About a week after my 40th, I developed back ache thinking I’d pulled a muscle or something in my sleep (I’m a bit of a tumble dryer). Having reached this milestone age I thought it was time I cleaned up my act and so resolved to stop smoking, cut out processed sugar and white carbs. Yes all three, at the same time. Honestly… it wasn’t a thing. It was easy to do, especially with the support of my beloved preparing packed lunches and making sure I had no reason to slip back into using sugar and white carbs for energy during the day.
A week into healthy Bruce and I find I’m smashing this new lifestyle. Six weeks or so before, I’d landed an excellent job with a local fire alarm company and suddenly I develop this back ache! “OK” I thought to myself, “it’s just another thing to pay attention to as reach middle age, certain changes have to be sorted and that includes my posture.” That day I booked myself an appointment with an Osteopath.
The first appointment went really well and after a consultation, I was given a good massage and a few exercises to practice at home until our next appointment. I felt great that finally I was taking care of business, succeeding at work and content at home. Everything was finally slotting into place.
A week later and it felt my back had been slotted into its proper place after my second appointment with the Osteopath. I agreed to spinal manipulation and actually laughed out loud as tension that had been stored for as long as I can remember was released. I felt like a new person and euphorically walked tall for about an hour after leaving there. After that hour however, I developed a burning sensation between my shoulder blades which prevented me getting even a wink of sleep that night.
Don’t get me wrong; what followed was not the Osteopaths fault. I figured that the issue with my back would probably get worse before it got better (no pain no gain and all that) and with the help of ibuprofen, I was able to return to work the next day as the burning sensation did in fact decrease.
It was only after work, having taken my quota of ibuprofen for the day (24 hours) that I started to have difficulty sleeping. Before retraining in my late 30’s as a fire alarm engineer, it’s safe to say that I was a bit of an insomniac, more so in my 20’s and before I got married, but never-the-less I would go a whole night without sleep every couple of weeks without any negative consequences.
Two months into my new job and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like lack of sleep get in the way of making a success of this opportunity and so I thought I’d just crack on. I threw myself into my career, relying on ibuprofen during the day to keep the back ache at bay and do my best to cope at night as paracetamol wasn’t as effective. I also persevered with the Osteopath for about a month thinking the situation would improve and bless him; my practitioner tried a range of things even after I said no more to spinal manipulation after a few attempts.
By Christmas, I was starting to feel a bit bonkers from lack of sleep and the discomfort I was experiencing meant that I was only sleeping for an hour, maybe an hour and a half at a time. I went to see my GP the day after Boxing Day and he tripled my pain relief on the assumption that I was like my Dad and he was able to take more pain relief than most people. By this time I had already been to the Doctor a few times with this problem. Nothing he prescribed made any difference including Tramadol, Diazepam and Gabapentin.
In January this year I was admitted to hospital with a suspected blood clot. Not only did I have a clot behind the knee, I also had multiple clots in my lungs. It was the blood test at the hospital that showed that something was wrong. As it happens the clotting was a result or symptom of a deeper problem.
In February, I was diagnosed with a primary cancer in the Gastro Oesophageal Junction with secondary spread in the spine and abdomen. According to the health professionals I am stage four, inoperable, incurable and the treatments I’m receiving are palliative. So if this is a beginning, it’s the beginning of the end. In fact a year on it really has become something of a beginning. It’s the start of this pilgrim’s journey home.