley, California at 4:29 PM on Wednesday, October 21st, twenty-fifteen.
Marty: Two thousand fifteen?! You mean we’re in the future!
Welcome to the future!
I recently found a copy of Starlog Magazine from January 1990 while cleaning. The cover story? An interview with Robert Zemeckis on the filming of Back to the Future: Part II! This is a timely find given that we are nearly at the future – October 21, 2015.
It features some great production photos from the film as well as a Q&A with Zemeckis. Since this is a 25 year old issue and I’m sure most BttF fans don’t have a copy laying around to read, I’ve scanned all the pages and uploaded them for reference and review.
The full gallery (including much larger versions of the scans) can be found here on my G+ account.
As a bonus, here’s the back cover of the issue. It was a full page ad for the Back to the Future fan club. Man, I wish I had gotten in on that! (Only $9.95! 😉 )
Great Scott! (I know, this is heavy!)