The beginning: my admission to hospital via a&e was very confusing particularly as I was in the kind of pain you imagine when watching Hostel. So I was never going to grasp what was wrong with me even if they’d spoken. Like. This.
It wasn’t trigeminal neuralgia. Nor was it a stroke. The MRI of my brain was clear but the image inadvertently captured the first few disks in my cervical spine which were congenitally fused along withcervical stenosis
When you’re admitted to hospital there is no induction. They didn’t give me a welcome letter introducing my consultant or the time of his rounds so my family could sit in. There was no myelopathy pamphlet explaining my condition or written diagnosis or care plan. So…my husband’s ringing me, I can hardly speak I’m in so much pain and for the tenth time NO I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME!
I had a second MRI, of my spine. A few more days pass. It’s not visiting time, so I’m on my own, when a neurologist pulls the bay curtains closed and sits on my bed. If he voiced ‘cervical myelopathy’ then in between his other words that diagnosis got lost. He basically told me I would be wheelchair bound and incontinent. I would have to have a colostomy bag fitted. My neighbours of course were listening, it’s hard not to when the curtains are dramatically drawn. They could not believe the abrupt, negative way the diagnosis was delivered. I phoned my husband, repeated what I recalled but NO I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT’S WRONG.
I was transferred to Charing Cross to have an operation I knew nothing about – it’s an abcd I told my husband. At this stage I’m on every drug going including morphine shots – I couldn’t have told you my name.
At Charing Cross my situation becomes clearer but I’d never heard of Cervical Myelopathy – nobody had. Not my friends or family. My doctor? Ok, but he didn’t understand it. It sounded dead scary. To think that right that moment my disks were being gnawed away by some obscure, insidious entity.
At home I spent hours, days goggling myelopathy, spondylosis, stenosis. There was so little information available unless you were a dog. What did it mean for me? What was my future? Incontinence, wheelchair, bed bound? The doctors, neurologists, surgeons; all too busy to discuss my future or what living with this disease would mean. One doctor was contradicting another – the operation cured me – there is no cure!
I so needed to speak to a fellow sufferer. I felt like I was the only person in the world with a horrible, disabling, deconstructing disease that nobody was interested in. There had to be people out there, somewhere, with CSM or was it DDD or the other ten names it hides under.
I can’t remember when I found myelopathy.support; it was four or five years later, sometime after my third op. It sounds wrong to say I was delighted that there were people like me but I was. Maybe it’s immature to say I felt slighted that Cancer, MS, MN and so many other diseases are recognised and CSM, this painful, exhausting, degenerative, silent assassin that would repeatedly strike, wasn’t. My life was, in a matter of weeks, shattered and it was like ‘so what?’
It’s a huge bonus that Dr Mark Kotter is an academic neurosurgeon at The University of Cambridge who is clinically interested in gaining a better understanding of and developing treatments for, Cervical Myelopathy. I think he will bring clarity to the current mishmash diagnosis and reveal how CSM impacts on so much more than just our limbs. I feel hopeful that in the next five to ten years myelopathy will be a better understood and represented disease. I hope that leaflets will be in doctor’s surgeries and people will grasp that looking well doesn’t translate to feeling well.
In that respect CSM’s like ME. We share many symptoms. Not that I know much about ME but my daughter’s friend is a sufferer. I know it’s chronic, it’s fluctuating, it’s exhausting and painful. It’s just wrong for someone so young and vivacious to constantly cope with a body that’s weak when inside she’s bursting with ideas and aspirations. It makes me more resolute to live my life, to not winge, to work around my difficulties and not feel sorry for myself…well maybe just a little…who wouldn’t?
The reason I’m thinking about Alice Ella is that she was on http://www.channel4.com/programmes/first-dates/on-demand/65067-009 a programme I have never watched until last night and I liked how Alice used it as a platform to highlight ME. The programme was also well enjoyable.
I think about my own journey. The times I’ve wanted to scream in the faces of some very ignorant and arrogant health professionals. How it was easier to stay at home than attempt to explain to friends what the hell was wrong with me. To understand that participating in something as sedate as a coffee out means resting up the day before and struggling with pain the following day.
The Cambridge study and my friends at myelopathy.support have given me the confidence to discuss my health and how it impacts on my life – they’ve made myelopathy real instead of what people judged was in my head. When something threatens to break you, to impinge on every aspect of your life you need people to appreciate what you’re dealing with.
But you also need to get on with your life. You need to understand your limitations and be flexible and work around them. You need to chase your dreams and smile and laugh. I’m still working on my book and Alice Ella is singing. Her single 24 Obsession is waiting to download on my ipod. I’d love Alice’s single to do well, one because it’s wicked and two because her platform to discuss ME would increase. Check out the link below:
In my dreams I’m on The Johnathan Ross show talking about my novels but more importantly myelopathy. I now have an informed, supportive doctor and the neuro team at Charing Cross are excellent but I would love to be able to stick it to the multiple nurses, doctors and neurolo-gits who have let me down over the years – who in their ignorance and lack of compassion have made me feel like shit! Can you tell that I’m cross?
There are so many awful things happening in the world. Sometimes they seem so deep and so widespread that you know whatever you did to help it would have no real impact. But we can help each other. We should help each other.
What am I actually blogging about? What I want is for Myelopathy to be as understood as MS so that newly diagnosed people don’t experience the complete bewilderment and frustration I came up against.
I want good things for people who despite their disability put themselves out there like @alice_ella_
I want to win the lottery, have a house with a pool, write a best seller, lose a stone, get stuck in a lift with Adam Levine, be able to cook without burning, be on Strictly Come Dancing. Have I gone too far?
That’s it. I’m done. Have a great day. Smile.