The Last Stop on the Road to Fatsville

A few years ago, while waiting around for class to start at Austin Impact Jeet Kune Do, I got the bright idea to try doing an iron cross on some hanging hand ladders (I don’t know what they’re called, not even enough to google a picture). So there I was, my face three inches off the ground, with my arms straight out to the side, when I felt something give in my left shoulder. It hurt for a few days, and that was it. I forgot all about it.

This past March, I started Camp Gladiator, and by April, I was at my doctor’s office getting a steroid shot in my shoulder. It felt better for a few days, and then the pain came screaming back whenever I moved my shoulder in certain ways. So I went to my good friends at North Austin Sports Medicine, who put me in a boot that time I fractured my foot kicking Lauren to death.

Here’s what you’re looking at but can’t see because you’re not a doctor:

Supraspinatus/lnfraspinatus: Moderate or high-grade partial undersurface tear involves the anterior infraspinatus tendon at the insertion. Tear measures roughly 6 mm AP dimension. Mild bandlike muscle edema in the infraspinatus just inferior to the musculotendinous junction related to muscle strain.

Labrum: Posterosuperior labral tear. At the superior labrum, sublabral recess versus superior labral tear is present. Given the irregularity of the signal along the base of the superior Iabrum, superior labral tear is favored .

Whatever that means. Actually, I know what it means: surgery.

Count backwards from 100…

My first thought when I heard the word surgery was I’m going to die. I knew it with 100% certainty. After all, I had just finished reading Why Anesthesia Is One of the Greatest Medical Mysteries of Our Time over at They talked about how people used to die and no one knows what is happening and chaos and old people and then tried to make it better with a quote from the Mayo Clinic:

Most healthy people don’t have any problems with general anesthesia. Although many people may have mild, temporary symptoms, general anesthesia itself is exceptionally safe, even for the sickest patients. The risk of long-term complications, much less death, is very small. In general, the risk of complications is more closely related to the type of procedure you’re undergoing, and your general physical health, than to the anesthesia itself.

Yes, but very small is not zero. As anyone with generalized anxiety will tell you, it’s boring to imagine all the ways something could go right. Instead, we focus on the image of going to sleep and just never waking up. How the hell are you going to suspend my consciousness and not really understand how you’re doing it? Where do I go?

With my luck, I’ll wake up in hell where I’ll spend eternity at my front window shaking my head at all the cars parked in the cul-de-sac while AWOLNATION blares from unseen speakers.

Stop rolling your eyes at my dramatic response to surgery. If you subscribe to the Multiverse theory, as I do, then that means there are an infinite number of universes in which I die on the operating table next week.


The Real Danger

Before I met my bride-to-be, I was all about P90X, Insanity, and Tim Ferriss’ Slow-Carb diet. I was 30 years old and determined to be fit at least once in my life. Since then, I’ve gotten older, exercised less, and eaten more. As you can see from my weight and BMI log, I’m entering a danger zone. Until now, I haven’t really been scared of it, since I “know how to turn it all around.”

But now, surgery.

My biggest fear now is that this will be the point of no return. Once I come out of surgery, I won’t be able to run for 6–12 weeks. Run. As in, “bounce jauntily down the street at a steady tempo.” I already don’t exercise enough, which makes me worry that this will be the ultimate excuse to sit on the couch and binge watch Orange is the New Blacklist. As if I need more excuses.

My doc estimates it will be 5–6 months before I’m back to my regular exercise (JKD and CG). That’s a long time to be doing very little, especially if I can’t get my diet under control.

Again, imagining how it all turns out fine is boring. I like to imagine the worst and see just how far down the fat-hole we can go.

Day 40: Shoulder gave a slight tingle today. Ate a pint of ice cream to numb the pain. Hurt my back a little trying to plug in my electric scooter. Also my extendo-grab-pole thinger stopped working. That’s the third one since the surgery. Skyped with a company in Norway that has a toilet attachment for my scooter. Also Dom left her engagement ring at the bottom of a bag of chips where she knew I would find it. I’d go after her, but the scooter only has like a one mile range.

Basically your worst case scenario.

The Joys of a Sugar-based Diet

If I’m the first person to tell you sugar is bad, then you, my friend, must be new to life. A quick google search will tell you everything you need to know, so I won’t repeat it here.

 Before sugar
Before sugar
 After sugar
After sugar

According to Wikipedia, sugar is a “sweet, short-chain, soluble carbohydrate composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.” What they don’t mention is that sugar is life. Sugar is happiness. Sugar is everything that is good in the world.

Try to imagine a world without sugar. Hard to read with tears in your eyes, isn’t it?

Thirty days out from surgery, I gave up sugar completely. Cold turkeys. That lasted two weeks. Then I had carrot cake, lemon chess pie, and ice cream. And again the next day, but then I stopped. Cold turkeys.

That lasted a week because when mom makes chocolate chip cookies, you eat the damn chocolate chip cookies. And brownies. And ice cream. And a smoothie.

A week out from surgery, and I’m back on the no-sugar train, which I’m sure is set to derail any day now.

I’ve convinced myself it won’t be my fault if I treat my shoulder pain with Ben & Jerry’s. My only hope is that I’ll be confined to the house and Dom will refuse to bring me sugar.

Speaking of…

The Finite Well of Willpower

There’s some argument about whether willpower is finite or not, but most people agree it is hard to always do the right thing. The way I see it, my list of “right things” for the second half of 2016 includes:

  • Eating a minimal amount of sugar
  • Reducing carbs
  • Eating more vegetables and fruits
  • Exercising however and whenever possible
  • Physical therapy
  • Not going insane

So many people have had arthroscopic surgery and come out fine on the other end. They didn’t drift into the great unknown of the afterlife, they didn’t skip their PT, and they recovered nicely. But how did they do it? Through willpower alone?

I use most of my willpower to write. Every day. Put in the work. Write the novels. Make the dollars and cents. Spend it at Whataburger. Double Whataburger with cheese and jalepeños, hold the onions. Fries. Strawberry shake. I bet Heaven smells like a Whataburger.

That was a delicious tangent.

I worry that I won’t have enough willpower to do everything I need to do to recover as fast as possible. I need to get back to JKD. I need to get back to CG. And I don’t want to sacrifice my writing willpower to make that happen.

The Summary of All Fears

In short, I’m scared that trying to recover from this surgery will be the final nail in the coffin of my physical fitness dream. My diet may start out good but will soon return to its sugary roots. Lingering shoulder pain will keep me from running, fighting, and doing boot camps. Fear of further injury will keep me from pushing myself back into weightlifting.

Everything will go downhill except the graph of my weight, which will climb steadily towards the heavens, never to find its way back down.

All is not lost though.

I’ll have a physical therapist to whip my shoulder back into shape. Dom will continue to plan healthy meals and threaten to make me watch Scandal with her if I eat so much as a single M&M. Forrest will show me how to fight with just one arm. The CG family will continue to applaud my efforts at camp for absolutely no reason.

I guess that’s the solution. If you don’t have enough willpower of your own, draw from your friends and family.

Of course, none of that matters if you don’t wake up after going under.

See you on the other side.


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