When I first wrote this post last Wednesday - as I waited for my MRI results - the next paragraph was this: My swimming career, such as it is, is over. It turns out that the tendon of my left suprasinatus muscle had eight years of swimming in it, and I know that because those eight years are up. The end shivved me in the kidney in the dead of night: I went from making an appointment to getting the MRI that did the deed (in the prison kitchen with the sharpened toothbrush) in less than 48 hours. There's a hole and catching and if I don't stop swimming...that way lays madness, surgery, and six months of rehab. And frankly, surgery isn't worth it.
I wrote that based on what my ortho thought would show up in the MRI and for the last four days I have edited and reedited this post to within an inch of losing all meaning as I received the actual results, discussed treatment options, and decided on a plan of action.
But the point is the same: I am facing and exploring the end of my ultimately finite swim in an infinity pool. And I am finding the list of what I am willing to do about it is much smaller than what I am not.
Do you know how shocking it is to have that sentiment come out of my mouth....er, fingertips?
Explanation by way of anecdote: I once ran myself through shin splits to a shin bone stress fracture, ran a marathon on the fracture, took not enough time off, and then came back and ran myself into a stress fracture in the hip on that same side. Only then did I stop training and when I did, it was to walk with cane for three months.
Considering stopping full-stop while still being able to take a stroke demonstrates unprecedented sanity on my part.
Why that sanity? Because I have very little left to prove athletically (and very little that I could prove in swimming) and only more to lose by pushing. Through my many overindulgence-related injuries I have always stopped before I needed a knife to rectify the situation. Time, maybe, and compression, but never a knife. I have heard repeatedly that once a joint is opened for inspection and alteration, it is never the same, and while I don't need surgery right now, I don't need swimming enough, for itself or as a physical outlet, to ruin my shoulder worse than it is right now. I am not - or more aptly, no longer - desperate enough to do anything to get back to it. My priorities rearranged themselves when I wasn't looking. How dare they.
It's taken me decades to get here, but it feels sensible and honest now that I am here. It might be only the second time ever that I am not making an injury related decision out of fear of some kind. The first was this.
Right now I have a cortisone shot scheduled for this afternoon and I'm half expecting to go in there and balk. The two biggest reasons propelling me into that exam room are not being pain-free in life and no significant improvement with rest (not just from swimming, from everything short of dressing myself and driving). The shot will also allow me to swim again in the short-term, but if the pain comes back, I'm done. Cortisone isn't a daily multi-vitamin.
But what if I just quit now? What if I try swimming again for a while to see if the issue works itself out before I get the shot?
Like I said, exploring the end of an ultimately finite swim in an infinity pool.
What would be next? Sports that don't require putting my arms above my head. Ironically all of those sports use joints that I already know are destroyed, but as I told my parents, those joints have had their rest and now it's their turn to rotate back into action.
"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
- A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh