Another year with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Elsewhere on this site I have written about living with the chronic pain caused by Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). Since 2001-2002, my particular incarnation of TOS has caused dramatic changes in my life. Like most young Americans, by the time I graduated from college I felt like my life had really started to come together. I was married, beginning a new professional career with a lot of growth opportunities and promise, and reasonably sound of body and mind. But as I have already discussed, the first couple of years out of college began a nightmarish descent into a labyrinth of doctors' offices, pharmacies, physical therapists, and medical tests. By 2004 I had lost not only my job but my original career, the strain of the previous two years had significantly contributed to my divorce, and my finances were in shambles after having to pay thousands of dollars for an unsuccessful surgery.
In the second half of the decade, I slowly rebuilt my life. I largely removed the things that caused me the most pain from my regular schedule. Though still requiring arm braces to drive the car, I minimized computer use at home and work, and removed high-impact activities like golfing, bowling, playing guitar, and playing video games so that my arms would hurt less. A progression of jobs allowed me to step back into an office environment. From teaching, to surveying, to community planning, until I finally landed a position for a defense contractor. This position utilized voice recognition software, pen tablets, arm braces, and a liberal amount of understanding from my supervisor to allow me to use the computer on a daily basis. In my personal life, I began to take better care of my body, and crawled out of a significant depression that allowed me to be more positive. I met my wife, and eventually we had a daughter. I even started participating in
Everything2 again, though in a limited degree.
By 2011, I began to believe that I was starting to recover, if not physically, at least mentally and socially from the impairment of having Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. But that optimism has diminished recently. Over the last year, work has required greater and greater computer involvement from me directly. This is because at some point I became a civil servant responsible for software development, and that software had an aggressive development cycle in the past few months that recently culminated in its first public release under my watch. Additionally, last summer I finally picked up a smartphone thinking that the touchscreen would allow me to use the Internet without any of the pain associated with regular computers. But over time the sliding and tapping has contributed to renewed pain throughout my arms together with the much higher computer use at work. During this time, I have sought hobbies that do not affect my arms but even those, like playing
card games, are no longer available to me. Shuffling a deck of cards now causes instant pain. One of the other methods I have tried to allow me to use the Internet for e-mail, social media, and all the other variety of uses my generation has for it was to get an iPad. Like the smartphone, my initial plan was that the touch screen could replace regular computer usage. And for several months that was how I accessed this website, but now it hurts too much.
A few weeks ago I decided I need to return to a more spartan like existence in relation to my arms. I have not been able to check Facebook, or any of the websites I have frequented in the past. Last night my wife checked my messages on the site for me here, but it had been a few weeks since I have been able to log in on my own. I have stopped playing in my weekly card game, and also at lunch with my friends. Any number of household chores involving torque or tension on my wrists, elbows, or shoulder have fallen by the wayside. Instead of any of these things, I'm trying to spend my free time reading trade paperback books (because of the large soft spines), and not much else. I have a first doctor's appointment in over a year scheduled for the end of this month. The last time I saw him, he had just verified that at this point little could be done outside of pain medication or generic exercise to relieve tension. Essentially, I am like this for the long
haul. I'm returning this time in an attempt to discover some new treatment or surgery. Maybe they can inject cortisone straight into the scar tissue, which I can feel as a large knotty mass just above my collarbone. I don't know.
I'm sorry for the down tone of this node, especially on Valentine's Day. It is hard to say what kind of effort and how many years it took me to begin being positive again, and I have tried to reflect that in some of my other writings on the site, but some days it is a tough row to hoe, as my grandparents say. Some days hope is hard to come by when I worry about providing for my three-year-old daughter, about losing another career, about how the stress and pain can poison the relationship I have with my wife if I am not extremely careful. But I miss participating here, because if nothing else this place has often proved therapeutic, and has given me an outlet for my energies.
Congratulations to Jay. I am pleased that the ownership issue seems to be resolved, and I look forward to seeing the direction he takes us. I'm going to try and continue using moments to capture writeups with the voice recognition software, but I just don't know how frequently that will happen this coming Spring. I'm almost certainly not going to be able to respond to messages for quite some time. I hope and pray that you are all well, and I hope too that each of you has someone to love on this day.
Happy Valentine's Day,