Shoveling For Survivors

There comes a time when you have no choice, really, but to get out there and exert yourself.  I, for one, think there should be an organization that provides free yard work, leaf removal and snow plowing for breast cancer survivors.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a little broke, both fiscally and physically, and I don’t have another able-bodied human hanging around in the house, lounging on the couch with the remote, that I can induce to provide some physical labor now and then.  Mostly I don’t mind, because I don’t have any wet towels or dirty socks on the floor but mine, and I don’t have to share the covers with anyone but the cats.  The problem is, I also don’t have any income but mine, which means the bank account can’t be stretched to hire people to do all the stuff I’m usually too tired to do when I crawl home from work.

On the other hand, I did used to enjoy yard work and home maintenance before I had breast cancer.  And I am a physical therapist.  So, it’s not like I don’t know how to do these things, and do them without killing myself.  It’s just that I don’t feel like it.  However, we do have blizzards in southern New England, and I have managed to dig myself out of a few of them in the past year.  And I thought perhaps if I told myself I could write an instructional blog post about it afterward (which means I get to draw pictures!!!), I could get myself to shovel the foot or so of snow that got dropped on us in the last twenty-four hours.  Oh, and I also get to have hot chocolate and homemade mac and cheese now.  I believe in self-bribery.  So, here goes…

How To Shovel Your Driveway Without Killing Yourself

  1. Obviously, you first need a driveway that needs shoveling.  Otherwise, you may as well go back to your computer and catch up with your friends on Facebook.
  2. You can’t have had recent surgery.  For anything.  You need to be, oh, at least six months or so post-op before undertaking any serious hard labor.  Make that a year, if you can get away with it.  Just to be on the safe side.  I don’t care what your surgeon said.  Surgeons may know how to do surgery, but they usually know crap-all about how it feels to recover from having your boobs slashed, burned, tweaked, remodeled, expanded, tattooed, or otherwise scarred beyond recognition.  Also, you need chest and shoulder muscles to shovel, which are generally in the vicinity of your ex-boobs, so you don’t want to strain anything that’s still healing.  It takes a good six months for soft tissue, i.e., muscles and skin, to heal from the drubbing they get in surgery.   So, you don’t want to start your post-op exercise program with shoveling.  You need to build up to it.
  3. Next, you need an ergonomic shovel.  This is a shovel with a bent handle.  It looks stupid, I know, but it does some of the bending that your back would otherwise have to do, so it saves you from herniating a disk or something.
  4. Then, wait for the sun to come out.  Unless you can’t.
  5. If you already have a suitable shovel, you must then find it.  This may necessitate some emergency house-cleaning, while you search all the logical places you may have stored your shovel the last time you used it, which is guaranteed to be the most inconvenient place possible — like outside in the garden shed — when you are unable to open the front door because there’s a four-foot snowdrift against it.
  6. Oh, and while you’re looking for your shovel, you may as well hunt down the ice scraper for your car, which is likely to be in a similarly inconvenient spot — like the trunk of your car.
  7. Next, you need to dress appropriately.  You may not need to dress for a Polar Expedition, but you can use this handy formula — add one extra layer of clothing for every ten to fifteen degrees Fahrenheit below freezing (convert to Celsius here) you are likely to encounter.   This, of course, is subject to personal comfort.  I don’t know about you, but I can never seem to muster a hot flash when I really need one, like when I’m freezing to death.  In any event, dress warmly enough, but not so warmly that you’ll faint once you start sweating.
  8. Now, just get out there.  Take your cell phone, your ice scraper, your car keys and your shovel.  And maybe some sunglasses.  You may need to do a little preliminary shoveling to fight your way out of the house in order to get to the car.   But once you can open the driver’s door, start the car and turn on the defroster.  Oh, wait…you need to make sure your tail pipe isn’t buried first, so you may have to schlep to the rear of the car and carve out a place for the exhaust.
  9. Now, you can start your car.  Don’t bother clearing off the whole car until it’s warmed up.  It’s a lot easier to push the ice and snow off a warm car.
  10. Here’s where the serious shoveling begins.  Normally, I try to park my car near the end of the driveway so I don’t have so much square footage to tackle after the snowplow trucks have plowed in the end of the driveway.  But this may mean you still have to shovel a path to your car first.  Whatever.  When you start shoveling, stand with your feet apart, with one of them slightly forward of the other, taking a nice, sturdy, wide stance.  Bend your knees and stiffen up your tummy, and thus positioned, crouch down until your shovel is level with the top of the snow bank.  Bend from the hips, not the waist, to keep your lower back straight.  Fill your shovel, but not too much.   Use your legs to lift it by straightening your knees and hips.   Then walk it over to wear you’re going to dump it, and dump it.  If you can dump it nearby and you’re feeling frisky, you can rotate your torso a little bit and fling the snow from the shovel.  This, however, is an advanced technique and should not be attempted by beginners.
  11. Repeat until you’ve cleared a path to the street wide enough for your car.
  12. Then go back to the car and clear it off.
  13. Stop as needed to catch your breath, take pictures on your cell phone to post on Facebook, and text a few friends to complain about how hard you are working.
  14. Neaten up the path you started from your car to your front door.
  15. Take a final picture with your cell phone, turn off the car, and go indoors.
  16. Remove outer layers (and any inner layers that are way sweaty or got soaked the eleven times you slipped and fell).  If necessary, take a hot shower.
  17. Make yourself some hot cocoa.
  18. Engage in any other rewarding activities you promised yourself before shoveling.  This may include an immediate nap.

Alternatively, you could try to chum up with a dude who has a truck and a snowplow.  And/or you could ask your friends to give you donations to your snowplow fund instead of Christmas presents, so you could hire somebody all winter.  Or move closer to the equator.   But then, you wouldn’t get to feel smug as you congratulate yourself and admire your efforts!

Oh, and some ibuprofen and a little tiger balm may be helpful.

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This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Monday, December 27, 2010 at 05:12 pm, filed under Fatigue, Health & Healthcare, Pain & Neuropathy, Play, Survivorship and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

8 Responses to “Shoveling For Survivors”

  1. Perfect instructions Sistah! LOL

  2. I did opt for the nap… 😉

  3. ha ha!

  4. You hit the nail on the head… or in this case…the shovel to the snow! See you later on after we both move our cars! Deb

  5. LOLOLOL!!!! Girl this is so funny. I really needed it this morning:)

    Hot flashes!!!! Where are they when you need them???!!!

    You know, you could always move down south where we are pickled tink to get 1/4″ every 10 years or so :):)

    I guess I’ll have to refer to this blog whenever I complain about having NO snow at all:)

    Big hugs girlfriend!!

  6. Kathie are you anywhere near me? Maybe I can help whenever I’m in town… after I dig myself out, of course!!

  7. geez Kathi, guess that explains the “I’m not feeling so great” feeling I experienced last winter when I was shoveling out after the plow, two months after my mastectomy and one month into chemo.

  8. Uh, ya think, Colleen??? LOL! Well, I had to dig my way out of a few massive snowstorms within a few months after I was done, too. Actually made my fried right shoulder & armpit feel better. But I was careful.

    Carol, you’re so sweet! I actually like shoveling, believe it or not, and I have a short, flat, level driveway! The best kind…maybe I could help you out sometime!

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