It was about September when I stopped feeling well. By October I was in a lot of pain and by the 10th of the month I was admitted to hospital; to the surgical assessment ward. Starved and prepped for theatre I needed to wait firstly for a space so they could take me down but more importantly for an agreement from the doctors as to where on my body they were going to operate.
It was this lack of diagnosis causing their confusion. No-body knew what or where the pain was but I was most definitely in pain. I could not care about anything, if they wanted to cut me about so be it as long as the pain eased.
Initially I had been to see my doctor with symptons of general ill health and changes that didn’t quite fit with my medical knowledge. They were very sympathetic and instantly put it down to my age and the changes that will begin occurring soon. However as things were a little unusual they would arrange an emergency scan. In the meantime she diagnosed me with a slipped disc or possibly a pulled muscle.
I had so much movement, I could bend, I could stretch and yes I was in pain but the movements did not aggravate the pain or cause any change. I knew it was not muscular and I knew if I had slipped my disc I would not be able to bend as I could.
Two weeks later I attended the scan. They sent me home and said there would be further tests as I was not right, she would contact my doctor and they would refer me to another clinic for further tests.
That night my doctor rang “there is nothing to be alarmed about and this is just precautionary but we are referring you as a matter of urgency. This is just routine.”
What wasn’t routine was the Doctor ringing me that night. Alarm bells rang. The pain in the back was getting worse. I was on stronger painkillers by now and a strong anti-inflammatory painkillers with meals.
It took a week for the matter of urgency to arrive. I duly went in and spent the day at the oncology unit having all kinds of test and scans. Being totally nosy, well it is my body, I insisted on being in an even more awkward position so I too could see the monitors and find out what was going on. I can confirm my insides are like alabaster porcelain. Pale and smooth with not a ridge in sight. The doctors were so impressed they said I could go home and there would be no further investigations, but while there they would scan my kidneys.
My kidneys looked wonderful, in the right place and the flow was good and healthy. I could return home reassured there was nothing wrong.
I should have gone shopping, the very least a celebratory coffee. Instead drained and still on painkillers and anti-inflammatories I drove carefully home and fell asleep. The pain continued to escalate.
I rang the doctor the next day I was still in so much pain and didn’t know what to do. She had already referred me to an osteopath and I was waiting on an appointment to come through. There was nothing else she could do, keep taking the highest dose possible.
Naturally the drugs had their side-effects one of which was sleepiness and confusion. The sleep was short-lived and only lasted in batches of about 1-2 hours while the pain was subdued slightly. I was tired, I was emotional, I was in pain.
I rang the doctor the next day, my doctor was on one of her days off and a colleague stepped in. She spoke to me on the phone and asked me to come and see her. I had to fit it around the drug induced sleepiness and the spasms of agonising pain. I would get to her as soon as I could.
I already had a bag packed from my previous visit to hospital where they had suggested in their invite letter I might need to stay over. in my agony I had not got round to unpacking or putting anything away. Struggling with the pain I pulled the tiny overnight wheelie case down the stairs and managed to lift it agonizingly into the boot of the car and then bent slowly to put my brief case in with my laptop. I have been in too many hospital waiting rooms to know how much time is wasted.
Drugs wearing off slightly, but not quite bad enough to make me unable to sit in the car I slowly drove the car using every ounce of strength to concentrate on the gears, the steering wheel, remembering that there were three pedals and one goes faster, one stops suddenly and the car turns off. Then there was the road, cars came towards me, cars came up behind me tooting rude gestures as they overtook me doing a careful 30 mph in a 60 zone. The roundabout at the top of the hill brought me to complete perplexity as I drove round and round desperately trying to remember not only where I was going but also which exit I needed. Pain was increasing and any further I would not have made it. Arriving at the surgery I found the waiting room and sobbed quietly in the corner. Every movement jarred my body with a searing unbearable agony. I could not sit, I could not stand, I could not lie, I prowled the waiting room perching myself on any passable resting place until that too became unbearable and I would crawl to the next position.
