Things started to change in April 2018 when I woke up in the middle of the night as my back went pop. Literally, it was awful. I was in agonising pain but went to a chiropractor who had me pain free again in just a few days. Phew. Except then it happened again 6 weeks later, just before we were flying off on holiday. Back to the chiropractor who luckily worked his magic, and other than a very uncomfortable flight out, my back was fine and we had a fabulous holiday relaxing on the white sandy beaches of the Seychelles (yup, really living the dream!) I even managed to fit in a couple of yoga classes on the beach!
But when we got home my back went again and this time I was worried. The pain was unbelievable and I started to think that this was maybe more than just the wear and tear of carrying and breastfeeding a baby. After a couple of visits to my GP I was referred to a physio, after which, with a lot of pushing on my part, I was referred for an MRI at the end of August. July and August were quite honestly hellish for me. I was often in so much pain that I couldn’t leave the house. Lifting Oscar was impossible and I had to cancel plan after plan. I was miserable!
So the results of the MRI, whilst shocking, came with a certain relief knowing that I had an explanation for the pain. The MRI showed that one of my vertebra had completely collapsed and there was a mass of tissue/ inflammation pressing on the nerves (which had begun to cause a horrific numbness in my arm about a week before). My chiropractor took one look at the report the following day and told me to go straight to A&E.
The nightmare had begun.
I was admitted to The Royal London Hospital on 30thAugust, where the testing began. Cancer was always a possibility, but in someone so young and otherwise healthy, it wasn’t exactly top of the list. Instead there was a lot of focus on infectious diseases. Central London in itself is something of a risk area, but I’d also travelled extensively and to some pretty remote and unusual places with my work so it wasn’t impossible I’d picked up some strange disease.
After large number of scans (CT/MRI/X-ray/ultrasound), tonnes of blood tests and ten days on the Acute Assessment Ward, I finally had a spinal biopsy. That wasn’t much fun! It was only under local anaesthetic so I was awake but had to stay completely still on my front. Not easy while in so much back pain. The doctor used a CT scanner which I went in and out of multiple times, to guide the massive needle into my spine to get the tissue sample. The only thing that got me through it was knowing that this was the most likely thing to give us an answer to what was wrong.
A couple of days later, armed with a lot of painkillers, I was allowed home, as we knew the biopsy results could take a couple of weeks, maybe longer. It was SO good to get out of hospital! Back to my boys (my husband Brian spent a lot of time in the hospital with me, but Oscar only visited a couple of times because hospitals and curious toddlers don’t really mix, especially as Mummy was attached to all sorts of exciting looking machines!) I was also desperate to make my own food again. I’d had an amazing team of family and friends bringing me in meals (Brian even made me a big superfood smoothie each morning), so I’d largely avoided hospital food, but being back in my kitchen was still great!
It was our third wedding anniversary a couple of days later, and whilst we couldn’t have a fancy meal and champagne out, we did have a lovely evening with some good food at home. In some ways the next couple of weeks were pretty normal. I needed help with Oscar as my back pain and increasing arm numbness meant I was limited, but friends and family stepped up and I was still very involved with everything around the house. I was even able to do little bits of work and photography.
The wait was hard though. The painkillers helped, although I hate taking any kind of drugs, but I was still in constant pain, and it already felt like I’d been through so much medically yet not actually had any treatment! I also had to return to hospital for another scan which showed a blood clot in my neck, which meant injecting myself daily with anticoagulants. Oh another joy to add to the pile!
But the nightmare still hadn’t really begun…