This is the third installment of Beth Rodden's Long Road to Recovery. Read Part I here and Part II here.

So I know I haven't updated in a while, but it seems like things have been very busy lately. Weird, as I don't have any huge projects, but I keep wishing there were more hours in the day. I never thought I’d say that while injured, but it's true.

One of the biggest things I've learned over the past months is that I am an extremely slow healer. Not slow as in slightly behind schedule, but almost half again as much behind schedule. I think I am where a 'normal' person would be about four or five months out of surgery, and I am now going on seven or eight. I try to keep a smile on my face, but I definitely have had my moments (thankfully I reserved for my dog and my family). My only consolation has been to eat copious amounts of Coconut Bliss ice cream. I would find myself saying ‘Just one more bite. Okay, well, just one more; you’ve been through a lot.’ And then, finally, I’d be almost finished the pint, so I’d figure I might as well polish it off.

For several weeks straight, I'd diligently do all my PT stretches and exercises, and yet I would not progress past 55 degrees of range of motion. It was like someone poured concrete into my shoulder, cementing it firmly into position. Things were to the point where I was considering getting a cortisone shot to improve range of motion. However, after I started to lift weights and attempted to climb, things improved.

Beth Rodden crushing slab traverses on the way to recovery.

Recently, I've begun to climb! I can't tell you how good it feels. My first attempt at climbing, about two months ago, left me completely demoralized. I went to the back of the Berkeley Ironworks gym, to the area normally used for birthday party groups. The slabby walls were littered from floor to ceiling with jugs. Even the footholds were big enough to fit my entire hand into. I made it about half way up the wall and my shoulder was shooting with pain. Not only that, but because my left arm was taking almost all of my weight, it began to fatigue. I knew that my pencil-sized arms were weak, but I hadn’t realized how much I had regressed during a few months off. After my failure on the birthday party wall, I decided I wouldn't try climbing again until I could curl 10 pounds 10 times. I started with five pounders and was sore for days. Being an athlete, it was everything I could do not to push it. I am used to trashing my body and enjoying it. But with the physique of a beginner, I had to continually hold myself back.

About a month later, I was doing three sets of 10 with 10-pound dumbells, and I decided to try climbing again. I had been ‘mock’ climbing for about a week -- I would leave my feet on the floor and grab handholds and walk back and forth, which I really think helped. I was out in Yosemite and decided to try a moss-covered slab that my friend’s four year old had climbed a couple weekends before. Stepping onto the rock again, my feet instantly hurt. I had not only lost all of my strength the since the fall, but all of my calluses as well. Still, a smile sprang to my face. Even though I felt like an uncoordinated puppy learning to walk, I loved it. I did three different variations on the slab and called it a day.

K-9 Crag Partner
Rodden's crag buddy, there to offer moral support.

Since then, I've slowly built up to the point that I can do six routes in the gym, my hardest being a 5.10 slab, and I can't wait to keep going. I think the hardest thing is learning to take it slow. I naturally start looking at the 5.11s and 5.12s, but have to remember that for now the 5.9s are what I need to be climbing on.

I got a follow-up MRI last week (not the most pleasant way to spend a day), and I had an arthrogram again, where they inject contrast dye into your shoulder with a very large needle. Last time, I remember laying on the table for about five minutes and it was over. Sure, it was painful and I was petrified (I am a pansy when it comes to needles), but it seemed relatively harmless. This time, however, I guess my shoulder was a lot tighter and the doctor struggled to get the dye to inject properly. She kept re-inserting and aiming the needle, with a massive amount of pain each time. As I lay on the table, I thought ‘Why the hell am I doing this again? What is the point? Who cares if I can climb hard again, I just want to be able to climb. I don't care about projects or grades; I just want to go explore the mountains and climb.’ After about 15 or 20 minutes, the doctor called it good and I left with an extremely bruised shoulder. I completely passed out while I was in the MRI, which was a nice contrast.

I am on my way to the doctor’s office again now. Let’s hope I am good to go. If I am, look for me on the warm-ups at all the crags. :)


To see how Beth Rodden's shoulder has been progressing, check back for Part IV in the Long Road to Recovery series soon.