I’ve experienced a lot of physical and mental pain during my treatment and surgery for breast cancer. That pain pales into insignificance compared to the acute sciatic pain that I’m now experiencing in my left leg and the psychological pain that has come along for the ride.
I’ve just come back from my daily dog walk which used to be one of the highlights of my day, and one of the only forms of exercise that I can do at the moment. Now it’s more of a daily dog trudge and has turned into a very tortuous and painful half an hour…if I and the dogs are lucky! At least today, I wasn’t crying with the pain. That is definitely a positive that I can take from my trudge, as well as it being another beautiful sunny day.
The reason for all of the pain that I’m experiencing is that I have degenerative stenosis in my spinal canal. Basically, arthritis in my spine is causing the narrowing of my spinal canal, meaning that there is less room for the nerves. They are being compressed in two places in my lower back and when you throw in a couple of bulging discs, I get acute sciatic pain all the way down my left leg, especially in my ankle, buttock and foot. Analgesics don’t touch the pain – I’ve tried them all and they just make me feel ill and out of control.
Just to make things even more complicated and painful, I also have arthritis in my right hip. I first became aware of the pain in my groin just after I’d had my lumpectomy back in February 2016. Obviously I thought the pain meant that I had secondary bone metastases! I was relieved to discover that it was only osteoarthritis! So I knew that I’d have to have a hip replacement in the not too distant future. That future is now – in just over three weeks at the end of July.
This is where things become complicated. I have two surgeons looking after the different parts of me that need fixing – my hip and my back. My back surgeon wants to give me a steroid injection into my spine to hopefully ease the pain in my leg, enabling me to have my hip replacement and successfully do the necessary rehabilitation. If the injection is ineffective then I may have to have a spinal decompression operation and that would probably have to happen before the hip op. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to have the injection and see if it’s worked before the date of my hip replacement.
I feel like I’m on a merry go round of confusion and hospital appointments again. At least I know that none of the pain is due to recurrent or secondary cancer but this doesn’t make it any easier to deal with mentally.
It’s two years since I finished chemotherapy. 2017 was a year of recuperation and, at the end of the year, my second mastectomy. I really thought that 2018 was going to be the year to forge ahead with all my new projects and plans. It started well when I had my amazing topless photoshoot and then when I started this blog. My seeds and flowers followed and I was feeling so positive about the future.
Now though, I feel as though life has had the brakes applied and my world has become really small again. I still get huge pleasure from seeing my flowers grow and posting their beauty on Instagram. But I’m unable to garden and tend to them as I had planned. Mine and Liam’s two week holiday in Italy turned into a two night staycation in Sussex and Kent. It was wonderful to get away but was not what was planned.
This is where my head’s at right now:
It pains me that I find it difficult to garden
It pains me that walking my dogs is no longer enjoyable
It pains me that I can’t play tennis
It pains me that I can’t run or even Nordic Walk
It pains me that I’m facing two more surgeries
It pains me that I can’t easily do my shoelaces up
I think what I’m trying to say is IT’S NOT FAIR!!
I’m very well aware that I have a lot to be grateful for, not least that I’m cancer free. And this is also part of the mental pain that I’m going through. What right do I have to moan and have constant pity parties when there are so many people living with stage 4 cancer, and I’m not one of them? This survivor guilt is a very real emotion. I also know that my pain will stop once I have had the two procedures that I’m scheduled for and done the rehab.
The truth is though that I’m finding the physical and emotional pain very hard to cope with. I think I’ve cried every day for the last month because of the pain, but also because of the anger, frustration and loss that I’m experiencing.
So what keeps me putting one foot in front of the other? Now that I think about this there are a few answers. The support of Liam comes top of the list, closely followed by Dan, Laura and the rest of my family. They are the ones who listen to me without judging me and dry my tears often. I have no idea where I would be without my family.
The countryside near where I live is beautiful as is my garden and the flowers that I’ve grown. A huge plus for me is the sheer amount of sport on TV at the moment…the World Cup, England Rugby v South Africa, the various grand tours in cycling, and of course Wimbledon which started today. Just wall to wall enjoyment, or at least until England play tomorrow night! Actually, being able to trudge round for half an hour with the dogs is still pretty awesome if I can think of it in that way.
And that I think is the key to my being able to cope with all of this physical and mental pain. To accept that it is present in this moment and not to wish it be otherwise. I’m having to work hard to put this into practice and failing most of the time. But when it works, I do feel more positive and I do know that the pain won’t last forever – hold on, pain ends.