Here’s the good news: my right thumb, which was struck with a mysterious but nasty infection last December, has fully recovered. After six months of physical therapy (following two months of antibiotics and bleach soaks), I can write with a pen, type, tie shoelaces, open bottles, button shirts, apply makeup, zip pants, clean contact lenses, grab things, cook, and everything else a dominant right hand needs to do in a busy mom’s life. My thumb nail, which fell off during the course of this ordeal, has grown back and was polished and looking fine—just in time for my brother’s wedding. For months my hand was weak and uncoordinated, but with use that problem has slowly improved to the point where I no longer notice it. My thumb may always be stiff from now on, but I can live with that.
On the whole, this little detour in my unplanned life turned out pretty well, and I’m immensely grateful.
Here’s the bad news: remember how I lost 35 pounds before I turned 50? Well, the weight is back. For months during the thumb ordeal, I couldn’t exercise, couldn’t even walk the dog around the block. Anything that increased my heart rate even slightly caused my thumb to throb in pain. A friend told me to raise my hand above my heart, and I told her I had to do that just to walk across the room.
Yoga was out of the question because I couldn’t put my hand flat on the floor. Plus even after the infection was gone, I had five hours of physical therapy per week plus daily thumb exercises—done every two hours! It was a huge investment of time to get my thumb back, and the cost appeared on the scale.
I knew my weight was creeping up, but I ignored it because I was focused on my thumb. For months I lingered in denial. I continued to eat whatever I wanted. I didn’t exercise. I ignored the ever tightening waistbands. When it came time to find a dress for my brother’s wedding, I could avoid the situation no longer. In a panic, I squeezed into my yoga clothes and rushed to the studio. It was tough, really tough, to get through the first class. After nine months away from my mat, I’d lost flexibility in addition to stamina. I had to modify moves I haven’t modified in years. I was huffing and puffing, dripping with sweat.
Despite the post-yoga “high,” I was feeling a bit down after class. Stacy, one of the studio’s owners, told me she had been prepared to modify moves to accommodate my hand, but was thrilled that I hadn’t needed it. I considered her statement and realized it was true. I hadn’t thought about my thumb (or hand) once during class. (Later, my hand would ache a bit, but after two more classes, the feeling disappeared.) After months of thinking nonstop about my thumb, this was a huge milestone. My hand, it seemed, was truly back.
I told Stacy I was happy about my thumb but disappointed that I’d gained so much weight. She shrugged and said, “You needed to focus on your hand.” When she saw the dubious look on my face, she said, “Regaining use of your thumb wasn’t optional, was it?”
“So you did what you had to do, and it took some time. Now you can focus on your overall health again. You lost the weight once. You can do it again.”
She was right, of course. I can do it again, and I’ve already started. Or I will once I polish off the Halloween candy….
Until next time,