The verdict was read without remorse or empathy. I was given the
death penalty. In the medical field there is no due process or equal protection clause. The 14th amendment would do me no good. I felt as though the wind was taken out of my sails leaving me to undulate on the vast expanse of waves with no hope of ever being rescued. My appeals were immediately rejected with looks of disdain and incredulity. There was no hope.
I had just paid a visit to a well respected orthopedic doctor whose claim to fame is serving as team physician to a professional sports team in the state. I was experiencing chronic pain in my shoulders and I decided to seek advice from a professional who I knew would offer a solution that would not exactly fit with my goals and aspirations. I knew what was coming, but it still hit me like a freight train.
"Go in and have a seat and the doctor will be in shortly to see you," squeaked the pixie like assistant. So far, it's standard operating procedure.
"Now, what shoulder is bothering you again?"
"Both" I said.
"Both? The chart says it is your right shoulder."
"No, currently it is my left, but it is both."
"Yes. The left is worse now, but they both need to be examined."
"We took X-rays of the right shoulder."
"No, I told them to take X-rays of both. I believe your office got confused because my chiropractor sent MRI's and X-rays of my right shoulder, but my left is currently the most bothersome."

(Oh, don't let the doctor hear you say chiropractor. Why? Orthos don't like chiros.)

A quick gander around the room confirmed my intuition that I had entered a domain that is generally not friendly or hospitable to the evil and wretched brothers of the iron. You see, in this field lifters are known as the corpus probrum, "abusers of the body." Pictures adorned the small cubicle of a room apparently constructed for athletes of lesser dimensions. I saw action photos of Olympic kayakers, chronologically challenged skydivers, professional basketball players, and even the world champion rock, paper, scissors nerd from Canada. All these elite athletes sang the praises of my doctor who was soon to enter the room. I shook my head and rubbed my chin because it struck me that I had clearly fallen victim to medical affirmative action. I was the recipient of reverse discrimination. All the minority sissy sports, or leisure activities were prominently displayed, but not a single strength athlete. No powerlifters or throwers. Dammit, I would have even settled for a bodybuilder.
The doctor strolled in like a model down a runway. I thought I was the patient, but this guy believed he was the star attraction. A quick glance at my charts and the game of conflicting personalities and outlooks began. Fire away!
"I see you visited a chiropractor," he began.
"Is he your friend?"
"Yes, he is."
"Well, if you "think" he is helping then that is fine. So, you bench a lot do ya? You know, I lift weights," bragged the svelte doctor. "What do you bench?" he asked.
"I did a 640." There was no response from the befuddled doc who appeared to be cogitating about something he could do better in the gym.
"Well, you know what I'm going to tell you." Boy, I knew this was coming but I still was reluctant to inquire further.
"I've seen this before. You guys that like to lift heavy just destroy your shoulders because of the excessive weight. I believe your problem is from bench-pressing."
No shit Sherlock. I felt like Clark W. Griswold conversing with his cousin Eddie. "Are you serious Clark?" Why are orthos consistently pessimists? I must say that pessimists are all alike because they are always good for bad news. This pretty boy was no exception. He rode his examination chair over to the X-rays and proceeded to point out the extent of my problems.
"Did they tell you back in 1998 that you had arthritis?"
"Yeah, they told me I had some arthritis and bone spurs."
The doctor responded that I not only had arthritis, but I had significant arthritis. Wow! I had never heard significant before by a doctor.
"When a patient is at death's door it is the duty of the doctor to pull them through. I'm suggesting you quit lifting as of today. If you were my best friend and you lived around me, I would do anything I could on a daily basis to deter you from lifting."
I meekly asked if it is really that bad.
"Well, if a set of tires has 100,000 miles on them, you have already used 70,000." Whew. Good analogy. Seriously, this sort of comparison hit me hard. I wondered if he could tell me on a scale of 1 to 10 how bad it was. He glared at me and gave the obvious response. A 7! Get it. The 70,000 miles is representative of a 7 on a scale of 1-10. I knew this, but I wanted to see if he would give the same answer or if he was pulling ratings of severity out of his puckered ass.
I went into heightened defense and denial mode. "What if I just benched once every other week? What if I never did full range reps?"
"Stop right there," The doctor of dread strongly informed me it was not him against me. He could not stop me from doing anything. I did not need to ask his permission for any of my approaches. You know, he was right on this account.
"You are a young man of 37 with a lot of years ahead of you, so be careful about your future." He then told me he lifts and is older than me. I should do what he does and stay away from the heavy weights. I came back with the fact that I do not like the BowFlex. A quick primate like stare streamed from the specialist.
"Look you have very few choices," I had a flashback to the Matrix
Reloaded and the idea that I really have no choices because choice is an illusion. I knew there was really no choice. I could continue to lift and become disabled, I could lift like the doc, or I could simply give up the benching altogether. After 20 years of lifting, one can clearly see that there are perceived choices, but none that I was willing to make. So, did I really have a choice?
"I honestly don't think I will quit," I blurted out.
Another analogy flew my way delivered by the doomster.
"If your brakes were squeaking and you took your car to the service station and they said your pads were 75% worn, would you not try to avoid using your brakes or just lightly tap them?"
"Yep, but sometimes you have to slam them down."
"Oh my! What are you going to do when you are 50-80 years old and you are debilitated?"
I just don't see life like that. As Clemenceau said, "It is better to live 50 years as a tiger than 100 years as a lamb."
"If I were you, I would find another hobby. What about golf?" This was met with a guttural laugh from me. "OK, what about bike riding or running?"
"I almost got killed on a bike and running is for the little people. That's it? There is nothing else I can do? What about the bone spurs?"
"They are many and rather large, but they are not causing your pain. The human body is not equipped to heal joints. You are a young man who has used up 75% of his shoulder joints. You need to save the remaining 25% for the next 50 years of your life." Man, I needed that one. Nice kick to the gonads doc.
I had one final attempt at something positive or kind of optimistic.
"Could I take glucosamine or something like it in mega-doses?"
"Yes, that would help." A smile slowly appeared on my sullen face. "I will tell you that it will only help the cartilage that still exists, it won't help build new connective tissue.
"Why not?"
"You're too old." I thought I was young earlier. Another blank stare and the deal was sealed.
"Here, I will show you where to order some liquid glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. It is the best product around. I have all the pros take it that I work with. Did I mention I am a pro team's physician?" (Yep, five times.) "You can go to the website and order it or you can call. It will be about $100.00 per month. It works great. I just ordered $500.00 worth for my personal use." I thought he would need it from all the wear and tear workouts on the Bowflex. "All my clients that compete at high levels utilize it." Really? How can they afford it? Just how much does a professional kayaker make?
I am at the crossroads. I still have a drive and passion for heavy lifting. I also am pragmatic enough to realize that changes have to be made in order for me to live a quality life void of chronic pain and discomfort. The wise man is cured of ambition by ambition. I will strive on by making accommodations where I see fit in my lifting. I will bench every two weeks and never go full range. I will ice my shoulders at least twice a day and I will take the best damn supplements on the market. By the way, did I mention the guy who recommended them to me is a pro sports team physician?

"I believe it, just because it is unbelievable."