When reading blogs I find it helps be given some background and so not feel I am coming into a story halfway through. So here’s a bit about me.
I am a mother of three, grandmother of six on three continents. We never thought we would be globetrotting family. My husband “Bill” was born in rural Wales; I arrived prematurely in an air raid in London. We both grew up in English villages and met at just 21.
Bill joined the navy as a carrier pilot and we hopped, skipped and jumped around Britain and the Mediterranean with our kids from posting to posting. When he left the navy, I naively suggested, “Why not aim for the top. Try Rolls Royce.” He did and got the job, although he was on crutches after an accident. Rolls aero engine promptly went bankrupt . He was incredibly lucky and got another job although the other end of England and we moved when our third child was 10 days old.
The seventies was a turmoil of strikes, three day work weeks, mass unemployment and 27% inflation. We could see the writing on the wall, picked up the kids and emigrated to Canada. Remember Shakespeare: “There’s a tide in the affairs of men.” Bill was in his thirties and we were afraid that if we waited out the crises in England, he would have “missed the tide.”
Canada was the best thing we ever did – apart from getting married. After the post-war grimness of England, it was like a sunlit field: open, generous, class-free – and things worked! My mother always referred to it as “the possible world.”
I worked from home as a writer and later a public speaker – on wellness and stress management. The kids spread out, settling in South Africa, Vancouver and England. As they said, “You showed us it was possible!”
When Bill was lucky enough to get early retirement, we built a cottage on an Ontario lake – an incredible adventure, fostered kittens and also started a small charity to educate young rural South African girls.
My interests are current affairs, reading, computers. Above all, I am fascinated by words and ideas, philosophy and growth. I want to understand what it is to be fully human.
My back story
My pain isn’t dramatic, just wearily every day. I had two bouts of major abdominal surgery plus two pregnancies in a three year period way back in the 60s. At that time surgery was not conservative and I was cut from hip to hip each time. As a result I have massive scar tissue and adhesions which prevent my core muscles from working properly. So to move I end up using what muscles do work, which are the wrong ones.
As you can imagine, with three kids, I was constantly lifting them and, in those days, heaving them into the back seat of a two door car. None of this helped my back. I also developed celiac disease which wasn’t diagnosed for 25 years and later h.pylori in Africa, which also was not spotted for another year. Both caused severe inflammation which in turn weakened my ligaments. In short, my back was a mess
By 2005, I was in a brace, using a wheelchair to go any distance and a TENS daily. My GP refused me an MRI: “No one will look at you till you are dragging your foot.” My eventual MRI and CT scans showed spondylolisthesis. This occurs when one vertebrae slips over another; in my case, it slid forward and pressed on my spinal column.
Eventually, one night in Africa, getting up to pee, my leg gave way, pitching me head first into a bathtub. Yes, you do see stars – mine were fluorescent green! The next day, I saw a neurosurgeon who refused to let me retun to Canada without surgery, otherwise, he said, this would happen again. He fused my L4-L5 vertebrae and inserted a slim titanium cage at the front to take the weight of the spine.
While convalescing, I tried Dr. Herbert Benson’s “remembered wellness.” Over and over I remembered the sensation of walking freely. It worked and today I walk easily, a daily joy. However, it never occurred to me to visualize standing or sitting, which now give me constant pain. My sacrum, just below the fusion, takes the strain which is greater because of the rigidity above. This then increases the tension on my scar tissue and adhesions, making it even harder for my muscles to work.
So where am I now? I do OK if I mix and match my life, changing my position and activities. At home I have a zero gravity chair which allows me to recline, taking the weight on the back rather than the base of my spine. Anything that compacts my spine, like sitting or using the computer sets off pain. I am writing this on my mini iPad lying down. I can manage my life within our home. Travel is out – I have lain on so many airport floors! So are the theatre, cinema, volunteering, going to lectures or going out to friends’ houses, unless I take a portable zero gravity chair.
Am sure you will ask what I have tried. Exercises over and over again, which always flare me. Every therapist assures me they can help. When I return with my back seized, they exclaim, “I have never seen anything like this!” Foolishly, perhaps, I continue trying.
So, physio, chiropractic, massage, athletic therapy, osteopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, meditation, low level laser, and finally an epidural. There I was the only patient whose legs went totally numb and had to be sent up to a ward. Every hour or so a nurse would come in, stand me up and catch me when I fell. The epidural failed and left me with sciatica, which I hadn’t had before.
Because I am always interested in spirituality and personal growth, pain has led me on an interesting journey. I have tried to find ways to rise above pain and grow.
Am now working on neuroplasticity to try and retrain my brain, which has been physically changed by pain. When my GP finally referred me to a pain clinic, I was told it was far too late as the pain cycle was embedded. So now I am trying to take back the parts of my brain that have been co-opted into handling pain. We shall see….