Finally I was the last one in the room and my name was called.
One look told her I was unwell. She tried to examine my back and nearly got a thick ear for her troubles. Even the movement of the air as she came near sent me into spasms of screeching pain causing me to lash out uncontrollably to protect my tender torso.
I was not in a fit state to drive. At least we were in agreement about that. She was sending me straight to hospital it was not a 999 ambulance scenario but I needed to get someone to take me in. I was to stay there at the surgery till my lift arrived. She would write a letter and discuss with the hospital where to send me. She was admitting me with a possible kidney stone even though after six weeks it should have passed; they would probably operate to remove it.
Sexy Sporty Dad was hauled out of a meeting and told to come all the way back to pick me up. He would spend the day driving backwards and forwards for me then cope with the children, feeding them, homework and bedtime. We were supposed to be going out for a meal. It was his birthday. He even missed all his cards and birthday cakes at work.
My short sojourn in hospital was hectic. They started with the usual tests and connected me to a drip for a strong morphine based painkiller. They gave me extra painkillers and kept me on most of the ones I already was on. I had x-rays top and bottom to determine where the pain was coming from and why. They came back negative, no signs of anything.
They could not decide where to operate. At 9pm they decided to let me sleep on it and they would give me a ct scan the following day and then operate. I ate the most delicious, desired and delectable ham sandwich on white bread that I have ever eaten.
Next morning a harem of doctors arrived at my bed all fascinated by the mystery they had locating a diagnosis. I again explained from the beginning what had been going on and how bad the pain was. I showed them briefly the area. One beady eyed doctor asked me to turn back over and lifted my pyjama top.
Eight voices rang out as they agreed “Shingles”.
Things moved faster then, on top of my cocktail of drugs they gave me shingles drugs. They would still do the ct scan to rule out a kidney stone but they would not need to operate. A dermatology doctor was paged to come and look. I ate the biggest breakfast you have ever seen, just in case they changed their minds later.
The dermatologist was unavailable till Monday but eight surgical, medical doctors should be pretty good with the diagnoses. They reduced my morphine based drug so I could go home with it. Once the ct scan results proved there was no kidney stone I was released back into the loving care of my year older husband. Glad to have me back although I was unable to do very much.
22 different tablets. Some once a day, some three times a day with meals, the morphine ones 4 times a day with paracetemol, and the shingles drug 5 times a day. Some made me feel sick, some made me sleepy, some made me see the world in a distorted way leaving me confused and very tearful. I had a spreadsheet to follow which I would tick when I took something and my alarm would go off every 2 hours to take the next dose. I could not leave the house.
Bed was my faithful companion. Never far from me, ready to catch me if I dropped off for a moment, big enough to stretch out if I could bear to stretch, warm enough to snuggle down when needed but with the ability to cast off the covers when the heat got too hot.
I had to actually take time off work. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t drive.
The next check-up a week after leaving the hospital revealed that the rash on my back wasn’t shingles. The doctor admitted she had seen the rash and then told me
“I see thousands of shingles patients every week, and this was very different to a shingles rash and although there was a rash it did not fit with the other symptoms.”
I finished the course of shingles drugs the following day. The pain was still there being controlling rather than improving. The visit to the osteopath confirmed again it wasn’t shingles but was more likely viral coming from my spine. He referred me for an MRI. Was there anything left on the diagnostic spectrum I have not tested out.
This was an urgent MRI and came on a Sunday three weeks later.
I finished a second course of morphine, no longer on shingles tablet I ditched using the spreadsheet and began sporadically to take the ibuprofen when I remembered with my meals. Pain stretching longer and longer enabled me to lessen the dependency on paracetemol.
Finally I am drug free. It took halucinations, walking into doors or the wall when my brain could not balance, high and low emotions, nausea and confusion to negotiate the moving path to my goal of drug free oblivion. That was just the coming off the drugs.
