There is one thing that puts a serious strain on my relationship with T. Actually, there’s more than one, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just look at this one for now.
I’m talking about her right shoulder. Or rather, her lack of one.
T’s always been a heavy sporter. She started playing badminton when she was 14 or 15, and when I met her, she was training at least 3 times a week – plus competition almost every Sunday, both individual and in team. She basically grew up in that sports hall (and even dated her trainer for over 6 years). Sports, badminton, her club – that was her life. I was never able to keep her from going to training: whatever it was, it would have to wait.
But some 2 years ago, she had to give up during a tournament because of unbearable pain in her right shoulder. She had been struggling with it for some time, but it suddenly worsened and she was temporarily banned from playing. She still went to train, though without playing, and took physical therapy. When things didn’t improve, sports was banned as a whole, while physical therapy continued. She decided on an operation, during which they couldn’t see anything wrong and therefore just removed some synovial bursae (??). More physical therapy. A homeopath. An acupuncturist. A specialized sports doctor. A different homeopath. She was first allowed play, then not, then she could but no movements above the head, then she couldn’t again. Pain was something she lived with daily, and which no approach seemed to relieve.
By the end of last year, a ‘treatment of the final chance’ was started when she visited yet another specialist, who gave her 3 injection treatments to make a final break with the chronic infection. She was to keep the shoulder immobilized after each treatment until the pain stopped, and encouragingly this time decreased with every treatment. Moreover, for the first time she actually had pain-free days. She was already dreaming of her now dusty rackets when she finally started what should be the final round of physical therapy. Except that she couldn’t – the long immobilization of her shoulder had caused her muscles to atrophy, meaning she effectively had no longer any shoulder muscles. She would have to start from scratch. Very, very slowly. And about 2 months ago, finally, she could start doing low-intensity exercises. She took up running again. So far so good.
Until a few weeks ago, when the pain started to come back. The exercises were cut back, and finally, as of yesterday, completely stopped.
She still goes to after-training drinks, and to competitions, to cheer for her friends from the sideline. But as it becomes more and more clear she might never leave that sideline again, that she might never actually get on court again, she becomes increasingly unhappy. Cheering her up is all but easy – there’s only so many times you can say everything’s gonna be alright, it’s only so long before that looses its credibility. In addition she is much too realistic to let herself be influenced by maybe’s and if’s: as a scientist, she needs proof before she will allow optimism to slip in.
She refuses to adapt her goal – re-enter national competition – though, although she’s been officially removed from the ranking and hasn’t prolonged her membership at her club. I can’t understand why she won’t keep it more realistic, start with being pain-free and be able to cope with the everyday life, and take it from there, I don’t understand why she absolutely has to go running or go to the fitness as soon as the pain diminishes even slightly, and she can’t explain it to me. Words have never been her strongest ally, and thus “you don’t understand” is the only response I get, after which some days of radio silence generally follow.
I go from being sick of the situation and her increasing unhappiness, to wanting to help her but not knowing how. I know there’s no real solution here, and I’ll just have to sick it out until she gets better. I’m just not sure what we’re gonna do if she doesn’t.