Over the past five years, I have busily blended growing a new family with a career. Life as a working Mum was moving so fast I was blind to the affect it was having on my body. All of a sudden, I found myself completely unprepared for what the universe had in store for me next. Shingles. The brutal and agonising pain of shingles right in the middle of my back. At the time I had no idea what was wrong with me let alone that this condition was here to stay indefinitely in the form of Post Herpetic Neuralgia.
I grew up in country Victoria on my parents’ dairy farm, a very full on sporty kid into football, water skiing, running and of course motor bikes. I was mad keen on racing and riding with my friends. At the age of 16 we moved to another farm in Southern NSW and here I stepped up my racing. I also started a diesel mechanic apprenticeship in 1994 when I was 17. After racing for a few years in 1998 I decided motor bikes were too dangerous and took up water ski racing. As I had water skied all my life I was a natural and did very well in my first few years of racing.
My story starts on the 6th of July 2008, just over 7 years ago. I went to a house where my daughter was staying and upon leaving I missed the stairs in the dark. I inverted my right ankle and heard a loud crack. I attempted to stay upright and stepped on my left foot and then back onto my right foot at which time I realised I was in extreme pain and that my ankle lacked any support at all. I allowed myself to fall the last two steps and lay face down in the driveway until an ambulance arrived. I was taken to Wollongong hospital, x-rayed, told it was a sprain, that I should walk on it, and sent home without pain killers despite being unable to walk from the hospital even with crutches. They wheeled me to my husband's car in a wheelchair.
I experienced significant psychological and physical trauma at the tender age of 18 months at the hands of a trusted family member. At age 4, I fell from a balcony onto a cement slab and broke my sacro-ilium which is still un-mended now at age 42. Numerous other events, physical and psychological occurred throughout my life time, which contributed to a personal belief that I was useless, hopeless, life was too hard and ultimately I became chronically depressed and suicidal. I firmly believed for years that I was just a hypochondriac and my mother, bless her, simply couldn't understand how I could possibly have ANOTHER headache!
My story is simple and one of four parts.
Osteoarthritis diagnosed in 2009. The osteoarthritis was diagnosed after age and a series of falls happened while I was living and working in England. Although saying this my knees had been damaged since I was a teenager.
Migraines which developed as a teenager and stayed away for many years and then returned with a vengeance in my 30's. The migraines can cripple me at times but I try to manage them as best as possible but combined with many other things life can be interesting at times.
I am interested in sharing my pain story with others to raise awareness about the fact that chronic pain is something that can happen to anyone, including young and educated people. It is not necessarily a disease of the poor or the mentally ill. Pain does not discriminate and a person in pain does not look like anything in particular.
Three and a half years ago, at the beginning of my career, I started to experience strange pain in my right hand. About a year later, this pain spread suddenly to my entire arm, then to my other arm, and never went away.
I was soon diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition of compression of the nerve/vascular bundle in the arm, beneath the collarbone. The condition varies, but for many, this means chronic pain, at some level - often for life.
I have Fibromyalgia, an invisible and complex chronic pain syndrome. It has had me bedridden 4 out of the last 6 years and been the bane of my life for much, much longer. The pain management team at Randwick POW and in particular Dr Bhar has helped me "re-discover" some sense of a normal life. I was living and working in California when the Fibromyalgia slammed me down. Bedridden for months I finally made my way back home to Sydney, just in time for my husbands back surgery. My 25 year career which spanned Asia Pacific in Information Systems, Technology and Product Management was over. My business is now being a energy envelope manager, full time carer for my family and trying to reinvent my professional career via a mobile apps.
I’ve lived in constant pain since 1996. My accident happened during a performance in NZ (I was dancing the Can Can!) and as professional dancers do, I continued my performance even after I had injured myself – adrenalin is a wonderful thing! I spent the first six months struggling to walk, couldn’t drive and definitely couldn’t dance which, as this was my life, was pretty traumatic. I worked with some amazing doctors – I was lucky enough to be treated by the All Blacks sports doctor who understood my need to get back to where I was fitness wise. My diagnosis changed depending upon who I spoke to but the MRI showed prolapsed discs at L4/L5 and degeneration. I had continual sciatic pain down my left leg and I tried every therapy known.
For the past 2 years I've been living with chronic pain, brain fog and fatigue. Although fatigue doesn't really begin to describe it; it’s more like having an elephant sitting on you making it hard to move your body and having your brain be complete mush.
To begin with I didn't have any idea of how to deal with it; I spent my days collapsed on the couch unable to do anything. After searching for the right GP and doing tonnes of research I almost have a complete support team including my family, my GP, an acupuncturist; exercise physio,and a team of pelvic pain specialists. With the support of this team I have begun to slowly learn how to manage my symptoms so that I can live a life that is simple, sustainable and meaningful.
I have been an active, energetic, “together”, happy and organised person most of my 55 years. The health problems I have had in past years have not affected my life too much. Lower back, leg, ankle and knee pain were manageable with sensible behaviour, using a Swiss Ball as a chair at work, bandaging when necessary and exercise. I have psoriasis and allergies and used to have asthma, hay fever, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Suddenly in early 2010 new symptoms appeared. Areas of my body where I had had some pain for years now became more painful. A new type of pain which felt like bad bruising started in my hands, feet, chest, and ribcage front and back.