The pain was manageable and I returned to the physio to continue treating a whiplash injury from a car accident last November. This time though I went privately and she treated me not my neck. One look at me and she diagnosed stiffness in the thoracic ribs. She asked me if I had had problems from my back, my rib area. Did I sit down for a job? Did I know my eyes were not in line with my neck.
I cannot say she was gentle. I cannot say it didn’t hurt, she re-aligned my neck click, click click argh….. she massaged my back, my whole back not just my neck, rubbing deep into the unsuspecting muscles. She stretched my legs and I probably gained at least 4 inches. Unsure I could make it home; the tiredness, the bruising, and the memory of the torture I had to stop and drink supermarket coffee. I had not been able to face coffee for weeks.
I made it home and went straight to old faithful; my bed!
Next morning I woke battered and bruised, terrified to move lest the pain overwhelmed me. I could turn my back, I could turn my neck not quite the whole 360 degrees owl like but behind me. It was a long time since I had done that. The debilitating headache I had had for ten weeks was lifting. I had put it down to the cocktail of drugs causing it otherwise it should have gone. My whole body moved as one rather than in stilted robotic moves trying to connect.
The pain in my sides and back gone apart from the bruising and tenderness she had inflicted on my broken body. I stood gingerly expecting the tsunami of pain to overwhelm me. It didn’t. I walked around able to stretch, bend and move. Could all of this agony have been just stiffness catching up with my whiplash not having been sorted out.
My new best friend (physio) and I have been seeing each other for a few weeks now. Each time she finds a little extra sadistic torture to put me through, and each time I suffer maybe not quite in silence. Battered and bruised from her torment I am gaining more and more movement, straightening my overbent protective shoulders to walk tall again. I have been able to walk to places and Sexy Sporty Dad has even got my bike out for me to peddle around the neighbourhood again. Small steps leading to such huge improvements.
I am still waiting for the results of the MRI but I feel too good to go and learn those.
Whilst I was so poorly I was unable to write. I could not string a sentence together let alone write a blog, or a novel. An argument with one of my children because I had not been able to do something triggered a need in me that would only be satisfied in one way.
“Having been a nurse I know how this all works” I happened to say.
“You were never a nurse, don’t lie” a rebellious teenager retorted not wanting me to get out of doing something for him.
“I was for a while and a lot of other things”
“You have never done anything with your life but be a mother and you don’t do that very well!” my chauvinistic offspring retorted in the belief such loving words would change my mind.
After the conversation had long finished, the words rankled, gnawed at my subconscious. Of course I had a life BC (before children) and I had forged a way for women that my poor convent school teachers would turn in their graves if they were watching me now. I had achieved so much that these boys had no idea about. I was still achieving a lot and they could not see it under their noses.
We were approaching November, written in my calendar as NANOWRIMO. There was no point even thinking about it. I was too busy. I not only had three jobs to do, I was preparing for an 18th birthday, Christmas and I now having been so ill I had to catch up.
I was still waiting for a diagnosis, I might have a serious illness and the way everything seemed to be urgent I did not know if I would make it to Christmas let alone the end of NANOWRIMO. What if the boys never knew anything about my life.
NANOWRIMO rules state you cannot just write an autobiography, but then I think that would sound very boring and dull. But a parody, a bit of caricature of how my life developed. Lets face it most of it is just too unbelievable to make up.
Nov 1st arrived, resistance was futile. I had missed last year and read all the posts feeling left out and miserable. It did not matter if I didn’t win it was the taking part that really mattered. How often have I said that to a losing team. This time it really was what mattered.
I am now on day 17 and have just hit the 20,000 mark so am slightly under par. The subject matter is easy its all in my head. I am using my template plan from two years ago of writing a chapter every two days and then moving on. It seems to be working.
Will update you soon.
Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at Tea Time Treats