How a Career-Ending Injury Lead to a Diagnosis


It happened so fast. One moment of inattention while holding the leash of a large dog, a hard pull followed by a sickening pop, and a blinding flash of pain. Just like that, my career as a dog groomer was gone. I heard the words “shoulder injury,” “rotator cuff injury,” with a side of “geez, the inside of that joint doesn’t look so hot.” I also heard those three words that no one wants to hear.

“Career-ending injury.”

I felt all, and I mean all of the feels. Despair, bargaining, denial, anger, and finally, acceptance. Acceptance was a long time coming. I felt like if I accepted that my career was over, I was accepting the fact that my body let me down. I felt like I was not strong enough, or motivated enough, or something enough to overcome this injury. I worked hard at physical therapy. I tried acupuncture, ultrasound, the therapy where a physical therapist smiles while shooting shockwaves of electricity through your muscles, ice, heat…you name it, I’ve likely tried it. Two years of trying to overcome this injury will culminate in two days time, with surgical intervention.

Yet, this injury was really a mixed bag for me. I actually had to sit down and examine the role that my body plays in my life. There’s an ongoing family joke revolving around a nickname that I was given as a child of “Grace,“ due to the fact that really I have none. Do you need somebody to knock a glass of red wine all over the tablecloth? Did you need somebody to trip over air, or bang all appendages on any available solid surface? I’m your girl.

I needed to examine what was happening. Were these casual incidences all related, or was I just extra clumsy? Was the severity of my shoulder injury being completely inconsistent with the amount of force actually applied to my arm that fateful day related?

Like many of us living in the age of information, I immediately jumped on the information super highway and started to research. Now, realizing any time that you type in a set of symptoms to Dr. Google, the first result that comes up is that horrible things are happening and everything is terrible – so I took his results with a grain of salt. I, however, was led to The Mighty, where I read an article about living with hypermobility type Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS). It was like a bolt of lightning hit me. The anecdotes described by the author so perfectly mirrored my life – the tripping on over almost nothing, the banging your limbs on any available solid surface, the bruises that were really disproportionate to the actual bump…they could have been living my life. For the first time everything that had been happening, all of the injuries that I had seen throughout my lifetime, made sense.

After several days of quite intense research, finding an trying the Beighton scale, I made a doctors appointment. I went armed with my iPad full of articles about hEDS. After living with fibromyalgia for several years, self-advocacy was nothing new to me. I explained what was going on to my doctor, prepared to show all of the articles, when I realized that my doctor was staring at me with a completely blank stare. After a moment, he looks abashed and said that the diagnosis made complete sense. Having previously being tested for any and all types of arthritis, lupus, etc., we already had a strong foundation to work on. As my doctor was already treating my fibromyalgia, we had a solid medical history. Thirty-five minutes and one positive Beighton score later, I officially began my journey as a zebra.

Losing my career due to that shoulder injury was heart-wrenching. It was devastating. I had worked so hard to achieve my dreams, until one day, karma decided that it was my turn for something bad to happen. I am officially able to say that it’s OK. I still acutely feel the loss of my dreams of a master groomer certification. I miss my clients. Grieving is an ongoing process, but that’s OK. There a silver lining – I was able to find a diagnosis, and have an idea of how to try to protect my body from further injury.

There is no timeline on grief when your dreams are gone. There is no set time that one “gets over” the emotions associated with this.

I keep trying to remember that when one door closes, a window opens. Right now, I am focusing on my health, and when that window opens I’ll be ready to dive through it. After all, I wouldn’t replace my years as a groomer for anything…besides, losing my career due to disability beats the hell out of never trying.

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