I’ve really struggled to get my act together over the last 10 days and write. You may have noticed a gap in my posts – POTS symptoms in the heat followed by a migraine! This time last year I was mid spinal cord stimulator trial and planning my girl’s birthday, that is I was carefully pottering about with a massive dressing on my back and an electrical flex sticking out my side attached to a magic box of tricks handing out instructions! So this also means I’ve been blogging for a year.
My kids really could not understand why I would feel the urge to write or why anyone would want to read anything that their mum wrote. At first PainPals started out as a means to let friends & family know how I was getting on, to cut down on the number of repeat conversations. I had been really helped by info that I’d found online, particularly on Pain Support UK & by a lady called Tina Worth, when I was first referred to St Thomas’ pain unit, so I figured that if I could help someone else at the same time this would be a bonus. I never dreamt that I would link up with so many people, find so much help and support out there or that so many of you would want to follow me. I am really grateful.
I still remember arriving at Guys hospital at 7 am and being the most scared that I had ever been before surgery. This wasn’t going to be the longest, the most complicated or even the most painful surgery that I had undergone – but it really felt like and still feels like there was the most riding on it. It offered hope and if this trial didn’t work then that hope for relief of the chronic back and leg pain was gone – and to continue living like this was not something I could contemplate.
But life goes on and I want to recap the last year – the difficult bits, the positive bits & well the rest! Has the spinal cord stimulator worked is the question that most people ask. Yes & no. Probably the hardest part of this journey is learning & accepting yourself and then explaining to family & friends that this is not a cure. I have permanent nerve damage & a permanent genetic condition. Would I go down this route again? Absolutely. Whilst the scs is not the be all and end all for me, it has given me relief and some control back. I have to admit that I still have “stim envy” for those who are having 24 hour permanent stimulators, as I have to turn mine off every few hours. A “buzzing” stimulator also has to be switched off to drive – meaning that I can’t drive as I am unable to sit in the car without it on – and should not be left on whilst sleeping. So painsomnia again! I understand that different surgeons use different devices, there is a cost, and that in the UK high frequency devices are only licensed by NICE for one specific diagnosis. But….I still envy my friends who are able to have them on all day!
I have written posts about drugs and chronic pain, and I do feel proud that I’ve managed to come off the high dose of oxycontin that I was on a year ago. It was not easy! In fact I think that my bloody mindedness was what got me off and the biggest benefit must be the kids saying that I am like the old me again. A downside is that the opiate was masking my increasing Ehlers Danlos pain and now the pain in my hips, shoulders, knees etc is much more acute and disabling. I can’t manage without pregabalin(lyrica) and am still on the maximum dose for my nerve pain – St Thomas’ have said that I may never be able to come off it. But I’m about to start a trial of a cannabinoid hemp formula supplement which I will review on here, so watch this space for some (hopefully) good results. My autonomic nervous system has deteriorated and symptoms such as fainting, headaches/migraines, circulatory problems, postural changes do seem to have worsened since I had the electrodes implanted.
No one is able to confirm if the stimulator could be increasing other symptoms, but I do wonder as it is the spinal cord and thus the nervous system that it is acting on.
Positives from this last year have been joining social online communities. I had no idea how anything worked this time last year and my kids would laugh at me -facebook was totally their domain. But the support that I have found from fellow spoonies on wordpress, the amazing Julie Ryan and Chronic Illness Bloggers, Ehlers Danlos Uk & Twitter has been beyond any expectations. The realisation of how many of us there are and how many families who support & are supported is simply staggering. To find the Twitter #SpoonieSpeak set up by Tania from http://www.WhenTaniaTalks.com on a Friday evening to a new EDS chat that I stumbled upon last week, there is so much support & good feeling toward each other.
I still struggle to accept my limitations and am pretty rubbish at pacing, but I have accepted this year that a wheelchair gives me more freedom and that whilst my spinal cord stimulator has helped to manage pain, I am one of the third for whom the disabling factors of EDS get worse with age. I’d rather my boys – young men now – didn’t have to get me out of the shower and dry me on a bad day…..in the humid weather last week I had breathing problems after a shower and the eldest’s main concern was that I didn’t die whilst naked. Charming!! There was an article in a tabloid recently about some ladies who wouldn’t let their partners see them naked because they were worried about saggy breasts post feeding, caesarian scars or stretch marks. They should be so lucky to have the choice – and only one scar – they should see my patchwork. We have to laugh as all too often chronic conditions rob us of dignity & leave us in PJs.
On a brighter note I have managed to join 2 book clubs and reading is certainly easier without the opiate background to enhance my brainfog. The first has been a local group that we found through Google Meet ups and Duncan & I both go along – probably helped to persuade him when he knew that it met in the pub! The second is The Book Club on facebook which has been amazing. I feel honoured to be able to read and review the works of authors who are also members – I hope that you have enjoyed some of my reviews that I have published on here. Next month we have tickets for a birthday event for this group in London and I really hope that I am well enough to attend & actually meet some of these lovely people. Think I might have to buy that wheelchair to get me there – we’ve been a bit slow as I’m still not quite sure what to invest in.
At times I feel very aware that other amazing bloggers seem to publish something every day and I just don’t seem to get my act together, or feel that I can write such inspiring pieces (have you read Genevieve at http://www.shipwithnosails.com or Ness at http://www.TheGirlWiththeFiveLads.co.uk ?). But it is through these lovely ladies such as Amy at http://www.SmilesintheTrials.wordpress.com that I have drawn support & understanding and new friendship. A year ago I would never have imagined that there would have still been any interest for what I might post or tweet, but here I am, still writing, making birthday cakes when I can and more importantly still holding my head up high…..well most days!